Monday, March 11, 2019

Defining Indoctrination

When you see the word “indoctrination,” what first comes to mind? The answer is probably a little different for everyone, but I am almost certain it has a negative connotation. It’s an interesting example of how words can take on additional meaning as time passes. It originally just meant “to teach,” drawing on the same root word as “doctrine” and “doctor.” In fact, the first dictionary definition is still “to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments.” But we all know now that it means to fill people’s heads with bad ideas, especially children.

What is a bad idea, though? That question really got my mind racing after a few stories I read recently. They were written to complain about parents who, in one way or another, were passing Christian orthodoxy on to their children. What had once, not so long ago, been the common cultural ethos is now viewed as bigotry. Parents are seen as passing on hatred if they do not teach their children to celebrate postmodern mores.

The issue is that this is simply taken for granted. There is no room for dissent, and the label “indoctrination” is used to stifle debate. Does it really end anything, though? Everyone wants to pass wisdom on to future generations. But what is the difference between education and indoctrination? Only whether you think what is being taught is right or wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that truth is subjective. I’m saying that we are. The words people use in this context say more about them than they do about the things being taught. They are not saying children should go uneducated. Rather, they are saying children should only be taught one side of the issue. It is actually entirely close-minded.

It is also so easily turned around. Christians are often accused of indoctrination, but we can just as quickly use that word to describe parents who teach their children that a man can be woman, that someone can have two mommies, and that all religions lead to God. Those are doctrines—hellish ones at that—being transmitted into receptive minds. What’s the difference?

Again, I am not saying we cannot call out bad ideas. I am actually saying the opposite. Bad ideas need to be counteracted. But it accomplishes nothing to call them names and act as if that proves anything.

As for young Christian parents, I hope this offers an encouragement. If you decide to teach your children biblical values, as you should, then the world is going to hate you for it. They are going to call you names and write stories about you. That can be intimidating. When it happens, though, stop a second and think about it. Are they telling the truth? Or are they just angry because you are not willing to fall in line with the lie? And if it is the latter, should you cave to the pressure or should you know how to answer it?

I don’t know if scripture can become a cliché, but Prov. 22:6 is close to it whenever Christian education is discussed. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Well, clichés get that way for a reason. They are truths worth frequently repeating. If you have a child, you have a responsibility to prepare him or her for life. What is the best way to do that? If you believe the Bible, then you believe it is to show your children the value of doing the Lord’s will. It is a simple idea with profound implications. The world doesn’t like it, and it loves to say so, but it cannot actually change the truth. Don’t let it shake your foundation. It isn’t indoctrination. It’s training. Never be afraid to say so.

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