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Letters to the Editor #10 (Sleepovers, Christians, Guns)

Letters to the Editor Collection cover image

Once again, here is a selection of Letters to the Editor. The most popular article I’ve ever written is Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers. While I wrote it long before I invited letters to the editor, as soon as I allowed letters, they began to flow in. Here is a selection that represents the variety of opinions.

Just wanting to remind you that just because they’re at a relatives house doesn’t make them safe either! If our daughter was invited to a party or sleepover I always called the parents to make sure they were home and what activities the kids would be doing plus were they allowed to leave the house? I would sometimes find that they’d give me the right answer but not follow through once the event started.

—Jan H, New Glarus, WI

I am a Mother of three two boys and a girl. My rule regarding sleep overs was not open to discussion in our home. From a young age boundaries were set, explained and reinforced. The boundaries were defined by the element of risk. Sleepovers fell in the high risk zone so they were avoided all together. Our thoughts are don’t allow the situation to arise and it becomes a non-issue!

—Mandy R, Canada

I read your article, and I must say I’m a little shocked at how little perspective you have and how much you’ve allowed your anxiety to overrule reasonable risk assessment. You realize that your cute child is far more likely to be molested by someone they know well, such as an uncle. Not by a parent of another child in front of other children with whom they are sleeping in the same room with. Does it happen? Yes. But these things are really outside of your control, so denying a very important part of childhood development (aka, learning to be away from mom and dad) just so that you can abaite your anxiety is downright selfish. You aren’t keeping your kid home for their mental wellbeing, you are keeping them home for yours.

—Cathy M, Corning, NY

We are expecting our first child. It’s an exciting yet terrifying time. I often worry about keeping my child safe. So your article has given me much needed perspective and courage. When I was young my dad was hurt bad in an accident. We lost our home and had to move in with some relatives. I ended up being sexually abused by an older cousin there. I felt that I couldn’t say anything because if I did we wouldn’t have anywhere else to go. We would end up in the streets and it would be my fault. Going through that made it hard to trust others. I’m very lucky to have found a wonderful husband who supports and loves me. Sleepovers were always fun when I was little but now I feel that they are just not worth the risk. Thank you for sharing how you drew a line on sleepovers and didn’t cross it. I shall be taking that advice to help keep my child safe. Thanks again.

—Jessica P, Salt Lake City, UT

My oldest is now 24, we allowed her to sleep over starting at six when she was in kindergarden. We never had issues. These events are part of the socializing of children. When she was in fourth grade we invited all the girls from her class to our house, it was a crazy night but a great night, we invited all the girls, no cliques, didn’t matter the race, for the most part they got along, but we were dealing with fourth grade girls. High school was stressful, but if our daughter had not dealt with cliques and social issues in grade school (which were dealt with during sleep overs) she would have not been able to handle high school! There will always be issues, but you have to teach you child to deal with the issues. As a parent you MUST get to know the parents of your child’s friends. There are some risks, but the benefits of making life long friends with your child’s friends families is worth it.

—Janet V, Baton Rouge, LA

I believe that by forbidding your children sleepovers, you are depriving them of the hours they require to independently practice forming deep social bonds with their peers, a deprivation which could inadvertently hamper their emotional maturation and weaken their ability to resist predators now and later in life.

The development of private, personal, peer-based relationships outside of the family system is a process all people are required to do throughout their lives. It is deeply critical that children learn this process and practice it extensively in childhood.

However, it takes a lot of free time for a person of any age to converse enough to develop a true, healthy emotional bonds with a stranger peer. Unstructured, unsupervised private free time as peers is deeply necessary for social bonding among all people. And in this modern era of appointment play and supervised extracurricular activities, an overnight or weekend visit is the only opportunity children have to bond without almost constant interruption by adults. Willfully depriving children of the privacy and hours required to develop healthy social habits is monstrous.

—Christina D, Seattle, WA

I read a child training book years ago that confirmed my belief that sleepovers were a bad idea. So we took that approach with our children. We made one exception later, after which we found out some things about the family that, had we known before,we wouldn’t have allowed the sleepover. This and 3 personal incidences when I was a child 45 years ago confirm this: You are, and should always be, responsible, diligent, and watchful for your child’s wellbeing.

—Leanna S, Hollandale, MS

Tim: I received quite a few emails that were very difficult to read as they contained details of people who had been molested and abused while attending sleepovers. I chose not to share the ones that included heartbreaking details.

Comments on How Should Christians Use Guns

Last week I shared some of the articles that had been written in response to John Piper’s thoughts on Christians and guns. Needless to say, there were quite a few responses.

Appreciate the article as well as the others referenced. This still appears to be a liberty issue. My work experience (13 yrs. Corrections Officer, 2+ yrs hospital security) has allowed me to see a deeper level of human depravity; some people actually derive pleasure from harming others. In light of the many ‘pajama boys’ running around today, men need to be reminded of their obligations as men. I don’t get paid to look the other way. I totally trust in the Lord’s sovereignty and also embrace Romans 13. Not all of us are wired to be passive, some of us are wired to be warriors and will use the force necessary to protect those entrusted to our care. Some things in life are worth fighting for…and some things in life are worth dying for.

—Steve R, Freeport, IL

I live next to a Naval air base here in Southern Maryland and my church has (unsurprisingly) plenty of pilots, gun safety instructors, marines…etc. So I come from a more conservative “pro-gun” “pro-self defense” background. While I am not a gun owner myself, I am not a pacifist—and I have been wrestling with this idea of Christian suffering vs. Christian responsibility. When do we lay down our weapons and be taken for Christ? And when do we become a loving neighbor and protect the weak around us?

I am glad John Piper addressed the issue, and though I do not fully agree with his conclusions I think he brings some very needed points. His talk of sacrifice and suffering rings strange in our free and Western ears. It is easy to become so comfortably entitled to “our stuff” and “our lives”—that when they are threatened we opt to go down with out “guns blazing.” The call of Christ is to lose, to die to self, to suffer. Like most of our brothers and sisters around the world. This is something we must remember.

As you pointed out, Tim, the issue of guns is not an issue of “first order doctrine,” making it challenging to draw clear cut lines that define when it is okay to defend and when it is necessary to suffer. I think there are times when (though they may be very rare) it is perhaps the most loving thing to do shoot a gun. If we have the means to defend our neighbor or our family (entrusted to us by God) it is the Christian and the loving thing to defend. Not to look the other way. There is also an element of “losing ourselves” in defending those around us—which last time I checked is most Christian.

Though I am still grappling with this issue, I think too often we in the West are dying on the hill of self-protection. Don’t touch me. Don’t touch my guns. Don’t touch my stuff. The rare cases where Christian responsibility is allowable is when we shoot not in the name of self, but in the name of those around us and those entrusted into our care.

—Daniel H, Southern Maryland

My husband and I started discussing John Piper’s article as soon as I read it on Facebook; I even posted it on my FB page. What I am seeing in my NewsFeed and even hearing in discussions with other Christians is more of the attitude that Jerry Falwell espoused. There is a certain swagger in Christian circles that has replaced trust in God. People look at others with suspicion instead of love, and have a “don’t mess with me or else” demeanor. Do they trust God or do they live in fear? Aside from the multitudes of injuries, suicides, and accidental deaths that occur from having guns in the home, one of my biggest concerns is that a citizen will shoot first without any attempt to diffuse the situation. Ideally, this is the aim of the police—they give the suspect the opportunity to cease what he/she is doing.

As always, I appreciate your blog and your desire for balance. There have been many hateful things said, not only about John Piper’s article, but about him as a teacher. I think I am more worried about those gun owners, but I will hand that concern over to Jesus.

—Kathy S, Lebanon, PA

Thank you for giving John Piper’s article on Christians and arms respectful press. I found his words a refreshing breath of Christ-centered love. In response to your summary of responses, I have two thoughts:

(1) While Piper’s article is not perfect, I am disappointed that he has been charged with being “biblicistic and dependent upon a specific understanding of the relationship between the New Testament and the Old” (Wedgeworth’s words). How can it be wrong to see the new covenant as our lens for interpreting and applying the old, as Piper is trying to do? As an Anabaptist, I come from a long theological heritage of doing just this, and our people have suffered for centuries for refusing to bear the sword. I don’t think it is true that Piper “assumes that we need a direct biblical teaching on a matter in order to know whether it is morally permissible or not” (Wedgeworth’s explanation for his “biblicistic” charge). Rather, Piper is drawing biblical theological deductions from the pattern of God’s unfolding revelation, which climaxes in Christ’s defenseless self-sacrifice and his call for us to follow in his steps. This is no mere simplistic “biblicism.”

(2) Since you have expressed interest in this question of Christians and the use of force, I strongly encourage (exhort, implore, urge, beg!) you to read and review Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence. A complex topic like this cannot be properly addressed in a handful of short articles. Sprinkle deals with the biblical evidence from both testaments in detail, historical evidence from the early church, and the toughest practical questions from today. He says he is from your own Christian neighborhood: “The Christian subculture in which I was raised and still worship is nondenominational conservative Reformed. I’ve been influenced over the years by John Piper, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, and many others who swim in that pond” (from Chapter 1). So you will identify with his way of handling Scripture. And he’s thought about this for a long time, making what he calls a “reluctant journey toward nonviolence.” Piper needs to read this book (I think he’s stranded somewhat inconsistently halfway on the journey). And I think you would find it very helpful as well. Tolle lege!

—Dwight G, Leon, IA

I appreciate the overall respectful tone with which you responded to John Piper’s piece “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves”. However, I am disappointed in the narrowness of the arguments used by cited authors in support of Christians using deadly force against attackers. It seems to be basically assumed by people holding your position that the only recourse left to a man whose wife and/or family is being attacked is to stand idly and helplessly by if he does not have a gun handy. As well, the situations which are created by proponents of deadly force are extremely hypothetical and no attempt is made to sort through all the nuances of such hypothetical situations. For a very well stated stance on the non-violent position, I would strongly encourage you to read Preston Sprinkle’s book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence. Mr. Sprinkle has arrived at his position “reluctantly” and as such has though through it well. Blessings.

—Conrad H, Mozambique, Africa

Tim: The narrowness of the articles I quoted was a reflection of the narrowness of the responses. I did not find any articles from people who agreed with Piper and extended his argument.

Thanks to all who took the time to write a letter to the editor. Now that I have posted 10 of these collections, I am glad to consider this a successful experiment. I intend to continue to invite and share such letters.

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