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Where Kids GetTheir Political Views

In a heated election, Christian parents can model a measured response.

“Clinton is a worthless liar. America needs a better president or our country is going to fall apart.”

The Sunday after Election Day in 1996, I listened to girls in a seventh-grade Sunday school class offer their commentary on the winner. A new parent who had only been teaching the class for a few weeks, I was ill prepared for a room full of terrified, politically minded tweens. Where was this coming from?

Decades later, I know the answer. Young children don’t get their opinions from CNN or Fox News. They don’t study exit polls or approval ratings. They do not learn fear and vitriol in social studies. They learn it from their parents.

Recognizing this sobering truth shifted the way my husband and I discussed politics with our own kids. We model a response for our children, and yet, we often underestimate how much they care. Developmentally speaking, children live “in the moment” and tend to overvalue the good and the bad they encounter.

If we act like the sky is falling because our candidate is not elected, our child will feel exaggerated fear. If we act like the kingdom of heaven has come in the form of our new president, our child will have an inflated sense of assurance. Having lived through multiple presidencies, a parent knows what a child doesn’t: that a president has only so much influence.

Even in a divisive, unusual, and high-stakes election, Christian parents can give their children space to process without the hype. They can talk calmly about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and ask kids their opinions as age appropriateness allows. Young children may not have opinions on immigration or health care, but they will be able to discuss the importance of being kind, ...

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Where Kids GetTheir Political Views

In a heated election, Christian parents can model a measured response.

“Clinton is a worthless liar. America needs a better president or our country is going to fall apart.”

The Sunday after Election Day in 1996, I listened to girls in a seventh-grade Sunday school class offer their commentary on the winner. A new parent who had only been teaching the class for a few weeks, I was ill prepared for a room full of terrified, politically minded tweens. Where was this coming from?

Decades later, I know the answer. Young children don’t get their opinions from CNN or Fox News. They don’t study exit polls or approval ratings. They do not learn fear and vitriol in social studies. They learn it from their parents.

Recognizing this sobering truth shifted the way my husband and I discussed politics with our own kids. We model a response for our children, and yet, we often underestimate how much they care. Developmentally speaking, children live “in the moment” and tend to overvalue the good and the bad they encounter.

If we act like the sky is falling because our candidate is not elected, our child will feel exaggerated fear. If we act like the kingdom of heaven has come in the form of our new president, our child will have an inflated sense of assurance. Having lived through multiple presidencies, a parent knows what a child doesn’t: that a president has only so much influence.

Even in a divisive, unusual, and high-stakes election, Christian parents can give their children space to process without the hype. They can talk calmly about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and ask kids their opinions as age appropriateness allows. Young children may not have opinions on immigration or health care, but they will be able to discuss the importance of being kind, ...

Continue reading...

5 Books to Read Before Voting in a Presidential Election

Peter Wehner, former presidential aide, helps us wrestle with deeper issues than Candidate A versus Candidate B.

Campaign season has a way of raising everyone’s blood pressure, inflaming partisan passions and cultural resentments. How can we step back from a ferocious news cycle and find enduring wisdom on how to approach the task of choosing a national leader? CT asked Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a veteran of three Republican presidential administrations, to pick 5 books to read before voting in a presidential election.

Pilgrim’s Way, by John Buchan

Pilgrim’s Way is a stirring, exquisitely written memoir. Born in Scotland in 1875, Buchan attended Oxford, served in Parliament, and was Governor General of Canada. (He was also a novelist.) His descriptions of contemporaries are affectionate, insightful, and uplifting. “Public life,” he wrote, “is regarded as the crown of a career, and to young men it is the worthiest ambition. Politics is still the greatest and the most honourable adventure.” Buchan, a Christian, believed in the nobility of politics—and understood both its possibilities and its limitations.

Miracle at Philadelphia, by Catherine Drinker Bowen

A riveting, nuanced account of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. With vivid personality portraits, Bowen makes you feel the epic drama. We learn about the intense and complicated negotiations and how close the effort came to failing. Miracle at Philadelphia will help Americans better understand how the lessons of 1787 still apply. To those who view compromise as weakness, Bowen replies that “in the Constitutional Convention the spirit of compromise reigned in grace and glory; as Washington presided, it sat on his shoulder like the dove.”

Abraham Lincoln, by Lord Charnwood

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The Precarious Future of Assisted Suicide

'Culture of Death' sounds the alarm on pending medical bioethics legislation and other troubling trends.

My country’s parliament recently passed the first national assisted-suicide legislation in our history. Prompted by the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision last year to strike down the previous law as unconstitutionally restricting individual rights to life, liberty, and security, Parliament is now arguing over how widely or narrowly to involve Canadian citizens—both patients and health care providers—in assisted suicide.

In Culture of Death, first published in 2000, American lawyer and activist Wesley J. Smith warned that this debate was upon us. A new, updated revision of the book sharpens this warning, drawing on a wide range of cases in Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and the bellwether states of Oregon and Washington.

Smith is not an elegant writer—his discussion of truly awful subjects is sometimes interrupted by jarringly flip remarks: “Nobody ever said Terri [Schiavo] would one day get out of bed and tap dance.” And in a discussion that too easily falls prey to amateurish fear-mongering, he sometimes fails to provide citations—and, weirdly, quotes Dutch documents in stilted English translated by Google.

Nonetheless, Smith is generally a clear writer, he has immersed himself in these issues for years, and the portrait he paints is, on the whole, convincing and therefore ghastly. People really are suffering grim and painful deaths over several days by having food and water tubes removed against their will. Depressed and debilitated people really are being pressured into suicide by family members and physicians wanting them out of the way. Comatose or otherwise unresponsive patients really are being treated as vegetables: useful for what can be harvested from them ...

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Why the Whole Church Needs Psalm 137, Violent Imagery and All

A protest song for Syrian refugees and suburban soccer moms.

In the summer of 1941, in the Polish town of Jedwabne, a massacre of Jews took place. Roughly 1,600 men, women, and children were rounded up and burned. As a witness described the scene: “Beards of old Jews were burned, newborn babies were killed at their mothers’ breasts, people were beaten murderously and forced to sing and dance.” Bloodied and wounded, they were pushed into a barn, which was then doused with kerosene and lit, by their non-Jewish neighbors.

As David Stowe observes in Song of Exile: The Enduring Mystery of Psalm 137, this terrifying episode re-enacts verses 3 and 9 of one of the Bible’s most enigmatic poems. Polish Jews are forced to sing and to put their children to death, or as the King James Bible puts it: “For there they that carried us away captive…required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion…. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

While few of us have faced this kind of horrific suffering, many of us can sympathize with the vivid language of the psalm, in the way it articulates the experience of exile. Alienation, loneliness, loss, and estrangement: these are no less familiar to the suburban soccer mom than to the Syrian refugee.

Stowe, a professor at Michigan State University, structures his book according to the three parts of the psalm. With a nod to Paul Ricouer’s 2004 volume, these are history, memory, forgetting. Part exegetical commentary, part cultural history, part personal rumination, Stowe’s book maps the experience of the psalm to the experience of Israel and, in turn, to the experience of musicians, activists, preachers, and theologians throughout the centuries.

If a Hebrew ...

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