How to Talk to Your Kids About The Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision by John Stonestreet
Well, we did it. On Sunday night my wife and I decided to sit down with our daughters, who are 10, 8, and 6, and talk with them about the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.
I’m guessing there are a lot of other parents out there who did too, and perhaps even more who are still wondering whether or not they should. It’s an uncomfortable subject to say the least, and you may feel your kids aren’t old enough for it.
As Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission says, though, we don’t always get to choose what topics we talk about. Sometimes events force our hands – just like 9/11 forced discussions on things like terrorism and war.
And now, with this ruling on marriage, we find ourselves in the ongoing war of ideas. Which means that our kids are seeing and hearing things about same sex marriage and homosexuality. If not from us first, then they are in their schools, and certainly on TV. Think of the Wells Fargo ad just recently. In other words, the culture is having the conversation with them. We need to as well, and we need to do it first. Silence is no longer an option.
One thing my wife I focused on with our younger kids is God’s design for marriage from the beginning. This is such an important topic—and not just in the context of the Supreme Court ruling. We need to help our children understand why God created families and marriage in the first place. And we need to be prepared when they start to notice the difference between boys and girls and start asking questions like “Where do babies come from?”
So when we talked with our kids Sunday night, we started with Matthew 19—when the Pharisees came to Jesus, and asked Him whether it were lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Jesus responded by pointing them back not to the Law, but to the creation—long before the Law was given. “Have you not read” He asked, “that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female” and “that for this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?”
So Jesus takes the Pharisees back to the book of Genesis. And that’s where we picked up the story from there, reminding our girls that God said it was not good for Adam to be alone, and that Adam needed a helper.
Animals were not a suitable helper, the text says. And actually, another man wouldn’t have been a suitable helper either, because what Adam needed help with had to do with having a family. And a family comes when moms and dads get married and get together, and so on.
So we discussed the brilliance of God’s plan for man and woman, the brilliance of His design for the family.
And what about the Supreme Court decision? Well, we talked about how in this fallen world, governments sometimes make bad decisions. I reminded them of court decisions that reinforced Jim Crow laws—which they had learned about when they studied the Civil Rights movement. We talked about the disastrous consequences of no-fault divorce laws. What happened on Friday was another example of a bad decision. And as soon as I described Friday’s decision, my middle daughter spouted out, “Well, that’s just ridiculous!”
Now, I didn’t want to downplay the fact that there are obviously significant differences of opinion on this. But I did want to reinforce what Nancy Pearcey calls our kids’ “bologna detectors.”
Our children naturally understand the importance of family. Of moms and dads. It’s built into them. The only way they stop believing in the family is if they have had a traumatic experience, or if they are talked out of it—which is exactly what our culture is doing.
So, as much as we’d rather not, now is a great time to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision. If you need a primer, I recently partnered with my friends at Axis to produce a four-part teaching series on gender, marriage, and the Bible. If you come to BreakPoint.org, we’ll point you to where you can watch these on-demand teaching videos.
And tomorrow on BreakPoint, we’ll discuss an even trickier subject: How do we talk teens and college-age kids about the Supreme Court’s decision? Please tune in!
How to Talk to Your Teens About The Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision by John Stonestreet
Yesterday on BreakPoint, we discussed talking with younger kids about the Supreme Court decision on marriage: How Jesus Himself referred back to the beginning when talking about marriage; about God’s beautiful a plan for men and women, for marriage, and for families. And that sometimes, governments make bad laws.
I should also add that we need to make sure our young ones know they can always come to us when they encounter something they don’t understand or that makes them feel uncomfortable. We want our kids asking us the questions—even the hard ones. Better that than them getting all their answers from the culture.
Today, we’ll talk about a more difficult assignment: Talking to teens and young adults about same-sex marriage.
It’s more difficult because young adults today are much more likely than us older folks to support same-sex marriage, or to be confused by it. But more difficult is not the same as impossible—that’s because, no matter what the media is telling you, young evangelicals are still much less likely to support same-sex marriage than their non-evangelical peers.
I think a great starting point for young adults is exactly what I said yesterday—but at a deeper level. Just as Jesus did with the Pharisees who questioned Him about marriage and divorce, we should refer our young adults back to the Garden of Eden, to God’s created intent. Marriage is not something that human beings invented—so it is not an institution that we are free to re-invent. As Christians, we believe marriage was given to us by God for the benefit of man (that is, Adam) and woman (Eve). That plan is written into the moral fabric of the universe, which is why marriage between man and woman is known in every human society throughout history. That is certainly what Jesus Himself thought. And as followers of Christ, we have to care about what He said about marriage.
Now, don’t be surprised if your teen or young adult then asks, “Well, how is it right for heterosexuals to be married, but not for those who are same-sex attracted? What about their rights?”
And here is where we have to help them understand the source of human rights. As atheist Friedrich Nietzsche and the postmodern philosopher Richard Rorty admitted, we owe the concept of human rights to Christianity. It was Christianity that taught the world that every human being is made in the image of God and that, therefore, humans have innate dignity and certain rights just because they are human. Therefore, governments do not create or grant human rights. God does. Government can at most recognize those rights, and of course, should defend them. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote about this brilliantly in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
So we can make this point: It’s inconsistent to say, well, we want to give same-sex couple the “right to marriage,” but we don’t care about what the God who made those rights says about marriage.
Another problem you may encounter with teens or young adults is that they are very good at repeating the slogans and hashtags they see every day. When they tell you that holding to traditional marriage is discrimination, take a lesson from Jesus. Respond with a question. You might ask, “What do you mean by discrimination?” Help them go deeper. If they’re convinced that “love is love” and that “love won” thanks to the Supreme Court, ask them what they mean by love? Is it possible that some kinds of “love” should be excluded from marriage? Should a brother and sister or a group of people be able to marry? In other words, do we just green light incest and polyamory?
Yes, these kinds of discussions are really uncomfortable, but our kids are already having them. It’s time we joined in.
If you’re ready to sit down with your teens or young adults, I have one more suggestion for you. I’ve created, along with my friends at Axis, a brief video series on marriage, gender, sexuality and the Bible. I tackle a lot of the questions young people come up with—and I think it will help you discuss these matters with your children. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll link you to it.