Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2005 / 4 Elul
Always more battles ahead in the culture war
In other words, those of us who want to clean up the culture could have it done tomorrow and still find that we have cultural debates, some of which clearly hold the potential to grow into new culture wars.
I thought of this as I read Rebecca Hagelin's valuable and bold new book, Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That's Gone Stark Raving Mad. Hagelin, a vice president at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., seeks to empower parents to deal with the culture. She actually makes the case that gasp parents have a right and responsibility to control what goes on with their kids in their own homes. And, she DOESN'T suggest we totally disengage from the culture.
I just worry that if some of Hagelin's readers leave it at that, thinking they have won some victory over sin by (wisely) filtering the Internet and monitoring the TV, they will have done their children a disservice. That's because we could remove all those things as I recently did for a time to help break a habit not because they were "dangerous" in and of themselves and find that ultimately the battleground against sin remains because, well, that battleground is in the heart.
I think we conservatives sometimes believe we live in a uniquely corrupt age, when in fact we are pikers compared to many civilizations past. I happen to believe the world is still a pretty great place, and I want my children to be bold in engaging it and thinking about it rightly. That's hard to do that when we fear the culture more than we need to. It seems to me too many of us give it a power it doesn't really have, for nothing can "make" us sin. How wonderful if it could. Then we could get rid of the "thing" and have pure and good and wholesome hearts, right?
Conversely, consider a vice officer who has to go through a stash of child pornography to write his report and who rightly finds it revolting. He is not sinning. (Though the child porn industry is certainly a wicked one, and is rightly illegal.) A married male gynecologist clinically examining a patient isn't being unfaithful to his wife though in a different context, he would be.
It's what's going on in the heart that matters.
There's all kinds of times to remove "occasions" of sin from our homes and lives. But if we think we've fixed sin, or could fix it, by righting the culture, we potentially leave our children vulnerable by leaving them (and perhaps us) to be surprised by the foolish and fallen tendencies of their own hearts.
I want my kids to be on guard against those tendencies and to feel free to come to me when they do fall.
And so, I think I fail my children if I let them think they are "safe" from corruption because unwholesomeness is filtered out of their computer. What about when, say, an overtly sexual image does get through? My hope is not just that they will turn away because it's unwholesome to view. My hope is that they will grow towards genuinely finding it sad and degrading that the gift of sexual allure that is right between a husband and wife is used to sell cars or cheeseburgers instead, and they will come to find such images unlovely.
I also think I would be foolish to ever believe I could fully bring them to that end. Ultimately, I give my children a gift when I convince them that the "culture wars" will always be with us, and that while many are worth fighting, the real battle is in their hearts and they are the ones to have to choose whether or not to engage it there.
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