My wife and I are fans of the ABC comedy Black-ish, a show about an African American family exploring stereotypes and cultural issues in a humorous way. I groaned when I learned the theme of a recent episode, simply titled “God,” which involves the family’s teenaged daughter expressing her doubts at the existence of God. I didn’t expect it to offer any serious reasons to think God does exist. (And it didn’t. At all.) But the episode does highlight the key problem with Christian parenting.
The show opens with the family at the dinner table and the main character, Dre, asking his daughter, Zoey, to pray before their meal. She hesitates because she no longer believes God exists. When asked why, she offers the typical objections: Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do babies die? Nothing unexpected. And unfortunately, the response wasn’t a surprise either: She was raised better. She’s supposed to believe in God simply because her parents do. They’re a believing family.
And that’s the key problem with modern Christian parenting. We expect our children to absorb our faith through osmosis. They’re automatically going to believe what we believe. But as I like to say, there are no piggyback rides into heaven. I understand this firsthand. My father is a pastor. Many of my relatives are ministers of some type. My mom’s side of the family is practically an Italian church mafia (Straight Outta Brooklyn). But I didn’t simply inherit Christianity from my parents like I did my blue eyes (thanks, dad) and hairline (thanks, mom). There came a time in my life that I had to decide whether or not I was going to take Christianity seriously for myself.
I think about this all the time with my own children. My three-year-old son is beginning to learn the “facts” of Christianity. He knows God created everything. Jesus loves him. God is everywhere so he’s never alone. But I’m not naive. My son isn’t a Christian; he’s a parrot. He simply repeats everything he has learned. But this only gets us so far. Like Dre’s daughter, one day my son is going to have some serious questions about life, the universe, and everything. Things that he’s not going to get from Veggie Tales. What then?
Ultimately, Dre realizes why faith isn’t important to his children. Because it isn’t important to him either. If he wants his children to take God seriously, he needs to first. The same goes for us. If we want our children to follow us in the faith, we need to lead by example. If you have your own questions about Christianity or God’s existence, click around on our website. We have dozens of articles on a wide variety of topics. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Send us a question for the Q & A.
Then, we need to take ownership of our children’s religious upbringing. Naming-and-claiming Joshua 24:25, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” isn’t enough. We need to make it happen. Take God’s commandments and “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7). We must train our children (Proverbs 22:6), not merely teach them to regurgitate facts.
What are some good resources to help raise our children up in the faith? I love the work of William Lane Craig and his children’s series, “What is God Like?”, is fantastic. Natasha Crain has a great blog on Christian parenting and she recently wrote a book specifically for parents to help their children navigate many of the objections they will face against Christianity, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side.
Does this episode of Black-ish offer a substantive discussion on God? No. Does Zoey ever get an answer to the problem of evil? No. But it does provide an important reminder to always be ready for questions and concerns about God’s existence (1 Peter 3:15). Especially for our children’s sake.