Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Sincere Prayer If There Ever Was One

We were visiting one of our daughters and her family.  Seven year old Keegan and I were downstairs in the lengthy family room shooting child-high hoops and throwing a football back and forth with only a mishap or two.  His mom called down, informing us it was time for lunch.  We all gathered around the table and being the patriarch I was asked to say grace.  We all bowed our heads and I thanked God for our family, for providing this food, and asked his blessing upon us.  Amen. 

And before we even had time to raise our heads, Keegan chimed in, "And please don't ever let that football hit me in the nuts again."


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Shakin' Bootie by the Time They're Ten

If a girl is "sexy" at 10, what is she by the time she's 12?  Slutty?  And by 16?

Let me explain my intensity.  My daughter called me and said she had just attended a fourth grade boys basketball game.  And there were 15 fourth grade girls comprising the cheerleader squad, pompomming them on. First of all, on frivolous note, why do the boys need cheerleaders?  Fourth graders aren't going to make any baskets, so what's there to cheer about?

Now it gets serious.  The 10 year old girls performed a halftime show.  They choreographed their routine to "I'm Sexy and I Know It."  REALLY?  10 year old girls are sexy?  And they're flaunting their supposed sexiness?  And the parents are encouraging and applauding their daughters in this endeavor?   How and what does a parent affirm?  "Nice pelvic thrust, Hillary!"  "You know what your Daddy likes!!" 

Here is a sampling of several lyrics, in case you're not familiar.  "I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it."  Have we plummeted to a moral low wherein we endorse aggressive sexual behavior in our 10 year old little girls?  Are we really prodding them on to cultivate, at 10, passion in their panties?  And there's no hint of modesty or self-restraint--"I ain't afraid to show it."

Another lyric-- " I pimp to the beat walking down the street. . . "  Are we grooming our  little girls to strut their stuff down the street?  Sorry, but they don't even have "stuff' yet to strut; I guess it's never too early for Mom and Dad to exert their decadent influence.  We're teaching our babies to shake their bootie.  Sadly, that's not all that's being shaken.  I fear that the very foundations of our ethical and moral integrity are also being shaken.

One more lyric--"I'm sexy and I know it; check it out, check it out."  Have we arrived at such a suave, nonchalant level of sexual sophistication that this is the trajectory on which we are launching our 10 year old little girls?  Are we now encouraging and sanctioning them as they invite boys and men to "check" them out?

We have objectified our daughters.  To objectify means, simply, "to treat, regard  or present as an object."  We do it all the time in other arenas.  In war, we do not regard the soldiers of the other country as "fathers" and "sons" and "someone's daughter."  That would  make it much more difficult to kill them; you can't attribute to them personhood.  We objectify them; they are "the enemy," "gooks," "Cong," "scum," "animals."   It's much easier to pull the trigger on objects.

 We are not only objectifying "the enemy;" we are doing it to our 10 year old girls, as well.  We are turning them into sex  "objects."   That may not be our intent, but it is most certainly the outcome.  Our girls are becoming mere bodies;  in particular, they are becoming body parts for them to shake and others to view and exploit.  And we applaud this in our gymnasiums.  God help us all.

Henry Nouwen, in The Way of the Heart,  quotes Thomas Merton, "Society. . . was regarded by the Desert Fathers as a shipwreck from which each single individual man had to swim for his life. . . these were men who believed that to let oneself drift along, passively accepting the tenets and values of what they knew as society, was purely and simply a disaster."  Nouwen then comments on this.  "Our society is not a community radiant with the love of Christ, but a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul.  The basic question is whether we. . . have not already been so deeply molded by the seductive powers of our dark world that we have become blind to our own and other people's fatal state and have lost the power and motivation to swim for our lives."

Nouwen wrote that 32 years ago.  If we haven't already we are perilously close to being so "entangled" and "molded" that we have not only lost our soul but are glibly sacrificing our children on the altar of sexual conquest.

God help us all.

If you're one of those cheerleader parents I ask you to really look at your little girl.  Do you--can you--see her for who, not what, she is?  I beg you to ask her to forgive you for what, not who, you've made of her thus far.  It's not too late--yet.

 I hope all of us can "swim for our lives" and the lives of children we know and love, and chart for them a different course.  Can we teach them to swim toward self-respect and dignity?  Can we teach them to know the difference between loving themselves and flaunting their bodies?  Can we swim against the current of our culture and cherish and protect our children, bestowing honor and instilling moral sense within them?

God help us all. God save our girls.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What Story Lies Under the Cemetery Slice of Marble?

When I am seeking peace and quiet there are times I go to a cemetery on the edge of town.  It was unseasonably warm this past Thursday, Feb.2, so I decided to visit my haven. I was taking in the quiet beauty of the surrounding countryside when a car stopped a few hundred yards from me.  A middle aged woman got out of the passenger seat, walked around the car and assisted an elderly man out of the driver's seat.  She had a bouquet in her hand.  She walked slowly with him, as he had a noticeable limp.  They ambled over to a few scattered headstones.  These several  marble headstones were flush with the earth, no protrusion.  Small and simple, maybe 24"x6".

The old man slowly bent over and began tidying up the marker, pulling grass that had begun to creep over the perimeter of the memorial.  After he completed his task, she stooped and gently placed the bouquet on the grave marker.  She stood up, assessed the placement and bowed again to adjust the flowers of tribute at just the right spot. They stood there, looking down, for several moments and then made their way back to their car.  She opened his door and helped him into the car, closed his door, and after she entered her side of the   car they drove off.

I wondered about their story.  Who had died?  What is the relationship between these two?  What place of honor and love did the deceased hold in their lives?  In light of their ages I surmised that they had come to honor the passing of his beloved wife of years, her cherished mother.  I walked down to the site where they had paid their respects and the first thing I noticed was that the surrounding grave markers--all recessed into the ground as was this one--were commemorating the deaths of children.  I will not make public the name on the marker; somehow to do so feels like it would invade their private sorrow.  The date reads Febuary2, 1981.  Most of the other markers contain the customary two dates--birth and death.  Not this one.

This little girl died the same day she was born.  Was this Grandpa and the still mourning mother of this child?  The child was given a name and, most profoundly, a deep, deep place in the hearts of these two mourners.  Feb.2.  This was the anniversary date of this infant's death.  I am led to believe that thirty one years ago, on this very day, this mother gave birth to this child, to hope and joy.. This grandfather was beaming proud and shedding tears of joy for his own daughter. 

And within hours  dreams were shattered and Grandpa was weeping for himself and his daughter.

What astounds me is this:  it's been thirty one years.  The baby lived outside the womb less than a day.  How is such a deep, irrevocable attachment made in that brief a time that three decades later they are visiting the cemetery?  Are there are times when the heart loves deeply and quickly and forever?   Are there are times when one's entrance is so anticipated that their departure, though immediate, is never forgotten?

Frail infant girl, rest in peace.  You are still loved and missed.
Mom and Grandpa, go in peace.  My heart tells me you are still loved and missed, as well.