Idols of our Age

If religion is one’s matter of ultimate concern (Paul Tillich’s definition) then Entertainment and Children are the gods of this age. Give the people today entertainment and you will be loved by them. We are much like ancient Rome in the days of the Coliseum. Americans take their entertainment very seriously. We love to be entertained, more than anything. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not going the Pietist route here. Some entertainment is certainly to be enjoyed. But everything in moderation, right? This is why churches that make worship fun and entertaining are so popular. Turn the Christian Faith into fun and games and you’ll gain a huge following. Give them games, give them entertainment in the church and they will love you! Churches that take their worship and God’s Word seriously, indeed, churches that take God seriously at all, cannot expect to be loved and admired. Entertainment is one of the idols of our age.

The other one is children. We worship our children. They are gods. The lives of parents revolve around their children, when, shouldn’t it be the other way around? To be sure, for the first couple of years our lives out of pure necessity revolve around our children. John Rosemond in his book “A Family of Value” speaks of this. But then, he says, around the age of two there should begin to be a transition, where the child’s attention is expected to be on the parent, rather than the other way around. This is why the “terrible twos” are so terrible–because for the first two years of the child’s life, he or she has been used to being coddled, sung to, and served by every other member of the family. And then when this begins to change, when attention is not so much focused on him, he throws a fit. Literally.

When this transition does not happen, when the parents continue to allow themselves to be ruled by their children, this has some pretty nasty long-term effects. Our culture today worships and adores children; not just babies, but children. The child doesn’t want to go to church. The child doesn’t have to go to church. The child wants a toy; the child gets a toy. The child cries for attention; the child gets attention. This yields children who do not respect authority, either parental or other. The children start demanding our respect. They start demanding that we be “nice” to them. Whatever. We worship our children. Bottom line.

There is a fine balance here, of course. I’m not suggesting that we don’t pay attention to our children, or that we never do good things for them. What I am saying is that we should not be expected to give in to their every whim. We know what is best for them. We are their parents. Period.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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9 Responses to Idols of our Age

  1. Another form of idolatry with respect to children is the general view of them as commodities. We can focus unduly upon them at the expense of wife, work, and neighbor.

    We can be so “incurvatus in se” that we engineer our family size. This is not the place for debate about contraception. But there is a danger in the tone of your post that one might conclude that the family is a venue for the ascetic enterprise, i.e. less is better.

    We can’t avoid idolatry by having more or less children. I’d insert the statement into you final paragraph.

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Not really sure how you could infer from my post that I would suggest limiting family size, but I definitely do not suggest that. I am not saying that family is the place for ascetic enterprise at all. I’m simply saying that those who have children, no matter how many, should not give in to their every whim.

  3. I would agree that entertainment is the god of this age, but ultimately what this means is that the self is the god. Entertainment is but one symptom of the selfish individualism that infects every aspect of our modern culture.

    It is only in that sense that children are also objects of worship. Like entertainment, the majority of people today “have” children simply as a means of self-fulfillment. They treat them like pets and pamper their every desire because that is what gives the selfish modern parent the most immediate self-gratification and self-esteem.

    Indeed, by giving in to their every whim we do not show true love to children, but rather show our own selfishness. The only reason it appears that modern people idolize their children is that these children are being mistreated and abused out of parents’ worship of themselves.

    Therefore, I agree with the caveat Chris offered because our culture is most decidedly anti-child. It’s all about “me.” Modern man doesn’t worship children, except in the sense that they selfishly worship all their treasured material possessions.

    Instead, we should see children as gracious blessings from God to be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Those who idolize their children do not see them as blessings from God to be loved and served according to His will, but rather as possessions created by our own will to serve our own selfish desires.

  4. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Neither of you really got the point of my post, I’m afraid. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. I think you have read way too much into it.

    I have absolutely no idea how one can go from, “Children should not be the center of our attention, but it should be the other way around,” to, “limitation of family size.” Oh well. No harm done.

    I think children are one of the idols of the age. We serve them by carrying them in our “chariots” to every kind of “outing” or “camp.” We do whatever we can to keep them entertained. Really, who are the Kings and Queens in the household? The Parents, or the children? Who is to be paying the most attention to whom? I am saying that the parents ought to be the center of the family, with the children as little satellites. Too often today, the children are the center of the family “solar system” and the parents are the celestial bodies that revolve around them.

  5. Pr. Beisel,

    Perhaps not, but I think we “got” the point of your post. It seems, rather, that you have not understood the point of either comment made by us, your readers.

    I would like to add another caveat that might explain my discomfort with your post better. You wrote:

    “Really, who are the Kings and Queens in the household? The Parents, or the children? …parents ought to be the center of the family, with the children as little satellites.”

    I take exception to such language as being counter to a proper Scriptural understanding of the vocation of parent. Perhaps it would help to remember our Lord’s answer to the disciples who were disputing among themselves who would be the greatest:

    “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be the servant of all.” Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives on of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

    As a dedicated father of nine children, two in heaven, it is very hard for me to swallow your idea of parents being the center of the universe and children as little satellites. It is just not possible once you reach a certain number of children.

    At this point in my life, I am forced to realize that my primary vocation is that of father. This means of necessity that I cannot think of myself as the center of the domestic solar system, but rather my wife and the children we serve. Modeling Christ, I must die to self and live for those I am given to serve.

    Granted, I do not serve my children (or wife for that matter) properly by giving in to their every desire and whim, acting as their concierge, butler, and chauffeur. I (along with my wife) am the “head” of the household, not the feet. That, I believe, is the proper point you are making. But service to them is, nevertheless, my calling – just as honoring me and submitting to me is theirs. I therefore hope my disagreement is simply with your terminology.

  6. Chad Myers says:

    Nine! Wow. I’m a slouch at four 🙂

    What if you said it like this:

    For people who have the vocation of Marriage and, God willing , parenting, your priorities are:

    1.) Make sure your spouse gets to Heaven
    2.) Make sure your children get to Heaven
    3.) Make sure you get to Heaven

    Implicit in #1 and #3 is to make sure you and and your spouse remain Holy and keep the commandments.

    Implicit in #2 is to make sure you keep your children holy, well-rounded, and productive members of this world.

    Our motto and “Purpose of Life” statement is: “To know love and serve God in this world, so that we may be with Him for eternity in the next”

    In order to keep your children holy, they need to have, among many other things, a healthy respect for their parents. The parents must ensure that their relationship is maintained holy, loving, and healthy.

    This may come at the expense of time with the children and that’s OK because having loving, adjusted parents is far more important to the child than playing catch with him every night after work, for example.

    I think the original post’s point was that parents should not be door mats. Likewise, they shouldn’t be selfish tyrants either.

  7. All good points, Chad. In addition to the initial caveat that our modern “me”-driven culture actually hates children rather than worshiping them, it is that well-rounded vision of the parent/child dynamic that was trying to bring to Pr. Beisel’s latest comment.

  8. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Erich,

    You’re probably right. I’m confused by yours and Christopher’s responses. I was merely critiquing the modern attitude towards children that I see so much where the parents spend all of their waking moments doing everything possible to please their children, instead of the children being expected to try to please their parents. I agree with John Rosemond on this. During the first two years, it is normal and natural for the parents to be wholly focused upon the child’s needs. That’s just the nature of having children. But as time goes on, the children should learn that they shall not always remain the center of attention. Otherwise, you have self-centered children. I think part of the reason so many children today are very self-centered is because parents dote on them from an early age, and the children never learn that their job is to pay attention to the parents most of all, not the other way around.

    Chad, I think you got my point.

    I was not intending to make any points about family size or anything like that.

  9. Family size can, and often does, have a big effect on the point you are making, Pr. Beisel. Contraception has dramatically decreased the number of children couples have, and has in turn brought about an abundance of doting parents.

    When one has fewer children, there is much more of a tendency to dote on them. I was a parent of one, two, and three children. 😉 With each additional child, the less time one has for doting.

    In fact, many are the nights now that I go to bed confessing that, try as I may, I have failed to provide some of the basic and proper care and attention each of my seven living children needed – both in what I have done and left undone.

    However, I pray the Catechism and go to sleep peacefully, knowing that our Father in Heaven has, indeed, richly provided them “everything they need to support this body and life” – in spite of, and sometimes even by means of, the negligence and errors of this sinful earthly parent of theirs. For into His hands I commend ALL THINGS.

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