Sometimes even the most terrible people say something that is undeniably true. A vicious and deranged dictator said, “He alone, who owns the youth, owns the future.” He set about to own the future by teaching children from a very young age a hate-filled, godless ideology. Once instilled with those beliefs from early childhood, those children grew into young adults who followed their leader blindly, with devastating results for the world.
No one will deny that children and young people, whose minds are highly impressionable, begin to hold beliefs and form their values from the earliest age. They learn who God is and how God saved them by sending his Son to live, die, and rise again for them. They learn the difference between right and wrong. They are able to grasp concepts such as love, generosity, compassion, and helpfulness. When they form their values and beliefs at an early age, more often than not those values and beliefs stay with them into adulthood. But they learn these things only if they are taught.
Solomon wrote, “Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This truth is perhaps more important for us to remember today than ever before. We are no longer living in a culture where Christian values predominate. Not only are those values no longer honored and respected by our society, but it goes beyond that. Our prevailing culture has declared war on those values, and the attacks are gaining momentum from all directions—in the media, in government, and, perhaps most important, in education at all levels. Christian beliefs are mocked and dismissed as out of step, old- fashioned, and bigoted. Institutions such as marriage and the church are portrayed as irrelevant. Truths that have undergirded human society since the beginning of time are now seen as misguided myths.
The people who are promoting this alien and godless agenda are not just trying to convince and convert adults. They want your children. They want to own the future by owning the youth of our nation. And they are making stunning and frightening progress. People are awakening to the reality that these dangerous and destructive ideas have already been woven into school curricula and educational policies. It is happening in large cities and in suburban and rural communities. And young people are believing what they are being taught.
Because this is the reality, we can’t afford to ignore these trends and simply hope that things will change. Rather, it’s vital that we listen more than ever to the advice of Solomon to train our children in the way they should go. It begins from infancy in the home, with parents taking seriously the truth that even the youngest children can be taught the values and beliefs that they will carry with them into adulthood. It means a recommitment to the importance of Christian education—not just as a secondary or disconnected effort but as one of the things at the heart of a congregation’s mission and ministry. For those of you who do not have a Lutheran school available, it means a concerted effort to find out what your children are being taught in their public school and to equip them to reject anything that runs counter to biblical teaching.
I pray that these trends can be reversed. But if they continue, I pray that God would enable us—and our children—to hold on to the heritage of faith that God has entrusted to us.
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 109, Number 12
Issue: December 2022