It’s a boy…

Today we just found out that in March (during March Madness!) we’ll be having another baby boy.  To see our little guys face and active little hands and heart today was exhilarating.  I knew going in that I would be excited either way which is something that you HAVE to verbally say out of obligation, right?.  After all, who is the sicko that is disappointed when they find out that it’s the opposite of what they wanted?  🙂

But I knew either way I’d be stoked.  If we had a little girl, it would be totally different than what I’ve experienced with Gram.  Not so much in the mechanics of taking care of a baby of course, but in the emotional nature of the bond that would develop.  It would have been cool to have a little mini-kelli and have a brand new experience.  But if we had a boy, Gram would have a little brother which I know he will LOVE!  I’m excited that I can preface everything with “BOYS…”

Things like:

  • “Boys, take your shoes off, don’t track mud on the carpet.”
  • “You boys want to go fishing?”  (i don’t even go fishing).
  • “Come on boys, you know better than that.”
  • “Seriously boys?”
  • “Boys, what were you thinking?”
Yes, four out of five of those statements are in response to them doing something wrong, but I figure that will probably be pretty accurate.
Overall, I am thrilled to be having another little guy.  I can’t even imagine what he will be or look like as compared to Gram.  How is it possible to have another boy that isn’t Gram?  I’m also excited to see Kelli with another little boy.  She is a great boy-mommie and for her to get to love two of them will be beautiful to see.
Now we’ve just got to come up with a name!

 

What I learned performing pet blessings.

Today I was invited to an event hosted at the Lucky Lab Pub that was to benefit companion dogs, a majority of which were rescued.  As a pastor, they invited me to do “pet blessings” during the event and so I had a table and spent about 2 1/2 hours blessing dogs.  I would estimate I blessed 20-25 dogs over the course of that time and met some really cool people.  I’ve never done this before but thought it’d be a great way to get to know some people outside the church and be a good Jesus-y presence in the community.

This wasn’t a church event so having a dog blessing table was an intriguing addition for people.  Some scoffed at the suggestion, others went straight for my table as if that was the one thing they were really there for, and others were more guarded and suspicious and asked what it was all about.

I essentially rooted the blessing in the legacy of St. Francis (as everyone does), and got to talk to people about the two things that St. Francis loved: Jesus and nature.  He believed that nature was the mirror of God and animals were his favorite.  It’s hard to differentiate between reality and myth in the life of St. Francis, but chances are he really did preach to birds, although I’m not as convinced that he saved a town from a rabid wolf!  (nor did he say “Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary…” But that didn’t come up 🙂

It was an exhausting afternoon, but I’m glad I did it and will probably do it at future events.  Many people were interested in hearing more about our church, some others talked about some of their past bad church experiences, and others just wanted to talk about why they named their dog something in Klingon.  The entire afternoon was memorable and fascinating.

Here are some observations I had: 

  • EVERYONE knows who St. Francis is and most people have a statue of him in their car, garden, or house.
  • People are still very superstitious.  I think some individuals got the idea that somehow having an “ordained minister” bless their pet could potentially heal their dogs illness or make them better behaved.  In fact a few mentioned that they were hoping the “blessing” would heal their dog.
  • Everyone thinks their particular dog NEEDS blessed.  I got the sense that everyone thinks their dog is evil in some sense.
  • Those that were there that went to church were either Lutheran or Presbyterian.  Apparently the mainliners love their pets and want them to go to heaven!
  • There seemed to be a dominant belief that dogs have souls and will be with us in the afterlife.
  • People LOVE their dogs and consider them a part of the family.

Was Augustine Sexist?

A majority of readers would automatically assume the answer is unquestionably ‘yes’.  Why?  Because Augustine had a concubine.  Case closed.  How having a live-in girlfriend is sexist, I am not really sure.  I think people confuse “concubine” with “prostitute”, but that could not be further from the truth.   What is more, when his marriage was arranged by his mother Monica, his concubine was sent packing back to N.Africa.  Under Roman law however, concubines could not be married legally so the marriage arrangement as well as the consequences make sense, especially in regard to an individual who was hoping to move up the societal ranks (Clark 5).  I’m not going to attempt to defend Augustine’s taking of a concubine in the first place.  That would be absurd, but I also know that it’s difficult and unfair to judge someone in the 4th century for what appeared as a common practice by 21st century standards, where clearly it is not.

However, it is clear that in Augustine’s time women were subordinate to men.  Women were considered the weaker sex, socially inferior to men and owing them obedience.  Seeing that the biblical texts were also similarly culturally conditioned, Augustine assumed popular opinion (Clark 126).  Mary Clark in her book “Augustine of Hippo” goes on to cite an article by T.J. Van Bavel who has noted the culturally progressive nature of Augustine’s views on women.  His observations are as follows:

First, Augustine affirmed the intellectual equality of men and women.

“Because of her reasonable and intelligent mind she would have equality of nature” (C XIII.32.47).  Further, it is the rational mind which exhibits our nature as those who have been created with the Imago Dei (EnP 96.12; 48:2; CF XXIV.2).  Therefore, Augustine is declaring women to be images of God, which differed from some of his predecessors (Clark 126).  In affirming this, there was a understanding that this had been denied.  He says, “It does not escape me that some eminent defenders of the Catholic faith before me…asserted that the man was the mind, but that woman was the bodily sense (Clark 126-127).

Second, Augustine regularly attributed female characteristics to God.  

The Psalmist made God father; he made God also mother. god is father because he created, because he calls, because he commands, because he governs.  God is mother because God cherishes, because God nourishes, because God suckles, because God embraces‘ (EnP 26.18 as quoted in Clark 127).

Clark goes on to say,“Unlike Aristotle who regarded the female as an imperfectly developed male, and unlike those ecclesiastics who thought that, in the resurrection of the body, women will be changed into men, Augustine taught that woman was fully planned by God to be a female human being.” (Clark 127).

Third, the moral superiority of women to men was openly championed by Augustine. 

“He was struck by the strength of faith in great women martyrs of the first centuries and also by the virtue of ordinary Christian women who could serve as models and teachers for men.  ‘Many husbands are surpassed by their wives; wives remain chaste, and men do not even want to be chaste’ (S 9; 280).  Augustine dismissed the ‘double standard’ and urged ‘Christian women not to show patience with their adulterous husbands and not to remain indifferent to such a situation’ (S 292).  One of the first to take up the cause of discrimination against women, Augustine spoke out against the Roman law which punished women for adultery while the men went free (S 153; 392).  (Clark 127).

Fourth, Augustine emphasized interpersonal love in married life and interpreted the relationship through the lens of friendship.  

“Before Augustine, this was seldom or never done.  Marriage becomes personal, not merely the result of social nature and biological attraction.  Although he did not entirely eliminate the social subordination of women which continued in marriage as obedience, Augustine made more of a breakthrough in the Christian understanding of sexuality and marriage than any other theologian in the patristic era”  (Clark 127).

In light of the advances that Augustine made in his time in regard to a better theological understanding of men and women, coupled with his love and admiration of his mother Monica, I think it become much more difficult to simply dismiss Augustine as a sexist.  Should Augustine be judged by the “womanizing” ways of his youth?  Or by the weight and scope of his overall life and teaching?

__________________

Mary T. Clark, ‘Augustine of Hippo’ 1994

T.J. Van Bavel, ‘Augustine’s view on women’, Augustianian 39 (1989), pp. 5-53

Abbreviations (as used by Clark):
EnP – Enarrationes in Psalmos
C – Confessions
S – Sermones
CF – Contra Faustum