Monday, July 20, 2015

Why I Didn't Post Anything about Planned Parenthood Last Week

At around the time that this video came out, I posted on Facebook what were basically a couple of shoulder shrugs about Stone Mountain and medical child abuse panic. I did not post about Planned Parenthood, despite, and maybe partly because of, the fact that it was everywhere. Abortion is a scourge of our society, of a magnitude far greater than those other things I posted about. So I started wondering to myself: why didn't I raise my voice, when likely I should have, and should continue tirelessly to do so? I came up with three reasons.

1) Ever since the great online debate about the morality of lying for a greater good, I have been deeply ambivalent about the tactics of such exposés as this one. What's done is done, and you can judge for yourself what has been done, and continues to be done.

2) I don't have the stomach for it. Part of my writing process is agonizing for days over just a semi-serious post. I have read enough about it today; I am shaking slightly in my seat as I write this. Others are doing a much better job than I would. I'll just link to a few, who in turn have a few links to share. There's a plethora of links, because even though it's not really news, this is really huge. Simcha Fisher at the National Catholic Register gives just the facts. Fr. Dwight Longenecker at Standing On My Head lays it out plainly. Rebecca Hamilton at Public Catholic explains what happens now. And Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress illustrates how it's all cosmically connected.

3) Ultimately, I guess I didn't post anything because of this. If you, for the sake of medical progress, or women's health, or personal autonomy, or libertarianism, or anything else, think that any part—any part—of this is okay, are you going to be convinced otherwise by anything I say?

Are you?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

St Augustine on Homeschooling (and some links)

I didn't expect to find homeschooling wisdom while reading St Augustine's Confessions; but I shouldn't have been surprised either. Confessions is a brilliant autobiography right from his childhood days; and homeschooling is, really, basically anything about life with children/as a child.

I've always been an eclectic homeschooler: aspiring to a classical education, loving and admiring the Charlotte Mason method, in grateful awe of unschooling, making frequent use of unit studies and even spurts of "drill and kill." Not so much confused, I often simply don't know which approach resonates most with me. When I read the following (and more), it reminded me of my own recent struggles with my approach to homeschooling.

St. Augustine writes in Book I about his studies as a boy, when he disliked studying and was beaten for not making sufficient progress. In this he says:

In boyhood itself, however, (so much less dreaded for me than youth,) I loved not study, and hated to be forced to it. Yet I was forced; and this is well done towards me, but I did not well; for, unless forced, I had not learned. But no one doth well against his will, even though what he doth, be well. Yet neither did they will force me, but what was well came to me from Thee, my God... So by those who did not well, Thou didst well for me; and by my own sin Thou didst punish me. For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every inordinate affection should be its own punishment.

But why did I so much hate the Greek, which I studied is a boy? I do not yet fully know. The Latin I loved; not what my first Masters, but with the so-called grammarians taught me. For those first lessons, reading, writing, and arithmetic, I thought as great a burden and penalty as any Greek....

But now, my God, cry Thou aloud in my soul; and let Thy truth tell me, "Not so, not so. Far better was that first study." For low, I would readily forget the wanderings of Aeneas and all the rest, rather than how to read and write.... Let not either buyers or sellers of grammar-learning cry out against me. For if I question whether it be true, that Aeneas came on a time to Carthage, as the Poet tells, the less learned will reply that they know not, the more learned that he never did. But should I ask with what letters the name "Aeneas" is written, everyone who has learned this will answer me are right, as to the signs which men have conventionally settled. If, again, I should ask, which might be forgotten with least detriment to the concerns of life, reading and writing or these poetic fictions? Who does not for see, what all must answer who have not wholly forgotten themselves?

But then he also admits this:
Difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of a foreign language, dashed, as it were, with gall all the sweetness of Grecian fable. For not one word of it did I understand, and to make me understand I was urged for vehemently with cruel threats and punishment. Time was also, (as an infant,) I knew no Latin; but this I learned without fear of suffering, by mere observation, amid the caresses of my nursery and jests of friends, smiling and sportively encouraging me. This I learned without any pressure of punishment to urge me on, for my heart urged me to give birth to its conceptions, which I could only do by learning words not of those who taught, but of those who talked with me; in his ears also I gave birth to the thoughts, whatever I conceived. No doubt then, that a free curiosity has more force in our learning these things, and a frightful enforcement.

It's not some new revelation to me that a desire to learn actually helps learning. Or that a punishment-strong system is less than ideal. Or that no matter how much more fun the other stuff is, you have to get those basics down. But it was a balm to see such an ancient reflection of that. Reading it reaffirmed both the ideal and appeal of child-led learning and the logic of a rigorous skills-based curriculum. You may think this would not help to resolve any struggle between the two; but it reinforces in me an inclination to treat them as two separate legs on which to stand. 

In the spirit of the continued mission to nurture love of learning and a deeper engagement in education, here are some links I've recently found worth pondering.

I'm looking forward to working this Charlotte Mason approach to grammar instruction into our year. I think it will both help ground the principles of grammar for my kids and give me more excuses to read all together during school hours. 

This list of 25 Latin phrases every student should know looks like a fun addition to language studies.

I love this video about Shakespearean pronunciation every time it pops up somewhere; perhaps you and your older kids will like it too. 

This states research project with printables looks promising!

This has inspired me both to re-emphasize nature study and to encourage the kids to take the plunge into living science, to seek out what interests them during our science studies.

And this post by Melissa Wiley about (not) teaching reading encourages me to lay all my word-nerd glory on the kids at full power. (Blessedly simple follow-up post here.) 

What is inspiring you as the new school year approaches?

Friday, July 3, 2015

"Why Is Homosexuality a Sin?"

I don't really pay attention to the campaigns (or currently even the news) of the various politicians competing for our attention. But when it popped up in my feed, I clicked on the post on Herman Cain's site, called "A detailed explanation of why Christians don't accept gay marriage."

For those genuinely interested in understanding.

Given the nature of the discussion following the gay marriage ruling last week, one thing that's clear to me as a Christian who opposes gay marriage is that very few secular people - and sadly, by no means all Christians - really understand why Christians take the position we do.
I had recently seen a request on Facebook asking for just this sort of information. The asker, who was a friend of a friend (so I was unable to comment on the thread), seemed earnestly perplexed as to why anyone would think that homosexuality is a sin. That, rather than specifically gay marriage, was his question. I made a general offer on my page to discuss it, and the ensuing thread touched on gay marriage, the authority of the Church, science history—but never actually got around to discussing the question of what makes homosexuality a sin. So I wanted to see what someone else would say.

The post was pretty good as far as it went: basically, "Because homosexual activity is deadly to your soul." I've seen the same sort of thing from a favorite Catholic writer two years ago (he's updated it: Why the Catholic Church Will Never Support Gay Marriage). It's sinful, and sin kills your eternal soul. And we love you, so we don't want that.

The seriousness of sin has been largely lost in today's society. Those who believe in a God of love and forgiveness often cannot conceive of the possibility that he could allow anyone to go to Hell. That's a discussion for another day; but if you have at least a basic understanding what Christians believe about Hell, you can appreciate with Penn Jillette why we take sin seriously.

But neither post addressed homosexuality* per se. How could it be sinful? Unfortunately, all most people hear as an explanation to this question is, "The Bible tells me so." The first author says, correctly, that the Bible reveals that "God intended a natural order for how we would receive and engage in the gift of sexual activity, and it likewise establishes that homosexual sex is outside that established order." That's true, but it's not compelling to people who don't accept the authority of the Bible. Why is there a natural order for sexual activity?

The answer to this is also from the Bible; but it is compelling, not because of any commanding authority, but because of its beauty.

God is love. (1 John 4:8)

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. (Genesis 1:31–2:1)

And God said, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." (Genesis 1:28, and 9:1)

Simply put, God is love; he created us out of love; and he wants more of us to love.

God endowed us, through our sexual function, with the ability to participate in the crown of creation. We do not, even now, fully comprehend the power we hold. A glimpse of it is in the "little death" of lovers' embrace who "feel the earth move." In the world-changing sight of two blue lines. In the first sound of a heartbeat at the doctor's office. Parents especially get that glimpse when they hold that hoped-for child in their arms and look her and each other in the face.

This is humankind at its most Godlike, a power of staggering responsibility. Indeed, it is the recreation of the image of God from Genesis: when a man and a woman engage in the sexual act—that act called "making love"—that makes them "one flesh" (and especially when they conceive a child during this unitive act), the family they create is the fullest possible image—icon—of the Trinity: three persons in one God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And it's not just about making babies. The physical and emotional aspects of sex naturally and deeply bind up those who engage in it. The natural order places sexual activity solidly and solely within the context of marriage to safeguard both that power and the people involved in it.

This concept is called the Theology of the Body, and it actually goes beyond sex to address many aspects of the body, both male and female, in relation to God and each other. Dr. Gregory Popcak, for instance, likes to discuss the theology of the body with regard to attachment parenting. Pope St. John Paul II spoke to women about their "feminine genius" in ways that had nothing to do with the exercise of sex. Catholics are learning how intimately the theology of the body intertwines with the Cross and the Eucharist, the heart of the faith. You can find many authors, speakers, and teachers exploring this concept. Since it's summed up as the nuptial meaning of our physical human forms, which are biologically either male or female, sexuality is at its heart.

The human being, body and soul, was created holy in the image of God. Human sexuality, with its unitive and procreative power, is sacred. Abusing something sacred is not merely sinful; it is the definition of profanity.  So that is what the litany of sexual sins in the Bible is about. Every expression of sex (and reproduction, for that matter) that does not take place within the respect, honor, and protect the power of the combined unitive and procreative power of the human body—that is, between a husband and a wife who are open to the possibility of children—is an abuse of sexuality. Homosexual behavior, artificial birth control, premarital sex, in vitro fertilization, adultery: all do violence to the integrity of that sexuality.

This is why this sort of behavior is a sin: because you are sacred and holy, and not to be profaned.

* I always try to begin by clarifying that homosexuality itself is not a sin. We confess that we sin by thought, word, and deed—but not by being. 


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