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IMG_3628At a recent family event, the person I was talking with deliberately identified themselves as a “progressive”.

It seemed odd to me that this person felt the need to qualify their ideological position. Based on his choice of words and a few popular socio-political slogans dropped in between them, his position was clear enough.

It’s how things are. Although there was polite disagreement, I didn’t fall in line with the controlling socio-political narrative. Consequently, I was treated as dim-witted and ignorant.

I even attempted to shift topics, mentioning that my father had passed away in March, but that was only met with silence and indifference.

I wasn’t hurt or at all that surprised. In other non-face to face conversations a lack of respect and sense of superiority has always tainted his participation in our conversations. In this instance, however, he came across as arrogant. Even if he was making a strong effort to conceal contempt for my questions and tentative conclusions, it was clear that my educated theological position was considered unscientific and therefore, illegitimate; of no value.

I was curious about why he was comfortable with dismissing my theologically trained position, and yet confident about his own knowledge of theology; mostly sentimental fragments of information, drawn from his youthful association with a church .

I walked away with the strong impression that he was uninterested in my position. He appeared hypocritical and prejudiced against anything a thinking Christian might have to say or offer.

This is nothing new. It’s a bit like what G.K Chesterton experienced at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Experiences which lead him to write observations like this:

 ‘In the Catholic twelfth century, in the philosophic eighteenth century, the direction may have been a good or a bad one, men may have differed more or less about how far they went, and in what direction, but about the direction they did in the main agree, and consequently they had the genuine sensation of progress. But it is precisely about the direction that we disagree. Whether the future excellence lies in more law or less law, in more liberty or less liberty; whether property will be finally concentrated or finally cut up; whether sexual passion will reach its sanest in an almost virgin intellectualism or in a full animal freedom; whether we should love everybody with Tolstoy, or spare nobody with Nietzsche;— these are the things about which we are actually fighting most.’ (Heretics, 1901, pp.15-17)[i]

Chesterton falls into three categories. Insightfully relevant: elements readers cannot help but agree with. Intensely relevant: the wordy elements that unsettle even the most devoted of his fans. Irritatingly relevant: elements that make a whole lot of sense, but would be cast aside because they speak too loudly against certain predominant socio-political agendas.

Reading Chesterton is a lot like reading Jean Bethke Elshtain, Albert Camus, Hannah Arendt, or the anti-Nazi theologians Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Their works are better savoured, than rapidly devoured.

They’re part of a movement and a counter-movement. Each unsettling us as we are directed in heart, thought and attitude towards something not of this world – pointing us to the God who, in the world through covenant and Jesus Christ, speaks to humanity from outside humanity. Humanity can never speak this Word to itself or by itself. It can only speak God’s Word in reference to where, when, how, who and what, God has first chosen to speak it. God’s Word; His grace and law comes to us – encounters us. It’s possible to say that genuine progress is framed and protected by law, but brought to life by grace.

Like conservatives, progressives don’t own the concepts of progress, tolerance, emancipation, compassion, enlightenment, grace or even charity. No creature, without the Creator, can truly claim them, or truly offer them, without eventually perverting progress, turning it into a lordless and tyrannical task-master instead of a servant.

As Chesterton said,

 ‘Progress, properly understood, has, indeed, a most dignified and legitimate meaning. But as used in opposition to precise moral ideals, it is ludicrous. So far from it being the truth that the ideal of progress is to be set against that of ethical or religious finality, the reverse is the truth. Nobody has any business to use the word “progress” unless he has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals. Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal. For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress. Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there been an age that had less right to use the word “progress” than we […] It is not merely true that the age which has settled least what is progress is this “progressive” age. It is, moreover, true that the people who have settled least what progress is, are the most “progressive” people in it. The ordinary mass, the men who have never troubled about progress, might be trusted perhaps to progress.’ (ibid)

In sum, you don’t have to be a progressive, to be for progress.


Notes:

[i] Chesterton. G.K. 1901, Heretics Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Ed. (pp, 15-17).

 

Homeschool SculptureCreativity reduces textbook fog and increases concentration. Encouraging creativity seems to unglue the routine just enough to re-energize the more mundane tasks that follow.

Yesterday, I was shown the importance of this. Of setting aside time for creativity in the midst of the academic timetable.

It was a simple idea, but seems to have been a winner. During craft and music appreciation sessions we crafted a wall sculpture for Lent using recycled cardboard that was moulded into the shape of tissue boxes.The work took us longer than expected, however, given the learning outcomes involved, any concern about time became a non-issue.

The picture to the left is the end result of that session. Each box was individually covered in a mosaic and then joined together with a glue-gun. The top box was designed by our eldest, depicting Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

I know I’ve quoted it before a few times, but I’m in need of the reminder:

‘to be a teacher is to really be a learner’ (Kierkegaard [i]).

[i] Kiekegaard, S On my work as an author, the point of view in Hong, H. & Hong,E. 1978 The Essential Kierkegaard  Princeton University Press pp.460-461

RL2015

back to HomeschoolSunday involved preparing curriculum for a new Homeschool term. This was made more strenuous by a letter we received the other day. In it we were reminded about stricter guidelines now being set up for home education in our state.

For those foreign to attitudes in Australia towards homeschooling, the best way to illustrate them is by stating that they range between indifference, curiosity, confusion and sometimes hostility.

The general notion is that since the Commonwealth (Federal Government) and States provide “free” schooling, why homeschool?

It is not always the case, but hidden within this is the cultural hang-up that wrongly views “kids as burdens to be offloaded, and their successes paraded only when the result reflects “exceptional parental conduct.”

I feel sorry for the school teachers who are overloaded, overworked, underpaid and largely have their role misunderstood. Granted, the system works up to a point. However it ceases to function effectively when the State (or any private institution) begins to walk away from endorsing the fact that teachers are professional educators, not substitute parents. Nor, to use a more blunt analogy, are they glorified baby-sitters.

Parental responsibility is still the most significant part in the effective education of children. This includes making time to not only be concerned about the place of education, but participate in the method of education and contribute to the progress of their child’s education.

It is part of a more broader political party view, but some State Government representatives in Australia, see Home Schooling as primitive, biased and regressive.

For example:

”Without the watchful eye of teachers, some children could end up trapped in abusive settings or left without appropriate learning opportunities,” Greens MP, Dr John Kaye said. (source)

Although helpful to some degree, this new bureaucratic push has some unhealthy weight to it. As a result it is being felt. So for now we are back to homeschooling, but for how long, I couldn’t say.

The good side to this fresh approach by our governing agencies is that it means some empowerment for homeschoolers. For instance, a more targeted practice in the art of “review, review, review” and the opportunity to promote the benefits of homeschooling to those generally unaware of the them.

This can only translate as support. Otherwise we’d be consumed by the fact that it appears as though it’s a politely veiled, politically driven, disincentive to continue.

(Original image credit: digitalart)

During my management theory classes I undertook while working as a manager in retail. We were repeatedly told that the “crucial” characteristic of any successful manager was being clear on the complexities  encountered when arriving at the intersection between procedure and implementation.

The intersection has the universal reputation of being fraught IMG_20140518_160505with snares and frustration.

A procedure, therefore, should be informed by how it is to work on the field. Not just passed across from those personnel detached from the actual hands-on personnel.

Unfortunately even the best laid out procedure can hit pot-holes. This is because the delivery of any procedure when it hits the implementation stage can be limited by resources, circumstance, environment and time.

Simply put: what reads great on paper can become a nightmare in practice.

To resolve the issues encountered here managers will generally apply the axiom “review, review, review”.

Reviewing looks for limitations and strengths; taking a step back to refocus application, direction and timing.

Reviewing gives priority to the limitations in order to reform the procedure whilst seeing whether the strengths could be improved upon or simplified to free up resources for improving areas of delivery or achievement that need improvement.

One of the great things we enjoy about home-schooling is being able to apply and develop life skills learnt in the professional arena.

Today we had a parent-teacher conference and looked for limitations in our approach to home-schooling.

The outcomes included a list of new material to research and purchase. In addition to a simple timetable drafted to empower flexibility in our routine. A quick discussion followed in which we both talked about the progress of our kids, and the resources we are using to improve their education.

For example: creating more light in a room by replacing dark  and heavy bookshelves with white ones. Carefully putting new things in place to improve our environment can potentially improve the way in which their home education is delivered.

Stumbling along this “road less travelled” and feeling as though you’re walking through mud sometimes is a seasonal challenge for home-schoolers.

These seasons will come, they do in the business world as well. Some skills are transferable. The importance of reviewing and improving how we do things as home educators is that it advances the home-school team and can safeguard our parenting by minimise exhaustion closer to end of term.

Bringing your talents, gifts, work experience, knowledge, faith and skills into your approach towards homeschooling has serious potential. It can uplift the process by energising how children are taught in the way they should, could and ought to go.

In theological terms, reviewing is like confession. It recognises our humanity through our limitations and calls us back to life, out of self-condemnation and complacency. Back into the why and the how we got started on this journey in the first place. We are reminded of the One who schools us and grants us the privilege of the burden of responsibility in serving our children in such a special way.

‘Education is the point at which we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, not to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new – but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world’

(Hannah Arendt, 1961 Between Past & Future, Penguin Classics p.193)

Image: mine via instagram.

Advent Day 7: Humour

A few days ago I did some research on what Tim Hawkins might have had to say regarding the topic of Christmas.Karl Barth_Laughter

I would have posted this earlier, unfortunately I wrestled with how to lay out a blog post about it.  I did not want it to be pretentious and inauthentic. This was due the presupposition that Christians, theologians in particular, are not for laughter of any kind.  Sadly, it seems that we can at times perpetuate this false perspective, and then wonder why such a negative assumption exists.

Contrary to said assumption, Christians like to laugh, celebrate, and smile. Some even laugh at themselves, and even if their humour can be a bit dry, it is difficult to not appreciate the brokenness and the humanity in it all.Emboldened by the hope anchored in Jesus the Christ, His spirit, His humanity and God’s proclamation of reconciliation, and through the narrative accounts of  participants and witnesses. Advent reminds us to listen, to laugh and then pass that joy on.

Of course there is a lot to say about humour, laughter and joy around this time of year. How it fits into our advent journey and the important role it plays in unifying communities instead of dividing them. Laughter is found in giving. Comedians, no doubt, spend hours perfecting how they are going to deliver joy in their message.

Joy, the gift and its delivery are all key themes of Advent.

Karl Barth is reported to have said:

‘Joy is the simplest form of gratitude’
‘Away with the yardsticks! Those who cannot sigh with others and laugh about themselves are warmongers…Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God’

In sum, the end result of my two-hour research session, was a video montage found on YouTube. To me, the funniest clip was the one tagged on at the end.

All the clips can be located on his channel @: TimHawkinsComedy (well worth checking out)

The difference between one leader and another is?

“If you deny that personal responsibility you are denying the religious basis of life—that’s the difference between me and a Marxist. The values by which you and I live are not values given by the State.
“Christianity is about more than doing good works. It is a deep faith which expresses itself in your relationship to God. It is a sanctity, and no politician is entitled to take that away from you or to have what I call corporate State activities which only look at interests as a whole.
“So, you’ve got this double thing which you must aim for in religion, to work to really know your faith and to work it out in everyday life. You can’t separate one from the other. Good works are not enough because it would be like trying to cut a flower from its root; the flower would soon die because there would be nothing to revive it.”
Mrs Thatcher’s defence of the individual against the State is in her eyes founded on a Christian concept of man.
“The basis of democracy”, she says, “is morality, not majority voting. It is the belief that the majority of people are good and decent and that there are moral standards which come not from the State but from elsewhere.” – Margaret Thatcher, 1978.

 


References:

Catholicherald.co.uk, Margaret Thatcher, 1978: ‘No faith is only a faith for Sundays’

Thatcher, M. 1988. Speech to General Assembly of the Church of Scotland