Tag archives: Family

Most Parents Have Worldview Confusion. Is It Any Wonder That Kids Do Too?

by George Barna

May 4, 2022

Do you ever wonder why Little Johnny or Little Suzie does not obey their parents or consider them their primary role models?

New research from the American Worldview Inventory conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University reveals that children’s disregard for their parents often has to do with the worldview confusion caused by the parents.

More than nine out of 10 parents of preteens (94 percent) have a syncretistic worldview—a grab bag of beliefs and behaviors taken from a variety of philosophies of life. Most parents mix some biblical ideals with elements drawn from comprehensive philosophies ranging from Marxism to Eastern Mysticism and everything in between. The result is a hot mess of guidelines that parents use when trying to make sense of their own lives and craft decisions that seem right and feel good.

One of the inevitable consequences of living by syncretism is contradictions. Most people who embrace syncretistic thinking not only hold conflicting beliefs but also say one thing while doing another. The research confirms that such conflicts among an adult’s thoughts, words, and deeds generate little concern—as long as they feel they are doing what is right in that context, at that moment.

Those choices are perceived and interpreted quite differently by their children. Because a worldview is fully developed before the age of 13, young children listen to and watch their parents for clues on how to live an appropriate and successful life. The problem they often encounter is the inconsistency between what their parents say and do. The cute expression “do as I say, not as I do” is inadequate to alleviate the cognitive dissonance and confusion such inconsistencies cause within children.

How do youngsters reconcile the parental inconsistencies? Many of them conclude that their parents are just as confused about life as they are, and that sends the child deeper into the surrounding culture to search for sources of clarity and wisdom. In fact, the research suggests that millions of children go so far as to conclude that because their parents claim to be Christian (as 67 percent of the parents of preteens do), the Christian faith must not have the answers to life that they so desperately need to make sense of the world and their place within it. Usually, their limited experience with the Christian faith and the Bible provides nothing to override that skepticism, and they decide they must look elsewhere for wisdom and guidance.

Enter the arts and entertainment media.

Past studies have shown that of the many entities that affect children’s worldview, arts and entertainment media have the greatest influence. Why? One reason is because entertainment media—television shows, current music, movies, social media videos, video games, etc.—typically provide a unified worldview message. When children watch a television program that provides a postmodern perspective that is carried throughout the entire performance, children will consider that point of view because it is coherent and consistent. When children listen to a pop song that makes a simple set of assertions about life, they absorb the message if it provides a unified point of view. They are attracted to social media personalities who have a consistent message that underlies their presentations. Some media are rejected by children not because of issues of taste or sophistication level but because the messages provided are confusing or inconsistent. So, even media producers have to be careful about the substance they are developing for their young audience if they want to do more than simply entertain the audience.

Can parents recover from their own inconsistencies to more effectively shape the worldview of their young children? Of course. To do so, however, requires a series of integrated commitments.

For starters, parents have to possess a biblical worldview in order to impart one to their children. Currently, just two percent of parents of preteens have a biblical worldview as their dominant philosophy of life. Before parents can be instrumental in developing a biblical worldview in the mind and heart of their child, they must wholeheartedly embody that same way of life. That’s a big task, but one that every human being can accomplish. God wants each of us to thrive. Because one’s worldview determines every decision one makes, pursuing His principles and commands will bear incredible benefits to those who make the investment.

Second, to shape their child’s worldview, parents have to embrace it as a high-priority life goal. It will demand constant time and energy, and the results will not be immediate; just ask Jesus, based on His investment in His disciples.

Third, parents will need a viable and measurable plan for accomplishing the long-term task. One of the reasons why churches can be ineffective at this process is because they plan to simply provide loads of information to people and hope they figure out how to use it. Parents will require a more thoughtful and strategic plan in order to foster a biblical worldview in their children.

Next, parents will need a process and tools to evaluate how well they are doing and what tactics in worldview development seem to work best for their child. Keep in mind, “you get what you measure.” Figure out what outcomes matter and how to assess whether or not you are making progress toward those desired outcomes. If not, re-strategize and keep moving forward.

Finally, making a long-term commitment to this process is imperative because shaping a worldview takes years. There are starts and stops along the way. Prepare to be frustrated—and to nevertheless stick with the task. The life of your child is at stake. Should they develop a biblical worldview, they will experience what God has for them in this life: the ability to thrive. We thrive when we work within God’s plan. Possessing a biblical worldview facilitates that capacity.

For a parent who loves God and loves their child, that is worth committing to.

10 Tips for Discussing Infertility with Compassion

by Joy Zavalick

April 28, 2022

April 24 through 30 is Infertility Awareness Week, a time to become informed about a struggle that some couples face when seeking to grow their family and how we can respond to their experiences with love, encouragement, and compassion. An estimated 15 percent of couples will have trouble conceiving or experience infertility. Having a reservoir of helpful words to share with those facing infertility is an essential component of loving those particular neighbors well. Knowing which words are unhelpful to say is equally important.

5 Compassionate Things to Say

1. “I am praying for you.”

One helpful response to hearing about someone’s struggle with infertility is letting them know that you are talking to God about their pain and asking for His intervention. Prayers should not only be that the couple would be able to conceive but also that they will find peace and contentment with the path to parenthood that God desires for them—even if that looks like pursuing adoption instead of having biological children.

2. “I am here to listen if you want to vent.”

Many times, keeping silent and listening is the best way to show compassion to someone who is struggling with infertility. If someone has chosen to confide in you about their infertility struggles, honor that trust by patiently listening to them and allowing that conversation to occupy your time together.

3. “You will be wonderful parents, even if your path to parenthood looks different than you expected.”

Some couples facing infertility may greatly desire children but feel intimidated by the adoption process or have a stigmatized view of adoption. Encourage them that adoption is a beautiful form of growing a family if they feel led to pursue it.

4. “I know that today may be extra hard for you. Do you need anything?”

When someone is facing infertility, specific events or celebrations can lose their joy or become a source of pain. Sensitively reaching out on days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, or after events like baby showers or gender reveal parties for other people, can help your loved ones feel seen and understood.

5. “Seeking professional support and counseling is healthy, not shameful.”

Nearly 40 percent of women who experience infertility develop symptoms of depression. While lending a listening ear as a friend is always helpful, it may also be necessary to encourage a loved one struggling with depression as a result of infertility to seek further counseling.

5 Things Not to Say

1. “When are you going to have a baby?”

Unless a married couple shares with you that they are open to discussing their plans to become parents, it is not appropriate to ask; you never know who may be struggling with infertility or miscarriage. Respect the privacy of married couples in their fertility journey by allowing them to make announcements at their own pace about having a baby.

2. “At least…”

A compassionate response to hearing that a loved one is facing infertility does not include making them feel guilty or ungrateful by pointing out the ways they are blessed. Phrases such as “At least you have each other” or “At least you will save money without kids” are not the encouragement that couples need to hear.

3. “Not everyone is meant to be a parent.”

Just because a couple is struggling or unable to conceive biologically does not mean that they are not cut out to be parents. Infertility may be an indication that they should pursue adoption, not that they should abandon parenthood entirely.

4. “Here’s what worked for us when we were trying to conceive.”

Many couples facing infertility have already consulted with a doctor or fertility specialist about their dilemma. Unless the couple specifically requests your advice about conception, it is not your place to offer unsolicited solutions or home remedies.

5. “Just have faith, and God will allow you to conceive.”

Although doubtlessly tragic, it is a biological reality of living in a fallen world that some couples will never be able to conceive naturally. Compassionate encouragement to couples facing infertility should not include false promises or making them believe that a lack of faith is the reason why they cannot conceive. Couples should certainly seek God in their heartache, but infertility is not a punishment for a lack of faith and should not be treated as such. Examples in Scripture of God opening or closing a woman’s womb for a specific purpose can be distinguished from the everyday experience of infertility as a result of the fall, in which case God is not punishing a woman individually through infertility.

How Polish Churches Are Loving Their Ukrainian Neighbors

by Arielle Del Turco

April 20, 2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a humanitarian crisis unlike anything seen in Europe in nearly a century. Millions of Ukrainians are fleeing across the border to safety in surrounding countries as Russian forces continue to attack their homeland.

When I visited Poland earlier this month, the Polish people’s support for Ukraine was evident. In train stations throughout the country, Ukrainian refugees are met with information desks specifically set up for them, medical tents, basic food and supplies, and volunteers in yellow vests waiting to direct and assist them.

The warm reception of the Polish people and government toward Ukrainian refugees has emerged as a powerful theme in the wake of Russia’s war. And although evangelical Polish churches only make up an estimated 0.3 percent of the population, they have been at the forefront helping refugees.

For example, one Warsaw congregation of fewer than 100 members, Zoe Church, launched into action immediately upon hearing of the invasion. Pastor Szymon Kmiecik jumped into a car the night of the invasion and drove to the Ukrainian border to see how they could help. Since then, the congregation has been sending vans full of supplies into Ukraine and coordinating with Ukrainian evangelical churches to distribute supplies to meet basic needs. The church is also renting three apartments to house Ukrainian refugees and assisting them as they resettle and look for work.

Approximately 90 percent of Ukrainian refugees in Poland are women and children. This poses unique challenges as mothers try to provide for their family and get a job while also caring for young children. Zoe Church has a vision to meet this need by offering a safe childcare option for refugee mothers trying to work or simply looking to entertain their kids for a few hours. Now, the church’s Sunday service attendees have doubled with the Ukrainian refugees the church is helping in attendance. You can donate to their efforts here.

In Western Poland, the First Baptist Church of Wroclaw has also stepped up, making space inside the church for Ukrainian refugees to stay until they find a more permanent place to live. Pastor Michal Domagala told me the church houses an average of 40-60 Ukrainian refugees. Polish volunteers help the refugees find jobs, fill out government paperwork, and get acclimated to life in Poland.

At 300 members, First Baptist Church could be considered a megachurch in Poland. Even before the start of the war, the church held a Ukrainian-language service for the Ukrainians who lived and worked in the city. The church’s setup for refugees is beyond impressive. A room full of clothes for all ages is staffed with volunteers who help refugees locate items they might need. Baby supplies and toys are available for those who fled Ukraine with only what they could carry. You can donate to their efforts here.

The need is great in Poland; the country has already taken in 2.6 million Ukrainian refugees, and more are on the way. The strain on the Polish education and health care systems is starting to show, and housing is becoming scarce. In this environment, the tiny evangelical minority is having an outsized impact.

International Christian humanitarian aid organizations, such as Convoy of Hope Europe and Samaritan’s Purse, also have warehouses and personnel set up inside of Ukraine to help the civilians who remain there and find themselves under attack, out of work, and struggling to cope with shortages of food and basic supplies.

The Polish pastors I spoke with say there is no shortage of people ready to volunteer. Yet, some have noticed that donations are tapering off as the war in Ukraine becomes the new normal. One pastor encouraged Christians around the world to pray that the Polish people will have the grace to continue displaying compassion and generosity to Ukrainian refugees for as long as it is needed. 

Poland’s evangelical churches have given much of themselves in order to love their neighbors. It is a beautiful example of Christian charity worth emulating.

Undocumented Migrants Arrive in D.C., Facing Uncertain Future

by Deborah Laker

April 14, 2022

WASHINGTON D.C.– On Wednesday morning, the first bus of undocumented migrants from Texas’ southern border arrived in the nation’s capital. Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to transport migrants to D.C. This action is part of the Republican governor’s strategy to counter the Biden administration’s rescinding of Title 42, a Trump-era border policy.

The migrants from Columbia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday were processed by federal authorities and offered a voluntary bus ride to Washington, D.C. Family Research Council correspondent, Marjorie Jackson, spoke with the asylum seekers and discovered that the bus departed from Del Rio on Monday morning and embarked on a 36-hour journey. Upon arrival at Union Station, the group was met by Catholic Charities, a nationwide refugee resettlement agency. The migrants were offered food, clothes, and legal advice.

Manuel, an undocumented migrant from Venezuela, said he’s come to America seeking a better life for his family since the economic situation is becoming increasingly difficult in his home country. He is on his way to New York where his case will be heard in immigration court.

Recently, the Biden administration announced the termination of Title 42, effective May 23. This policy was established in spring 2020 to stop the spread of COVID by preventing asylum seekers from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Title 42 has since prevented approximately 1.7 million attempts by undocumented individuals from entering the country.

On “Washington Watch,” Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) explained the effects of repealing Title 42.

By the end of the first term of Biden, we could be close to having one out of every five people living in America being here illegally,” Patrick said. “We’re projecting that another 10 and a half million people will come in during the next three years.”

The GOP lawmaker went on to explain that the influx of illegal migrants will not only affect the education system and workforce, but it will impact the course of elections throughout the country.

The Biden administration’s next move—you’ll see soon—will be to give everyone a green card. And that’s the pathway to citizenship [and a] pathway to voting. And then you have, in the next decade or so, 30 or 40 million voters, many of them that will want to vote Democrat because he’s the one who brought them here. They want to control the elections and make this a one-party country.”

Today, another busload of undocumented migrants arrived in the Capitol at 4:30 a.m. It is unclear what their final destinations will be.

Deborah Laker is Staff Writer at Family Research Council.

5 Ways to Draw a Loved One Back to Christ

by Dan Hart

March 31, 2022

In March of last year, a Gallup poll revealed that for the first time in America’s history, church membership had fallen below a majority. Survey data shows that since the 1970s, “Americans [who] said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque” has been dropping steadily, from around 70 percent in 1975 to 47 percent today.

This data fits with the experiences of many believers who have adult children, siblings, parents, or friends who were once churchgoers but have now fallen away and are living a fully secular life apart from God. For followers of Christ, it can be a gut-wrenching and painful experience to watch a loved one publicly turn away from their faith or renounce what we believe is the ultimate source of truth, human fulfillment, and flourishing on earth.

But we also know that life is full of suffering and disappointment. The trials of earthly life can feel overwhelming for everyone, believers included. It’s safe to say that we have all had moments in our lives when we have doubted God’s existence, or at least doubted His goodness or questioned His wisdom. We also know the powerful allure that the world offers us in its material things, sinful pleasures, and idolatrous philosophies that draw us away from God. Therefore, we must have empathy for those in our spheres who struggle with doubt. We also must think biblically about those who profess to no longer believe. After all, if it weren’t for God’s grace, none of us would have any faith at all (Eph. 2:8-10).

When we first learn about a loved one turning away from the Christian life, it can be tempting to react quickly and strongly, confronting the person with theological, intellectual, and what may seem to us commonsense reasons for why they are making the wrong decision. But as experience will tell us, this rarely works and often only increases tension and resentment. Instead, our ardent desire for our loved one to return to the faith must be seasoned with patience, patience, and more patience.

As we move forward in the hope that God will draw our loved one back to Himself in a manner according to His will and in His own good time, here are a few suggestions on ways we can reflect Christ’s love to our struggling loved ones.

1. Focus On the Relationship First

Instead of focusing on your loved one’s lack of faith, make a sincere, directed effort toward building your relationship with them on a human level. In your conversations, focus on discussing day to day activities, such as jobs, children, family matters, illnesses, shared interests, and the like. When possible, make a concerted effort to be there for your loved one at a moment’s notice, whether it be if they are sick and need errands to be run, need a last-minute babysitter, or just need someone to talk to during a time of difficulty. If faith-related topics come up, seek to listen well, ask good questions, and don’t try to win an argument.

In this way, you will build trust with your loved one, showing them that you care for their whole person no matter what their faith status is and no matter what season of life they are in.

2. Be Vulnerable

Being able to relate to your loved one even when they have abandoned the faith that you hold so dear is extremely important. The best way to do this is to let your guard down in your conversations with them and be as vulnerable as possible. If they bring up faith-related questions and show an interest in discussing them, share your own faith journey story from the very beginning without omitting any embarrassing details. Share any struggles you have had over the years in your relationship with Christ and the theological questions and Scripture passages that you continually wrestle with. Share your personal faults, weaknesses, and familial wounds and how they have affected your faith journey.

The more you share about your own personal struggles as a believer and the more honest and vulnerable you are, the more likely it is that your doubting loved one will make a connection with something you say—however small of a detail it may be—and be able to relate it to their own experience. Who knows—some seemingly insignificant anecdote you share may just be the mustard seed that plants itself in your loved one’s soul that will one day become a beautiful tree of renewed faith.

3. Share Life’s Beauty

As believers, we know that everything that is beautiful on earth is ultimately a reflection of God. This underscores the importance of talking with your loved one about the beautiful things in your life that you are passionate about. Discuss the ins and outs of the novel or biography you are currently reading. Share why you loved a particular movie or TV show that was excellently acted and produced and describe how it edified your soul. Illustrate how the latest concert you attended electrified you. When your loved one shares their own experiences and passions, listen attentively and connect with them over shared interests.

By keeping your discussions focused on passions and hobbies, the arts, and the multitude of other beautiful things that fill the earth, you can connect with your loved one in a deep yet unthreatening way that does not directly touch on faith. Even so, your conversation still has the potential to nudge your loved one a little closer to the Creator of all that is beautiful.

4. Live Your Life as a Witness

As previously mentioned, directly confronting your loved one about their doubts regarding faith is generally not advisable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be an active witness of faith to them. How? By living a life of virtue fueled by your faith, which will be difficult for your loved one to ignore.

There are few things on earth more beautiful than a believer living an authentically free life to the fullest, being a visible sign of God’s presence on earth by living out the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Christians like this have a palpable sense of joy and peace that radiates from their soul, and which anyone, believer or not, can’t help but notice. Give your loved one the freedom to recommit to the faith through the witness of your own life.

5. Fast and Pray

There is a storied tradition throughout the entirety of Scripture on the importance and effectiveness of fasting for a particular intention. When we combine this with prayer, it is a potent means of calling on the Lord for the conversion of a loved one. As Christ Himself said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mark 11:24). Here are a few themes we can meditate on as we pray for our loved ones to return to the fold of faith.

  • Hope. Who can forget the incredible true story of Saint Augustine and the faith of his mother Monica? The early life of the man who many consider to be the greatest early church father was marked by sin and a rejection of the Christianity that his mother Monica tried to instill in him as a child (as described in his book Confessions). He embarked on a decade-long affair with a woman he never married, fathered a son with her, and spent years believing in astrology and Gnosticism. Throughout those agonizing 30 years of witnessing her son away from the faith, Monica never lost hope and continually believed and prayed for her son’s conversion. Sure enough, Augustine underwent a monumental conversion to Christianity and went on to become one of the most beloved bishops, thinkers, and writers in church history.
  • Surrender. As hard as it is to let go of our own will when it comes to our desire for our loved one to return to the faith, that is exactly what we must ultimately do—let go. Time and time again, Scripture tells us to humble ourselves and surrender all things to His will. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we entrust our lost loved one in prayer to the Divine Shepherd, we will drive out anxiousness about their fate and bring peace to our souls.
  • The Prodigal Son. Perhaps the most beautiful and moving parable in all of Scripture is Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32). Part of the reason why it is so moving is that it is continually relatable and applicable to our lives as believers, for we know that whenever we sin, Christ welcomes us back with open arms time and time again when we beg for His forgiveness, for His mercy never ceases. As we meditate on this parable, let us picture our lost loved ones returning to our Savior, His arms spread open on the Cross, bleeding for their restoration with Him, and being washed in the blood of the Lamb’s embrace.

Real Men Don’t Bomb Women and Children. They Protect Them.

by Arielle Del Turco

March 10, 2022

Throughout his career, Russian President Vladimir Putin has cultivated the image of a “strong man,” in both the political and physical sense. He has projected a powerful masculine image for himself while reasserting Russian influence on the world stage.

Numerous photos published by the Kremlin show a shirtless Putin doing stereotypically manly outdoorsy things. Images of him hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and submerging himself in icy waters for the Orthodox observance of the Epiphany are accompanied by the Russian state media’s glowing reports of how physically fit the president is. Sure, Putin knows international audiences poke fun at these stunts, but he says he sees “no need to hide.”

Yet, with Putin’s unprovoked invasion into peaceful neighboring Ukraine, the humor of Putin’s self-made macho image is fading. Writing for WORLD, Andrew Walker points out, “Putin’s masculinity is one of cavalier ruthlessness and vainglory—one using raw strength to self-aggrandize, bully, destroy, denigrate, and suppress.”

Standing in stark contrast to the Russian president’s shirtless wilderness photoshoots is comedy actor turned politician, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Before the Russian invasion, Zelensky was a relatively unknown figure on the world stage. But now, he has risen to the task of being a wartime leader with determination, good humor, and fearlessness. Standing in the dark streets of Kyiv as the invasion was underway, Zelensky recorded a video on his smartphone reassuring his people and warning his adversaries that “We are here.”

The risks to his own life are great, but thus far, Zelensky has refused to leave. In an address from his office, he said, “I stay in Kyiv. On Bankova Street. I’m not hiding. And I’m not afraid of anyone. As much as it takes to win this Patriotic War of ours.” This is a strength and courage that Putin’s vacation pics can’t replicate.

Zelensky’s unwavering and passionate communications to his fellow Ukrainians and the outside world have earned him countless comparisons to Winston Churchill. His leadership has rallied Ukrainians to fight back against the Russian onslaught and stirred the hearts of world leaders to act. Neither Zelensky’s politics nor his lifestyle are a perfect model of masculinity. Yet, as he leads his country’s struggle to fight back against one of the most powerful militaries on earth, people around the world are drawn to his powerful example of what masculinity can look like when channeled in the right direction. He has shown he is willing to sacrifice his life for the good of his people and country after being offered an easy way out.

Instead of modeling sacrificial leadership, Putin chose to put the lives of his troops on the line—for some, perhaps even unknowingly—to assault a neighboring sovereign country without a legitimate cause. At home, Putin’s state media obscures the truth about the war he started in Ukraine, and authorities are severely cracking down on the Russians who are brave enough to protest it.

Meanwhile, Russian forces are ruthlessly targeting residential areas for missile attacks. Over the weekend, Russian forces fired mortar shells toward a bridge civilians were using to flee. Four people died, including an eight-year-old child. That’s what Putin is doing to his own soldiers and the innocent people of Ukraine. This is not masculine strength—it’s cruelty.

While Putin’s military indiscriminately harms women and children, Ukraine is making provisions for their safety. Ukraine instituted a policy that allows women and children to flee across the border but expects men to stay and fight. Extra concern for women and children will be all the more important as some fear increased vulnerability for women in the wake of Russia’s invasion and reports of abuses by Russian soldiers.

Of course, many Ukrainian women have been courageously volunteering to fight. Grandmas, members of parliament, teachers, and many others have taken up arms to defend Ukraine. Even so, the Ukrainian government isn’t placing the bulk of the burden to fight onto women, and that is appropriate. A culture expecting men to protect and defend women and children is an impactful display of healthy masculinity.

Zelensky, like the Ukrainian people, has inspired the world with unexpected bravery and resolve in the face of a seemingly impossible situation. In doing so, he provides a clear alternative to Putin’s faux, destructive masculinity. Real men don’t bomb women and children. They protect them.

Beauty Will Save the World (Part 1): How Mary Cassatt’s The Boating Party Illustrates the Interdependence of the Family

by John Sumereau

January 27, 2022

Fyodor Dostoevsky, the great Russian writer, famously observed that “Beauty will save the world.” In this spirit, this blog series will focus on great works of art and how they reveal new layers of meaning to the inexhaustibly rich themes of life and human dignity, marriage and family, and religious freedom.

***

Mary Cassatt, born in Philadelphia in 1844, lived nearly all her adult life studying, collecting, and creating avant-garde artwork in France. She never married. She never bore children. But the decades-long gaze she fixed, through the sensitive and thoughtful eyes of a truly great artist, bore lasting fruit as a towering tribute to the beauty of motherhood. 

Few are unfamiliar with Cassatt’s touching portrayals of mothers and their babies absorbed in the routine exercises of homelife. Bathing, feeding, sewing, reading, often doing nothing more than exchanging a look or a touch with the children in their laps, Cassatt’s mothers are immersed in a shared existence. This is the very opposite of the individualism the artist’s own commitment to art required her to adopt. But an authentic search for beauty, the most essential virtue of an artist, demands an unflagging fidelity to truth. And Mary Cassatt was too great an artist to ignore the exceeding goodness of the road she left untaken.

Unique among Cassatt’s finished works is the large-scale painting she titled The Boating Party (1893). The painting’s central figures, a mother and her softly squirming baby, resemble any of a hundred other pieces by the artist. But now the frame has been widened. We are permitted to see the rare figure of a father, and it is not unreasonable to assume that there is significance in this uncommon element. What clues does it give us to Cassatt’s attitudes and beliefs about the other half of parenthood to which she has devoted so much attention? The figure himself is unsurprisingly obscure. We see him from behind, his dark clothes strongly contrasting with the sun-drenched scene that we join him in beholding. The father is a lonely figure. He propels the boat forward only by physically pulling away from his family. His dependents face their helmsman.

All at once we glimpse the fragility of the mother’s and child’s shared world. Their relationship, as saturated with love as the figures are with sunlight, is seen perched on a small boat blown by the wind and floating on deep waters. The mother looks expectantly at her captain, visibly aware of her reliance on him, but warmly expressing, if not love, at least a willingness to love; a hope that her vulnerability will find shelter under his headship, permitting a true love to grow. There is something ominous about the man, and the dynamic composition hinges on the tension of vulnerability. Yet Cassatt refuses to give us any explicit indication of treachery on the part of the father, and, indeed, there is no reason to suspect that any exists. We are merely aware of his absolute importance to their continued flourishing. 

Is this painting a confession of the necessity of co-dependency? Or is it a protest against it? Perhaps it’s both, but much more importantly, it is a call to parents. The Boating Party lays bare the delicate architecture of interdependence that makes up a family. Our modern society has become allergic to dependence. We’re encouraged to pursue self-sufficiency and self-reliance. There is little doubt that this widespread fear of interdependence is a natural reaction to the many instances of abuse, neglect, and abandonment we learn about so often. But Mary Cassatt saw plainly that true fruitfulness and fulfillment can only be found in vulnerability. 

And the one figure who looks in the direction the boat is traveling, the child, asserts the impact of her parents’ fidelity to their calling both on her own future and the future of humanity.

John Sumereau graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Art from the Penn State School of Arts and Architecture in 2013. John lives in Winchester, Virginia with his wife and three children, whom he currently supports by working as an ultrasound tech at a local hospital. His artwork can be seen on the John Sumereau Art Facebook page.

The Human Costs of China’s Demographic Collapse

by Arielle Del Turco

January 25, 2022

Last week, China announced that its birth rate hit a record low in 2021 after five years of decline. In 2021, China’s population growth rate was up a measly 0.034 percent, while the number of births per thousand people fell to 7.52 in 2021 from an already low number of 8.52 in 2022.

Years of propaganda and policies discouraging families from having more than one child have had a major impact. Now, Chinese officials are scrambling to come up with ways to reverse the self-inflicted damage.

For over three decades, China brutally enforced its one-child policy, even utilizing forced abortions and sterilizations. The damage wrought by the policy is not just psychological or cultural, but also physical. A Wall Street Journal article on China’s urging of parents to have children notes that “multiple abortions impact women’s bodies and infertility is a possible consequence,” according to anthropologist Ayo Wahlberg.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders first instituted the one-child policy due to their concern that the growing population would strain the economy. Now, they worry about the economic cost of slowing population growth and the possibility of population decline. Mainstream media outlets cover the possibility of China’s population decline mainly as a troubling development for the rising power’s economy. Rightfully so. China has an aging population and fewer young workers to support the elderly. 

A decline in the birth rate—and certainly a population decline overall—would have high economic costs. But it will also have a human cost; that’s because families matter. Individuals belonging to a healthy family will have a support system when they age. Children and families can act as a hedge against loneliness (especially in old age) and lend purpose and meaning to life. These benefits cannot be underestimated. With population decline, nations will lose much more than numbers.

In China, the ramifications already harm millions. Most Chinese adults born under the one-child policy have no siblings and bear the weight of supporting their elderly parents alone. And only children whose parents are also only children lack the larger support network and community of an extended family.

Nothing illustrates the human cost of population decline quite like the bizarre cultural phenomena it is currently causing in Japan. For Japanese brides or grooms with few family members, “relatives” can be rented to attend weddings. For those who want the affection of a pet without the responsibility of caring for them, robot pets and rental pets are increasingly common. Meanwhile, there are now so few people that one in eight houses sit vacant; so many that there is a term for them—akiya.  

The Institute for Family Studies points out that low fertility rates very directly impact the lives of those who experience “missing births,” including “rising loneliness to aging alone to less happiness.”

Chinese leaders are scrambling to undo the damage of the one-child policy and encourage births, but some think it may be too late. There’s an air of fear in China regarding having children. It’s impossible to believe that decades of propaganda against having additional children (and abusive measures taken against families that do) is not largely to blame for this. Many couples view having multiple children as too much of a burden. Education and extracurricular costs for children are extremely high, and a culture that prioritizes career growth undercuts the importance of family.

Repressive government policies against ethnic minorities only exacerbate China’s demographic challenges. In Xinjiang, Chinese authorities are committing genocide against the Uyghur people by preventing births through forced abortions and sterilizations. The brutality of the atrocities being carried out in this region is difficult to comprehend, and women of reproductive age bear the brunt of these policies. If Chinese leaders truly want to raise the birth rate, a good first step is to stop committing genocide.

After decades of tinkering with population control, Chinese leaders have not learned their lesson. The number of children a couple is allowed to have is currently up to three, but any limitation should be removed. Chinese people—and Uyghur people—ought to be free to have as many children as they desire.

Chinese leaders should resist the temptation to use heavy-handed policies to force a rise in the birth rate. Instead of coercive measures to fix its demographic issues, they should focus on affirming the inherent value of every human life and the deep importance of families.

The world is beautiful and full of adventure. Instead of worrying about fleeting career advancements or economic gain, couples should open their hearts to invite more children in to enjoy it. Having kids can be scary—but they can also make you a better person. Governments don’t need coercive policies; they need only to affirm the profound importance of families, a truth people know deep down but need reminded of. In China and all countries experiencing lower birth rates, a change of heart about children and families can make all the difference.

The Crises that Led to Christmas (Part 3): Ruth Endured the Crisis of Being Widowed

by Joy Zavalick

December 22, 2021

This is the third part of a five-part series. Read our previous entries on Tamar and Rahab.

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The third woman identified in Matthew’s gospel as being part of the lineage of Jesus is Ruth, a Moabite woman who married into the nation of Israel. In addition to being an ancestor of Christ, Ruth has the distinction of being one of only two women with a book of the Bible named after her (Esther being the other).

The book of Ruth opens with an introduction to three widows: Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth. Naomi had relocated to Moab with her husband and two sons in order to avoid an ongoing famine in Israel. While they were living in Moab, Naomi’s sons married two local women, Orpah and Ruth. Tragically, all three husbands passed away, leaving Naomi alone in a foreign land and Orpah and Ruth childless.

When Naomi decided to return to her homeland of Israel, Orpah returned to her parents’ household, but Ruth refused to abandon Naomi, knowing that her mother-in-law had no one left to care for her. Ruth demonstrated her loyalty to Naomi by saying, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:6).

Ruth and Naomi returned to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem. Upon arriving, Ruth provided for them by gleaning in the fields of a man named Boaz, the son/descendent of Rahab and a relative of Naomi’s late husband. Boaz took notice of Ruth, impressed by her loving sacrifice to leave her home in order to stay by Naomi’s side. Boaz treated Ruth with kindness and ensured that she could work safely in his fields without being harmed by men who might prey on her.

Naomi informed Ruth that Boaz was one of their family’s kinsmen-redeemers. According to Hebrew law, Boaz was eligible to purchase their family property and marry Ruth, thus allowing her to carry on her late husband’s family line (Ruth 2:20). When Ruth approached Boaz and explained her family’s situation to him, he went through the proper cultural channels to redeem Naomi’s husband’s inheritance and marry Ruth (Ruth 3:9-13). Ruth’s first son with Boaz was named Obed. In God’s wonderful providence, Obed had a son named Jesse, whose youngest son, David, would one day become king of Israel.

The intricate story that God wove from the tragedy of Ruth’s widowhood shows His ability to bring beauty even from crisis situations. After the death of her first husband, Ruth likely was unsure of her future. When Ruth selflessly refused to abandon Naomi, she took a leap of faith and trusted that God would care for her—and He did, grafting the Moabite woman into Israel’s family tree.

It is worth noting that Ruth likely did not see the ultimate plan that God was working through her suffering during her lifetime. This is true for us as well. In this life, we will likely never fully understand why God allows us to experience a tragedy. Whether it is the experience of heartbreak, miscarriage, death of a spouse or loved one, or loneliness, it is important to know that the Lord is still present even when He seems silent and that hope for the future remains even when today’s circumstances are filled with pain. Just as Ruth mourned her loss and placed her faith in God, so should we today whenever tragedy strikes.

There are ministries and resources equipped to support widows as they raise a child while simultaneously coping with grief. The book of Ruth may also be read as a call to action for the men of the church to meet the needs of women facing crisis circumstances. Marriage aside, there are countless other ways for Christian men to emulate Boaz and serve the widows or single mothers in their community through acts of kindness.

Ruth’s example may provide inspiration to women and men who have experienced a tragic loss or who unexpectedly find themselves in the position of being a caretaker. Ruth displayed her noble character by acting based on her love for her family and trust in God, rather than allowing the pain of loss to overshadow her hope for the future. Her story reminds us to turn to the Lord in every sorrow and trust that He is working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28).

The Crises that Led to Christmas (Part 1): Tamar Endured the Crisis of Familial Abandonment

by Joy Zavalick

December 20, 2021

The genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, includes many of the most recognizable and celebrated men of the Judeo-Christian tradition, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the kings David and Solomon. Five women are also listed as being among Jesus Christ’s earthly ancestors: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and, of course, his mother Mary.

In the coming days, we will explore the lives of these women. Each one faced challenging circumstances and endured hardships, but ultimately God saw fit to include them in the family line of the Messiah. Moreover, given that Matthew’s genealogy is not comprehensive—and that the inclusion of women’s names in a genealogy was unique for Matthew’s time and culture—we can be sure that each of these five women were included in this list for a reason. The Lord evidently wants us to learn important truths about His grace by considering these women and their stories. The beauty of God’s plan is that the unique “crises” that each woman faced ultimately led to Christmas.

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The first woman listed in the genealogy is Tamar, who was the daughter-in-law of Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Genesis 38 says that Tamar’s husband, Er, was put to death by the Lord for unspecified wickedness. According to custom, it was the responsibility of Er’s brother, Onan, through “levirate marriage,” to marry his brother’s widow in order to provide an heir and keep property in the family. Onan, however, refused to accept this responsibility (likely motivated by sinful desires to assume the position of family leadership and a double inheritance). Because of his failure to fulfill the duties of levirate marriage, he sinned against his deceased brother and Tamar. For his actions, he was also put to death (v. 10).

After the death of his second son, Judah was fearful of giving any more sons to a woman he thought might be cursed, so he sent Tamar away to live in her father’s household. Although Judah promised Tamar that he would give her his third son in marriage, he evidently had no intention of keeping his word. This abandonment of Tamar was a grave evil.

Years later, Tamar learned that her father-in-law was visiting her hometown. Determined to carry on the family lineage of her late husband, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute. Judah, not recognizing her as his daughter-in-law, solicited her and impregnated her. Three months later, Judah learned that Tamar had conceived a child and demanded she be put to death for prostitution. This hypocritical demand reveals not only the inconsistent manner in which men and women were treated in that day, but also puts in sharper relief the evil of Judah’s abandonment of a woman he was supposed to provide for and protect. Tamar immediately revealed that Judah was the father of her child. Judah responded that his daughter-in-law had been “more righteous than I” and rescinded his call for the death penalty.

The story of Tamar reveals God’s enduring faithfulness to Abraham in allowing the line of Judah to continue so that Jesus could be born from it. Tamar gave birth to twin boys—Perez and Zerah. From the line of Perez came King David, and later, Jesus Christ—the Son of God.

God saw fit to use Tamar, a widow who faced the crises of being abandoned by her family, feeling that she had no recourse but to act as a prostitute, and having her father-in-law threaten to have her killed, in the story of His Son’s birth.

Today, many women, like Tamar, are abandoned by their families. Many women feel their only option is to allow men to use them. Many women face abuse from those who should love and protect them. These women can find encouragement in God’s faithfulness to Tamar—a woman who was never deserted by God, even when her earthly circumstances were less than ideal.

Women who find themselves in situations like Tamar should know there are people ready to support them as they work to raise their children. Approximately 3,000 pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) are available across the country, seeking to provide material support, emotional encouragement, and spiritual healing to pregnant mothers facing difficult life circumstances. These centers allow women to advocate for their children even when they lack support from those who are closest to them.

Although Tamar’s husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all failed to love and care for her, and although Tamar’s act of prostitution was immoral, God still provided for her and saw fit to include Tamar and her family in the earthly lineage of His Son. Tamar’s life proves that God’s mercy is endless, and His ability to bring good out of our missteps is boundless.

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