Being Simon’s Dad

Before Simon was born, I had the idea to journal regularly so I could look back and relive some of my thoughts and feelings from that time.

But I don’t really enjoy journaling, and I never did it.

And now, I’ve been thinking that I should write down what I’m learning from being his dad. 5 and a half weeks in, and here we are.

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of “feelings.” Would I feel some mystical bond with my son? Would I be overwhelmed with love? My only experience being overwhelmed with love was as a teenager, and on reflection, that had more to do with hormones than mysticism. We feel so strongly when we are younger, and I’m more even-keeled these days.

I find myself enthralled by Simon. I’ll be putting him into his car seat, or stroller, or bassinet, or just holding him in my arms, and I’ll look at him and lose track of time. I can’t identify the feeling there, but he becomes the center of my universe for a brief moment, and all is right in the world.

My priorities have shifted a bit. Hobbies have less pull on me, while resting is even more precious. Simon is sleeping pretty well, and April does most of the getting-up-at-night, but there’s still a lot for me to do. Having paternity leave is amazing, and I really love that I get to spend so much time with Simon here in these first few months.

One night, while lying on the bed and looking into the bassinet to try and decide if Simon needed his diaper changed, needed burped, or just needed the pacifier returned to him, I had the words “my son” go through my head.

And as I reflected on those two words, I felt strongly that I do not own Simon. He is not mine to do with as I will. I do not own his future; he is not beholden to me. Rather, I am his caretaker and teacher. I will do my best to guide him, but ultimately, he belongs to himself.

I have two follow-up thoughts on this.

First, when I became Christian, my conversion included God returning my soul to me. I know that’s throwing out a weird statement without any backstory, but this blog post isn’t about my story, so my apologies for dropping that and just moving on. What was relevant about that moment in the context of this story is that I had sold my soul, and God returned it to me, and I felt it both physically and spiritually. And my response was to thank God and immediately offer Him my soul. And God refused.

He told me that I was created to be me, and that no one owned me. I choose to be part of God’s family, and God gave us free will, which that never goes away. Similarly, Simon is part of my family, but he belongs to himself.

Second, ownership and debt was wielded against me frequently when I was growing up. My parents regularly told me about how I owed them for all the wonderful things in my life. Things like clothes and food and being taken to or picked up from school. Further, they told me that I was expected to pay them back later. Some of this was joking, but often it was said in moments of frustration or angst, and I interpreted it verbatim.

Consequently, I feel strongly about making sure my son knows that he owes me nothing. He did not choose to be born. We chose him. And we choose him over and over. And my job is to provide for him, and take care of him, and provide the best education and examples for him that I can. I chose that job. He doesn’t owe me for doing it.

We have an election today, and having a child hasn’t changed how I vote. But it has given me a new perspective. I feel like I have a new place to stand when examining the world and I how interact with it. More importantly, it is bringing new depth to my theology.

The most important thing I can do in this life is to be holy like God is holy. My aim is to serve Him, and for a long time I thought/hoped that meant being a good husband and a good father. Over the last month, I have come to feel that deep in my soul. Being a good dad means taking care of my son so he can grow up safe and secure, and from that position of safety and stability, learn about and engage with this world. Becoming holy, and having the opportunity to think about and wrestle with that, is so much easier when you have food and shelter and stability. I speak from experience.

So as a Christian dad, my duty is to give my son the opportunity to learn about God and, hopefully, to choose to follow Jesus and work to become holy like God is holy.

I would give almost anything to make that happen. I can’t spoil him, because that’s not good teaching, but I can build a good home for him.

Shouldn’t we be doing that for everybody? Not just kids? And not just our kids? As Christians, shouldn’t we want everyone to have their basic needs met so they have the mental and emotional capacity to engage with the Church and meet God? As a Christian, does anyone owe us anything that must be repaid before we begin the work of providing for them physically and spiritually?

When I think about all the good things I want to do for my son so he can become a good person, my mind turns to how we, as a country, all seem to espouse many of the same beliefs. We want to leave the world better for our children. The problem is, I think a lot of us are only thinking about our children, as in our individual children. And if I only think of Simon, then I am not being like Jesus. Jesus didn’t just think of his biological brothers or family. Jesus didn’t just think of his disciples. His commission is for the entire world.

What about building a good home for the children of asylum-seekers who have been separated from their parents? What about building a good home for asylum-seekers coming to the USA? What about building a good home for the homeless? What about building a good home for minorities suffering from systemic oppression?

I’m looking forward to taking Simon with us to vote today.

The two political parties in the USA are not the same. Both have problems, but the Democratic party of today far better aligns with Christian morals, ethics, and values. I will continue to vote Democrat to provide a better future for my son and for everyone else’s sons and daughters.

I’ll also keep reading, because that provides a good example for Simon to follow. And we’ll keep talking regularly, and I’ll hold him when he cries, not because my holding him magically solves everything, but so that he knows that he isn’t alone. And we’ll grow and learn and change, because he is changing every day.

And I hope that we’ll make the future better together.

My Feedly Doth Overflow

In an interesting turn of events, though it may not be interesting to anyone but me, Christian Blogging has become commonplace. Krista linked to this page, on which she is featured, and I realized that blogs are very much a Thing now.

I know what you’re thinking. “Matthew, blogs are old. This isn’t news. Where the hell have you been?”

Let me take you back in time, dear reader, back when blogs were new. Back before WordPress existed. Back when the Internet began to show signs of what it would become when the Eternal September began, and when AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy became our means of seeing honest to god graphics and pictures and blink tags. I was online around 1998, and have been active in only the way someone from my generation can be, by which I mean we think of being on the Internet as something distinct from, say, breathing, or eating, or going to work. Mine is the last generation to grow up in the United States without the ubiquity of the Internet, when every office wasn’t necessarily connected, and you had to go out of your way to interact with others via the tubes that connect us.

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More introverted than ever

It’s the same tired refrain: blogger wishes they blogged more, but doesn’t.

Except while I’ve had ideas for blog entries, and I’m not opposed to sharing them, I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s not that I’m too tired, or too busy, because since I graduated college I have a decent amount of free time and energy.

But I have realized that blogging is an inherently extroverted activity, in that you’re broadcasting your words to a bunch of people. Twitter is sort of the same in that respect, except since it’s microblogging, it doesn’t feel as big.

And because I’ve had to do a lot of extroverted activities this year, I just can’t bring myself to take on another.

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A God in Stormy Seas

This morning at church we sang a song that really keyed in a mental image for me from a TED talk I watched a few weeks ago. Given the context of today’s sermon and everything I’ve been wrestling with over the last few months in regards to passion, purpose, and work, it all came together to be really powerful for me. Rather than write, trying and failing to communicate what I was thinking and feeling, I thought I’d record a video.

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A Consideration of the Medieval Inquisition and the Insufficiencies of Structuralist and Poststructuralist Religious Theory

It is difficult to separate the word “inquisition” from the connotations given it by decades of misdirection and pop culture references. The word has become strongly tied to images of torture, fiery executions, and unjust legal proceedings. Even the satire of the Monty Python troupe, which highlights the confusion and sometimes chaotic proceedings of the Inquisition, serves to confuse matters further. ((There are instances where the comedy of Monty Python has a decent amount of relevance to scholarship—for instance, its treatment of the mythology of King Arthur in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail contains a great deal of the actual mythos of what surrounds Arthur—but the Spanish Inquisition skit is not one of these.)) For most, the Spanish Inquisition is the only inquisition remembered, but even this period in history misrepresents the dealings of the Roman Catholic Church in regards to the Inquisition; after all, the Spanish Inquisition was enacted and directed by the monarchy of Spain, not the Holy See (Roth, 72)!

Regardless, over a period of more than fifteen hundred years, the Church sought to combat heresy through a variety of methods. In addition, its shift in response over the centuries from leniency to outright war is mirrored in the approximately two hundred years of the Medieval Inquisition. This period of history saw the full gamut of Papal response to heresy, and subsequently can serve as a cross-section for examination of orthodox doctrine and dealings. The stance of the Roman Catholic Church held that its truth was the only truth, mutually exclusive to all other religious beliefs and superior to conflicting philosophical consideration. Beliefs or opinions contrary to orthodox religion, defined as heresies, were a threat to the Church in many ways. Heresies had the potential to divert believers, reduce donations, undermine control over areas and territories, and to the mind of the orthodox Catholic, threatened to destroy the bastion of good and cast the world into darkness and evil. Despite that, most heresies went largely unaddressed by the Church until the eleventh century, owing primarily to their insignificance and lack of threat to Catholicism (Deanesly, 215).

The rise of Catharism in Southern France was too great to ignore, however, prompting the Holy See to appoint inquisitors to discover from whence the heresies came, what it was the heretics believed, and to convince the unorthodox to return to the Catholic Church (Arnold, 21). In spite of the conceptualization of the Inquisition that rests at the forefronts of our mind today, its aim was simple: first, to understand why people would turn from the truth of the Church and what it was that diverted them, and second, to persuade heretics to return to the body of believers. In addition, it also served to decrease the violence of the time and instill justice where mob rule had been substituted (Shannon, 67).

The motivations and stages of the Medieval Inquisition are complex and difficult to unravel, where faith and practicality were often at tension. To gain a clearer understanding of this time, we will first review the history of the Medieval Inquisition, beginning with the rise of Catharism, the initiation of the Inquisition, the Albigensian Crusade, and the restructuring of the Inquisition. Second, by applying structuralist theory we can gain an understanding for the spiritual motivations of the pope and the other actors during the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, both their internal and external stimuli. Third, we will consider the insufficiencies of structuralist theory in understanding the Medieval Inquisition and turn our attention to poststructuralism with a consideration of extra-theological factors and pressures. Last, we will assess the weaknesses of poststructuralist theory and examine the complementary nature of these two methods. Continue reading