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richard-lee-437632-unsplashIn last week’s post I shared insights from the first half of the book, A Practical Guide To Culture, by Brett Kunkle and John Stonestreet, in an attempt to help equip parents and their kids in navigating today’s cultural currents.  This week I’ll cover highlights from the second half of the book. Some parts deal with highly controversial and politically hot topics but as speaker and Bible study teacher Lisa Harper says, “Passivity is not an option in today’s world”.  The cultural current is strong so we need to cut through these waters with calm certainty.

Because we live in such a highly sexualized society, I’m highlighting chapters dealing with sexually related issues (pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation and gender identity).  The writers try to use a very practical approach in dispelling cultural lies as well as providing suggestions for action steps related to these specific issues.

“Passivity is not an option in today’s world” -Lisa Harper

Regarding pornography, Christian apologist Josh McDowell is quoted as saying, “The question is not ‘Will my kids see porn?’ but ‘How will they handle it when they do?’”  The average age of exposure to porn is eleven.  According to The Covenant Eyes website 90 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls said they were exposed to pornography before the age of eighteen. 64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women admit to watching porn at least once a month.  One out of every eight online searches and one out of every five mobile searches is for porn. A morally desensitized culture simply shrugs at those stats and says it is a harmless expression of human sexuality.

Not so.  For one thing, porn is highly addictive.  The book quotes information gathered which demonstrates how those addicted to porn show changes to the structure of their brains that are similar to individuals addicted to drugs and alcohol.   These writers also make the point that “It also distorts attitudes about sexuality and leads to increased sexual permissiveness and risky sexual behaviors.” Among married people it decreases marital satisfaction and breaks down trust.

The authors emphasize that first and foremost we are to be properly related to God.  Second, we are to be properly related to one another. They point out that porn “severs sexuality from its relational context” and leads to shame and guilt.

So what can you do?  Eight action steps are offered on this topic:

  1.  Wake up!  Suggested reading is The Porn Phenomenon, by leading researchers from the Barna Group.
  2. Confront YOUR porn problem first .  “To be the kind of leader your kids need, you must engage in this battle right alongside them.”
  3.  Take preemptive action.  “Prevention is better than recovery.”  Suggestions are internet filtering, monitoring software and restrictions that can be set up on iOS devices under “General Settings”.  And for adults, having an accountability partner is a good idea.
  4. Expose the darkness of the porn industry.  “It’s an industry filled with sexually transmitted diseases, prostitution, drug abuse, emotional abuse, violence and even the exploitation of women and children for sex trafficking.  Knowing what really goes on behind the scenes can help weaken rationalizations for viewing porn.”
  5. Initiate conversations about pornography.  Ask your kids if they know what porn is or if they’ve viewed it before.  Ask if their friends watch it or talk about it and whether they think it’s harmful or not.  Keep your questions open ended, inviting their honest opinions rather than lecturing them.
  6. Paint a vivid picture of the consequences of viewing porn.  One suggestion is doing a Google search with your children on “the negative effects of pornography” which will reveal data that links porn with social anxiety, depression, low motivation, and lack of productivity.
  7. Always be ready to respond with forgiveness and grace.  “Declare the good news of the forgiveness of sins only available through the cross of Christ.”  Always lead with love and affirm that the power of the Holy Spirit can “show an addicted culture the way to hope and healing.”
  8. Love your spouse and your children.  “No internet filter or monitoring system can replace loving relationships between husband and wife or parent and child.  The best defense against pornography is a close family.”

“Hooking up”, according to the authors of this book, is a catchall phrase that can mean anything from making out to actually having sex.  However, it all takes places outside the context of a committed relationship.  Hookups are typically brief, casual and commitment-free.  The cultural lies connected to this behavior are that everyone is doing it, that it is free of consequences and that it won’t affect your future.  The authors offer valid statistics and reasons to counter these arguments. STD’s, HPV and the emotional fallout of these behaviors may be something kids hear addressed in school. However what I consider to be even more important is that they look at the positives behind God’s design for sex.

One of my favorite passages in this entire book is this one: “Can we Christians stop not talking about sex, please?  For too long, we’ve let other voices direct and dominate the cultural conversation on sex.  Much of the church’s contribution has been to shout ‘Don’t’ do it!’ from the margins of society.  We’ve given the impression that Christianity has a negative view of sex. But God’s Story offers so much more than a simple no to unsanctioned sex.  For every prohibition, there is a beautiful, life-giving yes!”

And then in a later paragraph, this statement: “Young people must know that sex is good, and that’s why it must be protected and cultivated.”  That statement is followed by a scripture reference to Proverbs 5:15-19 as well as I Tim. 4:4 and I Cor. 7:2.  Sex is a sacred gift to married couples and should be treated as such in order to maximize its fullest potential.  And profound wisdom is given in this statement, “Without question we must broadcast Jesus’ offer of grace, forgiveness and redemption to a sexually bankrupt culture.  However we must also offer God’s vision for human sexuality before kids wade into the waters of sexual activity.”

A few of the action steps given are:

  1. Become your kid’s authority on sex. Do not just have the “sex talk”, but keep an ongoing, open-ended dialogue.
  2. Emphasize the yes as well as the no.
  3. Don’t let your kids navigate dating alone. Tell them you want to be there to help them navigate potential minefields and get to know their dates and the families.
  4. Encourage healthy dating. Tell girls how they should expect to be treated on a date and boys how to be gentlemen, help them think of creative and fun things to do and explain the connection of dating to marriage.
  5. Share your own stories of love, dating and sex. If it’s age appropriate admit your own sexual failures and mistakes and how you experienced God’s grace.

Regarding the subject of sexual orientation, the writers of this book make the statement that “The Bible addresses issues like salvation, the poor, money, the kingdom of God, heaven, hell, and a host of other issues much more than it does homosexuality.”  They also point out that “Jesus was ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14) and He is the model for our engagement on all issues.”  That being said, they continue to clearly define reasons and give scripture references to why homosexuality is sin.

Beginning with Gen 1:10, they make the point that “men and women weren’t designed to engage sexually with a partner of the same sex.”  Referring to that same point they quote Paul’s words in Rom. 1:26 describing gay and lesbian behavior as exchanging “the natural function for that which is unnatural.”  The expanded reference to Romans 1:24-28 is also given, as is Lev. 18:2; 20:13; I Cor. 6:9-10 and I Tim. 1:8-11. One of their other main statement is that homosexuality attempts to replace God-given identity with self-identity, God’s governance with self-governance.

In regards to the cultural trend to believe that “gay people are born that way”, their response can mainly be summarized in this paragraph, “An action or disposition isn’t morally justified simply because it has genetic origins.  For example, if researchers discovered genes that contribute to alcoholism or violent behavior, would that justify the morality of drunkenness or murder? Even if a gay gene is discovered, the moral question of homosexual activity would still be unsettled.”

They go on to say there is no compelling scientific evidence proving homosexuality is biologically determined but rather evidence against that claim.  “The American Psychological Association (APA), which is gay affirming, recognizes the lack of scientific evidence for the claim that homosexuality is genetic. .  . no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor…” There is, however in their opinion, strong evidence that both developmental and environmental factors play a prominent role in forming a same-sex attraction between birth and young adulthood.

A few of the Action Steps provided by Stonestreet and Kunkle are listed below:

  1. Acknowledge that sexual brokenness isn’t confined to homosexual behavior.  Any sex outside the bonds of marriage is sinful according to scripture so premarital sex, adultery and pornography should ALL be addressed with our kids.
  2. Maintain an open dialogue on this subject with your kids.  The subject is discussed everywhere your kids go so don’t make it taboo in your home.  They suggest Tom Gilson’s book, Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens.
  3. Resist the culture’s false view of love.  “The culture tries to tell us that love equals full acceptance.  If you truly love your gay friends and family members, you’ll embrace them on their terms.  Not even true tolerance – disagreeing yet dignifying the other person – is enough.  Only full acceptance will do. But Jesus always loved without compromising the truth.  We must show kids where He modeled this in the Gospels. (For example, see Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well in John 4:1-30).  Loving people often requires telling them the truth – even if they don’t respond well to it.”
  4. Watch video presentations from Living Hope Ministries.  The two recommended are Why?  Understanding Homosexuality and Gender Development in Males – https://livehope.or/resource/why-dvd/ and Why/  Understanding Homosexuality and Gender Development in Females – https://livehope.org/resource/femaledvd/
  5. Make Jesus, not homosexuality, the main issue.  “If your teenager asks you what he should say to his gay friend, remind him that what someone does with Jesus is your top concern.  The priority isn’t converting your non-Christian gay friends to heterosexuality but pointing them to Christ for salvation.” It is suggested that we frame this issue and all issues in light of God’s Story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Regarding the issue of gender identity, our culture says there are no objective truths, only subjective preferences. Or as the authors phrase it, “If you feel it, declare it, and it is so.”  An interesting example of the absurdity of this logic is referenced in a question Joseph Backholm, president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, posed to students on the University of Washington campus about their views on gender identity and public-restroom policy.  At first the students affirmed the right of each person to choose the bathroom corresponding to their perceived gender. Then Backholm followed with these questions:

*”If I told you that I was a woman, what would your response be?”

*”If I told you that I was Chinese, what would your response be?”

*”If I told you that I was seven years old, what would your response be?”

*”If I told you I’m six feet five inches, what would you say?”

Although some students were actually unwilling to say Blackholm wasn’t anything he SAID he was, the fact is he is a five-foot-nine-inch white male so, as Stonestreet and Kunkle conclude, “The absurdities are endless.”

Just give this paragraph some thought when considering certain cultural logic and its own consequences.  “If we self-identify as sixty-five-year-old men, should the federal government start sending us Social Security checks?  If we self-identify as six-year-old girls, should we be able to enroll in a first grade class at the local public elementary school?  If we self-identify as a particular minority, should we be able to receive college scholarships earmarked for that minority group? If the answer is no to any of these questions, then why is a biological male who identifies as a female allowed to impact the laws of the land so that he can use the restroom or locker room of his choice or make sure fines are imposed on those who don’t use transgender pronouns?”

I believe we can live well and live strong in this very moment of history.

They summarize these topics by stating that every issue related to sex and sexuality – whether pornography, the hookup culture, homosexuality or transgenderism – is open defiance of our creator.  “We’re not just broken; we’re rebellious.” Scripture reference to Romans 1:21-32 is given as a word picture of humanity’s revolt and its results.

Suggested action is to “Let God move you to compassion for men and women who struggle with gender-identity issues.”  They are hurting and broken people (41% of transgender men and women attempt suicide). Stonestreet and Kunkle wisely advise us to “lead with grace and then with truth.”

Strong encouragement is also given to read and study Scripture where we find truth.  For us as Christ followers, every philosophy, personal opinion and political agenda needs to pass through that filter of truth.  Jesus told us to “be IN the world but not OF the world.” Therefore we can never be passive consumers of culture.

I believe we can live well and live strong in this very moment of history.  I leave you with four questions taken from the last chapter of this most helpful and enlightening book:

  1. What good can we celebrate, protect, promote, and preserve?
  2. What is missing that we can contribute?
  3. What evil can we stop?
  4. What brokenness can we restore?

Let’s lead our children in using their abilities, experiences and relationships right where God has placed them and help equip them for a life that is vibrant and victorious!