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mainI’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s new ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights on Fatherhood. It seemed a fitting thing to read this time of the year. We’re a week away from Father’s Home Depot Marketing Blitz Day.

Thus has it always been so. Here’s the skinny on the origins of Father’s Day:

Americans resisted the Father’s Day holiday during the first few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. But the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and even incorporated the jokes into their adverts, and they eventually succeeded

I read that on Wikipedia so it must be true, or at the very least-as the stats bear out- it was written by men and is more accurate than the Encyclopedia Briwhatchimacallit.

Frankly, I don’t care that much about the crass materialism of Father’s Day since it means I will, in all likelihood, receive something from Williams Sonoma my wife would’ve otherwise forbid me from purchasing.

What does p&** me off is how these fake holidays got put on Sundays so that now God’s People are saddled with the expectations created by non-Christian holidays and must, in at least some tacit way, participate in the cultural lie that we all live in the United States of Pleasantville, do not have emotionally complicated families and that what God most wants from us is stable family units that will create a stable civic order.

But I digress.

mark-driscollBut the digression is not my fault. Chapter 4 of Driscoll’s book, Cultivating Kids, reads like he’s finger-pointing and shouting down someone (a liberal Christian woman or effete man, no doubt) on the other side of the room. It’s exhausting. I should’ve saved this book for Lent ’14.

In chapter 4, Driscoll cites as the Christian father’s sole duty as cultivating obedience in their children. Obeying your father is second only to obeying your Father in Driscoll’s assessment of the canon. So important is our children’s obedience that scripture- the Book of Leviticus- stipulates:

“If a child verbally curses or physically attacks a parent, they shall be put to death. Their blood is on their own head.”

We all know Leviticus has some doozies in it that make you wonder why the ancient Israelites needed such peculiar rules- I mean, were there a lot of people misusing their foreskin?

We all know the skinny on Leviticus, yet Driscoll actually cites this stipulation about infanticide with nostalgic fondness.

Who needs a timeout mat when you’ve got ritual killing waiting to play as a trump card?

Cultivating godly obedience in your children means a Christian father must make sure the Lord is glorified in all aspects of the child’s upbringing, Driscoll writes. Okay, I’ll not quibble with him there.

He goes on.

A godly father discern what’s best for his children, home-schooling or Christian schooling.

Or…?

Nope, not on the list provided by Rabbi Driscoll.

Because, as Mark Driscoll says in an assertion that makes Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann seem nuanced:

‘…public education was birthed by atheists such as John Dewey and Horace Mann.’

Didn’t you know?

And, says Driscoll:

if it wasn’t for Calvinists no one in America would likely be able to read right now.

I promised when starting this book that I would be charitable, open to receiving some insight from my enemy.

Yes, well chapter 4 is all goose-eggs and turds.

Therefore, in the spirit of what Mark Driscoll seems incapable of expressing I will spend the rest of this day, which is a gift from God, with my boys, who are both gifts themselves.

Sabbath rest and then we’ll throw something in the smoker.

And if that doesn’t sound like a good idea to my boys, I guess I could always just stone them.

 

mainAgainst every natural and holy impulse within me, I’m marking this advent season before Father’s Hallmark Day by reading Mark Driscoll’s ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights into Fatherhood.

As I’ve oft noted, Mark Driscoll is one of those people who calls to mind that piece of scripture from 2 Peter:

 The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

For my response to chapter 3 of Pastor Dad, “The Fruitful Vine,” I thought I would attempt what Driscoll almost always fails to bother with : consider a woman’s point of view. My wife, Ali.

So then, I offer you both my reactions to Driscoll’s screed as well my wife’s likely reactions to what she surely would have a stronger and more derogatory term than screed.

Driscoll begins the third chapter in the beginning of the bible, the book of Genesis, telling us that fatherhood and a “biblical family” are rooted in God’s command to Adam to be “fruitful and multiply.”

This means, Driscoll explains with breathtaking generalization, that “godly men desire to have children and that those children would have much fruit in their lives with God.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

Does ‘fruitful and multiply’ really mean having children, or do we read that in to the text because State’s more ancient than Rome have always had a stake in encouraging families? Might it just as easily mean our lives are to be about more than ourselves, having a multiplying, pay it forward effect? Does this mean Jesus was also taking about us spawning when he said we’re branches on his vine that should bear fruit?

Ali’s Reaction:

Nice, so Genesis is just a two-party conversation between God and Adam with Eve off doing….what? Doesn’t matter I suppose…to Mark Driscoll. Why in the ________ does he assume God only gave the command to Adam?

Next, Mark Driscoll cites the ‘cleaving’ passage in Genesis 2 to argue that only after a young man has grown up, started a career, and learned to govern his own life “is he qualified to pursue a young woman through father…young men continue to live at home, freeloading off their parents as boys who can shave, while they have sex with girlfriends that they one day may shack up with, and use birth control to prevent pregnancy or abortion to murder their own child because fools see children as a burden and not a blessing.”

Jason’s Reaction:

Let’s just ignore the unalloyed way he just equated all abortion with murder as though there’s no ambiguity on the issue. This is a surprisingly biblical justification for getting married later in life, but I wonder how he feels about the way this rationale rubs against the other biblical notion of chastity outside of marriage?

Ali’s Reaction:

Kudos for Mark Driscoll smacking down boys who want to remain boys into their 30’s, playing XBox, being mommied by women who should be grandmas soon, all the while having their ‘friends with benefits’ or their ‘baby mommas.’

Of course, any prophetic wisdom aimed at men who want to remain boys is lost by the way Driscoll treats women as completely passive objects in the transaction he calls ‘courtship, marriage, and fatherhood.‘

Pursued?”

Really, does this mean women who pursue men can never have a ‘biblical marriage?‘ No doubt Driscoll would have an S word for such women and it wouldn’t be ‘scriptural.‘

“As a general rule, single men should aspire to to marriage and fatherhood, and if they do not there is something seriously wrong with them.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

So, according to Driscoll’s construal of manhood, Jesus is extremely queer- definitely in one sense of the word and possibly in that OTHER sense of it?

Ali’s Reaction:

Weren’t the first Christians ALL single? As a way of expressing their commitment to Christ and their conviction that the community was now their family?

Don’t Christians believe we spread by conversion and baptism? New Creation rather than procreation?

mark-driscollNext Driscoll says:

“When I met my wife, Grace, I adored her and soon asked her how she felt about children, because if she was not interested in being a wife and mother who desired to stay home and raise her children, I was not interested in pursuing a relationship with her and did not want to waste my time.”

Jason’s Reaction:

As I often tell couples, your relationship with your spouse- not your kids- is your first priority. You didn’t swear a covenant with your children; you did with your spouse. You and your spouse are meant to be visible sign of God’s love for us all. Children are the fruit of parabolic, married love; married love is not the means to the end that is children.

Ali’s Reaction:

‘Waste my time…?’ Jason and I met when we were 15 and have been together over half our lives. We had no idea what the future held back then and we were no more naive than couples who meet in their 20’s or 30’s or 40’s. Love- and life- happens. It’s that willingness to step out into an unknown future with someone (whether it means kids or not) that is Christlike and faithful not finding someone to mate with. Did he inspect her teeth and forelegs first before breeding with her?

MD says:

“I wanted to have children and be a father who was the sole economic provider so that my wife could stay home with the children…[a wife whose] children praise her because she is a wise bible teacher who spends her time working hard to build their home and bless their father.”

Jason’s Reaction:

Isn’t ‘sole economic provider’ a bit of an anachronism? The cliche of the husband bringing home the bacon doesn’t really match the biblical context of an agrarian (not capitalist, market-based) economy where said bacon was literally bacon and was literally brought ‘home’ from the field next to the house, a field in which you can be damn scripture sure the woman worked in as well (see: Ruth, Book of).

Ali’s Reaction:

I’d LOVE not to have to work but pastor’s don’t make enough to support a family in an economy with an evaporating middle class. Not to mention, I reserve the right to work should I want to work and I claim the possibility that God might call me to do so in some particular fashion. If not everyone has the same gift from the Spirit, then why/how would God call all women to be stay-at-home moms? Some dads are superbly fitted to be stay-at-home parents, and homes with 2 working parents aren’t de facto bad families.

And then there’s this:  A WIFE’S JOB IS TO BLESS THE….

fATHER?!!!?

As in, her man not her God?

WTF?

Driscoll then moves on to discuss in nuanced, sensitive fashion the influence parents can have on their impressionable, ever-watchful children:

“If a wife is a nag who disrespects her husband by chirping at him all the time, then the children in that home will follow her example and become fools who ruin their lives by similarly disobeying and dishonoring their dad.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

Sigh.

Ali’s Reaction:

Nag?! %&^%&&&&^$^&&%$###%^&**^&((^$$##@#&**!

To buttress his claims about the devastating effects of nagging wives upon God’s good creation, Driscoll cites as evidence:

“…anyone doubting this descent would be well served to simply watch one of the innumerable popular sitcoms on television where the husband is an idiot and the wife trash-talks him in front of the children…” 

Jason’s Reaction:

Does anyone really think today’s sitcoms are anymore reflective of reality than Rob and Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke Show? I wasn’t alive, but did married couples with children really sleep in twin beds and know absolutely no black people?

Ali’s Reaction:

Nag?! %&^%&&&&^$^&&%$###%^&**^&((^$$##@#&**!

Bravely though, Driscoll places culpability where it’s due:

“….whose responsibility is it? ultimately, it is men who are responsible because they chose their wives.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

It’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything but marry a great gal.

Ali’s Reaction:

‘Chose?’ Jason and I dated each other. We fell in love together. We decided to marry each other. It was mutual, just like our marriage.

Apparently Mark Driscoll chose his wife off a shelf at the mall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Dad

Jason Micheli —  June 5, 2013 — 2 Comments

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Looking ahead to Father’s Day, I’m reading Mark Driscoll’s new ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights on Fatherhood.

I’ve not understated my frequent revulsion over the words that come from Mark’s mouth and pen; however, I did promise, perhaps unwisely, that I would read this new book in a spirit of charity and with a willingness to find wisdom in it.

Perhaps God’s rewarding me for my hospitable disposition because Driscoll’s second chapter offers a needful contrary voice to how many parents think of parenting and faith.  Driscoll unabashedly calls parents on the carpet:

‘Our ultimate goal must be that our children would grow to love and worship our God.

As Christian fathers, we should long to see our children worship the same God we do.’

There it is, and as much as I normally loathe Mark Driscoll he’s right on this count.

I can’t even begin to count the number of ‘Christian’ parents I know whose immediate reaction would be to resist this conviction as indoctrination. Driscoll is a far cry here from the dominant American (mainline liberal) ethos which instead advocates introducing our kids to Christianity- but not enough to be harmful to them- but not not inculcating the faith in them.

‘I/We want them ‘to decide for themselves…’ I hear from parents (and engaged couples) all the time. While this is typically presented as caring for the best interests of the children, it’s most often rooted, as all things are, in self-interest.

‘I want them to decide for themselves’ really equals ‘I’m not sufficiently committed to the faith to persuade any one else to it much less my children.’

I mean, think about it. If you really believe your life is a gift from a good God, that the story of Jesus is the truest story of how we’re to live in the world and that the most important possible thing in the world is what God calls us to do in it, then why would you not want that above all things for your son or daughter?

I’m a huge fan of baseball; I love the Washington Nationals.

My children have no absolutely no choice, based on how I’m raising them, to be anything but Nationals fans.

They know the lineups, the stats, the radio commercials in between innings. I’ve exposed them to it and slowly I’m raising them into what it means to be a baseball fan.

Most Dads out wouldn’t quibble with this one iota. Cowboys fans would never think of raising their kids in such a way that they’d not grow up to be Cowboys fans.

But when it comes to Team Jesus most moms and dads are ambivalent.

Nice if it happens maybe but…

This isn’t me being cranky right along with Mark Driscoll. It’s empirical. The recent Survey on Religion and Youth found that the majority of young Christians in America actually practice what sociologists had to describe as ‘Moral Therapeutic Deism.’ 

 

God as a cosmic butler rather than an incarnate messiah that calls you to give up everything and follow him with your life.

Why do the majority of young ‘Christians’ practice MTD?

Drum roll…

Because their parents do.

Children don’t grow and drift away from Church to rebel from their parents.

Children grow up seeing whether or not their parents really walk-the-talk believe and, concluding not so much, they conclude the Church isn’t worth much of their time.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas calls bullshit on this cultural cliche about ‘letting everyone make up their minds.’

In addition to BS, he calls it moral cowardice, frequently telling his students that ‘they don’t have minds worth making up until he’s formed their minds and conformed them to his own.’ 228958_10150729303960096_564145095_20288493_4614542_n

Master teachers should care enough about the life-changing potential of their material to pass it on to their students. Once their students have ‘mastered’ it then by all means their lives can take whatever turns and detours an earnest life brings.

Likewise, Christian parents shouldn’t be letting their kids ‘make up their own minds about Christ’ until their kids have mastered the messiah’s material. Of course, that’s very likely the rub. The Church has failed too many, letting parents’ languish so that they’re still no more than novices.

I’ve taken to applying Hauerwas’ wise (seriously, it’s wise) crack to rearing my own boys, making sure they’ll grow up knowing both the OBP of every starting Nats player and also knowing exactly what Jesus told another young man what he should do to inherit eternal life.

I should point out: my boys can only learn from me what I already know.

 

imagesAdvertising tells me that Father’s Day is fast approaching, that market scripted day of the year when I feel emasculated for desiring neither ties nor power tools.

In anticipation of this Father’s Day, I’ve chosen to do something against type. I’m reading a book about ‘Biblical F/fatherhood.’

Okay, it’s not completely against type. For one thing the book was free, a new ebook entitled ‘Pastor Dad: Scriptural Insights on Fatherhood.’ For another thing the book was written by Mark Driscoll, the rapid, hyper-Calvinist pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Seattle.

You can read it here.

The size of Driscoll’s church, 10K plus on weekends, is an auspicious reminder that the line between discipleship and delusion is a fine one indeed. I once mentioned one of Mark Driscoll’s sermons to my wife, in which Driscoll argued that it’s the Christian wife’s ‘biblical duty’ to give her husband a BJ whenever he wanted it. Seriously. And I got a call from the bishop for making a fart joke. Ever since I mentioned that to my wife any mention of Mark Driscoll sends her into a rage.

mark-driscollTo some Mark Driscoll is this century’s Billy Graham. To other, sane-minded people he is a hipper iteration of Pat Robertson- albeit a Pat Robertson who was dropped on his head too many times as a kid.

Jesus himself said that the word is like seed scattered on all kinds of ground, rock, sand and soil. Truth can sometimes take root in the unlikeliest of places- isn’t that the offensive lesson of grace?

So while I fess up to the honest disclaimer that I think Mark Driscoll is a d*&^%$ bag (a revulsion grounded in both my love of Jesus and my neighbors of the opposite sex) I will also begrudgingly admit that Mark Driscoll sometimes knows what he’s doing.

He certainly knows how to get his thoughts retweeted. He obviously knows how to build a large, other-focused church, and maybe, just maybe, in this Knocked Up, extended adolescent culture there’s a missional need to knock the heads of some ‘godly men.’

All this is to say, I’m reading Pastor Dad prepared to scoff and deride but also willing to be surprised.

Chapter 1: The Good Life

Driscoll’s first chapter is just 2 paragraphs, really it’s only worthy of 1 paragraph if you abide by the traditional rules of the English language. The concision of his opening paragraph has less to do with minimalist art and more to do with not allowing any ambiguity to enter what is his massive, controversial contention:

‘before a man can be a good father, he has to be a good Christian.‘

For a father to know best he must first know his Eternal Father.

Only good Christians can be good fathers, Driscoll contends. And a good Christian, he argues, is one who ‘realizes that God is his Father.’

Driscoll premises all this on the words of the Psalmist (David) that the good life for a man is to be blessed by God, a blessing that takes the form of worshipping God and caring for your family.

It’s barely 2 paragraphs worth of words, but already Pastor Dad is like Whack a Mole, provoking me with the dilemma of which target to strike first.

To go after the suggestion that only good Christians can be good fathers seems too easy. We all, I suspect, know good fathers who are not good Christians or even if they’re Christian they’re not ‘good’ Christians. Even if we don’t know any such people, I daresay we all know some good Christians who are not in any way good fathers. That Christians perform no better as parents or spouses is as well-documented as it is lamentable.

To go after Driscoll for extrapolating a rather large and incendiary contention from a Psalm (a poem written NOT by God but TO God) seems both a flimsy foundation and a misuse of the author’s intent. It’s like reading Catcher in the Rye and coming away with ‘principles’ for how teenagers should respect their elders and authority.

To go after Driscoll for basing this all on a patriarchal hierarchy that sets up a self-serving analogy between fathers and God is ground others have well trod before me.

It’s barely 2 paragraphs in so I’ll withhold judgment, but my first reaction is to rub against Driscoll’s view of and use of scripture. The Bible, as Richard Hays likes to quip, is about God. It’s about Jesus Christ and what God has done and is doing in the world.

To pilfer scripture for ‘principles’ for anything- parenting, marriage, success, happiness, serenity- is to profoundly misuse scripture even while appearing more ‘scriptural.’

Scripture DOES echo from beginning to end that our life is gift, that creation is what happens when God’s love pours out and that in the fullness of time God poured himself out completely, first in to Jesus Christ and ultimately upon a Cross.

It doesn’t make for an easy verse X of passage Y says Z therefore fathers should… principle, but it’s the most faithful approach, I think, to anything resembling ‘biblical’ parenthood.