Saturday, March 4, 2017

Christian men and their memories of Dad

So here's a phenomenon I've noticed over the years. The tendency of Christian men, when they talk about their fathers, to talk about how they were stern taskmasters and rules-enforcers. The father-figure as household authoritarian. These memories are usually recounted in a loving way, and with some degree of amusement as well as gratitude.

If the subject of fathers comes up, you get recollections about some disciplinary measure, some stern warning, the regulation of daily chores, or even his flashes of fearful anger, but all recalled with a degree of admiration. We are not talking bitter memories here.

Two things: among Christian men at least, those who have bitter memories simply do not share their stories, and if you do share such a story (this from personal experience), there is a kind of uncomfortable silence. That is just not what this kind of conversation is about. We are Christians (it's as if to say), and the word "father" is supposed to connote warm memories of gratitude for discipline. You're spoiling the vibe, man!

Second, not only do people not share their bitter memories, they also don't share stories about how, for example, my father was a kind man, or my father had a soft heart, or my father was a man full of grace. No stories of gentleness, of forgiveness, of Jesus-like attitudes. Now, I know there are kind fathers out there, soft-hearted men whose first inclination is not discipline but grace. I know there are fathers who model Jesus to their children. But middle-aged Christian men either never had such fathers or somehow the unwritten rule is not to talk about them.

This is just something I've noticed over the years, and it makes me wonder, that's all.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Recent Reading

1. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi. I read about two scifi books per decade, so perhaps should have chosen more carefully. This was okay, and I may even read the next in the series. Old people past 75 can join the intergalactic military and get new (cloned) bodies. In return for the longevity this affords them, they have to fight brutal colonial wars throughout space for ten years. If they survive, all good! You might have expected some interesting thoughts on mortality, the problematic aspects of life-extension, etc. There's less of that here than in, say, Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting. This could have been a much more interesting book.

2, Economics for Real People, by Gene Calahan. What do I know about economics? About as much and as little as everyone else I suppose. So I took a flyer on this one and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. The dismal science is still pretty dismal, but Calahan does a good job guiding you through the swamp. I'm reading it in fits and starts, on buses, in waiting rooms, etc. At this rate it'll take me all year!

3. The Day the Revolution Began, by N. T. Wright. I've been working my way through this slowly, and by about the half-way point I was beginning to think it was a very great and important work. The book will be challenging to those or equate the "Gospel" to some version of the atonement doctrine. Wright is adjusting the focus, and doing so, I think, correctly. He wants to re-embed the crucifixion back into the story of of Israel and the Abrahamic covenant. This book will get you thinking, and wondering, and checking your Greek lexicon every now and then. Heady stuff, engaging stuff, and I hope widely influential in the church.

By the way, there's a lot of learned chatter about this book on the Inter-thingie. I just came across this, which is brief and helpful.

Just begun: The Shores of Tripoli, by James L. Haley. I'm a sucker for seagoing adventure yarns. This looks like the kind of book reviewers used to call "rollicking good fun." First of a series, apparently. I'm maybe a quarter in and can't wait to pick it up again.

Songs of Place: Eldorado Blue

From Balsam Range:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Semi-Random Thoughts: Political Edition

I periodically make decisions to stay out of political conversation on Facebook. Then I periodically have them, sometimes to my regret.

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This is a pretty good article about Jesus' parable of the "merciful Samaritan."

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Getting back to politics: I tremble for my country.

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Trump is loosey-goosey when it comes to facts. Sometimes he stretches the truth, often he conveniently ignores certain truths, and at other times he tells great big whoppers. After months of briefings from State and Intelligence, etc., he still conjures his "policies" from impressions he gets from Fox News and Twitter memes.

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Well, he went into office with the settled conviction that he was smarter than everybody in the world on just about every issue (yes, he avowed it before his adoring crowds time after time). If you really think that, you're not going to have much inclination to listen to experts in the field.

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Politics is addicting. Hey, even Donald Trump is strangely addicting. You have this little twinge of excitement each time you go to your favorite news sites, anticipating the latest of Trump's grammar-murdering truth-deficient pronouncements.

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Well, needless to say, I'm not a fan. I was Never-Trump before the election. Now that he's president it makes no sense to use that label, but I anticipate being Never-Again-Trump in the next election.

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This is the best thing I've read on Trump. One of those articles that makes you mutter, yes, my thoughts exactly. It gets to the issue about Trump that most disturbs me, and that is the impact he has had on the way we think and talk about issues. It really is the culmination of years of relativistic teaching with regard to matters of fact--you have your truth, I have mine. The Right used to inveigh against this sort of thinking, but apparently we are all relativists now. It is perhaps the genius of Trump that he deploys this--what shall we call it--"flexible" approach to the truth in defense of whatever latest whopper he has told. [In the article, see especially the discussion around the Bill O'Reilly interview.] In other words, he doesn't rise to the challenge by defending the truth of what he has said, providing the evidence, citing the sources, etc. He just says, whatever! Pfft. I'm the smartest guy around, so there.

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When many people vote for one candidate over another because they fear/hate the other more than they fear/hate the one they voted for, that's not a recipe for post-election satisfaction. In other words, when you vote the lesser-evil candidate, you're probably not going to be enamored when that candidate proves to be, well, pretty dang evil. The winning candidate shouldn't expect high approval ratings in the polls when maybe half his voters considered him a smelly mess but voted for him anyway. Will Trump as president be able to win them over to a truly positive assessment? Hard to say, but that's his task if he wants to win re-election in 2020.

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That's enough. I promise not to make politics a frequent subject here. Perhaps the best thing to do now is end with a song.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Songs of Place: Blues for Dixie

There's something about the South. There must be, with so many songs having been written about it over the years. There are occasional songs about Maine, say, or Vermont, even parts of Massachusetts, but about the entire region called New England, not so much. What does it take for a region to be frequently glorified in song? It takes many people longing to go back, which means of course that many people would have had to have left it. In other words, it takes economic dislocation, with associated mass exodus. Then you get songs like Blues for Dixie, written by Cindy Walker.

So Cindy Walker was a prolific songwriter. She wrote Flying South to Dixie on the same theme: where I am ain't where I ant to be.