Archives For Hannah Arendt

Although American Political Scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain didn’t consider herself a theologian, there’s a good chance that anyone willing to exhaust an enquiry into her eligibility for the title, would conclude that she, in fact, was.

Theology forms part of the hidden backbone in the majority of her work.

Elshtain’s broad and consistent conversation partners include St. Augustine, Albert Camus, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel, and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II). This also includes some small contact with theologians Karl Barth, Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Elshtain considered herself a layperson when it came to theological matters.  Adding theologian to her list of accomplishments may have handicapped her from being the proverbial, voice-in-the-leftist-academic-wilderness, that she was.

It’s likely that Elshtain benefited from not having been assigned the title of a theologian. Resulting in her being more able to navigate dishonest rhetorical tactics, like reckless labelling, selective outrage, guilt by association, negative preempting and agenda driven ridicule. All the things associated with predominantly modern leftist institutions.

Elshtain follows the example of Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus, and Karl Barth, who are credited, among others, as being careful and critical, when it came to allowing themselves to profiled in political terms; and/or  placed into rigid theological, philosophical or sociological categories. They weren’t looking for disciples or to create a school of thought.

It’s long, but here’s an excellent example of some of her work. In a critique of the assumption that Christianity is a universal ethic of niceness, Elshtain argues for a better understanding of Just War theory, post-September 11, 2001. In her sights are some Western theologians and philosophers, such as Mark Taylor [i] and Noam Chomsky [ii]:

Misunderstandings of Christian teachings are rife. Christianity is not an exalted or mystical form of utilitarianism. Jesus preached no doctrine of universal benevolence. He showed anger and issued condemnations.
These dimensions of Christ’s life and words tend to be overlooked nowadays as Christians concentrate on God’s love rather than God’s justice. That love is sometimes reduced to a diffuse benignity that is then enjoined on believers.
This kind of faith descends into sentimentalism fast. But how do believers translate the message of the Christian Savior into an ethic of worldly engagement if an ethic of universal niceness misses the point? Because Christianity is far and away the dominant faith of Americans, these are exigent matters of concern to all citizens, believer or no[…]
For Christians living in historic time and before the end of time, the pervasiveness of conflict must be faced.
One may aspire to perfection, but living perfectly is not possible. To believe one is without sin is to commit the sin of pride and to become ever more boastful in the conviction that a human being can sustain a perfectionist ethic.
For St. Augustine, for Martin Luther, and for the anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the harsh demands of necessity as well as the command of love require that one may have to commit oneself to the use of force under certain limited conditions, and with certain intentions. [iii]
(Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, 2008, p.100-101)

For Christians, just resistance is in the same category as falsehood. To answer the question, when is it just to “lie”? We have to compartmentalise the subject. Martin Luther held the view that there were four types of lies. The humorous, the helpful, the harmful, and the blasphemous. The first two are are ‘praiseworthy, since they do no harm. The last two are intolerable because they offend both man and God’ (Table Talk #33).

For example: Telling a ‘necessary lie‘ (Martin Luther [iv]) would always be grounded in God’s definition of what is good. If there is a greater good at stake, than there might be justification for the use of a helpful falsehood, such as to stop another human being legitimately harmed.

In 1 Samuel 18 & 19, Michal misled her father, who was King Saul. She did this in order to save her husband, David, from her father’s jealousy of David and his God-approved ascendancy to the throne. Corrie Ten Boom did the same in order to protect the Jews from Nazis. Being grounded in God’s definition of what is good means that there are core restraints; or clear rules of engagement. In other words, boundaries. As with falsehood, we don’t make an absolute of war. War is only ever an absolute last resort.

Just war is one specific example of many, which shows that Christianity is not, and can never be reduced to an ethic of universal niceness.  Just War is not the equivalent of Islamic jihad (as understood as war against the infidel). If the West is to respond to its enemies, and follow its Judeo-Christian heritage, the West must respond in love. This doesn’t mean that the West should surrender to its enemies. It means that the West is  free to engage on behalf of the vulnerable, only by way of restrained defence. Not cowering away from having the courage to say a loving “no” to those determined to see the West as an enemy.

Ridiculed, labelled a warmonger, and considered too old to be relevant, Churchill critically questioned the Nazi movement, long before it became a bloody necessity to reject it. Blind acquiescence and what C.S Lewis called ‘the tyranny of good intentions’, resulted in the catastrophic ambivalence, and indifference of the West throughout the 1930’s.

To do the same is to ignore reality, whitewash conflict and allow tyrants to thrive. This is an unloving abdication of responsibility, in favour of appeasement.

History has never forgotten British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s well intentioned declaration, “Peace For Our Time”. A declaration that was brutally shattered by the sound of falling shells, broken lives, screeching stukas and Nazi blitzkriegs.

Reagan was right, when in 1964, he said:

‘There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender.
Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the spectre our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance. This is the meaning of peace through strength.”
(A Time For Choosing)

Elshtain is right, viewing Christianity as an ethic of universal niceness and attributing it to Jesus Christis an aberration of Christianity. It misses the point.

To veil Christ and Christian action behind the fabric of an ethic of universal niceness, is to repeat the past. This unloving abdication of responsibility, in favour of appeasement, leaves the West embracing a false security. One that is further masqueraded by the ignorance of the past, the dangers of positive optimism, and a flawed understanding of Biblical Christian theology.


References:

[i] Mark Taylor, “The Way of the Cross as Theatric of Counter-Terror,” paper presented at a conference on justice and mercy, University of Chicago (Spring 2002), cited by Elshtain in Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books Kindle Ed (p.82)

[ii] Chomsky, N. 9-11 cited by Elshtain, (JWAT, p. 226)

[iii] Elshtain, J. 2008, Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books Kindle Ed. (p. 100-101).

[iv] Luther, M. Conversations With Luther: Selections From Table Talk, 1915, The Pilgrim Press

(Originally published, 12th January 2015)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

 

Poignant.

Arendt, citing Georges Clemenceau in The Origins of Totalitarianism. (1968, p.114)

One of the more vicious stigmas attached to homeschooling, particularly by The Greens, is that homeschooling is the equivalent of child abuse. While this misconception and prejudice, isn’t shared by mainstream Australia, the view is reflected in the assumption that homeschooling is the equivalent of over parenting.

Over parenting, however, is not the same as homeschooling. Over parenting involves doing everything for the child. Over parenting is the parent smothering the child in too much kindness. An old term for this is ‘’babying or pampering’’. This is a term more properly applied to the parents who refuse to let their child grow up, or the parents who raise their child in a secular or religious bubble.

Every bump, bruise or brawl is accompanied by an excessive amount of sympathy and concern. Even if their child started the fight, or caused an incident, their child is innocent and everyone else is to blame.

In some instances, over parenting is about making the parent shine. Everything done for the child is only done for the sake of the parent’s need for affirmation in the eyes of the public.

What usually drives this is quest for affirmation is insecurity and anxiety. For instance: mum or dad projects their fears and insecurities onto their child. Acting on an unhealthy fear and connection with their child, mum or dad wraps their child in cotton wool.

Being seen to be a good parent, always saying “yes” to our children in order to keep them feeling happy, is given high importance. In these cases, maintaining appearances in public or on social media takes priority over the actual nurturing a child’s character. An appeal to keeping up the right appearances, mixed with an appeal to the vanity metrics of social media, and the world looks on and applauds.

Ironically, this constant “yes” and the subsequent banning of ever saying “no” to their child, results in the parent having done next to nothing for the adult that their child will one day become.

As 19th Century pastor Charles Spurgeon wrote,

‘Happy is he who is happy in his children, and happy are the children who are happy in their father. All fathers are not wise. Some are like Eli, and spoil their children. Not to cross our children is the way to make a cross of them. Those who never discipline [say “Yes” as well as “no” to] their children, shouldn’t complain when their undisciplined children become a burden to them.’ (2007 pp.80-81) [i]

In addition, Psychologist, Lisa Firestone notes:

‘When we assume our children need more than they do, we are undermining their abilities and hurting their confidence… as parents, we often fail to recognise how capable our children are.’ (2012) [ii]

There’s no disputing that most parents want the best for their kids. For some parents, though, the only way they think this can be achieved is by doing everything for their child. Everything they might never have had done for them. This is admirable, but it ultimately goes from one extreme to another.

The problem is that,

‘doing too much for our kids teaches them to be dependent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

It’s important children be given guidance and a reasonable amount of room for independence as they are growing up because

‘growing up, by its very nature, is a series of weaning experiences for children. From the moment a child is born, they are weaned from the comfort and safety of their mother’s womb. Learning the lessons of how to get their needs met then transitioning to meeting their own needs is not only essential to a person’s survival but to their psychological well-being.’ (Firestone, 2012)

While over parenting can be a real trap for some homeschooling parents, it’s wrong to equate over parenting solely with homeschooling.

The basic goal of homeschooling is raising children up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). This involves being raised up outside the academic industrial complex. There is no conveyor belt conformity. Homeschooled kids do not become clones of a system, nor are they forced to conform to the social order established by their peers, under limited supervision of adults in the school yard.

Homeschooling is about equipping the child with the shared responsibility for their own education.  Ideally, the homeschooled child will not only have acquired academic skills from a holistic and rigorous learning environment, but the child would also have acquired a decent amount of life skills.

For instance, they learn to love learning. They deal with people of different ages and backgrounds on a consistent basis. They may learn life skills like, how to change a car tire, maintain a bike, cook, clean, and craft. Most also learn how to think critically, when to show compassion and hopefully, how to live out a loving relationship with God and neighbour. In short, they learn to become independent adults in a nurturing, as opposed to an over parenting environment.

Most homeschoolers won’t be entering the adult world with unrealistic expectations about how society works. They won’t have had these expectations drilled into them by the social order set by the trends, likes, dislikes and moods of those who dominate the playground or schoolroom.

Over parenting is not homeschooling because the aim is to

‘help our children get a real feeling for themselves by offering them real love and affection, while equipping them with skills that help them feel competent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

Homeschooling isn’t about training up experts. That’s an untenable goal. Independent of the academic industrial complex, both mum and dad, provide guidance and enough resources to empower their child to succeed in life.

Homeschooling is about not just doing school together. It’s about doing life together.

This process involves parents working alongside their children, helping them to identify and then develop their child’s gifts and talents; pointing them towards a trade and career.

Where over parenting dis-empowers, homeschooling channels freedom for empowerment. As Firestone puts it:

‘The most honest proof of good parenting is seeing our child doing well, showing interest, learning skills, finding contentment, and finding him/herself. What we can offer as parents is love, safety, support, and guidance, a strong security from which our children can confidently venture out and independently experience the world.’ (Firestone, 2012)

This isn’t over parenting. It’s homeschooling.

Homeschooling is best summed up by Hannah Arendt:

‘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, 1961:193 parenthesis mine) [ii]

Homeschooling still remains a viable option in most states within Australia. It’s not an easy alternative because of the social stigma attached to Homeschooling. Plus the cost of homeschooling requires making some financial sacrifices.  For example, the best curriculum can only currently be sourced from the United States. In addition, unlike the massive education industrial complex, there is no dedicated Government funding for homeschoolers. In fact, it’s the opposite. Based on figures from 2016, the homeschooling parent saves the tax payer a significant amount of money every year they homeschool their child.

As for accountability, in New South Wales, there are many small homeschool co-op groups who do activities together. In addition, NESA has a homeschooling department and representatives who visit either annually of biannually, depending on the need. They look at progress reports and curriculum. They measure the ground and distance traveled. My dealings with NESA have always been better than expected. For a government agency, NESA do a good job. Their involvement in homeschooling is small. They also don’t provide support, or actively encourage homeschooling. NESA only provide guidance on Australian Curriculum standards from which the homeschool family can build their own syllabus. As far as limited government goes, NESA’s homeschool department is a brilliant example.

As for the question of socialization, the majority of homeschooled children fare better in social situations, than some of the peers within the industrial education complex.

Homeshooling is about funding and facilitating our children’s potential. It’s about doing life together, not coexisting as strangers would in a workplace. Choosing to homeschool in Australia is a challenging, but rewarding endeavor. It’s another way of selling all that we have and giving to the poor. (Matthew 19). With transparency, just accountability, limited government involvement and family support, homeschooling done right, cannot, in any way, be justifiably equated with child abuse or over parenting.

Homeschool where you can, when you can, if you can.


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 2007 The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition Christian Focus Publications

[ii] Firestone, Ph.D, L. 2012 The Abuse of Over Parenting Sourced 20th November, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201204/the-abuse-overparenting

[iii] Arendt, H1961 Between Past & Future, Penguin Classics p.193

Also published at the Caldron Pool under the heading ‘Is Homeschooling Over Parenting?’ on 9th December 2018

 

In a recent blog post Eitan Chitayat presented some high powered dialogue, choosing as his conversation partners those who (unwittingly?) position themselves as reactionary activists. Most of whom are from social media.

Despite the unfortunate, but forgivable title given to the article, the overall point rightly made by Chitayat is clear.

His words make up a necessary “no” to a protest filled with thoughtlessness and blind rage. (Both characteristics of any chaos fuelled lynch mob.)

He writes that:

‘If anyone doesn’t understand any of the above; if anyone doesn’t get it;
if any of my friends are going to post anti-Israel messages in a time where over 500 Palestinians have tragically died in this current conflict yet you remained silent while almost 200,000 Arabs were murdered by Arabs these past few years;
if you’re not writing about Assad using chemical weapons against his people; if you’re not writing about ISIS who crucified 8 christians the other day and who are telling Iraqi Christians ‘convert, pay tax, or die’;
if you only have criticism for the State of Israel that is doing EVERYTHING in its power to avoid civilian losses to Palestinians during a war;
if you’re going to do nothing but sit wherever you’re sitting and just dish out your anti-Israel dirt while rockets are being aimed at my house, family and friends as our boys are fighting to protect us – and you’re going to dish it out simply because we’re living in this land and you haven’t got a clue as to our connection to it;
if you’re going to join the anti-semitic and anti-Israel demonstrations flaring up in the world like we’re seeing in France, Turkey, Berlin, most Arab states and even in the US that have nothing to do with this conflict but are really just expressions of hatred directed at Jews and Israelis (and these expressions will be directed at the host countries soon);
if you’re going to stay quiet and just accept, then go ahead and unfriend me from Facebook now because you’re probably no friend of mine.’[i]

As I suggested in my own blogpost, written the same day Chitayat posted his article:

‘With small amounts of fact and/or information these glass houses become the launching pad for mobile projectiles of shame and exclusion. (We might need to also add ridicule.)
This is an ‘activism’ that measures efficiency by likes, shares and/or followers. Reflecting the fact that ‘thoughtless approval’ can be translated into hard currency by selling the side of story that is the easiest to sell (i.e.: the most believable or assumed to be most likely – potentially anything that continues to feed into the pipeline of hype)’[ii]

With the global community still trying to balance technological freedoms with responsibilities, it might be worth noting the words of Jean Bethke Elstain who, citing Hannah Arendt, highlighted the ‘strange interdependence of thoughtlessness and evil’.

According to Elshtain, identifying the ‘banality of evil disarms the seductive nature and hype surrounding evil’. What might also be applicable here is the imperative found in the New Testament letter of  1 John 4: ‘do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,…by this we know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error’ (ESV –  additionally, we might want to consider how fitting the practice of ‘Due Diligence’ is in this context).

Here we find ourselves reminded to keep a keen eye on context, details, and careful comment. This way we can defuse antagonism and walk through the confusion, towards healthy contributions that not only seek to speak truth but also listen. Resulting in informed conclusions actually worth sharing and/or liking.

If we aim for this, we aim to move responsibly, in a loving way, towards the place where we can play a part in denying ‘evil any form of representation that it might be seeking.’[iii]

The conclusion then is this: the Christian must not fail to hear and act, on what Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Edith Stein and those like them understood clearly:

(Judeo-) Christian hope does not permit a politically sterile withdrawal.’[iv]

References:

[i] Shalom, motherf****r. | Eitan Chitayat | Ops & Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/shalom-motherfr/#ixzz38RLvkRb8

[ii]Truth & Balance Vs. The Side of The Story That Sells Best

[iii] Bethke, E.B. 1995 Augustine and the limits of Politics University of Notre Dame Press, pp.74, 75, 81

[iv] Markus,R.A. 1981 Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St Augustine in Augustine and the limits of Politics, Bethke, E.B. 1995 University of Notre Dame Press

Image:”In Mosul homes are marked with the letter “Nun” (ن), the Arabic equivalent of our “N” and the abbreviation for Nasara, or “Nazarenes”: what they call Christians in a gesture of contempt to make them seem like outsiders in their own land….”(Source: http://www.patheos.com/…/muslims-marking-christian…/)

[Originally published 7th July 2014]

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.