Two Reasons Cleaning is Not Below You

Are you a feminist? A modern woman (or man) who knows who you are, who takes yourself seriously, who works hard and expects a lot.

Do you think cleaning is below you? Does folding clothes, dusting, scrubbing a scummy dryer, vacuuming, wiping windows or otherwise performing manual labor in your home bother you?

It does for me sometimes.

But I am also a Christian and a believer in social justice and the truth of the Gospel that Jesus came for everyone, including the poorest of the poor.

And there is something very fishy about finding or believing oneself to be above any sort of manual labor (provided it isn’t inherently unethical…such as mafia hit man).

The truth of Christ is the truth about all men, and it was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as this: we are “created equal.” This equality does not include all abilities, but includes our value and worth. In the Christian tradition, we say all people are created in the Image of God.

1) To believe that I shouldn’t have to clean my house or do my laundry is to believe that I am better than such activities, but I am not. It is often a subtle expression of a deeper classism, or the idea that I am not the type of person who has to do demeaning work like cleaning toilets. That’s for other (aka lower) people.

But while classism is real, even in America where we pretend it isn’t, classism is never true. That is, it does not describe the true reality. The reality is no group of people are better or worse than others, especially because of such things as race, income, or geographic location or education level. The reality is that we are all interconnected individuals who have gifts and hardships, who are trying to seek the good, regardless of how warped any person’s perception may have become. (The warped search for the good is what sin is).

Many people put air in their own tires; some people do it for a living. This type of technical maintenance is not irrelevant or inconsequential. On the contrary, it is the stuff of life itself; it provides the raw matter which philosophers philosophize about. And it takes care of us, of our family and friends.

To sweep a floor or cook a meal can be a great act of love, of care-taking, of gratitude for the kitchen and home that we have.

To believe ourselves above such work is to take our gifts for granted.

[Caveat: If we pay someone to help clean that house, that may not be bad provided we respect the gift they are providing us, that we pay fairly because we understand that their work is valuable and helps support him or her and their family, and if we acknowledge that we are not above such work even we do not do it ourselves.]

2) Mother Teresa said, “If you want world peace, go home and love your family.”

Johann Goethe said, “Let each man sweep in front of his own front door and the whole world will be clean.”

What these mean is that if we take care of our part, of our tiny slice of the world, of those around who are in need, the whole world would change. So often, we view actions as meaningless because they do not impact the entire global state of affairs. But the opposite is really true. If we do a tiny thing, but do it earnestly and truly, those are the actions that change the world. If we all did our part, all would be healed.

Jesus said, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

And he is God! So what we do to those around us is how we respond to God, which is about as big a deal as you could possibly get.

So then, to clean your own house, to do things that seem below you is to express in a small way a gratitude and a type of solidarity with all people who work. There is of course much more to living the Gospel than cleaning one’s house, but it is a small piece, and every piece counts.

So let me rehash this phrase yet again, “If you want social justice, go home and clean your house.”

 

New Book: Spiritually Able – Teaching The Faith to Kids With Special Needs

I actually won something! Spiritually Able: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Faith to Children with Special Needs by David and Mercedes Rizzo.

Confession, I haven’t read it all, but I did read through the Introduction and it gave me some things to think about: it shares the experiences of a family raising a severely autistic child, and it takes seriously the need to bring the Faith to all people, using whatever means necessary.

As St Francis said, “Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary.”

I don’t doubt that many of the techniques could be very helpful in general for Catechists and Religious Education teachers; the main idea is keep trying, try different tactics and adapt to the level and abilities of the child.

When I think about my own year teaching Religious Education to seventh grade boys, this could have really helped. They weren’t special needs, but and after a full day of regular school, another hour session of book learning was a tall order. As you know may have guessed from my blog and articles, book learning is sort of my thing. So that’s what I focused on, but it only suited about two of the students.

I really could have adapted the curriculum more; the Bible really is exciting, it is the story of our human family in faith.

Anyway, so if you know anyone with special needs, or if you have a kid, or you teach the faith at all or are considering it, this book would definitely widen your perspective.

And the pro-life message underlying all this, that these kids are valuable both in themselves, to their families and to God, permeates the text. It is the inherent worth of all human beings, no matter how different, that gives teaching its worth.

Yellow Day: Fighting the Dark Side in Real Life

Characters with dark backgrounds, who have experienced loss, abuse, alcoholism, or who simply live with a disability are around us more often than polite conversation would lead us to believe. And such characters populate Yellow Day, a new film opening Christmas for teens and their parents that plunges unafraid into the darkness of our fallen world with the fresh hope of the light, Jesus.

The stories of a young man and woman who meet through chance in a locked church unfold interspersed with “the good man’s” search for his love at Camp Grace on the Yellow Day, a retreat camp founded by a wealthy philanthropist to support and uplift children who suffer in different ways; young people with disabilities and who suffer from abuse are featured prominently. Yellow Day, like the real-life Camp Grace, focuses on celebrating life, forgiving those who have hurt us, and finding courage to carry on despite deep pain. In so doing, it offers chance to approach dark realities with compassion for one another.

The film’s creator, Jeff Galle, explained that after working in entertainment and performance for 16 years, he grew a good deal in his own faith and “wanted to be a part of something that expressed different values than what I saw in the marketplace. I wanted to make a quality film that provided kids and parents something they could discuss together. It’s a film with weight to show that entertainment can be more than just a distraction and that within the family space, we can confront issues that are difficult.”

Yellow Day showcases tough situations through flawed but good characters who receive help and love at Camp Grace and grow from it. John, the “good man,” seeking his true love, at one point explains that “You asked me who the good and the bad man is. Honestly, I think we’re all both. But we should always try to move ahead, towards the Yellow Day.”

Continue reading

Book Review: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

3690This is a good, terrifying, tragic book. It is good because it takes sin very, very seriously and portrays with painful realism a society suffering from both material and spiritual poverty in revolutionary Mexico. It takes place in the early 20th century when the Communists had taken power and the Church had been reduced to less than a handful of wandering, rogue priests.

The main character, an unnamed such priest with an alcohol problem is one of the most captivating characters in literature, a broken man who clings still to holiness and is therefore able to bring little pieces of goodness to others.

But this is not a novel to read lightly. This is a book for people who need to feel pain, real human pain. If life has become numb, if you have forgotten your blessings and need to read about hardship, sacrifice and endurance against all powers of hell, this book is for you.

Like the Brothers Karamozov by Dostoevsky, the hope offered amid the tragedy is slight, but it is there. And sometimes it is the only thing in the world left to hold onto.

Greene writes with all the flair of the early 20th century Oxford-trained writers such as T.H. White, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” (Part I, Chapter 1).

“The world was in her heart already, like the small spot of decay in a fruit.” (This refers to the priests reflections on his own illegitimate child)

“Oh,’ the priest said, ‘that’s another thing altogether – God is love. I don’t say the heart doesn’t feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch-water. We wouldn’t recognize that love. It might even look like hate. It would be enough to scare us – God’s love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn’t it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around.”

This is a good description of how frightening and painful the love of God can be. It’s not some sappy syrup, it’s more a purifying fire, and it is hard not to run from.

So, do I recommend this book? Maybe. It’s for adults; it has weighty themes and did not mean much to my sister who was assigned in high school. But if you are at the point where you’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all, then read this book. If you want a laugh, pick up something else.

[Confession: I did not read this entire book, but I did read most of it and I read all the sparknotes.]

Advent: The Reason The Traditions We Hand Down Matter

My latest article from the Truth and Charity Forum is about Advent and why the traditions we institute with our kids matter so much. It’s not about feeling guilty for not doing a million things; it’s the opposite actually. Sometimes we need to do less but with more heart. Are we teaching consumerism or faith? What do we say Christmas is about? All this has been closer to home than ever for me as my oldest is three years old and fully able to absorb what we teach this year.

“in families, we transmit an understanding of reality, of good and evil, of values and truth. It is so abstract sounding that words often fall short, but it is real. So the arrival of our children and the role of parenthood, which we inherit, are immensely transformative, and they should be for both us and our little ones. As parents, we will build the framework that forms their entire lives, even if we cannot always see it.

AdventCandles“In the new book “The Choice of the Family,” which is an interview with Bishop Jean Laffitte, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the interviewer quotes him a passage from Karl Wojtyla’s (who became Pope John Paul II) play The Jeweler Shop:

When they [children] grow up under our eyes, they seem to have become inaccessible, like impermeable soil, but they have already absorbed us. And though outwardly they shut themselves off, inwardly we remain in them and–a frightful thought–their lives somehow test our own creation, our own suffering (p. 167).

“This captures it so well; because children first encounter the world through the lens of their families, it is true that they “absorb” us, in a sense. And their lives then become tests of us. It’s not that the outcome of our children is our fault or responsibility, it’s that the tools and habits we consciously or unconsciously teach them as they grow will come to manifest in their adult lives, just as the lessons from our parents came to manifest in ours. We will have to take responsibility for the tools we transmit, and they will have to reckon with the tools they receive.”

And “Advent is the time of preparation, of waiting for the coming of our Lord, of God made flesh who made the world and desires to draw us back to himself. It is this God who bestowed our life, who bestowed the lives of all children, who came into physical reality within a family himself. It is his introduction to this family that we await in Advent. He who authored all families, broken or whole, came like us, into a family himself in order to restore wholeness to us all, who are all at varying levels of brokenness without him. And he encounters us to the extent that we let him, for God forces no one. This is what we believe, and this is what we have the opportunity to joyfully share.”

Full article here.

http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/advent-in-the-family-a-transmission-of-values/

So what do you do with your kids? What did your parents do with you? Did you change the traditions that you grew up with or hand on the same ones?

The Frightening Motivations of Mass Murders

When mass shootings happen, as it seems to be happening  more and more frequently, fingers immediately point to guns. And that’s understandable, but the tool is not the cause of the action. The motivations are what we need to look at, and those are far more frightening.

This great article by Peter Turchin explores the motivations and rise of the Indiscriminant Mass Murders. So often, the shooters’ view of themselves as victimized, “moralistic punishers” is overlooked because, I think, it scares us. We have all felt that way at some point: wronged and wanting justice. Now, most of us don’t kill people, and that’s good. And it doesn’t in any way excuse these actions because we can see their motivations.

What it means is that pointing the finger at guns or mental illness won’t get us anywhere but denial. What it will take to stop these is learning to see one another as like us, to lift each other up even (and especially) those who have committed wrongs. But I suppose that response isn’t  not super likely, this side of heaven. But it’s worth a shot.

This article analyzes the motivations of these IMM shooters and looks at some of the factors in society that account for the increased sense of isolation and disenfranchisement that so many people feel (even though most are not violent, of course).

It’s not fun or light reading, but I believe it is pretty insightful and honest.
“The rampage shooters see themselves as moralistic punishers striking against deep injustice. In a perceptive opinion at New York Times, Adam Lankford writes, “we should think of many rampage shooters as non-ideological suicide terrorists” (I would remove ‘non-ideological’ because many such killers in my database were ideologically motivated). He then points out that a common factor in both rampage shooters and suicide terrorists is “a deep sense of victimization and belief that the killer’s life has been ruined by someone else, who has bullied, oppressed or persecuted him.” I would add that this ‘someone else’ does not need to be a person (a point that Lankford acknowledges elsewhere in his opinion). In fact in the case of IMM (with an emphasis on the I), it is usually a group, an organization, an institution, or the whole society that are held responsible by the killer.”

http://evonomics.com/what-changes-in-society-lead-to-mass-killings/