Friday, December 19, 2008

Harsh, stern and stifling

Stephen Nichols has been reading "Apostasy Lit" - books by those who have rejected the faith of their parents - and has found that the experiences they describe may contain some important lessons:
...[A]postasy lit is valuable for those Christian parents who care for their children and hope that their children embrace and not run away from the faith. Among the many potential teaching moments apostasy lit provides, two stand out: the warning against sternness or harshness and the warning against creating a stifling environment. And herein lies the lesson that should not be ignored by readers of apostasy lit. If harshness and sternness coupled with a stifling environment are what make a piece of literature apostasy lit, then those two may be guilty of causing the apostasy in the first place. ....

Perhaps this harshness and sternness derive from a desire, albeit well-intentioned, to control. Christian parents, and I readily identify with this since I am one, desperately want their children to be at peace with themselves and at peace with their world, and they know that such peace will only come when they are at peace with God. They want to, in the words of Jonathan Edwards to his daughter, meet there at last in heaven as a family. And this desire can be strong, so strong that it morphs into something precariously close to ugliness. I'll drive it into them, and it will be for their own good, becomes the impulse. This inclination towards sternness, towards doling out justice over grace, is inched along as a reaction to the cultural pressures of an acceptance-no-matter-what value. Christian parents should be able to fret over their teen-ager's sexual activity. Christian parents do believe that actions have consequences and that some actions shouldn't be overlooked. Nevertheless, sometimes the sternness overtakes otherwise good intentions. No doubt, this gets complicated. Only God has mastered the dance between grace and mercy and justice and wrath. All we can do is strive to approximate it.

The second teaching moment of apostasy lit concerns the Christian environment. Thankfully, correcting the stifling environment is far less challenging than responding to the sternness problem. This is, after all, God's world. His kingdom does not stop at the gated entrance to the Christian camp or the security detectors at the doors of the Christian bookstore. Can the rest of the radio dial also be tuned in from time to time? Christians, despite there being some good ones out there, aren't always the best writers, painters, and musicians. Beauty, justice, even truth may live in those seemingly dark corners untraversed by the Christian family. Even non-Christian friends may turn out to be not sired by the devil after all. Finding one's way here could, admittedly, be tricky at times. But it's not as treacherous as we think. .... [more]
Thanks to Justin Taylor for the reference.

Apostasy Lit: Why Do They Leave? - Reformation21

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