The Gospel Coalition’s Kevin DeYoung is upset. Very, very upset. It’s Time for a New Culture War Strategy, he declared yesterday. He’s disappointed in Trump, because Gorsuch, one of Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, voted with the majority in the Bostock v. Clayton County decision this week. This decision found that LGBTQ individuals are protected from employment discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It seems, in other words, that voting for Trump didn’t get DeYoung what he thought it would.
As DeYoung writes:
To add insult to injury for many conservatives, the majority opinion was written by Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s celebrated SCOTUS appointee …. The prospect of a Gorsuch-type justice was the reason many Christians voted for Trump. Many of those voters went to bed on Monday feeling disappointed and disillusioned.
In the midst of this disappointment DeYoung has what he treats a s a new idea—Christians, he says, should simply outbreed their opponents. This is not actually a new idea, of course. I heard it as a homeschooled evangelical child growing up in the 1990s. Over the past 24 hours, I’ve seen one fellow homeschool grad after another pointing this out—this wasn’t just an idea we heard floated around, it was something many of our parents actually tried to implement.
Michael Farris of the right-wing Home School Legal Defense Association told my parents and others like them that they were the Moses generation and that their children would be the Joshua generation—that we would be the ones to retake the land, the ones to remake America as a Christian nation. This was the entire reason Farris created a brand new college, Patrick Henry College, intended especially for homeschool graduates, and based on repeat about the number of interns he was able to place on Capitol Hill.
Here’s what DeYoung writes, as though he is coming up with a brand new idea (he’s not):
Here’s a culture war strategy conservative Christians should get behind: have more children and disciple them like crazy. Strongly consider having more children than you think you can handle.
See, here’s the problem with that—many of us grew up in very, very large families with parents who had more children than they could handle, and it didn’t go great. For one thing, how are you supposed to disciple your children “like crazy” if you have so many you can’t handle them all and have to put them in charge of parenting each other? For another thing, many children placed in this situation grow up to resent the childhood they lost.
And finally, it simply does not work. Many of the homeschool grads who have responded to DeYoung on twitter have pointed that out, noting, say, that of their parents’ eight children, only one was still religious today. Because here’s the thing—children are their own individual people, and you can’t actually control what they will believe or think when they grow up.
I know of many cases where parents have tried to control what their adult children believe and think, or have used emotional manipulation in an attempt to cajole their children into believing just what they are supposed to believe. I have watched this rip apart families. Telling parents that they can have children and expect their children to hold their same beliefs and worldview if they train them properly sets parents—and families—up for failure.
This is what my parents and so many others were told in the 1990s, and I like so many others have watched it all go up in flames over the past two decades. When parents believe they are somehow owed seeing their children grow up to copy their exact beliefs, the sense of anger and disappoint they experience when their children turn out to be people, and not carbon-copy robots, is so extreme it can ruin families and leave them in ashes.
Children are individuals. As such, they are wild cards. They become double triple wildcards when you have more children than you can handle. I have seen too many families destroyed, causing incredible, visceral pain, to wish this on anyone. If I could tell parents any one thing, it is to remember that your children are not you, and that you cannot control them. All you can do is love them, be there for them, and, as they grow into adults, accept who they are.
If you show your children love and acceptance as they grow, they will come to you when they need help or advice. If you instead communicate to them that their worth is dependent on their ascribing to a specific religious creed, they will not.
Don’t have children in order to produce carbon-copies of yourself. Just don’t. Don’t force your child to be a tennis star just because you were; don’t pressure your kid to go to the college you went to if they’re not interested; and don’t have children in order to produce religious converts.
DeYoung’s suggestion that evangelical Christians should breed their way out of their problems reflects something else, too—an acceptance of the failure of persuasion. If your goal is to increase the number of adherents to your religion, there are far faster and more certain reason to do this than to spend 18 years raising a child and still run the risk that that child will leave your religion. For example, there is converting people to your religion. I mean good gracious, we’re talking about evangelicals here—aren’t they supposed to evangelize?
This was on The Gospel Coalition website, for crying out loud. The gospel—the great commission in Matthew—sharing the good news.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….”
Nowhere in the Bible is there anything about outbreeding the opposition. To the contrary—the New Testament throws some serious shade on marrying and having children. In the New Testament, the goal is evangelism—something DeYoung appears to have given up on. A retreat to breeding converts instead of making converts suggests an acceptance of an abject failure at persuasion in American culture. It reflects a giving up on the great commission—and on the gospel. Has DeYoung really thought this through?
Note: For what it’s worth, probably half of the homeschool grads I’ve seen dunking on DeYoung’s article in the past twenty-four hours identify as LGBTQ. In other words, it turns out that all the anti-gayness in the world won’t stop gay kids from being gay—something DeYoung, who has eight kids himself, would do well to remember.
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