Passing Along Your Faith to Your Children
About the Guest
How can parents teach their kids to stand strong against the cultural tidal wave of tolerance? Josh McDowell, founder of Josh McDowell Ministries, encourages parents to find opportunities to teach their kids the truth. McDowell explains how he did this with his own children through movies and other media. He also talks about how he taught his children to show a loving attitude toward all individuals, even when his children didn't agree with their beliefs.
Josh McDowell encourages parents to find opportunities to teach their kids the truth.
Passing Along Your Faith to Your Children
Bob: In a culture that values tolerance, Josh McDowell says there’s something even more important—it’s the virtue of love; but his question is: “How are Christians doing in that area?”
Josh: When was the last time you had a gay man, or a lesbian woman, or someone else over for dinner?—where, like anyone else, you’d ask them, “What is your journey?”—where your kids can know them and see they are human / they are wonderful. That doesn’t mean you agree with their lifestyle. Yes, everybody says we’re hatred and we’re everything else. I don’t think it’s because of our beliefs. I think it’s the way we often communicate our beliefs—it’s our attitude.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. What should it look like for us, as Christians, not to simply be tolerant, but to be genuinely showing love to all?
We’ll explore that today with Josh McDowell. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’ve been sitting here thinking about the area in our culture today where there is a new expectation of tolerance—where, 20 years ago, there was not necessarily an expectation of tolerance in this area—but today, it’s pretty much a requirement that you are going to be tolerant. That’s the area of gender and sexuality and the fluidity that is going on there.
Dennis: And the definition of marriage, Bob. It’s really interesting—for the most part, those of us, who are followers of Christ, are known as being intolerant and unloving.
Bob: And of course, the reason we’ve been thinking about this is because we’ve been talking about a book called The Beauty of Intolerance, which is a provocative title and a provocative author who is here with us.
Dennis: Along with his son, Sean McDowell, Josh has written another book. Number one hundred—what did you say—147 books now?
Josh: One hundred forty-nine.
Dennis: Yes. By the time this airs, it will be 150. [Laughter] So, we’re glad to have you back, Josh. You’re a good friend, and you’ve been in the spiritual bunker for a number of years.
You tell a story in this book about your daughter, Katie. When she was in high school, you asked her if she was worried about going to school with her friends and having a dad who was an evangelist. She had an interesting answer to your question.
Josh: Well, her answer overall was this—she said, “No.” I said, “Why?” She said, “Dad, you raised me to know what I believe and why I believe it. You’ve taught me to be loving.” But the thing that she really brought out—she said:
“Dad, my friends—they all think the world of you. They love you. They admire you.” Why would that be?—because whenever her friends were over at home and I walked in, I always took time with the friends.
We lived right in the center of a Native American reservation. We’d have three, four, five, six Native Americans there. I’d go right over, sit down on the floor, interact, and be with them. I’d go to school—I’d meet their friends. We would serve at school. I’d go to the ball games and sit there at practice and root for the team. As a result, my children felt very comfortable to stand up for what they believed because they knew why they believed it.
For example, in one of the classes with my daughter, Katie, again, the teacher called me—who was a Catholic—he was. He said, “You’d have been so proud of your daughter today.” I said, “Why?” “Well, we had a discussion on abortion.
“Your daughter finally—the whole class was ready to vote—and it would have gone
99 percent that abortion is okay—and Katie stood up and she said, ‘Do you realize what you’re doing?’ And she gave some lines on the value of life of the baby in the womb. She said, ‘All of you know my little sister, who was adopted. Do you know her mother, well, could have aborted her? But because her mother chose life, you all know my sister. You’ve held her in your arms and everything else.’” He said, “The entire class voted 100 percent against abortion.”
You see—that’s the value of raising a child with convictions, not just a good belief system.
Bob: And the difference between a good belief system and convictions is what?
Josh: Well, a conviction / a biblical conviction—one, is knowing what you believe—that’s very important. The second is—knowing why you believe it.
Josh: Third: experiencing it. You see, in the younger culture today, if it’s true, it will work. For adults with kids—“If it works, it is true.” So, now, that’s biblical also—that, you know, if it’s true, it should work in your life; and if it’s working, it should be true. So, I raised my children to be able to experience what I taught them. So, for my kids, that even more reinforced it’s true. Why? Because they were experiencing it, which their culture says, “It is true then.”
Dennis: I got a note from one of my adult children—and I’ll leave this mom unnamed—but—
Josh: That was Barbara?
Dennis: No. [Laughter] No—not her. But anyway, she told Barbara—she said, “I just want to thank you and Dennis for taking your grandchildren to the Creation Museum two summers ago and spending several days there, having fun, but hearing about a worldview that is different from the culture that we are in.”
And she said, “Our kids are running into all kinds of issues at school as they’re teaching evolution and a different worldview based upon man being the central authority. That trip to the Creation Museum with you guys, as grandparents—talking to them about what they’re seeing, and why they need to think the way they are thinking, and beginning to experience it and, then, proclaim it has helped them have convictions to stand up in their classroom.”
Now, this is not high school stuff—this is grade school stuff. They are facing challenges to their faith today; and that’s what you are really writing about in your book, The Beauty of Intolerance. You’re helping parents equip their kids to know how to think, how to believe, and how to stand for what the Scripture teaches.
Josh: You just hit on one of the biggest things of passing your faith onto your children.
You need to find opportunities to teach truth to your children in a way they’ll understand it. Going to the museum—spending two days there—I wish every parent could do that with their child.
I used movies a lot—we’d go to it—but I’d always make sure we went out to their favorite restaurant, which was a steak place, and we would interact on it. So, like you took them to the museum to interact, I often took movies; or we chose—oh! / parents do this—for example, there is Summit Ministries in—
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Josh: —Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Dennis: Our kids went there as well.
Josh: Oh my!—there—they went there. They were challenged with everything they believed and why they believed it. This was what I did—the moment we picked them up, I already had in my mind questions for my kids: “Well, what did you learn here? Well, why did you learn that? Well, how do you know that’s true?”—everything. I felt, as a parent, I had the responsibility to take it one step further.
And in the book, I share how to do that with television, with the internet, and with films.
Bob: Didn’t your kids—they had to, at some point, just go, “Dad, please, give us a break.”
Dennis: “Back off!”
Bob: “Just let us not have to answer every question / answer why on everything. Dad, just let us rest here.”
Josh: You know—I never had that.
Josh: I always—now, boy, this can be touchy—but I raised my children, even on limits and everything else, to negotiate with them. Why? I was responsible for teaching my children how to think, how to make decisions, how to draw conclusions. If I always told them, “Well, you have to be home at 10 o’clock,” that didn’t help them. So, I’d always say, “Well, what time do you think you ought to be home?” Like this one time—Katie said, “11:30.” I said: “You know, honey, I think you need to be in at 10. Let me share with you why I think 10 o’clock.” It came out to be 10:30, which I really wanted anyway—[Laughter]—but you see, my daughter went through the process of determining, “What time?’ It was her decision / not Daddy’s.
And she learned how to think logically, how to process, how to make choices—where, if you always answer your kids’ questions, they don’t go through that.
Bob: But there were times when you said, “Here’s what is going to happen whether you want it or not”; right?
Josh: Well, yes; that’s when I said, “We’re going to McDonald’s and eat and not the expensive place down the street.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, Josh, I’m sure I got this from you because I took my kids to the movies as well. We’d go out to a place to eat—it wasn’t a steak house like you did—but we’d go out to eat—
Josh: No; it was a pretty cheap steak house.
Dennis: Okay; okay. But we’d go out to eat, and we would talk about: “What did you just see? What was the story line? What was that based on? What was the message?” And we interacted around it. Here is the thing, Josh—by the time they were raised to adulthood, they were coming back to me and to Barbara—and they were saying, “Hey, Mom/Dad, can’t we just go to a movie?”
Bob: “Just watch one?”
Dennis: “Can’t we just watch one? Can’t we just do it?” I said, “You know what? As long as I’m your parent, we’re going to interact about this.
“We’re going to know how to think critically about it.” It’s fun, now, to see our 22 grandchildren as they go to a movie; and now, they are doing the same thing—
Josh: That’s right!
Dennis: —with—or they’re not taking them to the movie because of the messages that they are seeing there. They’re pushing back on it, but they got it. They heard, Josh. So, your illustration has been used by Barbara and me and, now, by our kids.
Josh: Let me ask you a question: “How many movies with your kids did you get up and walk out?”
Dennis: Well, we did do that. I don’t know the number. I know several we didn’t go to just because—
Bob: —because you knew what was in them.
Josh: Well, I would say we got up and walked out of probably five to seven movies because what came up was unexpected and wasn’t—but they were probably some of the best teaching times. We’d go out and I’d say—
Josh: “Son, why did I not want us to sit there, as a family, and watch that?” See, I didn’t tell them why—I asked. Every time, they’d come up with the answer:
“It’s not our family values,” etc.
And I remember—with Sean, we went home. He was into Depeche Mode. I don’t know if you remember that band.
Bob: I do.
Josh: It was quite a while ago. He loved it. He saved his money and bought this new disc / went home. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m erasing some of the songs.” And I said, “Why?” He was sitting on the floor of his room, and I said, “Why?” “Because it doesn’t meet our family values.” I walked out, and I went, “Yes!!!”
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Josh: It rubbed in!
Bob: So, here’s my story on that. We went to see a live play, and it was actually a play that I had been in, in high school. The version we did in high school was a little tamer than the version that was now on the theatre stage. We’re there, and we’re watching the play. In Act 1, something happens. One of the characters says something—uses profanity or something. I’m watching the play; and as soon as they say it, every kid in the row turns and looks at me.
We’re watching the play, character says it, and kids look at me. And I’m looking straight forward going: “Okay—
Bob: Right. So, I let it go the first time. The second time it happens, every face looks at me. Pretty soon, I realize they’re asking the question: “Dad, is this now okay? Is it okay for us to do?” At half-time, we left the play—even though I wanted to stay and see it because I had been in the play in high school. But I had to make a statement to my kids: “This is not what we’re going to tolerate. There are things that are worth being intolerant about, and I’m going to be intolerant about this.”
And that’s really the theme of the book, The Beauty of Intolerance. Our guest is Josh McDowell, and we’re talking about that today.
Josh, we started off by talking about the area in the culture today where tolerance is being required of us. That’s around gender roles, and around marriage, and around LGBT rights, and how we’re going to deal with that. If you’re raising a son or a daughter in this culture, you are facing a huge issue.
How do you teach your kids to be intolerant of this without being labeled as hateful?
Josh: You need to start with your own children. By the time those issues come up, I pray to God you’ve already established what is right / what is wrong; “Why is it right?” / “Why is it wrong?”; “What is marriage? Who created marriage?—Why marriage?” And then, when it comes up—
Dennis: And Josh, let me just stop you there—because you mentioned it on an earlier broadcast—and the basis of our beliefs is because God exists, and He is the One who has declared what is true / what the standard is, and He is the God of all truth. That’s why we believe what we believe. It’s based upon God and who He is.
Josh: This is why I also said there: “You need to teach your children the very character of God because right from wrong stems from the character. Lying is wrong because God is truth. Impurity is wrong because God is pure. Injustice is wrong because God is just.
“Righteousness is right because God is righteous.” It’s not because of you, me, the culture, the law, or anything else. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right—it just makes it legal.
I taught my kids: “The character of God is your basis for it.” Now, when it comes to this, I pray to God you already have a context out of which to deal with these cultural issues. If not, start building right there. But here’s where you have to be careful. You need to show that loving attitude—loving the individual but not accepting their beliefs.
And you know one way I did that? I don’t know if anyone else ever did this. We lived up in Julian, California. And when we moved to Texas, we still did it. We would vacation or spend time in Laguna Beach, and there is an area of Laguna Beach that’s quite highly inhabited by the homosexual lifestyle / lesbian lifestyle.
We would stay in a hotel right in the center of it.
We always had breakfast in this corner café, which was totally transgender—everything else. We always went there with our kids. We got to know them. We’d walk in, and Jade—we didn’t even have to order. He knew what to order for the whole family—everything else. I wanted my children to be comfortable around gays / others. I wanted them to know, and understand, and love.
I remember this one fellow, Jade—he became—he, now, died of AIDS. I miss him. Yesterday, I was thinking of him—I really miss Jade. He was a dear friend—he didn’t come to Christ, but he was a true friend. He knew where I stood, and I knew where he stood.
One time, I said to Jade—I said, “Jade, do you have a few moments now?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Sit down here.” I had two of my daughters and my son there. I said, “Will you tell my children, ‘What is it like being gay in America? What are some of your fears and everything?’” My kids were just—eyes wide open. And listen—why did I do that?
I wanted them to see that gays are people. They’re created in the image of God with infinite value, dignity, and worth.
Josh: “God—Jesus died as much for a gay as He did for you, kids, and we need to love the gays.” It doesn’t mean—Jade knows I don’t accept his lifestyle, but he listens to me. Why? Because Jade always knew Dottie and I loved him. All the cooks / everyone in the restaurant knew we cared. We remembered them by name. I’d come back from Ireland. I’d bring back some of those Irish cookies or something else, and I’d give them out to everybody there. But they all knew where I stood—I didn’t compromise that.
But let me tell you—the whole ground work—they knew I cared, and I loved them. I didn’t judge them as individuals / I judged their lifestyle.
Dennis: Josh, there’s probably a listener, right now, who may have stumbled onto our broadcast. They are kind of listening and they’re going, “You’re talking about God in a very personal way.”
I know this because I know you well. Your life was invaded by the person of Jesus Christ when you were a young man, and He changed your life. And in many regards, God’s intolerance of your sin—of you being a lawbreaker / of you going against God and His ways—God’s intolerance resulted in your salvation.
Would you share how that occurred; and how a person, who is listening today, who doesn’t know Jesus Christ, might be able to experience the love of God?
Josh: I don’t know how I could explain it any better than what you just did, Dennis. But I was a non-believer—very—I was mad at God. I was hurt. I was bitter because, from six to thirteen years of age—for seven years / every single week for seven years—I was homosexually raped. I was forced for eight years to look at homosexual pornography—not hetero—homosexual pornography.
I was mad at my dad / my mom for not stopping it. I was mad at God.
And what happened was—I met these students and professors at Kellogg College—their lives were different. They seemed to genuinely love each other, and they loved people outside the group. I said, “What made you different?” And this young lady looked at me and said, “Jesus Christ.” I said: “Oh, for God’s sake! Don’t give me that garbage.” So, they challenged me to intellectually examine. That’s why I did it—to refute them.
What I found was this—that my life is not compatible with the holy, just, righteous nature of God—that’s called sin. There was nothing I could do about it. God is so righteous / so just; but what I learned was that God loved me, Josh McDowell, so much that, if I’d been the only—I still get chills when I think of this—the only person in the world, He still would have sent His Son to die on the cross for my sins. He died for what the world would call an act of intolerance because He said: “It is sin. It is wrong,” and that goes against tolerance.
But He was willing to pay the price for it.
And when I realized that, the God who created the universe wants me, Josh McDowell, to spend eternity with Him—it broke down my barriers. Already, intellectually, I had come to the conclusion that God is and Christ is the Son of God and was raised from the dead; but what brought me to Christ was the love of God—it totally changed my life.
But this is one of the things in my life—relates back to going to Laguna Beach and the homosexual community. I was bitter. I was hurt by a homosexual, and I just couldn’t stand homosexuals. I said—and when I became a Christian, I thought, “You know, God has commanded me to love.”
But one of the biggest things to not loving someone is ignorance. So, I said, “I have got to get to know, in a real way, some gay men and some lesbian women.” So, we would go to Laguna Beach, and I’d meet real gay men. And I really found out: “Wow! I like some of these folks.”
It started to deal with my ignorance, and I was set free to love.
And I would say a major part of my healing was getting to know gays and coming to love them—not agreeing with them—coming to love them, spending time with them, listening to their journey, their heart, their fears. And whenever I did that, they would always listen to my journey / my fears.
So, when there is a lack of knowledge, there is fear—and understanding, when you read this book, you won’t fear tolerance—you’ll come to understand tolerance. As a result, you’ll be able more to demonstrate a positive, loving attitude when you disagree with someone and in training your own children.
Bob: The book Josh is talking about is the book he has written with his son, Sean, called The Beauty of Intolerance: Setting a Generation Free to Know Truth and Love. It’s a book that we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today resource Center, Dennis.
Listeners can go to FamilyLifeToday.com—they can request a copy of the book / order it from us online—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get their copy of The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh McDowell. Again, website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Dennis: And Josh, I want to thank you for making the journey all the way from California to Arkansas to be on FamilyLife Today. You’re a good friend / a good man. And you’re still having a great impact for Jesus Christ. I pray God’s favor will rest upon you. Come back and see us again soon. Will you?
Josh: Thanks guys, and I’ll be home tonight with Dottie. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, thanks for tolerating us. [Laughter] And again, let me remind listeners—go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy of Josh’s book, The Beauty of Intolerance.
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We think anniversaries matter. We think couples going the distance together make a difference in the strength and the health of our culture / our civilization. And that’s what we’re here for at FamilyLife—to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. Our goal is to see every family become a godly family.
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And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about what it looks like for us to live as ambassadors and to have our homes be embassies. We’ll explore that theme next week. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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