Relativism Comes Home

Apparently, my five-year-old has been reading the Relativist Manifesto. At least, that’s what our surreal conversation today suggests.

While driving back to Atlanta from Gatlinburg, our two-year-old, Owen, was singing “This is the day.” That’s an old song, right? We sang it when we were kids. The words are simple, and I’d remember them even if I didn’t hear the song every day from the K4 classroom at my school. They go like this: “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.” So Owen was sort of trailing off at the end of that first line. Cullen, in kindergarten this year, corrected Owen in a helpful big-brotherly way: “No, that’s wrong. It’s ‘This is the day that the Lord has me.’

So I, in my best reasonable, fatherly voice, said, “Actually, Cullen, it says made. This is the day that the Lord has made.”

“No, it doesn’t, Daddy.”

At this point, I was a little miffed. I explained my long association with the song, and my grounds for knowing better than he did on this particular matter. Kristi even pitched in, telling Cullen that I had seen the words written down. We rested, smiling, sure that our work was done.

No dice.

“That’s the way you hear it. I hear it differently.”

My wife and I looked at each other and said, “Uh…” We talked a bit more, Kristi trying to help him see that saying red looks blue doesn’t make it so. I immediately started wondering where this came from. I briefly entertained thoughts like, “I wonder how much it would cost to move to Montana” and “The cable has got to go.”

But what I’ve since realized is, that relativistic streak is a strand in human DNA. My son hasn’t been reading the relativist manifesto, human consciousness is the “relativist manifesto.” Human beings naturally say, “What we see and hear must be true.” No matter what some other authority–God, the Scriptures, our parents–says.

C.S. Lewis saw this danger a half-century ago. He wrote about it in The Abolition of Man. He concludes that if we don’t equip children to make truth and value judgments on the basis of objective criteria, they will be at the mercy of an increasingly subjective and image-based culture. How much more true that is today. Which leaves only one question (or two).

How should the church respond then? Better yet, how should parents respond?

(Incidentally, I like the theology of Cullen’s revised lyrics. That I am the Lord’s, that he “has me” today, should drive all I do and say.)

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