Tag Archives: science

20 things I now know, that I didn’t know the first time around

  1. There’s nothing that comes out of a baby that won’t wash off your skin.
  2. Crying is normal. Very, very normal. It’s not always your job to fix it.
  3. At every baby shower, there was always someone who thought to give us diapers. I laughed and laughed at that person, thinking it was the lamest gift ever. Thank you, diaper lady. Bless your 50 year-old been-through-this-enough-times-to-know-what-I’m-doing soul.
  4. I know why the word “Peace” is so often found next to the word “Quiet”.
  5. Children are born scientists. They run their own experiments to see how the world operates. My job involves knowing which experiments are likely to maim her, and heading those off.
  6. There are different degrees of “Clean”.
  7. Some days, you can literally see their brain grow. One minute, they don’t understand the concept of mirrors. An hour later, they have lined up all their stuffed animals in front of the full length mirror, and are holding a fashion show with mommy’s jewelry.
  8. Wednesday morning reading group at the Burbank Public Library is the last bastion of sexual discrimination in parenting roles. I’ve been a regular now for 2 months, and every mom there still keeps an eye on Sophia to see if she is actually an abducted child being read to against her will by a crazy man. I try to ease the tension by making small talk with her in a loud voice. “Ha ha! Look Sophia! Isn’t it fun to be reading in public with your daddy, which is me, who is fully employed and not at all creepy! Ha ha!” It doesn’t seem to be working.
  9. She doesn’t need my help as much as I think she does. She needs to fail at things, and that’s part of my job too.
  10. Babywise. It works.
  11. Parenting is a team sport.
  12. The 14-year-old unskilled extortionist next door gets $8 an hour for watching TV and eating my microwaved corn-dogs while our daughter sleeps. That, my friends, is a sweet gig.
  13. Your relationship with your own parents enters a new and strange phase when they become grandparents. You realize that they were making it all up as they went along, and they realize that you now know that, and everybody hopes that you can keep up the charade long enough to get the next crop of kids out the door.
  14. Sometime in your parenting career, you will find a half-eaten, slobbery animal cracker in your hand without having any idea how it got there. You will shrug, and finish the animal cracker. See #6.
  15. Being a dad has brought out the best and worst parts of my character.
  16. Giving children choices seems to be all the rage these days. Here’s the deal – kids don’t have any clue what to do with choices. They are confused and frustrated when you give them 6 options for dinner. You’re the parent. You decide.
  17. If a dad dresses his daughter, and takes her out into public, and somebody comments on how cute she looks, dad will dress her in those exact same clothes from then on. We fear fashion failure.
  18. Don’t join a battle of wills that you are not prepared to win.
  19. If someone comes to your house, and sits on your couch, and reaches into the cushions and pulls out a half-eaten apricot mashed into a Lego, if that person asks, “How did this get here?”, that person is not a parent.
  20. I don’t own her joy. Children do wonderful things. They sing songs in public. They wave and smile at street people, who wave and smile back. They play with anyone who brought a toy to the park, without caring about their country of origin, or what language they speak. They play the blinking game with crotchety old men on benches in the mall, and get them to stick their tongues out. None of this belongs to me. Children are a gift from God, given to the whole world, under the care of parents for a few brief moments before they burst gloriously into their own light.

All of this is good stuff to know, since we’re now gearing up for round 2!

big sister now

Why I am (still) an Evangelical

First, let’s clear some brush. Evangelical is not a political movement, it’s not a formula for church growth, and it’s not a hairstyle. It’s not a publishing slogan, a conference circuit, a musical genre, or a brand of SUV.

I am (still) an Evangelical, even though I have to parry and dodge assumptions whenever I use that term. I am (still) an Evangelical, because of the great hope to which the movement aspired at it’s founding. I am (still) an Evangelical, because, at it’s root, Evangelicalism is an ecumenical movement: an attempt to erect a large tent in the ground between the cultural withdrawal of fundamentalism, and the withering incredulity of theological liberalism.

Evangelicalism is a way of reading and understanding the bible, and I (still) believe that it is as close as we can come to a neutral hermeneutic, one that allows the text to breathe out its stories without being unduly constrained by our expectations of it. The evangelical hermeneutic rests on this assumption – that if God is omnipotent, present, and interested in revealing things about himself, we can expect His revelation to have certain basic characteristics. Things like:

1) Inspiration – God was involved in the production of the texts.

2) Infallibility – the texts do not err in their purposes.

3) Historicity – the texts were written at a place and time in history, by people situated in history, and as such, they are products of their historical/cultural perspective.

4) Textuality – text as text: the normal tools for interpreting meaning in any text are the appropriate tools for interpreting meaning in biblical texts. In other words, when we read “Joseph was lowered into the well”, the meaning is conveyed by the content of the words “Joseph”, “lowered” and “well”, just as it would be if those words were written in personal letter, a historical footnote, or any other work outside of the biblical canon. Attempts to use “secret codes” or numerological sequences to unlock the “true” meaning of the text are therefore inappropriate to interpretation (think Kabbala, or “The Bible Code“).

5) Data – the text is an robotic engineer on an ‘NC‘ class star cruiser with a positronic brain incapable of human emotion. Just checking to see if you were still with me.

The second and third stakes in the Evangelical tent are, to me, the most interesting. It is the 2nd stake, infallibility, that marks out the left most boundary of the evangelical hermeneutic – it is the essential difference between Marcus Borg (the Jesus Seminar) and Ben Witherington or Scot McKnight.

Likewise, the third stake marks out the right boundary. It’s the third stake in the Evangelical tent that we have a tendency to to forget, to our detriment, because it is the third stake that separates Evangelicalism from Fundamentalism.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, was the subject of a public scorning a few months ago for daring to assert that the moon does not, actually, produce it’s own light. He dared to suggest that the moon’s light was merely a reflection of the light of the sun.

This is a problem for Fundamentalists. Because, you see, Genesis clearly states that God created two lights, one for the day, and one for the night, and fundamentalism requires a literalist reading of that text. There is no room for taking into account the historical or cultural situation of the author, and reading the text from within that perspective. A fundamentalist is fundamentally commited (get it?) to reading Genesis with the same kind of literalism with which one would read a newspaper article or, say, a science textbook. And so, Bill Nye’s assertion that the moon does not produce light becomes a contest of authority, between the literalism of Genesis and the literalism of Bill’s scientific data. And hey, look, if that’s really the fight, I’ll gladly put $20 down on God. $30 if my jury duty check has come and I have the extra cash.

But that’s not really the fight, is it? Evangelicalism isn’t bound in the same way that Fundamentalism is when it reads Genesis, because it recognizes that the author wrote from a certain cultural and historical perspective, and from his perspective, there was a bright light in the day, and a second light at night. A historical hermeneutic of Genesis also recognizes that the authorial intent matters to the interpretation – the point of the passage isn’t a scientific assertion about the origination of the light coming from the moon, it was that God made provision for human existence in the ordering of creation. We need light to see, so God instituted a means of light for day and for night. To agitate for a literal reading obscures the significant point of the passage.

Here’s why this matters – in the rush to defend the left flank against a diminishing view of scriptural accuracy, we have left undone the hard work driving in the right-hand peg, of teaching the people in our care how to read The Book with an eye toward the historicity of the authors. We’ve told them to believe it’s true, thundered that from pulpit and screen and print, but we haven’t taught them how to understand the thing about it that is true. A belief in the infallibility of scripture is a crippling kind of intellectual deprivation when coupled with the sort of literalism that fundamentalism espouses.

So, I am (still) an Evangelical, and not a critical deconstructionist, because I have to believe that an omnipotent God is capable of speaking an infallible truth into human experience, and I have to believe that a compassionate God would. But also, I am (still) an Evangelical, and not a fundamental literalist, because I have to believe that God’s dialog with humanity took place in time, in space, in history, and in the midst of the very real cultural features of our human existence. It is an unfolding story, whispered in human ears, etched on human hearts, and relayed through their hands.

This is the great strength of the Evangelical tent, and how it holds up so wide a canopy.