I attended a class called Capturing the imagination of adolescents. The presenter has worked with teens for many years. He presented a study to us that was conducted across the United States in 2005 of thousands of teens. The study definitively provided these two results:
1) Teens do what their parents do as far as practicing religion and faith belief is concerned
2) Teens live by something the presenter referred to as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – treat others as you want to be treated.
The first finding that teens follow in our footsteps seems like a great thing, right? Well, if we want our children to grow up in our faith and we are practicing our faith then, yes. But if we want our children to grow and develop a deeper faith in God and we do not talk about God, go to Church and provide actions and examples in our own lives then the answer is no. It is true that our children watch everything we do and when it comes to faith they imitate us. This should really make us consider what we want our children to learn. We should also reflect on the lifestyle we are displaying to them daily.
Let me elaborate on the second point. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism almost appears to be the golden rule; treat others as you want to be treated. It seems like a good way to live your life, right? Well, one of the quotes from the teenagers went like this “It’s ok to have sex with people as long as you don’t treat them like a jerk.” If that is the case then where is the morality or value of waiting to have sex until marriage? If it’s all about how you treat others then sex with multiple people is fine. Lying is fine as long as it doesn’t hurt others feelings. Drugs are fair game as long as no one gets hurt. This is a loosely based idea cultivated from our culture. Just be nice to people. Our culture asks for the minimal effort from us when it comes to morality. There is no real challenge there. And it definitely isn’t rooted in a Christian faith.
What are we teaching our children? Maybe the question should be what are we neglecting to teach our children?
As parents if we value our faith and a life of giving to others all that we have, unconditional love, vows for marriage that last a lifetime, sacrifice for the good of others and the values Jesus Christ modeled for us then we need to live these values in our own lives. Our children are going to grow up and we are the ones who have taught them through the most formative years of their lives. What do we want them to learn?