How To Talk To Your Children About Politics

When we write on Legacy Dad I have one rule, no politics.  I figure we are already talking about faith, God, and Christianity so we need to leave the politics aside.  However, with this being an election year and me having two teenagers under my roof, I wanted to share with you how I have taught politics to my children and the discussions we've had on the 2016 Presidential Elections. A photo by dan carlson.

First, understand that I do not try to endorse a specific candidate but rather explain a Christian worldview and then an American political and government view to my teens. I ultimately allow them to come to their own conclusions as to which candidates meet or do not meet those views.  Especially in an election year like this one, it is possible that none of the candidates meet those requirements.

I take this approach because teens often resist blatant attempts to push our opinions or views on them and this way is much more subtle.  I also try to reinforce principles that even many adults forget when they get emotional and heated in political debates.

First, the Christian worldview.

Despite what we may want to believe or what the media tries to portray,  Christ was not political.  Christ was not a Republican nor a Democrat. Throughout the gospels and Christ's ministry, we find Jesus repeatedly avoiding and rejecting any claims that He was a worldly king or ruler. The Jews of the 1st Century expected the Messiah to come in the form of a conquering king and leader, who would overthrow the Roman government and reinstate Israel as a powerful nation and world leader, this is one reason why many Jewish leaders of the day rejected Christ's claims.  By all means, Christ could have overthrown the Roman government.  He could have made every leader and ruler bow at His feet, but He didn't.

[shareable cite="John 18:36 ESV"]'Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”[/shareable]

Jesus repeatedly reminded His followers not to put their faith in worldly leaders but he also instructed them to respect government authority. Jesus taught his followers to find the right balance between their responsibilities toward God and their obligations toward secular governments.

Too often Christians think we should install a "Christian Theocracy" style government or American government that is favorable to Christians.  While this sounds appealing, the rapid decline and dwindling numbers of the Church of England evidence that our American concept of a separation of church and state is a far better system. "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matt 16:18 ESV

Ultimately, we must remember that the world is fallen and sinful. No matter what we do politically, the world will never be "saved."  Each person must individually be drawn to Christ, repent, and accept Christ of their own free will through the power of the Spirit.

[shareable cite="Luke 20:25"]'He said to them, Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”[/shareable]

Second, the American worldview.

The second area I focus on is the founding principles behind the United States of America. Even today, many children (and adults) have never studied nor learned the principles behind our radically new form of government.  These concepts were refined by the likes of John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine and ultimately became the foundation of our nation through the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Equality and Individual Rights. Individuals have a right to be secure in their life, liberty, and property. These rights are not granted by government or by society; they are inherent in the nature of human beings. Individuals are allowed to exercise these rights as long as they do not violate the rights of others. Individuals are equal before the law, equal in opportunity and equal in their rights. Note that equality does not always equal fairness. If someone invests years into their education and works hard, they generally will be more productive and are often compensated more than others.

The Rule of Law. Individuals in our society are granted liberty under the law, in which we are free to pursue our own lives so long as we respect the equal rights of others. Individuals are governed in our society by applicable, developed legal rules, not by arbitrary commands. These rules should protect the freedoms and liberties of individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways, but not aim at any particular result or outcome which could be biased or favor one portion of society over another.

Free Market Economy. To function, a society and individuals need to engage in economic activity. The right to own property and engage in business entails the right to exchange property and provide goods and services by mutual agreement. Free markets are a self correcting economic system of free individuals, and they are necessary to create productive wealth and commerce.  In a free market economy, government intervention in people’s economic choices should be minimized unless the practices violate laws, rights, or endanger the lives of others. Therefore, the people decide whether they want a product or business and the government does not favor or impose laws on one business over another.

In a Free Market Society, those who work hard and produce are rewarded for their efforts while non-producers receive less compensation. While a society should certainly provide assistance to those incapable of producing (disabled, temporary unemployment, elderly, etc.) many modern politicians and bureaucrats subscribe to the idea that those who produce and work more, should be penalized in the form of taxes and this should be redistributed to producers who can but chose not to be productive. This is commonly known as social welfare and often creates a class of citizens who become codependent on the welfare system rather than using it as a temporary means until this class can again become productive.

In a free market economy, a flat tax rate for all (15%) regardless of income level, is a much fairer system and often eliminates complex tax systems, litigation, government regulation, and "loopholes" for special people, businesses, or groups.

Limited Government. For the protection of individual rights, individuals form governments of, for and by the people. But government is also a dangerous institution and must be limited.  Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Therefore, government should be limited in its powers and disputes should be handled at the lowest forms of government. Both Progressive Democrat and Conservative Republican politicians tend to favor bigger, more intrusive, and more dictator type forms of government.  Many politicians believe that "we the people" cannot make educated decisions for ourselves therefore a select group of elite, educated lawyers should decide what is best for everyone while all goods and services are provided by the government in the form of taxes. These ideals mimic Socialism or Fascism (depending on which ruling party is in power) neither of which reflect the ideals, liberties, or rights of the constitutionally limited, representative democratic republic our nation was founded as.

The Virtue of Production. Up until the seventeenth century, monarchs, rulers, and aristocrats lived off the productive labor of other people. (Some may argue that nothing has changed!) However, the Founding Fathers defended the right of people to keep the fruits of their labor. This philosophy creates and maintains a healthy middle class.  Thomas Paine wrote, “There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes.” Similarly, in 1824, Thomas Jefferson wrote “We have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.”  Government and politicians often create more government laws and agencies to deal with problems rather than looking at private, productive, free market organizations to solve problems.

Example - The Department of Education spends $12,296 of tax payer dollars per student, per year and still has declining test scores. While the number of students in the D.C. school district was declining, they increased administrators and others who are not lead teachers by almost 20 percent many with six-figure salaries attached and according to the National Center of Educational Statistics, only one in 500 tenured teachers is fired despite poor performance due to Teachers Unions.

Contrast this with the average cost of a Home Schooler ($750 per year and no tax dollars used) and they score 15-30% higher on standardized tests. Surely, not everyone can home school but efficiency models in productive, non government entities tend to cost far less than government funded options.

Peace. War brings death and destruction on a grand scale, disrupted family and economic life, and puts more power in the hands of the ruling class. Government and politicians have often used war as a means to advance agendas rather than simply providing for the national defense.  Patriotic men and women have often had to defend their own societies against foreign threats; but war should be the last resort for peaceful, productive people on all sides of the conflict.


As you read these, you are probably noticing the gap between our nations founding principles and our modern government in 2016. This is the point I try to highlight and illustrate to my children. Eventually, their generation will lead this nation and they need to uphold and defend these truths, rights, laws, and liberties.

One great way I used to illustrate these concepts to my own children (once they were older) was having them watch the HBO miniseries "John Adams" and talking about the characters, their ideals, and what they fought to establish in our United States.  It's a stark contrast to our modern day political options!

Ultimately, I'm not trying to raise a future Republican or Democrat but rather a future Christian and American who looks at the world as Christ did and understands the principles and laws behind our great nation and it's form of government.

Esse Quam Videri