mituns: (towers)
For many small children, particularly boys, Thomas the Tank Engine is an absolute favorite. Asher is no exception. For little boys, there is something particularly fascinating about machines and machinery and watching things do work. Even with all the cute faces, it's no surprise that the Thomas stories (actually called "The Railway Series") were originally created by a man (the Rev. W. Awdry) for a boy (his son, who was quite ill).

Now, I know Thomas has been criticized by some for, among other things, being "imperialistic", "patriarchal", "capitalist", etc. There is even the charge that the compliment of "really useful engine" is somehow a right-wing conspiracy to get kids to believe that their worth lies in their usefulness (though, personally, I'd have to argue that that is more in line with Marxist ideology, and it certainly isn't Christian).

In any case, even though from Season 3 on, the television show has wandered further and further afield of Rev. Awdry's stories, and now at Season 18 or so, many of the storylines have gotten very thin, I consider Thomas, in general, to be pretty harmless fare, and typically suitable for the little ones.

However, after watching the Thomas film "Day of the Diesels", I can tell you that if I can help it, the movie will not get shown again in this house.

On the surface, it seems like the story is one that has been an integral part of children's storytelling for ages. Thomas' best friend is a little green engine named Percy. Upon the arrival of two new engines to the Island of Sodor (where the engines live and work), Percy is sad because he feels like Thomas' time is being monopolized by these two new engines. Sensing his weakness, Diesel comes over to Percy to convince him that the Diesels all want to be his friend.

Percy knows he ought to be wary of the Diesels (after all, he's always been warned "Diesels can be devious") but he decides to follow Diesel to the Dieselworks, where he is apparently accepted into the Diesels' circle of friends. However, for the most part, Percy is being used, particularly by the terrifying Diesel 10, in order to wreak havoc on the steamworks and get to Sir Topham Hatt.

From the synopsis here, it's still a storyline that could be pulled off. However, there are a lot of disturbing elements which are thrown in the mix of this film. (Yes, there are "spoilers" in the coming paragraphs.) First of all, the Diesels are portrayed as an oppressed race. Despite the fact that the Steamies (Thomas, et al.) are on good terms with diesels such as Mavis and Salty, and they don't like most of the diesels because of the way the Diesels treat them, the movie really seems to try to push that the Steamies don't like the Diesels simply for the fact that they are Diesels, that is, the Steamies are discriminating against the Diesels. This is reinforced by all of the Diesels whining about how Sir Topham Hatt "only cares about" the Steamies and how much nicer the Steamies have things than the Diesels do, and how the Diesels have to make do without a repair crane, etc. Percy then feels it is his job to try to "rectify" the situation by doing things such as convincing Kevin (the Steamies' repair crane) to sneak away to help the Diesels.

Now Diesel 10 is the ringleader of the Diesels' devious deeds. Once Thomas comes to see the Dieselworks, he is locked up in a shed and Diesel 10 "accidentally" manages to set a fire that will be the end of Thomas if it's not put out. (Why the filmmakers thought this was appropriate for preschoolers is beyond me.) While the Steamies are busy trying to fight the fire at the Dieselworks, Diesel 10 leads a troop of Diesels to the Steamworks to "take over", though in reality, they are just trashing the entire place. Once the Steamies have taken care of the Dieselworks, they have to confront the Diesels over at the Steamworks. Once the Diesels have been taken care of (to some extent) Sir Topham Hatt makes an appearance explaining that it was always his plan to fix up the Dieselworks, but that these things take time.

There are so many weird messages in this film, it's really hard to note all of them. First of all, if the Diesels are really being discriminated against, why did the film portray them, ultimately, as fitting into every negative stereotype that the Steamies had of them? Why, then, does the movie end with a "new era of understanding and cooperation" between the Diesels and the Steamies? Apparently, the problem wasn't that the Diesels continue to be devious, but that they were simply misunderstood. Despite nearly causing Thomas' demise, Diesel 10's only punishment is that he has to clean up the mess in the Steamworks. Would not a more logical punishment have been either to permanently bar Diesel 10 from Sodor or to "send him to the smelter's"? Instead, the Diesels get their new Dieselworks, and since the old one has burnt down they get it right away as well. The only lesson here is that the next time they want something that they don't get immediately, all they have to do is terrorize Sodor, and eventually they will get it. That's a lesson we surely want all children learning, isn't it? Unfortunately, it's a lesson that too many people around the world are using to their own ends.
mituns: (freiheit)
Popular sentiment these days would have one believe that the line Janis Joplin belts out in "Me and Bobby McGee" is the truth about freedom these days: Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. Of course, the insinuation is here that maybe it's better to be "attached" to something, that somehow freedom isn't all that it's cracked up to be. However, even in this simplistic rendering of "freedom", it goes to figure that if one has nothing left to lose, they are in the position of being open to gain anything.

In honor of Independence Day, in the U.S., the 4th of July, it does well to actually speak a little about freedom and why it is so important. In this sense, it's not that when one is "free", he or she has the ability to do "whatever you want", but more to the point, that one is not made a lifelong slave to forces outside of one's control. The Founding Fathers of the U.S. understood this keenly, having been subjects of the British Crown, and having felt that their calls for self-determination were increasingly falling upon deaf ears, they decided that it was imperative to throw off these bonds subjugating them.

This was not a decision that was taken lightly, and, if one is to believe the words of the Declaration of Independence, it was one made when American colonists felt as though there was no other recourse; that King George was a tyrant that could not be reasoned with, who felt that he was above the law that he, as King, was supposed to represent.

And so, reading through the Bill of Rights, for example, the unifying theme here is freedom. In Amendment 1, spelled out are the rights to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association and assembly; in short, freedoms to do and say that which pleases him, which is not what a slave can do. With the 2nd Amendment, the point is less about guns or weapons, but about the right of someone to defend himself - after all, when one is a slave, one has no little to no right to assert himself, even if he is being gravely wronged. The 3rd Amendment, though many see it as kind of irrelevant these days also falls into this pattern, because it asserts that one's property cannot be used as though it is government property. It's no surprise that the 4th Amendment, then, deals more explicitly with the sovereignty of one's domain and property, for how much easier is it to enslave someone than by depriving one of his property? These are rights enumerated as general freedoms given to all.

Beginning with the 4th Amendment, we transition into rights granted persons suspected of law-breaking; the 4th amendment continues on to guarantee that searches and seizures can only be conducted with a warrant obtained on approved and specific suspicion, the 5th deals with the right not to self-incriminate, as well as a suspect being free of "double-jeopardy", that is, a person need only to face a court for an offense once, rather than possibly having the same offense haunt them even after being acquitted. The sixth, seventh, and eighth continue to deal with the rights of the accused, which, again is the sort of treatment one can only expect when all people are equal in the eyes of the law and when all people have their own little island of sovereignty when it comes to the respect of how individuals conduct their lives.

The 9th and 10th Amendments, when seen through the lens of freedom, deal with the relationship between the individual and the state; that the Constitution, in many senses, is a document restraining the government from claiming itself sovereign over the individual. This is why many see the Constitution as a document of "negative liberties".

Yet in all of this talk about freedom, why is it so important? Many people still find it easier to let the course of their lives be determined by others and find comfort in not taking the risks necessary to live as a free person. One answer can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which boldly states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." In short, God created man to be free, and therefore it is man's right not to be enslaved by those who would, by infringing on his God-given rights, would cause him to be enslaved.

Now, to those who have very little understanding of the Bible and of Christianity in general, it seems ludicrous to assert that God created man to be free. After all, isn't Christianity all about all the rules one must adhere to, seriously cramping the way one would want to live? Isn't the Bible more or less the handbook of all the "rules". And who can be expected to follow rules that were made all those years ago? Hasn't our society "matured" past that? I touched a little bit upon this in a previous post (, where basically I make the case that by following Christ, one finds lasting freedom.

Furthermore, I would also make the case that one of the overarching themes of the Bible, both Old Testament and New, is about freedom, both individual and societal, and the consequences of misusing this freedom is not just the downfall of individuals (say Adam or Samson) but also of nations (such as Old Testament Israel, but also Sodom and Gomorrah, for example). It may seem counter-intuitive that lasting freedom comes from submission to God, but in this same theme of freedom, we see in the New Testament that through Christ, we can attain the ultimate freedom; in this life, the freedom to be able to exercise self-determination, self-reliance, and self-accountability, and in the next the freedom that heaven is. Surely it is quite unique on the face of the earth that a nation should be established that espouses this God-given freedom as the basis of its founding!

Surely, too, this ultimate freedom is something so precious that not only is it worth fighting for, but also worth dying for, because we know that even death will have no hold on us and that there is little else that we can "give" our posterity that is so precious. Nothing left to lose, indeed!
mituns: (shoes)
It's one thing to pledge to serve one's country, it's quite another to be made subservient to the state. Christian faith allows for the former, but teaches that as Christians, we must resist the latter.
mituns: (freiheit)
One day, when I was a senior in college I ended up talking with an older, international student in the basement of the library. We talked about a range of things and I think that it was interesting to him to get the perspective of an American, but by the time I had to make it to my next class (or whatever it was I was going to) I was pretty creeped out, and I made sure I ducked into a building I really wasn't headed to so that this man wouldn't know where I was going.

The reason for my discomfort? In the course of the conversation, he, of course, was trying to ascertain my status. (I say "of course" because it's a very run-of-the-mill question in college.) The conversation went on, but he started to try to make the point that it was only with the experience of sex could one have any true "perspective" of the world. This wasn't some passing comment or throwaway line that he was parroting, but a sentiment that he seemed to be really stuck on.

Now, the sentiment itself is creepy enough, but probably the creepier part is that the insinuation seemed to be "Hey girl, why don't you leave the library with me and let me give you some "perspective" on the world." Of course, after relaying the story to some of my close friends, gaining "perspective" came to be a running joke among us.

As creepy as the whole encounter was, I can't necessarily say that this man was doing anything but repeating what secular morality would have people believe. In days past, Descartes reasoned, "I think, therefore I am," which, among other things, indicates the supremacy of reason in the human being. These days, that mantra seems to have been changed to "I have sex, therefore I am," which is a complete reversal of the supremacy of the intellect to the supremacy of emotion.

At least with Descartes', the premise is universal; even if we don't understand exactly what goes on in the minds of people who have had extensive brain injuries, for example, it's difficult to say that there is nothing going on there. However, with the latter premise, not only does it fail logically, as there is no "magic perspective" or "personhood" granted to one for having sex, it doesn't take into account that there are tons of people, such as children, who shouldn't be having sex.

The Biblical standard for sex is that it's something that is reserved for married couples. For as long as I can remember, popular culture has rebelled against this, characterizing it as prudish and unrealistic, while feeding us a constant diet of why it is "okay" for people to have sex whenever they want. After all, One doesn't even need to go into the moral implications, however, to understand that when sex is reserved for marriage, it brings both partners into an equality that merely "succumbing to the urge" cannot.

I sincerely believe that the promotion of all sorts of promiscuous sexual behavior is not just one way to try to mock Christian morality, but also is a means to make people slaves of their own passions. After all, a person who has been trained to "do what feels good" has hardly built up the sort of moral fortitude needed to forgo pleasure when times would call upon this individual to stick to logic to accomplish a "higher" mission.
mituns: (towers)
There is a movie called "The Lives of Others" which is set in East Germany and deals with the surveillance state that East Germany was, and how this surveillance got abused for personal gain. East Germany, of course, is not the only place where people lived with the constant threat of being overheard. Nazi Germany was another, and another was the Soviet Union. Reading the book "Everyday Saints - and other stories" one of the stories deals with a high official in the Orthodox Church, who was allowed make a trip outside of the USSR who wanted to relay information to a priest in the UK. Knowing that there was a very good chance that, even in London, he was being listened to, "In order for them to speak, they actually needed to lie down on the floor, so that the Secret Service agents tailing Metropolitan Nicodemus, and never once leaving him alone, would not be able to record their conversation through the windows."

Now it has been alleged that the NSA (perhaps in conjunction with the GCHQ) is basically spying on everyone in the United States. On one hand, we've been told that anything that the NSA (or any other agency) does is for our own safety & protection. After all, we 'don't want to let the terrorists win'.

Being a student of recent history, though, I have quite a different opinion. When governments feel the need to spy into every aspect of ordinary citizen's lives, it is never done for the security of the citizen, but for the security of the state. In a free country, those two things are synonymous; however, in a state that relies on the suppression of dissenting opinions to survive, the two are vastly different. The information gained from universal spying on one's own citizens is meant - by design - as a weapon to be used against the individual. That we have promises that it would probably never be used in such a way does nothing to allay my fears because the fact still remains that this weapon has been created and can easily be individualized for use against any one of us.

Am I being paranoid here? I don't think so. I already brought up the case of East Germany, but it is hardly the only example. When this type of information is collected, it not only becomes a weapon of the government as a whole, but also of any group or individual who might be able to gain access to it. So you tick off some alderman in your town. If said alderman can access this information or has connections to people who can, it becomes easy for these people to make your life a living hell. Furthermore, when government agencies collude to make themselves a burden to someone (see the case of Catherine Engelbrecht, who found herself a target not just of the IRS, but also the ATF, FBI, and OSHA ). How many of us have the resources to defend ourselves under such an onslaught?

(This isn't even mentioning how this information can become a weapon for other "less friendly" entities - imagine China hacking into a database of information on American citizens!)

Now, Google's CEO has said the following: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." This is a ridiculous position to take. Just because you don't want people to know about something, doesn't mean that one is doing something illegal or even wrong. Look at how many people give donations to charities anonymously. Some of this may be done in self-interest, such as when people don't want others to know how "loaded" they are or something, but to give without wanting outward praise for something is specifically Biblical (Matthew 6:4). Should people not have this right? Furthermore, taking again the example of the alderman, isn't it the right of a free citizen to be able to express opinions contrary to the alderman's without fear of repercussions for holding a different personal or political belief? Yes, it is understandable that people generally don't want their misdeeds to be known, but there is other recourse for dealing with illegal activity without assuming that everyone is a criminal to begin with. (Then again, with the plethora of laws that get passed, in the eyes of government, everyone is a criminal.)

I cannot vouch for the motives of Edward Snowden, and I won't try to. However, whatever his motives, if what he is saying about what government is doing to people is true, we as a people - as THE people - need to stand up and say that this is absolutely unacceptable. The ramifications for continuing on with it are just too great.
mituns: (Default)
First of all, a big shout-out and "Thank you!" to Bookworm at for her lavish praise about my last post. I'm still blushing. I guess the inspiration for it came from having lived most my life, like Bookworm, in a place where people are overwhelmingly politically liberal. For all their talk about caring about others, when one tries to (non-politically) bring up a topic where someone has been done an injustice (because you'd think, "hey, those caring liberals"), the response is usually a pat, "Well, sucks to be them" or "I'm glad it's not me!", which pretty much ends the conversation.

But here's the real post: :)


About an hour after lunch the other day, I went into the kitchen to fix myself some tea, and Asher followed me, wanting a treat.

Now, he had eaten really well at lunch, saving no room for a treat right after lunch, so I had no problem giving him a treat at this point.

Tabitha, seeing this, asked me, "Mommy, can I have some candy like Asher?"

I replied, "No. He didn't have his treat right after lunch, so he's having it now. You had Sweet Tarts."

She interrupted me, "No, not Sweet Tarts. Bottle caps. And I didn't have any bottle caps."

At this point, I really wanted to laugh, but it took some doing to calm her down and to explain again why she wasn't getting a piece of candy at this point in the day. Children, by nature, are self-centered. It's a part of self-preservation. As children get older, though, it's the responsibility of the parents to teach children a code of morality, at the very least. However, at her age, she still basically understands right and wrong as "this is a yes-yes" and "this is a no-no" in the sense of things that she is or is not allowed to do. When it comes to things like answering my question about whether she already had candy, she understands that how she answers will bring about one of two results - a "good" result and a "bad" result. By saying she has not had candy, she is hoping for the "good" result. At her age, I don't even think it's quite fair to call it lying.

During the first Presidential debate in 2012, Mitt Romney made a hard-hitting point that just because somebody repeats something over and over again, as children do, it doesn't make it true. Yet it seems like there are more and more adults that have never lost that self-centeredness, and have never learned the morality in the difference between a right and a wrong answer, and answers which they hope will produce a "good" outcome or a "bad" outcome. My opinion is that this is probably why we have so many shameless pathological liars these days - and the sad thing is that they're probably not even aware anymore of what the truth is. (Could this also be called "result-oriented approach"?)
mituns: (shoes)
First they came for the Evangelicals
But they just want everyone to follow their oppressive rules
So I was fine with that

Then they came for the conservatives
But they are just greedy bastards who want to take away poor people's benefits,
So I was fine with that

Then they came for the gun owners
But we can't have crazy people shooting kids
So I was fine with that

Then they came for the Jews
But it's not fair that they run the world
So I was fine with that

Then they came for the homeschoolers
But they just want to brainwash their children
So I was fine with that

Then they came for the "preppers"
But they are just crazy anti-government agitators
So I was fine with that

Then they came for the Catholics
Because hey, why not?
So I was fine with that

So now that we're living in our glorious utopia
They came for me
And I can't imagine why everyone else is fine with that.

-The author of this blog -

(sincere apologies to M. Niemoeller)
mituns: (Default)
If Asher were to see the "missing child" poster of Bryeon Hunter, I'm sure he'd be excited. After all, Bryeon is wearing Lightning McQueen pajamas, and for little boys of a certain age, Lightning McQueen is pretty exciting. When we go shopping, Asher manages to see his favorite characters all over the place, be it the videos themselves, clothes, party favors, or coloring books, and I always need to keep an eye on the cart to make sure that he doesn't lunge out to grab things like this.

When I see the same poster, I see a dear little child, very close in age to my own son, who already looks apprehensive about life.

And it's no wonder that this little child would, considering what his "mother" and her boyfriend put little Bryeon through. In the end (allegedly), they beat him to death, dumped his little body in the Des Plaines river, and then lied about it, claiming "three Hispanic men" made off with him.

The sheriff's office, along with volunteers, searched the river for Bryeon's body, but with storms and a swelling river, didn't find it.

Enter Robert Larson. Now, he doesn't come into the situation as a complete stranger to search and rescue, being as he trains dogs to be able to search out survivors of catastrophes and bodies (when it comes to that), but as a man, and as the father of a young boy himself, he made it his mission to find the body of Bryeon Hunter. Eventually he did, after pouring hundreds of hours of his own time into the effort. He believed, as decent people do, that even if there was nothing more that could be done to help Bryeon in life, his little body still deserved some form of respect - the same sort of respect his caregivers did not give him in life. As he said, too, there is nothing that this little boy could have done to deserve what happened to him. As much as I've dealt with plenty of frustration as a mother, I also know this to be fundamentally true.

Unfortunately, there are far too many children who live through situations like this, and the problem is only getting worse. One of the biggest factors in child abuse is the lack of an intact family, but particularly in cases where there is a mother and a "boyfriend", the chance of child abuse skyrockets. This is no exception.

Of course, this is an inconvenient fact for many, and even in the article linked to there, one of the women interviewed didn't want people to think that she was saying that people ought to "go back to the past" where there are mores about marriage or sexuality or cohabitation. Yet it seems to escape most people that these mores, whether they came about by religious influences or not, were there, in particular, to help protect who were the most helpless in such situations.

And of course, there seem to always be the people who would like to scream "racism" in every situation. One of the most tired arguments is that had the mother had more "support" things wouldn't have turned out this way. One can't be serious in saying that $50 more a month on her EBT card or "greater access to daycare" would have changed much about the kind of monster of a person she turned out to be.

Yet it was a total stranger, a white man, who spent hours and hours trying to give her son some shred of dignity that she could not afford him. As with people who screech about abortion, that "all pro-life people care about is the baby being born, not the mother or the child growing up", this is patently false. I'm sure that if Bryeon's "mother" had shown up on Mr. Larson's doorstep, out of the blue and asked him to take her son because she couldn't, he wouldn't have turned her away; in fact, the hours it might have taken to help find someplace better for this little boy would be much easier than spending so many hours hunting for a body. But it didn't need to be Mr. Larson either; I don't know anyone who would have turned away a child in such desperate need, and I do know of others who actually have been there to take in kids whose parents, for whatever reason, couldn't take care of them for a time. People do love and care about little children, regardless of race, and it's a shame that we live in a day in age where this is a point that needs to be made in the face of all the race-mongering that goes on in our society.

God bless Mr. Larson, who not only had the ability and the opportunity to do good, but also the will to actually do it. I commend him greatly for it. Mr. Larson's compassion for this little boy also reminds me of a woman - Mary Peck - who made it her mission to claim and bury the remains of 4-year-old Jerrell Willis, whose mother and stepfather beat him to death, and then dumped his body under a bridge in Philadelphia. Nobody knew who this little boy was, and so she waited seven years to be able to do this, burying him with a headstone, something that she would eschew herself. She never knew what his name really was, as she died before the case of this child's death was solved. Even as a widow battling cancer, you can't convince me that she wouldn't have helped that little boy in life, had she been given the chance. (Mrs. Peck also reminds me of Joseph of Arimathea, in her "quiet way" who is celebrated by the Orthodox today.)

At the very least, it is faith that gives us some comfort in knowing that these poor children are with God, where their unbearable pain is no more. In the meantime, let us resolve to also do what we can where we can.
mituns: (freiheit)
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemöller

Back in the days of the Third Reich, there was a saying that went such Halts Maul - sonst kommst nach Dachau. Basically, it translates to "Shut your mouth, otherwise you'll be going to Dachau". Now, one of the theories that floats around about why Germans didn't speak up to defend the Jews is because they simply didn't know what was happening. Now, this isn't to say that every German knew the extent of the extermination camps, but with sayings like this, it's obvious that people had a general sense of terrible things going on, and that people would be silent in the hope that this wouldn't happen to them. All in all, that reaction is very human; after all, who wants to do things to attract persecution? However, the price of this silence was the lives of millions of other people, not only Jews, but anybody who did have the courage to oppose the regime. The Nazi government knew that they could use this type of fear to control people, and they implemented policies such as Sippenhaft which was the policy of not only punishing someone who spoke out against them, but punishing family members as well. For most people, this was too much to deal with, because even if they were willing to go to prison or die themselves, most were not willing to put their families and associates in such danger.

In hearing about the scandals breaking out dealing with the IRS, dealing with hassling conservatives group applying for non-profit status, illegally getting health care records, the government getting AP phone records, the EPA selectively waiving fees for "friendly" groups, etc., a lot of people are celebrating that maybe the country is waking up to the corruption of this current US government.

Call me a cynic, but hearing about these scandals break all together strikes me as highly suspicious. I believe that there is a high probability that these scandals "broke" on purpose, in order to further cow people from participating in resistance to the government. The revelations that the story breaking was scriped and that the woman in charge of the IRS at the time this was happening got a promotion to the Obamacare division of the IRS only serves to strenghten my view. I believe that this is being used as a warning to the American people to let them know the kind of things the government is capable of to destroy the voices of opposition.

Short of a complete replacement of the entire government or a complete dismantling of the IRS, EPA, etc, I don't believe that anything substantial is going to change. As many people contemplate the risks of not complying with Obamacare (for instance) knowing that these institutions still exist and still operate is a huge consideration. Who's to say that a family that won't support Obamacare wouldn't have their kids taken away for neglect? An audit pales in comparison. Who's willing to risk that?

Furthermore, for those who believe that there is some recourse in due process, there may be. But like in the case of these conservative groups, how many of them just gave up rather than have to deal with this? If one's kids are taken, and if one regains custody it's a measure of years before that happens, is that really justice? Many of Obama's nominees for various positions have rightfully been challenged for being overly partisan or incompetant or malicious. This is not an accident; it's a clear message to let people know that if they stand in the way of the agenda, they will be dealt with accordingly. That Obama seems to stay aloof from all of this is also no accident. After all, as Solzhenitsyn wrote, upon hearing of Stalin's death, there were people weeping in sorrow, because even after all they had been through, they could not believe that Stalin himself - as hero of "the people" could possibly have anything to do with such atrocities.
mituns: (towers)
One of the more oft-quoted statements of Jesus is "the poor will always be with you". It comes in context of a woman anointing the feet of Jesus with an expensive perfume, and Judas complaining that it would have been better for the perfume to be sold and the proceeds given to the poor.

From this statement, I don't think it's overreaching to extrapolate from this that there will always be need; that no matter what we do, there is always someone who can use a helping hand. As Christians, we should always be ready and willing to help others out. Many people have tried to point out the difference between helping others through personal charity and being forced to through government compulsion, and it is a very valid point, but it really only scratches the surface.

The larger problem is that, particularly because there always be the poor among us, there is always a need for something. There are also different ideas about how to satisfy these needs.

For example, I happened to hear about this place in northern Idaho on the radio once, called Kinderhaven. I guess that up there, the situation was that if somebody was arrested and they had kids that needed to be cared for, the kids either ended up staying with the parent in lockup or they ended up sitting at juvenile hall until other arrangements could be made. Somebody decided that neither of these options were terribly good, and set up a licensed home where children - from birth up to mid-teens - could be brought until they could be taken care of by others. It's a great idea, and certainly fills a need. It is also a charity, and as such, depends on donations to continue this important work. I daresay, though, that it runs more efficiently than a government entity, and does more for the kids, the donors, and the staff than if it were just another government agency.

However, not everyone thinks like this. There is a young woman who runs one of the biggest databases of missing people in the US. She does this completely on her own and does a fantastic job with it. She also has an accompanying blog. One day she was commenting that many families of missing people - especially the families of kids - end up in pretty rough shape after someone goes missing: Among other things, many parents lose jobs (and healthcare) because they spend so much time away searching for their child. In any case, the tenor of the comments started out with, "Oh, it would be so nice if there were someone there to help them," to "The government ought to do something to help these people." A couple of the people there seemed to be taken aback when I said that it sounded like a wonderful charity idea, and I think I also mentioned that they could get started with it themselves.

What was striking was that with the people in the latter example, the idea that the government might take some more money from them was okay, but that it would be too difficult to do something privately. Of course, some of this comes from the idea - which is totally against what the Christian faith teaches - that the individual does not matter, and cannot do anything of consequence on one's own. In this mindset, the only way to effect change is doing so by using the overarching "structure" of government. In this way too, one never has to be the lone voice, the one fool in the wilderness.

However, the problem is, as I stated before, that there always is a need, whether it's a place for kids to go when their parents are in trouble, or if it's support to families of missing people, or creating a place for kids to get out of the house and play on rainy days. The structure of government - any government - is not such that it does very much effectively, and the more needs it tries to satisfy, the more poorly it satisfies all the others. The effect then, is not of the empowerment that comes from giving freely to charity, and people's lives being changed for the better because they recognize that love, but rather that those who pay for the government become slaves to it as its scope becomes greater, and those who receive its "benefit" learn to not only consider it an entitlement, but learn to hate those who support them.
mituns: (freiheit)
One of the themes that Paul expounds on in the Bible is of freedom in Christ; that Christians, despite whatever situation they may find themselves in, are free people.

This flies in the face of today's conventional wisdom, which would have everyone believe that religion - and in particular, Christianity - is a bunch of rules that are put together to infringe on a person's freedom (and fun). Furthermore, even among political "conservatives" there is a wide breach between those who view freedom more in the sense of a Biblical standard, and those more libertarian-leaning friends who view freedom as just being able to do what one wants.

I am old enough now to have watched friends of mine get into train-wreck situations in large part due to making one bad decision after another. Yes, that is their right to do. However, as a result, they are not happier people, and they now are subject to a lot less freedom (due to bankruptcies, divorces, emotional baggage and the like) than they would have been had they followed the path toward Christ. Would it have been an easy road? No, certainly not. However, especially in the long run, striving toward virtue, particularly Christian virtue, pays off.

It seems that most sin is like addiction; one cannot just sin and be done with it, but that sins get repeated over and over again. In this life of sin, the choices that are open to us narrow, and we are left, picking between the "lesser" of evils, barring that we don't go the path of complete repentance. (And even in repentance, there are times when we still must live with the consequences of what was done forever.)

A life lived in Christ, on the other hand, is one that sets out a framework for the individual as well as a society to live in harmony. In the course of history, I do not believe that there is any other type of society other than those based on Christian ideals that allows all members - Christians or not - to be able to reap such bountiful rewards of citizenship. However, as Christians, we cannot be fooled into thinking that this is merely the result of happenstance, and we must be ready to defend this framework not only because of our own faith, but because we want to see as many people as possible be able to fulfill their potential. When this system is attacked, it is not because this system is not "inclusive" enough, but rather because there are so many who are more interested in trying to amass power among a people who are enslaved. The easiest way to get there, though, is first to make a person slave to his own vices. To do that, Christian virtue must be done away with. (Again, with mind to our libertarian friends, Ayn Rand was wrong, and excellence does not necessarily beget virtue.)

In the case of Hans and Sophie Scholl, whose Christian faith was the key motivation behind standing up against, both of them left this earthly realm with the word "freedom" on their lips. Yes, they were standing up for the freedom of Germany, but in so doing, found a freedom that is much deeper and which lasts forever. This is the freedom of which Paul writes: freedom of the individual, freedom of spirit, freedom in Christ.
mituns: (Default)
My husband and I thought that potty-training Tabitha was going to be a snap. We brought home the little potty, and the first time she sat on it, she seemed to have an innate grasp of what she was supposed to do.

That was over a year and a half ago, and Tabitha is still in diapers. For some reason, she has it in her mind that she absolutely does not want to use the potty. This is starting to become a problem, because, being tall, the sizes of clothes she wears are starting to not be accommodating to wearing diapers.

For the last several months, though, Tabitha has been fascinated with bicycles, and desperately wanted one. Every time we go to a store like Wal-Mart or Target, she wants to go over and see them. She's of an athletic enough disposition that I'm sure she'll have no problem riding one of her own.

And so, we came up with the idea to tell Tabitha that if she starts using the potty, she can have a bicycle. We assumed that this would be a motivation to her to get rid of the diapers.

So far, we've been quite wrong. It would be hilarious how she's changed her tune about wanting a bicycle if it weren't so sad that she'd give up on something so precious to her over something so trivial as potty-training. She still wants to visit the bicycles in the stores, but now she's convinced herself that she doesn't need one. She'll look in books with pictures of bicycles and tricycles, and point to the tricycle and say things like, "I have a tricycle, and I can have fun with that."

Now, I'm sure that this issue with potty-training will work itself out. It's not like she'll be 15 and still walking around in diapers. However, it strikes me as crazy that even at three, when something seems like it will be difficult, instead of rising to the challenge for the greater reward, she is trying her hardest to convince herself that she is satisfied with the status quo. It also serves to remind me how often we do this in our own lives, but unlike potty-training, there are many things that we walk away from entirely because we're so uncomfortable with the effort needed to attain bigger and better things.
mituns: (Default)
I happened to randomly catch the tail end of a radio program, and as their last item, they announced a "notable" death, which, in itself, is not all that uncommon. The thing is, the person who died was known for his work in the "adult entertainment" industry.

Now, there are many times when I don't recognize who people are in celebrity gossip, or have any idea who is supposedly famous. On the radio show, there were two announcers, one male and one female. The man announced the death, and the woman seemed puzzled for a moment. The man repeated the name in a suggestive tone, and the woman responded by saying, "Oh THAT ______" and tittered on air. Not only was the tittering unprofessional and jarring, but it says something when a national radio program finds it proper to announce this person's death as a "celebrity", apparently, on the assumption that everybody is watching porn.
mituns: (Default)
Andrew Breitbart was, among other things, a compulsive tweeter. Just before his untimely death, nearly a year ago, he tweeted Apologize for WHAT?. This was in conversation with somebody, but as it was his penultimate tweet, and summed up so much of his philosophy, it became a rallying cry for many.

There are many well-known sayings about dealing with "differences of opinion". One of the most common is that "There are two sides to every story." Although usually not stated, the insinuation here is that no one is completely at fault for a disagreement; that both sides are obviously coming from some sort of rational position, but that there is a lack of communication between the sides that cause the conflict. The assumption here is that some sort of mediation can resolve the difference in opinion.

Another saying is "It takes two to tango." This saying insinuates that a disagreement or conflict has come about, and it has only continued to the point that it has because both parties are engaging in behavior to prolong the conflict. Hence, the assumption made is that if (and most often, only if) both parties change their behavior, the conflict can be resolved. This totally negates the very common occurrence where one party is constantly causing annoyance and harm to the other.

When there is an occasion of one party aggrieving the other, and that party finally deciding that they will take a step of an apology, although the apology may be sincere, it is often only for some small portion of said aggrievances, and there is very often the expectation that the other party apologize too. Not only does that fit into the idea of "it takes two to tango" but it leaves the aggressive party feeling some sort of moral equivalency - he is sorry for what he did, but he has also received an apology for the wrongs done unto him, which in his mind, proves that wrongs were done him.

So many of us fall into this trap over and over again. It's not that we shouldn't be generous to others, and, if we are Christian, it isn't that we shouldn't be quick to forgive. However, under the guise of generosity and forgiveness, and "keeping the peace" and "harmony" many of us, when expected to apologize for "our part" in a dispute, want the dispute to be over so badly that, like those tortured with days-long sleeplessness by the KGB, are willing to apologize for anything, including existence, promising to never again transgress in such a manner.

This is no way to live, always afraid of offending others. In the sphere of international relations, it is called a "negative peace". There is no way to walk through this life with any type of moral conviction, without someone having a problem with it. The choice we have is whether we stand strong in what we believe, or do we capitulate in order to "make nice". The specific situation Andrew Breitbart referenced is a little bit different, but "Apologize for WHAT?" is fitting in any case where one has honestly come up against someone whose purpose is to hurt or destroy the other. Sometimes it hurts terribly to keep up this stance, but ultimately, betraying one's self hurts a lot more.
mituns: (czech cross)
Just a thought, so bear with me...

The generation who came of age in the 1960s in the US are probably the last ones who still majorally attended church on a regular basis. Their children, in which generation I belong, were the ones who were taught what a drag it was to go to church every week, but may still have gone now and then for Christmas, or when in the company of grandparents. Furthermore, we still understand certain Biblical references, such as "the good Samaritan" or "the prodigal son". The children of my kids' generation, though, are ones who, I would assume, not only have no experience with church, but also don't even understand the most basic principles set forth by Christianity.

On one hand, we can complain about "losing the culture"; on the other, we need to understand that the fields are fallow, and we are being called, as the apostles were, to spread the Gospel to the ears who have never heard it.
mituns: (Default)
Sofia the First is a brand-new show from Disney, which debuted Thanksgiving weekend, and has begun a weekly run. From an adult point of view, everything about it screams formulaic Disney - Sofia is a little girl who has lived a normal life until her mother marries the king, and now she has to deal with learning about being a princess while dealing with her step-siblings, talking animals, magic jewelry, big poufy dresses. Of course, Tabitha loves it.

On a recent episode, Sofia, along with her step-sister, are going to have a sleepover. Of course, the step-sister invites other princesses, but Sofia invites a couple of her commoner friends. Conflict ensues as Sofia's friends, instead of trying to be more like the princesses, run rambunctiously around, roll their hair up in pine cones... . Finally, after Sofia begs them to behave themselves for the ball, they walk out because they are "bored". Sofia has to run out after them, and apologizes. The moral of the story, of course, is "you can't change who you are" and that everybody should be accepting of everybody else.

I, on the other hand, saw it a different way. Even though nothing the girls did was terrible, being invited to a sleepover in a castle, one ought to have expected that they would have been on their best behavior, which they obviously were not. Sofia's pleas to them to act better fall on deaf ears, and when they partially comply, at the ball, regardless of the fact that Sofia is finally a little happier, they leave because they don't like being "bored". That hardly seems like the actions of true friends. To make matters worse, after Sofia begs them back, the princesses come back and want to do the crazy things too because they are also "bored".

Every one of us is created to be unique, and there is value to learning to love and respect people for the people they are. However, this philosophy has been twisted by many to make it seem that what people do cannot be helped because of the people that they are. Therefore, in this case, the girls cannot be expected to behave better because they are commoners, and the better behavior would be a betrayal of the girls' "self". (And who wants to be mistaken for stuck-up rich people?) As such, we cannot make any judgement on the girls' behavior, because their behavior is a function of who they are, and not to like the behavior is not to like them. And so, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is not at all possible in this situation.

These are the messages that are being broadcast to the littlest sets of eyes and to the youngest minds, and this sort of messaging is effective. I'm not saying that this alone would have me forbid Tabitha from watching it again, but even at three, recognize what this message is, and know to rebut the show as we're watching. As a matter of course, I talk to her about lots of things, including what is expected behavior in places. I know she understands, too, because just the other day she started talking to me about the things she can do in church. This isn't to limit her "fun" or "who she is" but to teach her to walk in the ways of a more fulfilling life.
mituns: (towers)
My kids have a book by Sandra Boynton called "Dinos to Go", which, like many of her other books, is very cute, amusing, and smartly written. The book has seven very short stories about different dinosaur characters. One of the characters is about a dinosaur named "Snort". The beginning of his story begins "Snort. A mean red dinosaur. Always gets his way..." The picture is of this dinosaur, which is big and red and mean, who is holding three ice cream cones while two smaller dinosaurs cower in fear without any ice cream.

I saw this picture many times without giving it a second thought. Of course, the implication is that because Snort is mean and bigger than the other dinosaurs pictured, he must have swiped the ice cream cones from the smaller, weaker dinosaurs pictured there.

I was somewhat upset with myself for having fallen into this trap so easily. There is no reason that Snort couldn't legitimately have three ice cream cones, and that the "meanness" is not sharing, rather than that the others had something taken away. There is no reason, either, if Snort got the cones legitimately that he is obligated to share with the other dinosaurs. (Think "The Little Red Hen", for example.) Yet, when most of us see a picture of three "people" and three things, the automatic reaction is that it is only "fair" that the items be split equally.

Fairness, in some sense, though, is a principle for small children. Children come into the world completely self-centered, and completely incapable of providing for themselves. Parents, then, are forced to divide resources, especially when there is more than one child, in a spirit of "fairness", which is probably the first introduction for many children to thinking about somebody other than themselves. To consider others is a difficult concept, and even children who are quite small concern themselves in "fairness" not so much because they want the other child or children to have something, but because they do not want to end up receiving less than the "competition". This sort of mindset is heartbreaking to see in so many adults these days, who sit around and complain of inherent "unfairness" because they feel like they have not been given the same sorts of things that they assume have been given others.

As people grow and mature, what one has ought to be less of what one is given, and more of what one has earned. In this sense, even if there is "fairness" in the circumstances in which one begins, logically, there will be a greater inequality between where people 'end up' because different people are going to use the gifts they have been given differently. To use a Biblical example, again there is the parable of the man who gives his servants talents to care for while he is away. The servant who got the most received 10, which was ten times more than the servant who received one. After the master came back, the servant who had 10 had also earned 10, and so now had 20 times what the servant who received one talent and buried it had. When it was revealed that the one talent had been buried, the master took it away and gave it to the servant who already had 20. In the spirit of fairness, was it unfair for the master not to have given his servants the equal amounts to invest? Was it later unfair for him to have not "spread the wealth" by taking from the servant who had done the best and not having given it to the servant from whom very little could be expected? (After all, this had to be the reason that he only got one talent in the first place!) Or was the master the most fair of all here, rewarding the servants who had worked hard and worked smart and punishing the one who squandered the opportunity given to him?

My point here is not to overreact about a page in a children's book, but rather to point out that as children are developing their sense of different concepts, such as fairness, it's important to keep watch on how these concepts are being shaped. I hardly think that just because the children see Snort with the three ice cream cones that they will be joining Occupy Wall Street as soon as they are old enough. However, I also believe it is important to understand that these types of messages make their way through even to very young children, and as parents and adults, we need to help guide our children's attitudes to see more than just "It's so unfair - so and so has more than I do".
mituns: (Default)
Numbers are funny things, and I suppose I've always been partial to leap years, particularly because they are divisible by four. Superstition has attached itself with both numbers and calendars, so even though I think it is ridiculous, 2012 is a "better year" than 2013, merely by the "likability" of the number.

This is not to say that 2013 comes in without its share of trouble and trepidation. Around the world, many people are already dreading what 2013 may have in store, be it tyranny or war or disaster or disease. 2013 will undoubtedly have much of this.

And yet, the calendar is still a construct, used to organize and record what goes on in man's days. The sun goes up and the sun goes down, unaware of what markings are used to keep track. Waking up thing morning in 2013 is not much different than a day ago in 2012, at least for most, and as people, we've aged a day between the old year and the new.

For many, though, the battle lines have already been drawn, and whether 2013 is a year in which the powder kegs explode remains to be seen.
mituns: (Default)
When 10-year-old Ashlynn Connor killed herself just over a year ago, the immediate reaction was that it must have been bullying that caused it.

However, according to the final investigative report, bullying wasn't a major factor in Ashlynn's death. Instead this was a girl who was living in a home with adults who weren't themselves completely stable, no father around, and six siblings who, among them, have three different last names, none of which was the same as Ashlynn's.

Although Ashlynn may have had difficulties with people, and had asked to be homeschooled, in third grade already, she had told a boy that she considered to be her boyfriend, that if he would ever break up with her, she'd kill herself. Not only is this a sign of somebody who is controlling, but it is also an indication of someone who has serious issues.

In these articles, we find out too, that Ashlynn's mother had attempted suicide twice, and with the second time, her children found her and had to get her help. Upon hearing that Ashlynn was dead, her grandmother had to be restrained to keep her from slitting her wrists.

I'm sure that it is true that mental illness does run in families, but I have to wonder what percentage of that is due to the mental illness actually being passed down, and how much is due to the children of mentally ill people being stuck in a home full of madness and picking up many of those bad habits in large part because they don't know any better. I cannot imagine that in Ashlynn's short life that there was any way that she could have learned to handle her emotions and dealings with people in any sort of constructive way. Her mother said that she had complained about people being mean to her, but with a child that is so developmentally comprimised emotionally, it seems as though she had a very hard time dealing with the normal ups and downs of what is life.

However, I hardly think that Ashlynn's case is unique, although her story is more "spectacular" than most. In the last 30 years or so, there has been a shift in society, from where parents expected children to learn to live with and overcome personal adversity, to a point where all roads need to be cleared in order to protect a child's "self-esteem". Of course, children do need support and guidance in learning how to deal with the outside world, but by not allowing them to learn how to do a little fending for themselves, even when they are little, they never learn how to do it, and we are left with what we have today, which is an untold number of adults who have grown up, but remain emotional children.
mituns: (Default)
One of the things that I learned in elementary school is that the Puritans regarded children as evil. This fact was framed as one of those "absurd facts" that teachers use to try to get kids to remember things, and I suppose that in my case it worked. What I didn't understand then was that this attitude was an extension of Calvinist theology which states that man is totally depraved, and unable to do anything to seek or know God.

Just for the sake of argument, though, if this were the case, then how is it possible that even in the Bible, children are considered one of the greatest blessings, and Jesus himself said that we must all come to Him as the little children do? People "ooh" and "ahh" over new babies, and in a Judeo-Christian society, those who do malice toward little children are considered the lowest of the low. Even in church, small children are often referred to as being "innocent".

However, as most people who have children can tell you, even if they are referred to as "innocent", small children have a capacity for almost anything, from total selflessness to utter destruction - often within the space of a very short period of time. Take Tabitha, for example. Just the other day, she sat down to "read" Asher's favorite book to him. She got frustrated and two minutes later was ready to hit him because she didn't like that he picked up a certain toy. (With instances such as the latter, it almost makes one think that the Puritans were right!)

As parents, the greatest charge that we have been given is to raise our children right. This means loving them, of course, but it also means constantly instructing them and having them practice doing what is right. Children are not born with common sense, nor are they born with any sense of that there are any other needs than their own. They learn things extremely adeptly, not just from being told what they should do but by experiencing the example that others - and in particular their parents - do.

I do not believe that anyone is necessarily born good, nor do I believe that anyone is born evil. I believe that most people are born with the capacity to do either, and most of us probably end up somewhere in the middle. However, a person's experiences as a child will weigh heavily into the choices that he makes whether to follow the good or to do evil. In a culture that rejects God, it is no wonder that there seem to be more people who embrace the capacity to do evil, whether we are referencing the tragedy in Sandy Hook, or the killing fields of Chicago.

Of course, with such an event as Sandy Hook or Columbine, there are plenty who are using it as an opportunity to call for more gun control. To quote a blog, no law can abolish the human capacity for evil. As Christians, not only do we have to pray, but we need to be raising our children in a Godly fashion, and, if we can, giving a little bit of extra support to those children who might not otherwise have a good example of how to go about building a life.


mituns: (Default)

September 2013

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