Monday, January 30, 2023

A Relationship with Jesus

If you travel in Evangelical circles, you will often hear them say things like "Christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship" or "I'm not religious, I have a relationship with Jesus".

But, of course, it is a religion and, no, it isn't a relationship.  I have always felt, even when I was a believer, that this sort of language was an attempt to set themselves apart from other religions and even those they consider lesser versions of Christianity.

Anyway, I wrote this as a comment on a thread some years back and I think it sums up why the word relationship, in this context, doesn't work -

I have personal relationships with real live persons. We talk, and the conversation occurs on both sides. We do stuff together and there is interaction.

If I think I have a relationship with someone because I have read their book, or heard their music, or looked at their art - that is only occurring in my head. I have watched many Quentin T. movies and listened to scores of interviews with him... so much so, it feels like I know him. But I don't and he doesn't know me. It is a flight of fancy to imagine otherwise.

When Christians state that they have a relationship with God, they are using that word in such a way that it is rendered meaningless. Even if we imagine for a moment that there is a god that made the universe and he wrote a book for us to read, we could appreciate his art and read his writings... but we still would not know him and we would not have a "relationship" with him.

It seems to me the best thing a Christian could say in this regard is that they are a Christian because they work at following the teachings and life of Christ.

Monday, January 16, 2023

HBO's The Last of Us

There has been a lot of hype over HBO's The Last of Us.

My take on episode 1.  First half great, 2nd half boring.

Mild spoilers ahead...

They did what I feared... they skipped the middle.

They start out with the introduction of the plague.  This is the $#!^ I find fascinating.  I want them to spend episodes... NAY!  A SEASON!... getting into the nuts and bolts of the infection.  How does it work, why is it spreading, how is science fighting it, and how is society dealing with it?  What happens as social and economic systems start to break down? There is so much story there.

But, like so many movies and series before it, we get quickly moved past all that and land in a future where folks are despondently walking about a landscape that nature is slowly recapturing.  Walking Dead skipped past all the good stuff too... and gave us season after season of folks wandering about running into worse and worse marauders and scavengers.  

I do hope this is not where the show is going... but the first episode for me had a great build-up and then a big let-down.

Back in the Box

"You need more faith!!"  is a common refrain in fundamental religious circles.  It is the cure shouted at every problem.  Issues of health, finances, questions about life... everything is about pushing you back into the framework.

To get back in, you have to have to cut off part of yourself.  Your pain, your questions, your desires... all have to be made smaller.

Over the decades, life gets more basic as they repeat the same verses, the same dictums.  Nothing new, no growth... just endless contraction.  The world looks stranger and stranger as it continues to grow and expand.  Eventually, the fundamentalist struggles to find good in anything or anyone outside their sect.

Teaching and Tacos

I often hear people say, "Kids are natural learners.  They are curious.  Just don't stand in their way!!"

Ummm, no.  SOME kids are natural learners.  Some are curious.  Others would just like to watch TV and eat tacos thank you very much.

I know this because if I only did what I WANTED to do... I would watch TV and eat tacos.

But, I have the self-discipline to know that path would make me obese and lonely... so I do other things and go to work.

Now, what is true is that most American classrooms are not meeting most kids' needs.  Some kids excel in academic disciplines.  They love bookwork.  They love to write.  They love to solve equations.

Others prefer movement.  They want to be outside.  They want to tear things, twist them, bend them, throw them.

Some folks love to be with people ALL DAY!  For others, an hour or two is MORE than enough.

Some kids have been reading voraciously since they were two.  They walk into 2nd grade on Harry Potter 4 and are starting to worry about what happens when they finish Deathly Hollows at the end of the month.

Others come in hoping that since they got through an entire Clifford book this week, they might be excused from reading for a while.

In our system, the Potter and the Clifford reader go to the same class because they have hit that magic age of 7.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen... your child's core curriculum for the year will be set, not by their motivation, not by their interest, not by their present level... but by how old they are.  

We just toss them all in together and wish those teachers the best of luck.  🙂

Saturday, January 07, 2023

A Teaching Blind Spot

This meme has stirred up some dust on the teacher page I got it from.  Lots of teachers are chastizing this dad for "lazy parenting".  They say if parents would just "model" good reading practices at home, then kids would "learn to love reading" instead of seeing it as something they need to be paid for.  As one person said, "If they are read to from infancy they will learn enjoying a book is natural and just fun."

I do not think this blind spot is exclusive to teachers but I think the potential for harm is more prevalent because it is coming from teachers.

It is a common human error to believe that someone is "missing out" if they do not enjoy what we enjoy.  In this diverse world, there are LOTS of things to enjoy.  Some folks invest their time in sports, others in music, some like to climb mountains, many apply brush strokes to a canvas.  

Even those interests have varied levels of dedication.  Interests also change.  I enjoy acting in plays but I have friends who LIVE for theater.  My interest in acting was stronger a few years ago than it is now and it may circle back again.

Still... it is just one of many interests... as is reading.

Fortunately, and unfortunately, most teachers are recreational readers.  As such, there is a blindspot in the profession that often assumes there is something amiss if a child does not enjoy reading.  It makes my job easier if they enjoy it... but it should not be viewed as a problem if they don't.

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