Links to Think: 08.13.12

August 13, 2012

Publisher Pulls David Barton’s Revisionist History of Thomas Jefferson – I previously linked to an article in relation to David Barton’s historical manipulation. The Gospel Coalition blog has a helpful post on how his revisionist history is garnering additional attention, in this case by Thomas Nelson Publishing halting publication on his book, The Jefferson Lies. (This post includes links to several related articles.)

“Unfortunately, many evangelicals who would dismiss the use of such revisionist methods by someone like historian Howard Zinn or novelist Dan Brown unquestionably accept them when used by a fellow Christian like Barton. Many are unaware, of course, that Barton has long been considered an unreliable source. But too many are aware of the legitimate criticisms and dismiss them because they want to subscribe to Barton’s vision that America was founded as a “Christian nation.”

What Americans Don’t Get About the Brain’s Critical Period – A summary of scientific research on the importance of interaction with children in their earliest years, and how this plays out particularly for many children raised in poverty.

“That well-intentioned parents may be wasting money on a lot of shiny toys doesn’t exactly keep me awake at night. What’s disappointing is that the enrichment meme seems to have overshadowed the real lesson of the research on critical periods: that poverty and child neglect often have devastating and long-lasting effects on the brain.`

Some may think of this as an unfortunate, though unsurprising reality of life in a post-Communist country — a tragic story for Romania, but not particularly relevant to us here in the U.S. Not true. Nelson points out that the defining element of institutional living, the absence of invested caregivers, is also what happens to many children in poverty. The work in Romania, he says, “is a wake-up call to the millions of children in the U.S. who are living in circumstances that are only marginally better than kids living in institutions.””

Everyone Benefits by Including Children in Small Groups – This article highlights the benefits and challenges of including children in small groups within the local church community (or if, your church is small enough, within the local church community in its entirety). There is some helpful interaction in the comments of this post, and obviously, the way this works out may depend on the specifics of the small groups (e.g., Is held during the child’s consistent bedtime? What are the limitations of the location and space? etc…)

“Seeking to involve children requires that we restructure our community life to no longer revolve around our own convenience but aim to bless everyone else. My children are more joyful and obedient after they have been around a number of people who love Jesus and love them.

As the community develops a regular rhythm that includes children, this community can move toward mission fairly easily during informal time. This would happen through the community opening up their rhythm to their neighbors or seeking to join the activities of their neighborhood. These activities likely follow a similar pattern of sometimes requiring babysitting and sometimes incorporating children.”

Related, on one of our first few weeks visiting in a small group setting, we had our girls with us, but asked them to sit on a blanket and play behind the chairs while the adults talked. On our way home, our oldest asked, “Does this church not like kids, Mommy? I like that story about Jesus and the kids.” That was a rather blunt reminder to me of the message we often unintentionally send our children by excluding them from our fellowship and community, as well as the message we send to our church community.


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  • Sarah August 21, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    O my. I’m a little taken aback that you think small groups should include children. Isn’t that promoting a child-centered ministry or environment? Besides, anytime I’ve been in church where the parents are foolish enough to bring their children into the main service, I can testify that even as a parent myself, it is incredibly distracting. It would also make it hard to discuss certain topics in small group, which is, um, what small groups are for!!

    • Keren August 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      Church, of all places, can be a refreshing time for families to be together. Obviously, there may sometimes be a place for dividing families, but probably not as much as we’re used to doing. The church, as seen in the New Testament, is not so much about being able to attend a preaching session or worship time without distraction, but existing together as community. That community is comprised of much diversity, both in age and social and economic standings. Instead of considering the inclusion of children “child-centered,” it may be more appropriate to regard it as community-centered. Our contemporary western culture is accustomed to placing children in one place, parents in another, toddlers in another, etc. This practice has affected the church as well, to the point at which age-graded Sunday School classes are considered to be the only right way of Christian discipleship within many church organizations. Perhaps what we as Christians need is not more age-graded segregation, but more whole-family, whole-community discipleship. The family unit was designed by God, and can grow together, even without the practice of dividing up fourth-graders into one group, and fifth-graders in another. (In fact, we see Scripturally that entire households accepted Jesus.)

      Regarding the issue of seeing children as “incredibly distracting,” this may not be the fault of the children themselves, or of the parents who bring their children, but rather of the people themselves who have let themselves become distracted. Yes, I sometimes find children distracting. But I also find the coughing man distracting. And the person wearing that lovely shirt distracting. And thinking about what’s for dinner distracting. There are plenty of things that could distract us from focusing on the message, our Bible, our heart, etc., during the service. Sure, a crying child or a hoarse whisper by a toddler may not be what we’re used to, but as adults, we can probably train ourselves to focus our minds and hearts (especially since we expect children to do this). If more parents and families were together during worship, it wouldn’t be as much of a “distraction” as simply a way of worshipping — within the beautiful, sometimes noisy, sometimes messy life, and sometimes “distracting” environment — as a whole church body. (I seem to recall that the disciples were ready to send the children “away,” too, but Jesus bid them come.)

      That’s not to say children must be included in each and every circumstance, but we are very prone to view them as an inconvenience and distraction far more than as a part of community, and as a lens through which we can often see a clearer view of the Gospel.