Whitewashing black fatherlessness helps no one.

While doing research for an offline project, I ran across this article advertising a book on the impact of fatherlessness on the lives of black men who have produced famous and widely read  literature. These portions jumped out at me:

“One question pulls this together: What is the impact on black men when their fathers are absent?” said Green, who is also an associate professor at UNCG. “It’s quite significant, but it’s not debilitating. It doesn’t mean life is over for them, that they’re ‘at risk’ or that they have a target on them.”

Later, the author continues:

The success of the profiled authors proves that the absence of a paternal figure doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle, Green found.

“I’m not saying in this book that not having a father doesn’t make a tremendous impact, because it does,” Green said. “I’m not saying they will all become award-winning writers or the president of the United States. What I am saying is that they have a chance to be something – and we need to encourage that.”

It is a monumental mistake to use Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright as templates for the typical black man who grows up without his father, which is what this book does. Exceptional cases are just that; exceptional. That we know their names at all is reason enough to discount them as indicative of the average man, regardless of race.

This is not helpful.

At all.

 

Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

Commitment as long as it works for you isn’t commitment.

During a very edifying time with a friend, we got on to the subject of the innate problem most Americans, including Christians, have with commitment. We weren’t discussing marriage.  Although there is certainly an argument to be made even on that subject, there have been (literally) no divorces in the relatively large circle of families we have been blessed to have fellowship with over the past five years. A couple of close scrapes, but they weathered the storms and came out on the other side, usually happier it seemed. So no, this isn’t about marriage commitments.

It’s about the kinds of commitments that make a viable Christian community over the long haul possible, but which no one -myself included- really want to commit to. At some point the needs of my family, my kids’ education, or my perspective may change in a way that continued commitment to that community won’t work for me anymore. By won’t work, I mean become inconvenient, not comforting, non-affirming, or in some other way fail to add measurable benefit to my life as needs dictate at that time.

The freedom to go for the gold, forge our own paths, rebel against “tyranny” and maximize our potential are what it means to be an American. There are few things in life worth giving up that kind of autonomy for, so in order to spare ourselves the messiness of disentangling from one thing to seamlessly move on to another, we resist committing to anything. Then we wonder why there is no depth of Christian community nor sufficient support, socialization, and connections between believers so that our young people aren’t floundering when it’s time to find a good job, Christian social lives, or a suitable Christian mate. Or why some of them have already determined that family life is not worth the risks or the sacrifices. It’s because we’ve set a poor example.

This admonishment is as much for me as anyone else. After all my impressive rhetoric (according to my friend), when she proposed that I might be the perfect person to fill a particular role, my immediate response was, ” I don’t know, [Carol]. That’s a big commitment!”

…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

What’s a [black] girl to do?

I have a lot of thoughts about this piece of writing, but for right now I’m putting this article here as a marker to share one of the things we’ve discussed in our family given our present social circle and the experiences our daughters have had (or will have).

It’ll probably be next week before I can even begin to unpack it properly and I don’t know that I’m going to take the time to do that, so here it is:

Negro Bed Wench or Baby Mama: A Black Woman’s Dilemma.

An object level example:

A white guy at our daughter’s job made an offer to spend the day hanging out with her when their day off fell on the same day. She didn’t think it was a date proposition -she declined- but as a general rule, men don’t hang around young, attractive women thinking she’s another one of the guys.

There’s also a black guy at her job who clearly has a serious crush on her. Everyone can see it, but he has yet to say anything to her and it’s probably best that he doesn’t to spare everyone involved. She’s not interested.

In other words, this is not just a hypothetical exercise for me, and frankly, despite the fact that the Benevolent Dictator is perfectly cool and at ease with a son-in-law of whatever hue so long as he’s honorable, God-fearing, and good to his girls, I go back and forth on the matter.

The Judgy Bith article just got me thinking. That is all.

Don’t take credit for things you had little to do with.

Still ruminating on the topic of our tendency to suffer from what Voddie Baucham calls “The Elder Brother Syndrome”. I invite you to listen to his message here. If it doesn’t drive the Pharisee right out of you -or at least offer you the opportunity for self-examination- you might be too far gone. Stop reading right now.

One of the things we have tried to instill in our kids is not to misinterpret the perception of their goodness as evidence that they are better than anyone else. And the second thing is something I have discussed here before; our tendency as westerners, and Americans in particular, to mistake the circumstances that come from being born in the West with blessings.

This tendency manifests itself in many ways, but when you strip it down it always comes down to our desire to take credit for things that often have little to do with any great skill, virtue, or effort on our part. I like the hard hitting way Bro. Baucham puts in his message so do listen, but he basically admonishes Christians to remember that to the extent that we haven’t experienced tragedy or wallowed in gross sin, it’s God’s grace often coupled with the kindness of others that has kept these things far from us. It is NOT evidence that our souls are any less dark than anyone else’s.

Some things we need to be careful about flaunting as if they mean we’re good people:

  • Becoming a more submissive, easy going wife after the kids are all grown up: And when you’re free of the attendant expenses and time limitations that come with being a mother of many little ones. For those of us who managed to be submissive and easy going in the midst of harried motherhood, we should praise God rather than ourselves.
  • Being a Christian from an early age. See the parable of the workers in the vineyard. And re-listen to the sermon I linked to above.
  • Building a materially prosperous life during times when economic fortunes were less difficult. In other words, making the mistake of believing that because you (like Amy Dacyzyn) thrived on 30K and bought a home  in the late 1980s and early 1990s using frugal tips, then a family of similar size should be able to do the same thing on 30K in 2017. A family would need to make nearly 60K to do what yours did, while still using frugal tips. Most neighborhoods are markedly less safer than they were 30 years ago. Show some understanding for couples making hard choices.
  • Getting through high school and college without engaging in debauchery or sexual sin. Bro. Baucham hits this one hard and square on but not everyone will listen to his message so I’m adding it here. Not everyone is born into families where they are taught right from wrong from birth, are well protected (like I was), or had access to God’s word. If you were so blessed, it is something to be humbly grateful for, not to feel smugly superior about. Under those circumstances it’s also very easy to forget that Christianity-true Christianity- is a faith of conversion, not birth. So examine yourself to be sure…
  • A happy marriage: That’s a pretty subjective term to be sure, but when you hear about your good fortune often enough, you learn not to take it for granted. If you’re smart, you know full well not to take credit for that, and just count your blessings.
  • For any and all good fortune that comes your way: Attribute to Providence rather than your stellar morality and decision making skills. Even if you did everything right, something still could have gone terribly wrong. Every good decision that yielded a positive result for you may have been helped along by the fact that your husband has usually been gainfully employed and in good health, you have maintained reasonably good health, your children have had good health, you haven’t had any debilitating injuries from accidents, etc. I could go on and on. The point is what I noted at the top of the post:

Don’t be so quick to take credit for the good things in your life. I understand the temptation because every one of the fortuitous circumstances I listed above could be applied to me and mine.

Make a habit of always looking for someone else to whom you can give the honor you are tempted to take for yourself. I know this flies in the face of everything we have been taught about self-esteem, self-empowerment, and being true to yourself. What good does it do the world to deny how awesome you are?

I used to find it strange how pervasive this is, even in the Church, until I remembered that the fall was all about someone wanting to be like God, and have special knowledge into things that were none of her concern. Now I don’t find it strange at all that we have to fight against the desire to steal glory for ourselves.

But fight we must.

Don’t conflate “tradition” and Ultimate Truth.

One of the perils of NeoTraditional Christianity is that in its understandable backlash against modernity and its wretched spawn, post-modernism, it tends to elevate “traditions” to the level of Ultimate Truth. By that, I mean to say that NeoTraditional Christianity starts by prescribing a standard of living which intuitively sates our appetite for anything other than the cultural garbage most of us have been fed since birth. Once the prescription has been devised, then there are post hoc rationalizations added to explain why this way is God’s way for anyone who dares say they seek Him to live their lives.

Additionally, a lot of what is offered as the “traditional” right and true way to be a good Christian… whatever, is not only untraditional when viewed through a lens of history which looks back farther than 1950, it also exacerbates some of the worst problems of post-modern life, driving wedges between believers based on issues which are not indicators of Ultimate Truth.

I had occasion to consider this today as I met with two lovely Christian women who founded a Classical education program in which we are considering enrolling our children this fall. It is something that we feel is an imperative next step on our children’s homeschooling journey.

This necessarily means that the system I have in place to make sure that certain things get done in a certain way and time schedule will be upended. It means that the already daunting task of being the perfect homemaker while trying to home educate two kids (go ahead, chuckle) is going to be even more daunting. However, it’s only a problem if I subscribe to the notion that God intended for “keepers at home” to literally stay in place and keep the home neat and tidy to the exclusion of almost everything else.

When our older children were younger, I bought into this myself. Of course, they were in school all day which made it easy to fall into the superwife delusion. It was easier to do “it all” when someone else was doing the heavy lifting for 6 hours a day. There is still a bit of occasional anxiety on my part about my inability to do it “right” and perfectly. That’s not my husband’s top priority, and he’s made that clear.

The NeoTraditionalism of today heavily promotes this model, and ironically, it is promoted by people who mostly themselves live cushy, prosperous lives, and did almost none of what they prescribe to others as the way to live a good Christian life. The larger problem, however, is that the writers of these prescriptions tie heavy, hard to bear loads onto men’s and women’s  shoulders when they won’t lift a finger to help make them lighter.

Real tradition, in almost every era and for what it’s worth, has usually been identified by a family model where everyone contributed to the family’s bottom line in a tangible way. The post-modern way of life certainly leaves most families with a conundrum on how to make that happen while keeping the home and family at the center of things. As a homemaker, one who has experience as a producer of supplemental income (albeit minimal), and a strict steward of income (the majority of my time as a homemaker), I know that our current social and economic model make both options more of a challenge than they were even 20+ years ago, when I married.

Real tradition, again for what it’s worth, was never built on the idea of the nuclear family as the be all, end all of a person’s social, religious, and educational life.  As much as I adore my Benevolent Dictator and as much as he seems to adore me, there are things about manhood which I will never be able to grasp any more than he would be able to understand what it means to be a woman. Separate sex spheres was a normal way of living.

NeoTradition of the Christian variety, however, prescribes a way of living which allows little opportunity for a life that involves meaningful connections with other people. The spheres I mentioned have been discarded in favor of the soul mate myth which forces both husband and wife to try and provide all their spouses emotional and social support. Additionally, it demands that we set ourselves up as judges of others based on arbitrary metrics not found anywhere in the Bible, and isolate ourselves accordingly. This, even though the New Testament clearly lays out a way of living for believers which presumed deep connections between fellow believers and prioritized unity over uniformity. The kinds of connections which cannot be cultivated within the context of 90 minutes on Sundays.

Tradition, for what it’s worth, promoted the idea that young women were expected to situate themselves in the best position they could to be considered a suitable wife. This, of course, was always done in ways which helped preserve the woman’s virtue and her family’s reputation, but depending on the time and place, you can find a wide swath of things that traditional-minded Christians did to help their daughters (and sons) not only prepare for family life but to garner the attention of a worthy mate in the first place. This included, for certain sectors of society, knowledge other than just the domestic arts.

NeoTradition of the Christian variety, rather than offer ways to achieve the good end of marriage and family in ways which preserve a young woman’s virtue and her family’s reputation, declare any such preparation that includes venturing outside of the domestic arts “worldly”, “feminist” and even sinful. This, while implying that the primary purpose of the young woman, rather than to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, is specifically to be a wife. There seems to be a disconnect between the woman’s declared purpose and how she is supposed to get there without putting herself in a position to be chosen. And again, as is so often the case with traditionalists who have been so for all of five minutes, there is no evidence to indicate that they themselves took the medicine which they declare will heal the crisis of family formation so prevalent in the Western church.

After flirting with the notion that I might be a traditionalist, I finally understood the importance of following the lead of my not particularly traditional head.  By that, I mean not only following in action (which was never at issue) but really embracing and taking to heart his vision of the best way to steer the family and prepare our children for life. As I have done so, it is becoming glaringly obvious that this path, despite the promise of success offered by the systems of the NeoTradionalists, is actually the most traditional route of all. Oh, and that his walk is probably more traditional than the most strident NeoTraditionalist’s talk.

Why is it so hard for us to just stick to the basics?

How we got here, the finale.

Black people in America aren’t the only people in the history of the world whose ancestors were enslaved and oppressed. However, I am not familiar with many other nations that have gone to the lengths that the US has to right its past wrongs. This country has even gone to such lengths that have damaged not only those they intended to offer redress but the country at large.

My children have opportunities that my parents could only dream of. Despite the rhetoric being spouted by the professional race baiters, the American dream (yeah, I know, but allow me some leeway here), is alive and well for everyone of any race who chooses to pursue happiness rather than sit back and wait for someone to legislate it into reality. America has put forth a valiant effort to grant all men access to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Whether these things are “rights” in reality is a subject for another time and place.

As for this time, 2017, and this place, the United States of America, most of us are equally screwed. If equality is the goal, we’re screwed from birth. If equity is the goal, we’re screwed by both birth, human nature, and political reality. The quest to agitate for something which has never been, and can never be, serves to reveal how much common sense we shed even as our intellect expanded over the past few generations. To the extent that any of it is attainable however, with whom does the blame lie when it isn’t attained?

We have media pundits, political hucksters and professional “civil rights” activists constantly confronting us with a barrage of statistics about how much worse black people are faring compared to our white counterparts. Every election is peppered with wall to wall coverage of which candidate is poised to win “the black vote.”

We know what percentage of little black fourth graders can read in relation to their white counterparts, incarceration stats, and even what percentage of professional sports teams have black head coaches. And all these examples of “injustice” are held up to us as evidence that the dream is still afar off and that we need the government to pass more laws and spend more money to create opportunities for advancements in the black community. Wasn’t the point of the dream to get to a point where we don’t need to do this type of thing? And if we haven’t arrived there even now, will we ever?

I argue, and I highly doubt that my position on this will ever change, that equality of  results is not something that can or should be used as a measure of progress. To the extent that any group of people embraces dysfunction and or lawlessness, there will be hindrances to forward advancements. There are millions of minorities (of the non-Asian variety for those who demand the distinction) who are not criminals, who work hard, and try to do right by their fellow man, but it doesn’t help those people to ignore the disproportionate percentage of criminality and dysfunctional families in black communities. And it doesn’t help those people to tell them that there is nothing to be done to improve their lot apart from massive amounts of government intervention.

Now, to bring this back around to where we started, with the hoteps. They get a few things right, and I think I outlined them here. There are some major problems regarding what is considered acceptable behavior for a significant portion of black America. Socially conservative black Americans, including devout Christians, complain with their mouths about the hucksters and criminals who are promoted by the media as their “leaders” (what other minority group has nationally recognized leaders by the way?), then faithfully march into voting booths and vote in line with the interests of these shysters to the tune of 90+ percent. When people watch what they do rather than what they say, those people are branded “racists”.

What the hoteps get wrong is their assertion that anywhere other than America is our home, and that utopia awaits black Americans on the other side of the Atlantic. Since we are here as a people who have been in this country even prior to day one, we should enjoy all of the rights and privileges of any other citizens. As for the Richard Spencers of the world, I have a new mantra, and it’s this: Unless everyone but the Native Americans is going back to their ancestral land, all talk of anyone but illegal immigrants going “home” (wherever that is) is hypocritical and pointless.

The only thing I have left to add are a few links from people who have thought about these issues more deeply than I, have expressed their thoughts more articulately than I, and are men whose opinions I agree with. I shall let their thoughts be my final say on the matter.

Black and White, Left and Right, by Dr. Thomas Sowell

A Tangled Web, by Dr. Thomas Sowell

Dependency, not Poverty, By Walter E. Williams. A caveat to this article: Near the end of his mostly well-expressed piece, he makes the assertion that if a person stays poor, it’s his fault. While I understand the thought process behind the assertion, it is also revelatory of a generational blind spot not uncommon to men his age.

Last quotes are from Booker T. Washington. The first is on the race hucksters, which are sadly nothing new:

There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs-partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

On the dangers of intellectual fetishism, so prominent in our world today:

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.

On the possibilities available, even during his time, to the man who proves himself worthy:

No man, who continues to add something to the material, intellectual and moral well-being of the place in which he lives, is left long without proper reward.

There really isn’t much more to be said on this topic that hasn’t already been said, so have a great day. To those of you facing the blizzard, be well. Happy Monday!