By Berit Kjos
(From Berit’s book How to Protect Your Child From the New Age & Spiritual Deception)
When children from nine years of age upward are led to believe that [contemporary teen novels] reflect how most people live, then their conduct will certainly be influenced. . . . If more acceptable conduct is desired by society, then society must hold before young people more acceptable conduct.1
Literature that fails to thrill, titillate, or terrorize doesn’t get far in today’s secular marketplace. Shallow and provocative substitutes for good literature seduce rather than build noble character. Traditionally, the classroom has been a purveyor of character-building books. It still is, but what kind of values does it now build?
When my son was in the eighth grade, his English teacher required her students to read Jay Mclnerney’s Bright Lights, Big City. The setting: A nightclub for singles, in the wee hours of the night. The hero: “You.”
You spot a girl at the edge of the dance floor who looks like your last chance for earthly salvation. . . . There she is in her pegged pants, a kind of doo-wop retro ponytail pulled off to the side, as eligible a candidate as you are likely to find this late in the game. The sexual equivalent of fast food.
She shrugs and nods when you ask her to dance. You like the way she moves, the oiled ellipses of her hips and shoulders. After the second song, she says she’s tired. She’s at the point of bolting when you ask her if she needs a little pick-me-up.
“You’ve got some blow?” she says.
“Is Stevie Wonder blind?” you say.
She takes your arm and leads you into the Ladies’ [room]. A couple of spoons and she seems to like you just fine, and you are feeling very likable yourself. A couple more. This woman is all nose.
“I love drugs,” she says, as you march toward the bar.
“It’s something we have in common,” you say.
“Have you ever noticed how all the good words start with D? . . . You know. Drugs. Delight. Decadence.”
“Debauchery,” you say, catching the tune now.
“Dexedrine. . . .”
A discussion with my son’s teacher resulted in a change in reading assignments. Yet it takes more than an occasional win to slow society’s downward spiraling. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, mass media critic, the late Neil Postman, compared the chilling prophecies of two authors, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley:
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. . . . In [Orwell’s] 1984 . . . people are controlled by inflicting pain. In [Huxley’s] Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.3
Postman suggests that Huxley, not Orwell, was right. I believe that if Huxley was right, Orwell’s reality will follow. New Age optimists, who believe man’s inherent goodness will lead him on an upward journey to spiritual perfection have, in Huxley’s words, “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”4
America still reads, but popular books now aim to entertain, not inform. Thrills sell. Facts don’t. A charismatic world leader needs no military weapons, only promises, to take control over a hedonistic and non-thinking people.
I am not a pessimist. Our King has won the war, filled us with Himself, and promised us a glorious future. We don’t need to fear anything—other than turning our backs on God.
Step One: Personal Preparation
Are children being taught to read discerningly, or do they accept whatever is in print simply because it is in print?
Pray as a family for discernment and wisdom. Don’t let fear of offensive literature keep your family from finding and feasting on wonderful books.
Commit yourself to a deeper knowing of the Word of God. Continue a daily Bible study program together. If children know truth, they will spot the lies.
Enjoy books together that demonstrate God’s values. Read-aloud times build in most children a deep love for reading, while they also enable you to direct your children’s taste for enriching books. “While the average first-grade student reads from a primer with only 350 words, his listening vocabulary approaches 10,000 words, according to the Council for Basic Education.”5
When you read aloud to your children, they learn to associate wholesome books with good times.
Step Two: Be Alert to Deception in Books
A crossless version of Christianity fits the New Age lie that all can be one—with or without Jesus. It denies man’s need for redemption and, in effect, makes man his own savior. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Examine gift books for children. Some of Audrey and Don Wood’s attractive books are filled with enticing New Age magic. Other picture books, like The Witches Handbook by Malcolm Bird, treat witchcraft as a game for all to enjoy.
Check contemporary children’s poetry. While some poems are superb, others are grotesque and macabre.
Check fantasy game books. They make you the hero—but what beliefs do you follow? What mental pictures will your imagination create? As you make decisions appropriate to the story, will occult forces become part of your thinking? Some titles will tip you off—like Seas of Blood and Castle Death—but many others sound deceptively innocuous.
Be alert to what your child’s peers read. Discuss their influence on your child with him. During the winter of 1989, our son’s eighth-grade peers read Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, master of occult horror.
New kinds of joke books are captivating today’s readers. The object of the humor may be sex, marriage, parents, or God. Some of the illustrations may be pornographic. While we are in dire need of healthy humor, we don’t need to laugh at corruption and delight in immorality. God wants us to love, accept, and forgive each other. But He also tells us to discipline and control our own human nature. Discuss these Scriptures with your child: Leviticus 11:44, 20:26; and Matthew 5:6, 8. Review Romans 12:1-2, 9, and Romans 13:14.
Step Three: Check Your Library
Befriend your local librarian. Learn your library’s guidelines and limitations. Know its definition of adult literature and whether or not children can check it out.
Many decision makers deny essential differences that separate childhood from adulthood. Children have neither the knowledge, wisdom, or experience to make adult decisions and carry adult responsibility. Adult movies, television, and books feed children adult-sized mental stimulants that they are unprepared to handle.
Scan the books promoted in special displays for children and for young adults (teenagers). Do they promote anti-Christian religions or poor values? Do biographies promote social philosophies that oppose Christianity? Is the children’s section balanced with books that promote other points of view? If not, our libraries become like the media—a political force with incredible power to influence children according to their own bias.
Discuss your concerns with the librarian. Observe the guidelines in chapter two. Suggest solutions. While your local librarians may share your values, the American Library Association denies the need to shield children from certain kinds of adult literature and illustrations.
Step Four: Join in the Battle For Truth
Continue to pray with other Christian families for God’s wisdom and direction.
Write those who advertise in offensive magazines. One voice does make a difference.
Keep an up-to-date church library and encourage other families to support and use it.
Let God encourage you with biblical passages that promise victory to those who trust and follow Him. See Psalm 25:1, 4-5; Exodus 14:13-14; Deuteronomy 1:30; 20:1, 4.
Preparing Children For Spiritual Battle
Remember, this is spiritual warfare. God’s enemy fights as hard as ever to win the hearts and loyalties of our children—and he has added all kinds of high-tech tools to his arsenal.
To resist his strategies, they first need to understand them and have in their hearts the Word of God. That’s why God told His people long ago to base all conversation—day and night—on His unchanging truth and to teach His truth diligently to our children (see Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Everything we say must reflect the reality of God—His love, His omnipotence, His promises, and His warnings. To prove that our God is far greater than the plethora of alternatives that are out there, our lives must demonstrate faith in the midst of difficulties and His triumph in the midst of turmoil. This is possible, not by our own strength, but by His power and grace. Then, seeing His greatness, children learn to trust His promises.
Likewise, the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) begins and ends with the power of His Word. First, we put on the belt of truth, which holds all the other pieces—His righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation—in place. The last part, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” is simply His truth and promises memorized, remembered, and affirmed as we face each day’s challenges.
This two-edged sword is our main weapon in every battle. It exposes lies and uncovers deceptions while it strengthens our faith and lifts our hearts. The world can’t understand it, and many so-called Christians despise it. But to those who love God, it brings the hope, strength, joy, and perseverance needed to walk with Him in peace no matter what happens.
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
1. A Pro-Family Forum—no longer online.
2. Jay Mclnerney, Bright Lights, Big City (New York, NY: Vintage Contemporaries, 1984), pp. 6-7.
3. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (New York, NY: Viking Penguin, Inc., 1985), vii-viii.
4. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited (HarperCollins Edition, 2004), p. 267.
5. Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook (New York, NY: Penguin, 1987 edition), p. 40.