Friday, August 24, 2012

Reporting from the Front

Several nights ago I overheard daughter number one and my wife speaking in a tone somewhere between a talking to and the convivial, “Get your homework done.”  Sensing something more serious I placed my fatherly self in the situation.  Seems a pair of pants that daughter number one purchased earlier that afternoon no longer looked good in the darkening hours near bedtime.  This is nothing new.  Taking things back to the store is done on a more regular basis than picking up the basement.  I suspect buying something to take back later is built into the plan as a reason to return to the mall.  I cannot prove this.
Being the helpful sort of dad I told daughter number one I thought the pants looked fine.  At worst they were a little tight and that they would stretch after being washed.  Then I got one of those looks, two of them actually.  I had failed to follow my instincts and little did I know the situation had devolved into body-image issues.  I stood there for a moment, the way a butterfly newly pinned to a board stands there for a moment.
One either learns or one does not.  I wanted to say, “Oh, I thought it was something serious.”  But I recognized the terrain as deep girl territory, at least seventy, maybe eighty miles north of the demilitarized zone separating the single male of the house from three of the four significant women in his life (my mom lives 240 miles west).
Occasionally I have to venture to where they two now stood in counsel.  When I do I ride hard and fast, like Gandalf upon Shadowfax, emitting my bolts of dire wisdom against powers I know I cannot contain, only hoping to slow or perhaps turn events to a more favorable outcome.  I mumbled something and left to feed the dogs and give them their last outing before night-nights.
There is much I do not understand.  Approaching body-image issues in detail over a pair of pants that look to fit is like trying to put on gloves with both hands asleep.  Dad’s dress code is this:  modest, clean, and look like your gender.  A streak of color in the hair, Gene Simmons clod-busters, raggedy cut-offs, sans cheeks and the oft-time strategic rips don’t startle me that much.  This is standard battle picking and the policy avoids making such forbidden items all the more alluring.  It’s a two-for I’m particularly proud of.
My age plays into it.  That and the fact I have never been a teen girl in high-school.  The skills of fitting in, of being edgy and stylish, of balancing upon the narrow plank between noticeable but not too noticeable and yet noticeable to that someone you want to be noticed by, are all things best left to the experts.  Night darkened stairs with two dogs underfoot are less risky for me and thus my hasty retreat.
Daughter number one swims about 5,500 yards five times a week.  She has a trainer she visits once a week to help with posture, balance, and core-body strength.  She eats right, gets good grades, and is the only one in the house capable of helping me move furniture.  She has long blond curly hair much like mine was in college.  Her eyes are green and only an occasional zit meanders near her hairline before fading back to the hormonal teen-grease from whence it came.  She has friends.  She lifeguards in the summers, and biased though I am, she is a pretty girl.  And she has body-image issues.  Though I might add not often; but they are there. She is, at times, her own worst critic, as are we all.
Since my girls have been old enough to watch television I have watched it with them, mocking the projections of size-zero stupidity every step of the way, pointing out how their television peers are actually thirty years old.  I shine scalding beams of sarcasm upon the immodest and slatternly creatures depicted and have noted many times how televised and webinized cavorting is really not representative of good decision making.  I have sat with them looking at bridal magazines (yes, young girls dream of the wedding) noting how the coveted dresses are beautiful, but for less than what they cost a couple could put a nice down payment on a home.  I have noted aloud how no one on magazine covers has acne and, every step of the way have reminded them that girls as pretty as they are don’t need too much makeup, if any at all.
In a moment of calculated hyperbole I once advised them to noticeably fart on the first date because any boy who could not handle that was not worth their time.  On and on through the years their mother and I have lifted the curtain to expose the machinery of illusion selling them what they are to look like and how they are to behave.  Yet it feels like a rear guard action against an enemy innumerable and close upon our heals.
Body image issues begone!   You shall not pass!  It would be nice to be able to do that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Crib notes...

…from an article that can be found here:

I have not read the book(s) but found this to be very interesting. I would urge anyone to click the link and read it for themselves.

What do you call it when a young girl who cannot operate a computer, talks a lot about cartwheels, wears pigtails, has an imaginary friend, has never had a drink of alcohol, speaks in terms of ’golly’, and is a complete novice to her own sexuality is manipulated, abused, and molested over and over again by an older wealthy man with all the power and all the control?

No, it’s not a classic child abuse scenario, though I can see how people with experience in Child Protective Services, law enforcement, and clinical psychology might think that. It’s actually the plot of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘.

Oh, and get this, the male protagonist is named ‘Christian’ (a nice cheap shot in and of itself) who was, himself, a victim of sexual abuse.  Of course he’s wealthy. Take away his money and he turns into something else.

Even though the age of the female protagonist is given to be 21 and she‘s all set to graduate college, her character is portrayed as someone mentally handicapped or as someone much younger. Taken at face value her actions, diction, and level of performance in the world is that of a someone who should be housed in an assisted living facility. Either that or the age given by the author is a very thin cover hiding the fact that the main female character is actually a child.

For example:
  • The female character has no sexual experiences whatsoever.
  • The narrative voice is that of a little girl. Listen to how she talks: “Holy Cow”, “down there”, “jeez” “double crap”, cartwheels, and skipping. Over and over it is the language and the imagery of a girl with no demonstration of emotional maturity.
  • If she were a high school student she would be extremely na├»ve. Remember, she is graduating college.
  • She is incapable of making the most simple every day decisions.
  • The older man makes her think the abuse is her choice. This is one of the primary tools of the pedophile, creating an environment where the child feels it’s their idea.
  • After the early stages of their relationship, the older man becomes more openly abusive and controlling. He tells the girl how to speak, what to wear, and what to eat.
  • There is spanking and at one poin the slathers her in baby oil.
  • The girl wears pigtails and complains he treats her like a child.
I know it’s ‘just’ fiction. But fiction serves many purposes. And the analysis given in the article found at the link is chilling. Don’t take my word for it.  Click on the link and read it for yourself.  Think about what may be hidden in plain sight.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Losing the Language of Faith

The language of faith and losing it is usually brought up in terms of the 'culture war'; politicized like most everything else.  And it is true believers are supposed to keep their faith talk confined to the church buildings.  It is frowned upon to bring it out to the public square.  This is why, for example, prayer doesn't happen before football games and why valedictorians must submit their speeches prior to giving them.  Those young people must be careful not to mention the name of Jesus out in the open where others might hear it.

This is troubling, but not really new.  It should upset us that some speech is more free and some less so.  But, like the lonely girl, 2012 churches make themselves as attractive and as available and as mild as possible in the hopes that someday that handsome world will call and want to know what we're all about.  Meantime, we wait by the phone.
That said there is another facet to the idea of losing our faith language that I'm going to try to illustrate.  This concept has been rattling around my head for a long time.  It might be too abstract and if you don't get what I'm trying to explain the problem is on my end and not yours.

Here is my thesis:  we are losing the language of faith because we no longer think in faithful terms.
Language changes over time.  This is not a piercing insight.  New words are added and old words are forgotten.  Dialects shift, slang become proper and the proper becomes out dated.  Language is tied to human creativity and with it we express our understandings of what we experience.  A good example is the word teenager.  Before there was such a word, talking about young people was different because people didn't think of them as teens.  Or, in the 1970s no one worried about coming across as homophobic.  The concept (label) just wasn't there.

Another key piece of information is that the original New Testament books were written in a dialect of Greek that is now frozen in time.  In other words, people no longer use that dialect of Greek and yet a substantial amount of scholarship exists giving us insight into that language and how it was structured and what specific words in that dialect meant.  Think of it like one of those paperweights with an object suspended in a cube of clear acrylic.  This is cool because it gives us a lingual image into the exact meanings of certain words and phrases.  It can be highly and reliably contextualized.
For example, believers who care to do so can look up a word like church (an assembly of people), or baptism (to dip), or Easter (Passover) and can find out what that word originally meant and can then use that meaning to guide their worship and faith.

I preach out of the King James Version of the Bible - for both accuracy and the fine line the artisan translators walked when keeping both original meaning, providing usability, and expressing the beauty or the original Bible languages.  The KJV is a wonder in itself and I urge anyone interested to look into how it came to be.
Now look, I'm not going to go war if someone reads a different translation of the Bible.  I'm not that kind of Baptist.  But a believer should find him or herself a solid translation.  And why is this important anyway?  Wasn't this supposed to be about losing our faith language?  The point of all this KJV business is that I simply want the reader to understand what version of the Bible I'm referring to when I give the following example.  An English Standard Version (also a very nice translation) might show different results, but not by much.

So, rambling aside, here is my big example.  Pay attention the next time something unexpectedly good or unexpectedly bad happens in life.  Let's say you find a five dollar bill in the grocery store parking lot.  How do you explain it?
Here is a list of words I can think of that people use to describe those things that happen to them, either in their favor or not in their favor:  random, randomness, luck, lucky, unlucky, fortune, fortunate, unfortunate, misfortunate, happenstance, coincidence, coincidental, incidental, so on and so forth.  We use these words and others like them when life happens when we are content to chalk it up the inexplicable.

Both of my daughters had heart problems when they were born.  People noted how misfortunate it was.  About a month ago my youngest daughter was involved in a car wreck at 55 miles per hour with my wife's mother.  Another driver pulled out in front of them.  My girl was shaken and scared and sore the next day, but that was all.  Her grandmother didn't fare as well.  She suffered a total of 32 stitches and a bruised and battered left side from shoulder to ankle.  She also totaled her van for which the insurance company will provide its current value, yet the van's personal value to her will not be met.  All things considered their accident could have been magnitudes of tragedy worse.  A lot of people, beginning with the EMTs, the nurses, the doctors, and some family, commented on how lucky they were to have not been more seriously injured.
When we talk about luck and misfortune and the baker's dozen of other words listed above aren't we relegating life as up to the whims of some cosmic flip of the coin?  Don't we express and understand events as though there is no greater power than randomness?

The old King James Bible contains none of the words we use to commonly refer to the inexplicable events in our lives.  There is that verse about time and chance happening to all (Ecclesiastes 9:11).  Time and chance…   I could find very little else referring to what we say on a daily basis.  The events in the Bible, as originally written and later faithfully translated, relied on other words.  The vocabularies of the original writers of the Bible did not include the dozen phrases and ideas about luck that ours does.
This is not a commentary on the limitations of the Greek Language of the first century as much as it is about how our view of life has shifted away from God's involvement in our lives.  Yes, time and chance does happen to all, thank you Solomon in your wisdom.  But I'm thinking it happens far less than we think it does.

Believing in a God who knew me before I was born (Jeremiah 1:5), doesn't it make sense He would want to stay involved all the way through my three-score and ten years (Psalm 90:10)?  I find this idea more comforting than to think of my life as a single grain in a sandstorm.  A more faithful generation would think in terms of blessings and curses, of trials, tests, tribulations, troubles, and about how sometimes bad things happen to us that force us to rely on our faith; and hence reliance on God. 
For homework, read the book of Job.  Now there was a guy down on his luck.  Yet in the chapters where he and his 'friends' debate on the events of Job's trials, notice the lack of luck words and ideas.  The men involved were not stupid; misguided at times, but not stupid.  Their discussions of Job revolved around God and why God would allow such things to happen.  They did not shrug their shoulders and say, "Better luck next time."

I know God has His purposes.  I know I am not intelligent enough to figure them out.  But what I can always do is trust His Greatness in my life.  Time and chance will not withstand.  God's grace, however, is eternal.