Of Father and Mother

The two that become one flesh create another one, whom shares not just DNA from each parent but an immediate likeness as image bearers of God. This biological & spiritual creation of a person is beyond the wonder of the animal kingdom. It is something of the finest beauty, meant for universal good, founded on the immortal truth of Christ. Indeed, how the Lord set mankind to reproduce itself reflects an intimately loving destiny, a divine will for us to work for higher things, which included collective fellowship/worship of His glory in the earthly dominions bestowed.

The days as a toddler was uncertainty navigated through an inquisitive faith. My memories in Sunday school go back to the second year of life outside my mother’s womb. While she was at work for the postal service in the morning, my father was present until the late morning. As per usual, I wandered into their bedroom after waking up, remembering the digital clock displaying a time around 8:00 am. One day I had slept on my mother’s side of the bed, looking at the clock a few feet away on the nightstand, then inspecting my father to find him still sound asleep. Gazing out the window, the neighborhood was at peace. The sun was out with animals doing their early calls, the occasional resident or city employee going about their day. Directly in the sky the sun was partially hidden by bulbous clouds. Yes, we were not alone. I reached out my hand for the God of Creation. He was mindful of me, placing an already extended hand further, so a mere mortal could be touched by the Sustainer of all things.

I remember at about the age of seven my parents had me watch a video presenting the development of a baby within the womb. The down to earth narration, subtle music expressing mysterious wonder, and colored imagery showed me a process that set me reflecting the shear depth of human life. If anything, this permanently impacted my mind, acting as a cornerstone for my view of people. The chief cornerstone had already been established; I would not remove Him any time in the future, less I forfeit the inheritance of what it meant to be human, under the care of a fatherly and majestic God.

My history textbooks were not the best written. Each year they pretty much repeated the same sequence without diving deeper into any topic. Well, that is what the home encyclopedia set and public library were for. What the Abeka text did offer was a grand layout to understand the heritage of man – good, bad, and ugly. The peoples of the earth are made in the image of God. Our destiny revolves around the will of our Maker. Knowing our ancestors affirms what Scripture confirms about us in relation with God. Thus mankind is not just a part of a mere piece of time. We are involved in God’s eternal holiness, judgement, and redemption. Our parents’ legacies reach beyond death, much more than just figuratively speaking.

“O LORD, our Lord,  How a excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained. What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen – Even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord,  How excellent is Your name in all the earth!”

Psalm 8

It is no hidden reality that fathers and mothers can fail throughout the rearing of their children. I admit experiencing countless moments of exposure to spiritual attack, emotional neglect, and mental anguish from things said and done (or not). Yet according to our dear Lord, we as a family are corrupted by sin, in need of His restoration. Did not my parents and theirs have to suffer this pain of the human condition? Through it all, anything my parents or I killed, Christ resurrected. Such is through prayer and choosing forgiveness, advancing into His life out of the darkness that strives to bind us. If the family of image bearers is reconciled to stand united on the garden rather than divided on the grave, what a joyous harvest they will bring forth to their table, with excess for their neighbors and relatives. Woe to us who choose pride and pleasure, the streets filled with all forms of poverty.

These are the two things a parent ought give a child, even if it means forsaking so many advantages to them in the world. Firstly, introduction to the God whom made them through word and action – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Secondly, that they are aware of what they are – sinful mortal, divine creation, and human heritage. These things so the two greatest commandments can be fulfilled: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Thus they fear and honor the Risen Christ in the face of the evils from the world, dark spirits, and their own fallen desires. The Truth sets us free.

Students of the Savage Spirit

This past week I encountered two groups of students (5th/6th grade) of contrasting culture, though possessing a raw impulsiveness. One (Expeditionary Learning model) is well versed in the concrete facts of their physical world. The other (Montessori method) is more imaginative in their outlook. Still, in a unique way they expressed a deliberate self-will. There actions, planned or immediate, were deemed as only natural without thought of moral consequence. Now, what happens when they become discontent perhaps come to despair with the sinful world they inherit?

This is not to say that these children were terrors. Actually, there were a number of redemptive qualities for each group. What I am really getting at is the world view these young ones held. If continued in thought/practice as they grow older, there will surely be disastrous outcomes. Like I said, a raw impulsiveness. In other words, will anybody be able to control them when they come of age? Someone who can direct these headstrong beings shall very likely be of the same mind, just only more cunning.

The first of the two are definitely textbook learners, with the ability to comprehend technical ideas. Displaying excellent communication and motivation, they seem well on their way adapting to the modern world. What may bite this world a decade or so from now is their self-awareness in their role of the evolutionary process. For you see, they spoke indirectly of a view on morals that combines the necessity of animal survival and contemporary social rules. Believing they are animals on close terms with all members of this kingdom, their bodily needs are practically as important as what is right. After all, the first core value of their education model is “The Primacy of Self-Discovery.”

The second is of a more tactile drive, learning according to their individual abilities. They can be intensely engaged and focused on what interests them. Likewise they possess a genuine innocence, a dreamy sense of wonder for the world around them. Behavior often hinges on childishness, not child likeness, for most of them. They are trained to adhere more to their wants than what is outside their concern. Self-control being of secondary value, they are not reliable to adapt to social environments or work together in ongoing tasks. The world is pretty much extensions to their personally customized class rooms.

The inspiration/founder of both educational systems were ‘reformers’ discontent with contemporary society of the early 1900s. They were advocates for science by their own distinction, sharing the attitude that the approach needed to be more man-centered on the individual student. Kurt Hahn, whom Expeditionary is based on, believed that youth were innately good, needing to grow in self-development, less they be corrupted by society at large. Maria Montessori, physician & psychologist, desired children to be influenced in their self-direction towards the “spirit” of science, with the intended goal of curiosity for imaginative mastery of the “mechanics.”

C.S. Lewis, lead Christian author of the 20th century, wrote a lesser known character of a rather forgotten book, which illustrates an ideological force lying in wait to engulf civilization. In “The Pilgrim’s Regress,” the newly converted Lewis depicts the nihilistic ‘Savage’ as a sophisticated conqueror in barbarian dress. He represents a mindset/spirit not of a unique personality but an apathy to modern society due to disillusion from all the ideals and promises unmet. Casually under his elaborate orders are social movements akin to fascism and communism.

The beings for these ideologies in Lewis’ allegory are sub-human trolls, meant to be a parody of the grand ideal humanity is supposed to become under these social systems. Savage was raised in the world below his “honey-combed” mountain fortress. Leaving it behind, seeing it as vain talk, he desires to destroy it, for according to him, “The excellent deed is eternal. The hero alone has this privilege, that death for him is not defeat, and the lamenting over him and the memory is part of the good he aimed for; and the moment of battle fears nothing from the future because it has already cast security away [italics added] (“Furthest North” of book 6).”

This mode of thought is the extreme product of a world view/morality based on the individual will. Being social beings, we assemble ourselves with those of a likeminded will. This applies to a desire to carve out a world for the ‘truly’ fit or one forcefully levelled for all to be equal in social standing. The expeditionary students seemed ready to decide who/what would thrive after the culling of survival. The Montessori pupils only care to strive for what catches their immediate fancy. Those who can manipulate such raw yet refined impulsiveness, can acquire a self-driven horde for self-justified amoral acts, as well as systems of savagery. Lord Jesus Christ, may your Spirit be with us disciples of your Word, to speak and live the Truth before the deceived younger generations, while encouraging those who know You to allow your will be done.

“In the beginning a was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that m Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

John 1:1-13

Ignorance – Worse than Chains

“Ignorance, my brethren, is a mist, low down into the very dark and impenetrable abyss in which, our fathers for many centuries have been plunged. The Christians, and enlightened of Europe, and some of Asia, seeing the ignorance and consequent degredation of our fathers, instead of trying to enlighten them, by teaching them that religion and light with which God has blessed them, they have plunged them into wretchedness ten thousand times more intolerable, . . . Ignorance, as it now exits among us, produces a state of things, Oh my Lord! too horrible to present to the world.”

from: Article 2 of Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World;David Walker (1796-1830)

From a man who witnessed slavery first hand, the worst harm was not the whip or forced labor. The brutal exploitation was the product of a people made vulnerable by a deep state of ignorance. Is the lack of knowledge dealing with technology/science? History/heritage? Business/wealth? Formal/vocational education? No, the root of ignorance, which precedes all that has been listed, is not knowing the will of God and our identity in Him. Thus, as Walker states, the African people were already in ignorance, though now it had been worsened by people who knew the truth but decided not to live in submission to Him.

 What peoples of the world would discover, absent chains and beatings, bondage could still be inflicted by others, no less the self, so long as the people existed in ignorance. In the lack of knowledge of God’s sovereignty, we are prone to also dominate one another. After all, African, European, Asian, and Native American partook in chattel (think cattle) slavery for centuries. It is easy to treat beings as objects when you refuse to acknowledge anything resembling the dignity of being created in the image of God. Indeed, a person has to live in if not deceitfully feign ignorance of this truth, that they may raise up the things previously mentioned in their image.

A state of social status is not the primary issue for an individual’s life. Ignorance of the truths pertaining to God’s will is the underlying evil for society/culture in the long-run. Walker and other black souls were born into or achieved freedman status due to the controversial argument in law that they were creations of the Creator. Generations later, succeeding the era after the national abolition of slavery, whites and blacks were almost equally targeted for cheap labor, both as free citizens. It was common for slaves not to be permitted to learn to read, even the Bible. Why? If the enslaved masses knew what Scripture said, they would make poor cattle. The same could be said for whites who recognized that this unholy institution was a blight on everything they held dear.

Those who were more mindful of the things of Christ treated their property more as human than beasts of burden. Because of this defiance of custom, which declared in some form slaves must be kept in spiritual ignorance, state governments, eventually national (Union & Confederacy), increased their stranglehold on these people. Most so Southerners, people intimately acquinted with the God given humanity of blacks, were systematically forced by law to be more ignorant or at least pretend when it came to the truth. Politics and economics were prioritized above His divine rule of law.

Walker was not shy of chastizing American government for its folly handling the image of God in public policy. Far as he was concerned, only sincerely devout Christ followers witheld the wrath that would befall the nation, the Lord letting the mountainous weight of ingorance crush Northern and Southern ideals.

“Now the avaricious Americans, think that the Lord Jesus Christ will let them off, because his words are no more than the words of a man! In fact, many of them are so avaricious and ignorant, that they do not believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Tyrants may think they are so skilled in State affairs is the reason that the government is preserved. But I tell you, that this country would have been given up long ago, was it not for the lovers of the Lord. They are indeed, the salt of the earth. Remove the people of God among the whites, from this land of blood, and it will stand until they cleverly get out of the way.”

from: Article 4 of Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World

Whether technically slave or free, ignorance can bind the soul making one into a simultaneous brute and tyrant. Regardless of status, to be lead by vice is to not be at liberty. How many people with much are envious? Wrathful? In despair? Possess a spirit of defeat? Imagine, the consequences of a generation ignorant perhaps even scorning the things of God. To care not for what they ought to do for their fellow man in obedience to Christ. To view others and also themselves as animals, each with their own authority of right. Will giving them knowledge of economy, technology, politics, and/or fine art cure us of this natural state of lashing out in pride and cruelty? Less we think too highly of ourselves, believing to be more moral and enlightened than our ancestors, such knowledge will only be tools for self-destruction in the long-term.

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of your mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleaness with greed.

But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Ephesians 4:17-24

Experience of Creative Work

When it comes to labor, it is primarily valued as a means of economic gain. Sadly, the social and political possibilities are shadowed by the drive to material comfort. Lacking foundation based on higher spiritual things, the worker chooses a mental complacency. Instead of mimicking God in universal creativity, we can be resigned to passivity in someone else’s created world. Then the ironic mindset follows of feeling trapped with little to no sense of worth or freedom in our lives.

Experience is a key source of knowledge. Labor is one having the opportunity to create. Now, I can imagine people arguing that most workers do not have such opportunity, that only those with wealth have this liberty. Well, we have a choice. Exercise our God given abilities to create in spite of circumstance. Perhaps, we should just surrender to the preferences of others. To do the first requires the individual to form community, as they learn to be creative beyond their comfort zone. The second is to be personally or collectively content with whatever others make, though be disatisfied by the shared mediocrity.

An educated worker is a creative person with growing skills and social circles. Their knowledge surpasses the task at hand, connecting with others to create more for whatever common cause. This could be individual and/or group opportunity, whether it be acquiring resources and/or enriching the relations of a community. People tend to foregt that those of economic wealth possess their own social circles, far more often than not persist in developing their own creativity. I do not make this as a promotion for how to become materially rich. Modest or lavish, a person is divinely created to live in dignified freedom.

Book learning is of no inferior value, unless it does not coincide with labor, manual/mental, which is putting creativity into practice. Following the emancipation of Negro slaves in the United States, even as second-class citizens, black folk had unprecedented chance to actively cultivate their present. Many individuals took their labor skills outside their localities, relocating to acquire knowledge in communities that would receive them. Others managed or had to stay put, combining resources to improve their homes. Yes, the handicap of slavery smothers souls from existing outside of subsistence. On the other side in freedom, it must be of a people’s culture to labor for basic needs, along with creative endeavors. Risk and responsibility are no light weights to bear. In fact, a free educated worker grows to carry more, especially in good company.

In chapter 10 of Booker T. Washington’s “Up from Slavery,” the majority of the fledgling Tuskegee Institute’s students were of the impoverished plantations. Trained in innovative domestic, agricultural, and industrial skill, “the students themselves would be taught to see not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity . . . how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake.” Trial and failure ensued. Suriving the risks taken for building the institution’s infrastructure, including a brick kiln, the locale as well as many parts of the South likewise grew from the creative excellence across studies/industries rendered by the student body. Social/cultural relations between white and black became more cordial, due to the multiplying intertwining interests.

In chapter three’s conclusion of “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Dubois, Washington was criticized for seemingly discouraging academically capable blacks from wanting to pursue the position of political office, considering civil injustice being a violent reality for Negro citizens. The educational methods of Tuskegee were rooted in Washington’s realism. Formal political power could be taken from any man; it would not be a crippling blow to an experienced knowledgable people. How many souls possess a university education only to be pathetically ignorant, becoming dependents and perhaps lower tyrants in their social-political circles?

“Our greatest danger is that in the great leap from slavery to freedom we may overlook the fact that the masses of us are to live by the productions of our hands, and fail to keep in mind that we shall prosper in proportion as we learn to dignify and glorify common labour and put brains and skill into the common occupations of life; shall prosper in proportion as we learn to draw the line between the superficial and the substantial, . . . Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities.” [He proceeds follows with a direct push for white Southerners to cast in their lot with the formerly enslaved population, whom have been demonstrably loyal and productive].

from: The Atlanta Exposition Address – Booker T. Washington (1895)

Black denizens in the United States were as a whole believers of some form of Christianity. While they had earthly masters, there was a supreme Master. God had also made them for educated labor. The majority, even unsure of how or where, desired creative community life not restricted to menial regimentation. Skilled workers were no less anxious to set their trades beyond personal wage, for freedom would be more realized when efforts were joined with others to create in the world something distinct from what their masters/employers owned. A non-believer, Dubois still had this to say at the turn of the century:

“In the Black World, the Preacher and Teacher embodies once the ideals of this people, – the strife for another and juster world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing; but to-day the danger is that these ideals, with their simple beauty and weird inspiration, will suddenly sink to a question of cash and a lust for gold. . . . What if the Negro people be wooed from a strife for righteousness, from a love of knowing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life?”

from: chapter 5 of The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

The concern “Mammonism” would take precedence over spiritual values is indeed something to address. Washington, unlike Dubois, did prize the faith. In chapter 8 of his book, he makes it clear, “The school is strictly undenominational, but it is thoroughly Christian, and the spiritual training of the students is not neglected.” I lean towards vocational education as a preferable means for the majority over higher education. Meanwhile, I am made vigilant by Dubois’ warning. Indeed, it is of a contrasting perspective, though it is still one to be mindful. If we labor for man or Mammon, are we not menial slaves if not pretend masters seeking dominance? Not all men can be supreme. Mammon makes food out of men. Freedom and dignity can become perilously precarious things in mortal hands.

“Man, as we have seen, lives by communion with God through the Divine creative act, and is perfected or completed only through the Incarnation, in Christ, the Word made flesh. True, he communes with God through his kind, and through external nature, society in which he is born and reared, and property for through which he derives sustenance for his body; but these are only media of his communion with God, the source of life – not either the beginning or the end of his communion.”

from: chapter 15 of The American Republic – Orestes Brownson (1865)

“The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The Lord God gave man this order: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.” The Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” . . . The Lord God then built up into a woman the rib he had taken from the man. When he had brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.””

Genesis 2:15-18, 22-23