Recently I finished a book about a smuggler. Not just any smuggler, mind you. A man who smuggled Bibles into Communist countries to get them to struggling churches and Christians. In some cases, the government had issued “state Bibles,” which were watered down and heavily edited to reflect state ideology. In other words, not Bibles at all. In other cases, congregations shared between them one single Bible, or even part of a Bible. They hungered desperately for the Word of God in their own hands. Hard to comprehend for me personally, when I look at my bookshelf and see half a dozen different translations of the Bible. The book was God’s Smuggler, and the man was named simply “Brother Andrew.” His experiences were fascinating to read, and each communist country tried to stamp out Christianity in their own way. But one particular ideology scares me more than the others. It’s about the children.
While Brother Andrew was in Yugoslavia in 1945, he was surprised at first to see that churches were allowed to operate openly. He was able to go to these churches and preach whatever he wanted with little to no censure, a real change from other Communist countries he’d visited. But in his own words, here’s what he realized was happening:
Bit by bit as I got to known Yugoslavia better, I became aware of the slow wearing-down process the government was exerting on Christians. The effort seemed to be centered on the children. Leave the old folks alone, but wean the young people away from the Church. (God’s Smuggler, p 110)
When Brother Andrew noticed that there wasn’t a single person younger than 20 in the church, he asked his translator about it, who introduced him to a woman with a 10-year old son who was absent. She told him bitterly, “The teacher tells my son there is no God. The government tells my son there is no God. They say to my Josif, ‘Maybe your Mama tells you differently, but we know better, don’t we? You must remember that Mama has no education. We will humor her.’ So? My Josif is not with me. I am being humored.” (God’s Smuggler, p 110)
This method of reaching the children was utilized in East Germany as well. When Brother Andrew visited in 1958, a Lutheran youth pastor named Wilhelm told him what was happening there. “You can’t use strong-arm tactics against the Church without strengthening it. It’s always been that way. Under persecution a man looks at his faith to see if it’s worth fighting for, and this is a scrutiny Christianity can always withstand. The real danger comes with an indirect attack, where a person is lured away from the Church before he has a chance to become strong.” (God’s Smuggler, p 140, emphasis mine.) Wilhelm went on to describe how the State was replacing government rites in place of Church traditions- a “Welcoming Service” in place of infant baptism, “Youth Consecration” instead of confirmation, and even free marriage and funeral alternatives, showcasing how truly patriotic one was to his country. The Youth Consecration was especially tempting, since that ceremony took place at an age when conformity and fitting in are extremely important.
So what does this mean for us today? Simply this: parents, be very diligent in teaching your kids the faith. If you don’t pass on your faith and values, the world will certainly teach them otherwise. Prayer is not allowed in public schools. Kids are taught from a young age not to be too vocal about God or Jesus. Public schools teach evolution as matter of fact, assuming this from a young grade. Kids are constantly fed the “millions of years ago” theme. As kids get older and enter adolescence, they’re taught “safe sex” and given condoms, rather than encouraging the option of abstinence. And of course, kids are already being taught that a “family” can consist of a mom and dad, two moms, or two dads, all being equally acceptable. And I’ve no doubt that as time goes on, the attacks will become more brazen.
What can be done, then? It’s actually very easy. Beat them at their own game. Start with the children. Know that your children’s faith will be under constant scrutiny, and equip them to handle it. Teach them what the Bible says, and be honest about what the world will try to tell them. Give them answers to rebut arguments others may raise against them, and be honest when you tell them that sometimes they may be ridiculed because of their “old fashioned” values and beliefs. But above all, stress that Jesus has already overcome the world. The world may fight against the Church viciously, but in the end, Jesus has already won the victory. This world isn’t all there is. Eternity in heaven awaits all those who fight the good fight of the faith.
My own kids may roll their eyes when I pull out the Bible History book, they may whine that they don’t want to sit through church or a devotion, but I keep at it because I’ve already seen God at work in their young hearts. This year my fifth grader had to take a STAAR warm-up science test. One particular question asked, “What created the world?” Then there was a blank for kids to write their own answer. My son, bless his heart, wrote “Jesus.” In a public school, that’s definitely not the answer they’re looking for. So his teacher called him up to her desk and pointed at the question and the answer he had written. Rather than lecturing or scolding him, she simply said, “That’s wrong, but good job.”