How can we protect our children and grandchildren from the increasing presence of hate groups?
Hate Groups Growing
I hate to see the trend that started just a few years ago and that is the escalation of hate groups such as the KKK, white supremacy groups, and extremists either on the far left or far right, particularly when their methods include violence. Charlottesville, Virginia is not the focal point anymore. The rise of hate groups hasn’t been just since the president took office. They’ve been increasing during the last 15 to 20 years. The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups from around the nation, not just in the South, and they continually seek to expose them to local authorities and the public. Sometimes they even hide behind the American flag, but that never justifies hate. If there is a segment of society that is different from their extremist’s views, they’re viewed as the enemy, and no segment of the population it seems is out of their crosshairs. Last year alone, there were almost 1,000 documented hate groups residing in every single state in the U.S. Twenty-one of the 1,000 identify with Christianity, but the question is, does God identify them as one of His? It certainly doesn’t match what Jesus taught (John 13:34-35), and it’s not really whether they say they know Jesus, but the vital question is: Does Jesus know them? That’s the critical question with eternal implications, but I fear that many of these extremists who claim to be Christ’s, are going to be among the “many” who Jesus turns away, saying, “I never knew you” (Matt 7:21-23). True Christ followers do act with violence (John 13:34-35). Even so, only 21 out of a thousand of these groups claim to be Christian, so the overwhelming majority of these hate groups has an agenda that is outside of biblical teaching.
Guard Your Words
Our children are watching…and they are listening, and so are our grandchildren, even if you don’t think they are. They soak in a lot more than we think, for good or bad, so parents, foster parents, grandparents, and all caregivers must realize that they are responsible for the content of their words, and for their actions done in front of these children. God places an enormous amount of responsibility on parents. God will hold all parents accountable for every single idle word they say, because, for good or for bad, they will have a direct impact on our children/grandchildren. If we’re not careful, we too will pass along our own hidden agendas and prejudices. In many cases, we don’t even know we have them until we hear the echo off our children. My young son once repeated something I said to his friend, and I realized it was my fault, not his. It was uncalled for, so I apologized to him and to his friend, and said to them both, “God is not pleased when we favor some people over others.”
In reality, I really am colorblind. During the Vietnam war, I was about to be drafted, so I signed up to join the Navy, but at the time, I didn’t realize the extent of my colorblindness, but more importantly, the way I was raised, I was colorblind to skin color, ethnicity, and religion, or whatever else we tend to classify people by (which I try not to do). My point is, I believe we should be colorblind as far as a person’s skin color is concerned. Why would that matter to us if it doesn’t matter to God? When we identify people by their skin color, we’re diminishing their real identity, and it’s not found in their skin pigment. A person’s identity is found in the heart and not on the surface. If we do not discriminate against people in front of our children, then they might not either. Obviously, studies have proven that our prejudices and bias are passed along to our children and grandchildren, so that’s why it’s good for parents to know who their children’s friends are. Generally speaking, they’ll become whoever they spend the most time with. Bad company can lead them to make bad decisions (1st Cor 15:33), but the bottom line is, when we refer to a person as white, black, brown, or whatever color they may be, we are classifying someone by the color of their skin, and I think that’s wrong (1st Sam 16:7), because it was “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (Acts 17:26). Notice there were national boundaries, but there were never boundaries of color.
Rely on the Word
We must certainly teach our children and grandchildren from our own experiences in life, but we must teach them from the Word of God too. This isn’t just “advice” from dad and mom but it’s from God. It helps to remind them what God thinks about hate. Tell them that Jesus sees hate as being like murdering someone in their heart and that puts them in danger of the judgment of God (Matt 5:21-26). God doesn’t see Jew or Gentle, male or female, bond or slave (or boss and employee)…He only sees those who are in Christ (Rom 6:23b) and those who are not (John 3:36b). The free gift of God’s grace is freely given to all, regardless of who they are and what they look like. Jesus said we must repent and believe (Mark 1:14-15), and it’s not conditional. Since God is no respecter of one person over another (Acts 10:34), as far as showing no partiality (Rom 2:11), and neither should we be. When children hear Jesus’ teachings about loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us, it shows them that here is no room for hate in the believer’s life. In fact, we must love our enemies and do good to them that do bad things to us (Matt 5:44) and never seek to get revenge (Rom 12:19). “To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:20-21).
Know their Friends
I touched on this earlier, but I will again emphasize the importance of knowing believe your children’s friends. Invite them over for dinner or some activity, because we know by now that they will tend to do the same things as those they hang around with. I don’t mean plant a bug in their best friends backpack, but I do mean we should know our children’s friends well enough to know if they’ve been in trouble or not, and even well enough to know their parents. When children become friends, it’s very important that parents are at least are acquainted and know how to get ahold of them, but the people your and our children hang around with are places where they can learn prejudices, and there is usually enormous peer pressure to conform to group prejudices.
Remind them of Jesus
If we remind children of Jesus, and how He had regard for the poor, the helpless, the disabled, and the sick and dying, then they might think about how they too must show compassion to others. After a recent hurricane smashed into a small Texas town, I heard another person say, “That’s what you get for living so close to the ocean,” almost like the deserved it. What a terrible thing to say to someone after suffering such lost. It’s certainly not a very compassionate thing to say when people are suffering great loss (some lost everything), so how we respond to others is crucial in how our children will respond to those who the world looks down on. If we model love and compassion instead of judgment and anger like, “They had it coming to them,” then that’s the response children might have when they become adults, and…pass it along to their children (our grandchildren!).
What impacts our children will impact our grandchildren, because our children will bring up their children in all likelihood, in the same way they were brought up. Tearing down monuments won’t help them understand. Protests and violence won’t solve the problem. If we break the cycle of bias and prejudice in our own families, and then there might be hope for the next generation. Every parent already knows they’re accountable to their Maker for how they train up their children. We dare not neglect teaching our children and grandchildren that hate is unacceptable, and that only love can reveal Jesus’ true disciples (John 13:34-35; 1st John 1:2-3).