(Proper) Catechesis is love

What it says on the tin.

Proper catechesis is missing from most Christian practice, and it’s one of the reasons well-off Western Christians seem so hypocritical and awful to non-Christians looking in.  There are many ways to properly catechize people smart and stupid alike, but mostly they aren’t done or even considered important by all too many Christians, but it is important for Christians to receive proper catechesis and it is, simply, love.

Biblical Theocracy

A book review from The White Oppressor T.W.O.

It was June 5th 1989, less than thirty-six hours after the historic “Beijing massacre”, when the People’s Army complied with the Chinese government’s order to roll the tanks down the Avenue of Eternal Peace and through Tiananmen Square, to clear all debris from the nation’s political heart, whatever the cost. I was in the student canteen at Hong Kong Baptist College, picking at my rice box, sitting across from one of my students. Mee Mee had just struggled through a final exam on a day when many of the students, still in shock, had stayed home, unable to think about school­work when their homeland’s future was hanging in the balance. We were discussing whether or not the college should postpone the remaining exams until the political crisis cooled.
About six weeks earlier, near the beginning of the forty-nine day stu­dent protest that ended in tragedy, four well-meaning students had come to my office trying to persuade me to cancel my classes in support of the democracy movement in China. They were quite surprised at my rather unorthodox response, and went away perplexed at the idea that there should be a Westerner, a U.S. citizen no less, and a teacher of religion and philosophy, who actually claimed not to believe in democracy! Until then, I had normally kept to myself the political ideas which had been brewing in my mind over the past ten or twelve years, since voicing them usually met with just such reactions of offence and disbelief.

But here was Mee Mee, her heart torn in two over the recent events in China, not knowing whom to support. Her parents thought the Chinese government was in the right; she disagreed, yet found it hard to accept the equally extreme belief of the recent tendency in Hong Kong to view democ­racy as the final answer to mankind’s political quest. I bared my heart to her, telling her how I have always been the sort of person who is naturally in­clined to grasp his rights in the name of freedom and justice, and yet, how the results of such grasping rarely satisfy me. For if my struggle to defend my rights succeeds, I am often left with a strange sense of empti­ness or guilt; and if it fails, I am left with bitterness at having been treated unfairly. As our conversation developed, I realized that what she was so interested in discussing, others might also find challenging in this time of crisis.

Thus begins Biblical Theocracy, the most important book on politics and Christianity since Augustine’s City of God. (You can read it online for free in poorly formatted HTML.)

This is my favorite passage:

If we wish to adopt a form of Christianity consistent with the Bible, then we must seriously consider whether or not we are perhaps being deceived by our society and culture-and perhaps also by our own human selfishness-when we preach democracy as the panacea for all political problems. Aside from offering the citizen certain legal rights, most versions of democracy tell us we have the power and authority to claim for ourselves certain “inalienable rights”, such as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Yet this is one of the greatest political lies ever told! Christianity is a religion of the cross, a religion whose founder taught that true life comes only to those who are willing to die [see e.g., Mat. 10:38-39; 16:24; cf. 1 Cor. 15:31]. Among other things, this means Christians are called to give up all rights: not just the basic right to “life”, but also rights such as “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness”. For the Bible repeatedly says Christians are to be “slaves of Christ” [e.g., Eph. 6:6; Rom. 6:22] and are to endure all manner of suffering for the sake of a future glory [see e.g., Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 2:18-4:19; and Chapter Six below]. How, then, can a Christian defend a political system which encourages its citizens to stand up and de­fend their “basic human rights”?

How indeed? If you are wondering in what sense this is practical:

And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.
1 Samuel 8:18

Practical Definitions: Sustainable Natalism

Natalism in the common parlance usually refers to government policies designed to make people want to have children.  Practically speaking, that puts the cart before the horse.  I favor natalism that starts with social norms and then is reflected in government policies.

Sustainable natalism is arranging society so that children are acceptable parts of the public sphere at all child ages.  It’s making sure women aren’t broken and worn down by the stresses and strains of bearing and caring for little ones so that they have energy to pop out more than a couple and raise them to adulthood afterwards.  It’s also about granting higher social status to married mothers and fathers, so that marriage is once again considered the correct place to bear and raise children in.

Sustainable natalism is people setting things up so that women feel that they can handle 3-6 kids, so that men can marry before age 30 because they have a good shot of being able to support three or four kids and a wife, and helping parents by being the real village, full of loving friendships and support.  It’s discouraging atomic living and moving every couple of years for a job, it’s encouraging social norms that have extended family nearby.  It’s remembering the value of cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles.  It’s restoring healthy relations between single childless adults and children.  It’s creating a social milieu that leads to grandkids and great-grandkids as a norm.

Tax credits are neat and stuff, but they won’t do the job.  Society has to be oriented strongly towards children as a good in themselves, living the idea that they are a blessing, because modernity shows us that once any ethnicity or culture gets rich and bloated with cheap consumption, they get very uninterested in having children.  Children are hard, even easy ones are hard.  Without lots and lots of explicit support and status accorded to motherhood and fatherhood, people simply don’t bother.


Real Talk for SAHMs: When maternal instinct leads to poor maternal health

This is just to say that SAHMs lose sleep because it’s hard to get to sleep at night when you expect the wakeups and in fact they come for years on end.  Then there’s the food issue.  Yes, there is joking around about eating the crumbs the toddlers leave you, but it can lead to either overeating to compensate for the sleep deprivation or slow starvation (and corresponding increasing exhaustion) as appetite shuts down in response to stress.

So people hear about SAHMs being up at 3am doing laundry and think they are silly and frivolous and making up reasons to make it all seem harder than it is, but they aren’t thinking about the four wakeups the SAHM already had to deal with since attempting her own bedtime at 9pm after the kids were down between 7pm and 8pm.  If you can’t even hope to get any sleep and everyone around is convinced you never need a helping hand because you’re home all day and what on earth is there to do, really, then yeah, you just might go ahead and save the laundry for at night since you have to get up every other hour to nurse anyway, or quell a nightmare, or get a water sippy for a toddler’s dry throat and hacking cough.

Then there’s the putting off of medical and dental care because the prospect of trying to deal with the entire process with a bunch of little kids underfoot is too overwhelming to even think about.  It used to be obvious as recently as the 1980s that trying to leave the house with many small children was just not something a woman could do on her own, but it’s now a bizarre expectation towards SAHMs specifically.

Basically, a lot of women are in really bad shape mentally, physically and spiritually, and it’s because they are just trying to follow their natural maternal instincts in an environment set up to work against that in poisonous and damaging ways.  They just need a break.

Internet subculture drama and the problem of right wing women promoting dysfunction as function

There’s some emotional firestorm going on in a tiny internet subculture I still poke around in.  Thing is, I’ve been on the old interwebs a couple of decades and that means I have seen it all before.  The bad behavior, the ad hominems, the plays for sympathy, the binary divide into “good team” and “bad team”, and the threats to leave the internet subculture/quit blogging/focus on “real life”.  The threats to leave or quit generally involve a lot of commenting and/or posting furiously about how you’re totally going to stop posting as soon as you’ve cleared your name/confirmed that so-and-so is a big jerk/clarified the facts/etc.

It’s a very old play, ancient music, songs from long ago.  For about ten whole seconds I let myself think this particular emotional firestorm would not be like the other fifty or sixty I’ve watched play out.  But, uh, then the engine of human behavior started up and people played out the roles they always end up playing when a tiny insular subculture gets caught up in drama over some of its more flamboyant figure(s) who anchor things with their force of persona.  I’d say personality, but part of the game is that the anchors aren’t real.  They just deal out personas like a deck of cards, showing one thing one place and another thing another place.  There is a core to the many personas, but it’s the same no matter what the subculture.  It could be furries, it could be Depeche Mode fans, it could be FreeBSD users, it could be Christian manosphere bloggers.  The specific subculture’s features don’t change the nature of the kind of personalities that come to anchor these subcultures.

It’s the sun, there are no new things under it.  This too, shall pass.  The anchor will go back to anchoring the subculture and in another year or so some new firestorm will probably appear and the anchor will play the part necessary for that one, too.  And so will all of the other people still in the subculture.  It’s the way of the (internet) world.

Having stated my view (based on long and sometimes painful experience) that this is just a generic pattern of behavior and not anything unique, I am going to be more specific in my critique of this particular anchor within this particular subculture. I think the primary target in this drama promotes very untraditional, unBiblical, anti-domesticity positions and I wanted to lay that card on the table and explain my views without utilizing the emotional elements of my personal hurt feelings.  Before moving on to that critique I will note for the record that I don’t think this will affect the blogging behavior of the person in question on anything resembling a permanent basis, as the individual’s past history doesn’t suggest such and the general pattern the person represents doesn’t either.  Maybe we’ve got a unique snowflake this one time, but it is pretty unlikely.  And again, for the cheap seats, none of this means I think the “enemies” who (re)started the drama are the “good team” or whatever tribal rank-closing is going on among the various blogs discussing this.  Sometimes every player has some soot on the old cheekbone and there’s no good guys. Anyway, on to the critique.

There is a strain in many conservative Christian subcultures that pops up again and again that relies on the Superwife myth to bash other women having difficulties as SAHMs.  It simultaneously claims that it’s easy and fun and not really important to be a SAHM, while lashing out at women who dare mention any travail as spoiled/selfish/lazy and making very clear that every woman should want to do it anyhow.  These subcultures invariably rely on women who have an emotional investment in the idea of the Superwife as viable and who have a compelling writer’s voice (this strain appears in printed matter and blogs alike) to craft a persona of the woman who does it all because anyone could and if you can’t, you must be a closet feminist trying to justify laziness.  The pushback I and other women get for promoting historically normal household help specifically for SAHMs is extremely insightful and saddening.  We are generally dismissed, told it’s not historical, accused of being rich/spoiled/selfish/not really Christian and mostly blown off.

So I do not favorably view a persona who is part of this broader strain of anti-domesticity, who encourages the meanness and cruelty towards tired housewives and doesn’t offer anything but illusions of accomplishment.  This dysfunctional masquerade has gotten us conservatives a bunch of women drowning in laundry, kids and chronic exhaustion while Superwife personas sit around telling them they just didn’t plan well, because their (fictional) family never has those problems.  Their laundry is always clean, their house is sparkling, their meals all home cooked from scratch, their children in perfect clothing and behavior and it’s all done with three or four hours of down time left in each and every day with no other people helping or assisting ever.

It’s fictional, it’s a front presented to promote a certain way of thinking about life as a SAHM.  It’s viciously unhealthy and unnatural to promote such an unrealistic standard, though.  The results are directly visible.  Women are being broken by it, and so I did have a hope that this latest drama-fest would result in the anchor-persona stepping away from the aggressive promotion of this unhealthy strain of conservative thought even if the blogging didn’t end (which, of course, it won’t).

But this strain exists in conservative-land for a reason.  It feeds the Randian individualism that has been so destructive to conservative life but which permeates its fabric in a seemingly permanent stain.  It used to be a Pioneer Woman myth, then it became a Donna Reed myth and now it’s…well, it’s looped back to pioneers with the push for homeschooling and homesteading on top of all the rest.  And this anchor-blogger is just one small piece of a larger right wing woman problem.  I could list out ten or twenty more blogs, some much more popular down to others with just five or ten hits a day, all of which have the same strain infiltrating many of their postings.  Conservatives keep choosing this madness over and over, decade after decade, and it’s NOT WORKING.  It DO NOT WORK PEOPLE.  We aren’t islands, it’s not supposed to be one person and Jesus, but several people and Jesus.  Atomicity isn’t superior when it’s a SAHM working herself into a hospitalization rather than a single childless career gal doing the same thing with an office job.

That insane, hypocritical embrace of atomicity and autonomy uber alles is why I am not comfortable with promotion of dysfunction, unlove and general cruelty being defended as, shockingly, Christian and appropriate and yet that’s what is going on.  Ex-fundamentalists, the very women who bought so hard into what this anchor-person is promoting and advocating and presenting as a common persona in her blog posts, are dismissed with a viciousness that rivals any of their own snarky scrabbling around in pieces of what may or may not be the anchor-blogger’s personal life.  They aren’t treated with a lick of love or concern for the fact that they were broken by the disordered Superwife ideal and veered into a different unhealthy extreme response.  No, they’re “the right kind of enemies”.  Enemies.  A bunch of tired housewives who turned to extreme feminism because they didn’t think there were any other alternatives than that or the right wing dysfunction that was eating them alive.  These are now “enemies”.  Not fellow broken humans who are still quite lost and looking for His light.  Enemies.

It’s sad to me on a personal note because several people I respect greatly are caught up in the emotional rollercoaster and feel compelled to make assertions that this anchor-person represents the positive aspects of the insular subculture.  If this was a feminist subculture, I’d be seeing a bunch of stuff about how badasterisk and tuff and empowered the anchor was instead of the bizarro-world portrayal of that persona as nothing but the summit of Christian womanly lovingkindness when the blog posts, comment history and comment threads on her blog posts tell a very different story.

This is part of the insular subculture pattern, though.  A major persona sends around a few emails/tweets/AIM chats and people are like “surely someone who’s contacted me so personally and directly is basically cool!”, or sometimes it’s phone calls or even in-person contact.  The latter works best for maintaining position, as people feel guilty about saying anything once they’ve met a person offline.  I remember a similarly small subculture about 15 years ago having a huge blowup also regarding “outing” of personal details where a lot of people could confirm the facts that the anchor was not as nice/pleasant/cool as he appeared, but didn’t want to because they’d met the anchor-person of that subculture and felt cruddy at admitting they’d been manipulated non-neutrally.

As it relates to Christian housewives in this particular case, it’s as I said earlier in this post.  A bunch of disordered mostly ex-fundamentalist SAHMs decided months and months ago to internet sleuth a new voice in the Superwife sweepstakes, but they never assembled their efforts in one spot.  Recently someone else did, a persona that was itself very influential and popular in its day with the very same manosphere subculture, but who has been paying ever since for not living up to the high opinions that subculture had of his early writings.  That’s also part of the pattern, for a compelling persona to acquire guru status, flame out and constantly scrabble for months or years afterward trying to regain the lost footing, while the former adoring fanbase turns on him or her like a pile of jackals.

What I am saying probably repetitively and incoherently (yay pregnancy brain) is that this little dustup in the manosphere isn’t about doxxing or anyone’s children or being intimidated out of talking online.  The person in question who claimed to be so oppressed spent many days commenting hither and yon on many, many blogs.  Can’t miss ya if ya won’t leave, y’know?  The observed behavior puts the lie to the idea that there was all this deep concern about effects on offline family/friends/relatives.  Anyone being honest about the whole thing will notice that there is zero sign that this person is intimidated by anything at all relating to posting content on the internet. People with a dominant/prominent role in an internet subculture are never the ones who are intimidated or whatever by drama no matter what they are saying in public or in back channels or both.  I keep repeating that the blogging will resume because this isn’t a Christian dustup.  It’s just a generic subculture power struggle and one of the current top dawgs in that subculture is using the fact that this is a subculture that worries about being outed offline to stir up emotional attachments and connections to maintain status within the subculture.  The cost is, of course, that some folks will bail on participating in it.  But the ones left will feel more insular, more attached and for this type of persona, that’s the point of the exercise.  Eventually this approach of drama-storms reduces the number of people down so low the subculture scatters into something else (nothing is an option, but sometimes also getting merged into a new subculture somewhere else online).  I think this is likely to happen soon (18 months or less) with this subculture simply because it’s greatly reduced from its peak size and shows only signs of reduction and further insularity.

Getting back to the manosphere drama, as for the other housewives who are genuinely being reviled out of proportion to their claimed and observed participation in this melodramatic fiasco, well, part of the pattern is that less popular people in the subculture getting considered part of the “Bad Team” have to deal with a lot of nasty blowback, which often drives them offline.  And then people feel kind of cruddy about it all and settle down, allowing the anchor-person(s) to roar back with their blogging/website/messageboard.  This type of drama always requires some longtime but not as flamboyant members of the subculture to actually get intimidated offline while the main players stick around and pop back up a few days, weeks or months later.

TLDR;  this isn’t Christian stuff, it’s very secular, very typical and ordinary and not the least bit special at all.  Watching it play out like clockwork was like rewatching some of the other such dramas I’ve seen over the last twenty years online.  The specifics were of course quite different, but the basic playbook is no different when it’s a bunch of people adding some Scripture to their power struggling.  The person at the center isn’t specially nice or evil, the various people accused of being mean to this person aren’t specially evil or unChristian (of the Christian ones); this is all some standard-issue stuff happening because this is just what happens when affinity, insularity and the internet collide.

In fact, I thought about splitting this ridiculously long post into two posts, one of which would detail a nearly identical situation among a bunch of distinctly non-housewife women, but I think one post is plenty.  I tried not to get into too much of the specifics of the manosphere drama because the particulars are quite meaningless to both the persona anchoring this subculture and the general tenor of how this kind of routine goes.

Prayer is well warranted here.

Pray as much as you wish to if you believe in Him for the FJers and their distorted understanding of the faith, instead of cackling about how they’re the right sort of not-really-real “enemies”; as ex-fundie SAHMs, they were and in some cases still are the same dingdang women so many involved claim to want other women to be!

Pray for the GOMIers and their tendency to make gurus/aspirational idols out of women (mostly mothers) and then turn on those women for not living up to the images in their blogs/websites.  They are to be pitied, not hated.  They are just one little piece themselves in their own subculture of the general pattern of anti-natalism peculiar to America.

Pray for the people who populate the manosphere (Christian and secular flavors) and their habit of combining both of the above problems, and for the people specifically named and shamed in this latest little drama (Christian and otherwise), that they gain some perspective and realize that they, too, are like sheep and have gone astray.

Easter has passed for this year, but He rose, He is risen and I stand by my commentary and will mourn the loss, if I lose something I value to tribal subculture politics and emotional firestorms.  It happens, this is one of the two or three times I’ve been emotionally attached enough within the subculture for it to affect me.  I do wonder at the fact that this time it allowed me to see the larger pattern of all those dozens of other times it happened that I witnessed (and sometimes, sad to say, took my own part in the tribalism and drama) again and again.  Perhaps there is providence and some deeper purpose in that.  One never knows.

Pregnant Pause

I’ve dropped any schedule for this blog until further notice.  I like this blog, I think it’s profitable to post the things that I post, but I have limited energy and it’s better served for now doing more offline stuff as best I can.  So I may post now and again, or I may leave this thing idle for months or weeks at a time.  I may turn up to comment here and there, but mostly I’m just taking pressure off myself to fret, since I could fret for the gold medal if it were an Olympic event.

I continue to hope and pray that more conservatives become serious about normal living and undertake the painful and necessary steps to help make it more likely for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren (yep, it might just take that long).  I also more importantly hope and pray that the Christian conservatives specially might put on the holy armor of Our Lord and be the best Christians grace grants them the strength and perseverance to be.  It is hard out there, we are being persecuted in America and the wider West.  But we must pray for those who are actually being martyred right now for Christ and not forget that we can still worship in public spaces and carry Bibles around freely.  We still have it and we can still use it.

It’s hard to remember sometimes that the bolder in Christ we are, the worse it will go for us with the secular world.  If we do excommunicate adulterers and don’t bake wedding cakes for multiple divorcees and refuse chemical and physical birth control except for the direst medical need, it will not be easier.  If we teach our children the Narrow Way, the True Word, public schools will not rejoice and cheer us on in the PTA.  If we hold fast to what is lovely, true and real, things will not be light and cheerful.  The secular world will not go “How amazing to see you live your values, it’s so wonderful you are living near each other, building communities of blood, Christ and love, working with and supporting each other in economic, spiritual and collective ways!”

They would instead start looking longingly at the countries that kill Christians.  But we could yet count it all joy, for it would be, then.

Screwtape gets around, and it’s not pretty

This bad homage to The Screwtape Letters commits the error of making Screwtape look like a paragon of heavenly virtue by saying to women at home that they are evil for ever feeling overworked and underappreciated  In this homage, Screwtape is actually the good guy with the sane reasoning.

Modern conditions are not suitable for the average SAHM.  She really is being expected to do a lot of unreasonable things for unreasonable ends.  Work might have been harder in some obvious ways in the past, but the relentless overwork was never so socially acceptable as it is now.

It is interesting, is it not, that someone with a monetized blog that relies on sustaining the current untenable circumstances for SAHMs in order to profit is making posts about how bad it is to ever admit to feeling overworked or exhausted or plain irritated in going about one’s tasks as a housewife?  In a normal society, this type of monetized blogging to provide income would be replaced by real work for a wage that was doable around the demands of staying home with littles.  But we don’t live in a normal society, and Screwtape really gets around far more than one would ever desire.

I have certainly noted that routines and schedules are important, but the reason the whole world (and it is a whole blogland of its own) of monetized mommy-blogs concerning organization is a problem is that they’re selling a fantasy that individual efforts can make up for total lack of community and support from other women.  It’s a theology of salvation through works, dressed up to sell ad space, or “organizing kits” or, well, whatever.  But it’s not a healthy approach or an honest one.  It’s making money off suffering by offering fake solutions rather than real, less monetizable ones.  I guess Screwtape would be very proud, such works are a tribute to that demon’s master.