If you are a parent of a child of any age, I encourage you to take three minutes and read the following blog post. In "Marry Outside the Faith? The Logic of Christian Marriage", Dr. Al Mohler writes about the growing trend of marrying outside of one's own religion. Before you read any further what I'm writing, I strongly encourage you to jump to Mohler's blog and read his post. Go on...do it. Immediately. Why are you still reading this? Click on the link above.
In the article, he cites a few key statistics and references studies that prove that couples from different faiths have significantly higher divorce rates. Here's one brief excerpt:
Nevertheless, even with all this taken into account, it turns out that marrying outside the faith is one of the most significant risk factors for divorce. Citing the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, Riley reported that “people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.”
Troubling, huh? But beyond these practical considerations, Mohler reminds believers of the Biblical command that we are not to be "unequally yoked with unbelievers." Obviously, that applies to marriage.
So here's why every parent needs to read the article (you already have, haven't you?) and marinate on it's premise: We can see that a common faith is a practical foundation on which to build a marriage. We also know that when young people marry someone of a different faith (or of no faith at all) they find themselves outside of God's defined will to not be "unequally yoked."
If these things are true about marriage, then every parent - no matter how old your children are - needs to wrestle with this question:
What parameters will you give your teenagers about dating someone of another faith?
Because, as I have often said, "you can fall in love with anybody." It doesn't take a teenager very long to move from one friendly outing to a regular Friday night date to "going together" to full-fledged love. Granted, it's all relative, but teens can do stupid things when they are "in love." So parents need to develop guidelines for their kids on who they can and cannot "date."
Not to make this more difficult than it already is, but I don't recommend using the "only if they are a Christian" litmus test in making your decision. Particularly for parents of daughters. I know that there are plenty of churchgoing teenage boys who don't have the character, maturity, and Godliness to be trusted with my daughters. I know this first hand, not because I'm the parent of a few teenage girls, but because 25 years ago, I was one of those "good churchgoing boys" who fell way short in this department.
Parents, and particularly Dads, have a huge responsibility in making sure your kids receive the guidance and wisdom necessary to make good decisions about who they date...and who they eventually marry. I strongly recommend that EVERY DAD read Interviewing Your Daughter's Date by Dennis Rainey.
So when does this type of counsel/guidance/instruction begin with your kids? Very early. That's why I think this stuff is relevant to parents of kids of any age.
I recommend that parents of preschoolers have this talk and make your decisions regarding this subject. And then begin talking to your kids about it now...even if they are firmly established in the "cooties" stage. In fact, that's the ideal time to begin talking about it.
Most of the adolescent conflicts that families experience occur because a new issue arrives that hasn't been discussed before. The parents have their perspective and the teenager has theirs. Add some emotions and some peer dynamics to the mix and you have World War III before you know it. At this point, parents often feel the need to give in and compromise on what they think is best, simply because they don't want to lose the heart of their teen (which is certainly understandable).
However, a better way is to start, for lack of a better word, "indoctrinating" your kids with the values of your family and the reliability of God's ways when they are very young, even on issues that are not relevant to them yet.
For example, long before they were of dating age, my girls learned that any boy who wants to "go with them" or take them on a date has to ask me first. That's just our family rule. They have spent the past ten years getting used to it. So now that they are teenagers, they are less likely to push against this rule.
Do they absolutely love it? No.
Do they value that their Dad is watching out for them? Most of the time.
Do they love having a great excuse when some creepy guy starts flirting with them? Absolutely. ("You'll have to take this up with my dad...here's his cell phone number.")
Make some decisions on this subject long before you think you need to. Because, as Mohler's article points out, the stakes are very, very high.
Comments? Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? I value your feedback.