Selected Sunday Scriptures- #103 Isolation v. Inoculation

Free Northerner’s post on the subject of the “Christian culture industry” got me thinking about the subject of parenting and protecting your children from dangerous influences. One of the  points that Free Northerner makes (and one that I hear many parents at my parish make) is that you can’t keep all negative influences away from your children. At least, not unless you are willing to live in an Amish type commune. Otherwise, they will find some way of reaching your children. Isolation- living in a bubble- is just not practical if you are unwilling to completely detach yourself and your family from the world.

A better strategy than attempting isolation, I would think, would be one of “inoculation.” As your children mature, deliberately expose them to some of the myriad temptations and evil influences that are out there in the world. But do so in a controlled way- while you are present and able to explain the subject(s) in question to them. This way their first experiences with these matters can be shaped by you, their parents, and not the general culture.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. But it seems sensible to me. I invite my readers to offer you thoughts on the subject. Also, I invite you to offer any additional quotes from scripture that you think might be relevant. Here are two that seem to connect (at least somewhat) with what I’ve discussed:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

(1 Cor 5:9-13)

My child, keep my words
    and store up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live,
    keep my teachings as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
    and call insight your intimate friend,
that they may keep you from the loose woman,
    from the adulteress with her smooth words.

For at the window of my house
    I looked out through my lattice,
and I saw among the simple ones,
    I observed among the youths,
    a young man without sense,
passing along the street near her corner,
    taking the road to her house
in the twilight, in the evening,
    at the time of night and darkness.

10 Then a woman comes toward him,
    decked out like a prostitute, wily of heart.
11 She is loud and wayward;
    her feet do not stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the squares,
    and at every corner she lies in wait.
13 She seizes him and kisses him,
    and with impudent face she says to him:
14 “I had to offer sacrifices,
    and today I have paid my vows;
15 so now I have come out to meet you,
    to seek you eagerly, and I have found you!
16 I have decked my couch with coverings,
    colored spreads of Egyptian linen;
17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
    aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love until morning;
    let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
    he has gone on a long journey.
20 He took a bag of money with him;
    he will not come home until full moon.”

21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
    with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 Right away he follows her,
    and goes like an ox to the slaughter,
or bounds like a stag toward the trap[c]
23     until an arrow pierces its entrails.
He is like a bird rushing into a snare,
    not knowing that it will cost him his life.

24 And now, my children, listen to me,
    and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25 Do not let your hearts turn aside to her ways;
    do not stray into her paths.
26 For many are those she has laid low,
    and numerous are her victims.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol,
    going down to the chambers of death.

(Proverbs 7)


Filed under Parenting, Selected Sunday Scriptures, Temptation

6 responses to “Selected Sunday Scriptures- #103 Isolation v. Inoculation

  1. Me and the fiance have thoughts similar to yours. Raise them in a controlled environment and add stuff in as needed for the individual child. If the kid seems like he’s going to be a monk, why show him the modern world? If they want to be a farmer, why inundate them with anything beyond what they need for research purposes?

    Spend your time teaching them virtues, discipline, and how to think. They can always learn skills later.

  2. Samuel E. Hancock

    When I first read your post, Proverbs 22:6 came immediately to mind. “Bring up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Further searching found Romans 16:17. “Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” A much broader interpretation I know, but still applicable I think.
    I must disagree with the isolationist model of child rearing. Most of the children I know who were treated this way were extremely wild after they left home. It seems a gradual accommodation to wrong behavior and the correct response (by the parent) as the child matures is the correct path.

  3. Michael Kozaki

    Never had an issue with this, but I also don’t think you can answer these questions until the whole lifestyle is examined. I was asking these questions 20 years ago (have a large family today, newborn to 18 yo). The following code has been non-negotiable:

    a) sahm & homeschool
    b) no TV, radio, video games in house
    c) moderated internet
    d) walking distance of schools/church
    e) meal plan, from scratch, paleo, on time, dishes done
    f) exercise every morning (all)
    g) clean house, no exceptions
    h) treat kids like adults, everyone works
    i) church weekly (that’s Church)

    I don’t think one can remove any of these w/out the whole thing eventually collapsing. Especially the diet and exercise.

    Only then do we push maximum freedom and exposure, willing to let kids fail and suffer. Work, social activity, sports (n/a for girls) & arts encouraged (sports/arts for HS’ers in public school allowed by state law where I live).

    The above model works (get complements about my kids daily). But 95% of women are incompetent and 95% of men cannot lead, so beware. 20 years of experience/observations back this up.

  4. A Visitor

    He had a solid post. “Relatedly, however much I love heavy metal, I’d strongly object if we added heavy metal worship music to my church. It simply wouldn’t be right.”

    This reminds me of the parish I attended in California, only game in town. It had guitars and tamborines, rather than something proper like an organ. The worst aspect of it is how the choir would clap when Mass was over. It was like nails on a chalkboard.

    “As your children mature, deliberately expose them to some of the myriad temptations and evil influences that are out there in the world. But do so in a controlled way- while you are present and able to explain the subject(s) in question to them. This way their first experiences with these matters can be shaped by you, their parents, and not the general culture.”

    This mistake, not inoculating your children, is one of the costliest that a parent can make. So many parents make the mistake that a) what their kids are going through are the same trials they went through (nothing could be further from the truth) and b) that someone else will take care of the awkward conversations and/or c) their kids will not be tempted or succumb to temptation.

    Know that all are tempted. It’s successful planning and preparation (much like gathering as much intelligence as possible before a battle (i.e. troop disposition, morale, possible weak points)) that give someone truly grounded in the faith as much of a shot as possible of not falling into the snares of this world. For any parents out there, you are your children’s first teacher! LET THAT SINK IN! I’ll say it again: YOU ARE YOUR CHILDREN’S FIRST TEACHER!

    Do you think it’s awkward (when age appropriate, of course) to talk to your kids about sex, drugs, murder, larceny, etc? If you do, I have a simple suggestion: SUCK IT UP AND TALK! Don’t make it a one time thing. Here’s an idea on operationalizing it: think of what you wish you had known at their age, how it may have changed your decisions one way or another, then go! Remember, if you don’t talk to them, someone else will and you may very well hate the results. If that is the case, you’ll have only yourself to blame in the end.

  5. Some of it depends on the parents, but it also depends on the child too. For example, isolation will be a sure fire way of setting some children off to be wild and crazy when they grow up, but will be good for others in getting them into their adult years relatively unscathed. My parents kinda took the isolationist route with me – not so much in terms of what I was exposed to (I went to public school, we had cable tv, etc), but very much so in what I was (or more accurately, was NOT) allowed to do (aka, just about everything that most kids are allowed to do), which kept me out of any sort of possibly dangerous or tempting situations. So I guess either way could either work or not work, depending on the child. Even if you keep a child sheltered so they can’t possibly get into any trouble, they can still end up doing very jerky things to someone that means something to them. Nothing is foolproof.

    I’m not sure if this makes any sense or not. I’m running on very little sleep right now so my apologies if it doesn’t.

  6. Michael Kozaki


    Some of it depends on the parents, but it also depends on the child too… Nothing is foolproof. I’m not sure if this makes any sense or not. I’m running on very little sleep right now

    Total sense. Most people don’t want to admit it, but two factors are huge here: First, children are genetically pre-programmed to resist their parents when parents operate differently than the society around them. It’s a survival trait. My parents had some real kook ideas, and if I hadn’t resisted that I would be screwed today. Kids seek peers for safety.

    Second, it’s been demonstrated by meta-studies children are gonna do what they are genetically inclined to do on average. A large part is IQ, kids just having the brains to make the right call. Google “Stanford Marshmallow Test”. Sure, parents have an effect. But not everything. As Catholics, we believe (as a matter of doctrine) that free will truly exists. Your child, spouse, anyone can choose sin, period. But we also believe in “structures of sin” where we inherit our morals from parents, community, culture, lifestyle. So it’s both. As Americans with lots of Protestant influence, we tend to downplay the society part and elevate the parents/individual part.

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