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Jewish World Review Sept. 8, 2005 / 4 Elul 5765

Betsy Hart

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Always more battles ahead in the culture war | Friends of mine and I share almost identical theological views. Like me, they are concerned about the popular culture and what our kids absorb from it. When the Civil War epic "Gods and Generals" was released, we agreed that its positive portrayal of Christian men and women was terrific and very unusual in a mainstream movie. But they agonized over whether to let their children watch it because of the scenes featuring General Stonewall Jackson — and his wife — chatting quietly in bed together. I, on the other hand, was saying to my kids, "See? See? That's a husband and wife! That's how it should be! Isn't that great?"

In other words, those of us who want to clean up the culture could have it done tomorrow and still find that we have cultural debates, some of which clearly hold the potential to grow into new culture wars.

I thought of this as I read Rebecca Hagelin's valuable and bold new book, Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That's Gone Stark Raving Mad. Hagelin, a vice president at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., seeks to empower parents to deal with the culture. She actually makes the case that — gasp — parents have a right and responsibility to control what goes on with their kids in their own homes. And, she DOESN'T suggest we totally disengage from the culture.

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Talk about a step — several steps — in the right direction.

I just worry that if some of Hagelin's readers leave it at that, thinking they have won some victory over sin by (wisely) filtering the Internet and monitoring the TV, they will have done their children a disservice. That's because we could remove all those things — as I recently did for a time to help break a habit not because they were "dangerous" in and of themselves — and find that ultimately the battleground against sin remains because, well, that battleground is in the heart.

I think we conservatives sometimes believe we live in a uniquely corrupt age, when in fact we are pikers compared to many civilizations past. I happen to believe the world is still a pretty great place, and I want my children to be bold in engaging it and thinking about it rightly. That's hard to do that when we fear the culture more than we need to. It seems to me too many of us give it a power it doesn't really have, for nothing can "make" us sin. How wonderful if it could. Then we could get rid of the "thing" and have pure and good and wholesome hearts, right?

Conversely, consider a vice officer who has to go through a stash of child pornography to write his report and who rightly finds it revolting. He is not sinning. (Though the child porn industry is certainly a wicked one, and is rightly illegal.) A married male gynecologist clinically examining a patient isn't being unfaithful to his wife — though in a different context, he would be.

It's what's going on in the heart that matters.

There's all kinds of times to remove "occasions" of sin from our homes and lives. But if we think we've fixed sin, or could fix it, by righting the culture, we potentially leave our children vulnerable by leaving them (and perhaps us) to be surprised by the foolish and fallen tendencies of their own hearts.

I want my kids to be on guard against those tendencies and to feel free to come to me when they do fall.

And so, I think I fail my children if I let them think they are "safe" from corruption because unwholesomeness is filtered out of their computer. What about when, say, an overtly sexual image does get through? My hope is not just that they will turn away because it's unwholesome to view. My hope is that they will grow towards genuinely finding it sad and degrading that the gift of sexual allure that is right between a husband and wife is used to sell cars or cheeseburgers instead, and they will come to find such images unlovely.

I also think I would be foolish to ever believe I could fully bring them to that end. Ultimately, I give my children a gift when I convince them that the "culture wars" will always be with us, and that while many are worth fighting, the real battle is in their hearts — and they are the ones to have to choose whether or not to engage it there.

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"It Takes a Parent : How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids — and What to Do About It"  

"Hart urges parents to focus...on instilling industry, frugality, sincerity and humility. She encourages parents to reclaim the word "no." Contrary to advice you may have received, you needn't give your child choices, or offer alternatives, or explain to little Suzie why she can't eat eight cookies right before bed-you're the parent, and sometimes you can just say no."

  —   Kirkus Reports

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JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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