Quick Thoughts on Children

As Caleb awaits the birth of his child, I thought I’d rudely offer my unasked-for advice. The process of rearing children seems to me, an unmarried, unsexed, needless to say, un-patriarchal individual, much simpler than parents often admit. It isn’t necessarily that they won’t admit that the process is simple as though out of self-interest; hoping to appear more haggard and experienced then they are, rather they themselves are unaware. Let me be clear, when I say that the process is simple, I do not mean to say what the parent will feel during the process. It may feel hard or it may feel complex but it is not. If we take the statement ‘a simple process’ to mean ‘a process with only a few, easily distinguished parts,’ then we may still say that the execution of the process feels very difficult. It is also not the case that a parent need know about the process of parenting in any great depth in order to parent. Will she be effective in parenting without some knowledge of the human mind? Probably she will not be as effective as she might be, but multitudes have gotten away with it.

First, before I outline the appropriate process, let me reference at least one method of parenting wrongly. It would be easy to talk about some flagrant abuse of the patriarchal or matriarchal position, but it would be more effective if I were to reference, say, the “we-don’t-negotiate-with-terrorists” mindset employed in parenting in many conservative evangelical circles. This mindset essentially holds as its singular, paradigmatic notion that if a child is fully submitted to the parent’s will, then that child will be the poster-child of the poisonous mixture of the American dream and evangelicalism. Any break from character is met with swift, but appropriate, punishment, there is no authority but that conveyed by the position of parent, and little Johnny, if he wants to be Jesus’ friend, ought to fall in line.

There is a glaring flaw to this scheme in that it’s wonderful if you want to create a mindless drone who repeats exactly what you tell him and eventually repeats the entire process on his children. This process is terrible if you want to create human beings. Oh, little Johnny may go on to be an athletic honors student, he may lead the church worship band, he may be a wonderful street evangelist or an aspiring missionary, he may excel at small business, he may draw pretty, Christian girls, he may support young-earth creationism. But can you guess what he’s not? Little Johnny, who may not be so little any more, isn’t a thinker

Perhaps the reader might wonder why the things I’ve mentioned as accomplishments for little Johnny are bad and the quality of a thinker so great. I mean, after all, not everyone is “gifted” as a thinker, right? Well, that depends on how you define ‘thinker’. John, when he’s grown up, will find health, wealth, and blissful ignorance disguised as happiness. Any attack on the notions that you taught him from the ground to the knee and his church taught him from the knee to the casket will just be an attack by a lost world on the great fort of evangelicalism. In 1850 it was those damn papists. In 1900, the damn liberals. In 2000, the damn world. What John will not do is positively interact with art, science, music, politics, philosophy, and theology. “But he only needs to know Christ” the objection might run. What is a theology that doesn’t interact with art, science, music, politics, and philosophy? John will have become more one with the world while removing himself from it; he has got the dictum “in the world but not of it” entirely backwards; he is of the world but not in it. Christianity isn’t under siege, the world is, yet, strangely, John seems to be in a fort.

So, what is the good process to pediatric upbringing? Simply put, education. I don’t mean that little Johnny ought to be memorizing Bible verses. He ought to be. But not before he’s learned how to string a logical thought together and to read and decipher appropriately. The diagramming of sentences is more important than the memorizing of what, to him, are meaningless facts. How does one get little Johnny to learn? Again, simply put, by controlling his environment. If little Johnny doesn’t have much to do but read, write, and multiply I imagine he will be much more willing to do something rather than do nothing; it’s merely human nature to want to do something. 

In conclusion, there are two steps. 1) The child must learn to think. When he can diagram a thought on paper both grammatically and logically he will have begun to succeed at this. 2) The child’s environment must be totally conducive to his education. People complain of how “teens are distracted today by technology”. That habit, whatever it is, began in the cradle.

“But what of loving and nurturing little Johnny?” He will be more grateful for his discernment than for your ephemeral “love and nurture”; more loving is it to teach a man to fish rather than giving him a single fish.

“What of disciplining 16 year-old John?” If you have been consistent, his discernment will be such that your burden will be lessened. But if he still persists in gaining new experiences (and that’s all his rebelliousness is outside of hormones, that is, if you haven’t turned him into a spoiled idiot) don’t stop him through force but through reason. A teen works like some kind of gas; if you don’t compress it, it doesn’t get hot. Don’t tell him to try sex or drugs or what have you, tell him that he’ll regret it and give him good reasons for thinking that you’re right. If he decides after to try those things, except him back when he gathers it was a bad idea. If you’re careful though, he likely won’t leave, the comfort of home being greater than that of the unknown.

“What of 21 year-old John? What if he decides to flip burgers or something else shameful to the family name?” Then for goodness sakes let him. Christ is not enshrouded with an American flag, a business suit, a pulpit, and Capitalism.

Quick Thoughts on Children

The Case for Celibacy – Part 1

[Note from Caleb: By coincidence, Clark and I both decided to write on this topic recently. So keep an eye out for my post later, and enjoy Clark’s case for celibacy now.]

This is a topic which has interested me for a while. I find that, more often than not, celibacy is something of a touchy subject. That tenderness is probably due to the confused evangelical position on it, the incredible power of sex, and the connections that evangelicals share with a consumerist society. Because celibacy can be a riling subject I want to immediately affirm that I am not condemning those who choose to marry. However, the fact of the matter is that I can’t necessarily do that. While there is almost certainly some who were right in marrying, I am suspicious that there are so many that were really needful of it. In any case, I hope that you are able to read this with an even mind and I welcome any comments you may have.

Of everything that man ought do, each thing helps man to reach that for which he is intended. So, then, the things that man ought to do can be found by finding what will grow man towards his destiny.

What is man’s destiny? Expressed in one word, we might say enlightenment. This word may have for some connotations which are decidedly unchristian and I plead with you to forget those connotations for a time. The term means being in a lit up state, light has been shed on you. This word conveys a wealth of meaning and can be understood as meaning “knowing the Logos” or being one with the Word. It is a sort of knowledge, although it may not come of our own reason, and resembles the sudden fitting together of puzzle pieces. At this point some may think that I mean salvation. In a sense I do, but, if salvation is understood as the moment of justification, then that is not what I mean. I mean the long process of maturation into a whole being; the working out of our salvation with fear and trembling. It is for this process that man was made.

What will grow man towards enlightenment? There are, seemingly, two answers to this question. The most common answer would be the vague claim that it is the work of the Holy Spirit and, the second, that the examined life is what allows man to achieve enlightenment. The answer is a conglomeration of both. Man must be thinking to reach enlightenment but the enlightened state would be impossible without divine revelation.

The examined life is the principle of those two partners since without it we couldn’t know what divine revelation or anything else is and, so, our next question naturally is, what makes for the examined life? We may examine life by differentiating between individual things. We may differentiate between things reasonably or foolishly. If reasonably, how so? By being of sound mind. What makes for a sound mind? By being single in purpose, not agitated. So, then, it is a question of whether celibacy or marriage is more conducive to being single in purpose.

Before we embark on demonstrating the case, consider the findings of others on the subject. Paul the Apostle notes this:

Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn [with passion].

1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 8

Also consider this dialogue between Jesus and His disciples:

The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

Matthew 19:10-12

The argument from authority is a particularly weak sort of argument, although this particular one seems clearly in favor of celibacy and based upon the most credible authority. In any case, we press on to the demonstration.

We have already established our premises, that whatever man ought to do will be what leads him to enlightenment, essentially, most effectively living the Christian life. So then, it seems a simple thing to show the chain of reasoning.

If man is celibate, then he will be single in purpose, not concerned with caring for a wife and child but only with living rightly. If single in purpose, then of sound mind. If of sound mind, then able to reasonably differentiate between things. If able to reasonably differentiate between things, then able to examine life. If able to examine life, then able to become enlightened and therefore to achieve his destiny.

There are miscelaneous objections to this chain, the most notable of which, to me, is that it does not strictly show that man cannot become enlightened from within marriage. This is true. But it cannot be said that man is either enlightened or unenlightened for, as the sun shines fully on some and only partially on others, so one man may be fully grasping truth while another only partially. Indeed, man cannot be said to ever grasp truth sublunarily but only possess it to some degree. “Now we see as through a mirror dimly…” The point the argument is intended to make is that marriage is given to those who have not the strength to persevere, not to those who wish to indulge in sex lawfully. I suppose that one other objection might then arise, and might be put “Do any have the strength to persevere?” To which my answer will be to quote a self-evident axiom “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13) The following question might then be, “Are none then to be married?” To which I must honestly state that I do not know the answer. But you may now see why I am suspicious that so many were apparently called to be married in our current situation.

questionae Deus

The Case for Celibacy – Part 1

The Anarchist Parent (Questions on Anarchism – Part 2)

This is part 2 of Clark’s series on anarchism. For the first part, head this way.

Eventually anarchism must encounter the challenge of parenting. How does one be an anarchist while simultaneously exerting control over a child? The confusion here is really due to misconceptions. Primarily, anarchism is concerned with exerting the right kind of control rather than with exerting no control. To an anarchist, the right kind of control is one which controls someone for their betterment. For example, the anarchist seeks to eliminate governmental structures not because she wishes to be totally rebellious and free to do whatsoever she pleases (though some idiots claiming to be anarchists might act this way), but to allow the exertion of a new kind of control which is the morality of the individual. Indeed, control or obligation or authority can never be eliminated from the world although man may resist them. Man’s appetites will always exert some form of control and things like “the moral high ground” or charisma will always exert some authority. It is not the anarchist’s desire to see those things removed and, really, she could not remove them if she had millennia at her disposal; those things are entailed by humanity.

How then does the anarchist parent? The challenge is to avoid metaphorical and literal arm twisting. Truly, the challenge is to parent the way that God may be said to parent; He asks us to conform to the way the world works. He has made it that way and that may strike us as terribly unfair. But I think it can be demonstrated, not here but another time, that God’s world is the one best suited to our fulfilment. As such, He really asks us to conform to the way the best possible world works. The challenge is the same for a parent; she must create the home as a world, specifically a facsimile of the way the world works; she must learn to “play God” and do so morally.

How might she go about morally playing the role of God? She must seek to give the child whatever she needs to achieve her purpose, to realize her humanity to the fullest extent. Often parenting is understood in negative terms as the disallowance of certain actions. Parenting is less another name for prison warden and more a name for tutor which teaches every subject. This process relies on the child being able to be highly independent and able to learn on her own because, true to the maxim that lessons are better caught than taught, a child will learn more thoroughly on her own than strictly guided. So, then, what are ingredients to this mode of parentage?

Pillar one of this facsimile world is before a child even seems capable of understanding, she must be taught how to reason. Clearly, very early on, the child may not know much progress, but the concepts of logic and right reason must be drilled into her head through memorization and demonstration. It must be constantly humming in her ears because it is upon that early education that the rest of her life will be built. The parent will also likely find that discipline will be considerably easier when the parent is able to clearly articulate a reasonable reason for discipline and the child is able to simultaneously understand. This pillar is based upon God’s gifting of the intellect to mankind, so the parent gifts the right and orderly use of the intellect to the child.

Pillar two is quite simple but by no means easy. The child must, as soon as some comprehension is apparent, begin learning the history of human thought, not the history of the world, but the history of philosophy. From the pre-Socratics to the present postmodernism the child must move, albeit at a more condensed and rapid pace, along the same path that humanity is taken. This is not to cause the child to blindly conform to this path, but to give her the opportunity to analyze and criticize and so build upon the shoulders of humanity. Many a bright young person has been confounded and defeated by discovering that the world was not as she thought it was, as she experienced it in her parent’s home. Perhaps the greatest ailment of modern evangelicalism is this lack of interaction with previous work and, for this reason, young people often scramble to “reinvent the wheel” upon stepping into a facility of higher education. This pillar is similar to the process of a “classical” education and to God’s gift of history which is passed on by the parent to the child for the convenience of the child.

Pillar three is also quite simple. The child, at a relatively later age, perhaps seven or ten, must begin an examination of the arts; painting, poetry, music, rhetoric, etc. Similarly to the second pillar, this pillar seeks to show the child what has already been done so that she might build upon it. Again, this pillar bears similarity to God’s gift of creativity; the parent delivers not creativity itself, but the fruits of creativity.

Pillar four is physical exercise and, perhaps, a welcome familiarity to the reader. Physical exercise is of critical importance as a life-long habit. Although there are many forms of physical exercise, the kind most useful is a system which combines as many pillars into physical practice as possible. Therefore, some form of martial arts will fulfill this pillar most efficiently. The child will combine physical exercise with martial theory, a theory which is not only useful on the battlefield but in the life of the mind and in the boardroom. The child will also combine the core concepts of art and creativity with physical exercise and, lastly, the child will harness a sort of release of aggression and achieve a measure of self-control through martial arts. There are many kinds of martial arts and many which have been stripped of their effectiveness in favor of ferocity, but some form like Aikido, or traditional forms of Kung Fu like Tai Chi remain as effective forms of comparatively non-aggressive exercise. The emphasis through traditional martial arts is not to teach aggression. The intent is to teach the ideal of self-controlled strength and healthiness. Yogic exercises would form a suitable discipline also, as well as being less identified with martial arts, although, ironically, yoga was practiced in connection with martial discipline in history. This pillar is similar of course to God’s gift of a physical body.

The truth is, that enacting each of these pillars simultaneously does two important things; stewards God’s gifts as well as, in parenting, stewarding the greatest gift, children. The anarchist parents by setting the child up to understand complex issues and to live healthfully, thus avoiding arm twisting. This also ensures that the parent cannot become a despot without actively surrendering authority to the child who will know exactly how to snap it up. The anarchist actively stewards the child by giving her the tools needed to become successful herself. The anarchist parent does not surrender authority but seeks to cultivate the morally and logically right authority in the home.

The Anarchist Parent (Questions on Anarchism – Part 2)

Ecclesiastes Told a Different Way

There once was a young lad on a boat. He wondered why he had be placed into the boat. He saw the things in the boat, possessions, pleasures, labor, people etc., and he wondered

“Why am I here? If I have no purpose then neither do these things.”

And he wondered. He wondered why indulging in these things just seemed to work like drops of water on the tongue; lovely but unsatisfactory. He was sooo hungry!

He was a bright lad and during his time in the boat, he worked out that God must exist; he had no better reason for why anything at all existed. He also worked out that God must have a personality. And if God had a personality, he must have had some end in mind when he stuck the lad in the boat. The lad realized that anything for which he had an appetite was meaningless because, in the end, they just seemed to be distractions. He didn’t know from what they were distracting him until, one day, it fell into his mind like a thunderclap.

“If I had never existed I would never have known this. If I had never been placed on this boat, then I would not have learned that enjoyment comes in moderation or that through words souls become united.”

He pondered again for a time.

“If it is the case that worldly things seem to be only distractions, then clearly I was made for something abstract and extraterrestrial. Then it seems that the only end that I can discern for myself, is that God, in his mercy, has created me to be enlightened and not to be comfortable, for what is comfort to me? If I had all the women, the wine, and the leisure in the world it would not equal an iota of the joy that comes from knowing.”

The lad was then able to die happy for he knew that everything is vanity, that God is merciful and just, and that where evil abounds, there grace abounds all the more.

Ecclesiastes Told a Different Way

Questions on Anarchism – Part I

Note from Caleb: This is Clark’s first post. If you missed his intro, check here. Enjoy!

Dear sirs, I am.

G. K. Chesterton upon being asked what was wrong with the world.

The argument for anarchism must deal with what, to Christian anarchism, is probably the biggest challenge to the system. That challenge is a moral one, and centers around the claim that anarchism must purposely do nothing in regards to immoral practices to avoid placing an obligation on the individual which would defeat the supposed intent of anarchism. But, clearly, where evil is being done to the defenseless, good men cannot remain idle. So, then, how is the anarchist to engage this issue?

Firstly, we would hope that man would quickly learn from his mistakes. Essentially, if it is to be granted, as I think it must, that what is evil is also generally unbeneficial, then man will eventually realize the futility of evil and cease from it. But this may entail a great deal of suffering among those who cannot defend themselves. We will return to this issue.

Secondly, anarchism has nothing against voluntary associations made to protect the weak and so cannot be said to “do nothing”. Here another challenge may arise from the first, anarchism is said to achieve universal peace, yet, if these voluntary groups confront one another, what peace would there be? The anarchist must honestly admit that he has no full answer to this challenge. These groups will not be forced to maintain the peace, for that would, truly, defeat the intent of anarchism, which being the removal of manufactured or societal obligations and restrictions.

However, lying in the intent of anarchism, is the answer to the original challenge. The intent of anarchism is that every person be fully responsible for his own conduct. Why should this be the case? The fact is that, without responsibility, no man will grow to change his actions; he will not encounter the consequences of his actions if someone takes responsibility for them. This same principle may be pursued further, if man learns in proportion to his responsibility, then we may expect that if everything is left in the lap of the individual, then he will be learning as quickly as possible.

The moral things that are, in today’s society, left to organizations and the government, should be burning in the heart of every individual. Christ was adamant that the downtrodden be taken care of; that is the intent of anarchism; to return to the Samaritan the care of his neighbor. So what is the answer to the original challenge? It is that, in anarchism, evil only goes on because the individual has not countered it. The rule of reason must prevail, were someone does evil then we must reason with him. If he refuses to cease, then we may prevent him. But no government must ever take away the responsibility and, therein, the grace available to the individual. The argument that Paul makes, that where sin abounds, there grace abounds all the more[1], is central to anarchism. The idea being that grace is taken from man by a government who stops man from sinning. The objection may arise, again, what about those who will be caught defenseless? Is the death of the defenseless so little in the balance? In Ecclesiastes it is said that the sleep of the laboring man is sweet, whilst the sleep of the fat man is fitful[2]. This refers to the ultimate end of man; each will be judged justly and, so, that objection, which relies on the inherent injustice of death, is not cogent. A new objection may arise, why then do we defend life at all? Simply put, because of the potential joy present in that life; that is why we defend the unborn and all human life. This wondrous good, Joy is not truly available in the finite, earthly life but potential enjoyment of life may be had and so we defend the defenseless. But it could not be said that the potential enjoyment of the individual is more important than the potential enlightenment of the individual.

So, anarchism has no foolproof answer to the difficulties that the freedom of our fellow man will bring. But it is untrue that anarchism does nothing, and it would accomplish less than nothing to take away the responsibility from the individual and, so, divulge him of the grace available to him and his opportunity to learn from his mistakes. Anarchism’s intent is really a very long-distance one. No matter what happens, no matter who dies, there is the dream that an enlightened humanity will arise out of the rubble and achieve a society conducive to the query after truth.

 

[1] Romans 5:20

[2] Ecclesiastes 5:12

Questions on Anarchism – Part I