The Fatherhood Chronicles XX: The Physicality of Being a Dad

I may not be an overly demonstrative guy when it comes to my “love language.” Growing up we just didn’t physically demonstrate our love with hugs and kisses all over the place. Add to that an introverted personality, and sex in the form of a handshake might well have been good enough if it were possible.

Okay, a bit of an exaggeration. But you get the point.

But now I’m a dad. And our little girl, Sofie, is just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever known or seen.

And the one thing that has so forcefully struck me as to always bring wonderment whenever I think of it is that I have something like a physical need to hold and cuddle my daugher. I call it my “Sofie fix.” If Anna brings her to meet me between work and my night classes, it’s all I can do to tear myself away and go on to class.

If I am not there or am otherwise busy and don’t get to help my wife bathe and dress her, to read to her while holding her in my lap, to embrace her while giving her her bottle, and the other thousand and one ways, large and small, in which touch incarnates love, then it’s like there’s a big, huge something missing.

To go from distance and reserve to goofy, giddy, slobbery hugs and kisses is a change. That’s for sure.

But I like it.


Ten Years Later: A Personal Reflection

[Note: About a year ago, I sent the following out to some family and friends. It reflects on my sojourn within the Episcopal Church. The story has been told frequently on my blog and home page. But since I have been critical of the powerful elite in the Episcopal Church–and really, such persons claiming Christianity but denigrating and abusing it as they do deserve criticism–I wanted to again reiterate that it’s not Anglicanism nor every Episcopal Church parish that I rail against. The following was edited in two places–the bracketed note in the first sentence and one misspelling. Otherwise it remains exactly as I first wrote it. And I still fully own the thoughts expressed.]

Ten years ago [at the time I then wrote this entry] in 1992, 4 October was a Sunday, and in the Western Christian calendar, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. It was also the day I worshipped for the first time in a formal liturgy. The liturgy was the Rite I service of the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The church was Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kansas. To this day, I can recall the contemplative silence that greeted me as I entered the nave. A small handful of parishioners knelt in prayer in the minutes before the service began. I took a seat in the back, bulletins in hand, prayerbook at the ready.
Continue reading “Ten Years Later: A Personal Reflection”

Why Orthodoxy? Excursus Pt. I

Alana and James of the Northwest both comment on a particularly pertinent question for those of us who have made (or in my case are still making) the journey to Orthodoxy:

Alana: “If one were to use Orthodoxy to protest Protestantism, wouldn’t that still be being protestant?”

James OFTNW: “Has our journey into Orthodoxy been fueled by what we leave behind, or by what lies ahead?”

These are good questions. And as with many good either/or questions, the answer is “Both.”
Continue reading “Why Orthodoxy? Excursus Pt. I”

Why Orthodoxy? Pt. V

4. Fullness of the Faith (Part V of IX)

By now it will have been clear that not only do I believe that the Restoration Movement churches in which I grew up and the Episcopal Church which I joined as an adult both have theological and ecclesial deficiencies, but that I also believe that the Orthodox Church fills up the lack. Indeed, it is something of an Orthodox proverb that the Orthodox Church holds the Faith in its purity (without adding to it as the Roman Catholic Church has done) and in its totality (without taking away from it as the Protestant churches have done). The Orthodox Church rejects additions to the Faith such as papal primacy and infallibility and the Immaculate Conception, and abhors the denial of important teachings of the Faith such as the Mysteries (Sacraments), theosis (or deification), and the visible unity of the Body of Christ. It is precisely this fullness of Faith that Orthodox claims and reveals that draws me to the Orthodox Church.
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Aristotle on the Active Intellect and Being: Or, Aristotle and Christian Epistemology

[This one’s for Jeff. Hope you like, bro.]

I am, as a graduate lecturer in philosophy, often in the to me surprising position of justifying to my students my decision to teach a particular Aristotelian text (normally the Ethics, though recently the De Anima) in my introductory philosophy class. I say surprising because to me the importance of Aristotle and his philosophy is so self-evident.

I am even more surprised when put in this defensive posture by Christians who object (though largely unreflectively) to Aristotle and his philosophical paradigms. In some cases this is just ignorance of Christian history. Some just do not know (though they should) how Aristotelian thought dominated the Western Church through the labors of the Angelic Doctor, St Thomas Aquinas. In other cases, certain presupposed commitments to relativism and/or skepticism, or just blinkered devotion to the present, lead to a largely irrational opposition to Aristotle and his thought.

My present taks is to highlight points at which Christian concepts of knowing and Aristotelian concpetions both converge and diverge.
Continue reading “Aristotle on the Active Intellect and Being: Or, Aristotle and Christian Epistemology”

“The Nightmares of Choice”

What do abortion practitioners know that their supporters don’t?

From The Nightmares of Choice

“I have fetus dreams, we all do here: dreams of abortions one after the other; of buckets of blood splashed on the walls; trees full of crawling fetuses,” reported Sallie Tisdale of her time as a nurse in an abortion facility. Writing in Harper’s magazine, she told of dreaming that two men grabbed her and dragged her away.

“Let’s do an abortion,” they said with a sickening leer, and I began to scream, plunged into a vision of sucking, scraping pain, of being spread and torn by impartial instruments that do only what they are bidden. I woke from this dream barely able to breathe and thought of kitchen tables and coat hangers, knitting needles striped with blood, and women all alone clutching a pillow in their teeth to keep the screams from piercing the apartment-house walls.

It is not joyful or easy work. “There are weary, grim moments when I think I cannot bear another basin of bloody remains, utter another kind phrase of reassurance,” she wrote. “. . . I prepare myself for another basin, another brief and chafing loss. ‘How can you stand it?’ Even the clients ask. . . . I watch a woman’s swollen abdomen sink to softness in a few stuttering moments and my own belly flip-flops with sorrow.”

What is the emotional impact of doing abortions on the people who do them? Those who do them have written and said enough to show that it is no ordinary medical procedure. Some, like Tisdale, suffer nightmares. Others suffer many of the other symptoms associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), once called “shell shock” and “battle fatigue.” The practice of medicine, of healing, should not give you nightmares, should not leave you shell-shocked.

Though “The case that abortion practitioners suffer from PTSD because they perform abortions cannot yet be made”, still:

Remarkably little study has been done of the doctors, nurses, counselors, and other staff in abortion facilities. Only two scientific studies that look at a large number of people have been done by researchers who did not work in the abortion field. One (by M. Such-Baer) appeared in Social Casework in 1974 and the other (by K. M. Roe) in Social Science and Medicine in 1989.

Both studies were done by people in favor of legal abortion, yet they both note the high prevalence of symptoms that fit the condition now called Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The study published in 1974, before the term was adopted, noted that “obsessional thinking about abortion, depression, fatigue, anger, lowered self-esteem, and identity conflicts were prominent. The symptom complex was considered a ‘transient reactive disorder,’ similar to ‘combat fatigue’.”

The other study listed similar symptoms: “Ambivalent periods were characterized by a variety of otherwise uncharacteristic feelings and behavior including withdrawal from colleagues, resistance to going to work, lack of energy, impatience with clients, and an overall sense of uneasiness. Nightmares, images that could not be shaken, and preoccupation were commonly reported. Also common was the deep and lonely privacy within which practitioners had grappled with their ambivalence.”

Indeed, in the words of the author, ” the evidence so far accumulated shows that further research is certainly needed.”

In the meantime, wouldn’t it make sense that providers experiencing these severe emotional and psychological events ought reexamine what it is that they are doing?

Why Orthodoxy? Pt. IV

3. Consistency of Theology (Part IV of IX)

Because Orthodoxy honors the present and respects the past (even enough to confront it), it can also display a greater consistency of theology.

One of the first impasses in the beliefs of my heritage churches I came to while training for the ministry. Ours was a group of churches seeking to best understand the New Testament, and the Church of Christ revealed in it, so best to believe and practice those things the New Testament Church believed and practiced. This led to an historical-grammatical hermeneutic (much like the ancient Antiochene “school” which shaped St. John Chrysostom). Our intent, and tendency, was to let the Scripture speak for itself and understand it on its own terms.

So, it will come as no surprise that our view of baptism was that it was an act of immersion done in the name of the Trinity, for the forgiveness of sins and the receiving of the gift (and seal) of the Holy Spirit. Though my heritage churches would have rejected the term “sacrament,” nonetheless, this view of baptism is very sacramental. The view that we espoused was one which really took the Scriptural passages “on their face,” as it were. However, in complete contradistinction to our view of baptism, our hermeneutic was left off to one side when it came to the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist). Here, rather than take the passages “on their face” (i. e., that consumption of the elements was consumption of the Body and Blood of our Lord, clearly stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10-11, for example), we took them “symbolically.” The “body” Paul was referring to was the Church. When Jesus spoke about eating his Body and Blood in John 6, he was just exagerrating to prove a point. And so forth.

This was inconsistent.
Continue reading “Why Orthodoxy? Pt. IV”

Why Orthodoxy? Pt. III

2. Respecting the Present (Part III of IX)

Anchored as they are in the Church’s Tradition, the Orthodox do not so readily succumb to modern pressures to change doctrine and canonical practice. More than many, the Orthodox Church understands that the most pressing concerns of today are frequently left on the ash heap of history tomorrow.

History is, in part, a display of ephemeral fashions. I think it was Chesterton who expressed something like, “He who today marries himself to the present age, will tomorrow find himself a widower.” Churches that find their guidance for life in the modern age find themselves bound to the age and unable to speak a credible witness against it.

The Episcopal Church has endorsed abortion by refusing to condemn it in General Convention referenda. Both the Episcopal Church and my heritage churches accept, and even encourage in some cases, divorce. The Episcopal Church accepts the propriety of sexual acts outside of the marriage covenant of one man and one woman. But all these beliefs are unremarkable to the present age. After all, this is what the present age itself believes. And so the present age largely ignores the Episcopal Church and my heritage churches. The present age certainly doesn’t need its beliefs reinforced by these churches. The popular media functions in that role quite nicely. Indeed, these churches only look silly to the present age precisely because they are so far behind the curve. My heritage churches only now are investing thousands and millions of dollars in media equipment. But MTV was on this “cutting edge” of marketing and outreach more than twenty years ago. The present age bought in to indiscriminate sexual activity more than thirty years ago (though personal immorality has been around, oh, since the Fall). The Episcopal Church has only just got around to endorsing it in the General Convention previous to this last one (though individual parishes and dioceses have been doing it for some time).

So here’s my question. When the present age–even if only from nostalgia–returns to a marriage as one-man-one-woman-for-life sexuality, as an unbroken lifelong covenant, will these churches take twenty or thirty years to “catch up”? The present age–at least the gen x and younger crowd–seems to be abandoing the ethic of abortion on demand. Will it take those churches who endorse it now twenty or thirty years to finally acquiesce to this development?
Continue reading “Why Orthodoxy? Pt. III”

Why Orthodoxy? Pt. II

1. Honoring the Past (Part II of IX)

I come by this “back to the future” look at ecclesiology honestly. The Restoration Movement churches which are my heritage were built on the presupposition that it is our Christian duty to both understand fully what the New Testament Church was, and to restore its beliefs and practices fully in our own day. This presupposition leant itself to a naive if well-intentioned purity of doctrine and polity unmixed by (mostly Prostestant) confessional and denominational loyalties. It also leant itself to a stance of seeking justification for church endeavors from the pages of the New Testament. This is why our churches were governed locally, and by the congregational elders and deacons. This is why we observed the Lord’s Supper weekly. And this is why we baptized for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Were I to have been raised in any other Protestant church (such as the Southern Baptist churches my father had known all his life), I doubt whether my need for this historic connection to the New Testament Church would have been so consciously felt.

But there was a problem with my heritage churches and their presuppositions regarding the New Testament Church. They believed that sometime shortly after the death of the apostles, the Church began to stray from its original dominical and apostolic simplicity and purity. They believed that human traditions soon began to infiltrate and compromise the pure Gospel of the New Testament Church. There were several varieties of this understanding.
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Fr. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina: His Life (Pre-Conversion)

[Note: On 24 September 2003, I received the revised biography of Father Seraphim Rose, one of my patron saints. I am currently reading slowly through the massive, 1100-plus-page volume. I will from time to time post excerpts here that I find relevant, moving or convicting.]

Long before the word “hippie” entered our lexicon, the progressive intellectuals of San Francisco had turned away from the American dream, with its ideals of family and Judeo-Christian religion. They were delving into anything that was different, drawing above all from Eastern religions. In rejecting Western morality and taking only what they wanted from the East, they were free to explore forms of debauchery, degradation, and perversion with what Eugene [N.B.: the future Father Seraphim] would later refer to as “the spirit of lawlessness.” . . .

Eugene, too, would follow this philosophy to its logical conclusion. Together with many of his young contemporaries, he entered upon a life of hedonism and sexual immorality. . . .

Compared with what went on in San Francisco bohemian subculture, the acts of nonconformity among Eugene’s friends at Pomona [where Eugene earned his undergraduate degree] were quite tame. In some letters to his Pomona friends, Eugene took on the flippant, devil-may-care attitude of a twenty-two-year-old youth experimenting in what before had been barred to him; but this seems to have been just bravado. As he stated in later years, this was the darkest, most miserable period of his life. Forbidden deeds, he said, had disgusted him even at the time he was committing them. They would precipitate long periods of depression afterward. . . .

Many years later, describing the end of his exploration and experimentation outside the will of God, he could only say, “I was in hell. I know what hell is.” . . .

This was a hell that Eugene wished on no one. In later life he said that certain sinful realities, which he had known while being in that hell, are best left unmentioned so that they will not be put into the air. . . . [N. B.: It is now known that Eugene was referring, in part, to his homosexual activities and to his alcohol abuse.]

Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works, pp. 55, 57, 59, 61