The reason we shelter our kids shouldn’t simply be that there’s evil outside, but also that there’s evil inside. The line of good and evil runs through every human heart, as Solzhenitsyn once said. No one is immune to temptation. No child is a tabula rasa. We’re born in sin and, apart from the grace of Christ, we’ll die in sin. That’s why we need a Savior who rescues us, not a shelter that protects us.
The world is shocked at the news of Josh Duggar molesting multiple girls when he was a teenager. After all, the Duggar parents went to great lengths to shelter their children from inappropriate influences in the world — from limiting their access to the internet to implementing a dress code of modesty and femininity. What’s more, they spoke publicly about their standards for sexual purity. They explained why Josh and Anna saved their first kiss for their wedding day, and why the couple always had chaperones.
More than the tawdry revelations of Lena Dunham’s inexcusable behavior toward her little sister, or the sickening accounts of abuse by Woody Allen or Roman Polanski, the Duggar scandal is shocking precisely because of the high bar they’ve set for themselves and the standards they’ve put on display.
Now, I have no interest in debating the facts of this case. It is heartbreaking, disgusting, and infuriating all at once, and even if we can all be thankful for God’s grace poured out on even the worst of sinners, we cannot minimize the long-lasting consequences of such behavior, especially when some of the victims were preyed upon by their own brother.
Instead, I’d like to point out a problematic, but fairly common assumption in many corners of evangelicalism — an assumption that needs to be challenged. It’s the idea that sin is something out there that we need to watch out for. The reality, however, is that sin is not primarily something we need to be sheltered from, but delivered from.
It’s easy for a Christian family that seeks to honor the Lord with distinctive, holy living to adopt this mindset:
“The world is evil, and our family is good. Therefore, we need to protect our family from the evil outside.”
Along these lines, training up children in the way they should go becomes primarily about sheltering our kids. We deliver our kids from evil by avoiding evil influences “outside” our home. We forbid certain television shows, monitor their internet usage, and avoid neighborhood kids. In some cases, we turn to homeschooling or Christian education.
The problem with this mindset is that it takes a legitimate aspect of wise parenting and twists it until it results in a warped view of children and society.