by Matthew W. Bassford
In 2010 and 2011, I became the father of two extremely inquisitive children. In 2019, I also became the owner of a firearm. Naturally, I gave some thought to how these two areas of my life should interact. Should I keep my gun locked away from my kids and forbid them to have anything to do with it?
I chose a different course. In our household, we have basically two firearm rules. First, our children aren’t allowed to touch them at all if an adult isn’t present. However, if they would like to see one of my guns, all they have to do is ask, and I will go get it and let them look at it, play with it, dry-fire it, etc. While they do this, I’m around to make sure they’re not doing anything foolish and to drill them on the rules of firearm safety (“Rule 1: Always treat a firearm as if it is. . . ?”).
I know there are risks associated with gun ownership, but I prefer to train my children on how to deal with those risks rather than shielding them from them. After all, if I don’t train them, then they won’t know what to do if they encounter a firearm when I’m not around.
Of course, I do not speak with reference to guns. I think firearm ownership is morally neutral, but parents are presented with the shield-or-train in many areas of great moral significance. Sex is one. Philosophical naturalism and the theory of evolution is another. Humanist critiques of the Bible are a third.
Many Christian parents, especially those who homeschool their children, choose the “shield” approach. They don’t talk about sex with their kids. Sometimes, they’re so afraid of evolution that they flat don’t teach them anything about science. Certainly, they don’t expose them to the arguments that the Bible is a lie.
Admittedly, the quality of my parenting has yet to be established, but I think that’s a mistake. In fact, I think it’s more of a mistake to shield children from those things than it is to shield them from firearms. It’s entirely possible to go through life without ever touching a gun, but in our society, sex, evolution, and humanism are unavoidable.
We can keep our children in bubble wrap for a time (maybe), but sooner or later, they will encounter these ideas. They will hear about sex from a boyfriend or girlfriend, atheism from Richard Dawkins on TV, and Biblical criticism from Bart Ehrman on YouTube. When that time comes, either we have prepared them for the encounter, or we haven’t.
For the well-equipped Christian, I don’t think there is anything to fear from that encounter. I’ve found nothing in any of those ideas to turn me away from God. Instead, problems arise when a child’s initial exposure to an idea comes from an opponent of truth. They will assume that there is no Christian rebuttal to these things because no one ever taught them the Christian rebuttal, and they may well lose their souls as a result.
Today’s parents, then, need to master the art of the difficult conversation. We need to be our children’s guides to the strongest challenges to our faith. We can’t keep the devil from bringing them to our children’s attention. All we can do is make sure he doesn’t get there first.