I came across a post written by the wonderfully named Lex Lutheran yesterday which tackles an accusation I’m seeing a lot of lately. It seems that lately one can’t talk about addressing racial problems, especially within regards to the church, without being accused of promoting a false Gospel, a social Gospel. The only way racism or racial reconciliation seems to be able to get addressed is only when it arises in its most virulent forms such as kinism. Even then, links to sites of horrific hate (such as ‘Faith and Heritage’) get spread about in the comments sections on prominent pastor’s blogs. Discredited pieces of alternative history that attempt to vindicate sinful institutions such as antebellum slavery get picked up and polished for a new generation of readers, and then we feign surprise, indignation and offense when it’s suggested we may have a sin problem.
In the Reformed camp I believe we should be the first to acknowledge that we may not be as sanctified as we present ourselves to be. That we have hidden sins of hatred for neighbor that nurse away in the black corners of our heart. John Calvin wrote:
We are all so blinded and upset by self-love that everyone imagines he has a just right to exalt himself and to under-value all others in comparison to self.
If God has bestowed on us any excellent gift, we imagine it to be our own achievement; and we swell and even burst with pride.
The vices of which we are full we carefully hide from others, and we flatter ourselves with the notion that they are small and trivial; we sometimes even embrace them as virtues..
If the same talents which we admire in ourselves appear in others, or even our betters, we depreciate and diminish them with the utmost malignity, in order that we may not have to acknowledge the superiority of others.
If others have any vices, we are not content to criticize them sharply and severely, but we exaggerate them hatefully.
Hatred grows into insolence when we desire to excel the rest of mankind and imagine we do not belong to the common lot; we even severely and haughtily despite others as our inferiors.
If you take what Calvin wrote above seriously, as a problem common to all men, then it should not be surprising to us when we evaluate ourselves that we are not as forward-thinking as we pretend, and when others present this to us we try to turn this appeal into a sinful attack that our conscience can remain clear.
I myself won’t make any radical call to action that the church must take, I’d simply ask that we remain sober minded when injustice is before us, especially when it is waged against our fellow believers (Lex, I believe, is an African American who belongs to a conservative Lutheran denomination. He is certainly a brother in Christ). We shouldn’t hide behind our own perceived righteousness or downplay their suffering. We can even hide behind our own righteousness by puffing ourselves up and telling ourselves, “Well at least I don’t…” Take Calvin’s words above to heart when you examine your own motives, none of us is as innocent as we’d like to think we are.
Lex Lutheran hosts a new podcast called The Wittenberg Project. If you like what he had to say earlier, I’d recommend listening to it.
Edit: My friend Emily recently shared an article written by a woman that I believe touches on this subject. These subjects must be able to be broached and addressed without someone screaming “Social Gospel!”
Gideon demonstrates how he kept active in the womb.
My dog was recently the subject of an artist’s practice sketch and I am pleased as punched with it. I don’t have much to add other than I really need to find a way to get this properly printed and framed.
My wife and I were spoiled by Gideon spending a week in the NICU.
That seems like an awful thing to say. The NICU is the last place parents expect or want their newborn to experience their first hours. With needles stuck into their heads, wires taped to their bodies, it’s the stuff that nightmares are made of. There’s real emotional and physical tolls on the parents. After being discharged from the hospital you’re no longer 5 minutes and a handscrub away from your child, instead you’re at home. But it’s not really your home anymore because the house is oddly empty, nothing seems to have changed there which belies the fact that everything has changed.
But in a way we were spoiled, because in his time there Gideon was kept on a precise sleep and feeding schedule that could only be maintained by a psychotically punctual villain like the Clock King or, in this case, a professional team of nurses offering the best care in the world. A dissonant chord entered this rhythm when we took him home though. Despite Gideon’s best efforts to maintain his schedule, it slowly unraveled due to the impracticalities of life at home not hospital.
Amber and I reaped the rewards of the nurses hard work for the first few weeks. We marveled at how Gideon let us sleep through the night, punctuated by only a few feeding intervals. But like all parents we got too greedy. We would let him sleep too long so we could enjoy dinner in peace, we would wake him up ahead of time to eat so his feeding time wouldn’t interrupt our schedule. And as we introduced chaos into his schedule to better fit ours, his sleeping became more random and haphazard in a way that was detrimental to our own. We had played ourselves. Now instead of getting 3-4 hours of sleep at a time we’d be lucky to get an hour. He wouldn’t stay down for more than 15 minutes at night and then sleep during prime daylight hours in the afternoon. It was unsustainable.
This wasn’t a problem that could be solved with love. No amount of cooing, rocking, swaddling, feeding and burping was going to get us our precious sleep back. No, in order to solve this we needed to be jerks. No matter how he protested, we made a rule that he would not sleep after 6-7pm until we went to bed as well. If he fell asleep eating, or in the baby bjorn, or even in our arms it meant one thing: Back/tummy time!
I repeat the process when I wake up at 4:30am (I work at 6). I get up, get ready, feed him a small amount then let him exercise (his arms, legs, neck AND lungs) until I finish his feeding, lulling him back to sleep and letting mom get a bit more rest.
End result? Wide eyed rested parents, a strong baby, and even a happier more cheerful baby in the morning. Turns out babies seem to benefit from a good night’s sleep too. This is a good early lesson for us, sometimes as parents we have to be jerks and set our kid on a path that works for everyone (including us!) instead of obliging them to whatever they want. We just had to get started on this way earlier than I thought!
Scalzi enters another exciting but easily digestible book into his bibliography.
His character work is much improved from his previous books. Some entries, especially ones like ‘The End of All Things’ that followed multiple characters, had a problem where every character sounded the same. They all had the same sense of humor, they talked the same way, etc… it made it difficult to even differentiate aliens (who were never very alien) from humans, let alone human from human. Each character here, in the short time we have with them, feels much more like their own person. This is a good sign given we will see a LOT of Scalzi books come out in the next decade.
The world building is… curious. Within the first few paragraphs the narrative is interrupt for the author to explain to us how the science fiction elements (specifically in this case, faster than light travel) will work in this book. It was a bit jarring as I can’t recall another book that has simply broken the story to say (paraphrasing) “In this universe they travel from one system to another using a set of pathways called the Flow”. Perhaps Scalzi felt like he needed to do this to quickly get the details out of the way so he could get right back into the story, but I felt like this aside was unnecessary. The whole system is simple enough that the details could be inferred simply by reading the story. You know, what normally happens in a book.
Scalzi also isn’t above re-using a few of his tropes from the Old Man’s War series. Of course the system of government/guilds/castes/church is built on deception. Complicated plans and schemes go off without a hitch, nearly always working exactly as planned. A hyper competent and deadly female soldier ala OMW’s Sagan appears, although mostly only to easily get the more prominent characters out of a bad situation.
Despite that, the world he created here is interesting enough, and the characters compelling enough to blast through those roadblocks and end up with a very enjoyable science fiction romp. I found the whole guild/caste system with their trade and monopolies very interesting. The church seemed to not be well fleshed out, or even necessary other than to show that the Imperials had all of society wrapped up in their emperox (but there are two more books for more to be revealed). It’s almost a shame that we enter this world right when it’s starting to unravel and fall apart and not have any time to enjoy it while it operates as it should. I suppose that would be a departure from the breakneck pace that Scalzi is setting for these novels, but it’s nice to take a leisurely stretch before running the race.