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Bringing up boys…

January 23, 2007

At SMC, a number of us have been watching the video series, bringing up boys, by Dr. James Dobson. Last Sunday evening we viewed two sessions–“The Wounded Spirit” and “The Origens of Homosexuality.” As I have been reflecting on these two sessions a number of questions have been developing for me. I welcome your responses.

A primary theme of the first session on “The Wounded Spirit” was the issue of how to respond to bullying. Dr. Dobson identifies bullying as a primary source of wounding for children. I would agree that bullying is a crucial problem that needs to be addressed by parents and educators. The input from Dr. Dobson on strategies for teaching our children to respond to bullying, however, raised some questions in my mind.

The implicit message that Dr. Dobson seemed to be communicating was that it is healthy for kids to fight back when picked on so that the bully gets the message that such behavior won’t be tolerated by the victim. At least that seemed to be the implicit message by one example that Dr Dobson gave from his own life–the story of moving to Texas, being picked on, physically fighting back, and thus preventing further bullying by letting the bully know that he wouldn’t be a passive, easy mark.

I am wondering if “fighting back” either physically or verbally is the only proactive strategy that we can provide our kids. Are we saying that the biblical response to a bully should be to fight back? Should I be teaching Jansen that when he is being picked on, there comes a point where he should use the “give ‘em a good punch in the face” approach so as to earn the respect of his antagonist(s)?

Each question and answer, expose the next question. What if a boy is weaker physically (developmentally delayed, or just because those are the cards his gene pool dealt him) than his adversary? What if his social/verbal skills are not as polished as those of his antagonist? Are we saying that we should be training our sons to defend themselves? What tools should we give them verbally and/or physically to respond to bullying? Should I be teaching Jansen how to fight so he can physically defend himself?

Do we take the words of Jesus to “turn the other cheek” too far? How far we should take those words? How much emphasis should we put on the words of Jesus? And if the words of Jesus aren’t practical to the “real world”, what should we look to instead to guide our parenting? Is there a biblical basis (in a Jesus-centered way of reading Scripture) that would guide me as a parent to train Jansen to use the “fight back” approach? I have not read the book, so perhaps Dr. Dobson offers a biblical basis for “fighting back.”

This brings me to a larger theme. I sense Dr. Dobson present this topic against a larger backdrop of Christians versus culture—naming specific adversaries such as Michael Eisner, Disney, MTV, feminists, public schools/NEA, Hollywood, etc. I wonder whether this “fight back” approach to culture is really our vocation as the Church. Or stated another way–I wonder how we are supposed to come against evil—which unquestionably is a part of the Christian vocation.

What do we do with a passage like Ephesians 6?

For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule the world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

Hasn’t the problem of evil been present from the time of the Garden of Eden? I see Dr. Dobson’s approach to addressing the problems in our culture as being one that would try to remove “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” from the garden” by taking on specific people who represent a particular agenda (contributing to the moral decay of society).

So how do we come against evil? Or even more critically–how do we name evil? Is it certain people? Is it corporations? What if we could bankrupt Disney through our boycotts? Wouldn’t there be other sinful people who would fill the void? Isn’t that approach to spiritual warfare futile? Humans will make sinful choices. That is part of the fallen condition we live in. Yes, the sinful condition of humans is reflected in some (much) of the sleezy fruit produced in the entertainment industry, education, business, and every sector of human life.

The question is–do we “fight back”? Is it by coming against the flesh and blood people who are giving expression to the sinfulness of humanity as if they are the enemy? This is the tact of those who are fighting the cultural wars. Or do we recognize the hidden principalities and powers that are at work? Ultimately it is not Michael Eisner who is the enemy of the souls of our children? So while I don’t think it is wrong to try to influence culture through economic and political leverage, We must understand that ultimately there is a much more profound view of sin that must guide our attempts to express the Kingdom of God.

The primary answer to nurturing our children in the Christian faith, in learning to follow Jesus, is not mainly about engaging in cultural warfare against the perpertrators of moral sleeze. Our vocation is not primarily to bring power to bear (political or economic) on Disney or the NEA or whatever, but rather to teach our children not to eat from that tree.

It seems to me that the tree being in the garden of culture is just inevitable. The real issue is how we teach our kids to eat from the tree of life rather than the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Just some questions and reflections. Maybe you can help me know what to do with them!

Peace

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael permalink
    January 23, 2007 9:11 pm

    Off the top of my head: What I would do with it is the same thing I do with Mr. Dobson’s views on most other subjects – ignore it. :) Now I should go ponder whether that was a Christlike comment!

  2. Gecko Girl permalink
    January 24, 2007 6:42 pm

    I am still chuckling at michael’s comment . . .

    I have heard Dobson’s bully story before, however I have not viewed the video you refer to. And perhaps that is why I am not quite getting your metaphor of the removing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from the garden of culture. But the fact is that Man has already partaken of the Tree and our eyes are open. I see the problem is that we need discerment to name the true source of the evil as perhaps you infer. I want my son to see that the actions of a bully are just as wrong as his actions to retaliate and fight. I want him to learn non-violent ways of dealing with such evil in our society without losing a love for the bully.

    We have used the book, Walking with Jesus, to share with our children stories about how we deal with people in love admist evil actions which attack us. I don’t want to remove the knowledge of the good/evil rather I want my children to learn to see evil and discern the true source. I believe it is our duty, then, as parents not to teach them to fight back, instead, give them examples of how we can address it in a Christ-like way.

    It’s another example where I don’t think all Christians think the Beatitudes apply literally. Maybe Dobson should consider the examples in the book, “Walking with Jesus.” :-)

  3. Brian Miller permalink
    January 24, 2007 9:35 pm

    Dawn,
    Thanks for your post. The metaphor I was incorporating into my response was more in connection to the expectations of Christians toward culture in a fallen world. (i.e. Dr. Dobson and much of the Fundamentalist Right)

    The Biblical story indicates that even in the Garden of Eden (God’s good creation)there was the potential for consumption of bad stuff. My point is (borrowing from the archetypal Genesis story) that if God allowed for the existence of that tree in the Garden (FREEDOM that comes with the possibility to REBEL against the creator) why should we be surprised/angry at the continuing existence of BAD FRUIT culture (in entertainment, education, business, and every dimension of human life).

    I think my biggest critique of Dr. Dobson is that his approach to coming against evil is largely coming from and geared to a white-middle class experience. There is much with is family values message that rings true, but I wonder sometimes if it takes into account the systemic dimensions of evil that contribute to the fall of the family. The greed of materialism that produces an industry such as Hollywood that produces such garbage.

    I will stop here for now. Hopefully this clarifies things a bit.

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