Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nature-Deficit Disorder

In less than two weeks I will be heading off into the great outdoors of Glacier National Park for a time of retreat. I enjoy backpacking, hiking and anything else that has to do with mountains. I have jokingly said that my responsibility as a father is to teach my boys what to like at an early age. Out of responsibility I am trying to teach them how to enjoy backpacking, hiking and anything that has to do with mountains. They will come around eventually.

All joking aside - I do believe it is my responsibility as a father to train our boys to enjoy God's good creation. This happens best in the context of being out in God's good creation. I don't want our boys to grow up with the understanding that all good and fun things happen inside with electricity.

Albert Mohler recently wrote on this topic. He says

The troubling development is that many children never play outside. They prefer to play computer games, surf the Internet, or update their Facebook pages. Their parents are increasingly afraid to let them play outside, scared by the constant barrage of news stories about crimes against children. These children and teenagers are accustomed to air conditioning, sophisticated entertainments, and lack of physical activity. They are aliens in the outside world...

...God reveals His glory in creation. How can we read the Psalms with insight if we never look and see that the heavens really are telling the glory of God? Something precious is lost when children -- or adults -- are alienated from the created world. This choice for alienation is a choice to cut ourselves off from what God has given us to enjoy and to appreciate.

Here's some good news. You don't have to spend thousands of dollars to provide your children with experiences in nature and outdoor play. Just open the door and point them into the back yard or take them to a local park. Take a walk in the woods or go fishing in the lake. Go where the light does not obscure and see the wonder of the night sky.

Who knows? Your children just might forget to look for the nearest electrical outlet.

So here is my challenge. Go outside. Stay outside. Enjoy, or learn to enjoy being outside and worship God for His unique work of creation!


Ben Duncan said...

Thanks for that! I read Mohler's blog entry in its entirety. I must confess that the thought of him spending the summer on a farm in the country seems kind of humorous. After all, this is the man who would come to EVERY class carrying a stack of 10 or more books and then he'd proceed to tell us that these were the books he'd read that week and he'd give us a 20 or 30 second critique of each one.

I wonder if part of the reason for the lack of outside play is due, in part to the fact that the "video game generation" is now grown up and having kids. These kids see their parents playing video games, and the parents encourage gaming, and the end result is that going outside gets pushed aside.

I also wonder if outside play is passe becuase of moral relativism. Let me explain why I make the connection in my mind and I'll let others tell me if I've been out in the sun for too long: Moral relativism doesn't work in the real world. At least not without being propped up by official structures and certainly not in the playground. Kids learn quick that everyone can't play by their own rules. You've got to learn to get along or you'll be pummeled. In organized sports, there are RULES (gasp!) and again, we can't "live by our own code." But in video games... there you can do whatever you want! You can play games like Grand Theft Auto where you get to be the bad guy - robbing, beating people up, even committing murder! You can play relatively "innocent" games where you get to craft entire civilizations with yourself being a defacto god! I could go on.

As I see it, you are right to call people to go outside to view and enjoy God's creation. Not only because of the pedagogical value of being immersed into the God-ward orientation of the created order, but also because "out there" we learn to exist in relationship to nature and other people.

vince said...

ben - thanks for the comments. i don't know that i ever would have thought about it the way that you stated it, but i agree. if we stay inside we don't have to worry about possible conflict and we can do what we want, when we want and how we want.

i hadn't thought about it that way - but i am one who thinks simple thoughts. my thoughts went like this -

God made the great outdoors.
We should experience it and worship Him.

thanks for joining the conversation. i am assuming you are andy's friend...don't worry - he speaks highly of you.