I’m normally a pretty calm person, but there is one thing that can make me hopping mad in a heartbeat. It happens when folks try to impose their very narrow view of the world by playing the “You Can’t Be a Christian If” game. People have tried to play it on me through the years and most of my clients have experienced it too. It goes something like this:
- You can’t be a Christian if you don’t use certain textbooks.
- You can’t be a Christian if you don’t go to a private Christian school
- You can’t be a Christian if you don’t homeschool.
- You can’t be a Christian if you go to college.
- You can’t be a Christian if you go to a secular college.
- You can’t be a Christian if you go to an Ivy League college.
- You can’t be a Christian if you major in that.
Of course there are variations of the game. They are a bit more subtle, but the intent is the same:
- You can choose to educate your child’s heart or you can prepare him for Harvard. You can’t do both.
- Your child must never learn about evolution or they will become unbelievers.
- The only reason your child should learn a foreign language is for the mission field.
- Your child must always be surrounded other Christians or she will be led astray.
Has any holier-than-thou person ever tried to lure you into that game? I talk with families on a weekly basis that have been made to feel guilty or suddenly question God’s direction in their child’s life because of these game players.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The people who play these games are driven by fear. They think they can control every aspect of their children’s lives. Then they extend their legalism even further by trying to control others. Because they are fearful, they are threatened that anyone else would take a different course, and as a result, must try to suppress them.
Years ago when I made the radical decision to homeschool my children, I admit that I sat in homeschool conventions and succumbed to the fear swirling throughout the room via popular speakers and curriculums. I wanted so badly to do this right, to help my kids avoid the mistakes I had made. I read everything I could get my hands on.
Most homeschool workshops, books and curricula fed the fear, but I also searched scripture to see what God said about it (since that was the whole goal of this homeschool thing anyway). And you know what, I discovered that the game players had obviously missed a good deal. What I found were admonitions to “Fear not!” I read about being brave and raising warriors and searching hard for truth (that is found everywhere). It talked about raising children according to their bent and discoursing on Mars Hill with unbelievers.
In the middle of reading all this eye-opening parental advice, I also read a book by Hugh Hewitt, Harvard trained attorney, law school professor, and conservative talk show host. His book, A Guide to Christian Ambition, introduced me to the concept of training children to move in spheres of influence should they be called there. He made a very clear case that some children will be called (and should be allowed) to attend prestigious secular schools. Here is his reasoning:
- “The effective and mass communication of the gospel depends upon the freedom to proclaim it.”
- “The creation and defense of religious liberty requires men and women with power and influence in the world.”
- “Christians of appropriate ability should seek these positions and should use them to protect and extend religious liberty.”
Hewitt tells the inspirational story of William Wilberforce who entered Great Britain’s Parliament in 1780. He was a privileged insider, a graduate of Cambridge. In 1786, he experienced a profound conversion during a time when religious enthusiasm was regarded as a social transgression and upper class people of faith were exposed to contempt and ridicule. He felt that he needed to abandon public life because his newfound faith stood in opposition to the corrupt lifestyle of those in power.
But several people convinced him that he was in a position of power for a reason.
After wrestling with his conflicting emotions, he wrote in his diary, “My walk is a public one. My business is the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men.” In 1789, he launched a campaign against the British slave trade and spent the rest of his life fighting this horrible abuse of human beings and years later on his deathbed learned that he had been successful.
One of the things we learn about Wilberforce, and many other influential and powerful individuals, is that you must assemble the right credentials.
According to Hewitt, “Status matters. All universities are not created equal, and credentials from prestigious universities matter a great deal more than those acquired from unknown universities for those who desire to move in spheres of influence.”
You’ve got to admit that disproportionate numbers of our leaders in the U.S. are from prestigious colleges – U.S Presidents, congressmen, Supreme Court justices, and business leaders.
I realized that I had to stand on faith and not fear.
I chose to believe that God loved my kids more than I did and I trusted him to plot our course (which didn’t look like anyone else’s course). I didn’t raise my children to be what I wanted them to be, I figured out who they were and called them out to be more of themselves. That meant training in tough academics, servant leadership, and fearless living. I had to stand back and let God work in their lives and then let go when he called them to follow him into spheres of influence.
So, if someone starts to play the “You Can’t Be a Christian If” game with you, be gracious, but ignore their fear. Realize that they are perpetuating a lie from the pit of hell that is meant to keep your child from being all that God intended. Who knows? You may be raising a Wilberforce that will rock the political scene. Maybe you are educating an Isaac Newton or Johannes Kepler, or a Galileo Galilei or a Blaise Pascal that will shake the foundations of the scientific world. Perhaps you’ve been charged with grooming a Conrad Hilton or a S. Truett Cathy who will redefine business culture.
But, you have to choose. Will you stand in faith or tremble in fear?
By the way, you can check Hewitt’s book out here.
Look Who’s Talking!