At the moment as part of my research I am looking at some parenting course type materials, (yes the irony). This gives me a dual role; researcher and parent. To be honest going through some of the material, particularly with Third Party in ultimate Kevin mood during part of it, has made me see the value of my “sanity fieldwork diary”. The “sanity fieldwork diary” being the seperate fieldwork journal I was told to keep, for my eyes only, which I record and reflect on my feelings during the fieldwork in. I find it fairly easy to detach myself and be “the academic” whilst I’m working now and handle the dual role of researcher and worshipper during services, but some of the material I’m working with now needs looking at on two levels, the academic and the personal.
It is in this second role, the parent, that I am reviewing Visionary Parenting by Dr. Rob Rienow today. The academic comments may be quite different, but I wanted to share my view of this material as a parent.
The book can be used either discreetly or in conjunction with a DVD based parenting course, which is available from the Visionary Parenting website.
The theme is parenting but the key within this is the generational transmission of faith. This generational transmission is talked about in terms of the parent/child relationship, ancestoral heritage and a vision for future generations. It refers to family as a “discipleship centre” which I found an interesting and challenging description.
Within this book there are ten chapters, corresponding to eight DVD sessions. These include chapters on biblical fatherhood and motherhood. They are clearly written from a patriarchal perspective, but one which is rooted in spiritual and scriptual understandings of positive patriarchy. By positive patriarchy, which may seem like a paradoxical and contradictory statement, I mean they recognise the differences between genders and do put forward an order where the husband is seen to be above the wife, but they also highlight mutual submission and respect. As a single parent obviously this has issues, ones which the writer recognises in a wink towards us, but never adequatley addresses. Perhaps a seperate chapter addressing the way single parents need to approach biblical parenting, rather than a couple of paragraphs acknowleging us would be useful for any future edition.
Within the text there are a variety of references to spiritual warfare and the devil, which at times left me feeling uneasy. This was particularly the case when he was talking about teenagers. A passage which both hit home and left me feeling uneasy was the following, (p48):
If satan can get a teenager to pull his heart away from his parents and, at the same time, decieve his parents into accepting that a distant relationship with their teen son is normal and appropriate, the seeds are planted for broken relationship. God’s plan for the teen years is very different from Satan’s lies and the picture the world gives us.”
I think it is a book which is useful for making you think about how you pass your faith onto your kids. It showed me where I have done some things right with Third Party aswell as where I might want to think again. It gave some ideas of stuff I might try to integrate into our family life.
However, it is also a book which should be handled with care. There is material within it which if uncritically taken at face value could lead to possible emotional abuse. This is clearly not the intention of the writers, who are obviously a very loving couple, but in the wrong hands I believe the material could lead to misuse. Aswell as the bits on gender roles and spiritual warfare I have already mentioned some of the stuff on discipline got me a tad worried aswell. “If you call your sibling a name then you get a dab of soap on your tongue” seemed to relate to the type of punishments we have moved beyond….although I fully support the if/then model of discipline. The other thing that made me going um…….related to “heart rebellion“. Sometimes I’d love Third Party to do stuff with the right attitude, but if I’m honest I’m just greatful she’ll do it atall and I’m not about to discipline for her for doing it grumpily.
With all the worrying aspects I have highlighted I think the thing is the text makes some interesting and useful points which highlight some of the problems in contemporary culture and the need for people, particularly Christians, to be counter cultural sometimes. However, in all these un-nerving bits of the book if the reader were not careful to read everything being said in the book and think about their implementation of the material it could lead to abusive interpretations.
So overall, I think it’s an interesting and at times provocative book which teaches us, effectively, how to evangelise to our children and through them to future generations. It is clearly a product of the US conservative evangelical sub-culture it was produced in and as such has elements which need to be examined and critiqued, by a careful reading of the text. I didn’t agree with it all but I do feel that it had some useful ideas to offer and has particular value in promoting the discussion of Christian parenting and how we pass our faith onto our children through our everyday life.