Archive for April 2012

Parental options

April 30th, 2012 — 1:40pm

Reading Esolen’s work, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, has made me step back for a fresh look at my own parenting and the parenting of others in various Christian circles. It’s not always a pretty sight.

What’s unsettling is not that we’re all struggling to train, instruct, discipline, guide, inspire, occupy, and in some cases even control our children. That struggle is normal. Parents have been struggling for centuries to get children to sit still for, say, an hour of worship, or thirty minutes of family dinner. Or to play outside for more than 30 seconds without pounding on the door. Or to finish a page of multiplication problems, or read a book. Or to stay by Mommy’s side at the store. Or to be quiet (in appropriate situations) the first time they’re told. What’s unsettling is how many options our modern world has supplied us for short-circuiting this struggle, and how many of us have bought into the options wholesale.

There are, of course, drugs. Not usually the first line of defense in Christian circles, but lots of parents do seem to have bought the lie that their children suffer from a sort of pathology that can only be treated by an expert. I’m not saying that’s never the case. I am saying there’s a fair bet that in most cases pathology is the fruit of parenting.

Then there’s the automobile. We can now be all over the place seeing all sorts of people and all sorts of stuff all the time. We don’t need to walk; we can drive. We can drive far and fast, and get our children involved in interminable social activities wherein they, for extended periods of time, become (more or less) someone else’s problem.

There’s also digital entertainment. The cloak: “my kids need to live in the 21st century.” The reality: Marie Winn’s “plug-in drug” is now handheld. It’s absolutely amazing. A child who’s bouncing off walls one minute can be reduced the next to a silent, unblinking, motionless bit of furniture, totally intimate with the thing in her hand, totally oblivious to everything else. It’s not fun that her “buzz” is even worse whenever she reenters the land of the living, but it’s the price we pay for a few minutes of peace. Some children will still sit and watch a feature length movie, but that drug is so yesterday.

How did parents (and kids) survive before all of these options, when all we had was face-to-face time, books, and dirt in the yard? And please. Don’t tell me the kids are happier now.

A short while ago, I walked upstairs to find my 21-month-old playing with the colored beads of an abacus. First words out of her mouth when she saw me (with enormous enthusiasm): “Shee, Duddy?” I do see it, girl. Fine work, even if your toy is seriously out of date. Long may your imagination prosper.

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A boy of mine

April 28th, 2012 — 10:11pm

“I would rather have a boy of mine stand high in his studies than high in athletics, but I could a great deal rather have him show true manliness of character than show either intellectual or physical prowess.” (Theodore Roosevelt, in a letter to his son Kermit)

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Preaching safety

April 28th, 2012 — 7:40am

“Preaching safety to the child, safety above all, safety always, world without end, has the considerable advantage of instilling in him the expectation that life should be provided with boardwalks and handrails.” (Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child)

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Crony capitalism?

April 27th, 2012 — 9:54am

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary.” (Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 10, part 2)

Comment » | From the Dead Thinkers

A grave danger, indeed

April 26th, 2012 — 9:53am

“Few parents grasp the danger of children playing outside. The most enlightened educators do grasp it, and have taken steps to ensure that children will be left to their own devices, outdoors, as little as possible. They have shortened the summer vacation, parceling out free days here and there through the school year. The effect is to keep children from developing the habit of learning things outside of school . . . . After all, it takes children a week or so just to get used to the summer, and a week or two at the end of August to prepare for the new school year. Then, too, schools have heaped books upon the children to tote around during the summer, much as you would heave sacks of grain and skins of wine atop a camel before crossing a desert. The idea is not to instill a love of reading excellent literature. Recall that so-called great works of art are dangerous, as they rouse the imagination. No, summer reading ensures that no mental break occurs between June and September, no respite from the sedative.” (Anthony Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, p. 31)

I am loving this book.

Comment » | Of Books and Beer

Godless or godly

April 19th, 2012 — 1:07pm

“Culture, then, may be either godless or godly, depending on the spirit which animates it. Sin has not destroyed the creaturely relationship of man to his Maker, who made him a cultural creature with the mandate to replenish and subdue the earth. Sin has not destroyed the cultural urge in man to rule, since man is an image-bearer of the Ruler of heaven and earth. Neither has sin destroyed the cosmos, which is man’s workshop and playground. Culture, then, is a must for God’s image-bearers, but it will be either a demonstration of faith or of apostasy, either a God- glorifying or a God-defying culture.” (Henry Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, p. 23)

Comment » | Of Worship and Work

Different starting point

April 19th, 2012 — 11:16am

“Christians are to live fully in the world and this will require us to work and play side-by-side with unbelievers. This, however, does not discount the fact that there is a spiritual antithesis between Christian and non-Christian peoples, as expressed in the Bible. How do we bridge these two truths? Historically, rather than bridge these twin truths, people have adopted one extreme over the other. The common grace thinker lands too heavily in favor of his shared cooperation with non-believes [sic] in the culture, while others stress the antithesis to such a degree as to reject all engagement in culture. This polarity is created when we start with common grace as the foundation for Christian cultural commitment. What I wish to propose, therefore, is a different starting point for Christianity and culture, which is the cultural, or dominion, mandate of the Bible. With this new starting point, we affirm both the necessity of the Christian obligation to the world and the existence of an antithesis between the people of God and the world.” (John Barber, The Road from Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture, pp. 454– 55)

Read further context here.

Comment » | Of Worship and Work

Outgrow scolding

April 18th, 2012 — 8:48pm

No small component in the maturing of pastoral wisdom is to learn how to motivate and mobilize the people of God (including calling them to repentance) without scolding. Scolding has neither the courageous involvement of a real rebuke nor the affection and hopefulness of true love. It’s the outflow of private frustration, not divine mercies. What’s more, it’s very hard to listen to.

Comment » | Pastoral Pondering

All things human

April 18th, 2012 — 2:40pm

The Incarnation of the Son of God affirmed at once the goodness of all things human, and that everything human is fallen and needs to be redeemed.

Comment » | Incarnation and Embodiment

The second look

April 14th, 2012 — 3:34pm

Take any person at any point in his or her life, look closely, and you’ll find enough sin, stupidity, and general ugliness to bury (and probably damn) that person. But look again. And, if need be, again. You will see frailty, damage, deep need, and also potential. Sympathy will be called forth, perhaps even real hope. Perhaps even admiration. Who of us has not longed for this second look, when one’s shortcomings are exposed to the world? Who has not stood before a critic’s withering onslaught and thought, “Can’t you see I’m trying? Can’t you see I know I’m falling short? Can’t you see I don’t know what to do?” This is not, of course, how we generally respond on the exterior of things, but our hearts have felt it from early days when childish folly made a parent’s eyes blaze and we felt the lash of deserved rebuke. Many of us have learned to soldier on with little hope of a second look (whence come many veneers in the world). Hardest of all, I think, is to believe that God can look at us this way, not with rigor but mildness, not with righteous scorn but with tender compassion. Yet this is surely the message of the cross: God has stooped to touch the lepers, the eye of infinite grace has fallen on the hateful things of earth, the worthless are strangely treasured, and broken things will forever adorn His house.

Comment » | Life Together

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