Teaching your children about presidents and politicians

February 15, 2021

How have you been talking to your children about the recent election outcome and political turmoil in America?

Christian parents are called to teach their children what God says about the governing authorities and our obligations to them. But how can you help your children to think biblically about the election, a new president, and our government if you’re not even sure what you think? 

Here are a few thoughts to get you started.

Remember where leaders come from

Paul wrote, “Every person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Rom. 13:1, emphasis added). Christians are called to honor our rulers because all authority is from God. 

It’s easy to think this verse was intended for another time. But remember who was in charge when Paul wrote these words. Rome was far from a democratic republic, and Nero was anything but benevolent. Rome was a hard place to live, even for her citizens, and her emperors were cruel in the extreme. Yet in these circumstances, Paul urged Christians to “be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). How much more should we do the same in a society where rulers derive their authority from the people who elect them? 

Speak respectfully and pray

One of the most practical ways we can honor our authorities is by speaking respectfully of them, even if we disagree with them. That includes our tone of voice as much as our choice of words. Pay attention to how you say what you say. This can make the difference between principled disagreement and sinful disdain. You can also help your children obey God’s command to honor the authorities (1 Peter 2:17) by using the titles of elected officials when you talk about them—even if you didn’t vote for them. For example, say “President Biden” instead of simply “Biden” or “Joe,” “Speaker Pelosi” and “Senator McConnel” instead of “Pelosi” and “Mitch,” etc.

The most important way to speak about the governing authorities is in prayer. Prayer is a powerful tool in the Christian’s spiritual arsenal (James 5:16) and it’s what Paul urges us to do for our leaders:

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim 2:1–2)

When we fail to pray for our leaders, we reveal that we don’t really believe that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). 

The more we disagree with a leader, the more officials pass laws contrary to God’s law, and the more that a leader asks Christians to disregard their consciences, the more we should be on our knees (along with our children) praying for them. It is God who “removes kings and establishes them” (Dan. 2:21), and it is God who has the power to direct their decisions and even transform their hearts. Ask God to give elected officials wisdom to move toward just laws and policies, to bless them, and to restrain them from doing evil. If Christians aren’t praying for their leaders, who will?

Curate your news

How we think about who is in authority is being shaped by what we read and watch. Every day there’s more news to read, watch, stream, and scroll through than anyone could ever absorb. Unfortunately, much of that is unhelpful, and even untrustworthy. This is all the more reason to look for reliable sources. But even reliable sources shouldn’t be our go-to over God’s Word. 

Let your most important shaping influence be the Bible, not news feeds, blogs, or Twitter. This is both an exhortation and an invitation. Spend as much, or more, time reading the Bible and praying each day as you do surfing the Web. This is the path to peace. Your children will base their news habits on what you do, so the more faithful you are to steward the news, the more likely they will be to be faithful, too.

In our family, we’ve found World News Group’s Worldwatch program to be a helpful way to keep our school-age kids up-to-date with important news at home and abroad. The daily 10-minute online video is age-appropriate and objective. Every day, the show’s host reminds children who is in control, saying, “And remember, whatever the news, the purpose of the Lord will stand.”

Keep a long-term perspective

I recommend social media breaks as encouraged by Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. Stepping away from social media and taking sabbaths from the digital world helps us relate more helpfully with the real world. 

When it’s time to re-engage the news, rather than indulging a craving for never-ending headlines, instead develop a taste for slow news. You can think of it like fast-food addicts changing their tastes by embracing more nourishing slow food. Look for well-reasoned writing, the more long-form the better, to shape your perspective on the world. Not only do we need books to balance out the digital headlines, we need old books to balance out the new ones. Strive for news intake that fits into the rhythms of a week or month, rather than every day or every hour.

It’s tempting to read the news only for what’s happening today, but we need to read for what will happen over longer seasons of time. Rather than modeling for our children perpetual outrage over the daily hot takes, we should ask the Lord to help us fear God, not man. This goes a long way to raising well-informed and responsible future adults who will stay engaged with the political process throughout their lives, and not burn out as soon as their candidate loses or they feel disillusioned.

Work for the well-being of America

When Judah went into exile in Babylon, God spoke to the people through Jeremiah saying, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:7). May we likewise work for the welfare of our country, all the while “desir[ing] a better country, that is, a heavenly one, trusting in God who has prepared for his people a city” (Heb. 11:16).

Our work should look different from those whose highest hope is in this life. Because we are exiles (1 Peter 1:1), we are free to love our country, and we are also free from devastation when things don’t go the way we hope they will. We are able to be unshaken by circumstances, still rejoicing in the Lord. 

In Christ, we can be at peace, knowing God is working all things according to the counsel of his will. It’s okay to be disappointed with election results, even grieved, but if we find ourselves devastated, that’s a warning that we’ve placed our hope too much in politics. Similarly, when our candidate wins, it’s okay to celebrate, but it’s sinful to gloat. Proverbs 24:17–18 warns us saying, 

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from him.

Last year I memorized Psalm 131:1 by meditating on it over the course of a few weeks. It’s a prayer of humility, asking God to make us like David who said, “O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me” (Psalm 131:1). If the King after God’s own heart knew his limitations and did not reach beyond what he could grasp, how much more ought we pray for humility and lower our focus from things beyond our understanding, entrusting them to the King “who rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28).

Ask God to shape your heart and attitudes as you seek to shape your children. Practice civil discourse as you speak about civics, and pray with your kids for the well being of our country, for our good and his glory.

Candice Watters

Candice Watters is the Fighter Verses blog editor. She is a wife and mom, and author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, and co-author with her husband Steve of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses have four children and are passionate about … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24