Feb 19 2013
The Krusty Sage, on Sheltering Your Kids

(From Brant: This guy sure is cranky. But occasionally, he takes over my blog, and says some stuff, and I can't stop him. I just want you to know that I am thoroughly offended by his tone, and am already drafting a strongly worded letter to me about it. I'm more offended than you, even.)

 

"Should you shelter your kids?"

Yes.

Duh.

The Krusty Sage and the Mrs. Krusty Sage have homeschooled their kids.  (Mostly Mrs. Krusty Sage, to be straight-up honest, yo.) Now, the K.S. does NOT care whether you homeschool or not.  Don't want to?  Can't?  Whatev, man. Your kids, your situation, your call.

But please spare the Sage your concern that he "shelters" his kids.  Why yes, we do, and have.  Thanks.  Glad you're concerned.  By the way:  If you don't "shelter" your kids, you're a traitor.

Remember the Sam Kinison sketch on SNL?  He's a kindergarten teacher, and a shiny, happy mom and dad walk in for their first Parent-Teacher conference.  He tells them their daughter is seriously whack.  They can't believe it.  How?  Why?

He shows them a picture she drew, with a happy little house, and a smiley-faced sun in the sky.  "See this?!  This is insane!"  They don't get it.  So he walks them over to the class window.

"Look at the sun up there.  Can you see it?  Let me ask you a question:  IS THERE A SMILEY FACE ON THE SUN?"

He then launches into a tirade about sheltered kindergarteners, unaware of the gritty real world.  "That's why I've chosen THIS text," he says, slamming down a thick tome.  "It's about the REAL WORLD!  VIETNAM! Lying in a trench in the mud, watching your friend get his head blown off!"

Yeah, man, Vietnam.  The real world, man.  Get those kids exposed, now.  As if there's not a season for everything, as if childhood isn't fit for children, as if "sheltering" weren't one of the things you are precisely charged with doing as a parent.

If you don't shelter your kids, you're a traitor.  Maybe I mentioned that.  "Shelter", "protect" -- what's the dif, dad?

Maybe it matters what you show them on TV.  Maybe it matters that a six year-old may not be ready to watch the new Batman movie, or that your 13 year-old son is seriously wondering why you're not creeped out by watching a sex scene on TV along with him in the room.  Maybe your daughter actually does absorb foolishness from Seventeen and MTV, and maybe that matters.

("But I watched some sex scenes when I was a kid and some inappropriate shows and I turned out okay, and --"  Really?  You're "okay", huh?  You sure?  The K.S. wouldn't even say he's "okay".  But you are?  Neat.)

Maybe allowing your 14 year-old a computer in his room isn't really helping him learn the "real world", but about fake women, and he's in there sabotaging his future marriage, and you're letting it happen because you're a) breathtakingly naive, or b) you're not man enough to "shelter".

It's your job to shelter, pops.  And if you think the mindless entertainment/consumption lifestyle is somehow "the real world", the K.S. is going to get out of his big, awesome, wooden chair and hit you with it.

The K.S. has a friend who was seriously concerned about how the Sage family hadn't let his kids watch "Superbad".  Sadly, the same friend later said his dad had shown him porno mags when he was seven.  No sheltering there. I feel for him.

Another friend once worked at a pre-school with both Amish and non-Amish children.  They occasionally showed Disney videos to the kids, but the friend got a warning:  "Be careful and make sure you watch the Amish kids closely.  They aren't used to movies, so they can take things too seriously and get emotional."  Weird, huh?

-- except it's not the Amish kids who were weird.  They lived in a real world.  A different one, sure.  A "sheltered" one, sure.  But far, far more real than Ariel and Belle.   They aren't the odd ones.  They're children.  Childhood has it's own seasons, its own rhythm, its own implicit modesties, and, if allowed, its own sweet, and more real, charms.

So here's an idea:  DO show your kids the real world --  in time, in season, and informed by wisdom.  Help them to understand, from the outset, that some things aren't appropriate for them yet, but will be in time. Take them out of the country to the third world.  Give them lots of great (usually not modern) books.  Gradually give them more and more latitude as they demonstrate their own wisdom, with the goal of producing a well-formed, free-thinking, independent adult by their very late teens. (By the way, we steered our oldest to the largely non-sheltering environment of his new context of UC-Berkeley.)

Here's the downside:  In order to do this, properly, you'll actually have to know them -- really know them.  May mean giving up your awesome car or house and getting a different job.  Sorry.  Also means you can't watch a bunch of garbage on TV yourself.  Sorry. 

That's one problem with helping people grow up:  You have to be a grown-up.

Feb 10 2013
Parental Warning: This Blog Contains Actual Bible Stuff

 

So is the Bible "family-friendly"?

I asked the guy from "Focus on the Family" that question. A great guy. Totally appreciate what they do at "Plugged In Online", where they review the content of movies and such, since I've always been strict with what my kids see and hear. But his answer was wrong.

"Yes."

You guys rate things on a family-friendly level according to "stars".  Given the content of the Bible, how many "stars" would you give it?

A pause. "Five."

Really? So, if there was a movie, realistically showing the actual stories in the Bible, you'd say it was appropriate for all viewers?

"Yes."

Man, I wouldn't take little kids to see Lot fathering his daughter's children. Maybe I'm more media-conservative than Focus on the Family...?

----

I know he gave the political answer, and the one he had to give. (Imagine Focus on the Family getting complaints, "The Bible's not 'Family-Friendly'???") But with due respect:  You gotta be kidding me.

"Well," you might say, "it's family-friendly, because I read the Bible with my little ones every night…"

Well, you read SOME of the Bible.  Parts of it.  Why?   Because you're a smart parent, and don't really want to be explaining what "like the emissions of horses" is all about, right before lights-out.  That's Ezekiel 23, and that's for starters.  Nevermind Lot getting his own daughters pregnant, or Samson taking advantage of prostitutes or Noah getting naked and trashed, or Song of Solomon's well-known lusty stuff. Kids have a sense of modesty, and wise parents protect that.

Here's another reason it's obvious: The Bible isn't family-friendly, because there's plenty of content that I couldn't share on the air without a disclaimer. Or at all. I can read direct quotes from Jesus, on a Christian station, and send people to their computers for emails of complaint. "My kids were in the car, so I don't appreciate you talking about how prostitutes will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven before the religious leaders."

Other people notice the decidedly unclean, non-family-friendliness of the Bible. Many Muslim leaders criticize it for being full of "abhorrent tales of sexual escapades as done by the Bible's 'holiest' men."  And, indeed, these stories ARE abhorrent, they ARE horrible, they ARE scandalous in the worst way if...

IF...God's ultimate, highest call on our lives is for us to be "family-friendly."  

But it's not. Not even close.  

-------

"Well, okay, but but the Bible IS family-friendly, because it shows us the best way to put our families first, and..."

Actually it doesn't do that, either. The Bible doesn't buttress the primacy of the family. It threatens it.

For those who want to idolize the importance of the nuclear family, Jesus, himself, is a threat.  He turned the entire idea of family on its head.

He says his kingdom matters more than your family, and my family, in Matthew 19. He does it again, in explicit terms, in Luke 14.

He says the poor, the imprisoned, the sick are his brothers and sisters in Matthew 25.

Shockingly, in Matthew 12, he compares his - what we would call - "real" mother and brothers with the people who were following him.  And he said the LATTER group, anyone who "does the will of my Father" is his real brother, and sister, and mother. He redefines family, itself.

"Yes, but that was a different time, and family is much more important now, in these troubled times."

I've thought that before, too, but... it's exactly wrong.  Family was your very IDENTITY at that time. Your past, present, and future, all in one. It was ALL about family. And Jesus, God among us, redefined it.  And no, it didn't go over well then, either.

For the believer, the Jesus-follower, "family" is redefined, and the centrality of our nuclear, physical family, is threatened. Like the old western, Jesus walks into town, confronts our worship of other things, even good things, like our families, and says, "There ain't room in town for the two of us."

-----

I thought about ending the blog, here. But then I anticipated the responses, attempts to take the shocking reality of Jesus, and simply make it fit what we're already doing. "Well, thanks, Brant! This is all true, of course, etc., but it doesn't mean we shouldn't care about our families, and…"

Yes, yes, of course. But don't use that as a means of escaping what Jesus is saying, here: If you are a believer, you are part of the body of Christ, and that means integrating your life, with others, in a way that recognizes this new conception of family.

It does not mean retrofitting the radical teachings of Jesus to keep doing the same thing. And that's good news, because the way of Jesus is BETTER, even if it doesn't fit our idea of what a "good Christian" looks like.

Imagine: Your money. Your time. Your home. Your everything, woven with the lives of others. Less isolation, less stressful relationships in the home, more healthy marriages, and true families for the lonely, the orphan, the widow, the divorcee, the single, or the misfit.  Jesus has a plan, and it's a good one. Don't short-circuit it by defending your status quo. (Frankly, as America becomes more post-Christian, we may find ourselves, by necessity, rediscovering just how great this family, his Real Family, is!)

No, by our definition of "family friendly", the Bible doesn't cut it.  Once again, Jesus takes our little categories and leaves them in tatters.

And once again, he threatens us, because he loves us too much to let us stay the same.

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Jan 25 2013
Email: Why Do I Feel Far Away from God?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Brant,

So I have been feeling really far away from God reasently. I've tried praying and reading my Bible but nothing is changing. Do you have any advise? 

Thanks,

Maddie

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Hey Maddie!

A couple thoughts about this:

I have felt like this before.  MANY times, and sometimes... for years.  

I've thought, "Maybe I'm sinning so much, and maybe that's the problem." And I had people even questioning whether I was really a Christian at all.  But I don’t think that was it.  I was honestly calling out to God for forgiveness, honestly calling out to him for some kind of sign, or reassurance that he was the there – all that.  

And you know what?  I'm a stronger believer now. 

Turns out, the "feelings" element of our relationship is a wonderful thing, but FAITH is not founded on that. If we're dependent on it, we begin to mistake feelings for reality.  We are called to actually TRUST God. 

You can hear the words "trust God" or "trust Jesus", and they start to lose their meaning after awhile.  But now, now that you have no warm, God-is-here feelings, you really DO have to trust him, and what he has promised you.  "I am with you, always," Jesus said.

Always.  He's with you, whether you feel it or not.

I even think, now, that the loss of that God-is-close feeling helped me understand him more, and my faith is more mature.  

Some of my "heroes", the people I admire for their faith, have gone through the same thing, sometimes for decades.

This is not a reason to despair.  It IS a reason to re-think what a relationship with God might look like.  Remember, God blesses us in many ways, not just feelings.  And – this is REALLY important – God wants us to want him for HIMSELF, not for the stuff he gives us.  

As a father, I "get" this.  I want my kids to love ME, their loving dad, and not just for the fact that I give them stuff like, say, food, a phone, college, or even warm, protected feelings.  I want them to love me not for what they get, but because they freely can love someone besides themselves.

And THAT, of course, is real love.  If they love ME, I'm thrilled. In our relationship with God, valuing his GIFTS higher than God, himself, is actually idolatry.  He's a jealous lover. And he's good. He knows the "stuff", even feelings, aren't, ultimately, what we need.  What we need is him.

So be honest with him, call out to him, even be open about your anger or frustration. But TRUST him, and know that he may be taking you to a place you haven't been before.

One last thing. Someone gave me a brief example on this:  If I'm in a large room with you, and I'm yelling our conversation, you can hear me just fine.  But if I whisper, just barely whisper, you can only hear me…

...if you come closer.

I think there's something to that.  And I think there's something maturing about just KNOWING God is good, being reminded by other believers that he is good, and serving people, even without the feelings. 

Okay, one REALLY last thing.  I mean it this time, since I have a meeting to go to:  Our feelings are just plain untrustworthy, anyway.  

They're dependent on so many things that have NOTHING to do with the subject of our feelings.  Like, am I sleeping enough?  Have I eaten well today? Am I hydrated? Have I had too much (or not enough!) coffee?  Am I exercising? What's happening to me, physically, right now? Am I tired? Have other things happened that have been really stressful, like a break-up, or a move, or a death in the family, or even something good, but big and stress-inducing, like a recent trip?  Many reasons to be suspicious of our feelings.

So many factors. Everything changes.  

He does not.

God bless you, Maddie!

Best,

Brant