What Parents Need to Know
About the Guest
The culture's stance on gender issues can be confusing for your child. Youth expert Jonathan McKee says that our media-saturated kids are hearing the culture's messages on gender identity and it's affecting the way they think. McKee encourages parents to interact with their kids on gender issues and point them back to Jesus.
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Youth expert Jonathan McKee says that our media-saturated kids are hearing the culture’s messages on gender identity. Jonathan encourages parents to interact with their kids and point them back to Jesus.
What Parents Need to Know
Bob: How can our teenage sons and daughters stand for truth in their school or among their peers and not become a Pharisee in the process? Jonathan McKee says the answer is for them to look at Jesus.
Jonathan: When you observe Jesus and how He handled sinners, I don’t think a lot of people would say: “Wow! He was cruel. He was mean. He was a hater.” As a matter of fact, most of the religious people of the day, if anything, were like: “He loves sinners! He errs on the side of too lenient, too loving, and too gracious.” That’s probably the accusation He was hearing back then. And we need to teach our kids that balance—loving sinners but standing firm on our theology.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. As parents, all of us want our teens to be thinking rightly and acting rightly when it comes to human sexuality.
We also want them to be thinking and acting rightly when it comes to their friends who disagree with them. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was having a lunch-time conversation with a group of parents not long ago—and this was stunning—a mom was telling me that her daughter, in eighth grade, had become good friends with another girl in her class. The mom noticed that the two of them were pretty much—it was their group just two of them and no more.
She asked her daughter—she said: “I’ve noticed that you and this other girl are pretty good friends. How did the two of you kind of connect?”
The daughter said, “Well, we’re the only kids in our class who aren’t gay.” And the mom looked at her like, “What?!” She said, “Oh, yes; all the other kids in our class are gay, and it’s just the two of us who aren’t.”
Now, it was a stunning conversation, not because the mom or I really believed that this is a classroom full of same-sex attracted young men and young women in the eighth grade.
Dennis: But the perception is that.
Bob: The perception is that one of the things that is cool today is to be curious about your sexuality / to experiment sexually. Maybe, if you come out as gay, it could be a cool thing for you in the eighth grade today.
Dennis: So, Bob, if you could call any youth expert in the country to engage in this conversation—probably a guy who would be from California—
Dennis: —whom would you call?
Bob: Well, we tried 30 people.
We finally got to Jonathan McKee, and he agreed to come.
Dennis: Jim Burns couldn’t show up. [Laughter]
Bob: We’re just teasing you!
Jonathan: Jim’s going to love that. [Laughter]
Bob: Doug Fields was on a—but we came to you, Jonathan! [Laughter]
Dennis: Jonathan McKee joins us again on FamilyLife Today.
Jonathan: That’s great.
Dennis: Welcome back, I think!
Jonathan: I’ve been called worse.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: Jonathan is the author of a couple of books—More Than Just “The Talk”: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex—and a question-and-answer book for teenagers that I think a lot of parents are going to want to read / it’s titled Sex Matters. The youth leader, Scott Rueben, who leads the junior high program at Willow Creek writes some very strong words, saying, “This is a powerful book that will help parents and youth alike.”
Jonathan, I’m going to take you into a subject that is—well, it’s like tiptoeing through a minefield. This is tough. You live in California. You just finished raising—pretty much—three teenagers all the way through this minefield.
The subject of sexual identity and gender preferences has become a huge issue today for parents. Let’s just start with what a parent needs to know about what’s happening with their teenager or their preteen as they begin to move into adolescence.
Jonathan: Yes; well, you know what? Obviously, the biggest factor that’s happening right now in the last decade is that young people are so plugged into entertainment media, at so many hours per day, that they just have access to tons of ignorance—let’s be honest—at their fingertips.
And when young people are spending—and different people have different counts—but the counts are anywhere between seven and ten hours a day of entertainment media—and you listen to the songs, you watch what they’re watching on the screens, what they are searching for on Google®—the information they’re getting is pretty much telling them the same stuff, which is:
“Do what feels right at the moment. Go for it! Lose control.”
When they hear these messages over and over again, all the experts out there—all the secular experts / I mean, you name it—you pick up The Journal of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, any of them—they’re saying: “This stuff is affecting young people’s minds. It’s changing the way they think.” Young people are kind of growing up learning: “Hey, try something. If it feels good, go for it!” And they’re not talking about tomorrow, or next week, or next year.
Jonathan: They’re talking about, at the moment, what feels good.
Bob: I mean, this is going to sound dated; but I don’t know how many parents are even aware that / what was it?—maybe, almost a decade ago—there was a popular song called, “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” That’s old stuff today. Now, there is a celebration in popular media / in youth culture around gender diversity / gender fluidity.
The constant drumbeat for young people in the culture is that, “This is something good—something to be celebrated / something to be experimented with.” That’s the message they are getting; isn’t it?
Dennis: And in the midst of this, you’ve got parents who didn’t grow up in this generation. They are wondering, “How do I equip my son or daughter?”—especially those parents who say:
You know, I hold to the Bible. I’ve got some convictions / I’ve got some standards. I’m trying to impart those standards and those theological convictions to my children.
I don’t want to do it in a judgmental way. I want to be kind and compassionate. I don’t want to turn my child into a judgmental Pharisee, who is throwing stones at people who are broken, because we’re all broken. And I want my kids to understand we live in a culture where there is a lot of brokenness around a lot of different subjects.
But nonetheless, this issue of sexual diversity, today, around gender has got parents scratching their heads, going:
“Do I need to pull my kids out of secular school?” “Do we want to homeschool?” or “As we send our kids in, how do we go about that?” So, where do they start?
Jonathan: First of all, realize that you can’t lock your kid in a dungeon and never let them out. They are going to see and hear some of this—even if you homeschool. They’re going to experience this because they are going to, probably, play sports with kids that are talking about this; and if they open their eyes when they look at the headlines when they are in line at the grocery store; if they ever hear music while they’re shopping at Target® or WalMart®. The fact is—they are going to hear it.
We, as parents, need to be ready to engage with our kids about this, and talk with them, and talk with them about it truthfully. One of the best ways to do that is—don’t turn into lecture mode—turn into listening mode. Ask questions—so now, you are getting them to draw from their values and start talking about this. And guess what? Where are they going to go to for this?—
—the natural step there—“Well, huh, what’s the Bible say about this?”
Dennis: There you go.
Jonathan: So, we, as parents, can start engaging them in conversation—start asking them, bringing to light some of the stuff that they think is just no big deal and that’s what everybody is kind of saying on this—and just, “Hey, what’s the Bible say about this?” That’s where we want to get.
Bob: I was talking to a mom of a teenage daughter. She’s been in ministry—the mom has—for more than two decades. When the Supreme Court ruled in the summer of 2015 in the Obergefell decision about same-sex marriage, the daughter wanted to do what everybody else in her class at school was doing. She wanted to rainbow-ize her picture on social media.
The mom went to the daughter and said, “Why do you want to do that?” She said, “Well, because I want gay people to know that I care about them, and I love them, and I support them.” They had quite a conversation. What the mom came away, recognizing was:
“The culture my daughter is swimming in is a culture that will affirm you if you go along with this crowd, and it will punish you socially if you don’t go along with the crowd.”
Dennis: Let’s talk about that, Jonathan. Moms and dads, watching their kids attempt to stand for truth and knowing that their kids are going to be, in an unprecedented way, perhaps, called hateful—like they are bigots. That’s tough for a parent to watch under any circumstance. How should parents prepare their children to engage in this culture and be young men and women who hold to a biblical view of sexuality?—“Male and female created He them,”—and do it compassionately without throwing stones at other people?
Jonathan: More than ever before, we just really have to be shrewd and innocent.
We need to teach our young people how to do that—and the key is: “Point toward Jesus.” You know, we—when it comes to the subject of sex, we very often will tell them what to flee / what to run away from; but very often, we aren’t telling them what to run towards. I think of Hebrews 12:1-2, where it talks about letting go of that sin that hinders, and fix our eyes on Jesus. That’s the advice I give most parents—and let me get specific here.
When you observe Jesus and how He handled sinners, I don’t think a lot of people would say: “Wow! He was cruel. He was mean. He was a hater.” As a matter of fact, most of the religious people of the day, if anything, were like: “Oh! He loves sinners. He errs on the side of too lenient, too loving, and too gracious.”
That’s probably the accusation He was hearing back then because, I mean, name the story—from John, Chapter 8, a woman who was caught in adultery—
—moments before—a bunch of people ready to pounce on this—to trap Jesus, no doubt. And Jesus basically says: “Oh, yes, sure. Well, whoever is perfect, go ahead and throw the first stone.” And everybody realized, “Well, we’re not perfect.” That’s the key—we’re fellow sinners. We all know we’re fellow sinners / we’re all broken. We all—and Jesus was masterful at taking the attention off that. Then, He, literally, looked at her and, “Where are your condemners?” “None of them are here.” “Well, then, I don’t condemn you either. Why don’t you leave this life that’s burdening you like this?”
What about Zacchaeus?—Luke 19. Here’s this guy, who rips people off for a living. Literally, Jesus’ political advisers were probably like: “Jesus, whatever You do, don’t talk to the guy in the tree up there because not a good move for You politically. You don’t want to associate with him.” “That guy up there in the tree?” “Yes, trust me. He’s ripped off everybody in the crowd. You want to distance Yourself from that guy.” What does Jesus do?—“Zach, dinner, now! Come on, man. Let’s do it!”
We didn’t even hear that conversation, but what happened?
Jesus spends dinner with this guy / hangs out with him. The next thing we know—this guy is like: “Man, I’m messed up. I’m going to pay people back.” Jesus had a way of loving broken people; but if people asked Jesus—and man, I’ll tell you—Jesus is not scared to say, “I am the only Way.” I mean, He wasn’t politically correct when it came to talking about—that He was the key to salvation. He was the only Way, and they killed Him for it!
But nobody loved sinners like Jesus did. And we need to teach our kids that balance—loving sinners but standing firm on our theology.
Dennis: John, Chapter 1, said, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.” It goes on to say—and He was—“full of grace”—which is love, compassion, forgiveness—and it says “truth.”
He was—“full of grace and truth.” He was full of both.
Dennis: He didn’t sacrifice truth on the altar of grace. He still held to truth. And with the woman who had been caught in adultery, He ended up, at the end of the conversation, saying, “Go and sin no more”; you know? He called it what it was.
Bob: Here’s the challenge for a 14-year-old, though—to be socially ostracized as a 14-year-old. I mean, it’s hard enough trying to figure out who you are as a 14-year-old. Now, if the crowd is going to say: “We’ll tell you who you are. You are a hateful, bigoted, narrow-minded this; and we’re not going to have anything to do with you.” Your son or your daughter is coming home; and you’re saying, “Well, you’ve got to stand for what God says is true,” that 14-year-old—
Dennis: That’s tough!
Bob: If you’re coaching a 14-year-old son or daughter on how to live in that environment, what do you say to them?
Dennis: Well—and I want to ask Jonathan this—
—but I think we’re talking about / now, I think we’re talking about all people. I think all of us are having to go to school to say, “How do we love people appropriately, relate to people, befriend people, and have face-to-face relationships with people who don’t think like us / don’t believe like us?—and those who will know that that’s true but also know that they’re loved,” as you’ve described, Jonathan.
I think what we’re truthfully engaging in—maybe, for the first time en masse as a nation—the Christian community has got to rethink and train our children to hold to the truth but also to be unequivocally great lovers of people like Jesus Christ was.
Jonathan: Absolutely. And when we sit there and think of this daunting pressure we have, as parents, to equip our kids to do this—again, I just can’t emphasize enough how much we need to point toward Jesus and not just to say that cliché like:
“Just remember Jesus. Okay; let’s pray. Good night.”
Jonathan: But I mean, think like—when you even think about that: “How”—the question you asked, Bob: “How are we supposed to tell our 14-year-old to stand up?”
So often, I’ve seen—because I’ve been in youth ministry over 20 years—I’ve almost seen this “See You at the Pole” be used as a divisive: “Let’s teach our kids to go stand up because they have the right to do this, and let’s go stand up! ‘Look at me—look at me pray.’” And that’s such a—we’ve got to ask ourselves: “Are we teaching our kids to look like Pharisees or to look like Jesus?” If we’re pointing to ourselves, saying, “Look at me,” then, we’ve got a problem because that’s not scriptural at all.
Dennis: And Jonathan, I’ve got another hot topic here for you to tackle on this one. If parents are too silent about this—or maybe, if they’re not silent / maybe, they are engaging their kids about what the Bible teaches about gender, and about sex before marriage, and about what constitutes a marriage relationship— and they have a teenager that begins to express a curiosity towards a different gender choice than who they are:
“How would you coach those parents at that point?” Let’s say the child is 15/16 years of age.
Bob: —and is saying, “I’m thinking, maybe, I’m gay. Now, I—
Dennis: —or “Maybe, I’m—
Bob: “I’m not supposed to be a boy. Maybe, I’m a—
Jonathan: Yes. I mean, that’s a tough one for a parent because the first response, obviously, would be to freak out; right? I guess my first advice would be, “Don’t freak out.” That’s the thing that you just keep hearing every expert say over and over again. Shaunti Feldhahn—in her book, she talks about the importance of not freaking out because, if we do, we don’t become that go-to person. They’ve realized, “I can’t talk with Mom and Dad.” So, we need to sit there and go, “Wow, let’s think about this.”
The second thing I would say is: “Let them know that your love is unconditional. Let them know that: ‘Wow. Hey, as we’re working through this and as you’re struggling through this, I just want you to know that, no matter what, we love you; and we’re going to get through this.’”
I would even say, then, direct some of the attention towards struggles that we all have—like: “I mean, I remember when I was struggling with my own identity and trying to answer all these questions. This might be something that you’re just thinking about now. It might pass. It’s—but I understand that you’re struggling with your identity right now. Let’s work through this together.”
And then, at that point, only under that foundation of love / of grace, that: “No matter what you do, I’m still here for you. Let’s work this out together. Hey, let’s look for some answers. Where’s a good place to find out what’s right? Where’s a good place to find…” and start looking for this. Then, as we / as broken people start to absorb more of who Christ is in our lives, and as He changes the way we think; then hopefully, that will actually filter out to these areas—our sexual identity as well!
Bob: You know, it’s interesting you bring up identity because, for years, we have been encouraging parents to take a child on a getaway weekend right before puberty—a Passport2Purity® weekend, where they can have the talk about sexuality.
We realized that you need to continue that kind of conversation.
Our team has been working on a resource that we’ll be releasing very soon called Passport2Identity™. It’s the next step—it’s to have a conversation with a 14- or a 15-year-old son or daughter about the foundation of your identity: “What does it mean to be a boy and not a girl? What does it mean to be a girl and not a boy? What is your identity in Christ? What is your identity as it relates to members of the opposite sex?”
If you’d like more information about Passport2Purity, which you do with a preteen, or Passport2Identity, which again, is going to be available starting in about a month, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for more information about both of these resources. Or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
But in this area—in the area of identity—Dennis, I think they’ve got to recognize: “Is my child having a momentary identity questioning, or is there something going on in the heart and the life of my child that’s deeper than that?—where there’s sexual confusion / there’s sexual identity issues—are not just a: ‘Gee, the other kids are thinking this / maybe, me too,’—but instead, it’s something that’s rooted in their heart.”
Dennis: Young people today are in a swirl. I mean, there are a lot of mixed messages coming at kids. I can promise you—your child is thinking more about some of these issues than you would ever imagine, as a parent. I think of my own life, growing up as a young man—this was not a subject where I think anyone that I knew struggled with. That is not going to be the case—
Dennis: —for young people today. We, as parents, have to be informed.
We have to not be operating out of fear.
I think we ought to be praying for our children and praying together, as a couple, on behalf of them as they navigate these waters—that they’ll come out the other side, understanding what the biblical pattern is, and how they can be gracious followers of Christ, and still stand for the truth, and know how to handle it when the culture doesn’t pat them on the back—in fact, if anything, punishes them for what they believe.
And Jonathan, I appreciate your work on these books that you’ve written and how you want to help parents navigate these waters. I hope they’ll pick up a copy of your books and, also, Passport2Identity and take their child—maybe, even as young as 13, Bob. I’m wondering—if just given what’s happening in the culture—
Dennis: —this subject of identity is going to get pushed down to earlier and earlier ages.
Bob: We will be sharing news about Passport2Identity. In the meantime, if you’ve not taken a preteen through Passport2Purity, you can find out more about that online; and you can get information about the books that Jonathan McKee has written. One is called More Than Just “The Talk”: Becoming Your Kids Go-To Person About Sex—that’s for parents. Then, there is a book called Sex Matters—that is for teenagers. We’ve got both of the books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order any of these resources from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend.
And I hope you can join us back on Monday. Paul David Tripp is going to be here. We’re going to talk about the awesomeness of God: “What does it mean to really step back and consider how awesome He is?” We’ll talk about that on Monday as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection next week. Hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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