Much ink has been dedicated over the years to pen the perils of exposing our children to imagery that could negatively influence their lives. While I don’t see anything wrong with such discernment and cautioning, I think sometimes we’re missing the flip side of the coin.
Parents also need to be careful to expose their children to imagery that could positively influence their lives. Specifically, I’m addressing such imagery that comes from great works of music, art, literature, and film; the imagery that builds depth of human character because it explores the depth of human nature. I don’t see much caution in the church warning parents to make sure our children are people of depth.
Just last night I read through an E.E. Cummings poem with my daughter and read her evaluation of his view of patriotism. Cummings mocked a shallow or blind patriotism, but my daughter went beyond this basic understanding. She explained what she felt he would view as truly patriotic. I was surprised at her understanding of the “unstated” position inherent in Cummings’ poem. She got past the obvious, or surface level, onto the flip side of his view.
I could imagine a parent not allowing a child to read such a poem, because they may fear it would only teach them to mock patriotism. In doing so, they may miss out on teaching a deeper lesson such as: “This man was mocking shallow patriotism. So what do you think he was saying about real patriotism? Do you agree or disagree with him? Why?” We may be missing the chance to help develop good thinkers, who have depth to their understanding. Certainly, we have to be discerning of our child’s developmental stage and what material would be beneficial for them. Yet if we neglect to foster critical reasoning in our homes, we might develop shallow rule-keepers instead of thoughtful-engagers.
My concern for our children (and our society) is not that they will be so negatively influenced by culture, but that they will have no way to assess cultural influences: the good and the bad. They will not be able to see the flip side. Jesus will merely be a nice person with a good set of rules to follow, not the deeper answer to the problems of mankind.