Why Are So Many Young Women Rejecting The Values Of Their Conservative Parents?

News Image By Joshua Arnold/Washington Stand April 24, 2024
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Are left-leaning parents better at passing on their values to their children? The results of one recent study seem to indicate that they are, especially for their daughters. But there's a better explanation, one articulated millennia ago by God's Word.

According to a 2023 poll by the Survey Center on American Life, 62% of U.S. adults raised by Democratic parents were Democrats, while 57% of U.S. adults raised by Republican parents were Republican. The overall partisan gap is substantial, but not huge; however, it grows much larger among women aged 18-29. Among the youngest group of U.S. adults, 69% of men and 73% of women raised by Democrats are Democrats, while 67% of men and only 44% of women raised by Republicans are Republicans.

Put another way, only 27% of young women raised by Democratic parents are not Democrats, while 56% of young women raised by Republican parents are not Republican.

"Why are those who vote Democrat seemingly better at passing on their values?" asked Family Research Council Senior Fellow Joseph Backholm on "Washington Watch" Friday. "And why are young women so much more likely to reject the values of their more conservative parents?"

Progressive Cultural Dominance

One ready explanation is that left-leaning parents "have a lot more help," suggested David Closson, director of FRC's Center for Biblical Worldview. "Every single cultural institution in this country is a cheerleader for progressive causes," he explained. "If you're ... hearing values that are taught at the home also reinforced online, ... in the movies that you watch, and the music that you listen to -- it's the same values that are taught in the schools that you go to -- I'm not at all surprised."

This cultural explanation underscores the fact that the underlying issue is not a person's political allegiance, but her worldview. "From a Christian worldview," Backholm stipulated, "our goal is not to get somebody to join a political party. But we know that these lines mean something." Under President Joe Biden and his administration, the Democratic Party has hardened its positions in favor of abortion and the LGBT agenda, positions that contradict the Bible's teaching about God's created order.

On the other hand, because of the cultural dominance of progressive ideas, "those of us who are theologically conservative Christians -- the beliefs that we hold are no longer just seen as outdated or a little old school, but increasingly they're seen as subversive and dangerous," noted Closson. Prevailing cultural voices maintain that biblical viewpoints on sexuality, marriage, and life are "not even polite conversation" and "shouldn't be in the public square."

The ideological dimension helps explain why young women skew further to the left than young men: the dominant ideology is radical feminism, with a side of queer theory. Closson shared three factors that increase a young woman's leftward tendencies. First is LGBT identification; among Generation Z, women are twice as likely as men to identify as LGBT, and those who so identify automatically skew to the left. 

The second issue is abortion; "the pro-abortion lobby, regretfully and tragically, has been very effective in talking about ... women's rights," admitted Closson. Third is a college education; women raised by Republican parents are only half as likely to identify as Republican if they have a four-year degree (what do you think colleges are teaching them?).

A fourth factor to explain the man-woman political divide addresses the reason why young men are not more left-leaning. Backholm quoted his 19-year-old daughter's quick reaction, "Well, progressives hate men. Why would they want to be one?" Beware the backlash of angry young men rejecting the oppressive humiliation of feminist ideology. God told the first woman, "Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16), and that dynamic has persisted throughout human history.

Pedagogical Christian Duty

Returning to the main point, American Christians in 2024 are in a cultural wilderness. We seem like walking fossils or mythical monsters. Our strangeness earns us notoriety and enmity, but also a glad reception among the remnant "appointed to eternal life" (Acts 13:48).

God's people have been here before. Before God brought the children of Israel into the Promised Land, he warned them not to make a covenant with the pagan idolaters who inhabited the land, "lest it become a snare in your midst" (Exodus 34:12). They were not to intermarry or even eat with them, lest they fall into idolatry themselves (Exodus 34:15-16) -- this exact scenario came to pass before Israel even entered the Promised Land (Numbers 25:1-9).

Moses further urged against mingling with pagan nations because "they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods" (Deuteronomy 7:4). In other words, God's people have been in this situation for a very long time. Like ancient Israel, we live surrounded by those who do not know the one true God and instead worship false idols. Like ancient Israel, our children are in danger of being enticed by these idolaters. Like ancient Israel, we have a divinely devised defense against their seductions.

"You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deuteronomy 6:7), Backholm quoted Moses's instructions to Israel.

"This is Moses's exhortation to the nation of Israel about how to disciple your children," Backholm explained. "Discipleship happens not [only] on Sunday morning and not during bedtime prayer, but when you demonstrate that this is an integral part of your life, and that meal time, and work time, and play time, and recreation time -- all of that -- is undergirded by your faith."

According to Christian Smith and Amy Adamczyk in "Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation," Backholm cited, "the most instrumental factor seems to be when parents talk about faith with their children, not just when they're in the car coming and going from Sunday school or when they're saying bedtime prayers." That's simply not enough time. Students will spend 16,000 hours in classrooms, said Closson, "one hour on a Sunday morning and a one hour on a Wednesday night youth group can't possibly counteract" that.

"Unless you are intentional about training a different worldview, [progressivism is] going to be what [your children] absorb from the world around them," Backholm warned.

In other words, it takes more than cultural Christianity to raise up children in the religion of Jesus Christ, just as it takes more than cultural Christianity to follow Christ. Just before commanding parents to instruct their children, Moses commanded them, "These words that I command you today shall be on your heart" (Deuteronomy 6:6). And just before that is the greatest commandment, which is also the one fallen sinners most fail to keep, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5). Without a regenerate heart that wholly loves the Lord and that meditates on his commands, a parent might as well instruct their children to follow God with duct tape over their face.

Thus, training our children in righteousness begins with our attention to our own personal holiness and our own spiritual disciplines. We should instruct our children, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1) -- and that instruction should mean something. This should include our faithful participation in a local church. Not only will the weekly rhythm reinforce our words, but the local church should also reinforce our authority and teaching as parents.

Of course, the Christian walk is not a list of do's and don'ts. It requires the Holy Spirit's life-transforming work of conversion, inspired by the gospel of Jesus Christ. This means we cannot convert our children, force or manipulate them into professing Christ, or assume that they are saved. 

Instead, we should pray for God to convert them, preferably from a young age. We should be faithful to teach them about Jesus, and to teach them the gospel most of all. And we should appeal to their consciences in our instruction, not seeking to control their outward behavior but instead to shepherd their heart towards Christ (thanks to "Shepherding a Child's Heart" and other great parenting books for these ideas).

"It is absolutely crucial, if you want your children to follow the Lord, to make sure that they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that your commitment to Christ and to his Word and to his church is the driving force in your life," said Closson. "If the Christian faith and your Christian identity really is the core of who you are, and your children know that it's the core of who you are, and it's part of your weekly rhythms." And if it's also part of your regular catechesis and discipleship, your children will know.

Originally published at The Washington Stand

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