Monday, May 09, 2005

Talking Back

So I spent part of the weekend reading Kosher Living, by Ron Isaacs, another of our haul from the Fayetteville library last weekend.

(The other parts of the weekend were spent celebrating the kid’s birthday and grading final portfolios for my freshman essay class – the kid had a cake from Creative Kitchen, an excellent local bakery, one of the few excellent things in Fort Smith. It had flowers and bugs on it. This bakery will do things like that. The kid looked around at all the cakes and said, “I want a cake with flowers on it. And bugs.” And the woman behind the counter said, “We can do that.” And they did. And it was perfect: sunny yellow flowers on white icing with ladybugs, blue caterpillars, green inchworms, and butterflies. Lovely. Adorable. And tasty.)

Anyway.

I’m grading portfolios, and in between grading portfolios I am reading Kosher Living: It’s Not Just the Food, which I highly recommend, not just for Jews. It’s a book on how to live right in the universe (which is what Kosher means – living right – right livelihood). Isaacs has answers (not just rules, but explanations) for how to do things in this world. I’m really liking this book, even if he does, at one point, quote Dennis Prager approvingly. (Prager apparently at some point in his career spoke approvingly of not allowing the TV to be turned on during the Sabbath. Well, I can’t argue with that. Even a blockhead is right twice a year.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Isaacs has a section on Arguing. My favorite!

It has this question: Is it kosher to argue with God?

What’s the answer? Huh? Huh? What do you think the answer is?

Isaacs says not only is it okay to argue with God, Jews are commanded to argue with God.

Of course long-time readers of this blog already knew this*, but I just love this answer so much.

Because this is the problem with (a) American Far-Right Levitican Christian culture and (b) Christian culture in general: this idea that God should not be questioned; that God should be obeyed blindly; that God is omniscient and omnipotent and that humanity, his creation, is, in relation to God, a powerless, useless, pointless worm.

This is not humanity’s role in the Torah. We are Israel: we are created to contend with God: and we do not lose.

Furthermore, we are commanded to contend with God. That’s why we exist. We’re here to argue with him when he gets things wrong, as Abraham did when God set out to destroy Sodom.

We’re here to point out his mistakes. Who else but us? It’s why he made us. It’s our job. If we don’t do it, how will he know?

Christians, on the other hand, define humanity’s job as to praise and to worship.

In their theology, God can’t make a mistake. It’s blasphemy, in their theology, to suggest that he might.

And it’s blasphemy, in their theology, to suggest that God might need anything from us – we’re useless, crawly, pathetic critters, filthy sinners, and it’s hard to imagine why God created such nasty things, except that he wants constant praise – and I can’t imagine why they’d want to worship a God like that, who created filthy nasty sinners like them so he can be praised non-stop by such disgusting beings. But apparently they do.

This theology explains a lot about the current government, of course, but also a lot about the child-rearing practices of Levitican Christians.

Dobson’s child-rearing practices, for instance: children are not allowed to disobey, ever. Disobedience is called defiance, and is punished by the child being, literally, beaten into submission (“until the child cries with true submission,” as he says in one of his books).

Or, as one of my students explained to me, when she was doing a paper on the proper way to raise children, “Any time my child disobeys, she gets the paddle.”

Bear in mind, her child was under two at the time.

This was a freshman comp class, so we were still working on basic things. So I hid my wince, and just said, “Define your terms. What do you mean by disobey? What do you mean by paddle?”

“Well, I paddle her good. Seven or eight good hard whacks.”

“With your hand? Or an actual paddle?”

She smirked at my liberal silliness. “An actual paddle.”

“And what do you mean by disobey? Disobeys you?”

“Me or any other adult. She’s not allowed to tell an adult no.”

I had just been working on automatic, though it was appalled automatic, up until this point. At this point I looked at her. She was looking smugly back.

“Never?” I said. “She’s never allowed to tell an adult no.”

“That’s right. Or she gets paddled.”

I kept looking at her. “You don’t want to rethink that position?” I asked.

She just looked at me.

“You don’t want your child to ever be able to say no to any adult?” I asked. “What about the uncle who tells her to hold still in the dark bedroom?”

She looked at me. “She doesn’t,” she started.

“What about the adult in the park who says, come on sweetie, come get in my car?”

She stared at me.

“I’m thinking you want to rethink your position,” I said. “Maybe just a little bit.”

After a moment, she said, “I never thought of that.”

“Uh-huh,” I said. I shut up at that point, though I wanted to argue further.

Our kid, on the other hand, argues all the time. Our kid would argue with a stump, as the saying goes.

“She’s making me nuts, this kid,” I told mr. delagar the other day. “I told her I was going to buy her birthday present after school, she went into instant negotiation mode. A toy present or a book present? And I said, maybe a book present and a toy present. And she says, One present toy present and one book present from you and daddy, or one each from you and one each from daddy?”

He laughed.

“And the night before last,” I pointed out, “a half hour debate on whether she had to have her hair washed in a bath she had volunteered for, or whether we only had to wash her hair in baths that were my idea!”

“I heard that one. That one was pretty funny.”

“Oh, hilarious. She argues about everything!”

“Yiddisher kop,” he said. “What do you want?”


*http://delagar.blogspot.com/2004/09/okay-i-already-ranted-about-this-over.html

3 comments:

broncobob said...

"And it’s blasphemy, in their theology, to suggest that God might need anything from us – we’re useless, crawly, pathetic critters, filthy sinners, and it’s hard to imagine why God created such nasty things, except that he wants constant praise – and I can’t imagine why they’d want to worship a God like that, who created filthy nasty sinners like them so he can be praised non-stop by such disgusting beings. But apparently they do."

I don't think I've ever heard Christianity's main premise ever stated more succinctly-- or better. I was raised Catholic... these days the Church seems very far removed from my youth. Instead of a loving Church, it has become a punishing Church, a vindictive parent obsessed with piety. Thank you, John Paul II.

To the religious right, I say, a pox on all your houses. But, then, it won't mean anything, I'm going to hell anyway.

zelda1 said...

In most religions, the Bible is rarely read in context. They make a story fit their needs. If the preacher needs a raise then he fits the scriptures and on an on. I have studied the Bible since I was a child just learning to read. It was one of the only books my mother let me read; all the other books she thought were me being lazy. And like delagar I read the bible in church rather than listen to the red faced screaming man in the pulpit. Recently, I have been doing research on Christianity and the not so wonderful way those people historically have performed. It is one of the few religions that endorsed things like genocide of the Jews, slavery and then lynching, and sexisim, and then there is that little secret that the Catholic church and the protestant clergy seem to forget and that is the way the men of the cloth act on their lust of little children and vulnerable women. So to think that they, the christians, could be right about anything is far reached. I argue with God all the time. In fact, he is the only one that I argue with and he doesn't argue back. My point of view is always the winner.

Diane said...

At around age 2, a child's brain makes a giant leap, and she discovers the possiblity of "no." This sudden discovery of opposition is what makes toddlers so frustrating--they are trying out their new brains. At around age 5, their brains grow again and they discover lying, so they lie a lot. Why aren't we teaching this stuff in school?