How To Talk To Teens About Politics
It feels like overnight our culture has gone from considering politics a somewhat taboo topic to becoming the only topic people are talking about. Social media, the News and even ESPN are ablaze with protests, racial tension, anger, violence, and political unrest.
I even rolled up to a gas station the other day and saw people fighting about what seemed to be politics.
If you’re not having conversations about this subject with your kids already you’re probably thinking about how to approach it. Maybe you’ve tried to talk with your son or daughters about it and it’s resulted in conflict. How do we navigate these issues with teenagers?
01. Don't avoid it because POLITICS are the NEW RELIGION.
Christianity and other spiritual worldviews have been increasingly rejected in the West, but people aren’t therefore religion-less. No, instead we’ve replaced spiritual ideologies with secular ones. The most popular among which is political. Why? Because the human heart is hardwired for ideology. We need a narrative and a worldview out of which to live.
So, instead of God’s Word, people start their day with the news. Instead of a biblical vision we embrace a political vision. Instead the great commission a political mission.
02. Understand that THE NEW POLITICAL ZEAL is HIGHLY SPIRITUAL.
As our culture becomes highly politicized it’s no small thing. It's entirely spiritual. Consider that there’s even a new kind of conviction of sin and sacrifice for atonement as people cancel leaders on Twitter, tear down statues, set buildings ablaze, riot, or boycott. People are seeking to condemn sinners and atone for the sins of our nation. It's spiritual.
It only makes sense. Made in the image of God, we are spiritual beings who sense our spiritual need. But here's the problem: people are seeking to deal with a spiritual problem through secular means.
That also explains why this political unrest keeps spiraling out of control. Our cities are on fire right now because it is simply impossible find the peace we seek without Jesus. There’s no atonement for sin without the blood of Jesus. There’s no reconciliation without the cross of Jesus. And there’s no satisfying purpose for which people can live besides the mission of Jesus.
So, with that understanding, how do we as Christians deal with the new political zeal of our culture? Before we even address this topic with our kids we need to address it in our own hearts. Here’s how:
03. Let JESUS SHAPE YOUR POLITICAL VIEWS rather than letting POLITCAL VIEWS SHAPE YOUR JESUS.
It’s so important as Christians that we look at these issues through the lens of the Gospel rather than the lens of our political party.
I vote. I lean towards a political party. I understand that most of lean either towards one party or another. That’s not necessarily bad. But what can happen is that we are tempted to over-embrace a political party and find ourselves disagreeing with Jesus. Jesus is neither a republican or democrat. When he returns he will not be riding a donkey or elephant but a white horse. He will not be running for president. He is seated as King if kings and Lord of lords having died on the cross and conquered the grave.
Thus, Christians must fundamentally identitify as people of the cross not people of the flag; people of the book not political ideology.
What does it look like to be people of the cross rather than the flag? It means that there will be times the Gospel offends our political party. The Bible’s take on an issue will often be more nuanced than our party’s take. Other times the Gospel view will directly contradict our party's view. What’s politically expedient is not always biblically faithful. While that’s not convenient for us culturally, it is true nonetheless.
In bible college, one of the biggest takeaways students receive is learning to exegete the text of scripture. What that means is learning to let scripture speak for itself by carefully studying interpreting scripture within context rather than imposing our supposed or surface-level understanding of it. Without studying it this way we can end up erroneously interpreting the text. Why? Because we’re all carrying biases with us into our study of the Word.
Why do I share that with you? Beacause one of our primary biases is political. We have political views that we’ve developed through reading books, watching videos, or listening to various political voices. Then, as we approach moral issues in culture, we do so from our political biases and simultaneously assume that Jesus is on our side. We can even find proof-texts in the Bible that support our views. We then baptize Jesus into our ideology rather than conform our views to Jesus.
When we do this, we are fabricating a Jesus of our own making. We conjure up a 21st Century, suburban, socially conservative-Jesus--or a woke, progressive, protesting-Jesus, or A smart, economist-Jesus who’s not fond of closing businesses--or a Jesus who’s primary concern is the vulnerable, so he’s wearing a mask and condemning anyone who doesn’t--or the trained-marxist-Jesus--or libertarian, can’t-tread-on-me-Jesus Jesus who drives a big truck with a gun rack and American flag on the back—or you could name cany other political Jesus we want.
By doing this, we’ve subjugated Jesus to political human authorities. This is idolatry. We must, instead, seek to understand king Jesus in the revealed Truth of scripture and then subject ourselves, our views, and actions to Him.
In referencing these "Jesuses" I’m not trying to condemn or condone any of these political views. I’m being silly to make a serious point. If you’re primary intake as a parent is politics rather than Bible we’re making Jesus in our own image. Instead we must be careful bible readers with a serious bent on knowing the Jesus of the Bible and surrendering to Him.
04. Spend PERSONAL time steeped in Jesus BEFORE you approach YOUR KIDS.
Right now are you spending more time reading headlines, posts, and articles or reading Psalms, Gospels, and Proverbs? Look, beyond taking the wrong view on issues, this will also deeply affect your soul.
Seeing violent videos in the news and on social media and reading articles has an affect on you. You weren’t made to take in that much evil.
How are you going to love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, and boldly walk against the grain of culture as we fail to read the Bible and instead fill your heart with awful news content? If you’re feeling agitated or even angry lately, may I suggest that that’s why? I’ve made it a rule in my life that I read scripture before I touch social media because I'm irritable when I read the news first. One of my mentors is only reading news once a week. What if you did some kind of fast from it like that?
05. ASK MORE QUESTIONS THAN CONTENT.
Your kids are being bombarded with content. Instead of lecturing, listen. Offer more questions than content.
When we lecture we inadvertently have the opposite effect to what we want. We teach them to mindlessly embrace what they are being told.
We don’t want to raise young men and women who allow the culture to spoon feed them their views. We want to raise disciples of Jesus who learn to think critically about the culture and to press into Jesus. Asking them to uncritically swallow our views teached them to do the same with the culture. Instead we should intentionally teach through probing with questions.
Teenagers often learn best not by strictly taking in information but by wrestling through questions. That’s why I’m so passionate about small groups. Before the group some students remember nothing from the teaching. (Highly encouraging as a bible teacher). But by probing students to think about the text themselves their minds are fully engaged. The same is true in your home.
Some questions to consider might be:
01 What’s your take on the current stuff happening on the news?
02 What do you think the right way of looking at this situation is in your own opinion?
03 If you had to guess what God thinks about the situation what would say?
04 What key verses or stories from the Bible support your views?
05 What views do you have that Jesus might disagree with?
06 How are this cultural moment making you feel?
07 What would it look like to seek God in the midst of this moment?