Browsing Archives for January 2012

Jack had a class musical at his school tonight and I thought he should dress up for it. You would think that a house with four sons would have loads of dress shirts for a boy to choose from. Oddly enough, the smallest one I could find was a size twelve which was a bit big on Jack, but it looked okay. Then we fished through a box of his brother’s outgrown pants and managed to come up with a pair of ten slim khakis that just barely fit. Lastly, I found a worn pair of black dress shoes in a box in the back of the closet. Giving up going to church has created a dearth of dress clothes in this house.

After Jack had his ensemble on, I told him he was going to need to tuck his shirt in and put on a belt. From the way Jack responded to this statement he must have thought I told him I was now going to drive nails up his arms and into his eyeballs. His resistance was profound. I stood there blinking at my child wondering how such a iron willed being could ever have emerged from my womb as I am the world’s biggest pushover. How is it that I have children who are such bulwarks of forged iron? Especially my oldest and my youngest. The two middles are at least somewhat accommodating as they often see giving into their mother as a chance to manipulate me with their contrived obedience. I am not sure which is worse.

So later Jack comes downstairs and of course he doesn’t have either his shirt tucked in nor his belt on. The CD is getting a little testy by now because we are on the verge of being late and he ever so gently reminds Jack to GET HIS BELT ON RIGHT THIS INSTANT OR ELSE! So Jack tromps back up the stairs and takes nineteen years to get his belt on and the CD is losing his mind at the bottom of the stairs and I just want to hurl my body in between the two of them and make it all go away and regret that I ever even purchased a belt for my son when Jack finally comes down the stairs all tucked in and belted up and of course very upset and crying that his parents are such horrible monsters who are forcing him to wear a belt and tuck in his shirt!

He cried about half way to the school and then he forgot about it. After we dropped him off at the door to the school and went looking for a parking place, we took bets on whether or not he would have his shirt tucked in and his belt on during the performance. Everyone bet against Jack being tucked in except for me. I lost. Jack appeared on stage – shirt untucked, belt hidden. We counted the boys who had tucked in shirts versus those who did not. It was about fifty/fifty.

Then a kid passed out.

Some kid on stage who was fortunately seated at the time, fell backwards off his chair and laid on the ground. It kind of looked like he might be having a seizure. The music teacher could not see him from her position on the stage, but the entire audience could and when the music kept on playing with about half the kids singing and the other half gawking at their fallen classmate, a local state trooper who was there to see his son jumped on the stage. I elbowed my husband in the ribs, hard, harder and then really, really hard until he also walked to the stage and climbed up. By then the music teacher had realized what was going on and she called a few people to come help her. They all stood around looking at the kid. The state trooper and the CD kneeled down by him. Eventually the kid was walked off the stage and the musical continued.

When the CD re-appeared at my side, I asked him what happened. He said that he thought the kid just fainted, but everyone else in the group thought he had a seizure and since the CD was significantly out-numbered, it was determined that the kid did indeed have a seizure and was on his way to the emergency room to get his brain “nuked”. At this point in the CD’s story I started freaking out because HELLO! Why is medicine a vote and why are they nuking brains at the local ER? Then the CD said that there has been a lot of concern over children getting too many X-rays starting at a young age and the current thought is to limit them as much as possible, but since the boy who fell over on stage was determined to have a seizure via a vote by the crowd of people who examined him in spite of an MD’s resistance to the idea, his dosage of X-rays was almost certain.

I asked the CD why he thought the boy fainted and he said, “Boredom. If that kid hadn’t passed out, I am pretty sure that I would have.” Jack’s musical wasn’t exactly titillating. And then the show was over. We walked out to the hallway to pick up Jack. He had carefully re-tucked his shirt into his pants as if we wouldn’t have noticed that he had un-tucked it during the program, displaying a lame attempt at crafty deviousness that made me kind of proud.  We all ridiculed him for tucking his shirt back in and then we went and got some ice-cream at the Kreem Kup to celebrate surviving another school program.

Sometimes listening to an atheist decimate Christianity is such a delightful balm.

On Thursday I am driving to Omaha Nebraska to hear Frank Schaeffer speak. Frank wrote the most excellent book, Crazy For God which I reviewed in a past post as well as a few novels that are currently on my favorite books of all times list. If you haven’t read his Calvin Becker trilogy, Portofino, Saving Grandma, and Zermatt, might I somewhat forcefully encourage you to do so? They are absolutely hysterical books and completely horrifying at the same time. His most recent book Sex, Mom and God is a non-fiction account that centers on his missionary mother’s preoccupation with purity in sex as well as policing the frequency of her adolescent son’s wet dreams.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of Frank’s other books – a bit too much pontificating on various topics such as abortion and parenting for me, but the parts about his mother are fun to read.

If you have enjoyed any of Schaeffer’s books, you will know that he often writes about his childhood, growing up in a Christian mission dedicated to saving the lost souls of all the European Catholics in the Swiss Alps.  His parents were evangelical fundamentalists tasked with the crazy job of informing the world of the life saving power of Jesus even though they wholeheartedly believed that God had already predestined all people to an eternity in either hell or heaven and therefore their “witnessing” was basically for naught.  But that did not stop them from doing it anyway!  In this regard Frank’s parents remind me of the Phelp’s family who form the notorious “God Hates Fags church” in Topeka, Kansas.  In some ways they share the same religious objective which is primarily to avoid the sin of blasphemy -  or infuriating a tyrannical God who is at all times poised to unleash all manner of plagues upon your head should you put one toe out of line.

Frank’s parents regarded everything that happened to them, whether it be a flower they found in the woods or a lack of meat at dinner, as a message from God.  So trapped were they in their superstitions, they could not see the damage they were doing to their children by ostracizing them from their community and poisoning them against anyone who had an even slightly different theology than they did. Frank grew up watching his parents attempt to convert anyone who came within shouting distance and as a result he learned at a very young age to deceive and manipulate his sisters and his parents in order to create a space for himself outside of their crazy belief system.  It is these attempts at deception by Frank that blossom into the crux of his stories.  In spite of the grim belief system of his parents, Frank’s stories are largely hilarious.  He frequently manages to circumvent the rules of his kooky parents and outwit his obedient and ever watchful older sisters to experience life on his own terms.

There is also a tremendous amount of violence in these books, especially in the fiction series.  Frank’s stories show the extreme cognitive dissonance of the Christian faith especially when practiced on a literal and fundamentalist level.  Frank depicts a religion that encourages parents to beat their kids, that regards sexuality as something to hide, that glories in self denial and demands complete submission to an invisible and tyrannical God.  The father in the Calvin Becker series regularly abuses his wife while the children are beaten with a belt in a detached manner that teaches them that violence can be a cold and calculating act.  The mother in these stories is highly manipulative, but couches the power she wields in her family as merely acting as an “instrument of God”.  To me, she is the true villain in these books, craftily caging her family in a belief system that she completely controls in spite of humbly playing the part of a help-meet and submissive, obedient servant of God.

Schaeffer’s book Portofino was turned into a film in 1998 starring John Lithgow as the half crazed missionary father and Dianne Weist as the simpering and calculating missionary mom who take an annual trip with their children to the Italian beach resort town of Portofino where they maintain their buttoned up Christian lifestyle, judge everyone who doesn’t and continue to witness for the Lord among the chain smoking, speedo sporting, slick and oiled Europeans who share the beaches with them.  Unfortunately the film has never been released.

Schaeffer upcoming lecture is entitled

THE CASE FOR SPIRITUALITY IN THE AGE OF DOUBT:
How Both Atheism and Christian Fundamentalism Miss the Mark on Faith

Afterwards there will be a question and answer session.  I have a few questions for Frank.  Mostly I want to know if the film is ever going to be released and what percentage of the Calvin Becker books are based on true events and if his mother was as horribly conniving as the character of Elsa Becker. I also hope to ask Frank why he, a man who has witnessed first hand the deprivations of religion, continues not only to believe himself, but to push the idea of belief on others through talks like the one he is giving in Omaha.

If you enjoyed his books and have a question – leave it in the comments.  Maybe I will get a chance to ask him.  This presentation is also available via live streaming at 7:00 p.m. CST on Thursday January 26th Here’s the link for the video stream – www.darkwoodbrew.org.

I hope to get a few autographed copies of Frank’s books.  Look for a giveaway in the near future!