In a rather unsurprising — but nonetheless grotesque and disgusting — announcement last weekend, the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the country, openly declared its explicit support for “the fundamental right to abortion.” The whole thing happened during an assembly in Houston, where they reviewed and approved what was designated as Business Item 56, which states:
The NEA will honor the leadership of women, non-binary, and trans people, and other survivors who have come forward to publicly name their rapists and attackers in the growing, international #MeToo movement.
The document goes on to blame conservatives and President Trump for wanting to abolish women’s rights. Shocking, I know. Now, as psychotically insane and utterly evil as this whole thing actually is, it’s certainly not surprising. We’ve long since known that the NEA is a far leftwing organization and has been for decades. So, bashing the president and conservatives is sort of standard protocol for this group. What is disturbing, though, is just how large, powerful, and influential this institution has become and how comfortable it is with its explicitly declaring its beliefs. With over three million members spread throughout nearly every state in the nation, it’s almost a guarantee that at least one of these teachers, educators, or instructors is or will be in your child’s public school.
The question we must ask is this: If the NEA is willing to publicly and so audaciously declare its support for abortion — without the slightest bit of shame or remorse — what then would its most ardent supporters and loyal members be willing to say to innocent kids in the classroom behind closed doors? Let me be clear: I’m not arguing that every teacher out of the three million is a radical leftwing fanatic or an abortion zealot hellbent on indoctrinating children with progressive ideology. To paint the entire group with such a broad brush would be unfair. I don’t doubt that there are plenty of teachers with character and integrity who are members of the organization. Moreover, I don’t doubt that there are plenty of wonderful teachers in general. I personally had some great teachers during my years in private and public school. But, I am saying that it’s absolutely possible, and even likely, that there are indeed some teachers who would be, and are, more than comfortable with abortion indoctrination because their union is overwhelmingly outspoken about the subject and has now declared its support for it. And for those teachers who were already radical adherents to liberal ideology and the progressive tenets of education, this merely gives them an opportunity and a platform to bring issues like abortion into the classroom without fear of negative reprisals, consequences, or fallout.
As the son of a teacher — and as a student who was homeschooled, and endured both private and public school, as well as five years of state college — I know firsthand the vast amount of power that educators possess, not to mention the colossal influence that they wield over the children in their charge. Teachers are capable of molding and shaping the morals and value systems of their students. That’s not the sort of job that you want to leave to just anyone and it’s why homeschooling is probably one of the better education alternatives — because you as the parent have much more control over what your child is being taught. Even if you’re part of a co-op, you still have far more control over the subjects, the curriculums, and who your child interacts with on a regular basis than you would if he or she were in a private or public school.
It might sound like I’m rambling off talking points from The Great Homeschool Convention or something like that, but believe it or not, I speak from personal experience on this particular topic. You see, I was homeschooled up to the ninth grade and — although at the time I might have complained about being sheltered — I can now say in retrospect that those were truly some of the most fundamental and beneficially formative years of my life. My mother, armed not only with her natural instincts but also with a bachelors degree in elementary education, taught my brother, my sister, and I everything that we needed to know, while simultaneously raising us on basic biblical truths and moral principles. And even though my father was working full-time as an assistant pastor, he played a vital role in my education by teaching me early mathematics, Algebra, and other valuable life lessons.
Now obviously homeschooling isn’t a feasible option for everyone. There are single-parent situations where the mother or father has to work all day just to earn a living, and if there’s no co-op nearby or something of that nature, then public school typically becomes the only choice. Even in some double-parent scenarios, homeschooling still may not be an option if both incomes are required in order to support the family. That’s understandable and I am more than empathetic to those difficult circumstances.
However, I don’t think that we can simply ignore the reality that we’ve reached a place in our society where the public school system could be — and so often is — a potential threat to the psychological and spiritual safety of our children, particularly if they find themselves in a classroom where radical leftwing indoctrination will take place, no matter how subtle or subliminal it may be. The statements from the NEA are just the most recent example. There will be another in a few days. And then another. And another. At the end of the day, the question that every parent must face is “What am I going to do about it?” Of course, the answer will be different for everyone. No two situations are alike and every parent-child scenario is unique. But, I think that if more parents chose to, at the very least, consider homeschooling as an option — even if only for the first few years — we would see real change in this nation, and far less leftwing ideology in the public school realm. It's at least worth a try, isn't it?
Soaring electric guitar solos resonate across the amphitheater arena as attendees make their way through the cramped lobby, where vendors are selling everything from t-shirts and coffee mugs to DVDs and the pastor’s latest book. Somewhere someone is wondering, “Wouldn’t Jesus be flipping over these tables?” But before there’s time to have an actual theological debate, congregants find themselves standing in front of flashing lights, pulsating stage speakers, and three colossal multimedia screens, the latter of which are broadcasting a montage of video clips and announcements featuring an overly hyperactive dude in skinny jeans and a muscle shirt. In-between his cheesy dance moves and horribly scripted dialogue, he encourages everyone to snap a selfie with their neighbor and post it to Instagram using the hashtag #JesusRocks.
There’s not a wooden pew in sight. No, they’ve been replaced by luxuriously padded chairs or even by the sort of seats you would find at an expensive movie theatre in your city. Come to think of it, this might actually be a renovated movie theatre, or at least an imitation of one. Everywhere you look, the church’s sleek and contemporary logo is staring back at you because, as they say, “Brand identity is everything.” A lady on stage grabs a mic and announces that before the service is over, one lucky attendee will win a lifetime’s supply of free Starbucks coffee and an autographed copy of the pastor’s New York Times bestseller. The crowd roars. Just when you think the buildup can’t possibly get more intense, the so-called “worship band” takes the stage and begins performing something so indistinguishable from the Billboard Top 100 that you have to honestly wonder whether you’ve stumbled upon a rock concert, a televised gameshow, a shopping mall, a church, or some weird amalgamation of all four.
The picture that I’ve just painted for you might seem outlandish and utterly farfetched. But, anyone who has attended a few of our nation’s millennial-minded megachurches — or, even worse, a small local church pretending to be a millennial megachurch — is likely familiar with at least a few of these elements.
Of course, my generation has come to see right through much of this inauthenticity. Over 59 percent of millennials have already left the church and it’s not because they hate the idea of organized religion. It’s not because they hate values, morals, or even Jesus. It’s because they can smell a phony a mile away. A church that places more emphasis on entertainment than relationships; more value on the pastor’s public image than the Gospel; or more focus on hype than authenticity will stick out like a sore thumb every time. In other words, a church that is trying to be something other than a church comes off as shallow, disingenuous, and completely bogus. Millennials already see enough nonsensical marketing and consume enough hollow entertainment in other aspects of their lives. As far as they’re concerned, church should look and feel different than the rock concert or sporting event they attended the night before.
Moreover, recent data from the Barna Group, in conjunction with the Cornerstone Knowledge Network, found that some 67 percent of millennials prefer a “classic” church as opposed to a “trendy” or contemporary one, and 77 percent would rather worship in a “sanctuary” than an “auditorium.” Although I was a bit surprised by how high this number was, I found myself in agreement. Attending a church service so large that it has to meet in a basketball stadium or a shopping mall doesn't quite have the same feel of authenticity or intimacy as the congregation of 200 or less meeting in the 1970's-style building that boasts decades of stories and history. To be clear: The Holy Spirit may indeed be present and honored in both locations, as He is obviously not bound by such physical barriers. But, millennials have their preferences like anyone else.
Maybe the answer to millennial church attendance, then, isn’t more fog machines, more lighted columns, more lattes, and more beard oil for the worship leader. Maybe the church doesn’t have to feel “cool” or be “woke” to cultural fashion trends. Maybe the church should just be the church. You know, reach lost people, engage the local community, and build authentic relationships. What a novel idea. Someone should write that down in a book that will last for all Eternity. Oh wait, never mind.
In regards to their approach to millennials, this will mean a few things for the modern church:
1) Keep your message content theologically accurate and rich in content. Remember, we hate that whole empty and hollow thing. We see right through it every time.
2) Stop lying to us about who you are. Be real, even if it means having to shrink your entire program, restructure everything you've done, or break up into small "multicampus" churches.
3) Provide us with a genuine worship service rather than the sort of pop or alt-rock concert faux experience you’ve been told we want. I think I speak for many millennials when I say: You’ve been gravely misinformed.
Maybe if we start with this, we’ll slowly return to some vague semblance of what the church was meant to be. Maybe.
I’ve been a PK for 33 years now. (PK = pastor’s kid for those of you who were fortunate enough to grow up without the stigmatization of overtly demeaning two-letter acronymic labels by which we are categorized as a subspecies set apart from average humans in society.) During this time I’ve watched as my dad has transitioned from student pastor to Bible class schoolteacher to single mom’s ministry to assistant pastor to senior pastor to nonprofit executive director and everything in between. In case you’re wondering, he’s actually still juggling the latter two simultaneously. Don’t ask me how. It’s quite the balancing act from what I can tell. Somehow he manages to pull it off every day without suffering a complete psychotic breakdown.
Personally, I would’ve cracked during the student pastor phase. Or maybe the single mom’s phase. (No offense to screaming teenagers and overburdened single mothers.) Either way, I certainly would’ve died long before becoming the lead pastor of a local church. I just don’t have the patience for it. Somewhere my father is nodding in agreement.
Speaking of local churches, I’m sure you’re aware that they’re chock full of opinions and assumptions. Of course, this is true of people everywhere, not just those who “go to church.” But, when you’re a pastor’s kid, you tend to grow up hearing nearly every attendee’s viewpoint, speculation, lamentation, thought, and theory — no matter how trivial or serious — including the thoughts directed at or about your father and your family.
One of the many common — yet terribly inaccurate — assumptions about PKs is that we’re all destined to work in some venue of full-time church ministry. Even worse, many folks assume that we want to work in ministry or that we enjoy it. I’ve seen this, heard this, and experienced this time and time again. I guess the groupthink tends to be “Well, your dad does it, and you’re a lot like your dad, so you must want to do it too.”
And then there are others who assume that, although we may not go into full-time ministry, we should at least be in some sort of volunteer or leadership role because “your dad is the pastor.” Whether it’s teaching a Bible study or playing in the worship band, we should supposedly be doing something that separates us out from the “average” kid in the church. You know, because we’re a “PK” and PKs are special. God forbid that we just be normal.
Now, I know that what I’m about say might come as quite a shock to many of you, so take a deep breath and try to relax. Allow me to set the record straight, once and for all, on behalf of PKs everywhere: Not every pastor’s kid wants to work in full-time ministry. Moreover, not every PK even wants to volunteer in ministry on a regular basis. And you know what? Who cares?
Crap. Grandma fainted. Someone help her back onto the pew.
The simple reality is that some — dare I say many — pastors’ kids (of all ages) just want to attend church without having to worry about fulfilling any sort of leadership roles, lofty expectations, or ministry requirements. There’s a freedom in that. There’s a tranquility in it. As PKs, we’re already immersed in the church’s culture, news, gossip, and drama even when we’re not on campus because it’s often the subject of household conversation. Not only do we know almost everything about the worship music, the ministries, the current sermon series, and the upcoming events, we’re also keenly aware of a plethora of complaints from congregants; the latest marriage to crumble; the most recent power struggle amongst the staff or board; the last person who spouted off and insulted our father; and the newest rumor about Brother So-And-So’s secret sin. We often know who’s leaving the church for no good reason, who’s struggling financially, and who’s in the hospital facing the possibility of entering Eternity.
If these issues exhaust us as PKs, how much more do they drain our dads? Thank God that they’re spiritually equipped for the role of pastor. Otherwise they would surely suffer that nervous breakdown I mentioned earlier.
The truth is that when people in the church see the PK fail to meet a so-called “expectation” — like ministry involvement or leadership — the outrage is often completely fake and unjustified. No one is authentically upset. It’s all a game. It’s just a theatrical production. They think they’re upset, but they’re really not. They have no reason to be, whether they're aware of it or not.
There was a time when I worried about those opinions and expectations, but now I honestly couldn’t care less about them. The Lord can use anyone in any career field, and PKs are certainly no exception. So, if you’re a pastor’s son or daughter, don’t allow other people to forcibly impress their wants and desires onto you. Don’t succumb to outside pressure to go into ministry. If it’s not for you, then go find your passion elsewhere, embrace it, and carry on.
Mocking millennials is certainly one of America’s greatest national hobbies. I imagine millions of citizens are doing it right now. Some of them are probably even making future plans to do it. They’re literally scheduling their days or weekends around it. “Hey, baby. You free Friday evening? I thought we could go to dinner, take a nice walk, and make fun of millennials.” Somewhere, in some place, someone is making fun of millennials right now.
I admit that, even as a millennial myself, I’ve enjoyed partaking in this particular trend from time to time. After all, when it comes to my generation, there’s certainly no shortage of things at which to poke fun. We’re spoiled. We’re selfish. We’re entitled. We’re lazy. We’re narcissistic. We have expensive tastes for things we can’t afford. Most of us can’t even change the oil in our own cars or boil an egg without asking a Gen-X-er or Boomer for help.
And now, we’re apparently stressed out. Like, super stressed out. And we demand that everyone know it and believe it. In fact, we’re more stressed out than anyone else on the planet. Or so we think.
Yes, in what seems to be one of the most absurd and altogether pointless surveys ever conducted in the history of human civilization, a CBD oil company known as Endoca, in conjunction with OnePoll, recently polled 2,000 individuals in the infamous 23-38 age demographic and found that over one-third of today’s millennials believe that their lives are more stressful than the average person’s life. Furthermore, almost 60 percent of millennials think that life today is more stressful than it ever has been at any time since the dawn of mankind’s existence.
But, what’s the source of all this stress? Where is it coming from? Gone are the days when Americans were concerned about random outbreaks of polio or the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviets. The Great Depression is over and the smallpox scare is a thing of the past. Those were the sort of worries that weighed on the minds of our parents and grandparents. The Greatest Generation stood strong in the face of death, chaos, economic uncertainty, breadlines, gas lines, and other societal horrors we can’t even fathom. This is 2019 for God’s sake.
By contrast, today’s millennials seem to be worried about their own brand of apocalyptic disasters. You know, really frightening atrocities like “losing my wallet/credit card” and “arguing with a partner” and “traffic delays.” And there’s also the nightmarishly terrifying possibility of “cracking my phone screen” or, wait for it, “slow WiFi.” Dear Lord. It’s truly a wonder that these folks manage to make it through the day in one piece. These persecutions and challenges make the Gulags of Lenin’s Russia look like the Ritz Carlton. It’s simply mind-boggling that millennials are not an extinct species by now.
I suppose one could argue that these things are micro-stressors that contribute to an overall increase in stress levels, which then lead to negative health reactions and side effects. Maybe this is the case. Maybe not. Regardless, someone should really sit a lot of the lunkheads from my generation down and have a chat with them about what it was like to fight against Japan in World War II, endure the Vietnam draft, or struggle to put enough food on the table to feed your family. If nothing else, it might, at the very least, make them more appreciative of the era in which they live.
Truly, the egocentric individualism of today’s millennials is incredible. Compared to the America of old, we practically live in a modern-day Garden of Eden where nearly every resource, want, and desire is within arm’s reach. Think about it. With our iPhones alone we can buy movie tickets, purchase clothing, request an Uber ride, summon a corporate staff meeting, instantly send messages and photos to friends and family, order coffee before we arrive at the local Starbucks, have dinner show up at our house, download hours of music, watch endless amounts of movies and TV shows, and read any book, newspaper, or magazine we want. The entire world is literally in our back pocket.
And yet, here we are in one of the most prosperous and technologically-advanced times in U.S. history, whining like spoiled brats about having to wash dishes or go through the sofa to find our phone chargers. (Yes, seriously. Go back and look at the list.) Sure, our generation experienced the 9/11 terror attacks, the war on Al-Qaeda, and violent civil unrest in places like Ferguson. But, in the big picture, most of us were not directly affected by these events on a personal level.
Today’s young people will never know the frustration of searching their pants pockets for enough change to make a long distance call from a phone booth or trying to remember what time their favorite TV station will be “signing off the air” every night, much less be intimately acquainted with the horrors of war and death. Stressed out? Give me a break.
If you’re a millennial and you’re stressed, odds are you’ve created the source of the stress yourself; or you’re letting your emotions control you, rather than the other way around. Either way, you have no one to blame but yourself.
I typically do my best to avoid thinking about my epilepsy. I admit that I’ve gotten pretty good at this. Or at least I tell myself that I have. I can get through some days without having a seizure and therefore ignore the reality that, whether I like it or not, epilepsy and all the things that accompany a neurological condition are indeed a part of my life. I’ve come to accept the truths of my disorder and, more importantly, come to embrace and understand many things about it.
But, despite what I personally understand, know, and feel about epilepsy, there are many people who are, for one reason or another, utterly ignorant to what I and other epileptics endure on a daily basis. Even close friends and family members can be totally clueless. To be clear: This is not necessarily through any fault of their own (at least not in most cases.) Oftentimes, it’s merely due to a lack of basic education, knowledge, and experience.
So, speaking of education, here are some quick stats: Today, over three million adults in the U.S. suffer from epilepsy, in addition to almost 500,000 children. Each year, over 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with some type of neurological disorder that will result in or cause seizures. There are many different types of seizures, each with its own vast array of accompanying symptoms and after effects. (Everything from staring blankly into space to uncontrollable twitching to more extreme behaviors such as tongue-biting and loss of balance.) Some of us experience one, all, or a combination of these symptoms depending on the severity of the seizure. Epilepsy is currently the fourth most common neurological disorder after migraines, strokes, and Alzheimer’s. It can also be associated with and triggered by migraines. Many times — and in my own case — migraines can occur before, during, or after a seizure.
It may not be Epilepsy Awareness Month yet, but — for what it’s worth — here are some thoughts that I felt might be worthwhile. Please excuse any momentary hints of resentment or indignation that may surface in this post. If you or someone you know has epilepsy, feel free to pass these along to surrounding friends and family members in an effort to contribute to a better understanding.
1. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment or medication option.
Don’t assume that we can just go see a doctor, take a few prescription pills, and be fine by next week. Epilepsy is far more complex than that. In fact, for some of us, it may even involve non-medication treatment, such as counseling and therapy. And even then, the truth is that all the medication and therapy in the world still wouldn’t alleviate every symptom, particularly the neuropsychological, emotional, and spiritual symptoms. This leads me to the next point.
2. Please bear with my frequent moments of intense anger, frustration, discouragement, and depression.
Epilepsy is a very psychologically and emotionally torturous condition. It wears on our feelings. It grates on our state-of-mind. It conjures up intense levels of fear and terror, the magnitudes of which I don’t even possess the words to adequately describe. It causes us to doubt and worry. It seizes the mind and injects anxiety into our daily thoughts, particularly before and after a seizure has occurred. It infuriates us because we cannot stop, cure, or control our condition. It inhibits our ability to drive and robs us of our independency. It discourages us and, oftentimes, brings us to a dark place of depression, even if we do not appear to be depressed on the outside.
3. If I don’t have a job (or a “real” job), it’s not because I’m lazy.
There are countless physiological and psychological triggers for seizures, not the least of which are stress and sleep deprivation. These are my two strongest triggers, both of which eventually forced me to have to stop working in the clothing retail industry, which I had been a part of for almost 15 years. The high stress levels associated with customer service, Black Friday madness, the Christmas rush, dealing with the public (including shoplifters) on a daily basis, responding to the pressures of management expectations, juggling late-night closing shifts, and overnight inventories finally took its toll. I was having several short partial-complex seizures before and after my shifts, and eventually had a longer one during a shift — one which caused me to lose my balance and hit the floor. The latter seizure prompted my manager-on-duty to call an ambulance, ultimately bringing my retail employee days to a close.
4. No, you don’t have to be “scared” or “freaked out” around me.
Being an epileptic doesn’t make me some sort of freakish weirdo or hazardous threat to society or ticking time bomb. Leave the butterfly net at home, please.
5. I still want to have as normal of a life as possible.
Epilepsy stole my ability to drive. It took away much of my independency. It robbed me of certain career opportunities that I might have achieved otherwise. It has neuropsychological effects on my ability to eat and swallow solid food. (For more on that story, see my Epilepsy Page.) The medication has frustrating side effects. It affects my sleep cycle. I could go on and on.
Regardless of these realities, I still want to have as normal of a life as possible, just like anyone else. I’m still a regular person who does regular things. I go to church. I spend time with friends and family. I go to movies. I date. I eat sandwiches from Chick-fil-A and drink coffee from Starbucks. I read books and listen to music. I meet and interview fascinating people throughout my city. I watch my writing get published in local magazines. I design websites and digital media for churches and ministries. I speak on cultural, political, and spiritual issues.
So, I’m still a pretty normal dude (by most accounts anyway.) I just happen to be a normal dude who has epilepsy.
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