Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: respect

The empowerment of women

For as long as most people now alive can remember, abortion has been considered a means of empowering women. The inconvenience of an unexpected pregnancy can be quickly eliminated and the woman can carry on with life as she pleases.

But it is precisely the motherly trait of womankind that men stand in awe of, because we are not capable of it. We do not have the tenderness and warmth that draws a child to a motherly woman and makes that child want to please her. I am not speaking merely of the biological function of carrying a baby to birth and nourishing it, though both aspects are part of being a woman.

But when an unborn baby can be treated as some kind of horrible internal carbuncle to be removed and discarded, women also discard that motherly mystique. Abortion diminishes, rather than empowers, a woman.

Henceforth, a certain type of man regards a woman as merely a sex toy to be used at his whim and discarded with no regrets. The number of men of that type seems to have increased in proportion to the supposed empowerment of women.

All men are not savages. Most of us treat a woman with respect, no matter how she presents herself. Neither do we blame the victim when a scantily clad woman is sexually assaulted. Girls and women of our day live in an atmosphere where that type of dress is the only norm that they know. Those of us who are Christian men appreciate modesty in the appearance and bearing of our wives, sisters and daughters, but we believe all women are worthy of respect.

Some years ago, during Vacation Bible School, an emotionally troubled child fell and skinned his knee. He was in pain but wouldn’t let anyone touch him. One of the teachers, barely out of her teens, scooped him up, held him tight on her knees with one arm while cleaning and bandaging his knee with the other. It was over quickly and the boy hardly knew what had happened to him, except that now he felt better. I stood in awe of the young lady who seemed to instinctively have the right combination of firmness and tenderness to take charge of the situation.

That feminine aptitude is what empowers a woman. It will be apparent in whatever type of work she does, as long as she is at peace with her true nature.

The devaluation of women

Here in Canada the media has paid considerable attention to a sordid case where a well-known media personality was charged with sexual assault. The charges outlined incidents of kinky and violent sex involving several women. Unfortunately things unravelled at the trial. Emails and other evidence indicated that the women were willing participants and that their initial statements to police were not fully truthful and had omitted many details. The accused could not be found guilty on such untrustworthy evidence, even though most of what was described undoubtedly did happen.

Why would seemingly successful young women willingly subject themselves to such degrading experiences? A story from California helps to explain where this begins. It tells about young teen girls who post nude photos of themselves on Facebook. Many of them admit they find it degrading, but the social pressures are so enormous that they dare not refuse to participate. Such refusal would cause them to be rejected and ostracized by their friends.

It seems to me that this is how the devaluing of women begins in our society. Surely a girl, and a woman, is more than the sum of her body parts. She is a person worthy of respect, she has a brain, and is a soul of such value in the eyes of God that she is worthy of the death of His Son to redeem her.

But who is telling girls and women about this? The schools take no such responsibility. Many churches have veered off on causes that seemed more important, and thus these churches became irrelevant to the real needs of people.

Eventually though, the devaluation of women in our society points to a catastrophic failure of the home. Not all homes, thankfully, but so many that the behaviour I have described seems to many young girls to be the norm. (Boys and men are being devalued too, but I want to focus on the girls in this post.)

The well-being of our society depends on having parents who believe they have the ability, the freedom and the duty to provide a safe haven for their children.  A place where girls are respected as persons of value, where they can talk freely of their fears, their struggles and the pressures they face outside the home. Parents that do not push their children to get out there and compete for attention, but help them think through what is really important in life. Parents who encourage their children to be kind and caring toward others and to develop the abilities and qualities that will make them useful citizens.

I’m afraid that being a Christian does not automatically make us superior parents. It is good and right to teach our children to love God and to understand the way of salvation so that they may respond when the Spirit calls. It is good to teach honesty and sound moral principles. But all that is not enough. We need to be examples of all that we teach and above all we need to listen to our children with patience and sympathy and let them know that we love them no matter what happens to them.

How a Biblical worldview can make life better for everybody

There was a school shooting a few days ago at La Loche, a small community in northern Saskatchewan. A teenager who had been relentlessly bullied took a gun and killed two people in their home and then went to school, killed two more and wounded a number of others.

It appears that the young man felt pushed to the point of desperation. That does not make him innocent; it just means that there is a good deal of blame to go around to others in the community who participated in the bullying, or who were aware of the bullying and did nothing to stop it.

After a tragedy like this there are many proposals as to how to deal with the aftermath and what to do to prevent a repeat. Many of them involve more psychological counselling and the spending of large amounts of money.

These things might do some good, but they really don’t get to the root of the problem, which is a lack of respect for one another. Bullying seeks to ridicule, demean and intimidate another person. Such words and actions should never be trivialized by calling them teasing.

One of the first things we read in the Bible is that we are created in the image of God. That applies to all human beings, regardless of ethnic or national origin,or social or economic status. Therefore to belittle another human being, made in the image of God, is an act of defiance against God.

Humanists and atheists claim that they have a better way to instill in people a respect for others. Does anyone think that is really working? If so, why are there so many tragic incidents like the one at La Loche? Why are there so many suicides? Why is there so much violence against women?

It is true that Christians, and people who call themselves Christians, have at times been guilty of words and actions that indicate disrespect for others. That is why we must begin with ourselves to establish a foundation for a truly Biblical worldview to guide our relations with others. The next step is to be able to communicate this to others – not in terms of “the Bible says,” but “this is what works, and it works because God made us, understands us and has given us workable instructions for life.”

We need to be convinced of the value of our Bible-based faith and learn how to share it with others. When tragedies occur it will not do to point fingers, find somebody to blame, and pat ourselves on the back because we are not like that. Might it even be true that we bear a portion of the blame because we have not fulfilled our calling to be ambassadors for Christ, calling the world around us to be reconciled to God?

What is your duty towards your neighbour?

The title of this post is a question from the catechism in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The answer given in the catechism is as follows:

My duty towards my neighbour is to love him as myself, and to do to all as I would they would do unto me.

To love, honour, and help my father and mother; to honour and obey the Queen, and all who are in authority under her; to show respect to teachers and pastors; and to be courteous to all.

To hurt nobody by word or deed; to be true and just in all my dealing; to bear no malice or hatred in my heart; to keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering.

To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity:

Not to covet or desire other men’s goods; but to learn and labour truly to get my own living, and to do my duty in the vocation to which it shall please God to call me.

As I read this over, 60 years after I first studied this catechism, it strikes me that there is nothing impossibly idealistic in these statements; nor do they contain anything distinctively Anglican. They are the simple Biblical standards by which all who call themselves Christian should measure their lives.

Perhaps there is no merit in simply memorizing such fine-sounding words. Yet it seems to me that they could well serve as a daily check list to examine myself to see if I am as much a Christian as I would like to think I am.

It also struck me that there is considerable merit in our country being a constitutional monarchy. The Queen has no real authority over us in Canada, the idea that she is the head of state is considered by many to be an irrelevant fiction. Yet there is virtue in praying for “the Queen, and all who are in authority under her,” in that it overrides any political sensibilities we may have and allows us to pray for our governments as the Bible instructs us to.

We are in the middle of a federal election campaign here in Canada and the party leaders are competing to see who can sling the most mud. If we follow the news at all, it may be difficult to avoid having our feelings stirred. What happens then when the election is over and the “wrong” party has been elected? Can we still pray for God’s guiding hand over our government and promise to respect and obey those in authority?

The Queen is not elected, not a political appointee. For all that she has no real authority, praying for her and “all who are in authority under her” is a politically neutral form of prayer and a reminder of the proper Biblical attitude towards those in authority.

Little men

Two little men attended our worship service last Sunday.  Kirk and Gary have Down Syndrome and their “handicap” was apparently too much for their birth parents to cope with, so they became foster sons of a couple who used to live here. Here they were loved, cared for and taught responsibility. They were also taught to love and worship God.

“Mom and Dad” eventually grew old and moved off the farm. They found supervised living accommodation for Kirk and Gary in a nearby town. Here they work in a sheltered workshop, serve as school crossing guards and generally live a peaceable and useful life. They are short in stature and somewhat short in intellectual capacity but they are coping quite well with life. Kirk speaks clearly, but most people understand little of what Gary says.

Yet Gary has always been the preacher. I remember a  time when the family was visiting in Ontario, about 25 years ago, and came to our home for dinner. After dinner Gary walked up to the landing on the stairs and for 15 minutes or more his fervent preaching served as a backdrop to our conversation in the living room.

They are in their fifties now. “Dad” died several years ago, “Mom” lives in Alberta. They still keep in touch with her. Sometimes, when there is something special up at church, someone will think of Kirk and Gary and offer them a ride out. Last Sunday the special event was a potluck dinner and Kirk and Gary were in church.

At the beginning of the service, Gary asked for hymn number 350, What a Friend we have in Jesus, his favourite. When it was announced that it was open for someone to come up and have introductory remarks and prayer, Gary popped out of his seat, marched up to the rostrum and spoke to us and then prayed. All I understood was a couple of mentions of Jesus and the Amen at the end of his prayer. No doubt some people understood a little more.

The presiding minister thanked Gary and we carried on. No one suggested that we should now have a “real” introduction, this was sufficient. Whatever Gary said, it came from his heart and without a doubt touched the heart of God. I think even the little children recognized it as a sacred moment — there were no smiles or snickers.

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

Cultural perspectives on youth and old age

Closely related to the North American orientation toward the future is the strong emphasis on youth. This can be seen in commercial advertising and entertainment — the old are rarely represented. At work the young are often thought to be more active and productive, and to hold more promise than do the elderly, despite their experience and sense of responsibility.

There are few attempts to involve the aged in the mainstream of the society. Once they retire, they are viewed as having little to contribute. And when they can no longer care for themselves, they are often placed in nursing homes, isolated from their offspring and cared for by non relatives.

This emphasis on youth is the exception rather than the rule around the world. In most societies old people are viewed positively as wise and experienced. They are shown respect, given places of honour and consulted about family and community decisions. There is no retirement from public life. In fact, retirement as we conceive of it now is a twentieth-century phenomenon found mainly in the west.

Paul G Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries © 1985 by Baker Books.

The hoary head

Continuing with the events of the day I was writing about in my last post, after finishing my supper at Tim Horton’s I went over to Dollarama. Two young ladies were just coming out of the store, loaded down with their purchases. I stepped aside to let them through and then one of them held the door open for me. I thanked her and was rewarded with a happy smile. I walked into the store filled with respect for a young lady who wanted to show respect for me as a Mooshum.

My white hair mark me as a Mooshum (grandfather in the Cree language). You see, both this lady and the two I mentioned in my last post were First Nations, or Indians. I respected the two young mothers who stuck to what they knew was right. Their boys are evidently getting different ideas from somewhere else. “Warrior,” “bow to no one,” indeed! Such an attitude, if maintained into adulthood, is a guarantee of a troubled life.

Earlier, on this same day, I had coffee with a friend who is pastor of an evangelical church. He told me that he and his wife are now home schooling their children and spoke of the change that has made. Their children, who would hardly look at them when they spoke to them, now look up and respond appropriately. What kind of stern discipline did it take to achieve such results? None. It was enough to simply remove them from a setting where their peers were the only people who really mattered in their lives.

Over 100 years ago, the founders of the public school system were quite open about their intention to remove children from the influence of the home to shape them on more “progressive” lines. They proceeded to implant in parents the belief that they were incompetent to raise their own children by incessantly repeating that children had to go to school and be with children their own age to learn social skills. We see now what kind of social skills children are learning in that setting.

The apostle Paul described our day well in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: ” This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

Perhaps I am starting to sound like the story of the two old Quaker men sitting on the front porch in their rocking chairs on a fine summer evening. One of them says, “All the world has gone mad, except for me and thee.” Then his rocker stops, he peers over at his neighbour and adds, “And sometimes I wonder about thee.”

Is it only the younger generation that has gone mad? What about those of us who are Mooshums and Kookums (grandmothers)? Can we really expect the respect that the Bible says is due to the hoary head if we don’t want to admit that we are old? Are we part of the problem?

Our Muslim neighbours

In our worship service yesterday evening, a minister told us about a young couple living in an apartment building in New York City. There was a Muslim family living in the same building, with children the same age as the children of this couple. The children played together, became friends, and the parents also became friends, often visiting each other. The young man in this account had been feeling under the weather for a few days when the Muslim couple dropped in for a visit one evening. His Muslim friend advised him to just take the next day off work and he decided to do that. This man worked in an office in the twin towers and the next day was September 11, 2001. The point of this little story was that taking the day off saved his life.

As for the Muslim friends, they were never seen again. They left quietly and quickly with no forwarding address. This raises two possibilities: either the husband knew what was going to happen on 9/11 and wanted to warn his friend; or, he knew nothing at all about what was going to happen and was overcome by the fear that his friendly advice might bring him under suspicion.

This brings us to the present day where our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, refers to ISIS and other groups and individuals involved in terrorist activity as jihadists.  Muslim organizations are objecting quite strongly, saying the original meaning of jihad has nothing to do with terrorism and that all Muslims should not be stigmatized by referring to terrorists in this way. President Obama, on the other hand, will not make a connection between Islam and terrorism for fear of radicalizing all Muslims.

Who has it right? I don’t want to get political here, but the fact is that the terrorists refer to themselves as jihadists, and the stated goal of ISIS is to establish a Muslim Caliphate. I am quite willing to admit that most Muslims in our country are not in sympathy with the terrorists. Most have come here because they preferred the tolerance and stability of Canada to conditions in Islamic nations. I am happy to hear their leaders taking pains to dissociate themselves from the radicals and making real efforts to reach their young people with teachings of moderation and respect for others.

I also realize that the victims of these terrorist movements are mostly other Muslims. That brings up a point that needs to be made. Much of the hatred of radical Muslims toward Western society is based on memories of the Crusades, when supposedly Christian armies were sent out to drive back and subjugate the forces of Islam. There is no doubt that many atrocities against Muslims were perpetrated by the Crusaders. But were the Crusaders true representatives of Christianity?

I call myself an Anabaptist, a spiritual heir of a Christian movement that was also the victim of numerous Crusades, and the Inquisition. The plain fact of history is that for hundreds of years the same Roman Catholic Church that was responsible for the Crusades against Muslims also systematically hunted down, tortured and killed many thousands of Christians whose sole offense was that they did not want to be Roman Catholic.

There is nothing sinister about the word catholic, it was originally used to describe the Christian faith as being applicable to all people, of all nations, of all eras. But the Roman Catholic Church appropriated that word for themselves and in the minds of many brought such disrepute upon it that they refuse to use it today. That is not the fault of the word.

It seems to me that Muslims will have to get used to the fact that jihad has been appropriated by the terrorists and it is probably no longer possible to dissociate it from that in the public mind. I am quite willing to believe that most Muslims in our country have as much horror of terrorism as I do. I wish them well in their efforts to make a clear distinction between themselves and the extremists, in the minds of their own young people and in the minds of the general public.

Somebody ought to do something

Just about every day the media presents new evidence of bullying, neglected and mistreated children, juvenile prostitution, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, youth gangs and all the other problems that seem to afflict the children and youth of our society. Cries of distress and outrage go up and there is a universal feeling that something needs to be done.

Most folks seem to think it is the government that should be doing something. However, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of agreement about what needs to be done.

Governments are already doing a lot, but is it working? Social service agencies have developed into huge bureaucracies and are given extensive authority to intervene in situations where children are deemed to be at risk. The number of children at risk continues to balloon. In the province where I live there is an ongoing investigation into problems in the foster parent system.

For anyone who does not have his eyes blinded by utopian fantasies it should be evident by now that governments are impotent when it comes to fixing these problems. In fact, the problems have been exacerbated by ongoing government interventions over the past 100 years. The thinkers behind the public school system made no secret of their goal to reduce the influence of parents. There has been an ongoing attempt, couched in idealistic terms, to set children free from their parents. I could have said ideological; however it seems that many of those involved in this nationwide sociological experiment did not have a clear vision of where they were going.

Now we see the results, but it has happened so gradually that most parents don’t have an inkling that things could, and should, be done differently. Yet parents are the only ones capable of making a difference. Top-down solutions do not work. Bottoms up, grass roots, solutions are presently making a difference for the children of those parents who have dropped out of the top-down, government run system.

If we want different results, we have to march to the sound of a different drummer. We should not harbour any utopian dreams, there never was an era where parents did all things in the best possible way and it’s not going to happen in our era, either. “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Psalm 39:5). We are fallen people in a fallen world, yet by the grace of God we can make a difference.

The Word of God has some essential guidelines for parents: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7); “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

There are many other such instructions. There are some Christians who seem to think that corporal punishment is the most essential part of child training. It is not. The essential part is patient, consistent teaching, by word and example, from the cradle to adulthood.

The thinking of the times in which we live has invaded the churches, causing them to fall short in encouraging and supporting parents in their responsibilities. It is important for Christian parents to raise their children in a community of believers who share their faith, their convictions, their goals. But it is not the responsibility of others to train our children, not the church, not the school, not the government. God has entrusted these tender children to the care of their parents and the Holy Spirit will guide parents in fulfilling that responsibility if they will ask.

It is parents who ought to be doing something more than what they are presently doing. They are the ones who have the potential, with God’s help, to turn back the tide and raise up a generation that is respectful, responsible and compassionate.

A tale of two nations

How Children Have Taken Power is the title of a book recently published by Swedish psychiatrist David Eberhard. I am going by a story in a French language newspaper so the title is my English translation of the French translation of the Swedish title of the book.  An English edition will be out later this year.

Sweden is the supposed earthly paradise for families: parents get lengthy maternity & paternity leaves, day care is available for all children, social benefits are such that Sweden has one of the highest bithrates in Europe. But they have extended their social democratic principles to the point of thinking of the family as a democracy, with children having equal rights with the parents. In effect, this gives them greater rights than the parents. Punishment is unheard of. One father sent his son to his room for twenty minutes – he was taken to court.

The result is a nation of rude, demanding and insolent children. The children decide what the family will eat for supper, where they will go on vacation, when they will go to bed, what they will wear.

Meanwhile, Pamela Druckerman reports that in France the children are respectful, well-behaved and eat whatever is set before them. Pamela Druckerman is an American, living in Paris with her English husband and their three children. Her latest book, Bébé Day by Day*, summarizes in 100 short notes the basic rules of the French parenting method. The French believe the best way to give children the resilience to cope with life is to teach them from the very first to acknowledge the existence of others and the needs of others.

French parents talk to their babies right from the first and explain things to them. When guests come into the home, they will greet the children, even the very young, and those who are old enough to talk are expected to say “bonjour” to the guests. When the guests leave, the children say “au revoir.” While the parents are visiting the children are expected to play by themselves and not interrupt, but both guests and children need to acknowledge each others existence whaen arriving and when leaving.

French mothers have complete control of the menu, the children are exposed to a wide variety of foods and are expected to taste everything on their plates. There is no pressure to clean off their plates. French mothers know a cild may need to try a new food a dozen or more times until they learn to enjoy it. So this new food will turn up on their plates every so often and they will eventually eat it all. Snack time is in mid-afternoon. No sweets are eaten at any other time. This is the French way and children do not beg and whine, because they know it will do no good.

French parents have no intention of raising an “enfant roi,” a child king. Children are cherished and respected, and they are taught to respect others. French parents say emphatically “c’est moi qui décide,” I am the one who decides. It is expected in France that parents will often have to say no to their children. Life is like that.

In Sweden, 54.9% of marriages end in divorce, the highest rate in the world. In France 38.3% of marriges end in divorce. Do you suppose it is easier for parents to live in harmony when theyare living in harmony with their children? Pamela Druckerman notes that French presidents have developed a reputation for cheating on their wives, but there is not much of this among ordinary french people.

Pamela Druckerman’s book is a book for adults, there is no off-colour langage or graphic details but she does speak frankly about the relationship between husband and wife. It is a small book; good parenting is not complicated. I think North American parents knew a lot more about parenting a few generations back, but we have lost it in all the conflicting psychological advice. This book might help some parents find their way out of the fog.

*Bébé Day by Day, © Pamela Druckerman, 2013. Published by The Penguin Press.

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