Friday, May 23, 2008

Young whippersnappers & whippersnapperettes

I was reading Internet Monk recently and ran across a wonderful comment. Unfortunately, I can't copy it here this morning because the website seems down. But it, and some conversations I've had recently online and in the real world, did get me to thinking.

There are two growing trends I've observed in Christian circles over the past few years. While they may seem polar opposites, I suddenly realized they are really stemming from the same source. See if these sound familiar to you:

1. The very young pastor or youth pastor who delights in his in-your-face, stick-it-to-the-man approach to church life. No matter what anyone says, he is going to sport his wild tattoos, piercings, and odd hair, and he's going to shake things up by using obscene language in church, showing R-rated movies, and doing whatever he can to offend the sensibilities of just about anyone older than him. He simply won't listen to his elders because they are...well, old! Even worse, they are fuddy-duds, culturally irrelevant, and don't know what they are talking about.

2. The even younger girl who delights in her know-it-all approach to godly womanhood, even though she has not yet achieved womanhood herself. She loves to expound on blogs, in self-published newsletters and books --- anywhere she can --- about how older women are sinning by not doing what she thinks they should be doing. She loves to quote Titus 2:3-5 and sometimes even will go so far as to claim that she is an "older woman" who is called to teach even younger girls. However, that will not stop her from refusing to listen to anyone who disagrees with her, no matter their age, nor will any Scripture or anyone convince her that perhaps she needs to be learning at this stage in her life, rather than trying to teach what she doesn't yet know. She simply won't listen to her elders because they are...well, old! Even worse, they are fuddy-duds, probably feminists, worldly, and don't know what they are talking about.

It's really the same basic sinful attitude. On the one hand, it's very blatant and rebellious looking. On the other hand, it's hidden behind a sweet facade. But the pride and arrogance, the delight in telling off one's elders, is unmistakable, whether the language is profane or pseudo-polite.

Recently I encountered the blog of a young 15 year old. She is definitely a good writer, and I'm sure she has heard this many times. Like many young teenagers being raised in this age of self-esteem and encouraged free expression, she seems to think that the world is eagerly awaiting her "wisdom" on any number of topics. She actually solicits questions from her audience and seems to think she is capable of teaching anyone, of any age, about how to be a homemaker, how to be a good wife, etc.

Several of us have been both concerned and somewhat amused over her excessive arrogance and pride. I would point you to her blog to read for yourselves but, frankly, I don't want to encourage her any further.

She may be an extreme example, but unfortunately, she is not alone. Even worse, some of us adults are guilty of fostering and even provoking this sort of attitude and behavior among children and youth. It starts when we smile, chuckle, and allow them to expound on topics they know nothing about when they are tiny. "Why, you're right!" we find ourselves saying. We forget to add, "But it's really not your place to tell your father how to drive, especially since all you've ever driven is a tricycle." What seems cute for a toddler grows into a prideful, know-it-all sort of attitude, where a child becomes puffed up with what they think is some sort of superior knowledge and wisdom. They mock experience as being irrelevant. After all, they have READ THE BIBLE! And, why, just this past year, they READ A WONDERFUL BOOK THAT CHANGED THEIR MINDS! And besides, older women are all feminists!

When this one child began rebuking her elders for being in sin, because she believes the Bible commands a woman to be a homemaker only, and never to add any other activity to her homemaking, lest she cease to be a homemaker --- and when she refused to listen to the most polite entreaties and cautions coming from her elders --- I felt it was time to take off the gloves, so to speak.

So I wrote the following comment, knowing full well that she might never post it, and also knowing full well that it that she would not have ears to hear. But I believe that we who are really older women have a duty to let children know when their arrogance and pride have made them become disrespectful to their elders, and when these children are usurping a role that God never gave them. There is a reason that God, in His Word, urges us not to give new converts or the immature roles of prominence. So I wrote:

My dear young girl, perhaps I need to speak more bluntly with you because it is obvious that my words of warning to you fell on deaf ears, as have the words of others.

God inspired the author of Titus 2:3-5 to write those words, did He not? And you are how old, fifteen?

You are obviously not an "aged woman" or even, by any stretch of the imagination, an older woman. God has not asked you to attempt to teach anyone anything. God, in fact, commands that you respect those that are older, especially those with grey hair.

He has wisely ordained that older women are to teach younger women the very things that you are attempting to expound, very dogmatically, here on your blog. You are out of line. God never anywhere in His word suggested that precocious young girls, no matter how clever and bold they are, no matter how cute and sweet, no matter how full of themselves they are, no matter whether or not they are good mommy's helpers and homemakers-in-training, should ever be expounding on homemaking, loving husbands, or the ways of godly women to anyone. You, my dear, should be sitting at the feet of older women, and learning from them in all meekness and quietness and reverence. Your role, at this stage in your very young life, is not to exhort and edify. It is to learn. It is to be exhorted and edified.

Frankly, I fear for you. Talk about the Word of God being blasphemed!

Normally I do not speak so harshly to children, but it is obvious that you did not listen to others who have warned you in much milder terms. Please repent. Let the older women teach. Do not usurp their role. Live about 30 more years, and then --- should you have proven yourself --- God may want to use you in this way.

I followed this up with another comment:

From Titus 2:

1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

While we all know, of course, that the topic headings in our Bibles are not part of the inspired Word of God, it is interesting that a number of Bibles head this passage with something along the lines of, "Duties of younger and older". This passage is addressed, as is the entire epistle, to Titus, so we can't pretend that it gives each one of us carte blanche to usurp a teaching and/or admonishing role that is not ours.

It is interesting to note that no role is given to children in this passage. The young women mentioned are assumed to be adult women, with husbands and homes. It is the responsibility of the older women to set a godly standard of behavior and to teach the younger women, both in example and in word.

The young women are to apply those lessons in their own lives. They are not given a teaching role.

The children aren't even mentioned.

I realize that I'm way over the hill. Times have changed. I know. I know. I'm not sure that this comment, or my previous one, will ever be posted. I addressed my previous one to young Rebekah, because I felt it was my duty as an older woman. Now I'd like to issue a caution to the women who have read and commented on this blog.

My fourth child is Rebekah's age. He is quite the capable fellow. He has skills and abilities that not that many grown men possess. In fact, he is sometimes pressed into service by men who need his help. Because of the way in which we are raising him, he would never presume to tell a grown man what to do. I've warned all of our children that, as the Bible says, "Knowledge puffs up." He offers his physical help in a humble way and knows when to keep his mouth shut. He is respectful.

Back in my day, in the circles in which I traveled, there was not this huge emphasis on self-esteem. Children weren't encouraged to express themselves freely. Children were taught their "place". We were expected to respect adults.

Today, people think it's "cute" when their tot is a backseat driver or when little Melissa or Buford tells an adult how to do something. I never did think it was cute. But even if it is cute when a little tot lisps out a Bible verse and utters her precocious interpretation of it to adults, it has long ceased to be cute by the time she is 15 and has the --- why mince words here --- arrogance and outrageous gall to rebuke her elders for sinning.

We could try to set her straight. But I really don't think Rebekah is respectful enough, humble enough, mature enough, or teachable enough to listen. I think we are wasting our time.

What we should not do is humor a little girl who sets up a blog and solicits questions --- as if she has answers at her inexperienced and unfinished age! We should not tolerate her and the many others like her who presume to take on a teaching role and then claim coyly, "All I did was quote a few verses!"

We should not give girls like this an audience. In a sound church, they would not have an audience. In another 30 years, perhaps Rebekah will have something to say to younger women, something borne out of her own walk with the Lord.

Right now, all she has is her blog. Being able to write does not make one worthy of an audience. Let's not encourage her in usurping the role of older women and in her ongoing disrespect for God's Word and for God's people.

Of course, what do I know? I'm horribly old-fashioned and I've long outgrown the arrogance of youth, when I thought I knew it all!

Am I saying we have nothing to learn from young children? No. I learn from my children all the time! But they do not presume to think that they are my teachers. They do not set up blogs and solicit questions, as if they were some sort of experts on things that they themselves have never experienced. My capable 15 year old, for example, does not presume to tell men how to be truly manly, how to manage career and family, or how to be a good husband and father. He has opinions on those topics, sure, but he knows enough --- and respects enough --- not to set himself up as a teacher of the very people he should be learning from. And he certainly knows enough not to rebuke his elders for sinning when they disagree with his interpretation of Scripture.

Youthful zeal is a good thing. Youthful pride is not. God withstands the proud. Let's be sure we are not encouraging them.

Edited to remove sentences that indicated my comments had not been posted, since they have since appeared on the blog in question.

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  1. Rebecca, I just checked her blog, and the first comment you made is there.

  2. Thanks for pointing this out. I've edited my post to indicate this.

  3. So incredibly well-said. I agree whole-heartedly.

  4. Funny, I just ran across her blog yesterday. I knew she was young, but 15?! If only it were just youthful exuberance...

  5. Good words, Rebecca.

    There's a funny placard that hung in a shop we used to go to that said, "Hire a teenager while they still know everything"

    Encouraging teens is a balance--we want to be proud of our kids who are making good choices. But it does sound like the situation you're describing is out of balance.

  6. I read your replies on her blog and came over here to see the post she talked about.
    I replied to this post under "old folks and life experience".

    I agree with you and couldn't say it better. She is way too young to be preaching the way she does, especially to be pointing her finger at people.
    I emailed her a couple of weeks ago, when her post regarding homemaking only had about 5 replies or so, and she hadn't started her long string of contradictions. I gently rebuked her, trying to encourage her zeal and discourage her pride, but I must say you did a much better job! Must be the fact that you are OLDER!!! haha

    I feel sorry for her, really. Maybe one reason they like to preach and write books is because they don't have any other options. They won't be going to college, they are expected to be extremely mature and not engage in the usual talk about dating, fashion, music, cinema....
    I wonder if all that isolation, all that indoctrination, the huge emphasis on roles, the early preparation for marriage, the extra-special daddy-daughter relationship and the blinkered focus on marriage are not the root of this.
    Would that girl be preaching about staying at home, what is sin and what isn't, and how Ruth (in the Bible) must have been in sin because she went to glean the fields, if she had a more normal life?

    Just a few thoughts.

  7. Ok, let me start off by saying I agree with you. Younger women should not be spouting off "preaching", trying to teach older women. And yes, many younger girls are doing just that. I haven't read very much of the "Rebekah" in question, so I don't have a particular opinion on her.

    The thing that I do know is, as a 33 year old woman, I had very few godly older women to look to. And of those, only ONE really tried to TEACH my anything. I thank God for her every day!!

    In reality, most of the older women I was in contact with *were* older, feminist women. They couldn't believe I wanted to *JUST* be a SAHM. They couldn't fathom not having my own "secret" account seperate from my husband "just in case". And never in a million years could they understand why my dh and I decided to allow God control over my womb ~ that went against everything FEMINISM had taugh them.

    And YES, feminism has had a HUGE impact on even good, godly Christian women of today. It has infiltrated so much of our thinking, we don't even realise it anymore. We just think of it as "normal" and "accepted" and "what everyone does". As your previous commentor said ~ "if she would have had a more NORMAL life" ~ normal like whom? The world?? That's not the "normal" life I want for my children. I pray everyday they don't have a "normal" childhood.

    So yes, I agree with what you said - every word. I just feel bad for these struggling girls....they are searching. The average, older Christian women is not guiding them, teaching them Godly values. How can she? She is at work and too busy to take the time to "teach" younger women.

    And I'm not saying this is YOU - not by any means. I don't even know you! But from my own previous experience (which is ever-expanding as I live and grow), Godly, older women are hard to come by. When a young girl is trying so hard to live a Godly life....she is often mocked and made fun of by her "more-knowlegable" older couterparts.

    I feel stuck in the middle. I want to help the younger gals, but still feel like I have so much to learn. I see older ladies who I would NEVER want "teaching" my daughters....and I see younger girls floundering about, making mistakes and not knowing what to do next. It's hard - yet something God calls us to work on nonetheless.

    Anyways, just another thought to add to this. Again, I agree with your thoughts, just try to remember there may be more to this than simply an arrogant girl who thinks she knows it all.

    Trusting in Him~