Non-Violence In Real Life

Since making the decision to be non-violent I’ve often had the question come up about what that really looks like. We so lack examples of choosing to be non-violent in the face of a violent world. I’ve wanted to collect stories of non-violence for some time, but I’ve never really made the effort. Here’s one Zach and Keane emailed me recently (and Joanna posted).

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.

He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,'” Diaz says.

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'”

Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.

I think we don’t realize that criminals are people too, often hurting people. I want to always keep that in my mind and experience every encounter as a chance to love others, like Julio Diaz chose to do.

Do you know of any other stories like this?

Book Review: Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp

As a new parent, I recently read the book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp at the request of a friend. The following thoughts are a review of the book itself, and should not be seen as a reflection on the parenting techniques espoused or those parents who choose those techniques. I’ll cut right to the chase, the books main premise is that communication and “the rod” (which in this book is translated to mean spanking specifically) are the biblical form of parenting. While I currently don’t plan on using spanking as a form of discipline for my children, I’m not completely set on it one way or the other. However, I felt Tripp’s book, while containing some valuable parenting tips, was overall a poor argument for the use of spanking as the only biblical method of discipline.

First of all, I will say that there are a number of things I did appreciate about Tripp’s book. His emphasis on communication is paramount. Any parent who misses the importance of communication will struggle to really connect with their children, I think that’s obvious. But Tripp goes out and says that we’ve begun to emphasis “quality time over quantity time” and he says that this misses the importance of being around and available to our children as much as possible. I think that’s huge.
I also like one of the examples he gave as he talked about the goal being to get to the heart issue of every discipline concern. He gave the example of two kids fighting over a toy. The typical response is to figure out who had it first, or set a timer to force the kids to share, or something like that. But he points out that all of these things miss the importance of kids learning to put others before themselves and being selfless, that’s the root of the issue you could be working on. He also talks about Jesus telling us to “Love our enemies” as something we should instill in our kids and help them address things like the bully on the bus with those sorts of radical values rather then fight or flight.

My main beef with Shepherding a Child’s Heart is that Tripp sets of “straw man” arguments for every other discipline method he disagrees with. What I mean by that is that when he discusses his ‘opponent’ viewpoints (those discipline methods he does not agree with) he does not give solid valid examples, but rather sets up terrible examples (straw men) that even those who espouse those discipline methods would say were bad examples, and thus he makes it easy for the reader to join his side. Let me show you one example, one where I even agree with his point.
Tripp encourages parents to talk with their kids not at their kids. Using dialog to draw out the child’s feelings rather than simply giving your monologue about the situation. I complete agree with him. However, here’s the example of a monologue that he gave (this is a straw man):

(concerning a pair of sneakers you bought for your child)
“Look, I know you don’t like the sneakers, but that’s all I could afford. Don’t be such a baby. What would Jared say if I told him you were crying over something like this? They’re just going to get messed up anyway. In a couple days no one will know what they look like. What do you care about what those kids think about your sneakers? Who made them the experts anyhow? You should be thankful you even have them. Those sneakers you don’t like cost more than my first car. Look, I have to go to work; I have more important things to worry about than sneakers…”

Now, any parent in their right mind would say this is a horrible way to parent, but for Tripp to choose this as an example of the opposing view is unfair. It is possible to give a very sympathetic, heartfelt monologue to your child about their sneakers, even though it’s still better to dialog and let them share their feelings.
Tripp continues to use this technique as he points out all the “Unbiblical Methods” to parenting: I didn’t Turn Out So Bad, Pop Psychology, Behavior Modification, Emotionalism, Punitive Correction, and Erratic Eclecticism. Each time he gives horrible examples of that method which leaves any decent parent completely agreeing that that is not a good way to raise a child. That was my biggest problem with Tripp. By the time I got to the section where he wanted to talk about the “Biblical” way to parent, I wasn’t interested in listening anymore, he’d been so unfair in his critique.

The second thing I had a serious issue with is his use of Scripture. He does very little to give any depth, context, background, or otherwise to the scriptures he references. Your supposed to take them at face value, which would be okay, if he also took them at face value. He uses multiple random Scriptures to critique the “unbiblical” parenting methods, and then multiple other random verses to espouse his “biblical” methods. He leaves himself and his book as the only valid interpretation and doesn’t give any reason or basis to believe it. Here’s what I mean.
Tripp believes the biblical method for parenting is communication and “the rod.” By “the rod” he means:

“The rod is a parent, in faith toward God and faithfulness toward his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely, measured and controlled use of physical punishment to underscore the importance of obeying God, thus rescuing the child from continuing in his foolishness until death.” (p. 108)

How in the world he’s able and allowed to draw all of that from a handful of verses that say “the rod”, but others aren’t allowed to follow a similar strategy in choosing their parenting method, I’m not sure. But it gets even more specific than that. He literally spends pages and pages talking about what “the rod” is and is not, as well as the best way to administer “the rod.” What’s unfair again is that he’s taken his specific interpretation and tagged it as “biblical” without allowing others to take a similar look at Scripture and come to a different conclusion. He doesn’t give any reason why the rod doesn’t literally mean a metal or wooden rod of some kind. Here is the “How” of Spanking from the book, with only one scripture reference as any support:

1. Take your child to a private place where he can be spoken with in privacy
2. Tell him specifically what he has done or failed to do.
3. Secure an acknowledgment from the child of what he has done.
4. Remind him that the function of spanking is not venting your frustration or because you are angry, but to restore him to the place in which God has promised blessing.
5. Tell the child how many swats he will receive.
6. Remove his drawers so that the spanking is not lost in the padding of his pants.
7. After you have spanked take the child up on your lap and hug him, telling him how much you love him.
8. Pray with him. (p. 150)

Again, even though there are some good tips on how to discipline here, his stating that this is what is meant by “the rod” and what is the only “Biblical” method for parenting is completely unfounded.

As you can see, overall I didn’t like the book. The two main reasons are above: He sets up straw man arguments of the opposing view and he extrapolates a lot to give his basis for biblical discipline without allowing the same freedom for other parenting methods. But, there’s a few other things that nagged me and I’ll just list them below.

  • He mentions twice, sort of underhandedly, that the freedom movements of the 60’s and 70’s where a bad thing in that they taught a generation to rebel against authority. I think it’s these were vaguely concealed sexist and racist remarks…
    “The racial and anti-war protests of the 1960s powerfully shaped [Today’s parents] ideas. The protest movement took on the establishment. It changed the way we think about authority and the rights of the individual. As a result, it is no longer culturally acceptable for Dad to be the “boss” at home. Mom doesn’t obediently do what Dad says, or at least pretend she does.” (p. xvi) (he goes on to imply throughout that our rebellion against authority is wrong and even sinful)
  • In addressing an FAQ about when I child is old enough he mentions his 8 month old trying to get to a bookshelf his mother had told him not to touch. “Not seeing her, he headed back toward the forbidden bookshelf…Obviously, he was old enough to be disciplined.”(p. 155)
  • He also contradicts himself in his parenting advice. Things he critiqued in other parenting methods, like children not connecting the punishment to the disobedience because it’s not enforced immediately gets disregarded when your unable to implement the spanking method because your out in public.
  • He uses the Scripture “Honor your father and mother” as something that parents are in charge of enforcing over their children. Basically saying, and I quote, “God has made me your mother and has said that you must treat me with honor.” (p. 137)
  • The parenting method of spanking (physical discipline) is a “power over” structure that I think is clearly unbiblical. Tripp even spends a chapter addressing this, and how as your ‘authority’ dwindles your ‘influence’ needs to increase so that you still have control over your child. Discussing the transition from younger to older he says: “The parents’ word is law because they have the physical capacity to enforce it. As a child grows, the ability to control him that way diminishes. The more Junior grows and develops physically and mentally, what you may accomplish through raw authority diminishes.” (p. 97)
  • He also uses the male pronoun “he” for nearly all of his examples. Unless he’s talking about a specific situation involving a girl, he always says “he.” I just noticed it and found it bothered me (maybe because I have a girl).
  • This passage also bothered me:

    “I recall many conversations that went like this:
    FATHER: You didn’t obey Daddy, did you?
    CHILD: No.
    FATHER: Do you remember what God says Daddy must do if you disobey?
    CHILD: Spank Me?
    FATHER: That’s right. I must spank you. If I don’t, then I would be disobeying God. You and I would both be wrong. That would not be good for you or for me, would it?
    CHILD: No. [a reluctant reply]
    (p. 31)

Let me conclude by just saying, in no way is this meant to be a critique of spanking as a discipline method (I’ll try and bring up my concerns about it in later blog posts, but that’s not my intent here), nor a condemnation of any parent who chooses to follow that method. I really think there are a lot of godly people who’ve looked at scripture and chosen what they felt is the best way to raise their child, and I commend them for that. I simply feel this book was a poor support of spanking as a biblical discipline and a poor critique of other discipline methods.

Painted Houses and Fulfilled Dreams

When I entered middle school my family moved to a house in Madison Wisconsin. It was our house, our walls, inside and out, and with that it began to take shape and look like our family. Somewhere early on, my mom painted some dancing, flowy stick figures of us on the garage door. The house is a purple color (my mom’s favorite) and the stick figures, a deeper purple, adorned the garage door.

I remember being quite embarrassed of this display of art when ever a new person would come by or drop me off from school or soccer practice or what not, I was a middle schooler and I wanted to be cool. Little did I realize just how cool it was. That house is a beautiful display of art. The kitchen cabinets black with white specks splattered all over, Jackson Pollackish. There are palm trees painted on the wall in the basement. There’s writing on walls in the kitchen, each room a different shade, or multiple shades. My mom painted one of the toilet seats once, but it slowly flaked off on our bottoms. My brother and I had painted our room the team colors of the Charlotte Hornets (way before they started offering official team color paints). I lacked in the creativity side, but my brother and sisters rooms have been unique pieces of art for years. I love hanging out at that house. My brother has farside cartoons painted on the door and the wall, graffiti of every shade covers the walls. My sisters room has changed so many times I can’t keep track, but it’s incredible the personality she and her room have had.

I don’t know when we decided it, but somewhere along the way we adopted The Big Orange Splot as our family book. It’s a little new-agey in it’s language, but it seems to embody our family. The story goes Mr. Plumbean lives on a neat street where all the houses are the same. A seagull drops a can of orange paint on his house and after some contemplation he leaves the splot and paints the rest of his house to fit all his dreams. One by one his neighbors try and persuade him to paint it back, but each time they go away and change their house to fit their dreams. The line goes, “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” I love it.
the big orange splot

I think the book, and my family’s house, seem to capture some of what the journey is all about. We had a conversation about cool a week or two ago on here, and I think this is what I was thinking about when I wrote that post. I want to break away from the unspoken rules and restrictions that we place on ourselves to conform. It comes in all places and avenues of life, but one place it definitely comes is in what you and your stuff is supposed to look like. God created us and the things around us to bloom and blossom and encompass God’s dreams for us, which many times our the stifled dreams that resonate in our hearts. I want my house to look like that.

We don’t have a garage in our new home, just a gravel spot for a couple cars. Every time I pull up to the back of our house I see the big backside of our house and I picture a beautiful mural painted there. Art is an amazing thing (my brother understands it way more than I do). There is a couple large murals on the sides of buildings in our community, amazing pieces of work done by youth in the neighborhood through a summer arts program. I stopped by and talked to them the other day about allowing them to use our house as a canvas, they sounded interested. I was so giddy with excitement about the possibility I called my mom as soon as I walked out the door.

Enough rambling, I’ll give you more details as they work out. But I’ll leave you with this thought or encouragement, break free of the need to conform, paint your dreams, fulfill others dreams, leave your job or any commitments that are keeping you from doing what your called to do. This is your orange splot.

Challenge Me or Provoke Me Thursdays

In an attempt to keep up with the latest news, events, and blogosphere happenings, I’ve put the rss reader on hold and am asking for personal recommendations. I found this cool auto-linking code, so you can posts suggested readings right to my blog post.

Feel free to recommend something you’ve written yourself, or something you read elsewhere. Assuming your a long time reader you already know what I’m interested in and what I might find thought provoking, but feel free to recommend something that challenges things I’ve written in the past, I’m always interested in a different point of view.

We’ll see how this goes.