The issue of pluralism has once again been brought into the forefront of culture by one of the West’s great philosophers and theologians. I of course am talking about Lady Gaga and her hit, “Born This Way.” Unless you literally live in a steel-enforced barn isolated from all TV and Radio airwaves, this song at some point has probably affronted your ears in the last few weeks.
Although I could probably write an entire post on the tragedy of pop music that is Lady Gaga, I will refrain and actually give her some credit. In her latest song, she has somehow managed to summarize one of the most unique outcomes of the shift in our culture into postmodernism. The beginning of the chorus says, “I’m beautiful in my way/ ‘Cause God makes no mistakes/ I’m on the right track baby/ I was born this way.”
Without getting too detailed, the rise of postmodernism is best described as the suspicion and rejection of big and exclusive value systems to explain life and inform how we live. As a result, pluralism is becoming the new norm. Our children are being raised in a culture that tells them there is not just one valid way to live. There is no such thing as absolute right and absolute wrong. As Lady Gaga so eloquently puts it, everyone is “on the right track” because that is the way they are born.
For a Christian parent, this can be a very frightening reality. I want my son to grow up and be able to make decisions that honor God. I want him to not be driven by his own sinful instincts and justify them by saying he can do whatever he wants. I want him to know that there is right and wrong regardless of whether or not it is affirmed by the culture.
Parents are responding to this new reality in different ways.
1. Insulation and Escape – Many parents retreat in the face of postmodern pluralism. If the public schools are pluralistic, then we put our kids in Christian schools or, if we’re really hardcore, home-school them. If movies or TV are promoting pluralism, then we just don’t let our kids watch either.
2. Attack and Demonize – Some parents see the threat and take it as a call to arms. We get our modern pitchforks out and picket the schools, the courthouse, the library and even the local K-mart. We hope that our zeal and fervor against the rise of pluralism will convince and possibly bully our children into rejecting a pluralistic worldview.
3. Ignore It – Other parents see the wave of pluralism coming up the shoreline to overwhelm our kids, and we just ignore it. We hope that if we don’t say anything, go to church, and go about our business, then somehow our children won’t get caught in the undertow.
4. Embrace it – A few parents see the rise of pluralism as a good thing and they embrace it hook, line and sinker. We constantly affirm our kids, regardless of their choices. We accept and allow unfiltered entertainment and hope that if kids are merely exposed to all the different perspectives in the world, somehow the Christian one will win out.
I want to tell you something from a new parent who was raised in a postmodern context and has seen each of these strategies played out in my friend’s lives. None of them will work.
As much as we’d like to hope, there is no escape from the voice of pluralism in this world for our kids, and even if we manage to protect our kids from it their whole lives as children, they will eventually be exposed to it as adults and won’t know how to deal with it.
One of the reasons pluralism became so popular is because people grew tired of the marginalizing attacks on people by those who claimed to “have the truth.” Attacking pluralism without dialoguing and understanding it will only push our children closer to espousing it.
Ignoring it will lose because there are too many advocates for pluralism to deny.
Embracing it and hoping for the best will only help our kids in embracing pluralism and rejecting Christ.
I want to offer a different solution. There is a myth about pluralism that just because there are multiple worldviews and value systems one can embrace that each perspective has the same weight. This is a misunderstanding of postmodern culture. Although there may be multiple belief systems our children can embrace, it doesn’t mean they will accept and respect all equally. They will eventually pick one. So here is the response I want to propose:
Show them that it works!
If we want our kids to value wisdom in a pluralistic culture, then we need to live wisely. If we want to teach our kids that loving one spouse for life is the way that marriage should be, then we need to prove it by our marriage. If we want our kids to be generous, compassionate, biblically grounded, joyful, then we must show them all of these things in our own life. If we want our sons and daughters to know and follow Christ, then we must do the same and do so joyfully.
Christianity does work. This is the hope that I have and the reason I am not afraid of post-modernism as a parent. As the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” So let’s show our kids that, although there are other values they could hold and choose, none of them are more rewarding, more joyful, more fulfilling, and more beautiful than a life centered around Christ.