Category Archives: Philosophy

Anthropology of an American Girl: Review

Some friends of mine have this intensive book review blog, the Reading Teen and their website, Parental Book Reviews which is pretty helpful if you like to read. Especially if you like to read Young Adult books. I did a guest post for them on a book I just finished. It starts out like this:

Hilary Thayer Hamann. 2009. Spiegel & Grau: New York.

Right from the start, it must be said: This book is a brick. Not just a brick but pretty much brick in every sense of a way a book could be a brick. For starters, I am pretty sure these 600 pages could be used to hold open a door or be plastered into your wall to give it strength. My copy fell into the bathtub and still survived, instead just adding another inch of strength to its massive form.

Yet, it’s a brick between the covers too. It has moderate violence, heavy profanity, very heavy sexual content, and also includes drugs, underage drinking, smoking, and suicide.

But don’t throw out the Anthropology of an American Girl just yet. It was really good. In fact, maybe even a potential classic. There is no way I would categorize this book as young adult, not just because of its “heavy” content, but really just because I don’t think its intended audience is teenagers. This book explores the soul- your own soul. Which is really heavy. . . ”

If you want to read the rest of it, you can at by CLICK on this LINK HERE.

Qur’an Burning: America’s Response to the Spread of Islam

It seems that the only thing in the news this week has been all about the proposed Qur’an burning. Ever heard of the Burning Man Festival? I once watched a documentary on this yearly spectacle in America’s Southwest.  The Burning Man never gets public outcry, but maybe that is because if the effigy they used was sacred, everyone would know what it was just to be mad about it. Or maybe no one cares because there are naked people at the Burning Man and everyone likes naked people.  It made the documentary more interesting, that is for sure. I wonder if people burned the Qur’an naked, there would be no violent response. Then maybe American’s wouldn’t pay attention, either.

The President, the General, and my parents say that publicly burning the Qur’an will hurt Americans overseas: “You are putting lives at risk; there will be needless deaths!” (as if any death was ever needed).  I tend to believe this view. Yet I can also see why others would think that it might not really be that big of a deal.  Regardless of what the hypothesized results will be, of this Qur’an burning party, I am pretty sure that most people all around the world think its stupid. Burning hairspray is cool. Burning bras- that was cool in the 60’s. Burning books? Um, didn’t we learn in American English from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 that book burning is the end of society as we know it? But burning one fifth of the world’s population’s holy book!? Dude, we don’t burn cows as a public outcry against Hindus! We only burn cows if we like our steak very very well done! But that is a whole different thing.

Truly, a large portion of Muslims don’t believe in violence. Note: I am not saying there are not verses in their Qur’an which aren’t violent against others who don’t believe in Islam, I am only saying that there are a lot of moderate or nominal Muslims who don’t subscribe to these verses. I was actually just looking through a list of verses in the Qur’an which many Muslims understand to mean living in tolerance with Jews, Christians, and other minorities who are “people of the book.” The historical concept of dhimmi under Sharia Law doesn’t call for the death of the non-believer, either, although maybe a second class status. To me, it doesn’t matter what the Qur’an says. It matters what people understand it to say.

In the Bible, we have terribly violent things too- in the Old Testament at least. I will not lie by saying that some of the Old Testament law has really disturbed me in some points. And, unless you are a studied and practicing Christian, one might easily not understand why we can justify these verses  and why we don’t follow them today.  After all, Christians have had their own share of violence. The Crusades are a horribly wonderful example: killing off the Muslims for Jesus. Many ethnic wars, including the Rwandan Genocide and even WWII, have roots in severe twisting of Christianity. The KKK clan and terrorist bombers at Abortion Clinics are other examples of a skewed worldview which some claiming Christianity have held to. Still, someone pointed out that the percentages of extremists in Islam is a little higher than the modern day terrorist claiming Christianity. I don’t want to get killed by a Muslim. Personally, I just don’t want to get killed, even if it is carried by Interfaith Terrorists, Inc.

You want to know what I think? Probably not, but here I go: Sure, Islam can be very violent. Christianity can be too. If following the Torah, Jews would be very violent as well. There really is no helpful point in arguing whether a religion is violent or not. It doesn’t matter. Buddhism isn’t violent, but anything without Jesus never has pure peace.

I think most American Christians- those who are cultural Christians, without “sincere love” (as the Bible calls it), those who are legalistic, and who are so self-righteousness they have no humility to try to understand someone else- these are no different in the slightest than Muslims, moderate or extreme. Yes, I am bashing on Christians. I am the first to say that I fit in this category much too often. I might not be killing people, but sometimes, inside, I am no different than an extremist Muslim. Didn’t Jesus say that hate is the same thing as murder? I think there are plenty of good ol’ American boys and girls who hate Muslims.

I have the feeling that if someone publicly burned our Bible, with huge amounts of media attention leading up to it- on our Christmas –  America would probably be a little feisty, as well.  Proposed Qur’an burning day, September 11th, happens to be at the end of Ramadan this particular year. Which is a holiday equivalent to our Christmas.  Then take into account all the lifestyle differences, cultural aspects, and acceptances of living in the Islamic world (poverty, life expectancy, war). Add to that an extreme form of Islam actively being propagated (mind you, while the truth of Jesus is NOT being shared- most Muslims in the Islamic world have never even heard of Jesus, even if they have heard of Christianity)- heck- there will be problems! When it comes down to it, Islam is no worse than anything other than pure religion, which I believe is knowing grace in Jesus.

The point is, although there is a problem with Islam, there is no reason to be disrespectful, better-than-thou, or feed into a national phobia against Muslims. It doesn’t help. I don’t really like Islam, mainly because its a quickly spreading belief system which I don’t subscribe to. Even so, I think my Muslim friends are great and I love the values and sincerity they have. I think most American’s don’t like Islam solely because they feel it is a threat to their lifestyle and culture. If we are trying to live out sincere Christianity, above Americanism, we can’t just go around combating Islam by feeding hate and spreading gossip. I’m not too into promoting blind tolerance, either.  I guess this gets political, and I don’t really like politics, defining the Separation of Church and State, blah, blah, blah. So, instead I will say maybe our first step should be to take the time to get to know a Muslim or two- not with the goal of converting them, yet with the goal of living out grace and love beside them.   No need to be burning things or burning things while getting naked.

So, I guess I am glad the pastor got smart and canceled it after all.

Oh, the Many Opinions We All Sing: Truth, AIDS, & Worldviews

We all already have so many opinions. What becomes slightly more difficult is having truth. Sometimes I doubt. In fact, I often do. I live in an American Dream, where science influences culture, and people do whatever is right in their own eyes. Sometimes, it just seems like whatever is right to us, just might actually be right. I get tired of convincing people that divorce is not good, that letting your kids do whatever they want is fine, or, mainly, that we are falling short of what is best for us when we just working for our own happiness. It feels like I’m always hitting my head against a brick wall. As I am somewhat rational on occasion, it seems a valid question to ask, “heck, do I have to hit my head against this wall all the time?” or “Do I have to always think backwards of popular culture?” Sometimes there seems to be truth beyond what I claim is truth. I wonder if I really just take what tickles my ears, calling that alone truth. If it fits into my worldview, great. If not, do I just discard all the rest, rather than change my worldview to fit what is truth?

I don’t think these are abnormal questions. In fact, they seem healthy. Once, a long time ago, I decided I would follow truth whatever truth was. Because otherwise I would just believe something that was easy for me to believe, what I want to believe. And, especially, if I am going to raise my kids under a certain belief, or I am going to encourage others to believe what I believe, then dude, I better be only espousing truth!

I watched a video of a conference last night concerning AIDS and public policy. Although it was a topic I am interested in, it was a view point I probably wouldn’t have preferred. I’m not the type of person who likes to hand out clean needles and condoms, even if every study on the subject does show that public policy based on promoting these keeps AIDS and HIV prevalence down. Of course, they are obviously not always the only way to keep AIDS down. Therefore I prefer to focus on things that I am more morally comfortable with, like putting an end to HIV spread through mother-to-child. Yet, what should I value more? My Christian worldview might say that passing out clean needles and condoms encourages sin. Yet, on the other hand, why should I expect moral behavior from people who don’t follow God? Or, even more so, doesn’t God care more about people living long enough to find God, than obeying rules which are only in place to show us a need for God, and helping us live a life in the best way (with lasting relationships, and being free of addiction, in the case of these rules). 

And, as we go through life, questions or challenges to our worldview are normal, unless we are super skilled at avoiding them. We all have choices in belief like this. Especially if you are already advocating something. I care about hurting people around the globe. So, of course, I am ever being faced with trying to figure out the best way to help them. You might care about your kids learning valuable lessons at soccer practice. I don’t know what you care about. But when you discover something irking you, its probably because you care about something and/or your worldview is being challenged. There are somethings we like to avoid because we don’t feel comfortable with really grappling with what we believe on a subject.

Personally, not only do I want to avoid the work to figure out what I should believe, being too lazy, yet, I am annoyed with discovering what truth is.  Oh, the internet is wonderful. And, the internet can back up whatever we want to believe. Even scholarly sources are often biased, although most of what I research comes from those. There is always the ever so slight possibly there is a conspiracy going on. Heck, if you want to, you can go join the “Society of the World is Flat,” or whatever this group is called which still choose to believe that the globe, indeed, is not a globe. Is that ignorance, arrogance, or bliss?

After attempting to sort through whatever information is available on whatever topic, its easy to cop-out and declare everything as truth or conveniently stick with whatever we already believed (i.e., worldview we grew up within). Then we all go around either being annoyed someone is trying to tell us something different, or we laugh at people who sincerely believe something is true which is an abnormal belief in popular cultural. All while getting mad when someone attacks our own abnormal beliefs. But, I got news for you, though: NOT EVERYTHING IS TRUE! Not everything can be true. And, not everything that is obvious to me, will be as obvious to you. No wonder God calls for those who share His truth to be humble as well as confident. Why should anyone listen to you if you are not humble and respectful? Beliefs do not like to be trampled upon and worldviews do not change in a moment.  

And hence, I get tired. There are so many opinions being sung, while the choir is chanting a cultural American march and the choir of the Southeast Asia is chanting their chant, and even the Russian Mob choir has their own special tune. My point is, there are so many cultural, and subcultural frameworks. Within these, there are so many personal opinions, as well. I guess that means we are all trying to figure something out. It would be a little discouraging to believe that this searching is just entirely meaningless.

And I, Elisa is over here, singing her own tune. But really, she is trying to be in tune with what she believes is the meaningful melody. She isn’t always sure if it is. She is open to truth, yet skeptical when truth is claimed and opinions are offered to her. I don’t know right from wrong. I don’t know life from death. I can’t promise what I will believe tomorrow is the same.  Yet today, I will sing about God’s love, Jesus life, and hope for the suffering. Today I choose to believe that is truth; I believe that makes our world a better place.

ABWE, Inc. (2007-2010). Overview. Good Soil: Evangelism and Discipleship. Retrieved May 15, 2010 from http://www.goodsoil.com/overview/

Manifesto of the idle parent

Manifesto of the idle parent

  • We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work
  • We pledge to leave our children alone
  • That should mean that they leave us alone, too
  • We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born
  • We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals
  • We drink alcohol without guilt
  • We reject the inner Puritan
  • We fill the house with music and laughter
  • We don’t waste money on family days out and holidays
  • We lie in bed for as long as possible
  • We try not to interfere
  • We push them into the garden and shut the door so that we can clean the house
  • We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small
  • Time is more important than money
  • Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness
  • Down with school
  • We fill the house with music and merriment

Hodgkinson, T. (2008, February 16). Idle parenting means happy children. Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/familyadvice/3355719/Idle-parenting-means-happy-children.html

Parenting: Step one


Something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late is my parenting goals. Its no secret that Avilynne has totally embraced the infamous Terrible Two’s, for anyone who has been around her for a few hours (or minutes, sometimes). Yes indeed, before her actual birthday she threw all sweet innocent babyhood out the window and started livin’ it up with drunken sippy-cup binges, screaming, head-banging tantrums and total self-absorption, manipulating the very adults she flirts with regularly. To me, the early dawn of the Terrible Two’s feels greatly unfair. A month, let alone a day extra of a toddler with this disease is one too many. But who am I joking? Its not like I was preparing for this although I have been thoroughly warned. Who is ever prepared to find out their child is diagnosed with a terminal illness, even if you are warned?

Of course, that might seem like an exaggeration. Yet, in a since its not, spiritually speaking. The Terrible Two’s just might be that reminder to us that our child is not the perfect concoction of our blissful marital love; instead its a little human that is also a little sinner. One time when Avi was acting up my husband sweetly looked at me and declared that those were our genes acting up in her (well, that’s my paraphrase). We passed on our least favorable DNA: we fall short of perfection (and typically pretty far from it). I am obviously not a believer in the inherent goodness of mankind. Truly, no biologist, or physiologist who has ever had a two-year old can actually believe that load of crap, can they? All to say, the Bible says that all have sinned, or stated in a way that makes more since- we all are selfish, self-serving and self-focused at our core. Even psychology testifies to this, with the id and the ego and all that jazz. Oh yes, of course we can try to be good and can be successful. But that just isn’t going to cut it.

And my daughter makes this truth self-evident. You want to know what she did on my birthday? Yes, my happy birthday!? She threw about fifteen temper-tantrums in the middle of quiet bookstore, and then ran across the store into the joining Starbucks! Some lady came out asking people throughout Barnes and Noble if the kid belonged to them! That was the second time that hour she ran off into oblivion. One time they had to close down part of a store to look for her. Then she was terrorizing Josiah, throwing the merchandise, and somehow I was supposed to carry her, my son, and all our stuff out of the store into the rain, leaving my unpaid for items and coffee behind? Really, I am not giving this story justice by providing you with details. I’ll spare you but do know, it was MISERABLE! I wanted to spank her into the next county yet instead I stood there, tantrum after another wishing my child was better-behaved, that people would look on me with grace rather than the contempt they were showing, while desperately wishing I had five more hands and a plug to shove in her mouth. This is not an unusual situation I have found myself in either. Don’t misunderstand me, Avi is a wonderful darling. She is a mysterious, exciting and a bubble of joy. But she is also Bad. Very very bad. Yes, her behavior can be bad, but there is something within her that is off too. The same something in all of us that is off which makes us so in need of God, so in need of love and grace amidst consequences and discipline we call life. So, by the grace of God parents everywhere have kindly been given the Terrible Two’s as a year to train up our kids so they won’t live in those Terrible Two’s their whole life long. Or at least to remind us that we sure need some help as parents before we go insane. It happens, you know.

I steam like a pressure cooker that has been sitting on the boiling flame of household affairs. Sometimes I feel like I am about to burst, and the facade of the gentle mother I pretend to be is quickly melting off thanks to my semi-sweet children (semi-sweet like chocolate chips). Hence I’ve started hitting the books. Yep, I’m asking for advice, watching others intently, discussing ideas and gleaning from the knowledge of those more experienced or more educated on the subject: PARENTING. I am convinced the Terrible Two’s were created by God to remind us that producing offspring means more than shoveling food down the pipe while occasionally wiping dirty noses and dirty bums (although that is important too). They are a reminder that we need a lot of help, and that our responsibility is greater than just what is on the outside.

Believing these two truths are, from my inexperienced and unprofessional opinion, the first place to start: that my children actually do need parenting due to their selfish human nature coupled with the fact that my spouse and I are the ones called to parent them (after all, I birthed them which was quite the experience, let me tell ya). If I have a beginning point to recognize what the heck is happening everyday I can move on from there. Yep, there is a kid and I am, what, supposed to parent? I know that might be overly simplistic for some, yet this simplicity really does drive me deeper because it acknowledges the responsibility I have.

Parenting is like being given an empty computer hard drive which already has a virus (if that’s possible) that we are responsible for programing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even matter if we are good with computers or not! We get to program a operating system anyway, a worldview complete with a culture, value-system, and basic survival skills in order for it to function (and hopefully go beyond just functioning in our world to being successful). Which brings me to my questions of today which made me start on this subject in the first place: What defines successful parenting? What defines a successful child? What are my parenting goals? So maybe, if I get around to it, I’ll continue hashing out parenting with these wonderings in mind. Parenting: Step Two.