I’ve finally wrapped up my next book, taken a couple of weeks to recover, and am ready to get back to blogging! I have a lot to tell you about my new book, but it doesn’t come out until October, so I’ll wait a bit to share more about it.
As I worked against my writing deadline in the last few weeks, I spent a lot less time on Facebook. I just had too much to do to check in and engage as regularly as usual. But being away from it has been a good thing because it made me realize something a bit surprising:
Being on Facebook can make you a better Christian parent.
I know that’s not the conclusion of most who take social media breaks. Usually people step back for a while and then conclude their life is better without Facebook or Twitter distractions. And, to be sure, there are aspects of social media that can be tiring and soul-draining. If you’re at the point where you can’t possibly scroll past one more person talking about how blessed they are without wanting to punch your screen, you probably do need a break.
But for Christian parents who want to raise faithful kids in a secular world, Facebook can be an invaluable tool for gaining some much-needed perspective for the job.
The Generational Disconnect
In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at churches and conferences across the country about the importance of parents teaching kids apologetics, the biggest faith challenges parents should address with their kids (I walk through 5 of the 40 in Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side), practical ideas for teaching apologetics at home, and how to teach kids good critical thinking skills.
In my talks, I use quotes from atheist authors/bloggers, memes and snippets of online conversations with skeptics as examples of claims kids will encounter today. I regularly find that parents are surprised by what I present.
I often ask how many have heard the claim I’m addressing—for example, that the Bible is unreliable because it’s been copied so many times—and only a few hands go up.
Or I ask how many have heard of influential atheists/agnostics like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Bart Ehrman—and even fewer hands go up (if any).
Then, when I talk to parents after an event, a common thread of conversation is that the presentation was eye-opening because they haven’t had their own faith challenged in such ways.
I think’s fair to say there’s an enormous disconnect between what kids and parents are exposed to today.
Being on Facebook is one way that Christian parents can gain better perspective. I say that for three key reasons.
1. Being on Facebook can expose you to views and conversations you may not hear elsewhere.
Last month, I shared an article on my personal Facebook page and simply said, “Here are some interesting statistics.” One Facebook friend—an acquaintance from high school—was so appalled that I held a different view on a hot issue that she commented, “You aren’t worthy of being in my Facebook news feed. Consider yourself unfriended. Goodbye.”
Within seconds, she was no longer in my friend list.
Just because we have different views.
Honestly, there are certain people I’m connected to on Facebook who post things that make me want to scream. But—and I mean this in all seriousness—for the sake of my kids, I don’t unfriend them. These Facebook friends and I couldn’t be more opposite in our worldviews, and that’s a good thing for me to experience.
I need to understand what they’re saying and why they believe what they do.
I need to see the arguments and articles they find compelling.
I need to read how they interact with others.
I need to know what they’re teaching their kids about the world, because those kids are going to be the adult peers of my kids someday.
Those whose online comments bother you most are those you can learn the most from. Don’t be tempted to unfriend them. Chances are, you’re not being challenged in the same ways by people you interact with in person.
And if you don’t have Facebook friends who post things you disagree with, that’s a sure sign you’ve built yourself a worldview silo. It’s time to expand your Facebook connections and start following pages that post things you disagree with.
2. Being on Facebook can give you a better understanding of “street-level” logic.
Parents are often intimidated by the idea of learning about and teaching their kids apologetics (how to make a case for and defend their faith). They think it involves reading a towering pile of academic books that would put a “normal” person into a coma of boredom. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
For intimidated parents, I often share the results of the Fixed Point Foundation’s study of college students who are members of Secular Student Alliances or Freethought Societies. These college groups are the atheist equivalents to Campus Crusade for Christ. They meet to fellowship, encourage each other, and even proselytize. In a nationwide study, researchers found that most of these students had had not chosen their beliefs from neutral positions, but rather in reaction to Christianity. When students were asked to cite key influences in their conversion to atheism—people, books, seminars, etc.—the responses overwhelmingly indicated their loss of faith was due to what they had read in website forums or videos they had watched on YouTube.
Just everyday stuff kids see online.
The kinds of stuff parents can easily see too—then proactively take the time to discuss with their kids—if they’re on social media and are using it effectively.
There’s certainly a time for book learning, but there’s no substitute for seeing the worldview battle firsthand.
3. Being on Facebook can give you a sense of Christian parenting urgency.
The change I noticed most in myself after being away from Facebook for a few weeks was the emotional complacency that started to set in. Of course, I was still intellectually aware of all the faith challenges in the world—after all, I wasn’t on Facebook because I was writing a book about those challenges! But I didn’t feel the everyday sense of urgency that I normally feel when I’m regularly exposed to all that’s out there.
That’s not a good thing.
The more you’re exposed to, the more you realize how important your job is as a Christian parent…and how much you need to do to raise your kids with a deeply rooted faith today.
There are many ways parents can be educated about faith challenges without being on social media, so none of this is to say everyone needs to use it. But I do think Facebook in particular makes it easy to gain some of the perspective that many Christian parents lack. If you’re on Facebook and not seeing a good mix of worldviews in your news feed, try following some of these pages:
- American Humanist Association
- Friendly Atheist
- Atheist Republic
- Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner
And balance it out by following some great Christian apologetics pages that post a wide variety of articles:
- Cross Examined
- The Poached Egg
- J. Warner Wallace
- Christian Apologetics Alliance (this is a Facebook GROUP, so click the “Join” button and you’ll have the opportunity to see many excellent discussions each day)
- Apologetics for Parents (a Facebook group under the Christian Apologetics Alliance umbrella—I’m the moderator)
How has Facebook helped YOU gain perspective on other worldviews?