Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What's with all the negativity?

http://shawncita.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/080428-kids-how-about-no.jpg?w=480&h=384No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children

It's unbelievable to me the amount of outward negativity there is associated with having kids.  I guess, given our immediate fulfillment type culture, it makes sense, but I find this sentiment equally in secular society and among those Christian (and Catholic) friends whom I know believe that children are a blessing from God.  Still, I'm sure if you drilled down into them, most people would find positive words to say about being a parent and their kids.  It's just that my idyllic, Theology-of-the-Body-influenced self is so struck by the fact that the first words out of parents' mouths are always something to do with how negatively impacted their lives are.

Like I said, I recognize that with me being an expectant Dad, I probably still have on rose-colored lenses and that I honestly have no real world experience with the emotions of being up in the middle of the night with a wailing baby.  I definitely don't want to discount the difficulty and enormous amount of self-sacrifice required and I suppose technically, from the lens of the Bible (Romans 8:13, Luke 9:23, Galatians 5:24, etc), people are correct that their lives are over because they are dying to themselves for the sake of another, but I somehow doubt that's what people really mean in the moment.

I think partly what I'm responding to is the erosion of the nuclear family in modern society.  Like I said earlier, the prevailing mindset seems to be one that is self-serving and so those things that go against that mindset probably feel the most painful.  As a result, in our status-updating culture, that discord is at the front of our minds and so maybe that's why it gets shared so often. 

I'm not really asking that parents no longer complain because at times, it's probably therapeutic.  Sharing honestly about your current emotional/mental/physical state can probably help people connect relationally, ie. sharing how tired you are because you've been trying to soothe a colicky baby or how frazzled you are from trying to round up a bunch of kids to get to church.  But it's those sweeping statements that are more a factor of perspective, intentionality, and desire for affirmation that seem dangerous to me.  Stuff like, "Oh, you're pregnant?  Congrats!  Your life is over!  Kiss your sex life goodbye!  You'll never travel again!"   I just want a bit more balance.

My prayer is that I can represent a more Truthful understanding of family in my life (Psalm 127:3-5). But check back in with me after October.  I might be feeling pretty sheepish.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011


It has become a part of our Silicon Valley culture (at least) these days where people are quite courteous and sensitive when it comes to spoiling movies.  Most people, from critics to random people, will almost always give a disclaimer when discussing a part of a movie that gives away some significant portion of the plot.  Usually, a prominently typed or formatted, "SPOILERS," acts as the writer/talker's sufficient warning that releases them from any culpability for ruining someone else's movie watching experience.  If this is ignored or forgotten, there will almost always be a socially justified strong reaction out of the reader/hearer to berate the spoiler-er.

With DVR's found in more and more households, it seems (definitely for me) that watching sporting events on tape delay is becoming more and more and commonplace.  If you've ever attempted to watch a game on tape delay, you know that there are definitely pros and cons.  Pros include being able to skip commercials and watch the game at your own pace.  With a growing family and a marriage that is a top priority, the less time I can spend in order to get my sporting fix means the more quality time I can give the wifey.  However, the cons are where it really becomes an adventure. 

Especially if the sporting event is fairly high profile, like say a play-off or finals game or a top college football game, and most people know you're a fan, you might as well turn off your phone.  Even if you try not to look at your text messages, based on the timing and possibly who sent it to you (on the home screen), you usually can figure out if it's positive or negative.  Status messages (on GChat, Facebook, AIM, etc) should also obviously be avoided.

There are also always people who want to talk about the game and inevitably, in passing you're also likely to find out about the game - people gathering around a TV and cheering or groaning, people who were following on the internet or on their phone, etc.

Of course, I acknowledge that if one chooses to watch a game on tape delay, you can't complain *too* much if it gets spoiled, especially if you were in public places during the game.  But really, it always feels like a gut-punch especially if I had been building up the watching experience expectation in my mind for a while - to just kick back with a glass of scotch and just chill.  So as a result, I'm proposing, out of the goodness of peoples' hearts, that we institute a, "SPOILERS," cultural shift that, like movies, encourages a sensitivity to people's sport watching preferences. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Beat That Testimony


One of the most uplifting things in my faith is hearing people share about the transforming, redeeming power of God in their lives.  Growing up in a variety of Christian environments, the sharing of testimonies were pretty much standard in Evangelical, Protestant communities, rare in modern Catholic culture (though everywhere in the lives of the saints), and so collectively, I've heard my fair share of these stories.  Especially in light of a secular culture where the common rhetoric for the non-existence of God is the lack of evidence, I've always enjoyed hearing these sort of macro-social examples (though I realize that atheists don't feel that it's bullet-proof).

Something I've realized over years of hearing testimonies is that I have sub-consciously developed something that I'm terming the "prodigal-meter."   What is that you ask?  Well, assuming we're familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son, it's basically a meter of spiritual tolerance that dictates the emotional amazement and awe I feel when hearing a testimony.  The more "prodigal" a testimony is, the higher it scores on the prodigal-meter and the more, "Wow!  God is so awesome-spectacular-worthy-holy-is-the-lamb-praise-tha-Lawd!" I get.  The interesting thing with this "prodigal-meter" is that it is relative, ever-changing, and continually normalizing as I hear more and more stories and is honestly something I have to actively fight against. 

For example, when I was in middle/high school and heard my first testimony of someone praying to God for an A and then getting it, I was like, "Foe reeealz?!  God hears and answers those types of prayers?!  Siiiick! (a little norcal 1990's slang for ya'll)"  Then, as I got older and learned more about how God isn't a cosmic, wish-granting genie (Jesus Following 101, I guess), each subsequent time I heard this type of testimony again, it was easier and easier to dismiss the relative importance of that experience for the testifier and even feel a bit smug. 

These days, it almost feels like the "gold-standard" of testimonies has become ones of deliverance from a life of promiscuity, drugs, and/or alcohol.  And even then, the rank of the wow-factor of this "gold-standard" testimony seems to go, from least-wow to most-wow, alcohol and partying (eh, lots of people get into that), then the dabbling in drugs (okay, this is bad, but at least you're mostly only screwing yourself up), then the sexual sin (sex?! <cue general Christian insecurity and personal confusion>).  But still, it does seem that people ascribe the most awe to these types of testimonies and it has had an impact on general Christian culture.  Seeing it especially in my generally square high school students, there is sort of an increased lack of sharing because there is a fear that if the testimony isn't "hardcore" enough, people feel lame about sharing it or may not think it's even worth sharing, diminishing a powerful thing God did in their life.

While I could write a lot about that, on the flip-side, one testimony I recently heard set a new standard on the prodigal-meter.  In a large group setting, someone that I know shared how a few years ago, in a moment of alcohol-affected weakness, he ended up molesting a younger, more vulnerable friend and how he had carried the guilt and shame with him through the years.  In fact, it was this guilt and shame that drove him to be so active in the church to "make up for it."  He hadn't been to Confession since that time, but through a powerful retreat experience, finally went, fully confessed it, and experienced the amazing redemptive power of God's forgiveness through the Sacrament of Confession.  You could've heard a pin drop.  I was so blown away.

Hearing this testimony actually made me realize how normalized deliverance from sexual promiscuity/pornography/masturbation has become in the sense that it is something that increasingly gets shared, in my experience.  Don't get me wrong, on an individual level, it's still an incredibly difficult struggle and thing to share, but I think that part of the reason for the normalization is because just about everyone can identify with the struggles whether you have gone through it yourself or could easily see yourself doing it based on what you know about your desires.  Molestation is such a taboo topic, especially in the Catholic Church, that it has almost reached "unforgivable" status, right there next to blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

It was a good reality check for me.  Clearly, I need to be intentionally vigilant against the prodigal-meter and continue to allow myself to experience ever new the breath-taking goodness and love of Jesus.