Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Because I needed something more to do...

...I'm now blogging for The Point, the blog for BreakPoint. You'll find lots of thoughtful posts there on a wide range of Christian worldview topics. The good news is that The Point blog gives me an outlet for commenting on non-divorce topics, keeping this one more tightly focused on the issue you came here to read about. But still, check us out on The Point.

Learning the right way

There's a lot of bad press out there condemning children of divorce to repeat the sins of their fathers (and mothers). Dr. John Trent's book Breaking the Cycle of Divorce shares practical strategies for children of divorce to divorce-proof their marriages. Crosswalk has a nice summary posted. Go check it out. (Hat tip to Linda Jacobs.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We become a metaphor

Reading through accumulated articles on divorce and children, I came across this sad story:

"Two deathly unhappy, but still fabulously preppy and well-known, parents decide to finally separate, with the intention that they will soon be divorced. They have a small and equally fabulous child who is too young and too fascinated with shiny objects to comprehend the entire situation. The parents, being slightly self-absorbed, do not take the child seriously into consideration when they plan out this separation. Their main objective is to fix the hellhole of a marriage that they found themselves in as soon as humanly possible. The small child hears Mommy and Daddy fighting constantly, and does eventually notice that Daddy is not around as much as he used to be (the small child of course only notices this when old toys have not been replaced by newer, shinier ones). So Daddy's gone, Mommy seems to be awfully thirsty lately, and the child is left wondering what the hell is going on here. Eventually, the child ends up in therapy, where he resents his parents for continuing to control his life when he sees how badly their control habits have affected their marriage."

...only to read on and discover that all this is an allegory for students who are frustrated with their school's administration. Interesting. The take-away here is that being a child of divorce is so universal, it can now be used to explain other mundane circumstances.

Dads Wanted

Now in bookstores, Dr. Meg Meeker's book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters encourages dads to get involved in their little girls' lives. A few facts from the press release:
  • Girls with a father figure feel more protected, have higher self-esteem, are more likely to attempt college, and are less likely to drop out of college.
  • Six-month-old babies score higher on tests of mental development if their fathers are involved in their lives.
  • Girls with fathers who are involved in their lives have higher quantitative and verbal skills and higher intellectual functioning.

Amazon gives a list of topics covered in the book, including "Why girls need God—and how your faith, or lack thereof, will influence her." Definitely in my shopping cart! And the stack of unread books grows...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Reaching the young

The Wall Street Journal featured an article last week on the "church-growth" movement, a controversial but popular undercurrent in modern evangelicalism. Rick Warren is one of the leaders in this movement with his bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life. I really hope the reporter writing the story didn't get this part quite right (which often happens when agnostic or non-believing reporters approach spiritual topics), but this quote summarizing Warren's approach characterizes all the reasons I'm turned off by Warren -- and why I was so surprised by his comparatively solid appearance on Charlie Rose a few weeks back. Here's the quote, the reporter speaking: "[Warren] figured they might find God if they could sit in a theater-style auditorium and listen to live pop music and sermons that could help them with ennui and personal problems." Really? That's all it takes? A little redecorating, change the DJ, and voila.

While that may not be the solution, there certainly is a problem. The Barna Group came out with a new research summary today asserting that we're missing the boat with our teens. Their research finds that as teens move into their twenties, they stop attending church. They are unable to apply the Sunday school lessons and youth group skits into anything that has meaning beyond high school. A Washington Post article from Sunday confims this, starting off with the story of an evangelical teen, now in her late twenties, who left her traditional roots because, "as an environmental activist, she believed that it offered little spiritual support for her work." She's now a congregant at Brian McLaren's church. McLaren grew up in a conservative tradition, but left that behind in his teens, according to the article, because, "As someone who loved books, music and science, 'I was on the way out from the Christian faith.'"

This is a sad indictment of the teaching we're dispensing to our kids! Even sadder, it's probably this way because not enough adults know any better themselves. Books, music and science are not antithetical to faith. Environmental issues have huge spiritual support. The entire Bible begins in a garden, for Pete's sake, with the God of the universe commanding His newly-fashioned people to take care of the place! He communicated His words to us in a book, complete with a hymnal right in the middle, and loaded with information about science. Now, don't get me wrong, we can't reduce Scripture to literature and biology, any more than we can re-tool God as Mother Earth with a beard. But we can and should be teaching our kids that God has important things to say about every aspect of life.

Barna's research summary goes on to say that the churches that most effectively help teens make the spiritual transition to adulthood do so by developing "teenagers' ability to think and process the complexities of life from a biblical viewpoint." Yes, give them meat, not pablum!

It works because it's what teens need. Joshua Harris says in a recent Christianity Today cover story (not available online), "I just think there's such a hunger for the transcendent and for a God who is not just sitting around waiting for us to show up so that the party can get started." Then, there's Albert Mohler in the same article saying, "This generation of young Christians is more committed, more theologically intense, more theologically curious..." The CT article holds that young Christians want more than just country club Christianity and a few pat truisms. They want depth of theology, the kind of depth that naturally stirs the heart to action. That's how to reach the young. Not 'relevance,' whatever that is, or loud music, or getting to wear jeans to church. It's about passion and depth.

The CT article includes mention of my grand-pastor, the pastor of the church of which my church is a church-plant. Got that? Mark Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I never thought I'd go back to a Baptist church, but tiny little Guilford drew me in with its warm atmosphere, solid teaching, and (gasp, can it be?) hymns and liturgy. CT says of the parent church, "its 525 members average 29 years old. Dever mockingly rejected my suggestion that they aim to attract an under-30 crowd. 'Yes, that's why we sing those hymns and have a [55-minute] sermon...We're seriously calibrated for the 18th century.'"

But if you teach it, they will come!

Friday, September 08, 2006

PBS tackles divorce

From the press release:

"In Kids & Divorce: For Better or Worse, airing Thursday, September 14, at 10p.m. on PBS (check local listings), host Dave Iverson explores the highly charged issue of divorce and asks what parents and the legal system can do to minimize the negative impact on children.

"In the final segment of the broadcast, Iverson explores with the expert panel when joint physical custody makes sense for a family and whether legally presumed joint custody should be the starting point in divorce. The result is the most intense debate in the program.

"While the experts in child psychology and family law will continue to debate what’s best for children of divorce, American families must cope with the daily challenge of putting their lives back together and moving on as usual when, in fact, nothing is ever the same. Perhaps a child interviewed for the program summarizes it best: 'Once the parent makes that choice,” he says, “it’s gonna be permanent for a lifetime.'"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Academics and divorce

A University of Florida study found that "girls between first- and 10th-grades whose parents divorced scored an average of slightly more than eight points higher on standardized reading and mathematics tests than girls whose parents filed for divorce but later requested the case be dismissed. These differences persisted four years after the divorce, he said.

"No academic differences were found for boys, although they did experience a short-term increase in disciplinary problems"

Generation Hope

So half our parents are divorced and one-third of our generation died in abortions. Who says Gens X and Y are cynical? Not these kids. Read about it and get your youth group involved! One week left for this year's official event.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Heart Broken

"Women who had been divorced, widowed or remarried were more likely to develop heart disease during the course of the study than those who were married continuously." More here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Children grieve differently

From a great little article in Catholic Digest on parenting through divorce: "While the grief of adults has a beginning, middle, and end, the grief of children has a series of beginnings, middles and ends."

Wisdom on a Starbucks cup

I stopped at Starbucks on my way back to my home office after a jaunt into the city for a lunch meeting. It's rainy and dreary today, the kind of day that calls for a Grande instead of my usual Tall. Sipping the last, decidedly cold remnants of my mocha, I glanced at the quote, #158 in The Way I See It series: "It's tragic that extremists co-opt the notion of God, and that hipsters and artists reject spirituality out of hand. I don't have a fixed idea of God. But I feel that it's us--the messed-up, the half-crazy, the burning, the questing--that need God, a lot more than the goody-two-shoes do. --Mike Doughty, musician."

You're on to something, Mike! This was one of the main points of Jesus' time on earth. He spent an awful lot of time shaking up the religious folk by chastising them for their self-righteous attitudes and by spending his affection and time on "the messed-up, the half-crazy, the burning, the questing." The Gospels tell this story time and again. It's one we would all do well to remember.

Doctrinal Check-Up

Admittedly, this is a little off topic, but I stumbled on this article today and was intrigued by the sidebar on "denominations" that have chosen to function without clergy. Every one listed is a cult, not a denomination. To call them denominations implies that they're just another variety of Christian, but each one of these groups has seriously errant views of Christ, the focus of Christianity. Want to know if your doctrine is skewed? See if it aligns with each of these cults and you can be pretty sure you're on the wrong track.