Great Expectations


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The heroin epidemic, the culture wars, a broken jail system, a broken education system, too much corruption in politics at all levels, too much greed, too much anger. As we face this upcoming presidential election that few average people actually want, accusations are flying: This is all the Millennials’ fault, it’s because of liberals/conservatives, it’s because of greedy politicians, it’s because of those who are uneducated/those who are educated, it’s because of sin, it’s because of religion, the arguments never end.

And yet there is a root cause, a common thread among all this: The fault lies with “The Blamers” (yes, I just blamed them), I’ll call them, and they are everywhere and of all ages. Blamers are quick to point fingers, swift to judge and condemn, and slow to apologize. Here a few examples of how Blamers work.


When a certain little boy jumped into the gorilla pen at the Cincinnati Zoo this spring, social media blew up with outrage from Blamers who, knowing almost nothing about the situation, had already tried and condemned the boy, his mother, the zookeepers, and zoo management in what amounted to an online mob-lynching.

Thankfully, there was a good deal of intelligent and thoughtful push-back-commentary from those who actually knew about parenting, and those who realized that accidents sometimes just happen. Where did the vitriol and judgement come from, lamented one popular author via Facebook. Where does it come from? From older people who’ve forgotten what parenting is like, and younger people without kids. It comes from folks with unrealistically high expectations.


The entire year of 2016 has been one diametrically opposed debate after another: guns, drugs, presidential nominees, parenting failures, religion, political parties, ethnic races, wealth status, and more. There is no middle ground allowed on any of these topics. If you propose measures for simple, common sense gun laws, you are labeled a liberal control-freak (is that a contradiction in terms?). If you believe in no restrictions, you are “clearly” responsible for every mass murder in America.

Where does it come from? It comes from people with unrealistically high expectations, either of their own superiority or the banality of others. Blamers, who seem only motivated to avert responsibility away from themselves without ever really thinking about the issues, attempting to compromise, or conceding that the other side might have a point. Whatever it is that’s happening, you need to know it’s not the Blamers’ fault! Is it possible this is a sign of a guilt complex? For, by refusing to talk to all sides, by casting the blame on others so quickly, these problems are never solved and are in fact exasperated. What is it Blamers are so afraid of?


Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:11-13, Blame: The 2nd Original Sin

I follow a few emotional abuse blogs but have become frustrated with the many 20-somethings who seem to think their childhoods were from the pit of hell because their parents were less-than perfect, not because their parents were genuinely abusive. There is real abuse, and emotional abuse is “a thing” but these young adults cannot see that people are multi-faceted, that people can be wrong in one thing and still right in another. These young adults cannot see that sometimes crap just happens and their parents did their best.

14577371037_80362ef8e0_zWhere does it come from? These young adults are not “spoiled”, they have been drilled to think that anything less than perfection (as outlined by their parents/celebrities/authority figures) is simply not trying hard enough. Accidents don’t happen, they are made. These young adults are understandably angry that, after having been held to impossibly high standards by their parents (and often failing and then believing their failures to be an ineptitude of their own selves), they see their parents gave themselves slack when humanly necessary, while never giving their children that same grace.


I have seen first-hand the pressure, the high expectations, the workload of so many students. They are expected to be Straight-A students, scoring high on standardized tests, while also striving to be an athletic or music or science star, while also being in several clubs, while sometimes also holding a part-time job, while also staying positive in mind and healthy in body. These poor kids are crushed under this load, which is meant to pave their way into college, which then in turn is meant to pave their way to a successful (read: money-making) career and easy (read: materialistic) lifestyle.

At the same time, if these kids are not able to handle so much (and who could?) parents turn to labels and/or legal hoops to get their kids out of actually learning. They search until they find a doctor who will affirm a made up “disability”, they hold kids back in school so Johnny will be more competitive as an older child, they push kids forward so Suzie will be more impressive as the youngest child in her grade. If those tactics don’t work, parents can always use their favorite whipping boy: teachers and/or administrators.

Where does it come from, this drive to be “perfect”, the perverse need to be razor-sharp no matter who gets hurt or how deeply? Where does it come from, the arrogance of “knowing” you’re right without having to actually consider all sides, or the  hypocrisy of squeezing kids into college so they can be educated, and then promptly dismissing that education with the words, “dumb college kid”?


Claims of police brutality and racism are running rampant, with few actually evaluating each case, preferring instead to draw blanket and sometimes wild conclusions about “the other side”. Two years ago, in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, a young man was shot by police after a 911 call was made. While verbal shrapnel and blame flew, the long and short of that particular incident was that everyone was wrong, with the exception of other shoppers, one of whom died from fear. The result was protests for months outside Walmart, coupled with fear of retaliation from all parties, anger, and resentment on all sides.

Where does it come from, the fear and anger? Surely there is some truth on both sides, but those great expectations have reared their ugly heads once again, telling lies and causing strife, inciting violence and more agony, where there should be unity and a resolve toward peace.


There are Blamers in every generation and in every culture. At the same time they condemn others for a seeming lack of hard work, Blamers don’t want to do the hard work of taking on proper and personal responsibility for their problems. They just like to watch the world burn, it’s entertaining and invigorating for them. It’s time we stopped listening to the Blamers, and started fixing our country.

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On Fostering a Dog

Originally written 2/1/2015

It lasted just two weeks. It was dirty, it was tough, it was an emotional roller coaster. It was warm, it was soft, it was needy. It was a black lab puppy that my children re-named “Sammy”. IMG_3827_1aIt was the first time we had fostered an animal, and the second dog we had ever taken care of as a family. The first dog had been, of course, a lovable black lab named Jill. Two weeks prior, during Christmas, my husband and I decided to sign our family up for fostering through our local animal shelter. He and my daughter had been volunteering there for a few months already, and she, at ten-years-old, had fallen in love with every cat and puppy there. She told her brother (aged seven) about them, and they had both been begging for a dog since.

My husband and I knew we were not prepared to take on a dog full-time, but we thought we could compromise by fostering. The kids were excited as we explained what fostering was and what it meant, emphasizing we would not be keeping the dog. Every day they asked when we were getting our foster dog. When the foster care coordinator called to see if we could take a black lab puppy, we became as excited as the kids. My husband picked her up on his way home from work, along with a kennel, leash, collar, toys, bones, and puppy chow.

What a sweet, adorable, dog! She reminded us so much of Jill. The first night we had her after the kids had gone to bed, I cried and cried. It was so nice to have a little, fuzzy body in the house again with floppy ears that felt like velvet. It was lovely to feel her snuggle up against me on the floor or sofa while she slept. I told my husband, “I want to keep her”, and he concurred.

By the next evening some of the puppy love had diminished a bit. Sam had us up an hour earlier than usual, she kept trying to investigate our old cat who wanted none of it, and had had a couple of accidents on the floor. Towards the end of the week I was feeling somewhat frazzled: More accidents on the loveseat and floor, trying to juggle taking walks in the January cold with three kids and the dog who wanted to pull me every step of the way, attempting and failing to keep ahead of Sammy’s predilection to stray socks, not to mention the barking, the whining, the escape-out-the-front-door attempts, the dog trampling and using the bathroom in my backyard flower beds or the deck, the muddy paw prints on my clean floor and furniture, even after I had carefully wiped her feet with an old towel. And we were never allowed to sleep in.

I was glad we only had one week left, “Are you sure we can’t take her in early?” I asked my husband. But during the second week, we had all begun to figure each other out and settle into a routine. IMG_3815_1aThen the shelter called: Sammy needed to go in to be spade. We could leave her at the shelter to recover until Adoption Day (Saturday), or we could come pick her up again. We picked her up after her surgery. She slept all the next day, and the following morning she had bounced back to her energetic little self. We tried keeping her resting and still, but she didn’t find that tolerable. Instead, Sammy chased the toddler, who squealed with delight, up and down the hallway.

And then it was Adoption Day. Despite our repeated warnings that it was coming (both for the kids and ourselves), we all felt a little anxious as we drove to the shelter with Sammy in the backseat, wedged in between the kids. It was a downright unceremonious drop off. A lady we had never met led us to Sammy’s prepared pen, guided her in, and quickly shut the door. Sammy looked confused, but we tried to reassure her: She wouldn’t be there long. She was too cute and sweet. I believed she would be adopted that day.

We turned to leave the poor pup amidst all the much older, much louder dogs’ carrying on. We were near the door when the toddler suddenly went back to Sammy’s cage to let her out. My son kept asking us, “Why can’t we adopt her?” We all took two steps into the quiet hallway, and my ten-year-old daughter burst into tears. No one from the shelter asked us any questions, there was nothing more to be done. We went silently home, everyone lost in their own thoughts. I felt sad, but also relief. Sammy was a good dog; we would miss her.

A few hours later I called the shelter to find out how Sammy was doing, “She was adopted today!” the lady cheerfully told me. I shared the news and the kids took it well. It’s been a few weeks now since Sammy found her new home. It’s been oddly quiet in the house, and none of us have gotten outside as much as we should have. We’ve been sleeping in a lot and socks are all over the floor. I wonder when our next foster dog will arrive?


Spoiler alert: After fostering several more puppies, kittens, and cats with SICSA, we finally experienced a “foster failure” and adopted Ginger, a sweet Lab-Pitt mix in Sept. 2015.

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Such an adorable pillow and chair hog!

Wholeness and Spiritual Healing

12 years ago, my husband and I lost an infant daughter. A few years passed, and a well-meaning family member (who was not around at the time of our baby’s death) suggested to my husband and I, that God could bring spiritual and emotional wholeness/healing into our lives again if we would let Him.

My husband and I smiled politely and internally dismissed this family member’s view, because they didn’t really “know”. They didn’t see how deep the wound went; how life-altering the wound was. Yes, God can heal and does heal, and He gave us 3 more beautiful, healthy children and a variety of lovely “fur-babies” as well. Each baby has brought joy and hope and love into our lives, and our wounds have healed. Still, there are deep scars that cause pain from time to time. These scars are reminders of our love for our baby. They will never heal completely as if she didn’t exist, nor would we want them to. Our hearts were broken that day, we were changed forever, but it was after all, a good change, not a “good wound”.

The same can be said of others’ deep wounds. There will be scarring of the heart and mind; they will never be the same person again. Just as healing from a surgery takes time, or certain physical wounds may never fully heal, these realities do not negate God’s love, compassion, or healing abilities. We are healed, but we are scarred. That is how God built people inside and out.

The Ideology of Underage Marriages in Conservative Christianity

A Teen by Definition is Not “Mature”

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Not a real bride and groom.

*Little disclaimer: By “mature” I mean as physically developed and/or experienced in life as adults. I am not referring to responsibility, which many teens are better at than some adults. 

I was just 16 but I knew it was love, and my boyfriend, also 16, and I secretly but seriously discussed our future. It was my 18th birthday when my new boyfriend and Sr. year highschool sweetheart proposed to me at our favorite park. I was 18 still when we married and my 19th birthday came one week later. My husband was barely 20.

Over the past 13 years of marriage, we have occasionally reflected on the past. On this issue, we both have come to the conclusion that marrying so young is not something we would now recommend to others. We were in love, but we were not prepared. We were not prepared financially, reproductive-wise, and he was not prepared mentally. Until my new husband kindly walked me through the steps, I had never paid a bill before. I didn’t know how to cook beyond pasta salad and boxed mac and cheese. We had no long-term plans, no goals other than my determination to get my Bachelor’s (it took 7 years, but I finally did).

We were strongly encouraged to marry fast in order to avoid living or falling into sin (sex), and we happily and naively agreed for the sake of our spiritual health and physical desires. It never occurred to our superiors/supporters that if we couldn’t be mature and responsible sexually before marriage, we weren’t mature enough for marriage. Our best friends and family were devastated and deeply concerned. They thought we were being way too hasty.

We struggled much for the first few years, forced to grow up very quickly and alone, for our friends were still in college when we began having babies. Not knowing how to budget, how to pay bills, or how to plan for long-term savings, and neither of us having a college degree, we suffered financially. Some decisions we made so long ago still haunt us today. We were encouraged not to take birth control since they were “full of toxins” and “not natural”, but to try the spit and microscope method of birth control instead. Wouldn’t you know it? Within 7 months I was pregnant.


Underage Marriage in the United States?

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Two girls playing house.

I was skeptical when a spiritual abuse blog I follow, posted an article on their FB page about child marriages in certain fundamental, homeschool, patriarchal, Christian circles. I knew it happened in many developing countries. I knew about the practice in fundamental Mormon (FLDS) churches out West. I knew it was a growing issue in the US due to the influx of immigrant cultures, but surely this article was grossly exaggerating the occurrence of underage marriages in these Protestant Christian groups. The article only highlighted two instances of child marriage, and both happened in the same family with a mother (married at 15) and her daughter (married at 16).

I asked for more information, and the moderator of the Spiritual Sounding Board Facebook page generously provided me with 3 more articles. While none of them could make a convincing case for the actual practice of child marriages, the positive mindset among several general commenters, the remarks of Kevin Swanson and Dave Bruehner-two big names in the conservative Christian homeschooling movement, and even Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty”-fame, began to show a disturbing trend.

There is a legal, and for some, ethical, difference between underage child marriages which occur between 12-17 (more typically, 15-17) years of age, and young or early marriage, which happens between 18-22 years of age, generally speaking. While the latter has been increasingly pushed by some in Evangelical circles to prevent or reduce sin, when the former does occur or is promoted, many times it is for very similar reasons.


Early/Young Marriage, 18-22

Today there is “a sort of attitude … magical thinking, that if we get you married, then you’ll be fine and we don’t have to worry about anti-poverty programs… we don’t have to worry about child care.” Scholars, pundits and other policy elites need to end their magical thinking about marriage and acknowledge the widespread nature of marital poverty and economic hardship. Married Without Means, p. 3

Statistics have told those with “ears to hear” for years that the rate of divorce decreases, the older a couple is when married. Couples between the ages of 18-24 (or younger) have the highest rates of divorce among married couples. This age group of married couples also tend to suffer significantly lower incomes, many times at or even below poverty level. Poverty’s fallout among young people and society includes poor education, single parenting (related both to the high divorce rate and young, unmarried mothers), severe stress, poor mental and physical health, drug abuse, child abuse, abortion, and the ignominious welfare state-all issues that conservative Christians are deeply worried about.

Still, there are many examples of conservative celebrity Christians, politicians, and leaders who strongly promote the idea of early marriage as a panacea for society’s ills. The often-cited op-ed article from Christianity Today called, The Case for Early Marriage (July 2009), by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist with much to say on the topic of young marriages in the church-see also Regnerus’s similar article titled, Freedom to Marry Young (April 2009), from the Washington Post-seems to be mostly concerned with abstinence (rather a lack thereof), baby-making, the “decreasing market value of women” as they age, and economics; it is cheaper to live together with someone, pooling resources, than living alone, he insists. Continuing in the CT article, Regnerus appears to idolize marriage as a “formative institution” and elevates it to the status of duty, meanwhile stigmatizing singles (especially women) as if they are forced to settle into their singleness. Regnerus is a real romantic.

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Anna and Josh Duggar

The Duggar Family’s long-running reality TV show has garnered them much influence. The Duggars, of “19 Kids and Counting” fame, do not self-identify as a Quiverfull family, but they do maintain similar strict beliefs concerning children, homeschooling, marriage, modesty, patriarchy, and courtship. “Jim Bob and Michelle were married on July 21, 1984, just after Michelle’s high school graduation. She was 17 and he was 19 when they married; neither went to college” 19_Kids_and_Counting.

It would seem that oldest son Josh Duggar and his wife, Anna, were married when they were both 20. Anna says on their webpage, she first saw Josh via the TV show when they were both 13. They met at a homeschooling conference in 2006, when they would have both been 18. After a carefully cultivated courtship, they were married in 2008 and now have 4 children.

Josh was recently found to have cheated on his wife with a prostitute (at least once), engaging in rough, unprotected sex and potentially exposing both his wife and unborn child to venereal disease. Of Josh’s two married sisters, one was married at 20, the other waited until the ripe old age of 24. Both young women became pregnant immediately, none of the Duggars have gone to or have been encouraged to attend college. Although the Duggars’ lifestyle has worked for them financially because of their celebrity status, the average couple who marries early becomes just another statistic.


Child Marriage: A Rose by Any Other Name

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-10
Rather than at least remaining neutral on the subject or better yet, speaking up for voiceless girls and young women like the Bible adjures Christians to do, certain teachers, preachers, and celebrities like Swanson, Bruehner, Robertson, the Duggar family, and others, actively encourage early marriage, even child marriage, although most Evangelicals draw the line at age 18-20 (*Disclaimer: I do not know that the Duggars advocate for child marriage, but the others in this list have, as has already been discussed in this article).

“At a Sportsmen’s Ministry talk in 2009, [Phil] Robertson had some advice for a young man. “Make sure that she can cook a meal, you need to eat some meals that she cooks, check that out,” he said. “Make sure she carries her Bible. That’ll save you a lot of trouble down the road. And if she picks your ducks, now, that’s a woman.”

“They got to where they’re getting hard to find,” Robertson remarked. “Mainly because these boys are waiting until they get to be about 20 years old before they marry ’em. Look, you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket.” The Duck Commander company founder added: “You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks. You need to check with mom and dad about that of course.” “

And Robertson practices what he preaches. He began dating his wife, Kay, when she was only 14 and he was 18. They waited until Kay was 16 to get married. Duck Dynasty Star: Girls Should Carry a Bible Cook and Marry When They are 15-RawStory

In a radio broadcast defending Phil Robertson’s comments above, former Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, and current head of Generations with Vision, Kevin Swanson stated: “Remember that one concern people had over Duck Dynasty, when the guy came out and said the girls, 15 or 16 years of age, she’s able to get married, they got all mad. Because boy, you get a girl married at 15 or 16 years of age, that’s a sin! Dave Bruehner: Well it is because she doesn’t have a whole life of fornication ahead of her anymore.
Later on, the men remarked, “I mean, think about what the president of the Girl Scouts would say about this, Dave, if we said, “Hey, these 15 year old girls, 16 year old girls, they may be ready to get married. They don’t have to live these, you know, independent lifestyles.””
The story of Matthew Chapman is famous/infamous depending on your perspective. He is well-known in conservative homeschooling groups for courting a young teen named Maranatha while she was 13 and he 25, eventually marrying her with her father’s permission and approval when she was 15 and Matthew was 27.
It seems that Matthew Chapman is going to be a keynote speaker at Christian Home Educators of Ohio’s annual homeschool convention this summer. This is a major convention…In addition to Matthew serving as keynote speaker, his wife Maranatha is slated as a featured speaker. Matthew runs Kindling Publications, and both Maranatha and Lauren is featured heavily on organization’s website. Matthew Chapman and Why I Included Lauren’s Picture-Love, Joy, Feminism

Attorneys claim Phillips, a close friend to the Duggar family and an associate of actor Kirk Cameron, “methodically groomed” Lourdes Torres since she was 15 years old and led her to believe they would be married. Phillips told the girl this was possible because his wife, Beall Phillips, “was going to die soon.” Lawsuit Reveals Teen was Groomed as Personal Sex Slave in the Duggar Family’s Movement-RawStory

Child marriages heralded by the above-mentioned men, seem genuinely logical in their anachronistic culture which sometimes encompasses such names as Quiverfull, Patriarchy, and Evangelical Homeschool Movement (*there is much overlap here; not all families that adhere to these labels believe all the same things, perhaps especially on the issue of underage marriages). These movements, along with some Fundamental Evangelical Christians and churches, strive to bring back a romanticized 1950s, in some cases 1850s, believing those times to be Christianity’s heyday in America. Interestingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, those eras in history saw higher rates of underage marriages and sexual abuse, wife submission, and patriarchy-centered households -all hallmarks of the above-mentioned movements. It wasn’t until women’s groups moved strongly to shed light on the issues and promote change, that child marriage began to become a thing of the past.
shovelfaceWhile many might consider child marriages to be a form of pedophilia, medically and legally speaking, pedophilia is limited to sexual attraction to prepubescent children and child molestation is limited to the sexual touching of children 14 and younger. Sexual abuse, then is the term to be used concerning the topic of child marriages.
UNICEF has stated that child marriage “represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls”.[5] The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression,[6] post-traumatic stress disorder,[7] anxiety,[8] complex post-traumatic stress disorder,[9] propensity to further victimization in adulthood,[10] and physical injury to the child, among other problems.[11]  End Child Marriage PDF-UNICEF, p. 8
The main debate points against pedophilia concern:
  • The lack of true consent on the part of the child
  • The manipulation and power plays on the part of adult authority figures/taking advantage of a child’s innocence, naivete, and inability to say “no”
  • The safety and health of a child which includes the possibility of pregnancy, STDs, and/or physical damage
  • Using a child for the gratification of an adult
While the legal definitions exclude underage, child marriages from being classified as pedophilia or child molestation, there are still strong similarities because of the unique, fundamental culture of the groups that propose it:
  • The young girls in such families are not able to give their own consent, because the consent is settled between the father-patriarch and the bridegroom.
  • There are significant power plays on the part of older adults as they take advantage of such a sheltered girl’s innocence, naivete, and inability to say “no”.
  • The safety and health of the young lady is not taken into consideration, since medicine has shown how dangerous pregnancy can be for teens and their babies, yet in many of these families, contraception is considered a terrible sin against God. As was seen in the Josh Duggar-Ashely Madison case (see link above), these innocent teen girls may still be at risk of STDs as well.
  • Finally, these young marriages are pushed or arranged purely for the gratification of the adults involved and not the benefit of the girl.

Conclusion

  • Young/Early marriages occur between at least one party who is between 18-24 years old. In most cases, the couple are peers in age.
  • Young/Early marriages are often encouraged among traditionally-minded churches and religious groups as a way to reduce sexual sin and single parenthood.
  • Young/Early marriages and child marriages have the highest rates of divorce among married couples. Many times, young couples are uneducated, leading to poverty, which in turn leads to a variety of personal, familial, and social problems.
  • Child marriages are marriages that occur between at least one party who is between 12-17 years old. In many cases, the minor is a female and the bridegroom is in his mid-20s or older.
  • Child marriages are happening in the United States due to the culture of immigrants coming in and religious fundamental cults throughout the states.
  • Child marriages are a form of sexual abuse, no matter how prettily packaged it may seem.IMG_5559_Etsy_watermark

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References and Research:

Orthodox Pedophile: I Married My Child Victim So There was No Sexual Abuse

Early Marriage Survives in the US-Chicago Tribune

DayoftheGirl.org

Child Marriage in the United States and its Association with Mental Health in Women-Pediatrics Journal

Child Marriage and Christian Fundamentalists-Republic of Gilead Blog

On Child Marriage: Kevin Swanson and Dave Bruehner Defend Phil Robertson-Homeschoolers Anonymous

Red Sex, Blue Sex-The New Yorker

Wait for Sex and Marriage? Evangelicals Convicted

Unsatisfied With Pushing Abstinence Alone, Evangelicals Begin Pushing Early Marriages As Well-Jezebel

Teenage Brides and Titus 2 Women of the Homeschool Apostates-Becoming Worldly

Robert Van Handel: A Disturbing Look into the Mind of a Pedophile Priest