Little House on the Prairie theology

In the last few months, my wife and I have found some regular enjoyment watching Little House on the Prairie with Michael Landon.

I remember seeing it as a kid in the early 80’s but don’t have many specific memories of any of the episodes. Watching it now, as a believer, I’m shocked.

I know we like to say things like America never was a Christian nation, but when you consider how utterly offensive Little House on the Prairie would be to Today’s audience, we must reconsider.

The most controversial elements of the show, besides the occasional references to scripture and the prayers offered to what appears to be the God of the Bible, is the implied worldview. It is so utterly different from even most Christian programming.

I see strong evidences of Federal Headship, creation order, the Protestant work ethic, sin, repentance, and so many other elements completely foreign to our post-modern experience.

As I was watching it, I thought, they couldn’t even sell this to most evangelicals today, they wouldn’t buy it. But it’s for certain it’s not because it’s just unbelievable, but because it is too believable.

The normative moral failures that are addressed are complex heart issues that frankly indict it’s watchers, and presents transcendent means for repentance.

Anyways, I’m sure I’m overselling it. We have only watched the first season and the first episode of the second season. In this last episode we watched, the Mill that Engles works at goes bankrupt and fails to pay him for two months wages, and leaves him unable to pay a significant debt owed to the Olsen’s country store.

Ironically, yesterday our passage at Church was on James 5:1-12. The parallels were staggering.

I won’t even get into The Rifleman with Chuck Connors…I mean, seriously, the man exposits Job to his son after his wife dies, he’s dragged behind a horse, and his newly purchased house is burned to the ground.

Anyways, it’s seems to me, it certainly used to be acceptable to be a man, and a Christian one at that. Today the church could hardly tolerate such men, such men are too dirty, too hard, and too bold. Am I such a man? In some ways I suppose, but I have a lot of repenting to do.


Normally when I hear people talking about that show there’s a clear nostalgia for the past that extends to the time period rather than simply the moral fiber.

There’s a lot of truth to the idea that this was a Christian nation. It’s easy to fall into wishing we could return to that era, rather than pushing for good morals in today’s era.


Will definitely put this on our family’s watch list.


My sisters loved that show in the 80s, so I watched quite a few episodes also. I agree that the worldview was so different from today. Thinking of the 80s I often feel like a time traveller or a very old person.

I vividly remember the episode when Mrs Olson gets to be the operator of the telephone network and listens in to all the conversations that take place over the phone. This results in a lot of gossiping and bad blood. The end of the episode is great - I don’t want to spoil it. :slight_smile:


Yikes! Can you imagine how I feel? I’m well past 72 and have vivid memories of life in a town of 3500 during the mid 1950s. We moved to Amarillo when I was 12 … 60 years ago.

And you think that life was different in the 80s?? :eyes: :roll_eyes:


I assure you we are here only to aid in your sanctification. LOL.

I’m sure every generation experiences entrance, exit and longing for the spirit of the age that existed between their tweens and 20s. Some of us are just glad to have survived it.

That being said, there is no doubt that in some ways the 80’s were a different time.
I mean you just couldn’t make a show like Little House on the Prairie in a later time, but I think that wasn’t the defining characteristic of the 80’s, the fruit of which we are now living in.


Ha! Sorry! It’s all I know…

Ok, story time: my mother was church custodian (protestant, almost state church). One day I saw the book where they kept records how many people attended the Lord’s Supper, in the 80s just the numbers, like “this sunday … that many persons”. So I turned the pages back in the book and found the record of the 50s and 60s - everybody was mentioned by name! Like “George One and his wife, Hans Two and his wife”… surreal!


Oh, indeed they were different - from now, and from the mid-50s. I was acutely aware of the ferment in the culture during my high school days and beyond. I often wondered where it was all headed. And how quickly.

Now that I know a bit more history than I did in those days, I know that our time is not common, that in the past it was ordinary for people’s lives to remain more or less the same over the span of centuries (!). And here we are, talking about momentous changes in our cradle culture over the span of less than a few decades.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!


My family and I enjoyed watching the first episode of season 1. Definitely looking forward to the rest. I can see in just the first episode that today’s culture would have freaked out and made complaints.


I had never put this fact together with the fact that every generation complains about the one that comes after them, thinking they have it easier or are too soft or too lazy, etc. Now that I have them both in the same context I can finally understand why the second one has always felt “off” to me.

Since we know major change has taken place during our lifetime and the generations following ours are living in a completely different world, it is hard to swallow the idea that this has always been the pattern. In one way it has, but in another way it hasn’t at all.

Yes, older generations have always complained about the “kids these days.” But they haven’t generally had the humiliation of those kids teaching them how to use the technology necessary to live their lives. Normally they’d at least have the dignity of laughing at the youth struggling to hold the plow in the ground.


Understanding the past, particularly understanding the past of our very own people gives some benefits: it permits us to know that a particular thing is possible; it gives us some understanding of how a thing is possible; and tells us that none of our bones and flesh of our flesh actually did them.

“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out.”


Joseph - what’s the difference? For most casual commenters, pushing for good morals in today’s era would be effectively to return to an earlier era where those morals were not so advanced in their state of corruption.

Yes, in the days of my boyhood (60 years ago), there were alcoholics, but hard drugs were not available on most high school campuses. Indeed, no drugs were.

Yes, there was divorce (my grandparents on both sides divorced). But, the practice of casual sex by evangelical singles was not in the neighborhood of 85 percent.

Were children threatened? Not in my neighborhood. I recall a group of boys with whom I hung out during summers ranging all over town and also miles out into the desert to hunt for geodes and rattle snakes! Today? I don’t think so.

Changing the moral climate of our culture would necessarily bring it more into conformity with the moral climate of some era in the past when, as I said, the advancement of moral decay had not progressed so far as it has today.


My family and I are continuing to enjoy Little House on the Prairie. There are certainly good things to glean from the show.

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There’s a tension there, because the tares weren’t so big and nasty then. But the wheat wasn’t grown up as much either, right? For example, the doctrine of man was assumed rather than fought for; none of the creeds and confessions say much about it, because it was tradition—but I hope to live to see the day when a confession of biblical sexuality takes its place among the creeds and confessions.

Maybe the evil wasn’t so nasty and numerous and public back then, but the good was not so battle hardened and ready to fight either. It’s taken us 40 years post Roe v. Wade and the righteous are in certain ways just starting to have the conflicts that are necessary on the way to abolishing abortion. Why weren’t we ready when the evil first came? And even stretching back to into the 1800s, why was the church in America so easily taken over by feminist rebels against God’s order? I don’t see how the church was strong and healthy and ready to fight for the truth; it seems more like there was ease in the absence of battle. I don’t want to go back to that; I want to see the church learn war and fight today’s battles. If there’s longing for times of peace it must be a longing forward to that final peace when our Lord conquers the last enemy and we lay our swords down.

As a boy (admittedly only 35 years ago), the good old days I longed for were even farther back—the days when Jesus walked in the flesh. “If only I had lived in those days!” I thought. But that was foolish of me, because Jesus said it was better that He go away and send the Holy Spirit. If it’s foolish to want to go back to the days Jesus walked the earth, isn’t it even more foolish to want to go back a generation or two?

Besides, we know that Ecclesiastes rebukes us truly when it says, “Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”



By wishing we could return to that era I meant the trappings of the time as opposed to the morals of the time. In other words, confusing the cultural trappings of the times with the morals of the times. Grinding your own wheat into flour vs children respecting their parents. Or more to the point, grinding your own wheat in a misguided attempt to return to another era where “all these problems” don’t exist. As if that would ever solve anything.


Amen. As someone who was born in 1995, and who has only ever known a culture of immorality and sexual decadence there is no resting upon the memories of yesterday. I have no nostalgia, and thus my only avenue for relief is to trust Christ to give victory to His people over this perverse and wicked generation.

Daniel - I’m inclined to agree with you. As C.S. Lewis put it, in a different context, “Mere improvement is not redemption”. He was talking about personal situations, but it applies in a societal context as well.

The other query I have about ‘little house on the prairie’ theology is that it leads to a situation where people think that they are Christians merely because they are conservatives, ‘doing the right thing’, but not actually saved. At least in the UK, no-one claims to be a Christian unless they actually are (for the most part). On balance, this makes evangelism easier in some respects - no civil religion to get in the way - and also more difficult - no background ‘cultural Christianity’ to work from.


Hmm. I think we are going astray of the point. My original post is about the worldview presented in the show, not about the salvific value of the show. I totally agree that some twisted unregenerates might like some aspects of the show because it appeals to them in a worldly sense, and that caution is duly noted about the overall importance of the show. I’ve not said it was important, just that is demonstrated a worldview that stands in stark contrast to the post-modern worldview. That does have value, because their is grace found in God’s worldview, embracing the world as he created it. It’s a common grace for sure, and will not save everyone living as beneficiaries of it, but it is good and should be preferred.


You know the United Kingdom has an established church, right? :slight_smile: