If there’s one thing parents of teenagers feel ill-equipped to handle, it’s this current cultural moment. The complex dynamics of social media are alien at best, and the ever-evolving mores of our contemporary culture bear little resemblance to the values our parents taught us at the dinner table. This is not all bad news- in fact, we could learn a lot from our activist kids. However, much about our culture is deeply troubling, and parents often don’t know how to respond wisely. Most of us were not fortunate enough to go to seminary; how is a regular mom or dad going to learn to speak biblically about the pressing issues of our time?
Enter the work of Rebecca McLaughlin.
Rebecca McLaughlin holds a PhD in literature degree from Cambridge and a seminary degree from Oak Hill. She’s also a wife, a mother, and the author of three books every parent should know about.
Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year award in 2020. In it McLaughlin tackles fundamental charges that Christians are racist, sexist, homophobic, and exclusive; that God cannot be loving if he allows suffering and consigns people to hell; that science and history disprove faith. She does not shy away from the hard topics and the stark truth, and insists that the faithful believer must do the same. Writing about conflict, McLaughlin urges us to “… cultivate deep friendships with smart people with whom we fundamentally disagree:”
To be sure, it is possible to hide bullying under the banner of free speech and open disagreement. In conversations with people who are less educated than we are, or who are living as religious minorities, we must be sensitive to the power dynamics at play. We must not steamroll others, whether we are advocating for Christianity, atheism, or any other belief. But for all the risks associated with taking people’s beliefs seriously enough to disagree, there is a greater risk in not doing so. We start believing that our friends are not even wrong, we fail to test our own beliefs, and — where beliefs carry life-and-death consequences, we fail to love our friends. (p. 50)
For parents seeking to engage their children with these questions – and model how they might engage with their friends – we recommend that you read Confronting Christianity while your child reads 10 Questions Every Teenager Should Ask (And Answer) About Christianity. This book, written especially for teenagers, addresses these same questions on a slightly simpler level, using illustrations from books and movies that teenagers can quote at length. In our review we suggest that using this book with teenagers will be tremendously helpful to adults and teenagers alike.
Finally, for a deeper dive into the most complex conversations, parents will want to have The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims on hand to help in discipling their teenagers. Here McLaughlin examines the Black Lives Matter movement, gay marriage, gay rights as civil rights, abortion, and transgender politics. This excellent resource includes current research into each of these issues. At every turn the reader will find sound biblical counsel and the tender love of Jesus in McLaughlin’s words. We can only hope that as these issues evolve, McLaughlin will continue to add her wise voice to the conversation.
Purchase the plenary and the workshop audio from Rebecca McLaughlin at the Rooted Conference here!