Hearts and Minds: a book review

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I just finished reading Hearts and Minds: Raising your child with a Christian view of the world  by Kenneth Boa and John Alan Turner. I’m so enjoying the chance to read and engage my mind in thought these days, now that the boys are able to play together a bit at home and at the park. This is the third parenting book I’ve read recently which emphasizes the importance of looking at your children’s hearts rather than their behavior as a measuring stick for your parenting. It is not a book about whether to use time out or not, whether to spank or not, or how we should keep our kids from embarrassing us in public. Instead, it focuses on our childrens’ hearts and minds, what they believe and value, and how that will influence who they become. It also spends most of its time talking about how the parents should act instead of how the children should act. What an interesting perspective.

It begins with a section about “The High Cost of Parenting” and emphasizes that it is our role to teach and shape our children, not anyone else’s. It reminds us to keep ourselves involved in and aware of our children’s values and beliefs so we can discuss them intellectually as their minds mature. The second section, “What We Value” is an overview of why christians believe what we do and the logic and scripture behind it. It is similar to the Truth Project videos our church fellowship group is going through right now. The third section, called “What We Do” describes the authors’ view of how a christian can influence the world with faith, hope and love. It gives the examples of christians who’ve made an amazing difference in the world, from a British politician who began the fight against slavery, to Martin Luther King Jr. who energized the civil rights movement here in America.

I like that the book emphasizes the importance of praying for and with our children, giving them not just quality time but quantity time, trying to see things from their perspectives, and teaching them to make a difference in the world by sharing the hope we have found. “The goal can’t simply be better behavior. Jesus became most angry with fairly well-behaved people. Simply put, our parenting should help our kids determine what is wise, what pleases God, and what helps them get along with other people.” I’m not sure I agree with that last bit, as I’d rather have my kids take a stand than be popular. But taken in context with the rest of the book, I don’t think that the authors mean that. Rather, they value christians who can function as voices of hope, love and social justice in the world, and that they can do it by functioning well even within a society of people with differing views.

My favorite part of the book is the last section, reminding me of the importance of hope and love. Even with the richest of childhoods, a child without hope is so easily lost. And even with the highest of ideals, a christian without love for the world cannot make a difference. These chapters alone make the book worth reading, in my opinion. 

As a sidenote, I know the whole idea of raising your child with a certain worldview might sound repulsive to some people. Some might assume that in shaping your children’s views you could breed intolerance and do your children a disservice. This is a delicate topic, but in my experience, parents of all belief systems raise their children to share their view of the world. Those of us who believe in conservation and loving nature and nurturing our planet hope and pray that our children will share the same worldview. We do everything we can to teach them about it and foster it in their lives. Some parents celebrate mother nature and the changing of the seasons with as much gusto as others who celebrate the birth of Christ or Hannukah. All of us hope to make an impact on our kids and save them from the aimless wandering in search of whatever peace we’ve already found.

People at both ends of the spectrum can be accused of being intolerant as they live out their worldviews.  By raising my children with a christian worldview, I hope to guide them toward the truth I’ve found in Jesus, the same way that many people try to guide their kids away from Him and towards anything else but Jesus. I believe in true tolerance of others as stated in this book: “accepting the differences between individuals and agreeing to disagree. We should always show respect for others, even when we think their beliefs are wrong. However, it is not intolerant to tell someone that your own beliefs are different from theirs.” The problem for me comes when the idea of tolerance takes on a much broader meaning. As Boa and Turner state: “But today’s tolerance goes beyond accepting another person’s right to be wrong; it says that we must embrace the other person’s position as if it were our own. It insists that we must never, ever call the beliefs of others false or untrue. If we do, we are conceited, prejudiced, intolerant extremists. Tolerance no longer means accepting someone else’s right to be wrong; it means embracing their views and denying that there is such a thing as wrong.”  I don’t believe, as so many do in our culture today, that truth and right is whatever the majority of the population says is okay. I, along with generations of parents of all belief systems, have a purpose and a goal in raising my children: that they might glorify God with their lives by bringing love and hope to the world in whatever way God leads them.

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