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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

My kids spent all weekend playing with a bunch of 2x8s and 4x4s that I bought to build raised garden beds; they built castles, slides, ramps, racetracks, forts, &c, and it was glorious. They got dirty, they got banged up but nothing serious, and they had a great time. And the lumber was basically inestructible anyway.

But at one point, my daughter dragged two of the boards out, made a cross out of them, laid down, and announced that she was Jesus. Then, she decided that she was not actually Jesus, but Jesus’s older sister, who does not die. Only Jesus dies.

Hazel Christ

You seriously just can’t make this stuff up.

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One time I went on a short hike in the Wisconsin woods with my beautiful and sexy wife and our kiddos. We were mobbed by mosquitos–-more than I have ever seen at once in my entire life, and I spent a chunk of my childhood in Alaska, where the mosquito is the state bird. We showered ourselves in industrial-strength, hazardous-chemical, deep-woods mosquito repellant until our skin was on fire, but it did nothing. My exasperated five-year old son finall asked in anguish why Jesus made mosquitos, to which my wife replied “I don’t know, why don’t you pray and ask him.”

A moment of silent hiking later, my son pipes up, “Mommy, Jesus says he didn’t do it.”

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My top five favorite books of all time, in alphabetical order by author:

1. Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes: A dark carnival comes to a fictionalized Waukegan in a timeless October, bringing nightmares. It is a story about childhood and growing up, fathers and sons, friendship, and the good and evil in every one of us.

2. William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!: Unimaginably rich and mythic, a magnum opus about the South, chronicling Thomas Sutpen’s obsessive but doomed struggle to found–“tore violently a plantation”–an aristocratic dynasty in Mississippi before, during and after the Civil War, and about the destruction brought down on his bloodline and the land they inhabit as judgment that ripples through place and generations as a result. In the end, it is relentlessly a book about the dark places we should not go but that we ultimately cannot resist.

3. C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: Lewis’s re-telling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche is the most true book about God that I have ever read. It is the story of an ugly queen whose beautiful sister is taken from her by a god, and who unintentionally enacts her revenge on everyone around her by taking just as ruthlessly, until at last she is finally forced to come to terms with the true nature of herself and the Divine.

4. Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove: An epic, episodic novel about a pair of grizzled ex-Texas Rangers and the men and boys they lead on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana, for no reason at all, more or less, other than to be the first to be there. It is a powerful and poignant story about manhood, friendship, obligation, women, cattle and death. Uva uvam vivendo varia fit.

5. Jack Schaefer, Shane: A short but intense novel from a young boy’s perspective about a dark gunfighter who drifts into a Wyoming range war between farmers and an unscrupulous cattle baron. Shane is a cracking, fast-paced novel about courage, love, commitment, manhood and true strength.

6. T. H. White, The Once And Future King: A lush and quirky but immensely powerful retelling of the entire Arthurian legend. In a sense, there is nothing that this book is not about. If I had to give a boy only one book to live their life after, it would not be the Bible. It would be this book.

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This morning, my son revealed, unprompted, the flavors of the various colors of dragons. I would advise you to arm yourselves with this information.

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I have major doubts, but I feel like I’m moving into an area where I want to start seriously considering religion, and specifically Christianity.  I talked about it at length in my last post, so go back and read it if you haven’t already.

Anyway, I’m possibly prepared to accept Christianity in a sort of provisional sense, as the most meaningful mechanism by which I can access the Divine Mystery of Unknowable Universal Truth and Miscellaneous Etcetera.

I even feel like I can turn to the Bible as something spiritually meaningful and religiously relevant.  I would do so with the caveat that the Bible is the record of one nation’s interactions with the Divine, but that it is heavily filtered through their cultural lens and their milieu.  Moreso than many other scriptures, the Bible is open in my opinion to this kind of interpretation.  People wrote the Bible, after all, and they were people who lived in a certain time and place, with certain limitations.  It aims toward ultimate truth even if it is not itself The ultimate truth.

As far as Jesus and his life, mission, and divinity go, I’m prepared to accept it conceptually without worrying whether it is literal fact or not.  I can accept Christianity as a spiritual scaffold without needing to muck around with apologetics and debate.

However, the biggest problem for me, the stumbling block, is Judaism.

Unlike the rest of the Bible, the Law of Moses is supposed to have been directly dictated by God and written down the way He said it.  Even the words of Jesus by comparison are removed enough from their original source to be a little bit shrouded in the mists of time, history, and myth.  But the Law is a full document straight from God’s mouth to the stone tablets, and I think the Law sucks.

Not in the Paul “the law killeth” sense.  I mean that the Law is simply not the kind of thing that could be given by any kind of God I could imagine, and unlike the rest of the stories in the Old Testament which may or may not be just stories, it’s kind of hard to say that the law is just a mythic interpretation of something.

It advocates death by stoning for all kinds of petty stuff.  It condones slavery.  It’s crap.  And the way I see it, it’s not the kind of thing that is Mythic at all.  Either God dictated it to Moses or Moses made it all up.  It doesn;t come down to us shrouded by oral tradition.  And the entire Old Testament from then on is fairly rooted in it.  So what’s the deal?  It’s kind of hard to separate Christianity from the Law.

I’m not talking about the no-brainers like “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not commit adultery.”  I’m talking about stuff like where if a man rapes a girl he just has to pay some money and get married.  I’m talking about where it says to kill your family if they believe differently than you.   I’m talking about the divine mandate to commit genocide.  Or how you’re supposed ot kill your children if they don’t obey you.

You want to see me deny the existence of God?  Convince me that the only possible God is the one that made those rules.  I just don’t buy it.  And that’s a problem, because it means there’s a whole section of the Bible that I can’t simply deal with in my wishy-washy liberal way, and that means I don’t know what to do other than junk the whole thing, other than as a piece of literature.

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I woke up in a horrible mood this morning. I’m mad at God. In general, I think that “being mad at God’ is a lame crybaby excuse, unless your life is really, really horrible. And mine isn’t. Honestly, my life is pretty good. I have a place to live, my material eneds are met, I’m in law school , I have a sweet and hot wife and a cute kid. So ostensibly I have no reason to be mad at God.

But I just don’t know what to do about religion. I think agnosticism is a cop-out, but I don’t know if I’m going to be left with any other option. I’d like to have a religion, to have a faith, but it seems like it’s just too hard, and I don’t know why it has to be that way.

I don’t know if it’s possible to really know. But I’ve let go of the religion I grew up with and for now I am not interested in going back at all, so I can’t just fall bak on tradition and custom. I remain unconvinced by Christianity, as much as I’d theoretically be open to being convinced. And I’m too chicken to go anywhere but Christianity for fear that Christianity is actually true and my life will go to crap if I turn my back on Jesus, and then when I die I will go to hell.

So I don’t know what to do. I get excited about a faith or a religious idea one day, and then I wake up the next day and think it’s ridiculous and feel goofy for lending it credence the day before. It’s a crazy rollercoaster of religiousity that gets me nowhere and I don’t know how to get off of it, other than just by throwing my hands up and walking away from the whole thing.

And I don’t want to do that.

Anyway, I’m pissed at life, the universe, and everything, and that includes God, because this stuff is just too hard. I’m not making it hard on purpose; I’m doing this the only way I can.

I got a life that most would love to have,
But sometimes I still wake up fightin’ mad
At where this road I’m heading down might lead;
I guess that’s just the cowboy in me

-Tim McGraw

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Yesterday my lovely, sexy wife and I sat down for an important talk.  The thing is, she is a committed Christian, and at the moment I am not.  For now it’s no problem- I’m still searching.  But what happens if I ultimately decide on a non-Christian religion, or if I decide on no religion at all?

What do we do about things that we have always done together, like praying or reading the scriptures?  How much do we participate in each others’ religious practices?  How much would we be comfortable participating?  Most importantly, how do we raise our little boy?

Furthermore, the question/problem is different depending on whether I settle on a religion other than Christianity (like paganism or Buddhism or something) or whether I simply decide that I don’t know and that knowing isn’t possible, i.e., agnosticism.  Right now, hands-thrown-up agnosticism seems more likely, but I want us to be prepared no matter how this thing shakes out.

Mostly it was just good to talk about it and get the possibility out into the open and on our minds.  In some ways we had already approached the subject when I was struggling with Mormonism and my wife was still firm in her testimony.

What we’ve come up with for now is that however it works out, we’re always going to be supportive and respectful of each other.  We’re both basically open-minded people and probably wouldn’t mind participating in each others’ religions even if we didn’t believe the same way.  I may not pray to the Christian God, but I would have no problem bowing my head reverently while she does, for example.

As far as the baby goes, no matter what we do (even if the wife and I both wind up in the same place) we’re going to teach him to think for himself and make well-reasoned informed decisions.  All along the way we’ll help him, providing a framework for figuring things out for himself.  In other words, we’ll provide him with the tools he needs and then we’ll help him use them as much as is appropriate.

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