Check out Equip's 2023 Annual Report and celebrate with us all that God has done this year!

Contact us
Parent Convo StartersVideo

Discipling Your Kids Before Disney Does

Enjoy this free preview of Equip’s video teaching. To watch the full-length video, get access to Equip’s on-demand Digital Leaders Course, featuring “Discipling Your Kids Before Disney Does” and much more.

Disney’s “wisdom”

What “wisdom” will Disney, YouTube, peers, and sex-ed offer our kids? And does Christianity tend to follow culture’s wisdom or God’s wisdom when teaching kids about intimacy1, relationships, sexuality2, sex, and marriage?

Let’s look at Disney, at secular culture first.

Individualism and romance are the two key words that epitomize secular American culture’s wisdom for sexual stewardship.

Individualism

“You do you.” Individualism leads me to value self-expression and self-actualization above all else; it is central to how I understand my identity.

“I discover who I truly am by looking inward and then authentically expressing my true inner self in my outward interactions with the world.”

I need freedom from authority, from the moral and ethical obligations imposed by others, from big businesses and religious institutions, even from nature. “Free to be me!” whoever or whatever “me” wants to be.

Anything that is perceived as limiting my self-expression or tries to define who I am and what my purpose is is an obstacle to be overcome as I strive toward authenticity. But at the same time I need validation from someone outside of me, validation that the “real me” I’m creating is good. Where do I find that validation? Romance.

Romance

Romance tells me that I have a “soulmate,” someone out there who will validate the real me and provide everything I need to be satisfied in life. 94% of young adults surveyed in 2011 said that they want their spouse to be, first and foremost, their “soulmate.”

I use my body, sex, and relationships like products to help me become my true self. So individualism and romance are connected, and it is necessary to find the person that completes me. If I don’t, how can I be and express who I truly am?

Polyamorous relationships and same-sex relationships (among other kinds of relationships) are the logical extension of an individualistic culture focused on romance because it could be a partner of the same sex or multiple partners that completes me and allows me to express who I truly am.

So with a romance- and individual-centric viewpoint, how does secular culture see sex, singleness, and marriage?

Sex

Sex is something I need and have the right to as long as I have consent from the other person(s). Our individualistic culture teaches our kids that morality isn’t simply about being honest about my inner feelings and thoughts, rather it’s my moral duty to act on these inner realities so that I become who I really am. This is especially prevalent in the realm of sex and sexuality and relationships. Whatever I and my partner(s) mutually agree upon is considered moral and worthy of celebration.

While it’s ok to be single and even praised, as I can spend your money/time/etc on myself, foregoing sexual relationships for religious reasons is seen as an unhealthy denial of something that will make me happy; it’s seen as repressive.

Someone telling me that I shouldn’t have sex, for any reason, is a great offense to me. But not because you have opinions about sex. It’s because I will think you’re trying to stop me from acting on who I am and expressing my true self.

So how do these views play out in marriage and singleness?

Marriage and Singleness

Marriages are based on how long the feeling of commitment lasts. “I married you because I am committed to you.” Once I’m no longer committed, it makes sense to divorce.

If you do not affirm same-sex marriage or polyamorous marriage, “you are seen as robbing someone of the basic freedom to express and discover their true self while also depriving them of the opportunity to find the transcendence and fulfillment that come from a romantic relationship” (Branson Parler, Every Body’s Story).

What about Christians? Does Christianity tend to follow culture’s wisdom? Unfortunately, cultural Christianity does.

Cultural Christianity’s “wisdom”

So what is cultural Christianity?

Cultural Christianity is the culture that arises from those who say they are Christians, seek to “be a good person,” and identify with certain aspects of Christianity–like celebrating Christmas or opposing abortion or believing that God is love–but whose values and behavior look very similar to secular culture’s values and behavior:

-Cultural Christians expect to be comforted, never challenged, by their religion; sacrifice is not in the vocabulary

-Cultural Christians care more about their outward appearance that their relationship with Christ, their submission to King Jesus, or their ongoing sanctification

-Cultural Christians pick and choose – when culture and Christianity clash, Cultural Christians typically choose to adjust their worldview to accommodate secular beliefs, perhaps sprinkling on a little Jesus to “Christianize” the new belief, or they twist Scripture to fit what they want to believe

-Cultural Christians typically relate to passages about loving everyone and a caring God, but ignore passages about sin or repentance unless they’re able to use the passage to point out someone else’s sin

If your kids attend church regularly, attend a Christian school, consume Christian media, or even just live in an area where most people would say they are Christians–it’s likely that they are being exposed to cultural Christianity on some level.

So how do we see cultural Christianity following Disney’s wisdom? Individualism and romance are the two keywords here, too.

Individualism

There’s an overemphasis on the nuclear family. Families turn inward and refuse to open their homes or lives to those on the margins. There’s little interest in the good of the community at large, especially if that would require giving up the possibility of marriage and sex.

Cultural Christians expect God and spouse alone to provide for all intimacy needs. Friendships are not important after marriage because one’s spouse is supposed to be one’s best friend.

Churches like to call their members a family, but often it’s in word only. Spouse + kids is the only family option presented. Long-term, sacrificial commitment to family is expected, but that only extends to one’s spouse and children.

Romance

When it comes to romance, there’s very little difference in secular culture and cultural Christianity: “God created someone just for me, my soulmate who will complete me.”

Some adherents to cultural Christianity have bought into the romance-centric approach to straight relationships but insist that romance among multiple people or between same-sex individuals are prime examples of culture’s “moral decay” and “departure from the Word of God.” Others adopt a revisionist (progressive) sexual ethic.

What does that mean for sex, marriage, and singleness?

Sex

Cultural Christianity encourages everyone to save sex for marriage because the assumption is that marriage is the pinnacle of human relationships, thus God’s plan is for everyone to marry, thus making sex something we need and have the right to as long as we get married first.

Because everyone is expected to marry, cultural Christianity typically focuses on urging teens to refrain from sexual activity before marriage and uses sex to sell abstinence: “If you’ll just wait until you’re married to have sex, it’ll be incredible.” The question is not if God will deliver that perfect someone to those who are faithful, the question is simply when. In addition to being a “solution” to the “problem” of sex, marriage also functions as a reward for abstinence.

Marriage and Singleness

Cultural Christianity assumes marriage for everyone.

You might hear a cultural Christian say something like, “I have the right to marriage, sex, and a family. I want those things. A loving God wouldn’t deny me those things.”

Single Christians are living in a “preparatory state,” not meaningful in its own right, while they wait not only for their romantic partner to appear, but also for their life to begin. When we understand singleness as a time of waiting for our “soulmate,” we treat our child’s imagined future spouse as an idol (and teach our child to do the same). At its very best, singleness can only be a time of trial and suffering; at its worse, celibate singleness is thought to be impossible. And because marriage and sex are the pinnacle of the human experience, singleness cannot be a gift or a calling, only a curse. And we often treat singleness that way, pitying those who aren’t married, viewing singles as spiritually immature, and refusing to provide committed family to those who are called to the path of vocational singleness.

Clearly, both secular American culture and cultural Christianity aren’t offering our kids God’s wisdom. Let’s compare and contrast between what culture says about individualism, romance, sex, marriage, and singleness and what God says about these things.

God’s wisdom

Individualism

God says that the goal of our freedom in Christ is not for the sake of expressing our “true self,” but is using our freedom to serve others.

“If [our marriages and families] are not oriented around following Jesus and the gospel work he calls us to [making disciples], then they are idols that need to be dismantled. …Jesus calls us to fundamentally rethink the value we place on [marriage and nuclear family]” (Branson Parler, Every Body’s Story). Individualism (either for self or for nuclear family) has no place in God’s family.

So what does that mean for romance?

Romance

The gospel is about God’s covenant faithfulness, yes, but it is also about God bringing disparate people together and uniting them as family (Romans 12:5). “Our first family is not the biological family, but the household of God. This belonging thus shapes how we view singleness and marriage and how we live those out as the household of God” (Branson Parler, Every Body’s Story).

Romance doesn’t work as a foundation for covenant Christian marriage. Why? In part because romance can’t imagine the practical dimension of love. Without that, we obsessively consume the other person and continually wonder whether they are truly our soulmate. “In contrast, true love stands shoulder to shoulder in the trenches of everyday life, partnering together in the shared work and mission of the kingdom of God” (Branson Parler, Every Body’s Story).

Romance says my soulmate is the only one who can provide true family for me. The gospel says that I am now a member of God’s family. Romance says I find the person who completes me. The gospel says I am complete in Christ.

Knowing that, what is God’s wisdom for sex, marriage, and singleness?

Sex

“If our ultimate goal is to bear witness to the good news of Jesus, that will involve a holistic way of life that understands and integrates every part of who we are—including our bodies and sexuality—for the sake of that mission” (Branson Parler, Every Body’s Story).

“Sex is a covenant-making, marriage-making act. It is the embodied ‘oath-sign’ that says with body language what our words say in a marriage ceremony. Bodies that engage in sexual union are meant to be telling a self-giving story of faithful covenant love” (Branson Parler, Every Body’s Story).

God did not create sex to be solely for human pleasure, and He never meant for sex to be divorced from creating new life. This is why sex is reserved for marriage–so that the new lives who are created through the sexual union of a husband and wife have a safe and stable place to grow up.

Marriage and Singleness

Culture says that sex and marriage symbolize the commitment: “I married you because I was committed to you.” If the commitment goes away, it makes sense that the marriage would also go away. But the gospel says, “I am committed to you because I married you.” Marriage vows are taken seriously and commitments remain even when the marriage is difficult or spouses don’t feel “in love.”

Neither marriage nor singleness are ends in themselves, but are “anchored in and oriented toward the kingdom of God” (Branson Parler, Every Body’s Story). Both are equally valued, equally needed, and equally “doable” in the household of God.

Ephesians 5 shows us that Christian marriage3 is a picture of Christ and the Church. If Christ is the new Adam, the Church is the new Eve. Thus, it is the family of God, not a spouse, that is the answer to loneliness. As Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families4” (not “God sets the lonely in romantic relationships/marriages.”)

God’s wisdom

But what is God’s wisdom? What is God’s best for our kids’ sexual stewardship?5

Simply put, it’s this: Though sin and brokenness exist and will affect our kids’ sexuality and relationships, our children can still flourish when they follow God’s wisdom by submitting to His design for sexual expression and to the relational vocation He chooses for them–either Christian marriage or Christian singleness.

Some of you may be thinking: This is great and all, and I really am convinced that God’s wisdom is best, but there’s no way I can overcome the “wisdom” of Disney, TikTok, my kids’ friends, and Netflix. How can I stay relevant when culture is winning?

Staying relevant

 1. Clearly define Christian marriage and differentiate that from what culture calls marriage.

God invented marriage, so He gets to define what it is. But your kids are going to hear many definitions of what marriage is and what its purpose is, and most of those are not going to line up with what God says marriage is and is for. So use the phrase “Christian marriage” when talking to your kids about God’s wisdom and use a phrase like “legal marriage” or “civil marriage” when talking about the legal partnership two people enter into that is recognized by a government.

2. Avoid assumptions

When we begin to talk to our kids about sexual stewardship, we, as parents, often make two assumptions: We assume that our kids will be attracted only to people of the opposite sex, and we assume that our kids will one day marry. While most kids will be attracted to the opposite sex and the majority of our kids will one day marry, when these assumptions color the way we talk about marriage, intimacy, family, and sexual stewardship, we alienate our kids who experience same-sex attraction, and we unintentionally put marriage in a place of honor over singleness.

3. Broaden what you teach about sexual stewardship beyond just saving sex for marriage

The stringent rules surrounding sexual purity that found prominence beginning with Joshua Harris’s book I Kissed Dating Goodbye and gave rise to the “purity culture” that most evangelical Millennials endured teaches that virginity and “saving sex for marriage” are what God prizes most.

Rather than valuing God’s wisdom and teaching our kids to pursue that, purity culture/the sexual prosperity gospel teaches our kids to value virginity and to pursue that at all costs, leading our kids to strive for “purity” not because God’s wisdom is best, but because they are promised a highly sought after reward for their good behavior. Purity is good, refraining from sex outside of a covenant of marriage is good, but it’s not the focus–following God’s wisdom should be the focus.

4. Help your child resist the idol of romance

Disney is built on the idol of romance–the idea that we all have a prince or princess out there and that we’ll live happily ever after once we’ve found them, that magically coupled love is the best thing the world (and God) has to offer.

But Scripture does not promise us romance or sex or marriage. And romance, sex, and marriage are not necessary to meet our intimacy needs. (Not sure? Take a look at the lives of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.)

So what can you do? Celebrate committed Christian singleness. Help your kids learn how to do friendship well. Accurately teach about the beauty and blessing of Christian marriage. Help your kids recognize that Scripture never promises romance to anyone.

5. Separate language from behavior and resist language debates

From a young age, teach kids God’s good plan for human intimacy, family, sex, sexuality, and relational vocations. Teach kids that LGBT+ people aren’t powerless against cultural scripts and aren’t forced by their orientation to do or say anything in particular. Uncouple gay language from gay sex. Uncouple trans language from hormones and surgery.

6. Talk about what’s going on in culture

We don’t have to be afraid of culture. And our kids need us to talk to them about what they’re hearing and seeing on the Disney channel, at school, on YouTube, and from their peers.

7. Have compassion.

Have compassion for LGBT+ folks and singles as you have conversation about sexual stewardship. Conversations with our kids won’t get very far if we’re not able to show compassion for those on the margins, for the hardships they have and continue to endure, especially at the hands of Christians. Voicing compassion for sexual and gender minorities while also teaching your kids what God’s wisdom is helps your children understand that love and truth are not mutually exclusive.

Have compassion for your child as they navigate a broken world, trying to resist the broken but tantalizing wisdom culture offers them. Your child will eventually discover sexual brokenness in themselves. Your child will eventually sin sexually in some way. Create a safe and respectful relationship now, particularly in the way you speak of sexual brokenness and sexual sin, that will ensure your child isn’t afraid to share those things with you.

And have compassion for yourself. Every conversation won’t go perfectly. You’ll miss some opportunities. When your kid is 20 you’ll probably look back and see where you could have done things differently. God knows we’re not able to be perfect parents; that’s why He gave us the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our own sin, helps us to pray and understand God’s word, and will help us parent according to God’s wisdom. God is sovereign. You are the right parent for your child. You can do this.

Get access to the full recording and transcript of this webinar in Equip’s on-demand Digital Leaders Course.

  1. Intimacy is close familiarity, friendship, closeness, close knowledge of​. Though sex and romance are forms of intimate closeness, intimacy is broader than just those two things. When I use the word intimacy in this intensive, I’m specifically referring to close, familiar relationships. This can include, but isn’t limited to, a spouse. We all need close, familiar relationships. We all need intimacy. We don’t need sex, and we are not promised a spouse. ↩︎
  2. Sexuality is our sexual thoughts, feelings, attractions, and behaviors. It’s centered on who we are attracted to and who we want to be in relationships with and share intimacy with, but it’s not solely about sex. Kutter Callaway, in his book Breaking the Marriage Idol, reminds us that ”Human sexuality is … about our capacity for relationship, our profound desire for connectedness and intimacy, our longing to transcend our isolated individuality by becoming one with the other. It isn’t merely about whom we have sex with, or when we get to have sex, or even whether we get to have sex. It is so much deeper than that.” ↩︎
  3. Christian marriage is a calling between one Christian man and one Christian woman in covenant relationship for life for the sake of the kingdom: to be open to children and embody the gospel. Those called to Christian marriage make their family with their spouse, their children, and other biological relatives and Christians they commit to as family, like grandparents, the godparents of their children, etc.
    And Christian singleness, or what I call vocational singleness, is a calling to committed, lifetime calling to celibate singleness for the sake of the kingdom: to do kingdom work, raise up/mentor spiritual children, and embody the gospel. Those called to vocational singleness make their family with a small community of life-long lived in family (like committed friendships), spiritual children, and other biological relatives and Christians they commit to as family, like grandparents, the parents of their godchildren, etc. ↩︎
  4. Family is a small group of Christians who live in close proximity, embody the gospel for one another, and are intimately close in relationship. As Jesus said: “My true mother and brother and sister are those who do what my Father in heaven wants” (Matthew 12:50, Mark 3:35, Luke 8:21).​ Pauline Boss put it this way: “By family, I mean that intimate group of people we can count on over time for comfort, care, nurturance, support, sustenance, and emotional closeness.” This can include a spouse, kids, chosen family, church family, and more. We all need family; we all need access to the love and belonging families provide whether we have a spouse and/or kids or not. So where do we find family? God established two places, two relational vocations, where most Christians will find family: Christian marriage and Christian singleness.​ ↩︎
  5. Sexual stewardship is what we do with our sexuality. It’s wisely managing our need and capacity for intimacy and family in God-honoring ways.​ Christian sexual stewardship is much broader than what we do with our private parts, though that is certainly part of sexual stewardship. ↩︎

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Contact Us

info@equipyourcommunity.org 
(615) 787-8205