Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to my blog readers out there.  Thanks for reading this year.

I hope each of you has a chance to celebrate Jesus' birth with friends and family, to give thanks for the challenges and blessings of 2011, to rest and refresh, and to look forward to another year serving Christ in 2012.

I'll be back in a few weeks.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Some pre-schooler books

A number of recent trips to the library have turned up some treasures in the pre-school book department.  

Firstly, a new offering from the great team of Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz, Mad About Minibeasts.  We love their previous books, including Rumble in the Jungle and Commotion in the Ocean.

Mad About Minibeasts opens up the world of insects to young children in their usual rhyming, colourful way.


Another new one this year is Too Hot to Hug!   Rupert finds a golden egg, from which hatches a baby fire dragon.  At first, Crumpet is crumpety warm, he dries the washing and keeps the family snug.  But as he grows bigger and the weather gets warmer, Crumpet gets too hot to hug and starts causing problems.

A very cute story, with gorgeous expressive illustrations.
 
The Pencil is written by Allan Ahlberg (of Peepo fame). This very clever book starts with a solitary pencil, who begins to draw and create a boy, a dog, a cat, and then all the things they want and ask for.  Colour arrives when the pencil draws a paintbrush to help him.  Peace is threatened when everyone gets too demanding and he draws a rubber which only makes things worse. 

This is a funny, clever book and the kids loved the ideas behind it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

At Home

At Home, Bill Bryson
  • Why are salt and pepper are the two spices on our dinner tables, rather than for example, chilli and cinnamon?
  • Why are there 3 odd buttons on the sleeves of men's jackets?
  • How were bodies disposed of prior to pleasant lawn cemeteries and crematoriums?
  • Why do you pay for 'room and board'? What is the board?
Ever wondered how the things we take for granted today came about? So did Bill Bryson and his newest offering answers these and many other questions. Using his own home as a springboard (a 150 year old rectory in rural England) Bryson has researched the history of the home. As he works through each room in the house, we are treated to the history of how it came to be, how society changed around it and how life and ways of living have changed over the last few centuries. Full of his usual wit and storytelling skills, Bryson imparts a fantastic amount of information, all the while making it readable and entertaining.

I have long been a fan of Bryson, especially enjoying Down Under and A Short History of Nearly Everything. This one does not disappoint.


Friday, December 2, 2011

The Warden

The Warden, Anthony Trollope

Another Trollope has made it onto my reading list! Anthony Trollope (1815-1882) wrote the Chronicles of Barsetshire, a series depicting ecclesiastical life in England in the 1800s. This one, The Warden is the first in the series.

You might wonder how easy it is to read a book written in 1855. The book I read was wonderfully edited by Geoffrey Harvey and is well annotated to explain the references that Trollope uses, mostly ecclesiastical, political or literary comments on his day. It takes more work than a modern writer because you have to think about the language a little more, which means you read it more slowly. However I think it’s easier to read than a Jane Austen.

It is witty, clever, and very insightful. His comments on the clergy, marriage, politicians and the power of the news are just as entertaining today as they would have been to his original readers.

The Warden is Rev. Harding, the caretaker of a small poorhouse, designed by a will to take care of older men at the end of their days. As part of the position, he draws a very comfortable salary. As a local reformer (and courtier of his daughter) of the church rallies against him, decrying the church’s abuse of position and power, he is left is a moral quandary of whether or not he is entitled to the income and how to proceed as a result. At the same time, he is bullied by his archdeacon (also his son-in-law), who strongly believes all privilege of the church of England is the right of its clergymen.

Here is a taste for you.

His comments on newspapers and their editors (Tom Towers is the editor and the Jupiter is the main paper of the day):
“[Tom Towers] loved to sit silent in a corner of his club and listen to the loud chatterings of politicians, and to think how they were all in his power – how he could smite the loudest of them, were it worth his while to raise his pen for such a purpose… Ministers courted him, though perhaps they knew not his name; bishops feared him; judges doubted their own verdicts unless he confirmed them; and generals, in their councils of war, did not consider more deeply what the enemy would do, that what the Jupiter would say… It is possible that Tom Towers considered himself the most important man in Europe; and so he walked on from day to day, studiously striving to look a man, but knowing within his breast that he was a God.” (p168)
Describing the archdeacon:
The archdeacon took up his shining new clerical hat, and put on his black clerical gloves, and looked, heavy, respectable, decorous, and opulent, a decided clergyman of the church of England, every inch of him. (p210-11)

I’m not going to read all 6 novels straight away, but will take them in small doses when I feel like thinking a bit more through my fiction reading.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Tis the season

A dear friend told me that my Christmas post sounded tired, or in her words "you are obviously so over it!".   She had a point.  My husband told me the same thing when he read my draft of our family Christmas letter, he said it sounded 'down'.  

I feel I have misrepresented my feelings about Christmas.  I really enjoy Christmas.  I think what I find hard is all the things that Christmas brings with it - end of year concerts, thank you cards, final meetings and dinners.

Having read Jenny's post earlier in the week though, I realised I can chill out more.  I don't have to do anything more for the year - no speaking engagements, important meetings, posts to write, etc.  I have organised presents already, mainly using online ordering (what joy!).  There are still 2 weeks till the kids are on holidays, so I have time to get things done and then time to enjoy with them when holidays start.


As we set up the tree yesterday and started advent today, I am thrilled that about 5 years ago I was not only excited about Christmas, but had time to put into it: hence the advent material, the embroidered Christmas stockings, the tree skirt, etc.  Now, I cannot begin to imagine where I found the time or energy!


Now that it is all set up, it's time to enjoy it.  So this year, when all the busyness of Christmas threatens to cloud over the reason for the season, I might just take myself off to the lounge room, turn on all the sparkly lights on the tree, and give thanks to God for the blessing of Christmas, where Christ came as a baby to save us all from our sins. 


Monday, November 28, 2011

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 8

Chapter 8: Feminine Faith

As this chapter begins, McCulley openly acknowledges it is an overview chapter designed to present some issues of feminine faith and to encourage us to be women fruitful for God’s glory.

Indeed it is an overview, and I found myself wanting more. As she says, there are other books on the subject – but I wanted more meat in this section. After reading about all the problems that feminism has given us, some more thoughts about how to proceed today would have been helpful.

Having said that, McCulley clearly says what needs to be said – we need to look to God’s word for our guidance in everything, and the gospel is all we need. We do not need to be recognised by the world’s standards, but loved and saved by Jesus.

I finish with the words of John Piper, which she quotes, which describe strong women, whom we all could strive to be:
…Strong women! I think they are magnificent testimonies to Christ. Because if they are complementarian…they are combining things the world can’t explain. They are combining a sweet, tender, kind, loving, submissive, feminine beauty with his massive steel in their backs and theology in their brains! (p187)
I feel this book touched on many issues and helped me understand history more and how it has affected the present, yet left me wanting more about how to live a feminine faith today. Did others feel this way?

Do any of you have any book suggestions that others who are still interested in this topic might find helpful?

Hope you have enjoyed this series, I have!

Friday, November 25, 2011

More Joanna Trollope

I have now read a few more Joanna Trollope novels and these ones I enjoyed as much as Daughters-in-Law and The Rector's Wife.

First one was The Other Family - the story of Chrissie, loved by Richie for 23 years, who was father of her 3 daughters and the love of her life. However, they never married for he never divorced his first wife, Margaret. When he dies, both families have to learn to cope with the loss and pain, and begin to deal with each other. I have discovered what I like about Trollope's books (or those I have read so far) is that everyone moves a step forward by the end. Each character is more aware of their own weaknesses and is making progress towards being better.

The second one, Second Honeymoon, I really liked. It's the story of Edie, Russell and their adult children (Matthew, Rosa and Ben). The children have finally moved out, and Edie is bereft, uncertain of who she is without children in the home. Russell, on the other hand, would like to have to wife back to himself:
'You talk about wanting Ben back. You talk about his energy and neediness and that way it makes you feel. Well, just think for a moment about how I feel. I didn't marry you in order to have Matt and Rosa and Ben, though I'm thankful we did. I married you because I wanted to be with you ... Edie - I want you back. I was here before the children and I'm here now.' He put his cup down with finality. 'And I'm not going away.' (p15)
This was a great book about the realities of life in a mature marriage, with adult children who return home with various issues. It's like Packed to the Rafters (the TV show), without all the ridiculous drama.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Christmas rolls around again

When you have been blogging for a few years, the year develops a rhythm to it. For the fourth year in a row I find myself pondering a Christmas post. Yet also wondering if I can be bothered! After all, you can all press the button to the left --> the 'Christmas' label.

So, in brief: for those that are interested, our Advent calendar will continue again, now set as a feature of our Christmas tradition.

After two years doing the 'Birth of Jesus' advent material, we are now switching back to the 'Genesis to Jesus' material. After being asked by a number of you dear readers for it, I am now making both available* as a pdf file: Birth of Jesus or Genesis to Jesus.

We continue with the boxes, which include bible verses, but this year there will be very few treats in the boxes. Instead, I am planning more activities related to the stories. When the treats became the highlight, it was hard for all to concentrate for the bible readings.

For those that would like to take a easier option (which I highly recommend!) - better to do something than nothing at all - the Good Book Company is having a 20% off sale for their Christmas resources, including all the material I reviewed last year. I think our older two will do the Christmas Unpacked booklet, might as well keep doing these things while they still love it!

Next week the tree goes up and we start Advent - can you believe it's nearly Christmas!?


* Update from 2017: the resources tab now contains the most-up-to date versions of these materials. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 7

Chapter 7: Raunch Culture Rip Off

This chapter is the one that many of us will find the most distressing, and yet also the most relevant. McCulley explains where the third and current wave of feminism has brought us – to today, a sex-saturated, porn-filled world where women mistakenly believe that by treating sex and their bodies as a commodity they are empowered in the process.

McCulley has done a good job of presenting the relevant issues in a discreet way. She even warns that young girls should not be reading the chapter.

A backlash has developed over recent years over this issue, and it’s not only Christians who are speaking out against it. Many others are appalled at what they see happening to women (and men), as a result of widely accessible pornography, the ‘hook-up’ casual approach to sexual intimacy, and the prevailing opinion that modesty equals shame.

One of the ways to combat this as Christians is to be open about the wonderful blessing sexual intimacy is, but within the framework of marriage alone:
We need to combat any false notions of sexuality and piety by presenting a clear and unblushing portrayal of marital intimacy. A generation that is well acquainted with the physical variations of sex needs to hear about the powerful security, attraction, and emotional freedom that attend monogamous marital fidelity. (p178)
Mothers and older women need to speak to younger women openly about the wonderful gift of intimacy in marriage and how, with the benefit of hindsight, they know the damage caused by sexual activity outside of marriage.

This is one of the issues that worries me most with my own children. We live in a sex-saturated society. I want to protect my son and daughters from it as much as possible. I know that God is in control, and some days, that is all I can cling to, as I see the world they are growing up in. I know that God is good and sovereign, but sometimes, I just want to keep them locked up until they are 25!

Things to think about:
  • How has the ‘raunch culture’ affected you and the way you feel about yourself?
  • What message do you want to pass on to younger women? Who could you pass it on to?

Next week: Chapter 8: Feminine Faith

Friday, November 18, 2011

Courageous

Are you a dad? Go and see see this movie.
Are you married to a dad? Take him to see this movie.

Courageous is a rare thing in Australia - it's a Christian movie, full of gospel truths encouraging men to step up and be the fathers God wants them to be.

We saw it yesterday and at first even I felt uncomfortable. It is so unusual to hear Christian values championed on the big-screen that I was thrown for a while. Yet once we got into it, it is clearly a very good movie about being a man, a husband and a father who is willing to lead his family. Of course there are a few cliched moments, but we can all cope with that. It was good to see a movie that values men and the role they can have, rather than denigrating them.

Five men (4 are police officers) are close friends. When tragedy strikes one of their families, the man is forced to evaluate his role as a father. He turns to God's word and encourages his friends to step up and be good fathers. As challenges come for each man, they must choose whether to honour God and their family with their decisions, or not.

I wouldn't recommend it for non-Christians, I think it would be too full-on. I also suspect that if you are a Christian mother doing it tough without a supportive husband, it may not help with being content in your personal situation.

But I highly recommend it for all Christian fathers and fathers-to-be.


* If you want to see it, you should go soon, I can't imagine many cinemas will keep this one on for long. If you are in Adelaide, it is only at Hoyts Tea Tree Plaza. Cinema listings across Australia can be found here.

So Much For That

I decided to try another Lionel Shriver book after The Post Birthday World.

I was not disappointed.

Shep, age 48, has always planned for his Afterlife. That is, he has spent his whole life saving in order to retire early to a Third World Nation, where he will be able to live comfortably for the remainder of his life, on much less money than it currently costs in New York.

On the day he finally decides to go, with or without his family, his wife Glynis announces she has mesothelioma (cancer) and he cannot leave, for she needs his health insurance.

As her cancer progresses and various treatments are attempted, we see Shep caring for his wife, all the while watching his life savings disappear.

While some might say, "what value can you place on human life?", when you live in a world where all treatments cost money, and some exorbitantly so, it is a real question when everyone only has a finite amount of money.

It is a dark and harsh book, not only due to the subject matter, but because of the characters Shriver has created. Shep's best friend Jackson constantly bemoans his life. Glynis is often bitter and nasty. Their extended family are awful, including the standard over-the-top portrayal of Christians. (I do get the feeling the Shriver is pretty anti-Christian).

Having said that, I liked it. It was real. It didn't skirt around hard relationships or death. I like her insights into many aspects of life. I came away absolutely thrilled we don't live in the US and our health system is not the same.

In the end though, what is striking about this book is what it shows about people that have no hope. If you have no hope of heaven, this life is all there is. Therefore, extending this life for as long as possible, no matter how sick you are, is crucial. At the same time, enjoying every minute you can for yourself is very important, because that's all you have to live for. When your idea of the 'Afterlife' is living cheap in Africa, you really have no idea how good the real afterlife will be.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 6

Chapter 6: The Mommy Wars

McCulley addresses the devaluing of both women (as wives/child-raisers/homemakers) and children that has occurred over the last two centuries.

It’s a long chapter and well worth reading yourself. In brief, the concept of motherhood being less valued than all other pursuits has occurred in three stages:
  • It began in the 19th C when the bulk of economic activity moved from farms and homes into factories. Therefore the household was no longer the workplace, but rather a place of replenishment for workers.
  • It continued as a form of social Darwinism, when it was claimed that child-rearing should become a professionalised collective activity. This followed from the idea that most women were unproductive and indolent.
  • The third stage was with Margaret Sanger, the founder of modern birth control, who believed that large families, especially from parents she deemed unfit were the cause of most evils. She believed in the possibility of a superior race and eugenics, a cause later promoted by Nazi Germany.

Then, McCulley moves from women to children:
of the myriad changes created by second-wave feminism, the most pronounced would be the movement’s unwavering commitment to abortion. (p132)
What is also clearly a result of abortion becoming legalised (or at least tolerated) in most societies, is that female feticide (the aborting of female fetuses) has cost millions of women’s lives. It is estimated that over 100 million girls should have been born in the world, but have not. 50 million of these in China and 43 million in India. For cultures that value a son much more highly than a daughter, there is now a huge disproportion between the sexes.

I remember reading an article about this a few years ago –this first generation of selective sex children are now reaching adulthood. But there are not enough wives to go around. So, you have a large group of men, with no prospective wives and a lot of excess testosterone in society. Not a recipe for peace.

McCulley then turns to briefly address some other issues, including:
  • surrogacy, egg and sperm donation and implications of such technology
  • fertility and that refusal of many to acknowledge it’s limited window

I think, as I watch younger women and the choices they make, fertility is one area where few are prepared to think about it honestly. Many women (and I include myself in this) fell for the line “You can have it all”, yet
those of us who have tried, however, know that it is not true. It may be possible to have it all, but not at the same time. (p138)
Yet I continue to watch young women in our churches mapping out their future with little idea of the reality of fertility or lack of it: “I’ll develop my career till my thirties, and get married in there, then sometime in my mid-thirties we’ll have children.”

I often have to ask young (married) women now, “Do you want to have a family, and if so, when do you plan to fit it in?” And this is not just women who would like a career, this is also women planning their life of ministry service, but thinking that having a family would be the end of their ‘ministry’. Please hear me correctly, I am fully supportive of women in jobs they like and find satisfying. It’s just that the message of ‘I can do it all’ has so permeated us as women, that often we do not stop and think ‘maybe I can’t’ until it’s too late.

She finishes the chapter with words of encouragement to mothers currently ‘in the trenches’:
I think it is easy for mothers to lose sight of the big picture when they are consumed with the daily ‘ordinariness’ of life. I hope that this chapter has helped you… to take the long view of what you are doing in training the next generation to be worshipers of God.’ (p140)
and also to older women. She encourages ‘empty nesters’ to start thinking of themselves as ‘open nesters’ – open to ministering to other people. Younger women need advice, help, guidance and instruction – from God’s word, as well as how to love their husbands, train their children and manage their home (Titus 2). There is a dearth of godly wisdom out there – for those of you who have lived it, please share it with the rest of us!


Things to think about:
  • If you are a mother, do you value it as a role? Why or why not?
  • If you are not a mother, do you value it as a role? Why or why not?
  • Do you / or did you think you could have it all – husband, kids, career, personal satisfaction, etc? Have you managed to?
  • If you are an ‘empty nester’, are you prepared to become an ‘open nester’?

Next week: Chapter 7: Raunch Culture Rip Off

Friday, November 11, 2011

Life of Pi

Life of Pi, Yann Martin

I remember hearing numerous accolades about this book when it first came out (2002), but for some reason I never read it then (probably college exams & morning sickness had something to do with that.)

Yet I seem to be surrounded by good books at the moment - what a delight it is to be reading lots of fiction again.

This one is clever, original, interesting, funny and insightful.

A teenage boy, Pi, is the son of a zoo owner in India. The family decide to emigrate to Canada. Their boat sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and Pi finds himself the sole human survivor of the tragedy. His companions aboard a fully equipped lifeboat include a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and an enormous Bengal tiger. The premise sounds ridiculous and impossible, yet it breathes possiblity as you read it.

Yann has a wonderful writing style, his turn of phrase, dry wit and humourous asides made reading this book a delight. It's partly a primer for zoo keeping. It has very insightful comments on religion, including Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. And all the while it's a great story.

I read it twice in the last month, as the first third of the book makes much more sense the second time through.

Read it - you'll be in for a treat.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Go Back To Where You Came From

Go Back To Where You Came From

This SBS show was shown in June, but it's taken us a while to get around to watching it.

It's compelling, absorbing and very emotional.

Six Australians with strong views on illegal immigration, boat people, detention centres and people from other nations take part in a 25 day experiment: to experience the life of a refugee in reverse. There are 5 stages:
  • to live with recently resettled refugees in Australia (either from the Congo or Iraq)
  • to set out on a boat from Darwin (made to look like an asylum seeker boat)
  • to live with a minority illegal immigrant group in Malaysia, waiting to move on to another country
  • to visit a large UN resettlement camp in Kenya, or the slums of Jordan
  • to visit the source countries of DR Congo and Iraq
Over 3 1hr episodes you see people's pre-conceived ideas exploded as they meet, talk to and share life with people and families living lives of squalor, fear, uncertainty and avoidance of the authorities.

This is crucial viewing for all Australians. Immigration (especially illegal immigration) is a complex issue that deserves greater intelligent, informed public debate in this country. This show goes a long way to addressing the issues involved. For those of us in comfortable homes with jobs and safety, we cannot imagine risking everything to get on an illegal boat to go to Australia. A show like this helps us realise the plight of many of the world's refugees, and that nothing is so simple or black and white as it seems from our position of relative safety and security.

It would be available in any public library, you can buy it from SBS, and you can still watch all the episodes online (1, 2, 3), including Episode 4 - The Response, filmed a week later. If you want to see a quick summary of what happened, or to whet your appetite - watch the first 2 minutes of Episode 4.

As an aside (and it's something that might require more thought at a later time) it did make me wonder how our government possibly came up with the 'Malaysian solution', and thought it was truly a solution.


Radical Womanhood - Chapter 5

Chapter 5: There’s no place like home

This chapter paints a picture showing how our idea of home has changed over time. Beginning in the time of Abraham, we are given an idea of how people lived. From those times, until the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, the home was where both work operated from and where the family lived. Be it a farmhouse or a city dwelling operating a business; husband, wife and family would work side by side, sharing the load of supporting themselves and their business and raising their children. Our current notion of a separated home and work life would have been unheard of and unexplainable.

However, with the Industrial Revolution and increased urbanisation, men were drawn into employment into factories and offices and work and home life began to separate. Now the job of working fell to men and the job of raising children and maintaining the home fell to women. At the same time, early women’s movements claiming that women were the more loving, gentle and pious of the sexes were laying the groundwork for later feminists. Finally by the 20th C, women were the target of marketing campaigns to make their lives easier, more efficient and complete with modern appliances.
Thus the shift from the home as a place of production to a place of consumption was completed. In the new culture of consumption - bolstered by the age of advertising and the push for consumer credit - all vestiges of nineteenth century concerns with character, self-restraint, and sacrifice were gone. (p113)

The true heart of the home

McCulley makes some excellent points at the end of this chapter, so I will quote her at length:
The heart of the home is found in the relationships nurtured there and the comfort offered to one another - comfort we have first received from God, the Father of compassion, and then share with one another. (p115)

More importantly, the home is a foretaste of the eternal heaven that awaits us when Jesus returns. He did not leave us to prepare another cubicle in His Father’s office - thanks God!... It is the refuge of a home- with a place in it for each of us - that Jesus promised. (John 14:1-3) (p115)

And a final quote to encourage the many of us who consider ourselves housewives:
“Just a housewife” is a phrase our culture uses to undermine the importance of the private sphere. Though the marketplace does not value the home beyond the goods that can be purchased for it, the ministry to be found there is of immense value to the Lord. The stability of family relationships, the care of elderly or disabled family members, the discipling and training of children, the warm reception of guests, the making of a lifetime of memories, the daily modelling of biblical instruction, the fresh nourishment in an age of processed foods that contribute to our general ill health, the joy of a Christ-centred marriage - all of these have long-lasting, if not eternal, effects. (p115-116)


Things to think about:
  • Do you say “I’m just a housewife”, or are you able to say with pride “I’m a wife and mum”
  • Even if this world does not value your role, do you see the inherent value in your role?
  • Do you risk making your home a ‘safe haven’, rather than a welcoming home?

Next week: Chapter 6: The Mommy Wars

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Post-Birthday World

The Post-Birthday World, Lionel Shriver

I have been planning to read something by Lionel Shriver for a few years, hearing so many positive reviews about her books. At the same time I suspect that emotionally I may not be up to We Need to Talk about Kevin, the story of parents as they cope with a child who has committed a school massacre. So I was happy to grab this one off the library shelf in order to 'give the author a go'.

It's based on the classic premise - 'what if?'

Irina has a long term partner, Lawrence - life isn't perfect, but it's comfortable. They have a friend, the hard-living snooker player Ramsay. One year, Irina and Ramsay have dinner for his birthday. After drinking too much they end up back at Ramsay's place and Irina is faced with a choice. Does she lean forward and kiss Ramsay, setting off one chain of events? Or does she stop herself, go home and therefore live out a different life?

We read matching chapters of each scenario, as they play out side by side over about 15 years. For those that remember the movie Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow - it's exactly the same idea.

I enjoyed it. Shriver writes realistically about people, their choices and foibles. I enjoyed her writing style and her use of language. It's gritty at times, and if you don't like a lot of talk about intimate relations, you might be uncomfortable at a number of points.

I might have a look for some of her other titles, like So Much for That and give them a go too.


(If you would like to read the first few chapters online, go here)

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Next Story - conclusions

Final Thoughts

In the epilogue, Challies talks about one area he has been challenged in each of the 6 topics he has covered. It was helpful and instructive to hear how he has made decisions in light of his life, which is prominent online. I’ll leave you to peruse it at your leisure.

However, it’s time for the rubber to hit the road for me. This book has challenged me in every area he covered. I live a lot of my life online, interacting through mediated methods and drowning at times in a sea of information. I like my online life, yet at times feel trapped by it, only too aware how little privacy I retain.

Here are some of the things I have come to realise:
  • I have tended to prefer mediated communication. It’s easier to send an email than to make a phone call. To catch up with someone in person often takes 4-8 weeks to find a free spot in my diary. However, I am more now committed to less mediated forms of communication. I hate texting, so I avoid that already. But now I am trying to call people to talk, rather than emailing. What I have found? Most things are quicker in person or on the phone. Emailing takes a number of bounces back and forth, checking details, clarifying comments, etc. A phone call is often faster, more efficient and I feel I have actually talked to the person properly.
  • I am easily distracted. I check messages when they come in, and my emails and Facebook page regularly – much more regularly that necessary. Not having a paid job means I do not have to be in constant communication with people. Few emails need to be answered within 24 hours, and texts, while seeming urgent, rarely are.
  • I am surrounded by information. I am now unsubscribing to many email lists and am regularly reducing the blogs I read. I hide many people on Facebook. I ensure I don’t get spam texts by not providing my mobile number where possible.
  • I am more aware that when I blog, Facebook, search and email, the data trail I leave behind is potentially permanent. I want to be careful how I speak at all times and what I spend my time doing.
  • I have gotten into the habit of skim-reading the bible. I want to break this quickly and completely. I want to study God’s word in detail, not skim over it because I have already read it so many times before. I am realising this takes real commitment – both of time and energy.

In the end, the biggest change that reading the book has encouraged me to commit to is a break from the online world. I am now trying to commit to 2 days a week with no internet connection.
  • Thursdays because Husband & I have decided to have a regular day off again (no kids)
  • Saturdays because that is really the ‘kids day off’ and I want to be with them more.
At this stage that means that on those days, I check no email, do not log on to Facebook, do not read any blogs and try not to reply to any texts. I try to keep my mobile on silent or away from sight. A few weeks in and I am actually loving it. I feel the pull of the computer, but enjoy the decision to stay away from it. I am already finding it incredibly freeing and it has helped me see what is a distraction and what excesses of information I need to remove from my life.


What about you? What has challenged you in this series?


If you want to keep thinking about some of these things, here are a few ideas:

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Roll Call

As McCulley begins this chapter, she makes a helpful aside comment. Being a unmarried woman herself, she has had to think about how she can counsel married women, not having experienced it herself. She came to realise personal experience was not what was important.
We do not need the authority of personal experience to counsel one another because the bible is sufficient for this task. But we do need to know the Word. (p75)
This is a helpful reminder for us, whether we are in a position to give counsel or to receive it - it can be tempting to think “I don’t understand, I have nothing to offer”, or “She doesn’t have to live with this issue, how can she instruct me on how to live with it”. We all need to have grace don’t we?

McCulley explains how feminism led many people to believe that there were essentially no differences between men and women, a fact which has been disproved by much scientific study. Women think differently, experience emotions differently and their brains work differently.

Helper

Then, she moves to a biblical explanation of the term ‘helper’, or wife - a helper who is equal to her husband, but differed from him and complemented him.

She clearly acknowledges that “many men fall short of the humble, sacrificially loving leadership role. Many women fall short of the humble, encouraging support role too. Just because sin mars a concept does not mean it is beyond gospel redemption.” (p83, my emphasis)

In the end, McCulley concludes:
submission has more to do with our attitude towards this concept than any flawless execution of it (p84)
She will have a disposition to yield to her husband’s guidance and an inclination to follow his leadership. Her final authority is Christ and she will not follow her husband into sin, however she has a spirit of submission (summarised from Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, p61).

What then follows is a helpful discussion of the role of wife with encouragement and correction. For not only are we wives who are submissive, we are also caring sisters towards our imperfect brother who is our husband. And, in that role, we may be an encourager, a gentle rebuker, a counselor and a corrector.

Divorce

Statistics show women initiate most divorces. This is a legacy of feminism. One of the triumphs claimed by second-wave feminists was introduction of ‘no-fault divorce’. Some critics argue this is the most profound effect of feminism upon our culture:
But divorce - the dissolution of a solemn mutual contract in which your pledge your life, your honor, your name, your commitment, and your future - can be thrust upon you without your consent… The very existence of this sword of Damocles hanging over husband and wife validates the attitude that marriage is temporary and based on self-satisfaction, rather than on commitment and responsibility. (p86, quoting Phyllis Schlafly, Feminist Fantasies, p234-5)
Of course, later research has also shown that those devastated, especially economically, by divorce are women. Wonder if feminists are still quite as proud about no-fault divorce?

McCulley finishes with some practical advice for wives, gleaned from Gary Thomas. If you regularly think negatively about your husband, you are likely to be dissatisfied. If you search for strengths and affirm those, you will build him up in those areas and encourage him. Not only that: we have all married imperfect men. But let’s just remember as well, all husbands have married imperfect wives.

She finishes with this encouragement:
In marriage, it takes a lot of strength of character to be a helpmate as the Bible describes it and not bail on the marriage. But you’re not doing it alone or in your own strength. Never forget the encouragement, correction, submission, honor, respect, and appreciation that you give your husband each day are lavishly supplied by the One who is also your helper! (p90)

Things to think about:
  • How do you feel about the term ‘helper’?
  • Why do you think women initiate most divorces? (extreme circumstances aside)
  • Would it be helpful for you, when thinking of your husband’s imperfections, to remind yourself that he also married an imperfect wife?

Next week: Chapter 5: There’s no place like home

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Next Story - #8

Visibility and Privacy (Chapter 9: Seeing and being seen)

Ironically, we crave both visibility and privacy online.

We leave deliberate traces of our presence online: we comment on a blog, make a twitter update, update a Facebook status, post our own blogs, write emails, etc.

What we might not realise is at the same time, we are leaving digital traces wherever we go:
  • Facebook knows what computer I am using, where I am, and what ads I have seen and whether I have clicked on any of them
  • Mastercard knows where I was when I bought lunch
  • Google knows which blogs I read, and which sites I have visited
  • The bank knows when & where I get money out
  • My mobile phone carrier knows where I am via GPS
We are under constant surveillance. We leave trails of physical evidence wherever we go (but no-one tracks the skin cells and hairs we leave behind). In our digital lives we also leave digital evidence wherever we go, and we are tracked and profiled depending on the data trails we leave behind.

Challies suggests we react in 2 ways:
  1. Be aware of the fact that everything digital is traceable and react accordingly, keeping important information safe
  2. Understand our lives are public in an unprecedented way. Through this we can bring honour to God or dishonour to his name.

When data is sorted, collated and analysed it can show patterns of behaviour and it can be predictive. The more data, the more accurate the profiles can be. Facebook has massive amounts of personal data about our lives – our birthdate, location, likes, religion, tastes, family connections – which are a goldmine for advertisers. Google searches are based on mathematical formula to interact with data to make money. Banks, Facebook, Google etc, make a mathematical model of us, that we can be explained by numbers and data.

We are individuals lovingly made by a creator. But we are learning not to see people as real people made in the image of God, but rather depersonalised data items, statistics, numbers, consumers, etc.

At the same time, our trail of data shows who we are when no-one can see us – the websites we visit, the comments we make, etc. Our searches show our hearts and desires, and they are retained forever. We ask search engines private questions, we look for answers online that we wouldn’t dare ask people.

We need to be diligent living lives marked by what we believe, ensuring we are above reproach at all times.
“Ultimately this visibility serves to remind us that we live all of our lives before the all-seeing eye of the Lord. Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17). While we live in the view of mobile phone carriers and internet providers and search engines, we ultimately live before God, the one who sees all and knows all, and who will demand an accounting of every word, every deed, every moment we were given on this earth.” (33:11ff)

Seeing and being seen

While we are concerned about privacy online, at the same time we love to be seen. We are exhibitionists (as evidenced by the millions of YouTube videos and photo sharing websites) and we are voyeurs (watching these videos and reality TV).

Challies asks: “What happened to humility? What happened to respect?”

Where is humility in desiring to be seen and to have the attention? Are we looking for approval from God or attention from others?

Where is the respect when people’s lives are on show and are mocked or used for entertainment? Life becomes marked by disrespect.
“The bible calls us to so much more. It calls us to live with discretion, to live lives marked with humility, with respect for one another, to make little of ourselves so we can make much of Christ.” (42:34ff)

Application
  • Be aware – our devices leave trails. Our lives are in the public eye
  • Develop character – in a world that emphasises entertainment, develop character. Examine your entertainment, and your character. Do you need to reform your entertainment?
  • Examine your trail – Are you trying to clean up your trail? Are you trying to protect yourself or hide your sin?

Things to think about (some based on Challies’ questions):
  • Are there times you like to be seen?
  • What does your data trail say about you? Would you like your spouse, parents, pastor to see it?
  • How have you changed knowing people can see you? Do you realise God can see you all time?
  • Is your character changed by exhibitionist and exploitative entertainment? Do you need to change the entertainment you view?

On Monday - some final thoughts

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Next Story - #7

Truth/Authority (Chapter 8: Here comes everybody)

Truth is at the heart of the divine, and it is an attribute of God that he calls us to imitate. Truth leads to God and error leads to Satan. Therefore, truth matters. We need to be clear and truthful when we speak.

Our knowledge must also be true. We must be careful how we choose the sources of our knowledge and who has authority to declare what is true.

2 examples of truth in a digital age:

1. Wikipedia – an example of truth by consensus

Challies is swift to point out the advantages of the Wiki model:
  • it is often correct
  • it is expansive, bigger in scope than any printed encyclopedia could ever be
  • it relies on more sources
  • it is cheap (relies on volunteer editors, accessed for free)
  • it is responsive, entries can be changed quickly
  • it is convenient (accessible by any internet device)

Yet, it also has significant drawbacks:
  • It ignores human nature (assumes humans are good and will work together)
  • It offers too little review (little quality control)
  • It is too subjective – people can edit their own entries, corporations/politicians can change entries to suit their purposes, etc.
  • It ignores authority (gained by experience, age, knowledge). All people are equal – the 12 year old can edit an entry, as can a distinguished expert in the field.
  • It redefines truth – truth becomes indistinguishable from consensus. It democratises truth.
“Truth is what the majority determines it to be” (28:25).

We must remember that consensus and scripture are often at odds. The vast majority of people do not accept the claims of the Bible or Christ, but that consensus does not mean those claims are not true.


2. Search engines – an example of truth by relevance

Google’s search engines assign importance to various websites, by sites linking to one another and assign levels of trust to various sites. Wikipedia is assigned a very high level of trust, explaining why Wikipedia comes up #1 or #2 in almost all Google searches.

When you use a search engine, is it deciding what is the truest search for you based on relevance, which is all determined by complex mathematical formula.


In the end, the issue is not whether Wiki or search engines are good or evil, but how our technologies are changing our perception of truth. They mediate truth to us. The same thing happened when photos came to be believed over the written word.

Knowledge of truth cannot be democratised, they flow from God the author of truth. “Truth is not what is relevant or what is popular, but what God thinks.” (53:05)
“As Christians we know what is true because we know who is true. We know the source of truth and we have access to him through the words he has given us. We know that consensus and relevance may imitate truth and at times properly reflect what is true but all truth ultimately flows from the one who is truth” (37:50)

At the same time as our idea of truth is changing, so is our perception of authority. Instead of a few experts, we now have many amateurs. We have undermined the authority inherent in knowledge. Now we have crowd sourcing. Book and movie reviews can be written by anyone (including me!). Amateur reporters often have more followers than established political reporters.


What should we do?

Challies suggests we:
  • Ensure our commitment to the Bible – to know what is true from the author of truth
  • Be aware. Google does not speak truth but a mathematical search, Wiki is crowd sourced
  • Celebrate authority – trust traditional sources

Things to think about (some based on Challies’ questions):
  • Do you agree that truth is important? That truth is a key attribute of God and therefore one we must take seriously?
  • How does use of Wiki or Google shape your understanding of what is true?
  • How have you observed the undermining of authority inherent in knowledge? When does this concern you? When doesn't it concern you?

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Next Story - #6

Information (Chapter 7: More is better)

We live among so much information, that we have little time for wisdom.
“Information is not enough. The Christian life is one that is spent in the constant pursuit of wisdom for it is wisdom that allows us to live in a distinctly Christian way.” (3:29ff)
The starting point of wisdom is to know God. We hear little about wisdom, but we hear much about the benefits of information.
“Wisdom combines knowledge with experience to live with virtue. Every day we encounter data, information and knowledge, yet God calls us to live with wisdom (7:21ff).
Distraction (the previous chapter) and information are closely linked, as each distraction (email, text) brings us another nugget of information, making us feel that the distraction was worthwhile. Previously information was filtered – only a certain number of books were published. Now we have no filters – we have a glut of information, blogs, facebook, tweets, etc.

We have endless knowledge about people (where they were born, what they read, where they go), but we don’t truly know people. Hundreds of people are on the edges of our lives, but there are very few with whom we are intimately involved.

Challies then notes two potential problems with information and memory:

1. Outsourcing of memory – we don’t have to know things anymore, just know where to find the information. We think electronic memory is better than the brain. Why memorise the bible when I can look it up in a second?
The discipline of memorising teaches us and helps us to learn, as things enter our hearts. The information becomes knowledge, and then wisdom. “Empty minds will beget empty hearts and empty lives.” (38:50)

2. Eternality of information - Information online lives forever. Any blog, facebook message, photo is still online.

Forgetting is a blessing, a natural functioning of the human brain, it saves us from being owned by our memories. Yet we can reconstruct the most intimate parts of people’s lives by their search engine history, which is all retained online.
“Can a world that never forgets be a world that truly forgives?” (44:08)
Thankfully, our God does forget, he forgives our sin and remembers it no more.


Application – growing in wisdom
  • Get wisdom - Less information may lead to more wisdom. Seek out information that can be turned into useful knowledge and wisdom to live by.
  • Measure the input - Measure the sources of your information: TV, blogs, texts, newspaper, facebook. How much is useful information and how much is just noise?
  • Choose quality over quality - Which are the best sources of information you have? The worst? Cut out the worst ones: hide undiscerning facebook friends, unsubscribe to useless blogs and emails.
  • Simplify - your storage of information, store less.
  • Memorise scripture - it moves God’s words from our minds to our hearts to our hearts.
  • Make it count - Try to only access the information you need for your life and your faith. Move information to knowledge and wisdom.

Things to think about (some based on Challies’ questions):
  • When do you feel most overloaded by information? How might more information lead to less wisdom?
  • How could reduce the information in your life?
  • How have you outsourced your memory? What’s the value? What are the dangers?

On Wednesday: Truth / Authority (Chapter 8: Here comes everybody)


Radical Womanhood - Chapter 3

Chapter 3: Did God really say?

In this chapter McCulley turns to marriage. She looks at feminist views on marriage, then what Scripture has to say, and then turns to the issue of submission (some other issues of marriage are addressed in later chapters).
If you claim men are women’s chief problem, it has a way of dissuading women from marrying men…and vice versa. Therefore, it’s no surprise that feminism profoundly affected marriage rates and longevity - not to mention the definition of marriage. (p53)
The face of feminism for the 1970s was Gloria Steinem, and one of her oft quoted subjects was marriage. She made famous the expression “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’.

As McCulley turns to a scriptural definition of marriage and how feminism has completely affected it, she turns to Andreas K√∂stenberger’s excellent work on the subject: God, Marriage, and Family. He speaks of a timeless battle between God and Satan, and one area where this battle is being fought is marriage and the family. It has been fought before, with chauvinism and polygamy, but now feminism is a major player. Using K√∂stenberger’s argument, McCulley claims:
Spiritual battles are won or lost in the day to day thoughts we harbor. Ideas matter! What we think about the purpose of marriage, the roles in marriage, and the priority of marriage matters, and it matters a great deal to God. (p59)

As daughters of Eve, we need to realize the Serpent is still among us, asking the same questions. “Did God really say…?” You can fill in the blank with your own temptations and thoughts. You may hear questions buzzing in your head about God’s definition of infidelity, motherhood, premarital sex, monogamy, the roles of men and women, the worth of a wife, the function of a family, and so on. These questions have a source - our spiritual Enemy - and an innate amplification system - our sinful hearts. And when the two mix, the results are combustible. (p60)
McCulley goes on to look at submission and Ephesians 5 in detail. I am not going to outline it here, because I would oversimplify it, and my guess is that it’s something you have already looked at before. If not, I suggest you read her work here, and research more via her references.

The next chapter will flesh out in a bit more detail how this type of marriage looks in practice.

The personal chapter about Bill and Stephanie gives a great example of true forgiveness and a willingness to follow one’s husband.


Some things to think about:
  • About which things are you most likely to ask, “Did God really say…?”

Next week: Chapter 4: Role Call

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Next Story - #5

Distraction (Chapter 6: Turn off and tune in)

(I know this is a long post, probably because I got so much out of it, I just kept making notes!)

Challies observes that “it may well be that the ‘beep’ will be the defining noise of our generation”. The beeps of our phones, our ovens, our email arriving, our fridge left open… our lives are full of beeping devices.

It is increasingly difficult to remain undistracted in this digital age, surrounding by the all the beeping:
“On the one hand we have become somewhat dependent on our devices, after all they bring us great benefits, we are not ready to give them up. But on the other hand, we must honestly face the truth that these devices are prone to draw us away from the important things in life and the people who are closest to us.” (5:08)
All this distraction changes us – we become distracted people, losing the ability to focus.


What is the danger of distraction?
“If we are a distracted society, it stands to reason that we would also be a distracted church. A church with a diminished ability to think deeply, to cultivate concentration, to emphasise slow, deliberate, thoughtful meditation” (6:20ff)

Distraction leads to shallow thinking, which in turn leads to shallow living.
“The challenge is clear: we need to relearn how to think and to discipline ourselves to think deeply, conquering the distractions in our lives so that we might live deeply. We must rediscover how to be truly thoughtful Christians as we seek to live with virtue in the aftermath of the digital explosion. (9:28)

In recent times two perceptions stand out which affect our distraction:

1. A changed understanding of time and space. Digital time encourages us to think in fragments. We see only the immediate and its demands, overwhelmed yet still trying to do more.
Space no longer matters in the sense that it doesn’t matter where people are any more – you call, text or email anywhere. Our communication is disconnected from space and location.

2. Modern virtue of speed and capacity. The idea that fast is always good, that increased capacity is always better. Yet, King Solomon’s life speaks of deliberate learning and slowness, he learnt & memorised many proverbs. Jesus withdrew by himself to pray, even when there was more ‘ministry’ to be done.


Identifying our distraction

So, what do we do? We identify the sources of distraction, realising that for many of us the distractions are not isolated, but pervasive.

1. Shallow thinking
“Our desire for speed and productivity has made it nearly impossible to dedicate time to thought and meditation. Instead we find that we succumb to shallow thinking.” (30:40)

2. Multitasking

We want to do more and do it faster, we feel the need to be efficient. We find that we are in state of continuous partial attention with no time to reflect, contemplate or make thoughtful decisions. We are always on alert – waiting for texts, emails, etc. We are losing the ability to think in a sustained way.

Productivity and efficiency become idols in themselves. But quality and depth suffer, and in fact it is often less efficient. “We willingly sacrifice quality, relationships and our devotion to the ones we love in order to fulfil this twisted mandate.” (35:45)

The bible does not emphasise speed and productivity, but devotion and the motivation of our heart. The virtue is found in doing all things for God’s glory. Our goal is to honour him.
“We need to be Christians who take time to give sustained focus to one thing: the worship of the living God. He does not call us to study his word or to worship him more efficiently. God calls us to read his word meditatively, to give it the time and attention it needs, the attention we need…” (37:32)
I have to come clean on this point – as I listened to this chapter, I was struck by the irony that as I was challenged by the distractions in life and the dubious benefits of multitasking, I was also arranging family photo albums as I listened, jumping back over to the keyboard to type up the helpful points!


3. Skimming
Not only are we losing to ability to think in a sustained way, at the same time we are losing the ability to read and study in a sustained way.

The internet has trained us to skim. Skimming is now the dominant form of reading. Information gathering is more important than comprehension.

This affects how we read the word of God. Christianity is a religion that wants people to use their mind and to think, so we must look to banish distraction so we can meditate on the world of God.
“We must learn to ignore the buzzes, the beeps and the distraction that threaten to drown out serious thought and reflection. We must learn to remain undistracted, to wholeheartedly focus our attention on the things that matter most and to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.” (50:10)

Application: An undistracted life

Discover your distractions first
  • Measure the media in your life – how, where, when – internet, computer access, etc
  • Find the beeps - which are the most distracting? Which habits have you developed to respond to the beeps.
  • Find what dulls your mind rather than sharpening it, what you do when you are bored etc.

Destroy distraction
  • delete and unsubscribe to blogs, emails, etc. We can live with a lot less information.
  • focus on substance – things that focus on Godly character
I am doing this more and more, I follow less blogs and avoid subscribing to email lists. Yet, I continue to read the things that encourage me to grow in godliness and to think critically.


Cultivate concentration – practice
  • Focus – develop interests on fewer things, let quality trump quantity
  • Write about what you learn (yeah, I am right now!). Keep a journal, write letters, etc. By hand, if possible (this is not an option for me, but I wish it was)
  • Seek solitude – digital silence
  • Take a digital fast – turn all off for few days – harder it is to do, the more important it is. Take a few days, then a week or two.
  • Carve out digital free time

Some things to think about (some based on Challies’ questions):
  • How have the beeps in your life grown? Are you more or less distracted? What are the main sources of your distraction?
  • What evidence is in your life that distraction leads to shallow thinking and shallow living?
  • Do you have a device you cannot live without? What is it about it that keeps you so committed?
  • When do you multitask?
  • Describe your reading habits. Do you deeply engage or are you skimming?

He finished with a helpful aside with 7 steps for how to train your children to use technology well. This has been a very long post, so I’ll just list the basics:
  1. Educate – yourself. Learn why children want it, what they want to do with it and what they actually will do with it. What else might it do?
  2. Fence – boundaries around time on device and ways device used.
  3. Mentor – watch and check using well. Instruct, explain.
  4. Supervise – as they use devices. Have them in public places. Use filters, etc.
  5. Review – check what they do.
  6. Trust – as they grow and mature, give greater trust.
  7. Model – as you instruct, model disciplined discernment.

On Monday: Information (Chapter 7: More is better)


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Next Story - #4

Mediation (Chapter 5: Life in the real world)

We live mediated lives. Something is in the middle or between much of our relating, usually a screen. Yet the best relationships are face-to-face. No one longs to Skype a loved one when they could have seen them in person. A text does not communicate like a conversation does.

Challies makes an interesting theological observation that at the beginning of time, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God was unmediated, yet sin stopped that. Since then we needed mediators to speak to God, first priests, and now through Jesus’ death on the cross. At the end of time, our relationships with God will once again be unmediated. We will speak with God and worship him ‘face-to-face’.

Some of the results of a mediated existence include:

1. As our relationships become more mediated, we lose the skills to interpret meaning. When we email or text, there is no tone or body language to read. Interestingly, emails are misunderstood ½ the time.

2. We can break out of our bodies and their limitations, and have a “full life” online. We can have a fluidity of identity, our virtual world identity is just another expression of us, another type of mediated communication.
“In the cyberworld I can be popular. I can be powerful. I can be a somebody. Yet I do it all at the expense of who I really am” (44:08)

3. It has redefined community. We used have relational closeness with people near to us. Now geographic boundaries no longer define us, for digital communities bring people together apart from their bodies. The internet has enabled us to connect over shared interests rather than shared space. We now consider a community what is actually only communication.

4. We are more individualistic. We are more concerned with our interests than those of others. We have less reasons to care for our online communities (without genetics or location tying us together).

5. What about cyber-church? “The virtual church is not the real church” (~54:35). In Acts 2:42-47, the new community of believers lived together, worshipped together, shared together and took care of one another. They were a community built on a shared love for God and one another.
The diversity (of the local church) “gives just a glimpse of what God is doing in the world. He is building a community of people from every nation, tribe and tongue and bringing them together in a family that spans the globe and the ages. Each local church is to be a localised manifestation of what he is doing. The diversity of this mysterious body is a reflection of God’s own love of diversity and his commitment to save men and women from among every people group in the world. In theory and in our hearts we know that Christ is doing all of this, but in practice, many of us prefer to be individual and to surround ourselves with others who are as much like as possible. (1:00:47ff)
Technology encourages us to customise our churches to our individual preferences. We don’t choose our brothers and sisters in Christ, God does. God is choosing a community that is involuntary. In this community we need to learn to love one another, on the basis of our shared kinship in the family of God, rather than perceived compatibility. No mediated church can provide this type of community.


Mediated relationships

What is it about mediation that gives it such strong appeal?
“We’ve lost the big picture. Even Christians have become pragmatic when it comes to communication. We allow what is convenient what may be better or best. We have not thought carefully and deliberately about issues related to mediation.” (~1:09:30)
  • “Mediated communication is easy and safe. As our communication with one another becomes increasingly mediated, communication that involves more of us feels too intimate, too intimidating, too difficult.” (1:10:30ff)
  • Mediated communication requires less focus and time.
  • Mediated communication gives us greater control. We want to keep the control.

So, how do we live?
“We need to see the superiority of face to face communication, and prioritise it above what is mediated. We can not afford to become lazy, to allow pragmatism and convenience and ignorance to define the ways we communicate with one another.” (1:14:45ff)

As Challies says “Let’s not forget our responsibility to be real people in a real world.”


Things to think about (based on Challies’ questions):
  • In what situations do you find you are prone to rely on mediated communication rather than immediate?
  • Do you agree the best relationships we can have are those that are face-to-face? Which face-to-face relationships are you migrating away from? Why?
  • In what ways do you prefer your online self to your offline self?

On Wednesday: Distraction (Chapter 6)

Radical Womanhood - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Men aren’t the problem

In each chapter McCulley addresses different aspects of women’s lives and how competing definitions of womanhood have shaped them.

In this chapter she shows how feminism came to view men as the chief problem of women, by profiling 3 leading feminists, their attitudes towards men and how their ideas contributed to the rise of feminism.

  1. Elizabeth Cady Stanton embodied the first wave of feminism (mid-late 1800s). She fought for women’s suffrage and marriage reform, in the midst of what seems to have been an unhappy marriage. She was also anti-Christian and had a very patriarchal view of Scripture which impacted her negatively.
  2. Simone de Beauvoir headed up the second wave of feminism in Europe (1920s-1980s). Her book, The Second Sex (1949) is the seminal work of modern feminism. She argued women were imprisoned by the roles of wife, mother and sweetheart. She had a life-long relationship with Jean-Paul Satre that influenced the entire concept of modern marriage – they decided not to marry, but rather have an open, non-monogamous union with complete transparency. McCulley shows how de Beauvoir is a paradox, claiming women were oppressed by men, yet continuing to live in a relationship with a man who seduced women and treated them with contempt.
  3. In the US, the second wave of feminism really arrived by Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique (1963). In it she articulates a feminine dream that suburban housewives try to live up to but cannot and therefore find themselves trapped, bored and depressed. She transformed the women’s movement. Friedan was also unhappily married, although later softened her stance against marriage.
These two waves of feminism are well noted, there is a third wave which started in the 1990’s which many of us have grown up with and our daughters will do so as well. We’ll comeback to that in chapter 7.

Sin is the problem

McCulley acknowledges that Stanton, Beauvoir and Friedan were bright, articulate women. However, she asks “were they good at comprehending their situations?”
There is real tension…the reason is sin. Our sinful actions, thoughts, attitudes, and words are the reasons for the chasm between God and human beings. Sin also separates us from one another… Being male and female is not the problem. In fact, when God created man and women, He called it very good... (p45)

women do have a problem. But it’s not men. It’s sin. Sin warps everything, including the good that God has designed in being a man or a woman. Women sin against men and men sin against women, and everyone sins against God… Sin is the reason men have oppressed women and women have usurped men….

As a movement, feminism arose because women were being sinned against. I think that is a fair argument. But feminism also arose because women were sinning in response. That’s a classic human problem: Sinners tend to sin in response to being sinned against. (p46-7)

After each chapter, McCulley includes a personal story of a woman who has worked through the issue she has presented. They add a personal touch to each issue and help us to see a way forward as the gospel impacts people’s lives.


Some things to think about:
  • Do you agree with McCulley’s assessment that men are not the problem, but rather sin is?
  • What do you think of McCulley’s statement that feminism arose as a sinful response to a sinful problem?

Next week: Chapter 3: Did God really say?