Fallibility and the nature of things

Prevalent evangelical views regarding the Bible notwithstanding, I have for some time been developing a nuanced and granular view of our scriptures.  I can’t say I’ve enjoyed this journey, exactly; some scruples and opinions do not make existing alongside other believers very easy!  Yet I cannot deny the views or their implications as I continue on this pathway. 

In no way do I disrespect the scriptures; quite the contrary.  Although I confess a decreased activity with them in recent months, that is a function of life circumstances, not a reflection of intent or the value I inwardly place on scripture study.  I continue to believe that it is an inestimably good use of time to study scriptures responsibly, paying close attention to them.  I suppose I’ve spent more focused study time than 90% of the Christian believers I’ve ever come in contact with, but my total time has still been a pittance, compared to the time and effort the scriptures deserve.  Our Bibles contain the clearest, best indications of the ongoing conversations between God and humans throughout our existence, so they deserve persistent, devoted attention.

Of course there is a divine element in biblical documents; few if any readers here would deny that.  Coming from another angle, though, I want to spotlight briefly the human aspect of Christian¹ scriptures.  I think human choices were involved.  I reject the idea that specific words were required by God, but I still think delving into the words of the original language is tremendously helpful and illuminating.  I don’t suppose I hold to any particular theory of the mechanics of inspiration, but I find it particularly untenable to believe that God somehow dictated exact words or physically moved the biblical authors’ hands as they wrote.  It’s not the words themselves that are best said to have been “inspired.”  Instead, inspired authors wrote, and there have been rich, ongoing dialogues around those writings throughout the centuries and millennia that have followed.  Humans—God’s special, fallible creations!—have played an integral, even crucial role.  We might note well some aspects of human roles in scripture production, as articulated by Bernard Ramm:

Ramm gives four defenses for an understanding of Scripture as fallible (or at the very least in need of a new definition, as well as reconsidering the word inerrancy as it lacks historical theology authenticity).  These four defenses are as follows:

* the canon was decided upon by human beings

* the autographs that are currently unavailable are considered and created on purely human terms and critiques of extant copies and manuscripts

* the human decision of how much of the Old Testament is still applicable to the church today;

* and finally the endless human decisions on the part of the interpreter as they exegete a text.

Ramm, After Fundamentalism, 106.  Quoted in Tavis Bohlinger, “Assessing Barth’s Evangelical Interlocutors,” Logos Academic Blog, accessed 11/12/20.  (Format altered here. -bc)

While I don’t find equal significance among the four items, each is a human element that deserves attention.

I suppose I’d rather not emphasize the term “fallible,” but when terms such as “infallibility” and inerrancy have developed lives of their own in most evangelical circles, it might just be necessary to speak of the fallible aspect—in order to “speak truth to the power” of the institutional church momentum.  In other words, when the authority figures’ assumptions stand in the way of more adequate understandings, it might be appropriate to counter the assumptions with charged descriptions of scripture, e.g., “fallible.”  And, after all, all humans are fallible.  That is part of our nature.

As a new phase of study life² is set to begin for me, I wanted to remind myself of something of the nature of scripture.  Perhaps you’ve gained something by reading, too.


¹ The notion of Christian scripture, for me, is not limited to the so-called New Testament.

² https://www.biblicalconversation.com/   Through the Institute for the Art of Biblical Conversation (which is not by any means a group that sits around gabbing about stuff without direction or bona fide, responsible methods), I’ll be studying and pondering the nature and role of apocalyptic literature.  Although the time to register for the live, weekly study is expiring today, it will still be possible to register to watch recorded videos of this course.

Pre-dawn

Driving before dawn, I am reminded of the poetic words of Landon Saunders: 

“Faith is the bird that senses the dawn and sings while it is yet dark.”

Skeptics, please don’t read that and think faith must be blind. (Mine is not.). 

Believing siblings, please don’t read that and think only, “Oh, what a nice thought for my heart today.” Trust and hope maybe connected to faith, but faithfulness — loyal  living — should follow.

Reading activities (2) and Subjects of the Kingdom Xposts

A little bit ago, I shared reading bits from the spring and summer, leaving one category till now.  There have lately been two “politics” books I couldn’t keep my hands off of.  These are not standard fare.  These are not even standard “Christian” fare.  (I don’t tend to gravitate to such.) 

Popular Christian views move mostly in one direction, and now, some, in another.  My views largely move in another dimension.  A reader might think I am crazy (and perhaps I am), but I am not alone.  I do not exist in a vacuum.  Sure, I gravitate to writings that harmonize with, and bolster, my views, but I try to be fair-minded.

Recent readings along nonstandard lines have included

  1. Scandalous Witness:  A Little Political Manifesto for Christians, by Lee C. Camp
  2. Resisting Babel:  Allegiance to God and the Problem of Government, ed. John Mark Hicks
These books offer a worthy, bird’s-eye Christian view of politics that is neither partisan nor subservient to the ideals of any one nation.

Below are links to two of my most recent posts on the Christian and government. I share them not with the intent to upset anyone, yet with the full knowledge that some of my minority thoughts will strike the majority as odd, at best.  I have this in my favor: I am not alone, and many of the ideas in those posts come from others!


Calvin on God and Government

I’m no Calvinist, but he was a thinker if nothing else, and some of his thoughts are good.

It’s Time (sharing alternate views of Christians and politics)

Views of young thinkers such as Gurchiek and Stringer are, for me, far more worthy than those of charismatic Christian nationalists such as Graham and Dobson.  Maybe you’ll agree.


This book is available for purchase on Amazon

 

Mourning

I was trying to cheer myself up when I played the piano a few days ago.  I chose songs instead of piano-only jazz or Schumann or MacDowell . . . but every piece of sheet music carried me into some type of mourning.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you—see scripture sampling below¹—but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  Here are notes on four songs that gave me pause:

“A Chosen People”   I wrote this song in 2004, based on thoughts in 1Peter, to recognize a then-newfound hope in two small groups in Kansas.  A few years later, I learned that one of the more outspoken, seemingly dedicated members of one group was having an ongoing affair with a woman on a mission field.  His wife and children were later left bereft, and the loss of a Christian family’s unity is always something to mourn.  The members of the other group have, to a person, all gone away:  one to early death, three to no faith at all, one to willful, selfish sin, and two into relative hiding.  I mourn the loss of the familial hope that was once found in both of those groups.

“When Trials Come” (Keith and Kristyn Getty)  This song acknowledges the presence of struggle and also reminds me of a great group of serious believers, all but one of whom are living loyally to the Lord.²  My arrangement of this song was OK, but not as strong as the spiritually minded intent of the sister who brought it to us.  I mourn the loss of that group and its vibrancy in my life, and I now also lament  my inability to look to God very persistently in trial.

“Reveal the Kingdom”  This captivating song contains a few B+ lyric elements but manifests an A+ concept.  I have no idea whether the one who originally shared this song thinks of the Kingdom-concepts.  Perhaps she just likes it because the lead vocalist sounds like Freddie Mercury (Queen).  I arranged this song, too, but there was little hope for it to succeed in our group at the time.  (It was a work of the heart, but not of the musical craftsman in me.)  Close-mindedly, I wish the vocalist/cowriter hadn’t gotten mixed up in Queen’s Legacy Tour, but mostly, I wish the song’s concepts were more embedded in my heart presently.  I also mourn the compromise of the once-pure faith of the one who shared it—and of a deeper relationship that was largely lost because I spoke the truth in love years ago.  And now, as I think of others who had begun to catch on to the eternal kingdom but who have lost that focus, I mourn anew.

Reveal the unseen Kingdom
The glory of the new Son
Where ever more His love imparts
The kingdom in our hearts

“Richer Blood”  I wrote the music for this song 2½ years ago for our home study group.  It never caught on.  One of the members of the group thought it was out of style.  That person was probably right, but the words, most of which are by noted hymnist Isaac Watts (flourished early 18C), are timeless.  My 3rd stanza capitalized on concepts derived exegetically from Galatians, e.g., being a child of promise, and faithfulness/allegiance in the Christian community.  As I ponder these rich concepts and the rich, sufficient work of the Christ, I selfishly mourn what feels like the waste of a personal gift.  My vocal/song styles are largely passé, so the time of using my music in Christian assemblies is no more.  I have no expectations or even wispy thoughts for the future, but if I had been more of a marketer, a few of my songs might have taken hold in the 90s and early 2000s.  Surely a dozen of them were better than popular ones of the time.  I actually like this song “Richer Blood,” and I feel it was relatively well composed.  It might have been one of my own top 10, but it had no life at all.  More than the comatose birth of this song, though, I mourn my own lack of attention to Yeshua the Messiah, whom I have claimed as Lord but to Whom I do not show nearly enough allegiance.

“His is a sacrifice that far surpasses the old ones, and His, the richer blood today.”

There is so much to lament.  Next, I think I should—but will I?—focus on some songs that carry more hopeful concepts for me than these.


¹   Eccl 7:4 — The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Jas 4:9-10 — Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Jer 31:13 (not as popular as 31:31) — I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.
Rev 21:4 — He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

² Three of these couples are also producing offspring—five so far!—that I expect to be faithful disciples, too.

(Secretly) glad

The school secretary called this afternoon to tell me that Jedd had mistakenly left his school-issued iPad at school. “No problem,” I said. “I’ll be right there to pick it up.”

I had already heard from Jedd.  He and a friend had helped his teacher clean up, then he’d run to the band room to get this trombone, and he’d almost missed the bus.  (It’s hard to run with a trombone case, especially if you’re not much taller than it is.)  When I texted him not to worry about it, he texted back, “Oops!” and I was secretly glad that he knew I was there for him and would take care of this little mistake.

The secretary smiled as she brought the iPad to me at the school door.  She commented, “We really like Jedd.  He’s a great kid.”  I was glad, and I beamed (not so secretly).  They know and like him already, and it’s only two months into the school year at a new school (middle school)!  I was secretly glad that he had remembered his trombone—and apparently valued it over the iPad.

Now, this weekend, I want to make it my ambition to be openly (not secretly) glad that we get to spend time together.  We might even get to play brass instruments!

B. Casey, 10/23/20

Reading activities

During the spring and summer, I kept a little record of some bits I was reading.  “Bits” are still about all my dwarfed attention span can handle.

Some bits are enough.
Some are more than enough.
Some make me want to know more.
Some are confusing and/or complicated.

Below is a partial reading log, arranged by category.  I’ll save one category for a possible, later installment.

Education

  1. An academic dean’s bulletins and requests.  Good tone always.  Meaningful, caring, and academically appropriate, yet full of personality and warmth toward both students and faculty.
  2. Google Classroom “Weekly Summary” for my son’s online schooling.   Teachers did admirably last spring, but this summary tool was always balderdash.  Google must have had high school dropouts programming and labeling things that were meaningless for anybody who has ever taught or taken a class in anything.  They didn’t even understand the meaning of “last week” and “this week.”  Everything was confused.  UPDATE:  As of 9/25/20, there is little improvement.  I still lay little to no blame at the feet of the educators themselves.  Although I’m guessing it’s possible to change some settings to make the Summary tool more effective, the complex world of computer technology grows more complex and more obtuse by the week, it seems.
  3. Gerard Morris:  COVID-19 response and small band programs—timely, well-communicated
  4. Mark Spede:  COVID-19 Response Committee Report—ditto

Music & Arts

  1. Trae Blanco:  Curving the Canon is a short introduction to interviews on the wind band repertoire.  I kept this in front of me for nearly two months but never got into it.  I thought I needed to, but (call me judgmental) something kept me from thinking that the particular interviewees were the ones I need to help shape my opinions of large ensemble repertoire.
  2. Nikk Pilato:  WRP and Flex Instrumentation/Small Bands.  The Wind Repertory Project has been a frequently used resource, and I was glad to see this new category.  It’s a practical one, especially in this season.
  3. Now comes this one:  David Frese, in KC Studio, May/June 2020, “Chris Ortiz: The Lawrence-based Documentary Photographer Turns His Lens to Punk Culture.”  If I had seen the subtitle, I wouldn’t have read further.  Here are the closing lines:

To Ortiz, punk rock touches everything around him.

“It’s a scene I’ve been in since I was 15 or 16 years old,” he said. “It has shaped my life, and I guess this is my thank you to it, for allowing me to thrive as a person and be who I am today.”

It’s rather pathetic to have one’s life shaped by punk music.  For the record, I would say it’s sad to have your life entirely shaped by any particular music—classic rock, chamber music, opera, or most country music I’ve ever heard.

  • Other bits from the KC Studio magazine all over the map in terms of significance:
    • the notice of a display of pianos in Manhattan Kansas, a horse sculpture, and a new arts studio opening in Independence, MO
    • something about “cutting-edge choreography,” with an un-stirring, unintelligent bit about a spontaneous reaction:  “We’ve had people walking by and be like, ‘This looks cool; what are you doing here?  Can I jump in?’”
    • a one-pager about Kansas City jazz saxophone dynamo Bobby Watson’s transition from academia at the UMKC Conservatory to the touring/performing scene.
  • The most substantive article that drew me in is the one on composer Virgil Thomson. The little contact I’ve had with this thinker-composer’s output and influence on music world is not enough.  That he is a native of KC, the nearest metro area, is mildly interesting; mostly, I want to know more about his music and influence.

Misc.

Netflix e-mails ask,  “Περιπατεiτε, what are people watching in your area?”  Actually, I don’t care much what other people are watching.  This is not a key area of investigation, or really one of much interest at all, unless I know you.  Even then, I’d probably rather talk about something other than Netflix.  If you think I’m going to make live stream entertainment decisions on what is popular in my area, you are deluded.  Something that’s popular in my particular would be of even less interest than if I were in, say, Texas or Wyoming or Delaware.

Now if you want to ask me about why I chose that Greek word (transliterated “peripateite”) for my profile name, then I’d be glad to share.  The reason is linguistic, scripture-based, philosophically life-oriented, and related to a dear friend’s care.  (I’ll also gladly relay that my son chose “Pair of Potatoes” for our shared profile!)

Fiction

I picked up a “bookspot” (apparently a contemporary term for a novella) titled Manhunt by James Patterson and a co-writer.  I couldn’t stay interested.  Earlier, I’d trashed a book of nice-length short stories because several of them were dark . . . even grotesque.

God material

Phillip D. Stewart, “Wordplay in Genesis,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Summer 2020, 58-61.  Definitely makes me want to come back.

Mitra R. Golub, “What’s in a Name?  Personal Names in Aancient Israel and Judah,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Summer 2020, 46-51.  Interesting, but sufficient, because I’m afraid it fed my interest in etymology too much.

Brent Nongbri, “How Old Are the Oldest Christian Manuscripts?” Biblical Archaeology Review, Summer 2020, 39-45.  Nongbri is a respected academic in the field and has been referred to and engaged more than once by another scholar-writer  This gave me a good, nicely succinct primer on carbon-14 dating.  A keeper.

“Finally available for Logos Bible Software:  Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testaments (TUAT).”  This posting from the Logos Academic Blog tells of a newly available resource.  It’s not something I will acquire for myself, but I was interested to know that a study of the societies, cultures, and religions of the Ancient Near East is available.

Paula Fredriksen, When Christians Were Jews:  The First Generation.  I bought this and was reading at it for a while.  Fredriksen is a known scholar and was praised by the late Larry Hurtado before his death last year.  The topic and Hurtado’s recommendation combined to lead me to buy the book.  I had mixed reactions and feel she is sometimes on dry, if not shaky, ground.

Collier, Gary D, The Art of Biblical Conversation.  This is a new book by my close friend Gary D. Collier.  I’ve had the pleasure and honor, along with several others, of reading drafts, so I know this book is brimming with both significance and potential.  Look for an announcement shortly.

Soon, I might share some thoughts from books about living in this world as a pilgrim-disciple-subject of the King.

News

[The bits that I’ve read or listened to haven’t done much for my life or soul, so . . . nothing here.]

Supporting people’s writing

I like to support people’s writing, and I like for others to support mine.  Such support is a nice eventuality in life.

I supposed I learned much about writing and language from my parents, both of whom earned related academic credentials.  Because of their influence, I don’t have the sense that public school language teachers had much impact on my writing, but I do often recall one paper, returned with some marks by Mr. Groo in senior Engligh.  I learned something about diction and flow from a single comment he made.

My college papers weren’t much about to write home about, by and large, but I saved a couple.  An independent study that substituted for one semester of private voice was significant:  I researched and wrote about the song cycle.  As a tech employee of a banking company in the 90s, I didn’t write myself, but I proofed a few write-ups for a friend named Ed.  He took all my suggestions gratefully (except that he didn’t like the dash in business writing, so he opted out of those).  I’ve found through the years that pretty much everyone is appreciative of help, but most want to retain rights to do at least one thing against my recommendations, which is fine.  During doctoral studies, I learned a great deal about writing by two generous taskmasters:  Drs. Bellman and Singleton.  I have had the distinct pleasure and honor of supporting the writing of Dr. Gregory Fay and Dr. Gary D. Collier.  These dear friends continue to make me feel worthwhile by inviting me into their circles of readers.  I feel that I am supporting them, although I don’t do enough.

On the other side of the proofer’s fence, friends such as Bill and Anne and Mike and Rachel and Gary and Chuck have strongly supported my writing.  My dad seemed never to stop actively supporting what I was writing about (the assembly, worship, the Christian and government) and offering suggestions.  Primarily, he made me feel affirmed, although he offered many valuable proofreading and editing bits.  A list of my books, written over a period of a dozen years but all compiled and published during a relatively short span during the last two years of Dad’s life, is available here.

Blogging constitutes most of my writing these days.  I’ll take this opportunity to rant about WordPress’s new “editor” function.  (This is not a person but an editing interface.)  I don’t care for it.  It seems to be getting more difficult to get to the Classic editor, and I can’t find the tools I want with the new one.  I find such “upgrades” actually to be downgrades.  As such, WordPress is not supporting my writing all that well.

Now is when I get to support a new book:  authors of the chapters include Richard T. Hughes, John Mark Hicks, and Lee C. Camp—all men I’ve come to respect deeply.  The book’s title is Rejecting Babel:  Allegiance to God and the Problem of Government.   I highly recommend this book!  I am almost finished with it and have only discovered one typographical error.  On the upside, I find that nearly every page has challenging, conceptual depth to offer. 

I suppose that scholars feel most affirmed in their writing when other scholars cite them.  To my knowledge, only one other researcher has ever cited my dissertation on funeral music.  She purchased an e-copy from me.  I was, however, recently gratified to find that Resisting Babel cites my magnum opus, Subjects of the Kingdom.  Embedded chronologically among the works that have treated the influence of David Lipscomb I found the citation of my work, and I wasn’t even looking!  

Finally I’ll note the August 2020 death of a prince among scholars, Tom Olbricht.  As the Christian Chronicle (Oct 2020) has stated, Olbricht’s “academic work shaped generations of Christian scholars, ministers and church leaders.”  He focused on rhetorical studies and church history, according to David Fleer, the director of a scholars’ conference that Olbricht founded nearly 40 years ago.   (The conference was later named in his honor.)  Olbricht has supported countless others through his writing, teaching, mentoring, and recommendations of other authors’ books.  I have not sampled all the much of Olbricht’s writing, and I feel bad about that.  He has sent me small things here and there, and his material on my maternal grandfather, Andy T. Ritchie, Jr., needed a few corrections.  Given his prolific output, I suppose it’s excusable to have a typo here and there!  A fine tribute to Olbricht may be found here, on a Pepperdine University page, where he was Distinguished Professor Emeritus.

Olbricht was a thinker, a gracious colleague, and a friend to many, and I will always be grateful that he wrote a blurb for my book Subjects of the Kingdom, which may be purchased through Amazon hereThat was so very supportive.  I would be honored if readers of this post would show support by purchasing my book, but it would be of infinitely more worth if readers deeply, broadly acknowledged that the King of Kings, not a national/political system, solely deserves our pledges of allegiance. 

If a person is influenced by . . . (2 of 2)

In the last post, I retreated to my childhood memory of what is apparently a well-known piece, “Children Learn What They Live.”  There’s a lot of truth in the notion that we are products of upbringing and environment.  Still, although our world is broken and vulnerable to the ramifications of sin, some things can be overcome.  I suppose each mature individual’s task is to root out traces of negative influence, in order to prevail over it, all the while benefiting from influences deemed constructive.

A few days ago, in the context of pondering the most appropriate ways of receiving and interpreting scripture texts, I was pointed to this review of a collection of chapters by different scholars.  Toward the end, a mention appears of this contribution:  “Paul and the Authority of Scripture:  A Feminist Perception.”  According to the reviewer, the author “contests the assumption that Scripture is authoritative in the sense of power-over (i.e. domination) and is thereby used by Paul to obtain submission to his views.  Instead, she explores alternative views of power . . . .”  It is ostensibly good to explore alternative views of power and power structures, yet the presumption that any long-held view is automatically culpable would be inappropriate.  I ask, what is this “power-over” idea, and why is it presumed to be a bad thing?  Who thinks in terms of “domination” but a creature trapped within a culture gone awry?  Of course, many women have not been treated well, but the effects of this malady are not always those spouted by the most vocal “feminists.”  (Not to mention that women aren’t the only ones subject to mistreatment.)

I submit that if we are subjects of the King,¹ we accept that a benevolent sort of “power-over” exists.  The differentiation between good and bad uses of power involves vantage point:

If one is willing to subject himself to a power-figure and believes in the figure’s goodness, then “power” can be good.

On the other hand, if one is subjected against his will, the exertion of power is likely negative.

The vantage point of the “subjected” one is both sensitive and sensitized, and it ought to be given attention.  The other side of the equation—that of the power-wielder—is at least as significant, though.  No one should consider himself to wield coercive power; moreover, beyond the behind-the-scenes thoughts, how the person actually exerts power in relation to others is probably more important.  For the believer, a crucial fact is in evidence, too:  coercion of humans has not been a hallmark of the God I read about in our scriptures.

God certainly doesn’t want his followers to coerce others.  “Power-over” can certainly be a bad thing, and “domination” never seems to carry a good connotation in English, whereas God’s “dominion” generally does sound positive to the believer.  Again, vantage point can be key.  By that I mean that if I detect “domination” or find someone to be exerting dominating force over me, that is a bad thing from my vantage point, whereas if one has power but does not domineer or “lord it over,” he or she could be just fine, holding and using power well.  Words and their use can be central to later analysis, but if you are the one being dominated by a power-hungry person, in the moment, I don’t suppose the words matter!

A feminist these days might focus on gender-related imbalance of power and influence, or on gender inequality in the workplace or the political playing field.  Here, in the context of Pauline literature and theology, I would propose that, if one hobnobs with “feminists,” whatever that means, one might just come out with feminist-influenced views that are anachronistic or even fanciful.  In this case, since I haven’t read the full review or the chapter to which it refers here, I won’t presume to say how much “feminism” constitutes an unhelpful or inappropriate bias.  I’ll merely say that an honest person in 1820 (or 120!) who read this opinion would have gone, “Huh?!”  Of course scriptures carry authority:  authority of their author(s).  God, while not marked by coercion, is rightly viewed as holding power and authority.  Said authority might not be accepted by the reader, and it might, in a contemporary view, end in objection.

Just as with children, adults learn what they live, and they can pass what they’ve experienced on to others.  Does a contemporary “feminist” hold entirely original ideas, or has influence been present in the development of ideas?  The wording “feminist perception” is a fair one, and I appreciate that it was included in the title referred to above.  Perhaps the author mentored by someone who had been mistreated by a domineering, patriarchal misogynist (how ’bout those inflammatory words?).  If one has been subjected to a power-over, coercive force, it’s understandable that that person might see life through a “domination” lens.  The influence of others—particularly, others who are articulate and/or verbal—can be significant, and can lead to bias.  Reader-interpreters and all thinkers ought to seek awareness of our influences and biases, and in being aware, we will ideally achieve reasonable balance and fair-mindedness.  A feminist perception, or any other developed perception, may then be considered circumspectly, rather than giving said viewpoint an unchallenged, powerful place in a given arena.

Paul was to some extent a product of his time.  In another, equally important analysis, he was an instrument “played” by God.  (Does the player of an instrument have bad or good power over the instrument?)  Even with my 20th- and 21st-century baggage, I don’t perceive an improper use of power on Paul’s part.  Although there are some seemingly coercive passages in his letters, I find them appropriate in the grand scheme.  Still, I am more partial to his tone in the beautiful letter to Philemon—in which he appeals to the addressee based on love and relationship rather than using authority in a way that we, through our glasses, might find dominating or authoritarian.

¹ Coda  All this talk of authority and dominion and subjection naturally leads the believer to thoughts of the Kingdom of God and its King.  Please check out my other blog, Subjects of the Kingdom.

If a child lives with . . . (1 of 2)

In my childhood home in Newark, Delaware, a wall hanging proclaimed that “children learn what they live.”  A quick WWW turned it up.

I didn’t internalize all the specifics; now, though, as a dad, I must pause to ponder some of the above.  I praise fairly well, and I’m a stickler for fairness.  Responsibly providing security is high on my list, and I think my son senses that.  I never ridicule, but, on the other hand, I sometimes feel guilt for criticizing too much and not encouraging enough (middle), which might be why his confidence level seems inconsistent. 

Expanding my thinking into adult concerns, I’ll suggest these corollaries to Dorothy Nolte’s original:

  • If one associates habitually with people who have little to no moral center, his morals might be compromised.
  • If one is taken in by deceptive people or ideas, she might become something of a liar herself.
  • If one plays video games that involve violence, he might become violent himself when triggered. ¹
  • If one regularly hears language that blatantly disrespects God, she might get those expressions in her head. ²
  • If one interacts with bitingly sarcastic people, he might become more bitter or cynical.
  • [So many others could be added.]

Above, I say “might” in each case.  It is not a sure thing that a person will be negatively influenced, and the impact might not be manifest directly.  Even better, some of us are stronger, more oblivious to surrounding influences than others.  The point is that it’s safer to stay away from negatives, at least most of the time. 

Sometimes, we are powerless to avoid the bad influences.  If a girl lived with gross hostility, intolerance, lack of security, and nonsensical judgment, she might not be able to admit that her brokenness and incapacities stem more from those things than from later experiences.  If a boy lived with such standards and strictures in the home and beyond, he might find it difficult to be free and joyful.  I hurt for the children of parents who show little to no love.  Perhaps even more, I hurt for the children whose parents show one thing in public but another in private—so the children end up feeling not only abused and unloved but also disoriented. 

If repeated mistreatments occur in life, one might move through the world with suspicion and distrust.  If one experiences an insincere, hollow pursuit of man-made religion without regard for scriptures, deep truths, and faithful living, rebellion might be the later result—or at least a lasting, inward tension.

In our broken world, the consequences of what we live with can be dire.

Coming next:  influence in scholarly work.  (Sometimes, influences can lead to unhelpful bias.)


¹ This possibility is a good reason not to have a gun within reach of a minor—or, really, anyone in a household.  I believe hunting animals for food is fine, but other than that, I believe it’s wise to place stringent limitations on virtually every other private purchase of, or retention of, guns.

² To my own embarrassment, I recently became addicted to a Netflix series that contained such regular, blasphemous language that the same expressions began to run through my head when I was in negative situations.

 

Mitakes

My son agrees that I should leave this post’s title as it originally came out on my phone.  “Heh-heh,” he said.  I made a mistake in spelling “mistake.”  (My thumbs didn’t work.) 

The above music has proven very valuable to me over the years—in that I return to it often, whenever I take time to play.  I have a full file drawer of other piano music, including these:

  • a bunch of single-copy pop tunes collected into a binder
  • a Maynard Ferguson collection
  • books of songs by Rich Mullins, Glad, Michael W. Smith, Michael Card, Rebecca St. James, Phillips Craig & Dean
  • dozens of worship music books
  • an easy jazz collection
  • other art music—piano solos by Bach, Brahms, Mussorgsky, Debussy, Bartok, Kabalevsky, and a bunch more

The above is a page out of a Schubert collection known as Moments Musicaux.¹  Two of thee “Musical Moments” are go-to pieces for me when I simply want to play for enjoyment.  My Clementi, Chopin, MacDowell, and Schumann also get a lot of play, along with this Schubert book.

Now, mind you, I am not feeling a lot of enjoyment in piano playing these days.  I haven’t played my horn in an embarrassingly long time, and I haven’t composed much of anything, either.  But piano playing can provide emotional outlet and fulfillment for me. 

I pulled out the Schubert book the other day.  This piece is only two pages long, in the form of a gentle, flowing, stylized minuet.  I learned it as a sophomore or junior in college, while under the instruction of Dr. William Hollaway at Harding, and the pencil marks are Hollaway’s, not mine.  Perhaps it is the result of unpredictable brain function, or perhaps it’s just happenstance, but last weekend, those marks jumped out at me for the first time in a couple decades.  If you look closely, you’ll find a circled note just below the cresc. dynamic marking.

Why did Doc circle that note?  Because I was missing the note during my lessons.  What happened when I played it last weekend?  I missed the same note!

We humans tend to repeat our “mitakes.”  I keep missing those marks.  If I’ve played that piece 100 times, I’ve missed the lowest Eb in that almost as many.  The adage says “insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results,” and history does repeat itself in our mistakes, our missings-of-the-mark, our sins.  Thank Goodness for grace.


¹ Why did an Austrian like Schubert title the collection in French?  Paris was once more of a musical center, whereas Vienna was still coming into its own.  I suspect France’s cultural influence had something to do with it.  My primary musicology professor would prefer that I be more certain about this, I imagine, but I don’t want to make a mistake, so I’m leaving myself an “out.”

From my other blogs (X-posted)

My Subjects of the Kingdom blog is close to my heart.  Found here on that blog is a piece I wrote on the influence of late Dr. George Benson.  As some readers will know, there has lately been a good deal of press related to Benson.  Personally, I take no exception to his fiduciary leadership, his missionary activities, or his good works.  Nor do I particularly feel the Harding University main auditorium should have been renamed from George Benson to Botham Jean, no matter how tragic the recent death of the latter.  My critical remarks focus on the following:

  1. the American conservatism and patriotic philosophies and activities that were blended, during Benson’s tenure, with
  2. Christianity (to the detriment of more apt conceptualizations of Christ’s Kingdom)

My Christian Assembly and Worship blog is a storehouse more than an active weblog, but I post from time to time.  Found here on that blog is a chart filled with ideas on moving beyond traditional church.  The primary material is that of a groundbreaking believer from India, Victor Choudhrie.

Help and pain

I am sensitive to racism, but I must confess that I am not understanding the extreme feelings about it in this country these days.  I don’t disagree that there is a problem, but I don’t resonate with it.  Racism-charged friends (whether black or brown or white), please don’t immediately think I’m intentionally obscuring what you feel.  I’m not.  Nor am I insensitive to the plight of the disenfranchised.  I am one of them, in a different way.

A few weeks ago, I watched the movie The Help in order to learn.  The movie also also led me to ponder and reminisce about “the help” in my great-grandparents’ house in Nashville, during the 1940s and continuing through the 1950s and beyond, to a degree.  There was a single black woman who took care of children and cooked and probably cleaned, at various times.  A black couple lived in a shack at the edge of the property.  I took the opportunity to have my mother describe the scenario to my son.  She, probably for reasons related to character, personality, and the era/generation in which she grew up, sees nothing but goodness in the family/work relationship with Maggie, the main “help.”  She is less clear on the roles of Jeff and Irene.  I know those people’s names and met them, and I remember only good, positive feelings all around. 

I doubt those three had too many negative feelings, but perhaps their children and grandchildren did.  Perhaps they rose above any past injustices and hatred for white supremacy as it might have surfaced in their lives.  Perhaps, as the years rolled along into and out of the 60s, there was pain.  Pain.  Now there’s something with which I deeply identify.

1994.  It was a year in which I determined to take a less public face in a very specific way.  I was still reeling from life pain. I felt something like this woman from the movie.  Ironic, I know, that I should choose a still shot of a white woman.  It just happened that way, because. . . .

2020.  Sporadically, I have been feeling like the woman in that picture for some time now.  The facial expression is all too familiar.  And it’s for similar reasons, but made so much worse by the general craziness in the land.  One night, I talked to my son to sleep and left two tears on his pillow on the sheet beside him.  I was grateful that he heard my calm voice, my heart-voice (whether or not he heard my actual words) as he fell asleep.

To feel like that woman is painful.  Those who feel that way might just need help.  And it is not physical help (read:  Personal Protective Equipment) that is needed the most.  We need emotional and spiritual health—and those are elusive.