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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Selective Prejudice

It's amazing to me the level of discrimination you can get away with against certain groups. For example, if someone refers to a 17 year old black male as "boy," the historical context makes the statement incredibly cruel and prejudice (and rightly so). But on the other hand if one calls a 35 year old white male a "cracker," few people even understand that this statement refers to a whip-cracker, aka a foreman - the often white, often poor men hired by land owners in the old south to manage their slaves with force and dehumanization. Most people, if asked, know that "boy" is a term that historically kept a slave in his place, a subservient and inferior piece of property. No wonder it's a hurtful term. But very few people when asked would have any idea that "cracker" is essentially calling the white man a heartless monster. Why? I would argue that because of the unending injustice that has been done to african-americans through the practice of slavery, we have all made ourselves sensitive to their understandable needs for equality and respect. A white man, on the other hand, has never been a part of such a large group that was so clearly discriminated against. Because he belongs to the majority, his feelings need not be treated with the same delicacy. Is this selective prejudice really fair?

I present, for your analysis, that there is a large, long-standing institution that has also become the victim of selective prejudice. Just as a white man is assumed to be immune from wrongful opinion, the Catholic Church currently exists in a time of extreme and unfounded prejudice against her. There are many reasons, the greatest of which happens from within. Her own children rarely follow her precepts (3 out of 4 Catholics don't go to Mass weekly, and only 1 in 10 follow the church's teaching on artificial birth control), making them terrible representatives of their faith. On the outside, there are misconceptions and historical prejudices galore. Evangelical protestants in America came to this country to seek freedom from tradition, automatically pitting them against a large hierarchy (literally: "holy order"). Protestants, in the days of Luther and Calvin were in accord with Catholics on the issues that they find themselves at odds over today (infant baptism, elevation of the status of Mary Mother of God, transsubstantiation). Today, however, protestant churches teach that they could not be more different than Catholics on these same issues, as though their founders made a move away from the Church for these very reasons.

The misunderstandings and outright lies that are perpetuated about the Church are innumerable, even today. I stumbled across this article entitled "What Presbyterians don't believe" when a childhood friend of mine, now the wife of a Presbyterian Minister, posted it on Facebook. I read through it, thinking it would tell me more about Presbyterian dogma, and found instead that it is simply a list of why Presbyterians are not Roman Catholic. It's also filled with deep misunderstandings of what Catholic's actually believe. For example, there is a discussion of why it's wrong to pray to Mary and the Saints, citing that prayer is an act of worship, and therefore should be directed only to God. This is a limited and (in my opinion) superstitious view of prayer. Prayer is not worship. It is communication. As the article itself explains, praying to a Saint is no different than turning to your friend in the pew next to you and asking that he prays for you on a particular issue in your life. When you kneel at your bed at night, you are not worshiping your bed. When you ask your friend to keep your husband in their thoughts and prayers while he is ill, you are not elevating your friend to the status of God. This strikes me as a shallow, irrational and almost-medieval way of thinking of the gift of prayer. If a person's soul is eternal, logic tells us our ability to request their prayer and counsel also goes on. Let's not complicate, or worse - make the mistake of overly elevating, the power of this kind of prayer. Only God is God, and the Saints will never be worthy of worship.

Much like St. Paul, I must refer to myself as "chief among sinners." I get so upset about the false perceptions about Catholicism because they were once my own. A protestant for 10 years, I believed what I was told by ministers and bible study teachers about Catholics without bothering to investigate. And I, of all people, should have investigated. Two generations back in my family there were a host of Catholics, both from birth and through conversion. Only recently in my family tree did a lapse in practice result in a lapse in faith. In my husband's family, it's the same story, as with so many of our families: good Catholic grandparents were not prepared by pre-Vatican II catechism to strengthen their children against the dangers of an increasingly liberal and secular world, leaving a generation of confused and lapsed Catholics to raise our generation. I refer to this as Vatican II growing pains.

But when our first child was born, my husband set out to find a true faith, instead of the non-denominational Christianity we had practiced, believing that "not everyone can be right." His journey brought him right back to the doors of the Church. I was appalled; I was resistant; I want to destroy his rosary and rip those blasphemous extra books out of his new bible. But, praise God, out of love for him, I began to study and read and reflect. I discovered a disturbing truth. From the outside it appears that our parents wised up and properly distanced themselves from the false practices of an antiquated Church, but almost all of what is told to good Protestant Christians about Catholicism is at best an oversimplification, and at worst an elaborate lie that repels the listener from the original, universal church of Christ. In April of 2010, my family returned to the faith of our grandparents. I know what it's like to believe the worst of Catholics. The reality is, as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said, "Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is."

I write this not to convert but to defend. My allegiance to the Church was purchased at a great price. I lost friends and betrayed family, but I did it because the facts left me no other choice. To perpetuate the misconceptions of what Catholics believe is irresponsible. Just as you owe it to african-americans to understand their struggle and defend their right to equality, owe it to your Catholic brothers and sisters to understand what they believe before you criticize and discriminate against them. We are not idol worshipers. We are not re-sacrificing anything. We don't worship anyone but Christ the Savior. I could write novels on the things we don't do. But instead, I'd just ask you to find out what the truth is before you assume it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Date Night In

What do mean, "do I wanna
watch some TV?"
We all know that I think highly of stay-at-home parenting for a gazillion reasons. But the other side of the coin is that some things in your life are bound to suffer, right? Here's my analysis: Three things happen when you are a stay-at-home parent. 1 - The family has considerably less expendable income (because there is only one salary) 2 - The homebound parent becomes desperate (to the point of annoyance) for adult contact, but too exhausted to do much about it, while the working parent feels like they are in too much demand at home, with all the kids and their spouse hanging off them every waking moment. 3 - The parents spend all their time together tending to little ones, and can spend hours in the same room without touching, or even looking at each other.

Solution time! Everyone needs more time for themselves - that much is obvious. And luckily, with communication, this can happen. A 45-minute trip to the supermarket by myself can do wonders for me, even if it's at 8:30, once the kids are in bed. My husband understands that I need those few minutes, and he makes it happen all the time. And he's always developing hobbies that keep him...him! Sports with other guys have (strangely) become a key factor in our happy marriage. As it turns out, making time for ourselves has been relatively easy. But what about that other person that you share a bed with. What's their name again?

In the last week, I caught myself thinking "I just miss my husband." How can this be if I see him every day? What exactly is quality time? How can we make the most of the 1.5 hours we get together (on a good day) before we pass out from exhaustion at 9:30? Here's what we came up with: Date Night In.

I'll change his diaper once I can feel my legs.
Money is tight, time is tight, and we can't do anything that goes further than our baby monitor can reach, but what are these obstacles in the face of love? Well, they're pretty brutal, actually. So I turned to my good friend Google for the answers and found a great list of suggestions that I've adapted and added to. I thought I would share some of the ideas. My husband and I plan to spend one night a week together, focused on each other, so that we make the most of our time. It makes it easier to devote time to ourselves, our kids and our tasks without guilt or regret (or in my case, a pity party). I hope you find these ideas helpful! I'll let you know how it goes for us.
  1. Spend an evening thinking up things to do on your evenings in.
  2. Do a cooking project together - bake your favorite cookies or try your hand at a specialty bread.
  3. Read a book or scriptures together. Or, read a book apart, then come together to discuss it on your night in. Some recommendations: The Good News about Sex and Marriage, Rome Sweet Home, The Book of Us.
  4. Plan the future. Make a list of goals for one, five, ten years from now. Seal them in envelopes and store them somewhere safe with a "to-open" date on the outside.
  5. Plant a garden! If you don't have daylight on your side, do your gardening at the dining room table in small pots to take outside later, or just sketch out a garden to work on when the kids are playing outside.
  6. Dance together! Don't know how? Learn! Use youtube to learn a new step, or just dance to an old favorite.
  7. Exercise together. A calm evening session of yoga for the eastern-minded couple. I think you see where this might go.
  8. Treat the kids to pizza or chicken nuggets then plan a special "midnight meal." Go crazy - eat on the porch (without the high chair) or in the living room in front of your favorite move. Something that would cause a huge mess when the kids were awake.
  9. Make popcorn. There's some easy flavored recipes out there (here's a great Christmas Popcorn recipe). Romantic comedy and action flic double feature - let the man choose the girly movie and vice versa for a change.
  10. Make something for the house or for each other. Think, friendship bracelet for grown-ups. Here's a couple man-friendly crafts I love: PVC Pipe Storage Shelf, Bleached T-Shirts, Manly Paracord Bracelet.
  11. Take a stroll (or sprint, if the kids gave you trouble) down memory lane. Read old love letters, pour over journal entries, laugh at old photos. Maybe even organize them into a book together as you go.
  12. Plan a second honeymoon—even if it’s only imaginary. Go crazy. Use the internet and pick out your hotel, the sites, the restaurants. 
  13. Check out a library book about the constellations, then stargaze in the backyard.
  14. On a hot summer night, wash the car together. Think Mariah Carey.
  15. Sketch out your dream house, bonus room, porch, yard, whatever. Bounce ideas off each other. You could stay grounded or spend thousands in imaginary currency on things like DVD players in the ceiling and 7 foot fish tanks.
  16. If you play instruments or sing, have a jam session. Learn a new song together.
  17. Use the internet to trace your family history and make a detailed family tree for your kids.
  18. It may not sound too fun, but many hands make light work: Combine efforts to finish one some monumental task you've been procrastinating: paint a room, organize the garage, sort through your closet for goodwill. I bet the next time you look at your sparkling clean pantry or new recycling area, you'll think of doing it together. And it leaves you free of some stress, to better enjoy each other.
  19. Find your wedding vows and go through them line by line. Compliment each other on sticking to them, and maybe take a minute to pick one to really focus on. Finish up by cruising through your wedding guestbook and photo album. 
  20. Teach each other something new from something you're good at. Self defense, a little bit of a foreign language, how to shoot a lay up, etc.
  21. Make chalk drawings on the driveway. Draw caricatures of each other. Be embarrassed that the neighbors will see it in the morning, but rest assured you can blame it on the kids.
  22. Watch the sun set. You might find yourself talking about something other than strained peas and school supplies.
  23. Pick an unfamiliar country and make a night of it. Prepare their local food, rent a documentary or foreign film from the library and learn how to say “I Love You” in the native language.
  24. Make a "loved" list. Write down AT LEAST 25 things your spouse has done for you in the last year that made you feel loved, then read and discuss with each other. It will inspire repeat performances.
  25. Learn each other's love languages! Here's a quiz. You might be shocked at how much your spouse has been loving you lately - in their own way.