Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bureaucracy and Freedom

I really enjoy watching Governor Christie answer the press's questions.  He's such a straight shooter, that he reveals more than the inquirer really wants to know.  Here he is answering a question of how New Jersey lost money from the federal government in the "Race to the Top" program.  There are a few things to observe and a few questions to be asked after watching this.

For one thing, this is the kind of bureaucratic decision making that brings about nightmares for anyone needing to deal with the government.  Just how necessary are all those forms and just how much information is needed to asses the progress of a state's schools?  Why is the federal government even involved in a state's education policies?  Has there been any improvement in education since the beginning of the federalization of education in the early 20th century?

 I admire greatly,  the Governor's taking the heat and not firing a mid-level employee for an understandable and repairable mistake.  The fact that the missing information was easily attainable by the feds and was even given to them verbally shows the frightening power those who work in the federal government have over those who rely on them.  I can't  imagine that this decision would have been made if  Governor Christie were a Democrat.   The more individuals, communities, states, etc. rely on the federal government for any kind of funding, the more power it will have over our everyday lives and we will be subject to their whims and political allegiances.  Conversely, if the state of New Jersey finds itself unshackled by the demands of the federal government, it may in fact  have the flexibility to better educate its children and exercise a bit more freedom.

This is just another example of why we homeschool.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What's Eating You?

Jesus says,
I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.
Take and eat, this is my body which is given for you.
I was thinking of this the other day, of how all the gods, demons, and idols of this world do not give life, but take it. They feed on us, whether the gods Molech, Baal, the Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, the Greek/Roman system of gods, the gods of Hindu or ancestral spirits in Africa. All require sacrifice, some even human sacrifice to please and feed them. 

C.S. Lewis' character Screwtape expresses this well in The Screwtape Letters
To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense.
As does the apostle, Peter,
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
These are simply the obvious gods, but the idols of this world are even more subtle than this. We in the west, people of technology and materialism have our own idols. We, ironically, are called consumers, yet we work to make money to buy things that eat at our time and energy, and what is this life but our time and energy?  We kill time watching television or surfing the internet. We buy too much and the wrong kind of food so that our health deteriorates at a faster pace than normal. Temporarily we feel powerful, then at times wonder why our lives feel out of control, why our relationships seem shallow and where our time has gone.

Then we come to Jesus' words,
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
On it's face, doesn't this seem contradictory?  Jesus wants to give us life, yet he requires we lose it.  If God and the demons require sacrifice, then what's the difference?

One thing we must consider is the nature of sacrifice.  God commanded Israel to sacrifice, not because he needed anything or required cajoling in return for some favour.  God required sacrifice for the life of mankind, to show the grievousness of sin and to prepare the way for Jesus' sacrifice which was for all sins for all time.  The fact is, is that we all sacrifice, we all live to something, but it is in living to God, which Jesus has shown, that we are to truly and fully live.

What is the purpose of sacrifice?  It is love.  Love by nature is sacrificial, but when we separate love of God and people from the sacrifice then it is all for naught.
The apostle Paul says,
 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,  but have not love, I gain nothing.
We may have life, and have it abundantly, yet how much I sacrifice to the idols of this age.

Kyrie eleison.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Best Political Ad.

I've seen in a long time.

There is a reason why the Republican party continues to hearken back to Ronald Reagan.  He not only was an outstanding communicator, but understood the value of liberty down to his bones.  He had another gift in that he did not confuse disagreeing with a person's beliefs with dislike for that person.  I think we have lost that distinction to a great extent in our society, whether in politics, church, or in the culture at large.  We could learn a lot from this great man.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tea And Scones

or coffee and chocolate cake or milk and cookies, but please, no cupcakes!  Cupcakes, when they were used normally are actually okay in my book, but these twee, wine paired, over the top monstrosities have got to go.  What is an appropriate use of cupcakes?  Pot-lucks and school room birthdays.

The idea of a cupcake is so that one can serve a lot of people a bit of cake and icing without having to use utensils, but not anymore.  Just try eating one of these bloated, icing globbed creations without a fork or knife.  It's impossible unless you enjoy icing shoved into your nostrils.  And now, they're everywhere, springing up in towns, cities, and television shows near you. In the small city in which I live there are at least two.  Not surprisingly, even Congress has installed a cupcake toppings bar.    

I am not against this trend simply to be anti-trend.  I am against it because it is childish and expensive.  It's like ordering a daiquiri when one can have a great gin and tonic.    I long for the return the real bakeries with fresh tarts, scones, cakes, pies, french bread, croissants, hard rolls, and hot cross buns during Lent.  A small selection of cupcakes that can be eaten in hand for those under eight years old may be tolerated.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The End Of College

Here's an article at Daily Finance, which lists seven reasons not to send your kids to college.  All the reasons given have to do with finances - basically that one will not receive a proper return on the investment.  I think we have gotten things completely mixed up as to the purpose of college.  It used to be its purpose was to obtain an education and the purpose of an education was to become more fully human, to expand one's mind and shape proper sensibilities so as to know and understand what is true, good and beautiful.

If one wants a career, wouldn't apprenticeships be a much better solution than four to five years of classes and thousands of dollars of debt? 

Toward the end of the article a few suggestions are given as to how to receive an education without college:  traveling abroad, volunteering or simply reading.  I think a great deal can be learned under a wise tutor or professor, but that is not what many of our colleges offer anymore, nor is it what is expected of them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Joy, Happiness, Duty, or Love?

Rod Dreher and Damon Linker have had a bit of a back and forth regarding Jennifer Senior's article which asks why modern day parenting leads to unhappiness. Dreher proposes that parenting is not about happiness, but about joy and that happiness is transformed into joy in the sacrifice.  Linker takes him on by saying his position is too Kantian in choosing duty over self indulgence and calling it joy; that there has to be a more integrated, less polarizing way of looking at raising children based on the Aristotelian philosophy of happiness.  (Senior touches on this at the end of her article.) 

My mind keeps recalling the Wendell Berry book titled, What are People For?.  Isn't that a great title?  I imagine how one answers that question will reveal a great deal about, not only one's relationship with one's children, but also with all other relationships.  People aren't for using, to bring us joy or happiness, or to whom we must perform some sort of duty.  People are for loving and relating.  It's not easy and it goes beyond mere affection, but in the end, that is what people are for.  When one loves another, one forgets oneself and the evaluation of one's own happiness doesn't take place, because one's thoughts are of the other.  A true humility is present.

A loving parent changing a diaper isn't getting any happiness per se, but neither is he just doing his duty in this task.  The task is done for the good and health of the child.  In doing the task, he is building the relationship on trust and kindness.  In our family, diaper changing was often a time of singing and conversing, because we were relating to and caring for our child, a fellow human, made in the image of God.

This idea that another person is going to make one happy or bring fulfillment is very damaging to both parties.  It will lead to constant frustration, disappointment and blaming the other for one's misery.  The fact that so many surveys have been taken to measure parents' happiness, as is detailed in Senior's piece, is quite telling in itself.  You may not be evaluating your happiness, but some social scientist wants to.  I can't help but wonder why and to what purpose.   Are children now seen by society at large as a net loss?  It is starting to look that way.

Love looks out for the other, cares for the other, hopes for the good of the other.  In the words of St. Paul, Love never fails. I hope someone develops a survey to ascertain if having children encourages adults to be more loving.