Rod Dreher’s post on the inconsistencies of “Lifestyle Liberalism” is a must-read. It is hitting at some pretty fundamental issues, and it does so from a number of different angles. First, it’s wrestling with how to raise kids (especially sons) in an age in which pornography is so pervasive and available. Second, it exposes the moral listlessness of liberalism, which in the wake of the sexual revolution has destroyed all boundaries around sexual behavior. Third, it exposes the fact that there are so few institutions left standing today that will support parents in resisting the sexual lasciviousness of our culture.
I would make some observations on this last point. But first, take a look at Dreher’s conclusion:
The kinds of institutions and customs that parents used to be able to count on to push back against corrupting things like pornography have either evaporated or become so enervated that parents are left by themselves to try to hold the line. Your kids’ school is not going to help you, and may not be able to even if it wanted to.
Your church, lacking an awareness of the seriousness of the cultural situation, and perhaps having lost confidence in its message, is probably not going to help you. Your community is probably not going to help you either, because people either choose not to see what’s happening, or understandably feel so powerless against technology and the deeper cultural forces it carries with it that they tell themselves it’s not as bad as all that.
It’s just you. What now?
Dreher’s conclusions about public schools and churches are particularly important in my view. Public schools are different depending on where you live. I grew up in a public school environment in a small town in which—for the most part—my parents’ moral instruction was not being undermined at every turn by what I was receiving at school. Certainly there were challenges. But almost every teacher I had, my family knew personally outside of the classroom. Some of them were members of my church, as were many of the administrators. Consequently, there were redundancies between the moral formation I was receiving at home and that which I was encountering at school.
But the world has gotten a lot smaller since then, and the amorality of secularism has only been on the rise—even in conservative sectors of the country like Louisiana where Dreher lives and where I grew up. In many places across the country, public education has been neutered of its ability to provide moral formation for children. Education by the state must be value neutral when it comes to sexual mores, and that means that it offers little to no resistance against popular culture and its pervasive fascination with the perverse. Today, Christian parents of public school children have their work cut out for them. With very few exceptions, parents can no longer count on the public schools to even approximate the moral formation that they are offering their children at home. And in some cases, the schools are openly militating against it.
But what about churches? Is Dreher right when he says that your church “is probably not going to help you”? I am more optimistic than Dreher is here. It is true that many churches have lost their moral nerve, and they have long since surrendered their prophetic voice. If you are in such a church, you might consider going to another church—one that holds forth the word of God clearly from the pulpit and which calls people to account in the pew. One that preaches the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and raised for sinners.
There are such churches in our country, but we need more of them. I suspect that their presence will become much more conspicuous in the coming days. The counter-culture that these churches represent is nothing less than the kingdom of God, which does not take its cues from Hollywood or Hugh Hefner. Though some congregations may apostatize, we have every reason to remain bullish about the church. The church alone remains ground zero for God’s mission to the world (Matt. 28:19-20), and the gates of hell will never prevail against the church (Matt. 16:18).
So if you really care about the moral formation of your children—and in particular rescuing them from the pornified spirit of the age—then get your family into a Bible-saturated, gospel-declaring, mission-oriented church. You may feel alone in your struggle for the souls of your children, but you don’t have to. Let your children see you standing shoulder-to-shoulder with God’s people in the world, not of the world, for the sake of the world. It’s not only what they need. It’s what you need as well.