I’m Twelve. And I Believe Exile is Worse than Death.
My wife responds to my news, with barefaced contempt, “Because he’s black?”
“No. I didn’t say he brought the gun to school because ‘he’s black’. He did it because he’s stupid,” I clarified. “The reason I said he is black is because your son thinks all things black are right and cool, which itself is stupid, but the main point is I want to know what your son, A-, has told you about it. Because it is important that he agrees with me that this kid did something truly stupid.”
“He told me it was stupid.”
“Really?” I wondered, in blunt disbelief.
“Hey. How come you didn’t tell me about W- bringing the gun to school?” I asked A- nonchalantly as we drove home from school ball.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what do you think?”
“I don’t understand why he would be expelled for bringing it.”
“Did you mention it to your mom?”
“On Monday I told her about it, but I thought it was a toy gun then.”
“Did you ever use the word ‘stupid’?”
“I may have said that I thought it was stupid that he was in so much trouble.”
“Okay,” I said. (I knew the boy would not react, ‘W- did something stupid.’ Check.) Then I took a father’s breath. “Here’s the thing. The most famous school shooting happened when I was a senior in high school. That’s over twenty years ago. And they have been happening regularly since then. For someone to bring any kind of gun to school at this point is absolutely, totally, and irredeemably stupid. Understand? Guns destroy. School, in theory, is about creation. The two will never mix. He was stupid. Or his decision was stupid. I don’t really know him.”
“Well,” I answered my own 12 year old, H-, that night on FaceTime, “one of A-’s teammates brought, like, a bb gun to school. He’s probably gonna be expelled. So that’s causing some drama amongst the kids.”
“Why is this shocking?”
“I can see suspended, but expelled? From the entire district?”
Drawing enough air to fill a sermon, “Guns kill people. Kids have been killing people in schools for twenty years now. What are we even debating, my daughter? So what if the kid has to go to another school. His parents maybe should be forced to move and try to live another way somewhere else. What they’re doing so far has failed. No person alive can suggest that ‘they didn’t know’ to NOT bring a weapon to school. How are we even talking about this, H-?”
“Tell me that your father thinks it is absolutely stupid to bring a gun to school and that it is absolutely fair to expel a kid who does.”
“-No, say, ‘my father’,”
Oh, the glare.
“My father thinks it is stupid to bring a gun to school and fair to expel anyone who does.”
Please, dear reader, lament with me. You already know how much I loathe public school. To hear that both my not-so-bright step-son and my I’d-like-to-believe-has-paid-attention-at-least-once-in-while daughter believe that expulsion or exile from the community is worse than being killed by a school shooter only feeds the fire.
Education is supposed to liberate, not indoctrinate. It’s supposed to turn the brain on, not off. Create, not conform.
Choose life, kids. Especially if it means alone.
People are stupid.
Our Little Exvangelical
Of all the annoying words that unfortunately carry usefully definite meaning, I have to say “exvangelical” is my least favorite. But I just listened to the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast and so it is now in my lexicon.
In any case, this is a word which upon one hearing the meaning is clear. Or rather, in one use we can tell what it does not mean. It isn’t denoting apostasy from Christianity, it is just expressing that the tenets of evangelical Christianity are too much too bear.
Well, tonight I discovered the exvangelical roll has an additional name.
My step-son, A-, is twelve, as I have mentioned. That’s seventh grade.
He is playing traveling basketball, which here in rural Minnesota is not quite insane or indicative of his abilities or desires. It’s just what they call the most base level of youth basketball. Two practices a week. A few three-game tournaments.
Traveling basketball as a term is also useful because, we have learned, there is another kind of youth basketball being played in the winter months—school ball.
Long story short, since hearing that there is such a thing as school ball, A- is now practicing or playing basketball 6 days a week. What can I say? Basketball is something A- enjoys. I’d rather see him do something he enjoys than yell at him for being (fill in the blank with undesirable qualities) all day and night.
For my part, too, I have been fascinated at comparing my youth basketball experience with my local church experience.
Remember my, “Guests cannot speak. Not even me.” post? That was church world. Now, in youth sports, as of a few weeks ago, I am coach of the B Team.
Why did they let me? What are my qualifications? Did I go to the equivalent of seminary for basketball, you may ask?
I simply had to display interest and availability.
Next thing I knew, I was choosing tournaments and directing where the money should be sent.
Back to our little (and new) exvangelical.
Tonight at dinner, keep in mind it is Wednesday night, I said to A-, are we still aiming to make YTH tonight? (Out loud you would’ve heard “youth”, but the trendy multi-site Assemblies church calls it YTH.)
“Oh,” he says sheepishly. “I kinda forgot about that.”
I then said, chuckling, “Well, now you know what it feels like for every other Christian in America.”
I haven’t been shy in lamenting some recent marriage and family woes to you.
Today, I want to counter this and slightly elevate the conversation.
Back in 2019, as I took my step-son under my wing, you might say I went a bit overboard in used book buying.
eBay and I were quick friends and used book sets were my specialty. I bought the Children’s Book of Knowledge set, and all 10 annuals. (That’s thirty books.) I bought the Journey’s Through Bookland 10 volume set. And I even found a three volume Family Treasury of Children’s Classics set.
(That’s 43 books—he was 10.)
Anyhow, as my daughter, A-, who is now 2.5 yrs old, arrived, I began doing what I do, which is reading aloud from these classics.
The first volume of the Family Treasury opens with all—and I mean it is the actual collection—of classic nursery rhymes that we all struggle to find in Barnes and Noble’s.
A- is at the age when she is starting to talk and use multi-word phrases. Because I have a knack for these things, I began to test her the other day.
“Mary had a little-”
“AM” she concluded.
“Its fleece was white as-”
“NOOO!” she roared laughing.
Most of you have done similar and we should rightly be applauded.
The other day I came in from a long day of driving. My wife and step-son who, generally speaking, are opposed to learning are sneaking a quick movie since I wasn’t around to stop them.
Mission Impossible III is on the screen. One of my favorites.
I head to bed. I’m tired and not in the mood to point out that my step-son is still not ready for such a film.
The next day, my wife says to me out of the blue, “I didn’t ever know that’s why he said Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.”
To your ears, you probably would’ve heard her thick accent, and it’s very likely she didn’t even say what I wrote. But that’s what she meant.
Despite my having understanding of her meaning—regardless her actual words—I still had no clue what she was talking about.
“Huh?” I asked.
“What?” she asked.
“You said something about him saying Humpty Dumpty?”
Now at this moment in recent conversations, she will look at me and using all her feminine intuition do her best to determine whether I’m in earnest or whether I’m mocking her and usually conclude the latter by saying, “Never mind.”
But this time she said it again.
I still honestly had no idea what she was talking about. Like the Bible, she was not giving me to the antecedents I needed. Who was “he”, I wondered?
She finally said something that made me realize she was talking about the movie and then I recalled the scene was TC drops off the wall as a priest.
“Oh, you’re telling me that in the movie last night you finally understood why he said the Humpty Dumpty line, because A- says it all the time in our reading. Is that what you meant?”
Keep in mind the relationship is still on edge.
I then say, “That’s what happens to everyone the more we read, Mistiye (or “Mee-stee-yay” which is the phonetic spelling of the Amharic (one Ethiopian language’s) word for “my wife”). Every new book adds to every other book. Reading makes everything better. That’s why I am always telling you to do it.”
A normal husband would stop there, probably acknowledging he had gone too far already.
“That’s what school did to the Bible for me. When I hear Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, which has the infamous ‘For God so loved the world’ line, I can no longer NOT hear the book of Numbers. I can’t even see how it means anything unless it is involved in what Numbers says.”
The question for you, dear reader, is what precisely happened to my wife in the Humpty Dumpty MI:3 moment? She didn’t get wiser. She didn’t get smarter. It wasn’t an increase in her knowledge. What was it?
Truth is Translatable. Lies are not.
Conservative thinkers are abuzz lately with the news that some retards at Stanford released a list of English phrases that need to go.
These thinkers were shocked and dumbfounded.
But the sober truth, the way to keep blood pressures normal, is to recall that English is but one of many languages. And any rules attempting to stifle the language reveal inherent impotence during any attempts to translate them to another language.
As a parting plug for the Bible, this too is why the Bible can be trusted. It can be translated into any language. The translation is never easy to understand or interpret. But a cross is a cross. Jesus is Jesus. A mountain is a mountain. Burning bush is a burning bush. And most importantly, blood is blood.
As a Christian, I twist certain questions into truer questions.
“How can there be a good god and so much suffering?” is twisted into, “Can I really find peace?”
“Is the ability to understand the Bible really only available to certain humans?” is twisted into, “Does the Bible say I can’t access its god directly, one-on-one?”
“What do you think verse x means?” is twisted into, “Do you know the range of historical interpretations of verse x down through history, offhand? If so, can you share it succinctly?”
“You do know the Bible was written by men, right?” is twisted into, “Do you know that I am open to some of what I’ve heard about Jesus, but I feel like a fool for saying so?”
“In Amos, the LORD says that he directly controlled the crops/harvest in order to judge his people, itself in order to call them to repentance. Does that mean if there’s a bad harvest this season, in 2023, the LORD is likewise judging whoever is affected by it?” is twisted into, “Given the empirically grounded interrelatedness of world markets, do you believe the ‘farming’ events recorded in Amos mean that current bad harvests indicate that we are all, always constantly under judgement and a call to repentance?”
Those are the big ones recently on my mind.
Comment below if you have any questions you’d enjoy having twisted into their truer version by a Christian.
Trying To Help Somalis At Open Gym
So I took A- (12 year old step-son, immigrated to America at 8–not my 2 year old daughter of the same initial letter) to the community center earlier today so he could horse around playing basketball.
Being the overbearing, meaning perfect, step-dad that I am, I initially wanted to work on his individual skills—like last Saturday—but he clearly indicated that he just wanted to be a kid today. Whatever.
While there, I witnessed the typical community center basketball court open gym scene. One of the two courts had a 5-on-5 pickup game going. The other two hoops had free shooting. Oh, and big dreams could be seen every time a kid made a basket.
Next, two Somali kids barged in with a decently loud presence. They headed to the wall where some gymnastic pads were hanging and it soon became clear that some sort of mischief is afoot. Behind the mats, emergency exit doors. Two Somalis soon grew to four. Isn’t that always the case, Minnesota?
(Switching to present tense, for effect.)
I yell out, “Hey. Why don’t you just pay?” (It’s $3.)
“Why don’t you just pay?”
I live for these moments. Everyone has to decide what’s appropriate. Escalate? De-escalate? Either choice requires a decision that the entire world witnesses.
The kid says, playing it cool, “We don’t have the money.”
I shake my head. They walk away knowing I’m watching them. For a second I feel unresolved. I’m not interested to get them in trouble. I’m interested to get them to improve. At this moment, I’ve lost. But I won’t give up hope. What can I do? What options do I still have to achieve my goal?
I walk over to the bench where the future inmates are getting their shoes on etc. I say, “Hey, where are the two guys? I’ll pay for them.”
I take out some cash like a big shot.
“It’s only six bucks. I’ll pay. Let’s go up to the front.”
Only one of the criminals follows me. That’s enough for my purposes, I figure. The entire mosque will know who I am soon enough. These illiterate people have a knack for oral histories, I hear.
He patiently waits as I explain the situation to the young ladies at the desk.
He even said, “Thank you.”
What do you think, dear citizen? Did I waste my hard-earned money? Did I buy a jihad? Or was this the best path imaginable? Is Jesus knocking at their hearts? Maybe something in between?
Again, Machiavelli Has Resoundingly Won and Yet I’m Not Dead: A Short Account of a Good Day.
My YouTube feed includes political memes, for whatever reason.
I just watched one which had President Biden, back in 2006, stating adamantly that marriage was between a man and a woman.
Apparently today, in some form or fashion, he supported the opposite.
If you haven’t read The Prince by Machiavelli, I don’t know that I can recommend it to you. But to summarize it must be equally as bad, so I’m not sure what to do. Proceed at your own risk, I guess.
The rock and hard place that we live between may best be illustrated by calling your attention to this event (Biden saying whatever is necessary to win—even directly lying) and also to the decision and technological capability to comprehensively investigate the missiles which landed in Poland before invoking Article 5.
Machiavellian leadership is rooted in evil and yet we have remained short of WW3 in a world which is ruled by it.
At this point, I wouldn’t trade one for the other.
Hack Life Out of the Wilderness; In a Word—Work Hard
I married a woman from Ethiopia.
For the purposes of this post, the single cultural trait in focus is polygamy. Ethiopians are only generations away from the practice of polygamy. The mooslims still do practice it.
This manifests itself in the fact that they currently live in multi-family homes. I don’t mean apartments, I mean one larger home wherein many family members are supported by a few family members. My wife might tell me, “There aren’t enough jobs, so only my brother works,” to describe this particular living arrangement.
In our family, my wife and I’s current blended family here in the good ol’ US of A, it has become clear that she does not want to work hard. The way this has appeared is that she has chosen to take a minimal wage, part-time, night shift job rather than be a stay-at-home mom with her two babies.
Don’t mis-hear me. I’m admitting, confessing, and asserting that being a stay-at-home mom with two babies is hard work—far harder than any minimal wage part-time work. I’m knocking my own wife, to support the archetypical stay-at-home wife.
She hasn’t quite said the following, but indirectly she has indicated that if we lived in Ethiopia, then our two babies would be passed around all day, every day. “Okay, I need a break, you watch them. Okay, I need a break, you watch them. Okay, I need a break, you watch them.” Then rinse and repeat until they find themselves passing around their own babies.
As the dad, as the father, as the patriarch of my family, I want my children to be the strongest adults possible. Warrior poets. Scholar athletes. I want fearless giants. To be sure, I want pilots. (Forgive me, I couldn’t resist.)
I’m here to tell you that fearless giants are not possible if raised like an Ethiopian, fearless giants are not possible if raised by polygamists.
In the passing around of the children, something else gets passed around—responsibility. And accountability. The lack of responsibility and accountability is the direct manifestation of laziness.
“He did what?! That’s not how I taught him when I had him for two minutes of every morning,” the third cousin, twice removed on the mother’s side says, feigning to be indignant.
I didn’t see it coming when I proposed this marriage, but nearly every day of my life, I see more and more why American culture is the dominant one on Planet Earth. Today, I see it in terms of monogamy as the one and only producer of giants. Polygamy went away, not because of the New Testament or because of some other philosophy. Polygamy dropped off the earth because its offspring were weak and incapable of hard work. Polygamy is not practiced by Americans because the children raised by only two people, by only one man and one woman are more capable adults. Where did Americans learn to work hard? The wilderness. Americans hacked life out of the wilderness. And that took hard work. You should thank your national ancestors.
Children need to see—from their first breaths—that hard work is good, hard work is rewarding, and hard work is rewarded. And children cannot see that if they don’t see their fathers and mothers working hard to raise them—all day, every day.
As for this fearless giant, this pilot, as for this American? I’m a man who believes in hard work. So I married a woman from Ethiopia.
That’s the title of a sermon I’d like to give.
“Next what?” you wonder.
Whoa, back up a sec, I say.
“Who am I giving the imaginary sermon to?” That’s the first question.
My answer: This is a real sermon, for a real congregation, at a real church.
Most folks in the audience, then, believe they’re “in”.
This eliminates my ominous assertion “You’re Next” from meaning (to these faithful few) something positive.
Instead, I mean, literally, concretely, and practically, that I believe I am talking to people who—like all the rest—are the next to leave Christianity.
“No I’m not!” some of you might respond.
“Now we’re talking!” I exclaim. “You’re not next after all. So why aren’t you gonna leave? Let’s talk about that and see if we can’t communicate all the reasons you’re hanging around to those who are not here today.
“For example, I’m not going to leave because I can read my Bible. And when I read the Bible, I see that, specifically, theology has mucked up what it says. Doctrine begins with Scripture. Doctrine does not prevent taking the claims of the Bible in kind.
“That said, you’re not going to hear me proclaiming ‘doctrine’. Not unless we do this together for decades and I need to speed up the point I want to make. Decades. Not this week. Not next week. Not next year. Not even next decade.
“Open your Bibles with me, then, to the Gospel according to-”
“-Excuse, me,” one of you interrupts. “But how will we keep false teachings out?”
“Good question. By using our god-given minds to determine what the Bible says. If this makes you nervous, it means that you’re not sure you know how to read. That’s fine. I’m sure I can teach you. More than that, I’m sure you’ll agree that you learned how to read.
“Any more questions before we begin?”
Life Doesn’t Have To Be Hard, It Turns Out
I think I enjoy the competition. I enjoy challenges. I like to prove myself. I like to prove that I am better than you expected.
Yes, I think that is why I have lived life in a way that I (and others) might sometimes define as “hard”.
Wearing a boy scout uniform was hard. Witnessing to non-christians as a pre-teen was hard. Being a diver on the swim team was hard. Going to a college where I knew no one was hard. Entering bodybuilding competitions as a teenager was hard. Getting good grades was hard. Becoming an Air Force officer and pilot was hard. Arguing with every living person has always been hard.
These activities have also been fun, but that doesn’t mean they were less hard.
But I have recently spent an inordinate amount of time with people from a different culture and I have come to realize that life doesn’t have to be hard.
The trick to this type of life, so far as I can tell, is to not understand anything.
My goal—if this post has one—is to distinguish “ignorance is bliss” from what I’m talking about.
“Ignorance is bliss”, to me, has always been said by those who are not ignorant. It has always lived in the same semantic domain as “the thing I like about high school is, as I get older, the girls stay the same age”.
I’m not claiming to have rediscovered that concept.
I’m talking about hard vs. easy. Like the “work smarter, not harder” realm.
And I’m saying here I have been living a hard life and enjoying it because I thought that over time I am working smarter and smarter which means more and more work being done, but it turns out, I’m still living a hard life.
And I’m admitting that I just came to the realization that life doesn’t have to be hard.
Let me put it this way.
In the “work smarter not harder” proverb, there is implied that if you’re dumb, life is hard.
There’s another proverb I’ve heard, “being dumb doesn’t kill ya, it just makes you sweat.”
With me yet?
I think I’m saying that these aren’t true.
If you actually don’t understand life, then life is easy. Lillies of the field easy. Birds of the air easy. You know, easy.
Just be and in most cases food makes it to the table.
Just be and in most cases the Nike outlet will have a marked down pair of shoes in your size and on the very day that you went shopping there!
Just be and your kid can’t possibly turn out with low character because he is also only a receiver of life.
Maybe I’ve misunderstood the “just makes you sweat” part and it has always meant “working hard is dumb” to the wise.
Or maybe, just maybe, I have been working my tail off to provide a good life for my new family and the only actual reward is the knowledge that they prefer their old, easy life back.
And to think that for all these years I thought life had to be hard.