Equip recently released Christian Parenting in Sex-Obsessed Culture, a 6-week course that equips parents to lead kids ages 2-12 in conversation about God-honoring sexual stewardship. What practical tools does our Parent Course offer? We train parents to use current events as opportunities to teach their children. Check out a sample below and learn more at equipyourcommunity.org/parentcourse.
JoJo Siwa is a 17-year-old children’s entertainer with over 12 million YouTube subscribers, most of whom are elementary school-aged children. Many Christian parents bought their daughters JoJo’s oversized bows, allowed their kids to watch JoJo’s upbeat videos, and even took their children to JoJo’s concerts. And with good reason: JoJo Siwa is one of the few entertainers who exemplifies good morals. She’s positive and kind, she dresses and dances modestly, her songs discourage bullying, and she hasn’t been part of any controversy.
Then, in an Instagram post, JoJo came out as gay.
News of JoJo’s sexual orientation and that she has a girlfriend has left some Christian parents wondering how to best respond.
Should we cancel (see a definition of “canceling” at the end of the post) JoJo, remove any presence of her merchandise from our homes, and ban our children from ever enjoying her music again?
Should we assume our kids are too young to understand what JoJo means when she says “love is love”?
Should we try to explain to our kids what’s going on?
Should we let them enjoy JoJo’s fabulous costumes and catchy songs without worrying too much about her personal life?
Easy solutions that cause long term damage
The easiest solution may be to completely remove JoJo’s presence from our children’s lives while explaining that we can no longer support JoJo because she has revealed that she’s gay and has a girlfriend. I understand the concerns. We don’t want our children to pick up cultural messages that would lead them toward a progressive sexual ethic.
It’s true that much of what JoJo says is problematic. Personal happiness, which JoJo says comes from her work, her fans, and her personal life, seems to be the driving force in her life. Her advice to her fans is this: “Do whatever it is that makes you happy” (Instagram post, January 23). Many of her videos seem to communicate that happiness can be found in shopping sprees and meeting celebrities. Clearly, those aren’t the values we want to pass on to our kids.
But are we addressing all of the ways JoJo’s advice and values contradict Scripture, or are we only concerned now that JoJo has shared that she is gay and has a girlfriend? If we’re willing to cancel JoJo for these, but we’re unwilling to cancel her when she gave her fans advice that clearly contradicts Scripture, are we just being homophobic?
While our hearts may be in the right place, what do our kids learn when we withdraw our support for JoJo because she’s gay and has a girlfriend? While we probably hope to communicate to our kids that God’s best plan for relationships doesn’t include same-sex romance, I don’t think our kids hear that. They aren’t hearing the love God has for all people, regardless of their attractions. They aren’t hearing that God has set a high bar for sexual stewardship for all people, regardless of their orientation. Rather, they’re hearing the following:
We should fear gay people (We’ll pray for “those people.”)
Being gay is bad (I’m not allowed to watch JoJo’s videos any more, she must have done something wrong, she must be bad.)
Same-sex attractions should be kept a secret (if JoJo had never come out, I would still be allowed to like her; if I ever experience attraction to the same sex I probably won’t be welcome in my home so I shouldn’t tell anyone).
Gay people are subject to rules straight people aren’t (Before JoJo shared about her attractions – when everyone assumed she was opposite-sex attracted – she was living her life in some ways that weren’t God-honoring, but my parents weren’t concerned; God must have extra rules for gay people.)
Lead your kids in conversation instead of canceling in fear
Parents, I urge you to use this cultural moment to teach your kids about God’s wisdom regarding sexual stewardship and His love for gay people, instead of canceling. Since our identity as Christians is firmly rooted in Christ, JoJo Siwa’s attractions and relationship are not a threat to us or to God’s design for relationships. We don’t have to fear opportunities like these to teach our kids.
And while it is right to talk to our children about the appropriate place celebrities like JoJo should have in our lives, we don’t have to condemn gay people in order to teach our kids about God-honoring sexual stewardship. They’ll see those truths in other areas as we teach in compassionate and theologically accurate ways about singleness and marriage and about what those are and how God designed them to function.
You could say something like this: “God loves gay people and has good plans for them. God loves JoJo and has good plans for her. God’s design for relationships and sex is the same for all people, regardless of who they’re attracted to. Let’s pray together that JoJo will choose to follow God’s wisdom for sexual stewardship. And I want you to know that if you ever feel like JoJo, if you ever notice that you’re attracted to other girls, it’s safe to tell me and I’ll do everything I can to help you thrive in God’s good plan for your life.”
Choose consistency over homophobia
Please be consistent.
If we don’t allow our kids to watch JoJo Siwa videos anymore because she has a girlfriend, we also need to bar our children from viewing any other actor/musician/celebrity/character/tv show/movie that uses romance or sex outside of God’s best. This includes sex outside of marriage, cheating on a spouse, divorce and remarriage, using pornography, casual dating with intimacy of a more sexual nature, or having children outside of wedlock. Are we willing to do that?
Inconsistency doesn’t protect our children. Instead, it teaches them to discriminate. And when that inconsistency is applied only to gay people, it teaches our kids homophobia. Our actions communicate to our children, “It’s okay when straight people ignore God’s wisdom. But if a gay person isn’t following the rules, we must punish them.”
If parents feel they must cancel entertainers to be serious about protecting their kids from the influences of our sex-obsessed culture, we should cancel everyone whose sexual stewardship isn’t God-honoring. But if we’re not willing to do that, we must admit that our reaction to JoJo is about more than just protecting.
Cancel culture won’t protect our children
Even if we managed to successfully protect our children from watching any videos or public figures that fall short of this high standard, we would still fail to block them from exposure to sexual brokenness in the rest of their lives. Reminders are everywhere that this world is not as it should be. Even if we narrow our focus just to gay people, there are many places our elementary-aged children could come into contact with a gay person not following God’s wisdom. Do we refuse to allow our kids to interact with their second-grade teacher who has a picture of his same-sex spouse on his desk? Do we quit the sports team when a teammate’s two moms show up to cheer him on? Do we stop taking our child to library story time because the children’s librarian wears a Pride flag pin on her lanyard?
We teach them that the way Jesus calls us to live will often be different from what others choose to do. We teach our children about God-honoring sexual stewardship while also teaching them to love and honor those who don’t uphold the same sexual ethic. And while we’re at it, we invite that gay person/couple into our home. It could be the first positive experience they have with Christians, probably after many negative interactions, and your home could be the only place they encounter the love Jesus has for all people.
Parents, my intent isn’t to shame you. If you’re having second thoughts about how you handled JoJo’s coming out, it’s not too late to have another conversation with your child! You can model owning up to the fact that you weren’t sure what to do, and admit that you reacted poorly. Praise the Lord for opportunities to courageously model Christ’s love and humility to our children! You can check out Equip’s free Parent Conversation Starters for tips on how to start age-appropriate dialogue about sexuality with your kids.
Learn more about leading your kids in conversations about God-honoring sexual stewardship with Equip’s Parent Course. Click here to watch a free preview of the Course and register for an upcoming virtual Course.
*Cancel culture “refers to the practice of withdrawing support for (cancelling) public figures/companies/brands after they have said or done something considered objectionable or offensive” (dictionary.com). While church discipline is helpful when a Christian inside the Church is continuing in unrepentant sin, cancel culture typically targets cultural messages from public figures/companies/brands with the intent to shame and/or completely disengage. When we choose to cancel, the losses end up being greater than the gain.