“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, NKJV).
The Apostle Paul’s warning in Colossians 2:8 couldn’t be more urgent for today’s world. The very essence of God’s creative order and divine purpose is being warped by radicals plotting vain things that run counter to God and His unchanging Word. What is male and female? What is a family? What does it even mean to be human? The question has never been whether or not human beings, especially young people, are going to be challenged by deceptive doctrines. The question has always been, will God’s people be faithful in their generation?
The news hit without warning: “I’ve decided I am an atheist.” The son, 18 and looking forward to his freshman year in college, had experienced a Christian education from kindergarten on. The family was faithful in a Bible-honoring, healthy church. Despite all of his parents’ efforts and prayer over 18 years, he had fallen prey to the “empty deceit” of popular atheism found in writers such as Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens.
In a counseling room at a mental health treatment center, two Christian parents had gathered at the behest of their young daughter, who announced to them that she was a lesbian, as a therapist looked on with approval. Her doubts about her sexual identity had been helped along by social media “influencers” and the progressive culture of her high school.
Halfway across the country, another family was in crisis. Their young adult son, raised in a good church, announced he was taking on a female identity. Over time, the parents, in social media posts, seemed to signal that they were willing to “support” their son with LGBTQ-friendly slogans and rainbow logos. It was a case of cultural indoctrination—both for the son and his parents.
Indoctrination by the world and its spiritual forces is not a new problem, says John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the “Breakpoint” broadcast. It goes back to the Garden of Eden, where God’s words were first challenged. But today’s warfare against God’s truth is conveniently aided by decades of materialism and secularism being propagated in cultural institutions, and intensified by the internet and modern digital technology.
To compound that, Stonestreet says, there is the additional social barrier that smartphones and social media create between people, especially parents and children, in everyday communication. The alternative to looking to parents for wisdom is to look to the world’s value system—a ruinous replacement for God’s truth.
The responsibility for parents to be vigilant requires creating consistent boundaries between young people and their use of the uncensored online world, Stonestreet says. Of course, that vigilance extends to every cultural institution they are exposed to.
Stonestreet told a group of teachers: “If a creepy guy was walking around your school, whispering awful things into the ears of all the girls, would you do something about it? Well, that’s TikTok. TikTok, being fed by artificial intelligence, is providing a direct intravenous pathway into the hearts and minds of your students, telling them all kinds of things that are wrong.”
Beyond digital technology, educational institutions have long had the upper hand in propagating ideas that counter God’s truth about the world we inhabit. The public school system over the decades has provided a useful service to the nation, guarded in more conservative regions by elected school boards who are accountable to voters.
But increasingly, radical activists have been able to work through public schools as well, instilling their beliefs on all manner of things—often LGBTQ issues and critical race theory—beyond the watchful eye of parents.
The watchdog group Parents Defending Education maintains a national map pinpointing the policies of school districts that attempt to skirt accountability to parents on such things as sex education, gender theory and accommodation of students wishing to change their gender identity without notifying their parents. The group says that across the nation, some 1,000 school districts have policies keeping parents out of the loop on such matters.
Jeff Johnston, a culture and policy analyst at Focus on the Family, says that while the spiritual battle is an ancient one, the recent wave of attacks on Biblical beliefs has come at breakneck speed. Johnston says he sees three major lies being propagated that are bringing increasing social division, anxiety and distrust of God’s truth.
The first one, he says, is the toxic idea derived from critical race theory that the United States is “an irreparably racist country” in a world separated into two groups—oppressors and the oppressed.
Second, a vast majority of Americans, up until just a few decades ago, believed marriage to be the exclusive union of one man and one woman for life. “All of that has been flipped on its head,” Johnston says. “Many Americans don’t believe that anymore.”
Third, “many people have come to believe what we call homosexual or transgender ideology, which is that sex is somehow separate from gender,” Johnston said. “And that there are an infinitude of genders, and people can be whatever they feel like. … What’s inside our head is what matters most. That applies to both homosexuality and transgenderism. And people believe that it would be wrong to try to change either of those.”
The onslaught of transgender ideology in the last decade is a daily news story, as some parents face scorn for challenging the indoctrination of kids by trans ideology. “Drag queen story hours” in public libraries, usually in left-leaning communities, are the leading edge of shock tactics.
Indeed, the large professional organizations—the American Medical Association, teachers’ unions, American Bar Association and American Library Association, to name a few—are almost all in line with left-wing cultural demands.
The American Library Association (ALA), for example, consistently promotes LGBTQ Pride month events as well as the misnamed “Banned Books Week” under the guise of “intellectual freedom.”
How Did We Get Here?
Theological liberalism and the rise of Darwinism in the 19th and early 20th centuries tilled the soil for rebellion against the grand narrative of Scripture. The sexual revolution that gained steam in the 1960s was the logical outflow of a departure from Scriptural authority, Johnston notes.
Once Biblical marriage was challenged and sex was redefined as merely a recreational pleasure rather than a God-designed blessing between one man and one woman that provides a living metaphor of the union of Christ and His Church, the guardrails were down. This paved the way for the LGBTQ movement’s ascent. Media-savvy activists eventually won the day among the elites in academia, politics, medicine, entertainment and business.
“After Obergefell [the 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage nationally], I think a lot of people have been shocked,” Johnston says. “A lot of these things have been building for a long time, but just in the last five to 10 years, it seems like this delusion affecting our culture, affecting our children with regard to sexuality, has intensified.”
Groups such as Planned Parenthood and SIECUS (formerly Sexual Information and Education Council) have advocated radical sex education in even the youngest grades, and are actively spreading the mantra globally that “sex is a human right.” SIECUS’s tagline is “Sex Ed for Social Change.”
“There’s enormous pressure to believe that both homosexuality and transgenderism are good,” Johnston says. “Christians must be the ones to bring healing on these issues and to present the Biblical narrative with grace and kindness—but with the truth.”
Jeff Myers, president of Summit Ministries, which provides Christian apologetics and worldview education for teenagers and young adults, said he has seen the despair, and ultimately, anger, from young people indoctrinated in a materialistic, secular worldview that promises radical freedom but delivers emptiness.
“Imagine,” Myers said, “if you are lost in the wilderness and you asked for help and the response you got was, ‘You are your own compass.’ That doesn’t make you feel more found. It makes you feel more profoundly lost. Not only are you lost but there is absolutely no hope that you could find direction. That’s the message the culture has given to young adults today. It gives it to them, presumably to empower them, but I’m seeing that the effect is exactly the opposite.”
Some studies suggest only around 10% of young adults who identify as Christians and regularly attend church hold a Biblical worldview. The challenge for the church is to effectively engage children and teens with the Scripture and apologetics.
The Colson Center’s Stonestreet says two of the most dangerous ideas are that the notion that our relationship with God is merely a privatized faith to be mediated by our own preferences, and outside the church, the idea that we are our own creators and we decide who we are and what we want.
The latter has led to rampant despair, anxiety and depression among the young.
“We’ve put the weight of the world on our own shoulders, not only in how we behave, but how we define reality itself,” Stonestreet says. “And that’s why there’s all this anxiety and stress and fragmentation; it’s that the world is heavy. It wasn’t meant to be carried by us. It was meant to be carried by Christ, as we see in Colossians 1. We’re seeing the stress fractures, but I think that’s the opportunity too. Christianity stands alone in offering a comprehensive view of the world as it really is, who we are, and who God is.” ©2023 BGEA
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