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?

Bible Study – Mark 1:9-13

So, my goal is to do the Bible study blog posts at least once a week, and ideally more. With all the craziness of still trying to unpack, this week I wasn’t able to do more.

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

The story this week seems pretty straightforward–it is, as the title suggests, about the baptism and temptation of Jesus. There aren’t a lot of differences between the translations that I looked at, so I won’t focus any time on that.

Basically, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When he comes up out of the water, he sees heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

What does that mean? Did the sky open up? It is metaphorical? Did he actually see the Spirit, and was it actually in dove form? Or is that metaphorical too? Did anyone else see it?

On glancing through the other gospels, this story is actually told in all four gospels, which is incredibly rare, and probably points to its importance. John gives the most details, and says that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the sky and was told ahead of time that whoever that happens to is the one who baptizes with the Spirit, and that’s how he knew that Jesus was the one.

I’m still not sure of the dove thing. I think it has some kind of symbolism, but I’m not well-versed enough in Bibleology to know that that symbolism is. (Anybody reading who’d like to elaborate… please do!)

And, back to the story, then a voice comes from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Presumably, that’s God. And I guess that helps other people understand what they saw (even if they left confused, it was clearly a monumental occasion.)

After that, the Spirit sends him out into the desert, where he hangs out for 40 days with wild animals, all the while getting tempted by Satan. Luke and Matthew give more details about what the temptations consisted of. John doesn’t talk about the temptation of Jesus. It doesn’t say in Mark, but in Matthew and Luke it is clear that he did not succumb to the temptations.

Once again, the question that I come away with is why is this passage important? Why does it matter that Jesus was baptized?
According to Wikipedia, there is some background of water purification rituals in the Jewish tradition, so baptism through water wasn’t a totally foreign concept to the Jews.

The question of baptism is one that I haven’t fully thought through or researched. Is baptism necessary for everyone? Was it necessary for Jesus? I know that my LDS baptism was a day of some significant spiritual experiences that I have had. But is baptism required for everyone? Does God care if we’re baptized? If so, why? (Note that I’m not making light of the question by being somewhat flippant, but just trying to flesh out my questions so that as I read more, I know what kinds of answers I’m looking for.) The fact that churches don’t agree on necessity, mode, or age of baptism makes me think that the whole issue isn’t totally clear. And if it isn’t made totally clear by the Bible, and according to most Christians that’s the Word we have to go on (excluding the LDS who believe in latter day prophecy which clears up a lot of the specific requirements for things like baptism), how important can it really be?

Then there is the spirit descending like a dove. I have no idea what that means.

And finally, the temptation. Why was Jesus tempted four 40 days? Is it one of those foreshadowing of things to come (since 40 is one of those Biblically significant numbers that perhaps doesn’t literally mean 40, it might mean that he was tempted for a long (infinite?) time, foreshadowing the infinite nature of the atonement)?

Also, and finally, I wonder what it is like to be ministered to by angels.

I realize as I’m reading and writing that my questions mostly revolve around ‘why was this put in the Bible’ and ‘why should I care’. It’s not because I’m a big cynic, but more that it seems like if this is the stuff that has stuck around, and is the stuff on which I should be basing my faith, what about it should be resonating with me, what about it is significant?

Interfaith Marriage

It’s not as if I hadn’t thought much about interfaith marriage before. When Kullervo began doubting the LDS church, I was still a steadfast Mormon. We were living with his parents at the time, and stayed up late many nights talking about how we would relate to each other, how we would navigate church waters, and, most importantly, what we wanted for Oliver, who at the time was only about five months old.

It has been an ongoing dialogue since then. I found my church home at Cedar Ridge Community Church, but for awhile Kullervo was pretty sure he leaned towards more traditional, liturgical types of worship. And, as it turns out… I really don’t love the liturgy. So, there was the dilemma of where to go to worship when we actually prefer different styles of worshiping. But, then we were still both considering ourselves Christian.

However, Kullervo has discovered that he is, and always has been, a pagan. And I am still a Christian.

I was reading Jack’s blog the other day, and saw that at the top was written “Interfaith Marriage”, and I realized that, officially, I am a part of one.

Honestly, I’m not sure what it will mean for us. But it seems significant to realize. We still have to figure out the best way to raise the kids so that they will be open minded, tolerant people who have minds of their own and will realize that Christianity is truuuuuuue (hahaha! just kinda kidding!). Seriously, though, it’s something that we need to consider and kind of hammer down (inasmuch as you can hammer anything about parenting down, besides windowsills) while the kids are still fairly young.

Sunday Oliverism

Driving to church this morning, I was talking to Oliver about church-y stuff. I asked him if he talks about Jesus in his class at church (he said no). I asked if he knows who Jesus is (he said no). Then we had the following conversation:

Me: Oliver, do you know who God is?
Oliver: Yes.
Me: What can you tell me about God?
Oliver: (bashful) I don’t know.
Me: Well, God is like Mommy and Daddy because He loves you very, very much. But He’s different from Mommy and Daddy because you can’t see or touch him.
Oliver: Oh. I think Daddy is God.
Me: No, he’s not.
Oliver: Yes, he is.
Me: Why is Daddy God?
Oliver: He just is.
Me: Is Mommy God?
Oliver: Nope.
Me: Why isn’t Mommy God?
Oliver: (laughing like I’ve just said something ridiculous) Because Mommy is a lady!
Me: Why can’t God be a lady?
Oliver: That would be silly.
Me: I don’t think that God is a boy or a girl, Oliver.
Oliver: Yes. god is a boy. Daddy is God.

I think we’re going to have to have more discussions about this…

Annoyed at “An Invitation”

Conner received a response from the LDS records department following his resignation letter. It said the standard, “We don’t deal with this in Utah, but your bishop will get back to you” stuff that we expected. It also talked about the seriousness of the decision he was making, and they encouraged him to read the enclosed pamphlet and come back to the Church. Nothing unusual or unexpected there.

However, the pamphlet annoys me. It is titled “An Invitation” and has a photo of the statue of Jesus that you find at Visitor’s Centers across the country (world?). What gets under my skin about the invitation is that it exhorts Conner to please not be offended. “If any have been offended, we are sorry.” It encourages him to come back to the Church even if he is sinning. “To you who for any reason find yourselves outside the embrace of the Church, we say come back… and partake of the happiness you once knew.”

It’s no wonder that people assume that the only reason that one leaves the church is because he is offended or committing sin. It is no wonder that accusations of adultery, fraud, etc have been hurled at people close to me. (People don’t dare say that to me–I think it is presumed that I am “offended”.) The Church assumes that Conner either offended or committing serious sin!

And inviting him to partake of the happiness he once knew? Because he is no longer happy? I suppose it may be difficult to believe it, but while there has been difficulty in our lives since leaving the Church–knowing that family members are hurting as a result, having more choices (and thus more difficult decisions to make), coming to understand how we feel about Jesus and God and religion without the restrictions of what “we” believe being placed on us… that is all difficult. But we are happy.

I no longer consider myself a Mormon (although I did not remove my name from the registry and have no plans to do so). However, I did not stop attending church because of any of the following reasons:

  1. Conner made me–I dare someone who knows me well to try to “make” me do anything.  Try it.  Seriously.
  2. I was offended–I wasn’t.  I think Mormons are great people, and many of my favorite people are LDS.
  3. I was committing sin–I wasn’t.  Nothing serious, anyway.  I left with a valid temple recommend, thankyouverymuch–and not because I had lied or cheated or just not given it back.
  4. I wanted to be committing sin–There is no sin that is cool enough or awesome enough or anything to make me abandon my beliefs.  Now, I do occasionally drink alcohol, and coffee is on my daily must-haves, but this all transpired pre- and post-church (and, due to spiritual experiences I have had, I believe that this is with God’s blessing–the coffee, anyway).
  5. I had just never had a real testimony–I knew when I joined the Church that I was doing what God wanted.  I stand by that.  I also believe that God had a hand in me being where I am today.
  6. Satan answers my prayers–I guess if that’s how people need to deal with the cognitive dissonance of me, that’s their business, but I don’t believe that God and Satan sound the same.  And if Satan told me to leave the church, Satan also told me to join it.

There.  I’ve spoken my piece and counted to six.

And, also, anyone get the reference?  🙂

Bible Challenge

Conner and I have challenged ourselves to read the entire New Testament before the year ends.

A couple of years ago, when we were active LDS members, the president of the church challenged all its members to read the Book of Mormon before year end. This was done in August, I believe. Conner and I both began in September, or maybe October. And we both finished with a couple of days to spare. (It is possible that I skipped some of the Isaiah chapters of 2 Nephi, but who can blame me?)

I found the whole process to be quite spiritually rewarding. At the time, I believed that the BoM was God’s word. I believed I was following a prophet’s directive. And I was doing my best to be the best that I could be. I would read the BoM on the subway on my way to or from work (usually not both, because I wanted to be able to knit on the train too). I wound up thinking about what I was reading about throughout the day, and making connections between the stories that I wouldn’t have noticed with a slower read through.

I’m hoping that our current challenge will have a similar positive effect. If nothing else, it will make me more familiar with the Bible, as I haven’t read all of the NT before. I’m currently reading The Message paraphrase. At some point I’ll probably get a Bible study (any recommendations? Why did you or didn’t you like what you used?). I also hope that reading it will have some of the transformative power to make me a better person. And, probably most important, I hope that it will help me draw closer to Jesus.

I’ve started with the Gospel of Mark. There are two reasons for this. First, at church they’ve been doing a sermon series on the Gospel of Mark. Second, I’ve often decided to read the entire NT, and started at Matthew… and stopped within Matthew.