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News

SI’s swimsuit edition: from barely-there to burkinis

The annual Sports Illustrated (SI) swimsuit edition is best known for the next-to-nothing that models wear. So why would this year’s issue feature a model who’s covered up from head to ankles? It doesn’t seem to fit the swimsuit issue’s long history. Most of the year SI is a magazine that could be found without controversy on the coffee table of a sports-minded pastor. But in a bid to boost sales it has been featuring an annual swimsuit issue since 1964. Each year again editors try to figure out how they can display as much skin as possible, while still giving its mostly male readership some means of denying that what they have in their hands is mere smut. That’s why the models almost always wear something, though it’s the sort of something that leaves nothing to the imagination – body paint, fishnets, strategically placed hands, floss. Again, why has an annual issue devoted to ogling decided to include a model wearing a swimsuit that has more material than everyone else’s combined? Halima Aden is Muslim, and the swimsuit she wears is a  “burkini” – an ankle-to-wrist wetsuit combined with a head-covering hijab, its name a combination of “bikini” and “burqa.”  As SI shared and hundreds of mainstream media outlets passed along, this was a “historic first” – the very first time SI has featured a burkini-wearing model in its pages. The magazine has touted other “historic firsts” in the past: the first African American to be featured on the cover, the first plus-size (ie. regular-size) model, and the first amputee. But while they might have been innovations, a barely clad black, or disabled, or regular-sized woman remains a barely-clad woman, and all fit with the issue’s objectifying theme. A covered up woman doesn’t. So what’s going on this year? SI editor MJ Day offered an explanation of sorts, saying that her and model Halima Aden:

“both believe the ideal of beauty is so vast and subjective….Whether you feel your most beautiful and confident in a burkini or a bikini, YOU ARE WORTHY.”

But what if you aren’t wild about either sort of swimsuit? SI has embraced these two choices, but their issue won’t show any others. If this was really about diversity then SI would get inspired by and follow through on Babylon Bee’s satiric headline:

“Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Features First-Ever Baptist Model In Floor-Length Denim Skirt”

It’s clear then that this was more publicity stunt than anything else. From a Christian perspective what’s interesting is how both Aden’s burkinis and everyone else’s buck-nakedness share something in common. They might be polar opposites but both are rejections of God’s Truth. The one type of rebellion is obvious: you only have to get three chapters into the Bible to know God doesn’t want fallen woman and man displaying all He gave us for any and all to see. God’s design for sexuality involves modesty. SI’s swimsuit issue does not. The problem with the burkini is that in addition to modesty and charity, God also calls us to self-control (Prov. 25:28, Titus 2:6). The burkini – and the burqa it is based on – cover up women in a way that no man is required to dress because this style of dress presumes women have self-control and men really don’t. Thus women have to cover up to save us males from acting on our animalistic instincts. Sadly this man-as-a-Cro-Magnon view is echoed in some Christian circles when lustful thoughts are excused as the unavoidable offshoot of fashion that trends towards tighter and curvier. But make no mistake men, we are called to control ourselves and there is no putting off that responsibility on others. From a worldly perspective, the latest SI swimsuit issue doesn’t make sense. It’s an incoherent muddle, celebrating both brazen and repressed sexuality. But the incomprehensible becomes understandable when we view it through a Christian lens. When we know there is a God-given Truth, and there is an Adversary trying frantically to undermine it, then it’s no surprise when we see him, in desperation, launching attacks from two opposite directions at once. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw2W3qfhEfJ/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Culture Clashes, Theology

May I judge?

I hear repeatedly that we’re not supposed to judge another.  Young people express themselves this way, and that’s not surprising – after all, not judging others fits hand in glove with the postmodern dogma of tolerance that’s so rampant today. Different strokes for different folks, so let the other be; who am I to say that what you’re doing or thinking is wrong…. I’ve heard Christians appeal to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount to provide Biblical justification for the position, for Jesus told His disciples:

“Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).

Case closed: do not pass judgment on another. Inconsistent But the Internet is full of comments passing distinctly unfavorable judgments. These leave me puzzled.  We’re quick to repeat the mantra "do not judge" but judgments abound. Something is not consistent here. This sort of thing happens more often. In our relatively small community we hear numerous details of what happens in the life of the person in the next pew, or in the congregation up the road.  And very quickly we have a judgment ready on what we hear. It affects what we say to one another, and affects too how we think about or treat the person(s) about whom we heard a story. Do not judge rashly A quick judgment is simply unbiblical. Solomon put it like this:

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

The Lord in the 9th commandment gave the instruction not to “bear false witness against your neighbor,” and the Heidelberg Catechism summarizes the instruction of this command with this confession:

“I must not … condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard” (Lord’s Day 43).

That counts for what we say on Facebook too. We do well to repent before God and man of our easy judgmentalism and seek to learn that God-pleasing habit of doing to others as we’d have them do to us (Luke 6:31). As we hate being on the receiving end of perceived gossip or slander, so we need studiously to avoid being on the giving end of gossip or slander. Test the spirits This does not mean, however, that I’m to be neutral concerning all I hear. The postmodern mantra that I’m to be OK with whatever anybody else thinks or does is simply not biblical. Consider, for example, John’s instruction to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). So much gets said, and people believe so many things.  But I’m to test whether what they say and believe is “from God.” John emphatically wants us to have an opinion on that – and then reject what is not from God. Testing, of course, involves so much more than hearing one thing and swallowing it dumbly as the final word on the subject. Testing involves listening carefully, understanding the details and circumstances, and then evaluating in the light of the revelation of the Lord of lords. You’re meant to have a considered opinion. That’s why, in 1 Cor. 5, the apostle Paul was emphatic to the Corinthians that they needed to pass explicit condemnation on the brother in their congregation who lived in sin, sleeping with his father's wife. They were not to be neutral on this man’s behavior but were to take a stand and excommunicate him. That’s because in this instance the details were abundantly clear (it wasn’t hearsay but indisputable facts evident to all parties), and so the saints of Corinth were obligated before God to form a judgment and carry it out. That obligation was so self-evident that Paul put the matter in the form of a rhetorical question: “is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). Judging: that’s your duty…. Jesus wrong? Is Jesus wrong, then, when He in the Sermon on the Mount tells His disciples, “Judge not, that you be not judged?” (Matthew 7:1). Actually, Jesus does not tell us not to have a judgment on what we hear or see.  Instead, Jesus’ point is that we’re not to judge rashly. That’s clear from Jesus’ next line, “For” – yes, note that connecting word!

“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged...” (vs. 2a).

If you are quick to condemn another, do not be surprised when others will be quick to condemn you;

“...and with the measure you use it will be measure to you” (vs 2b).

So if you hear one side of a story and condemn before you’ve heard the other side, be prepared to have folk condemn you on hearsay before they’ve heard your side of the story! Similarly, if you, from a self-righteous height, condemn others' behavior while you are yourself entangled in sin, do not be surprised that you’ll find no sympathy when others find out about your sin. Jesus puts it like this:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (vs 3).

That, Jesus adds, is hypocrisy (vs 5). As long as you try to hide skeletons in your own closet, you are in no position to draw attention to skeletons you think you see in someone else’s closet. Clincher But Christians are not to hide skeletons in their closets! True Christians are repentant of their sins, and confess those sins to God and to those they’ve hurt by their sins. Then you’ve pulled the log out of your own eye – and at the same time have great understanding and empathy for another’s weaknesses and failures. Then you’ll test the spirits, and you’ll have an opinion on what you hear, and carefully avoid condemning the other in a spirit of lofty self-righteousness – and certainly avoid trumpeting your condemnation to John Public. The person who knows his own weaknesses and failures will instead sit down beside the sinning brother to show him his wrong and lead him on the way back to the Lord. It’s Galatians 6:1:

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

Judge? May I judge another? It depends on what you mean by the word "judge."  I am not to condemn rashly and unheard. But I am to have an opinion on my brother and help him in the way the Lord wants him to help me.

This article was first published back in 2014. Rev. Clarence Bouwman is a pastor in the Smithville Canadian Reformed Church.

Children’s fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Love That Dog: a novel

by Sharon Creech 2001/ 86 pages A review of a read-aloud book, to be read aloud.

*****

As I started reading the very first page of this book, I thought it was dumb. I’ve never been a fan of poetry, particularly if it was the type of poetry that didn’t even rhyme. And that’s what was in this book. But I kept reading and found out, on that very first page, that the author agreed with me! The book is by Jack, a boy in elementary school, who doesn’t like poems either. Each day he writes a journal entry, for his teacher Miss Stretchberry, and there on the very first page, in his first entry, he tells her his thoughts on the poem they have just read in school. He writes:

If that is a poem about the red wheelbarrow and the white chickens then any words can be a poem. You’ve just got to make short lines.

It was a book of poetry, by a boy poet, who didn’t like poetry! So I kept reading, and I started learning. Jack’s teacher showed his class poems. Some did rhyme, some were by famous writers, and some weren’t very good at all. But I started learning, along with Jack, that poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme, or even have a set rhythm. Sometimes it can just be a different sort of way to express your thoughts, to lay them out, so people understand them better.  Poetry can be easier then teachers sometimes make it. And it can be powerful. And it can make you cry. I started reading this book, about a boy learning about poetry, and making poems, and expressing beautiful thoughts about his beautiful dog, and by the time I got to the end of it I realized it wasn’t dumb at all. Love that book.

Graphic novels, News

This isn’t your parents' Katy Keene…or Archie Andrews

This February, Katy Keene will be the latest Archie comics character to get a modern updating. While the original Katy was a one-dimensional highly successful fashion model, in the new version she's an aspiring, but as of yet, entirely unsuccessful, fashion designer living in New York. What parents need to know is that this isn't the only updating that's been done. Katy Keene is being spun off of Riverdale, which re-imagined Archie and his gang as murderous, drug-running occultists. In what wasn't even the show's weirdest twist, they put Archie Andrews in a sexual relationship with his teacher Miss Grundy. While details about the new Katy Keene show are still scarce, from the trailer we do know one of her roommates will be a gay broadway dancer who, because he isn't tough enough for the male roles, auditions for a female role. And, as Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reports it, he's also "looking to take his drag career to the next level." (A new comic book Katy is also set to debut, but in that version she’ll live in Riverdale). This is just one of the notable changes Archie's gang has undergone in recent years. It began in the comics back in 2010 with the introduction of Archie's new gay friend Kevin Keller, who was then paired off via a same-sex “marriage” to an Iraq War veteran. Other changes have included: Jughead Jones declaring himself asexual Veronica Lodge starring in a spin-off comic as Vampironica, a blood-sucking killer another spin-off series, Afterlife with Archie, featuring a zombie Jughead trying to kill and devour his friends and family (with some success) yet another spin-off series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, featuring more occultism and a character by the name of Madam Satan What's tricky about all these changes is that in the comic digests this "new Archie" is often paired with "old Archie" stories. So sometimes the outside of the comic looks just like it always has, but inside a handful of the stories will have this "modern" twist. Parents who grew up reading the old Archie comics might be shocked at this new direction, but before we ask “Why were the former days better than these?” (Eccl 7:10) let’s remember rightly the Archie of old. I came across a few of my old Archie digests and, looking at them with adult eyes, I was struck by something: Archie was never a paragon of virtue. At best “America’s favorite teenager” could be described as an indecisive boy who led girls on (poor Betty!). But would it be a stretch to describe a guy who secretly dates two girls at the same time (sometimes on the same night!) as a player? A frequent storyline involved Betty and Veronica vying for Archie’s leering attention by wearing as little as the Comic Code Authority would allow. This was every timid teenage boy’s dream – two bikini-clad gorgeous girls after a goofball guy. As the comic’s creator, John Goldwater explained, he reversed “the common wisdom. Instead of ‘boy chasing girl,’ I would have girl chasing boy.” While sexual tension and romance were a constant theme, nuptials weren't mentioned – not for more than 60 years. In Archie’s world dating was simply a social activity, completely unrelated to finding a spouse. Archie and his pals had a lot of laughs and adventures too. But the subtext to the series was always dating, dating, and more dating and it always got that wrong, wrong, wrong. Now the new TV shows and comics are getting it wronger still.

Adult non-fiction, Internet, Parenting

Parenting the Internet Generation

Parenting has always been intimidating – it wasn’t so long ago we were kids, and now we’re raising them? – but one thing parents of the past could count on was that they knew more than their kids. For today’s parents there is one very big part of life where that isn’t true – when it comes to the Internet, and Apps, and smartphones, and social media, then even our youngest children can quickly outpace us.

They can know how to use these tools better than we do, and yet they aren’t mature enough to deal with all the dangers that also come with them. So what’s a parent to do? Our children live in a “pornified” culture and it seems that no matter how protective we are, it’s only a matter of time before our children run across something on the Internet that we wish they’d never seen. So how can we do all we can to push that eventual exposure to as far out as we can? And how can we prepare them for what they need to do when it does happen?

To answer those questions and more I can’t think of a better resource to turn to than Luke Gilkerson’s Parenting the Internet Generation.

It is not only fantastic, it’s even free.

Parenting is foundational

144 pages / 2016

What makes Parenting so much better than other books on this topic is that it digs much deeper. This isn’t simply a pornography problem; what it really comes down to is Christian parenting. If we want our kids to resist temptation, and come to us when they do mess up, then we need to know how to discipline them rightly, as God instructs us.

The best way to show just how good this book really is might be to share some excerpts. So I’ll begin with one of Gilkerson’s biblical-based thoughts on discipling rightly.

Paul reminds fathers, “Do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21, NIV), and again in another letter, “Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV). Training and instruction happens as parents create an environment of authority, structure, correction, and consequences, but Paul knows how easily parents can become frustrated and resentful in the process of parenting. This, in turn, leads us to embitter and exasperate our children by breaking their spirits.

One of the most common ways parents do this is by using shame-based strategies to get their kids to behave. What exactly is “shame-based” parenting? It is a family dynamic where shame – the looming threat or presence of disapproval and disfavor – is the primary motivator used for good behavior. This can show up in a thousand ways.

•  Expecting perfection by overestimating what their sinful hearts can do
•  Failing to really listen to them as we correct them
•  Speaking bitter or harsh words (“What is wrong with you?” “When will you ever…?” “You always…” “You never…” “You idiot”)
•  Showing little compassion
•  Giving the cold shoulder or being dismissive
•  Pushing kids to excel in peripheral tasks
•  Showing favoritism to other siblings

It is a rigid environment that leaves children discouraged and exasperated. This kind of environment often trains children to be obsessive over “doing the right things” in order to be approved – or else totally rebellious. This kind of environment has unwittingly made so many children ripe for sexually sinful habits.

See where Gilkerson is going here? How we parent can either help our children resist temptation…or push them towards it. Most of us have indulged in this shame-based parenting at one point or another, and if we are going to help our kids, then we need to stop. We need to repent. The alternative is too horrible to consider. As Douglas Wilson puts it (in a quotation Gilkerson includes):

Gracious fathers lead their sons through the minefield of sin. Indulgent fathers watch their sons wander off into the minefield. Legal fathers chase them there.

I read this and found it daunting. It seemed simply too much for me, or me and my wife, to pull off. We know we’re going to mess up, fall short, and just generally fail our kids.

But it’s just that understanding that’s key. We are going to sin, but our gracious God is ready to forgive a repentant sinner. When we fall on God’s grace then even our failures can be instructive to our children, showing them the graciousness of God that they can depend on. So we don’t need to be perfect. But, our parenting goals should be clear:

Make this your goal every day: In each phase of the day when I interact with my children, I will either be an example to them in my obedience to and love for God, or I will be an example in my repentance.

Contents

In nine chapters Gilkerson lays out:

1. How porn harms our children (Introduction and Chapter 1)
2. What parents need to teach our children and model to them (Chapters 2-6, 8)
3. Tools parents can make use of (Chapter 7 and the Appendices)
4. What the gospel is, and how it applies to the matters or parenting and pornography (Chapter 9)

Each chapter ends with a half dozen or so reflection questions and some of these are so very pointed they may draw blood. A few examples:

“If our sin is small, then our Savior must be small. But, if our sin is outright rebellion, then our Savior must be a true rescuer.” In what ways have you made Jesus small in how you’ve parented?

If you have a tween or teen, have you ever directly asked him/her, “Have you ever seen pornography?” What would you say if he/she said, “yes”? Are you ready for that conversation?

At some point, it will happen — maybe not in your home, but maybe at school, on the bus, or at a friend’s house. Does your child know what to do if he/she ever sees porn?

Each chapter also includes a link to a short (4 minutes or less) video summarizing what the chapter just went over.

These questions and video are great study aids, probably best suited for a couple to go through together, but they would work great for a weekly parents’ study group too. Whether you’re going through it alone, or with a group each chapter has a lot to chew on so the best pace is probably just one chapter per week. The material is simply too thought-provoking to run through any quicker.

Conclusion

This isn’t a perfect book – I could list some minor quibbles (I think the distinction Gilkerson makes between guilt and shame is a bit confusing) – but I’ve not run across any better. It is the best guide available on a subject parents would love to have help with.

I should mention that the author works for Covenant Eyes (CE), which sells accountability software – this is software parents can use to monitor all the websites their children visit. This isn’t spying – the CE logo pops up every time the computer loads up, so children will know they are being monitored. This is, instead, a parent coming alongside their child, helping them resist temptation, and being aware of when they don’t. The book is made available for free on their website (you do have to give your name and email address to get the e-book but they won’t spam you). While companies generally give away books for promotional reasons, and I’m sure that CE will gain a few clients because of this book, CE’s motivations for giving away this book are of the very best kind. It’s clear they want to help parents.

And with this excellent resource, they most certainly are.

You can get a free pdf copy of Parenting the Internet Generation here


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