Christian Living

Spiritual Life

What Rights Does the State Have over a Christian and His Children?

The family-state relationship has become a battleground. In general it is conceded that the state under its so-called "police power" has the authority to prevent one citizen's injuring another. For example, the state has the authority to make sure that a family is not a source of contagious disease. The government could quarantine someone who has chicken pox or diphtheria or some other contagious disease. The state has the right to make sure that someone's home does not become a festering ground of rats and garbage to the detriment of the neighborhood. If someone's children are running around the street, delinquent and neglected, the state has the right to intervene and insist on proper care and control of the children.

The state has a stake in general literacy, so it can establish educational standards, public schools, and truancy laws. In time of war, the state has the right to enlist the young for service in the armed forces. As we have seen, the state has the right to collect taxes in various forms from its citizens to pay for the legitimate costs of government.

The problems we face today, however, go much deeper than this. The state is attempting to assert control over the thought life of children. For instance, the federal government published a course called MACOS, "Man, a Course of Study," that attempted to indoctrinate young children into the teachings of humanism. The federal and state governments also have been at the forefront of liberal experimentations with amoral sex education. Humanist values are being taught in the schools through such methods as "values clarification." All of these things constitute an attempt to wean children away from biblical Christianity.

Another subtle encroachment of the state into family life deals with the discipline of children. We have a severe problem with child abuse in our country, and the state obviously has a role in protecting children from unfit parents. However, state social welfare agencies have been known to attempt to prohibit Christian parents from disciplining their children in accordance with biblical precepts. But loving discipline is a fundamental part of child-parent relationships. Children need it and parents must give it if they love their children (see Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 23:13-14). To characterize normal parenting as "abusive" is itself an abuse of state power.

In one instance, a state attempted to take a daughter away from a divorced woman because she made her daughter attend church and forbade the girl to smoke marijuana or attend rock music concerts. A state social worker termed this conduct mental abuse. When things like this happen, the state is exceeding its proper bounds. More and more there is a tendency for humanistic or irreligious educators or social workers to intrude on the relationship between Christian parents and their children, thereby destroying the trust between them.

To Christians, children belong to God and have been entrusted to their parents. To Communists and many humanists, there is no God, and children ultimately belong to the state. Christians believe that parents, not the state, must have primary control over children. This is where opposing values come into conflict. Some battles deal with whether the state can force a child to be brought up by a homosexual parent, whether two lesbian women can adopt children, or whether two homosexual men can raise children.

Such cases are being taken into court, and judges and sociologists are making decisions which are totally contrary to the Bible. We are going to see more and more of this during the next ten or fifteen years, unless there is a dramatic spiritual revival and a return to biblical values.

Unless America repents and regains a proper respect for God's law and God's moral order, the time will come when God will punish us. I think we are suffering now, in the sense that more than one million children run away from home every year. For every two new marriages formed one marriage ends in divorce. A shockingly high rate! One quarter of all American children suffer sexual abuse. Just look at the number of teen-age pregnancies, the millions of young people on alcohol and drugs, and the pervasiveness of violence and juvenile delinquency. Regrettably, as our traditional Christian family values break down, the government will step into the vacuum and will use secular solutions to the problems. These "solutions" will only exacerbate the nation's decline.

Excerpt taken from Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions, Copyright 1984 by Pat Robertson. 

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