The cavalcade of dark knights thundered across the ridge and swept down the grassy slope toward the drawbridge. High atop the castle walls, the sentry saw them coming and dashed for the portcullis release. The portcullis crashed down. Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, the end of the drawbridge lifted clear of the castle approach and moved steadily skyward. The gates slammed shut with a crash and the heavy bars thudded into place. The castle entrance was secure
The leader of the dark knights snarled as he reined his powerful warhorse to a standstill. There was no point in pressing the attack. Thanks to an alert sentry, the castle was secure.
The most unique and intriguing structure ever built by man has to be the medieval castle. More than 15,000 castles once stretched across Europe and the Near East, and hundreds of those are still standing. The construction of a typical castle could take as long as twenty years and at today’s prices would cost millions of dollars.
Castles were built with one purpose in mind: protection. The castle designers were keenly aware that they had enemies, and the castle designs reflect this awareness. From the towering walls and battlements to the massive gates and portcullis, everything about a castle says protection.
In my research for the Terrestria Chronicles allegory series, I read everything I could find about knights and castles, toured castles in Europe, and desperately wished that I could interview a few knights. As I studied castles and medieval warfare, one thought kept recurring: the defenses of a medieval castle closely parallel the defenses of the human heart.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) In this text, the word keep means “to guard, to protect.” God commands us to guard our hearts with all diligence. Let’s see what we can learn about such protection from castle design and castle defenses.
Defending the Entrance
The weakest part of a castle was the entrance. There were occasions when attacking forces attempted to go over a castle wall with ladders and siege towers, and there were attempts to tunnel under the castle walls, but for the most part, the battle for the castle was an attempt to breach the entrance.
Castle designers and builders protected the castle entrance in five ways: (1) the moat, a steep ditch surrounding the castle, sometimes empty, sometimes filled with water, (2) the drawbridge, which could be lowered to allow entry or raised to keep intruders out, (3) the gates, which were typically made of oak and weighed several tons, (4) the portcullis, a huge, ironclad grating that could be raised or lowered by a series of chains, pulleys, and counterweights, and (5) the gatehouse, from which castle knights could defend the castle entrance by dropping huge boulders on enemy knights. To defend a castle, then, meant to defend the entrance.
You and I must realize that we are in a desperate battle to protect our minds and our hearts, especially the minds and hearts of the generation following us. Just as a garrison of medieval knights would defend their lord’s castle by protecting the entrance, you and I must be diligent to guard the entrances to our “castles” (hearts): our eyes and our ears. As Christian parents, we must train our children and grandchildren to diligently guard against the attacks of Satan and his evil forces. Any alert believer must realize that our homeschools and churches are under constant, unrelenting assault; our homes and families are under a withering, never-ending barrage of evil; our nation teeters at the brink of disaster. The battle is for the minds and hearts of our precious young people.
I challenge you to find another generation that has been called to withstand an attack as vicious as the one the young people of today are facing. As one California pastor said recently, “When you look at America, you realize that every element of our society is geared toward one thing: the destruction of our young people.”
God has called us. We must defend our castle, and we must give our lives if necessary in its defense, but we must also teach our young people to guard their castles against the onslaught of evil in today’s society. In our own lives, we must embrace and act on the words of King David: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” (Psalm 101:3)
Let’s be specific. What programs appeared on your television screen during the past seven days? What music played on your radio? What websites did your computer visit?
If you’re a child of God, guard your heart diligently. Though you are busy, take the time to walk with God, read His Word, and spend time in prayer. Realize that your heart and mind are going to be under constant, unrelenting assault by the enemy, and take the necessary precautions to guard your castle. And then help the next generation guard their castles.
Young Men and Young Women at Risk
Among young adults, pornography has lost the social stigma previous generations once attached to it. In a recent study, “86% of young men reported viewing pornography in the last year, and 20% said they looked at it every day or nearly every day. Among women, 31% indicated they’d viewed porn in the last year. . . . Nearly half of the young women said that viewing X-rated material was an acceptable expression of one’s sexuality.”1
The Dangers of Public Education
As Christian parents, most of us are well aware of the daily assault on the minds and hearts of the young people who attend the public government schools. American children by the millions are being taught to hate that which is good and Godly and to embrace that which is evil and perverse.
On a recent airline flight, my seatmate was a young man around 30 years of age. As we fell into conversation, I asked what he did for a living. He replied that his job was to go into the public schools and put safeguards in place on the computer systems to protect the students from pornography. When I expressed my appreciation for his work he replied that his presence in the schools is not always welcomed.
I asked him, “So you actually face opposition? There are people who don’t want you there?”
“Oh, yes,” he replied. “I face it all the time.”
“Who opposes you? The students? The parents?”
“Oh, no, not the students or parents.”
I was a bit puzzled. “Then who opposes you?”
I was not ready for his answer. He replied, “Most of the opposition comes from the teachers and the librarians.”
I looked at him, stunned, and not quite believing what I was hearing. “Are you saying that there are teachers and librarians who want the students to have access to pornography?”
He nodded gravely. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
As I pondered his words, I realized again that homeschooling is not a luxury. Even if a child in the public educational system has a number of good teachers, it takes only one evil one to introduce him or her to the trap of pornography.
Assaulted in the Library
Many parents are aware of the dangers of the public schools; few seem aware of the threats posed by the public libraries. In my opinion, the “Freedom to Read”2 statement and “Freedom to View”3 statement issued by the American Library Association (ALA) basically say, “You have no right to impose your narrow views on society, and you have no right to censor what the other citizens of your community choose to read or view. Leave us alone.”
The ALA actually celebrates “Banned Books Week ” each year and encourages young people to read the authors and the books that were most often challenged on moral grounds! If you find this hard to believe, please go to their web site, www.ala.org, and see it for yourself.
The children’s department in the average library contains books on human sexuality that are nothing short of pornographic. Almost without exception, homosexuality and lesbianism are defended and actually promoted, often with the statement that “certain people are opposed to these lifestyles only because of their own ignorance and fear.”
My local library even has a children’s picture book on censorship. After describing the evils of censorship and detailing the book burnings imposed by the Nazis and other totalitarian regimes, the book names the censors who pose a current threat to our dearly held freedoms of press and speech: the religious fundamentalists!
As the author, Scarlett MccGwire, puts it, “Throughout the [twentieth] century, religious matters have continued to inspire firmly held views, and fundamentalists have sought to silence the opposition. Fundamentalists are, by definition, intolerant of other views. Their lives are dominated by their religion. They believe that their religion is the only religion and that they are the only true followers of God.”4
As educators and parents, we must protect our children from the dangers posed by the public library system. In some areas of the country, private libraries are springing up to provide families with wholesome, God-honoring reading material. Someone must take responsibility for guarding the gates.
Space does not permit a full discussion of the inherent dangers involved, but if you choose to allow your young people to play video games, I would offer two suggestions: (1) Carefully scrutinize every game that passes through your youngsters’ hands, and (2) set a time limit for playing video games. Make it quite brief—perhaps just twenty minutes a day. Even the best “educational” games can very quickly become addictive.
Guard your castle. The enemy is very real, and his tactics are insidious.
The Duties of a Sentry
In medieval times, sentries walked the walls of the castles night and day, always on the lookout for an assault on the castle. A sentry had three basic duties, and I think you’ll see that we as parents and educators have the same duties as we seek to protect the generation following us:
1. Watch for the enemy. We must constantly be on guard against the devil’s attacks, not only against our own minds and hearts but also against the minds and hearts of the next generation. One castle in Europe was taken when the sentry failed to recognize the enemy: a group of knights hiding in a mound of hay on an old farm wagon! After crossing the drawbridge, the “farmer” stopped the wagon in a precise location so that the team of horses blocked the gates in an open position: the wagon kept the portcullis from lowering, and the back wheels kept the drawbridge from being raised. Hundreds of enemy knights then flooded in from the forest and took the castle.
2. In the event of an attack, close the gates. As sentries, we must be ready to secure the castle entrances. Perhaps in your home that means turning off the TV when certain programs are on or even junking the TV altogether. It means carefully monitoring the music in your home, strictly filtering or even banning the Internet, and carefully screening any videos, video games, etc. to which we and our children have access. Kids should never have TV or Internet access in their bedrooms. If your child really needs a cell phone, make sure it does not have picture or Internet capabilities. When danger threatens, take the responsibility to secure the entrances to the mind and soul.
3. Report intruders to the castle commander. Every castle had a castellan, or commander. He was the officer in charge of the garrisons of knights who were assigned to defend the castle. In the event of an assault on my castle, as a sentry I would secure the castle entrance and then immediately notify my commander. The defense of the castle is then his responsibility. Our castle commander, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ.
As parents, we have been called to guard the castle gates. The battle is real and the stakes are high. An entire generation of young people is at risk, and we must not fail. Keep thy heart with all diligence.
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Ed Dunlop and his wife Janice live in Ringgold, Georgia. They homeschooled their three children all the way through high school. Ed is the author of the popular Terrestria Chronicles allegory series and the companion series, Tales from Terrestria. For more information about these medieval allegory series, please visit his website at www.TalesOfCastles.com.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Spring 2009.
Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.
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1. Plugged In® Online, a website sponsored by Focus on the Family, December 31, 2007. The website is quoting a study by Brigham Young social sciences researcher Jason Carroll, published in the Journal of Adolescent Research (usatoday.com, 12/12/07 stats, c&e).
4. Censorship, Scarlett MccGwire, published by Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, © 2000, p. 46.