Gun Talk

All Oliver can talk about is guns.  Nerf guns.  Water guns.  Real guns.  He desperately wants a Nerf gun for his birthday.

Now, in principle, I am okay with toy guns.  My concern is that in a society for which violence has become commonplace and not a big deal, without a lot of care and due diligence (for lack of a better term) by the parents, that same casual attitude is passed down to our children.

I think it’s a big cognitive leap to understand that playing with toy guns in a game and pretending to kill people (!) is okay (and is it?), but playing with real guns where people really do get hurt or killed isn’t.  We’ve avoided this, in part, in the past, by having games that we play with him that do involve shooting be able shooting marshmallows and getting each other so sticky that you lose the game (totally Kullervo’s imagination at work there, mind you!).

I’m not going to pretend otherwise–real guns make me really uncomfortable.  I’ve had some bad experiences in my life associated with them.   I lived in a house once where the gun that was there (not mine) that was for self-protection was turned on us, and we were sort of held hostage.

At the same time, my baggage is my baggage, and not something that my kids need to live or deal with.  And part of being a responsible parent, in my opinion, is recognizing that, and thus teaching my kids appropriate caution without terrorizing fear.

So, for now, we talk about it.  We talk about real guns and toy guns.  We talk about how they are different, by a seriously huge magnitude.  We talk about killing, and death, and hurting people.  These aren’t fun conversations to have, but important in the context.

And I have to figure out–or rather, Kullervo and I have to figure out–what sort of play is okay.  Kids have been playing cops and robbers for ages and ages.  Is it bad to pretend to kill a bad guy?  Is it wrong?  What do we allow?  On the one hand, when kids pretend to kill things, it’s downright creepy.  On the other hand, death is a part of life.  And, for worse (not for better), killing and hurting other people is a part of life.  And exploring difficult, complex, and philosophically deep ideas about life and death through play seems appropriate.  We are supposed to role play to teach our kids how to handle things like smoking and bullies… is it okay to role play to teach our kids about death? About the darker nature of man?  If I tell him that he can play with toy guns, but he can only pretend he’s hurting someone, not killing them… does that make death seem like this big, terrifying thing?  What do we do, then, when our enormously-fat-probably-won’t-live-forever-seven-year-old-cat dies?

I’m sure that a part of this conversation also has to go into religion.  Which means I’m going to have to prayerfully figure out what the heck I teach my kids about hard questions like that, religiously.  This probably belongs in a whole separate post, but I feel like Jesus’s way was wholly different from the instinctive response to this.  For example, bullying.  I want to teach my kids that if someone bullies them, or hits them, they should hit back.  Knock a kid out.  Bullies only respond to strength.

But Jesus didn’t teach that.  I don’t want my kids to hurt… but I do want them to follow Jesus’s teachings.  Those two might be mutually exclusive in some circumstances.  And I need to spend some time with God figuring that out, and then with Kullervo to make sure that we are on the same page in terms of raising our kids inter-faithfully.

Another aspect of the whole gun issue revolves around hunting.  I respect that it’s a sport, and that lots of people seriously enjoy it.  I personally find it repellent, but I can see and understand where other people would feel differently.  And Kullervo loves going shooting (not hunting, but shooting).  He was an infantry soldier, and he’s a good shot.  It’s something he excels at.  How does that fit into all of this?

In addition to the concerns about Oliver playing with Nerf guns, letting him do it exposes Hazel at a much younger age to them.  Which means that she needs to be a part of the conversation as well.  I don’t think she’d show as much of an interest in them, but I think it would be really easy to have the conversations with Oliver, and then just assume Hazel picked up on it, when her cognitive development is that of a three year old, not a five year old.

I don’t have any answers at all, just question on question, so any feedback or suggestions are appreciated.  Do you let your kids play with toy guns?  How old were they when you let them start, if it wasn’t always?

Literally

You know what’s a minor pet peeve of mine?  When people mispronounce the word literal.  Instead of saying literal (three syllables) they say litrel.  Or when they say something is literal when it isn’t.  “It was lit-relly, like, bigger than the planet.”

Anyway, are Adam and Eve literal?  Lots of people think that they are, and it’s a really fun idea.  So while thinking about them, I like to come up with ways that Adam and Eve could really be real people, 6000 years ago, when we have fossils of people much earlier than that.

So, there’s the standard ‘we don’t know what the measurements of time were that were used–a day could mean an era of some sort.  Especially since this was all written later, if someone was sort of having a vision of all that happened and then tasked with writing it down, well, God would sort of have to speed up the process.  So a vision with a time-stop thing that sort of showed the creation could make it seem like, okay, this was a day.  (Do you know what I’m talking about?  They do it in the movies all the time but I don’t know the technical name for it.  Let’s just say that if you were in the Twilight movie universe, you’d be spinning around a chair showing the seasons going by.)  Then the next thing happened.  And that was, like, another day.  If Adam and Eve were real people, that probably makes the most sense.

But!  What if God isn’t talking about the very first man at all?  What if there were totally men and women hanging out, living lives, herding, hunting, gathering, farming, whatever, but Adam and Eve were the first of God’s people?  So, evolution happened the way that we think, but the Bible has this record of the Israelites, who were some of the descendants of Adam and Eve.  But what if there is some other -ible, the Gible or Zible perhaps, about Ronald and Sue, the first people of another set of people.  Why haven’t we heard of these people, you ask?  Well, there’s the flood, after all.  I bet a lot of paperwork was lost in the flood.  Also, have you heard about all those fires that California keeps having?  Stuff that’s written down is notorious for just, like, disappearing when there is a wildfire.  (And obviously all this stuff is written on pieces of paper, right?  I mean, my NIV is, so I extrapolate that to all documents by every culture ever in history.)

*Note that in all of this, I haven’t said that I actually think that Adam and Eve were real people.

So, now, what if Adam and Eve were not real people, but are in fact myths, stories of the beginning of time that aren’t supposed to be literally interpreted, but mined for the wealth of information that they give.  I suppose it is also possible to very narrowly interpret the story, possibly putting too much emphasis on ideas that could then skew your entire perception of the Bible.

If Adam and Eve were not real people, there are some questions.  What about all of those random descendants who are named but (as far as I know) never really returned to or seen again?  Why bother with the cameos of these children who didn’t turn out to be the ancestors of Abraham?  Perhaps they had (have?) more meaning to the Jews at the time that it was written.

Also, when did the people start being real people and not just myths?  It’s possible that there is some blurring here–maybe Abraham was real, but more has been attributed to him than actually happened, or stories about a few people were combined into one.  You see this a lot in the Greek myths–depending on which stories you read, you get different versions of which god did what, etc.

*Note that in all of this, I haven’t said that I actually think that Adam and Eve were mythological people.

So, is it time for my opinion?  I warn you–it’s going to sound wishy washy.

I don’t know if Adam and Eve were literal people or not.  And I don’t really think that it matters.  Whether they were literal people or not doesn’t change the lessons that we have to learn from them.  It doesn’t make or break my faith.

In any case, I think it is a beautiful story about the origins of mankind (civilized mankind?) with so much to learn about man and God and what our relationship should and could be with God.  And for what God thinks about people and how He treats us.

Wishy washy?  Maybe.  Post-modern?  Probably.

The Tumble Outta Eden

Genesis 3: The Fall of Man

So, reading about the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, this is what I was thinking about and focusing on.

In vs. 16, Eve is given the consequences of eating the fruit.  Specifically, God says that He will “greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Continue reading

My Genesis of Bible Study

Before I begin discussing Adam and Eve, and while I was reading it, there are a few important issues that I sort of have to mentally rummage through.

First, do I believe that the story of Adam and Eve is literal?  Was there really a man, Adam, and a woman, Eve, who lived in a paradisaical garden wherein there was a fruit tree that would give them knowledge of good and evil and a snake that could talk and tempt?  (Now that last part sounds sort of derisive, but obviously if it is literal, my disdain of the talking snake is just part of the enmity between me (woman) and the serpent, and I’m crushing its head (ego).  So, please, literal readers of the Bible, don’t get all up in arms about me yet!)

Second, if I do believe that the first few people in the Bible were real people, and it all happened exactly as Genesis claims, how do I reconcile that to dinosaurs and early fossils of humans, as I don’t really buy into a fossil-hiding god.

Third, if I don’t believe that the first few people were real people, but are in fact mythological (as in, early stories that evolved through years of retelling to explain the beginnings and nature of humankind, through which a person can find rich life lessons and meaning about life), when do I believe that they start being real?  If not Adam, then Noah?  Abraham?  King David?  Jesus?  As someone who has absolutely no understanding of the actual history of the times of the Bible (or, you know, recent history), if I don’t believe that everything in the Bible is literal and exactly as written, I have to make decisions (prayerfully, hopefully) about what I believe were real miracles and what are good life lessons.

Also, something worth noting as I begin discussing Genesis, is that I began reading A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren.  In the first chapter, he discusses the narrative question, specifically, how should we approach the narrative of the Bible, and is the way that we’ve historically approached it the best way?  (Note: my words and how I understood the chapter.)  I found the chapter to be incredibly rewarding and generative of a ton of questions to ask while reading.

Basically, McLaren suggests that we (Christians) historically have looked at the Bible from a Plato-esque worldview, with perfection, the fall, condemnation, salvation, heaven, and hell.  And that the Bible is messier than that.  And more real and earthy and dirty and alive than that, if that makes sense.  Anyway, he said it much better than me, so go read the book (although I might blog more about it later).

So, without further rambling by me, I will begin my discussions with some thoughts on Adam and Eve and the so-called Fall.

Recommitting to the Bible

Doesn’t that sound just so religiously provocative?  It’s like I’ve come to this realization and been reborn or something, and really getting back to the roots of my faith.

Except that’s not it.  Last year, I started reading the Gospel of Mark and blogging about it.  My plan had been to be ridiculously thorough and really pick apart every word and verse and chapter using four different translations, and really be transformed.  The problem with this lofty goal is that I am, in fact, lazy.  And I really don’t have time to read and blog about every word in the Bible.

However, reading the Bible is something important to me and something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.  So, my New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to read the whole darned Bible.  So I found a few ‘read the Bible in one year’ reading plans (thanks to Jack for her links which got me started), and ultimately decided that reading it chronologically made the most sense for me.  (I’m one of those people–if there are more people like this than just me–who can’t start a TV show or book series in the middle, even if they are completely episodic.)

So, I started reading.  I don’t read every day–it turns out that I can’t even rip a page off of a calendar every day for a year, so I probably won’t do much of anything else consistently for a year either.  But when I read, I read in the order and check off the days that I’ve done.  I’ve had a couple of days where I had large chunks of time and was able to read a bunch of it.  (Including one day when my hard-workin’ man had to do something “quick” at his office over the weekend, so we all drove downtown and I sat in the car with my hazards on in a no-parking zone reading some Genesis out loud to Hazel while Oliver hung out with his daddy for the 30 minutes that quick turned out to be.)

Anyway, I’m not going to blog about every word.  But if I think of something that maybe interesting, or may spark a good discussion, I’ll probably blog about it.  Or, you know, compose a brilliant blog post in my mind while I’m falling asleep at night and wake up to realize that my theories don’t actually hold any water when it’s light outside and I’m not so tired that zombies seem like a plausible explanation for the Fall.

Okay, okay, I admit it.  I actually liked the zombies idea.  It really did make everything else make sense.

Ten Year Baptiversary

Ten years ago today, I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This came about after a whole ton of stuff sort of merged together to create conditions that made it an inevitability, including my very own mini-miracles.

In the church, I found Jesus.  I found home. I found my wonderful husband.  I was able to grow as a person through my work with kids, cub scouts, and the women’s organization of the Church.  I was able to develop faith in Jesus Christ, faith that is dependent on nothing but my relationship with Him–not what my family thinks, not what authority figures tell me, not what I see on TV.

I love the me from ten years ago.  I was innocent–perhaps naive.  There was joy around every corner, not the least of which was felt because of all the corners I had turned before that weren’t so joyful.  It was all simple and beautiful and the colors of the rainbow, slightly faded from all the light.  It was like getting baptized washed all the muddy browns away and everything was right.

Things have changed since then.  I’ve seen ugly, both in and out of the Church.  I’ve left the LDS Church, but not my faith in Christ.  I’ve taken the harder road, again as a direct result of prayerful consideration.  It really is so much easier to be a believing, faithful Mormon than it is to leave the Church (although I do enjoy my cup(s) of coffee in the morning).

My rainbow is still there, but it is sharply colored now; it is full of all the things I want in the world, all the things I want for my children, all the things that the world could and should be.  It’s almost hard to look at because of all the possibility and hope that it contains, along with all of the disappointment in how of it doesn’t exist.

But thinking about that–shouldn’t our relationship with God be difficult to look at?  Shouldn’t it challenge us to become better people, to become better spouses, better parents, better children, better neighbors?  I have grown up in the last ten years.  The world can’t be cotton candy forever, although that period of my life was nice and beautiful and I treasure it.  Everything isn’t ice cream and candy now, but it turns out that the rest of the meal is delicious too, or at least interesting to taste and experience.

If I could go back to the me of ten years ago, I think the only thing that I would tell myself would be to live as fully in the moment as possible, and to write it all down.  And that’s what I hope I remember to do in the next ten years–to fully live my life in the present, in the moment, and to enjoy all of the colors and meals that life hands to me.  Because ten years from now, I will be different, but I will love the me that I am now.

Bible Study – Mark 1:14-20

Jesus Begins His Ministry and Calls the First Disciples

In this passage, we find out that John has been arrested. I don’t see where in any of the gospels it says what for, and I feel like that’s sort of random to just put there as if everyone would know. Then again, John the Baptist was clearly super important and well known, so maybe it’s like if someone said that someone really significant in our society had been arrested-it would just be known that it had happened and not something that would need further intro.

Jesus goes into Galilee, and says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV) Now, for me, that’s pretty cryptic. (And, I think, probably for a lot of people, as religions have risen and fallen attempting to declare that the time has come.) What does it mean? The time is fulfilled–what time? And what does it mean to say the kingdom of God is at hand? Is it literal? How current is ‘at hand’, especially since for God time has got to move at a totally different pace–thus making it totally relative and impossible to discern. And He says to repent and believe in the gospel–but he hasn’t, in Mark, at least, declared what the gospel is that I’m supposed to believe.

I think that sentence could take on so many interpretations. However, maybe the end result is the same–repent and believe in the gospel. It doesn’t matter if ‘at hand’ means here-right-now or coming-soon, because in either case, repentance and belief in the gospel is essential. And, I think that both are processes as opposed to final destinations, so practice of both is just a good thing. I may not be good at repenting, or believing, but I won’t get any better at it without actively trying to do it.

So, then, logically, I lead to… what is repentance and what does that entail, and what does it mean to believe in the gospel? As this is the first chapter of this gospel, I imagine that the answer is forthcoming throughout the rest of the book. But, this means that one of the things I need to be looking for is the answer to these questions while I read.
What is repentance? How do I do it? What do I need to repent for?
What does it mean to believe in the gospel? Are there certain things I need to do to show my belief (from an LDS perspective, there are ordinances that you must get that kind of “show” this belief.

Moving on, next in the story tells of Jesus calling his disciples. Now, if you were just going to read Mark, what happens next seems totally nuts (to me, at least). Basically, Jesus walks up to a pair of fishermen brothers (Simon and Andrew), and says, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And they get up, abandon their fishing nets, and follow him. And then he does the same thing again to another pair of brothers (James and John), who leave their dad in the boat and follow him.

Context free, it seems totally crazy. This story, alone, makes you wonder why in the world that sentence would be enough to get people to abandon life as they knew it. So, I looked to the other gospels to see if there were more details. Luke has a more involved story, telling of Jesus actually getting on the boat with Simon to preach to people, and afterwards telling Simon to cast their nets into what had previously seemed like empty waters, and they caught so many fish that their nets couldn’t handle it all. To me, it seems like the kind of thing that one could easily explain away, but that you could come away from, especially after some powerful teaching and some witnessing by the Holy Ghost, that this was the real deal. And then, getting up and following doesn’t seem so crazy.

I have had times in my life that I have up and followed the whispers of the Spirit in directions that seemed to be total about-faces from where I had been. No amount of logic or rationalization could make me deny the spiritual experiences that I have had, even when my family and friends have disagreed or been unhappy with the outcome. So, while I certainly am not, and was not, trying to imply that an overt miracle was necessary to prompt the disciples to follow Christ, I feel like more details to elaborate about what prompted their decision really help shed light and understanding.

The story specifies that James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat. I think the fact that that was noteworthy implies that there was dischord in the family when they left (although I have nothing but supposition to back it up). But I know from experience that it’s hard when you disappoint your family when you follow what you believe.

And that about sums up my thoughts about this passage of Mark.

Something that I’ve always been terrible at is geography, and maybe something I’ll want to do when this is all over is actually map everything out. This story takes place in Galilee, but I don’t really know where that was, or how much happened there. I don’t know if it would be helpful, or even interesting for me, but it’s probably a good exercise to try, at least.

map?