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Raising Good Citizens

Practical ideas for teaching your kids to appreciate and participate in their country

As a connoisseur of history, I have a deep love for my country—a love I desire to pass on to my own children. Without a true love and appreciation for the country they live in, our children will become nothing more than disengaged citizens who aren't likely to even take advantage of their right to vote.

Civics, a required course when I was in school, is on a continuing decline. If taught at all, civics is usually woven into other curriculum as a side note or reduced to a single-semester high school emphasis in social studies, not a separate, full-year course like it was when I was in high school.

Of course, this year with a presidential election looming, debates and mock elections are all the rage. But that's not the norm.

A de-emphasis on the importance of citizenship could have long-term consequences. Our children will become adults who are faced with crises like global warming and health-care issues. Will they be informed and active participants in the political process?

Our freedoms depend on active citizens who understand basic moral principles—right from wrong, good from bad—and are willing to take a stand for what is right and good in the sight of God. My prayer is that we will each diligently teach our children these principles even as we hold fast to them ourselves.

The freedoms we enjoy are not guaranteed. We owe it to our children to help them both appreciate and protect those freedoms. As President Ronald Reagan declared, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same." (You can listen to Reagan's full speech here.)

Our current society, for the most part, models apathy toward citizenship. Citizenship is a given for many, a right that is taken for granted. The historical Christian approach to citizenship, which we should be modeling, is proactive: We pray, we vote, we serve. We are to be salt and light (see Matthew 5:13-16), transforming society one citizen at a time.

Titus 3:1-2 lays the groundwork for being a good citizen: "Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."

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August 19, 2015
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