Monday, January 03, 2005

Sunday sermon

Sorry for being so lazy. I've been driving and eating and now I have to do penance. I have several pounds of sweet potatoes and ham to burn off from around my belly button. Actually I hope to see my belly button again one day. It's in there somewhere, I'm sure.

I've been thinking about stuff, even though I have been too lazy to write it down. For instance, I have been noticing that the Christian right seems to have neglected to read the second half of the bible...You know, the part that is actually about Christianity! It's got some good ideas, like being nice to each other that might work if we can just find some Christians somewhere.

Here is an example of something that begs the question, "Why do the "godly" seem to want to hurt people?" We could rise above all this, you know:

Q:How long do you think a child should be allowed to cry after being spanked? Is there a limit?

A:Yes, I believe there should be a limit. As long as the tears represent a genuine release of emotion, they should be permitted to fall. But crying quickly changes from inner sobbing to an expression of protest aimed at punishing the enemy. Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining, and the change can be recognized in the tone and intensity of his voice. I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears.

In other words, "If you don't stop crying, I'll hit you again!"


The man that wrote that is Dr. James Dobson, a fundamentalist Xtian leader. Nice guy! beat your kid and if he doesn't stop crying, beat him again.

I loved my father, but I was also afraid of him. I viewed him as a source of pain when I was a child. My last spanking came when I was twelve, two years after my father's death. I had a stepfather that threatened to beat me but he never did. I threatened him back and we never got around to seeing who was going to actually do what to whom.

Somewhere along the way I decided that I would try to keep my kids from thinking the same way about me, as I had my father. As a reasonably new parent, I swatted my 18 month old on the diaper when he scared me by running into the road, and then one more time a few months later on when he hit his mother. That was it. Both times were traumatic, I expect, at least for me anyway, but he never ran in the road or hit his mom again. I talked about it with him and felt really bad for doing it, his tears seemed more from shock than pain. I felt rotten and hugged him and talked to him way too much. When my second child came along I knew that running in the road would come up at some point and warned and taught him about it just like I did the hot wood stove in the living room. I was ready for him when he had the opportunity, and it never happened. Things have sort of continued along the same way ever since.

Before teaching my kids to stay out of the road and to not hurt other folks, I practiced on pets.

I taught a cat to stay out of my house one time. I lived in a very old farm house that was probably the biggest nicest house around when it was built. It was very old and had walls paneled with hand planed boards. The floor joists were pine logs split in half and laid on a stacked rock foundation. There were no screen doors and no screens on the windows, but it was a beautiful place to live. Did I mention that there was no indoor plumbing? No running water. When the kitchen needed cleaning, we had to go to the well and crank up a few buckets of water, heat it on the stove, and then start cleaning. I had no interest in having a cat crawling on the kitchen counter where I was preparing supper. I love animals but I have the place where I eat and they have the place where they get to eat, and these places are in different places. In summer the house was well ventilated only if the doors were left open, and being too poor to go by a screen door, the cat had to be trained.

Several folks had previously failed in this endeavor, so some preparation was in order. I saved up and purchased a six-pack of cheap beer and borrowed a book. There was a large hallway that went through the middle of the old house, front to back, dividing it in two, with doors to the outside world at each end. I moved a comfortable chair into the hallway, set a large glass of water down on the floor beside me, opened a beer, and started reading. The front door was open slightly and soon enough the cat jumped up onto the porch and started lazily through the open door. As it got halfway through the door jamb, I baptized it. Cats are not fond of a Methodist sprinkling and absolutely hate the idea of a full on Southern Baptist dunking. This cat was well on its heathen way back out of the house, believing it had just survived a "near death by drowning" experience.

Now anybody who has ever had a cat will tell you they are persistent. Two beers later the cat got baptized again, immediately upon sticking its nose around the edge of the door. No further attempts to breach the perimeter guard occurred that day, even though I fell asleep in the chair, awakening an hour later by the pressing need to walk out into the yard and survey the shrubbery.... No sign of the cat.

The next day, as the late morning sun started its daily baking, we opened the door and I took my post in the chair, ever vigilant for the intruder. Until that morning, the cat would wander into the house as soon as the door was opened. This day was different. It sat on the porch and looked away from the house as if disinterested. A half hour later it stood up and walked purposefully toward the door but it stopped...and stared at the ten inch wide opening provided by the door ajar. For several minutes it just looked into the house, not moving, stalking something inside. Then it exploded at full gallop through the door! I was ready...having held my weapon, safety off, and my fire all this time, and, as the beast tore through the door into the hallway, I blasted it with a stream of expertly aimed water and caught it full on in the face with the entire contents of a large iced tea glass. I might as well have caught the cat head on with a well strung tennis racket, for the instantaneous reversal of direction seemed to violate the very laws of physics as the cat vanished, leaving only the skid marks through a puddle on the wood floor in testament to recent events.

From then on the cat never came back into the house. It would sit and stare through the door but never did it enter. It took two days of my life to earn the eternal hatred of a cat but I did it...and not once did I hit it. Who says you can't train a cat?

On the other hand, I taught the dog to stay out in about three minutes. Not only that, but the dog still seemed to like me anyway. All I did was tell the dog, "no" and then push its nose back every single time it tried to enter. After a few seconds of this It had the idea. Reinforcing the concept of not walking through the door took a couple of more minutes and then it was done. After every firm "No" I pushed the dog away from the door and then gave it a "good dog" or two. Simple, right? It gets a "No" for unwanted behavior, and a "good dog" for good behavior.

No hitting! Though that will work, too, as far as the doorway is concerned, but what about all the rest of life? Some folks like to beat dogs, some folks think you have to, some folks are willing to work a little harder and cause as little pain as possible. I figure life is going to dump quite enough pain on us as we work our way through it, so why should I add to the load? That's the goal, anyway, though I fall short too often. I think I have raised decent kids and I still don't think it is OK to hit them.

The quote that started me on this rant is from Dr. James Dobson, a self appointed spokesman for God. Today, He is warning Democrats that they should not block George W. Bush's judicial appointments or he will call down the wrath of God upon them. I think Mr. Dobson is batshit crazy, and as dangerous as he is nuts. He has a TV show and a radio show and speaks in fatherly tones as he advocates hurting people for Jesus, and he wants all of us to send him money so he can continue god's good work. I want to hit him full in the face with my glass of water for several reasons...I wonder if he will melt?



For the Literate (and hopefully open minded) among you:

Sam Harris

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