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Monday, October 24, 2011

How Do I Love Thee?

     Flying into Detroit, I fancied that there would be an all-Motown radio station to listen to in the rental car on the way to parents’ weekend at Hillsdale College. I kept pressing “SEEK,” but got no “I Second That Emotion” or “Baby Love.” Instead, I heard a lyric so vile I wish I could scrub it from my brain. I won’t quote it.
     The girl singer seemed to be competing with another for the man of her dreams. Her enticement was that she was willing to debase herself more than the other girl. Aside from the question of why she would do such a thing anyway—in a public place, no less—I ask why a self-respecting female would want the approval of a man who evaluates women on the level of their debauchery. Of course, the answer lies in that old-fashioned phrase, “self-respecting.”
     Counter-intuitive as it may seem, I think this abysmal lack of self respect—no, it goes beyond that: cataclysmic anti-respect—has its roots in feminism. The ‘60s feminists asked some important questions and came up with all the wrong answers. Their theorizing jumped from “Men and women are of equal value” to “There is no difference whatever between men and women.” While they might have imitated the noblest of men and emphasized courage, loyalty, adherence to principle and self-control, instead they adopted the worst. Marriage was slavery; sex was to be engaged in with no restrictions; pregnancy was a disease. Women became as “free” of chastity, monogamy, moral principle and self-control as they believed men were, or wished to be. There was no reason to guard one’s sexuality, and with all that constricting morality out of the picture, no way to protect one’s sexuality, never mind one’s soul. Why not, then, use sex to keep a man’s attention?
     Yeah, yeah, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle… but most of us still want one. The problem is that what we really want is the unconditional love, the lifetime commitment, but you can only get that from a man who is courageous, loyal, principled and self-controlled, or at least trying to be. If you have nothing in the way of character, principle or self-control to offer him, well, why would he want you?
     Have you seen the TLC program “Big Sexy,” in which a group of extra-large girlfriends look for career success and lasting love in the big city? They all seem to be looking for Mr. Right, only they look for him in bars where dancers pull patrons onto the stage and bump and grind against them in a manner that had me clutching my pearls. All but one of the girls has had sexual relations with a number of men. One took up with a married man and was crushed when he went back to his wife. My heart ached for all of them, because, despite their appeal as human beings, they seem to be on the same wavelength as the girl in the song. Listen, girls: “giving yourself” is exactly what you do, and every liaison keeps a piece of your soul. If promiscuity (and degradation) is your search engine, by the time Mr. Right appears, there may be nothing left of you. Cheap things are used a few times and thrown out. Want a man to treasure you? Then be a treasure.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

     Years ago, I saw a poster of an aerial view of a farmer’s field where he had plowed the words “thank you.” It could be read only from the air. That farmer knew Whom to thank, and it wasn’t the Department of Agriculture. Horticultural images turn up a lot in the Bible, and as I garden, I think I start to understand them better. Back when most people were involved in farming, they must have understood things like the parables of Jesus better than we do today.
     Pastor Bill is walking us through the “parables of the Kingdom,” the stories Jesus told to give people an idea of how God operates in the world, for instance in Mark 4: “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seeds upon the soil and goes to bed every night and gets up each day, and the seeds sprout up and grow—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces the plants by itself; first the blades, then the heads, then the mature grain in those heads. And when the crop is ready, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
     Have I mentioned how miraculous it seems that I can push a seed, a little round woody-looking thing, into the ground and a few days later find a seedling pushing up from the soil? There’s a funny little folk song that turns up sometimes in elementary school music programs. Versions vary, but here’s one:
Oats, peas, beans and barley grow,
Oats, peas, beans and barley grow,
Can you or I or anyone know
How oats, peas, beans and barley grow?

First the farmer sows his seed,
Then he stands and takes his ease,
Stamps his feet and claps his hand
And turns him round to view the land.
If the folk who first sang this weren’t thinking of the parable, then at least they had the same awareness. How and why things grow is mysterious. Once the farmer has prepared the field and planted the seeds, he can clap and stamp all he wants, but it has nothing to do with the growth. That happens automatically. (The phrase translated “by itself” is in the Greek automatos, Pastor Bill informed us.)
     So is Jesus just making a point about agriculture here? Hardly. He did start with “The kingdom of God is like…” He is growing a crop of subjects for His kingdom, people who will know Him and be happy about it. When the crop is mature, it’s time for the harvest, and in goes the sickle. I don’t have much experience with harvest, but I have dug up a few handfuls of peanuts from my miniature field. Most look good, but some are shriveled inside, or even empty. People are that way too. Here’s where it gets scary. Some are wheat; some are weeds that only look like wheat. (See the “wheat and tares” parable, Matthew 13: 24-30.) The good ones He keeps. The rest go into the fire. 

Firstfruits of my modest peanut harvest.
Speaking of peanuts...