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Having a proper conversation

or, Confessions of a Loquacious Person

*****

Loquacious: tending to talk a great deal

We might all think that we know how to have a conversation, having learnt a particular style of conversing from how we were raised. But conversational styles differ greatly from family to family, anything from the children being almost afraid or forbidden to say a word (i.e. “children should be seen and not heard”), to everyone at the dinner table talking at the same time. Family members may have had to wait a long time to be heard if their extroverted siblings hadn’t learned conversational etiquette – “manners” may or may not have been taught, depending on whether the parents ever learned them, or whether they considered free-for-all conversations to be a problem!

In my case, I thought that it was normal for family members to talk over one another. But my husband found it completely disorienting as my side of the family got louder and louder, switching subjects frequently and repeating anecdotes when someone in a separate conversation caught a snatch of it and requested to hear all of it right then. Since we loved to hear ourselves talk, we were most happy to oblige, even if we didn’t realize at the time that “talking” was what was most important to us.

Loquacious people love to share details about their lives. After church, they might go from person to person telling the same stories and bits of information about their week, their trip, their surgery, or their job challenges. It’s what’s on their mind so they share it with others.

But what about the people they are talking to? Do they ask about what happened in other folks’ lives during the past week? When they get home, do they even remember whom they “conversed” with since they did the majority of the talking?

This article began with a bit of blaming: “This is how my family did things.” But there’s more to it than that. So let’s take a closer look at why a person talks too much and is not a good listener because, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” It’s not simply a learned habit.

Self-centeredness     

When we talk too much, as mentioned already, it is because we like to hear ourselves talk and we – rightly or wrongly – imagine that others are entertained, inspired, or enlightened by what we have to say. The first consideration should be whether our subject matter meets those criteria! We can all think of people whose conversation could bless us for hours, and others with whom we would be bored. We have probably all been the talker in both situations!

We also ought to realize that we like to talk because we like to be in control. Celeste Headlee points out in her TED talk Ten Ways to Have a Better Conversation that we control the conversation so that “we won’t have to hear anything that we are not interested in.” It makes us the center of attention, and perhaps is essential to “bolstering” our own identity.

Ouch! But as Headlee concludes, “Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.” Did we even realize that we were being self-centered? We need to, because self-centeredness is destructive to relationships, whereas love for others is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Being a good listener

In order to have a proper conversation, we need to be intentional and attentive listeners. One of the most difficult challenges is to realize that when people are relating their experience, that conversation is not about us. As Stephen Covey has said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply.”

While someone is talking, we automatically think of our experience that we think parallels theirs, and eagerly formulate how we will present our information. My parent also died. I also have knee/car/kid/plumbing trouble. I also took a vacation to Timbuktu and here’s what I did. To launch directly into our somewhat connected experience shows that to us, their commentary was merely a catalyst to get ours started. And whether we realize it or not, we may be, as Headlee suggests, taking that moment to prove how amazing we are or how much we have suffered! Self-centered.

When we truly listen, we should squelch those thoughts because our experience, even with grief, is not the same as theirs. Squelch them, and instead ask follow-up questions, seeking to understand what their experience was like and how it affected them. Think about what they say. Ask them how it affected them and what they think about it now. Tell them you’d love to hear more about it. Tell them how wonderful (or awful) it sounds. Sincerely offer prayer or assistance if the situation calls for it.

A proper conversation includes and indeed emphasizes listening. It takes energy and effort to truly listen to the point of caring about the speaker and the content, and not just planning our response while we wait for them to finish, or even worse, interrupt them as soon as they take a breath. To interrupt is to declare that you consider yourself and what you want to say more important than the other person’s words. There may be a good reason to share some of our experiences later, but only after we have sufficiently listened, and only if it may truly benefit the hearer.

Listening to your children

It is particularly important to learn to listen attentively to your children. Parents need to learn to listen to what their children are saying and to ask questions that show a desire to understand and appreciate them.

Listening needs to be done in a non-judgmental manner where the kids aren’t afraid that a rebuke or lecture will flatten them as soon as they speak their mind and open their heart. It may be that an issue will have to be addressed laterif wise counsel or discipline are necessary. But a thorough listening should come first. Proverbs 18:13 gives the admonition that, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Half-hearing or speeding through the conversation so that we can go do something “more important” is not really listening.

We sometimes think as parents that we need to have “the answer” immediately. We are not perfect and it may be best on some occasions to state that we are going to think about a matter for a while before we fully respond. Of course, this takes more time and effort than giving a quick answer while multitasking. But it is time well spent. There’s a popular adage that nobody when growing old will say, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” or, as a companion to that remark, “I wish I’d cleaned my house better when the kids were young.” But we may wish we had listened more attentively.

Scripture says…

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about our speech. Proverbs 10:19 states: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” and 17:28 says: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

We are taught that our speech is to be truthful (4:24, 6:12), noble and straightforward (8:6-9), wise (10:31), gentle (15:1), knowledgeable (15:7), righteous (8:8; 16:13), and pleasant (16:24).

We are commanded that our speech should not be devious (4:24), destructive of our neighbor (11:9), rash like sword thrusts (think about that image!) (12:18), a scorching fire/perverse/slanderous (16:27-28). Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

 In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, Paul says: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” Jesus and Paul taught us to love our neighbor as ourself. Should this not include listening carefully with a desire to learn and understand, rather than just popping off the first connection that comes to mind? We can learn to not be self-centered.

Quick to listen

In James 1:19, we read, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” What if we would rush in to listen to others, instead of to talk? These verses show us that we should analyze our recent conversations, and perhaps ask friends, family, and the Lord if we have been “too loquacious” and not a good listener. We should ponder Paul’s words from Philippians 2 which certainly apply to how we converse with others:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-4).

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – February 2023

What Darwin didn’t know Darwin, ignorant of the inner workings of the cell, could imagine them to be simple. But the more we learn of the cell today, the more we discover there is to learn, and thus explain. And that’s a growing problem for evolution. It isn’t as if the more we learn, the more we begin to understand how life could have evolved – it’s the very opposite! As David Berlinski put it: “The cell is an unbelievably complex bit of machinery, unfathomably complex. And we haven't understood its complexity at all. Every time we look there seems to be an additional layer of evocative complexity that needs to be factored into our theories. Don't forget the eternal goal is to explain the emergence of this complexity, and if we're continually behind the curve because the complexity is increasing every time we look that eternal goal is also receding from view, not approaching. It's receding; it's becoming more and more difficult to construct a theory for that.” A granddad joke Grandpa always said “when one door closes, another one opens.” He was a great man, my grandpa, but a horrible cabinet maker. Wit and wisdom of Thomas Sowell While it’s not clear whether American economist Thomas Sowell is Christian – he almost never talks about God – his understanding of human nature certainly lines up with what the Bible says about our fallen state. Here are a few of his pithier quotes, along with a comment or two, “Fair” is one of the most dangerous concepts in politics. Since no two people are likely to agree on what is “fair,” this means that there must be some third party with power – the government – to impose its will. The road to despotism is paved with “fairness.” When there is no submission to God, His standards, and His definitions – whether of fairness, life, marriage, gender, and more – then there is no justice exercised, only power. There are three questions that would destroy most arguments of the Left. The first is – compared to what? The second is – at what cost? And the third is – what hard evidence do you have? Continuing from the point above, we can add one more – by what standard? When you want to help people you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Prov. 27:6 One of the most important reasons for studying history is that virtually every stupid idea that is in vogue today has been tried before and proved disastrous, time and again. “…there is nothing new under the sun.” Eccl. 1:9b The strongest argument for socialism is that it sounds good. The strongest argument against socialism is that it doesn’t work. But those who live by words will always have a soft spot in their hearts for socialism because it sounds so good. “…with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” – 2 Tim. 4:3b-4 Fixing democracy in 1 step Every ballot needs a "none of the above" option. Then, if the “nones” won, the election would be run again with an entirely new slate of candidates – all of the original candidates would be disqualified. Questions for you and your kids I ran across a book by Les Christie, What if….?, which offered up 450 discussion starters for parents to tackle with their teens. The idea is great, the book only okay, because of the inclusion of some troubling questions. But what follows are some of the best. You and your teen can both try to answer them, either working through all the possible answers (including what the Bible might have to say) or just running through them quickly and then making up some questions of your own. So, what if: you could speak to the prime minister for 1 minute? you inherited a million dollars? the Internet went down? you could be your parent for a day? you could only read 10 books from now on? a store clerk accidentally gave you back $10 extra in change? a flood meant you could only save 3 things from your room? you could begin one new tradition in your family? you had to name three of your heroes? you had to pick a slogan to describe your life? Identifying as right In the recent online abortion debate between conservative commentator Michael Knowles and online “influencer” Brontë Remsik, a clever defense of the unborn also ended up highlighting why Christians can’t adopt “inclusive” language. Just short of the half-hour mark, the third-year medical student Remsik took Knowles to task for refusing to use terms like “pregnant people” rather than “pregnant women.” Brontë Remsik: It's interesting, you come into this conversation trying to hold this moral superiority, but when I use inclusive language – which it only takes a couple extra syllables to use inclusive language… Michael Knowles: To include who? BR: To include people who don’t identify as women but can become pregnant. MK: So, like a person who is born a woman and then identifies as a man and is pregnant. So, you’re telling me that to be a moral person I need to accept the idea that someone who is born a man can really become a woman. That’s a prerequisite of my being a moral person. BR: Yes, to me it is. Because if you are trying to deny someone of their identity and deny what their life experience is then that doesn’t seem like a moral stance to me. I want to be accepting and I want to respect people's life experiences. And I want to respect how they identify, and respect how they want to present themselves to the world. MK: I would like to identify, I do identify actually, as the correct person on this issue of abortion. I identify as being correct, and more correct than you on this issue. And I would just ask that you accept and affirm my identity. Do you? BR: You are not a medical professional, and abortion and pregnancy is a medical concern. MK: I’m just sharing my identity. BR: That’s not your identity. MK: That is my identity. I promise you that is my identity. Remsik understood that if she had accepted Knowles’ identity, she would have conceded the debate. The same is every bit as true in the gender debate where one side recognizes that God determines our gender, and the other insists that we do. Requests to address a man with female pronouns might be positioned as a matter of politeness, but such an act would, in fact, concede the argument. It would be to identify him as correct about being a her. Electric cars aren’t green “Let’s clear something up… Electricity is not a power source, it is a delivery mechanism. Electricity will never be a power source. So it is inappropriate and inaccurate to say ‘electric cars are green.’ The cars themselves are not green, they are the color of the fuel used to create electricity. Electric cars are only as green as the electricity they consume. And infrastructure they require, and storage they rely on.” – David Salch C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and a whole bunch of t-shirts take down socialism My wife gave me a t-shirt screen printer for Christmas and since then I’ve been looking for some quotes worthy of being emblazoned across my chest. I’ve also been on an economics fix for the last year, so in keeping an eye out, I’ve seen a lot of t-shirts with pretty good socialism take downs. I also added a couple of longer quotes – from Chesterton and Lewis – that are either simply too long, or would necessitate me doing a few thousand push-ups or so, before my chest would be a wide enough canvas. But hey, maybe that’s just the motivation I need. “…those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C.S. Lewis in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology Don’t ask the government to fix problems they caused Nothing the government gives you is “free” Capitalism makes. Socialism takes. The F in Communism stands for Food Trust God. Not government. The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money Conservatives are such elitists: they think they can run their lives better than the government “Individual ambition serves the common good.” – Adam Smith Socialism: the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, the gospel of envy Child of God. Not of the State. “It may be said of Socialism, therefore, that its friends recommended it as increasing equality, while its foes resisted it as decreasing liberty…. The compromise eventually made was one of the most interesting and even curious cases in history. It was decided to do everything that had ever been denounced in Socialism, and nothing that had ever been desired in it…we proceeded to prove that it was possible to sacrifice liberty without gaining equality…. In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the bad.” – G.K. Chesterton in Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State Ideas to improve sports – the B’s Baseball should add a second batter, swinging from the opposite side of the plate. I’d watch that. Basketball needs to eliminate free throws. When a defender fouls, the offense should get a point and keep the ball. Fouls on a shot would have the basket count if it goes in, and the offense would still keep the ball. There’d no longer be any “strategic” reason to foul, even late in a game. Bye-bye boring free throws! And I’m just saying, bowling would be way more interesting if they allowed defense. Two bodies involved Jeff Durbin is a Reformed Baptist pastor who, along with his church members, regularly witnesses in front of their local abortion clinic. In an exchange captured on their Apologia Studios YouTube channel, he had an opportunity to drive home the point that there are two bodies involved in any pregnancy. Man: What’s wrong with them being able to choose? Durbin: Who being able to choose? Man: Whoever. People should be able to do what they want with their bodies. Durbin: So, can I rape a woman? Man: No, you shouldn’t do that. Durbin: So I can’t do what I want with my own body, can I? Man: You can do what you want with your body. You just can’t do anything with anyone else’s body. Durbin: So, let me try this. A person should be able to do what they want with their own bodies. We shouldn’t be allowed to just abuse other people’s bodies. Man: Absolutely. Durbin: So, in the case of what’s happening inside there right now, the woman’s body is not dying. It’s another body, biologically distinct inside of her, that is being killed. I’m all for women doing what they want with their bodies. I’m in agreement with you actually, fundamentally, that we shouldn’t be able to harm other people’s bodies, which is precisely what’s happening in there. I’m glad you joined us. ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Interview with an artist

Stephanie Vanderpol has a zoologist in the house

Interview with an artist Stephanie Vanderpol is the author and artist behind RP’s “Come and Explore” children’s pages, and she’s also the author of a new picture book, "Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe." If this title sounds a bit odd to you, that’s because it’s an example of the various other animal “facts” that you’ll find inside. I had a chance, recently, to ask the author how her book came about. – JD ***** Jon Dykstra: In the opening of “Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe” you explain that it was “inspired by the comical ‘animal facts’ as stated by my daughter Scarlett.” It sounds like you had a zoological expert in the house. What sorts of animal facts was she sharing? The author and her inspiration Stephanie Vanderpol: Scarlett has always been interested in animals. When she was two, she had a pet spider, a bucket of worms, and a collection of snails that she would play with on the regular. Outside, of course! Between the ages of six and seven she started sharing animal “facts” like in the book, things like “chipmunks stuff their cheeks because they cannot climb when their hands are full.”  The facts were mainly born out of curiosity, sort of her way of answering her own questions of “why does that animal do that?” Sometimes she would write them down and I would find them, or I would overhear her teaching her brother the ways of these animals, or, sometimes, she would outright just tell me. JD: What prompted you to turn it into a book? SV: I had been illustrating my daughter's animal facts and posting them to Instagram at the beginning of COVID thinking that people could use a little bit of joy in their day. A few months in, the winter was looming over me and I knew I needed some sort of project to keep me sane through the winter. I actually got on my knees and asked God to direct my ways, to give me a project that would give Him glory and keep my head above water. He led my heart to the book project. It was initially just for my daughter Scarlett's 8th birthday, one copy, just for her. But as I posted about it, people got excited and by printing date I had a fair amount of pre-orders. I never would have thought! JD: What did Scarlett think of how you illustrated each of her “facts”? SV: Either she would giggle, at which point I knew she liked it, or she'd critique it and tell me what to change. She was very involved in the sketching stage, so it was a cool bonding moment. Maybe I hit the "cool mom" stage with her…though, of course, she never said that out loud. JD: What was involved to turn this from idea to finished book? SV: It took over a year to go from the first sketch until I held the final copy in my hands. During the day I would be doing my regular mom job, folding laundry, making meals, keeping the house clean, and then once my kids were tucked into bed at night, I’d whip out all my art supplies, sit on the couch, open up my folding table and get to work. My husband is a school teacher so it worked out well. He’d be sitting with me, marking tests and prepping for the next day, and I’d be playing with my pencils and watercolors, with baby no. 4 kicking away in my belly. JD: What was the process for a single two-page spread?  SV: Each page had a similar process: Take one of Scarlett’s animal facts and imagine what it could look like. Sketch the image onto paper until it came out right (sometimes this took up to 15 different tries). Run the sketch for approval under the careful eye of Scarlett for laughability, my husband, for common sense and continuity, and my best friend Breanna for accuracy in facial expressions and other artistic critiques. Trace the sketch onto watercolor paper using a lightpad and a waterproof pen. Using my watercolors, paint the image. This was my favorite part! Scan the images into the computer and arrange them and the text in Photoshop, creating the pages as they are in the book. Once all the pages were done, I ordered a proof copy of the book to go through final edits, including text, done by my editor, Julia. After many edits and proof copies, I ended up with the final copy! Snuggle up on the couch and read the final book to my kids! JD: We’ve got your book in the school library down here in Lynden, WA. Where else has it reached? And how can people get a copy? SV: Cheetahs Eat Cantaloupe has made it all across Canada and into the United States, and there’s even a copy in Scotland, too, which is pretty cool. I have a few copies left of the first print run that can be purchased through my website, www.stephanielorinda.com, or on Instagram @stephanielorinda. And if I run out, I’m happy to take pre-orders for the second edition....

News

Saturday Selections – Jan 28, 2023

British comic on climate change (7 min) Comedian Konstantin Kisin went viral in mid-January for his common sense counter to climate change hysteria. What we can learn about sacrifice from John Calvin’s "School of Death" "If any of our seminaries today were nicknamed 'The School of Death,' they would be empty!" Denmark secretly inserted IUDs in Greenland's women for decades In a 15-year span, from 1963 to 1978, Greenland's fertility rate dropped from 6.74 births per woman to just 2.21, and it was due in part to Danish doctors secretly and systematically chemically sterilizing Greenland women. While the world doesn't know how such a widespread evil like this is even possible, John Stonestreet offers an explanation above. Lord Acton offers another: "all power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." A Christian response to an arrogant government's abuse is to urge citizens to minimize its powers. Instead of expecting our governments to run not only justice and defense, but healthcare, education, the overall economy, and even whether we should have children, we should demand our elected leaders control much less. When a government is forced to acknowledge it doesn't know better than its own citizens how best to run their lives, that humility can counter the temptation to abuse its powers. And should it still succumb, a smaller government won't have the power to do harm on this scale. 8 ways we normalize the abnormal The world is normalizing certain sins, but as Paul Tripp notes even Christians – orthodox Bible-believing Christians – are busy normalizing our own sins. 8 times C.S. Lewis displayed brilliant political commentary in the Chronicles of Narnia Peter Jacobsen shares "what Narnia can teach us about politics in our own world." A key difference between social justice and biblical justice (4 min) Voddie Baucham says that one big difference between the two is how they each define "injustice." ...

News

Population of the world’s largest country begins to decline

For the first time since the early 1960s, deaths have outnumbered births in the world’s largest country – over the course of 2022 China’s population shrunk by 850,000. This development was a long time coming, as the country has seen a steady decrease in births since the 1970’s. That is thanks in part to China’s One-Child Policy, which stayed in force till 2015, and which penalized parents for having more than one child. The Communist government has been trying to reverse the downward trend since then, but with no success. China’s fertility rate is a dismal 1.28 children per woman, and still decreasing each year. To simply stay stable, a country’s fertility rate needs to average out to 2.1 children per woman, the two children to take the place of their two parents in the next generation, and the .1 to account for the fact that not all children reach adulthood. According to the Globe & Mail’s coverage: “no country has successfully reversed birth-rate decline, which tends to track with development, as wealthier, urbanized populations choose to have less children.” “China’s demographic and economic outlook is much bleaker than expected,” demographer Yi Fuxian commented in response to these findings. China is realizing quickly what Psalm 127:3 proclaims: “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from Him.” However, even as China is being confronted by this truth, Canada and much of the Western world continues to discourage children and is relying on immigration to keep the population and economy stable or growing. But where are these immigrants coming from, and what happens when these countries too need people? And if no country has been successful with reversing a decline, what happens when the world’s population begins to decline, as is expected later this century? Through birth, fostering, and adoption, Christian families have an opportunity to show to the world the gift that life is....

Book excerpts, Book Reviews, History, Human Rights, Politics

The bad king that prompted the Great Charter

How Robin Hood’s nemesis Prince John was the impetus behind the Magna Carta In this excerpt from “A Christian Citizenship Guide” by André Schutten and Michael Wagner, we go way back to the time of the fictional Robin Hood and the very real Prince John to learn about the development of the Magna Carta, which has been described as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.” ***** Once upon a time there was a king named Richard the Lionheart. He became king of England in 1189. The time before this date, in English law, is known as “time immemorial.”1 Important legal and political developments occurred in this “time out of mind” and contributed to the development of the system of law and government that we have today.2 While important and formational, those developments can’t be covered in detail here. However, we must begin the story of our constitution somewhere, and so we will begin the day after time immemorial. Most storybooks suggest that Richard the Lionheart was a good king, but that’s really quite debatable. All we know for sure is that his brother John was worse. Richard was a military man and mainly used England to fund his military exploits. He spent all but 6 months of his 10-year reign outside of England fighting various battles and pursuing various exploits. Once, on his way back to England, King Richard was kidnapped in a German territory and held for ransom. His brother John, temporarily ruling England in his place, not only refused to pay the ransom but offered the kidnappers money to keep his brother in custody! (You get a sense of John’s character, don’t you?) King Richard eventually returned to England but died shortly thereafter and, because he had no children, his younger brother John officially took the throne in the year 1199. King John ruled as an absolute monarch, as had most of the kings preceding him. He was the ultimate law maker and the final judge of any legal dispute, and he set himself above the law. King John was also a particularly cruel and greedy king, which is where the tales of Robin Hood come in. His excessive taxation impoverished the people and united the factions opposed to him. All sectors of society rose up: the barons, church leadership, merchants, and commoners. Signed not just twice or thrice In early 1215, a group of 39 barons (out of a total of 197) openly revolted against the king, with the blessing of Stephen Langton, the archbishop of Canterbury. The barons successfully took over the city of London and more barons came to their side. By midyear, King John knew he had to negotiate. And so, on the 15th day of June, 1215, in an open meadow known as Runnymede, the barons and the king signed a truce negotiated and drafted by archbishop Langton. That truce is known as the Magna Carta, or the Great Charter, and it is quite possibly the most significant legal document in the history of English law. Lord Denning, one of the greatest English judges in history, once described the Magna Carta as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”3 Lord Chief Justice Bingham wrote that “the sealing of Magna Carta was an event that changed the constitutional landscape in and, over time, the world.”4 The Magna Carta stands for the rule of law that all free men must be treated fairly and that no one is above the law, not even the king.5 By signing the Magna Carta, King John swore that he, and subsequent kings, would not be able to order the execution of his political enemies or any other citizens that displeased him without a proper criminal trial, heard by an impartial jury. Nor could he exact taxes from the people without first consulting with a council of barons (the very beginnings of a Parliament). And, often overlooked in modern political textbooks, the very first clause of the Magna Carta guaranteed the freedom and protection of the church.6 This was particularly important because King John wanted the power to appoint only those who agreed with him to be bishops of the church. The ecclesiastical leaders were known to speak out against the excesses and abuses of the king and often paid a steep price for doing so. King John’s father, King Henry II, infamously had archbishop Thomas Becket murdered inside Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 for standing up to the king on matters of church independence. While most parts of the Magna Carta have since been replaced or repealed by subsequent statutes, the ancient Charter has enduring value. One clause still in force today is Clause 40 which states: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.” This clause is an expression of the principle of equality before the law, cemented into Canada’s Constitution in section 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 767 years later. The Canadian version reads, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection of the law and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.” If you’re wondering whether the Magna Carta was a particularly Christian document, the answer is, “Yes!” Not only does the Magna Carta open and close with declarations about the church’s independence from state interference (the beginnings of constitutional protections for religious freedom), but the author, archbishop Langton, was the leading churchman in all of England. His legal training in Europe was in canon law (or church law), and he applied this legal training and the scriptural principles of law to his drafting of the Magna Carta. He had “a scripturally informed conscience from which emerged truth’s uninhibited voice in Magna Carta encourages proper and good government, resulting in increased justice.”7 Unfortunately, the signing of the Magna Carta didn’t restrain King John’s excesses all that long. Three months after signing it, the devious king had it annulled by the pope, and England was plunged into bloody civil war. But thankfully (for the English people anyway), King John died the next year from excessive diarrhea8 and the war came to an end. The Magna Carta did not die with King John. John’s nine-year-old son Henry III became king and reigned for the next 56 years. With the advisors and supporters of the young king seeking stability and an end to the civil war, the Magna Carta was reinstated in 1216. And when Henry reached adulthood in 1227, he reissued the Magna Carta again as law, though a shorter version of it, in exchange for the barons’ consent to a new tax. In 1253, in exchange for another tax to fund his battles in France, King Henry III swore on pain of excommunication “and stinking in hell” to uphold the Magna Carta.9 A decade later he broke his oath, imposing yet another tax, which sparked a rebellion known as the Second Barons’ War. That war concluded in 1267 with a peace treaty that required King Henry III to reaffirm the Magna Carta yet again (if you’re counting, that’s the fourth time).10 The development of the Parliaments King Henry III eventually died in 1272, and his son Edward I became king. Edward I (a.k.a. Edward Longshanks, because he was quite tall) did much good from a constitutional perspective, despite his depiction as a particularly cruel and cold-hearted English king in the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. Edward I instituted a major review of political corruption and the abuse of power by citizens who held substantial power. In 1275, he passed The First Statute of Westminster to put on paper many of the existing laws in the country. He also worked to strengthen the policing system and restore public order. One of King Edward’s biggest contributions is that he initiated the first official Parliaments in England, calling about 46 Parliaments in his reign. The first Parliament, in 1275, included members of the nobility, clergy, and the election of two county representatives and two representatives from the towns or cities to attend.11 Twenty years later, this form of representative parliament became standard practice, known as the Model Parliament, and all future Parliaments, including Canada’s, are based on it. The nobility and clergy make up the House of Lords (comparable to Canada’s Senate), and the elected representatives of counties or towns make up the House of the Commoners (or House of Commons). Importantly, before the king could increase taxes, he had to gain approval from Parliament. Parliament was also a check on the absolute authority of the king in other respects. After another dispute over taxes between the king and Parliament between 1294 and 1297, the Magna Carta was amended and passed by Parliament as a statute for the first time and signed into law by King Edward I. This 1297 version of the Magna Carta is the officially recognized legal text in English law today and remains a part of the constitutions of Britain and Canada. Over the next one hundred years, Parliament continued to pass statutes (known later as the Six Statutes12) that clarified and expanded on sections of the Magna Carta, constantly working to restrain by law the otherwise unlimited power of the monarch. These statutes ensured that any action taken against a subject, whether taxes, fines, evictions, imprisonment, or execution, had to be done by trial or due process of the law and not at the whim of the king or his officials. Some of these constitutional principles developed in the 1300s13 are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.14 The passing of the Magna Carta as a statute in Parliament marks a significant shift in the understanding of the power and authority of kings. The kings from the Norman Conquest (William the Conqueror in 1066) until the establishment of Parliaments believed “they ruled by means of their force and will (vis et voluntas), not by the grace of God or legal right.”15 Most people accepted this at the time, but cultural developments shifted toward “the principle of the supremacy of law.”16 The law was no longer a tool used by the king to get his way; rather the king himself was bound by the law and under the law. This shift did not happen by accident. Many of the legal rules and procedures that developed around this time were adapted from canon law (church law) which the king’s lawyers would have studied in the universities, which were also run by the churches. In the canon law tradition, “the idea that the rule of law was antithetical to the rule of men lay dormant.”17 To read the rest of the story, order a copy of André Schutten and Michael Wagner’s “A Christian Citizenship Guide” available for a suggested donation of $25. Email [email protected] or visit arpacanada.ca/CitizenshipGuide. Watch a conversation between the two authors below.  Footnotes 1. “A time out of mind” or “time immemorial” refers to a point beyond which legal authorities believed it was impossible to speak with certainty. See Ryan Alford, Seven Absolute Rights: Recovering the Historical Foundations of Canada’s Rule of Law (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020), pp. 79-80. 2. This includes the Law Code developed by King Alfred the Great (r. 871-899) which incorporated the 10 commandments into the laws of England, the tradition of the coronation oaths of the Anglo-Saxon kings, the Norman Invasion of 1066 led by William the Conqueror and the Charter of liberties his son King Henry I (r. 1100-1135) instituted. 3. Danny Danziger & John Gillingham, 1215: The Year of the Magna Carta (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2004), at p. 278. 4. Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law (Penguin Books, 2011), at p. 11. 5. Clause 39, still in force today, states: “No free man shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or deprived of his property, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor shall we go against him or send against him, unless by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.” The only other clauses still in force today are Clause 1, which guarantees the freedom of the church, and clause 13 (renumbered clause 9 in Magna Carta, 1297), which guarantees the ancient liberties of the City of London. 6. The first clause reads in part: “First, that we have granted to God, and by this present Charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.” 7. Brent Winters, Excellence of the Common Law (2008: self-published), p. 554, note 1383. 8. We are not 100% sure, but this may be why toilets are called “johns”. Some observe that, because King John was so despised, no king has ever been named after him. There has only ever been one King John, and he was bad enough. 9. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 84 10. The Magna Carta was reconfirmed by various kings dozens of times, having last been confirmed by Henry VI in 1423. Ben Johnson, “The History of the Magna Carta,” Historic UK: The History and Heritage Accommodation Guide, online 11. Some might argue that King Edward’s father, King Henry III, instituted the first Parliaments. However, those earlier assemblies were more a collection of barons as advisors than a Parliament. Henry III did issue the first summons of parliamentum generalissimum to 24 barons to convene in January 1237, though only 18 attended. This evolved over time into the House of Lords. King Edward I was the first to have elected representatives from the towns and counties to attend. Those elected representatives evolved into the House of Commons. 12. See discussion on the Six Statutes in Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at pp. 885-88. 13. These principles were developed by Parliament in the 1300s but are borrowed from canon law developed in the 1200s. For example, Pope Innocent III maintained that “a prince could not abolish the judicial process or ignore an action, because he was bound by natural law to render justice.” See Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 89. 14. These rights include the right not to be arbitrarily detained (s. 9 of the Charter), the right to a fair trial (s.11(d) of the Charter) and a trial by jury in serious offences (s.11(f) of the Charter). 15. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 87. Alford further explains, “The expression of royal anger and ill will (ira et malevolentia) was integral to royal status. Vassals had to accept the possibility of their destruction at the king’s hands as a fact of life.” 16. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 88. 17. Alford, Seven Absolute Rights, note 2, at p. 88....

News

Crypto companies losing employees, losing public trust

In early January, several firms involved in crypto-currency announced that they would be reducing the size of their workforces significantly. Genesis, Coinbase, Blockchain.com and Crypto.com are all seeking to cut costs as they experience fallout from the huge decline in the value of various cryptocurrencies in 2022, and from the well publicized collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Some of these firms are laying off employees just a few months after their last round of downsizing in the fall. Public trust in companies involved with cryptocurrency has been steadily dropping, after several high-profile firms were found to have defrauded investors of billions of dollars: some of these companies operated very much like old-fashioned “Ponzi” schemes – guaranteeing rates of return much higher than could be realistically expected, and paying out investors “profits” with funds deposited by new investors, without any underlying real business activity. Some analysts are predicting huge returns for crypto investors this year, while others predict a decline. Just days apart, CoinShares’ chief strategy officer predicted a $15,000 to $30,000 range for Bitcoin, while Skybridge Capital’s founder foresaw prices from $50,000 to $100,000 per Bitcoin in two or three years. Why the huge fluctuations, and price uncertainty? A recent paper by the investment firm Starkiller Capital observed that: “cryptocurrencies have very little intrinsic value in the sense that a long track record of… valuing these assets using a generally agreed upon set of fundamental variables does not exist.” While a Christian could perhaps use cryptocurrency as a payment system, using is not the same as investing. Because cryptocurrency has “little intrinsic value,” putting your retirement money into it is simply speculative, gambling rather than investing. In Proverbs, Solomon reminds us of the value of hard work and diligence, and the foolishness of seeking shortcuts: “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” – Prov. 12:11 “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” – Prov. 13:11 “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.” – Prov. 14:23 If an investment looks “too good to be true,” or promises something that no one can guarantee, perhaps we could read a few chapters from Proverbs to keep us from a foolish path....

News

Sperm counts plummet

An Oxford Academic journal has found that human sperm concentrations have dropped an average of 51.6% in the past 45 years, from 104 million to 49 million sperm per milliliter of semen. The findings are based on data from 223 papers that looked at sperm samples from 57,000 men from 53 countries worldwide. Declines in concentration were seen throughout the world, and the rate of decline seems to be increasing – to 2.64% annually since the year 2000. According to a report from the Guardian, previous studies suggested that sperm count begins to affect fertility when it decreases beneath 40 million per ml. Reactions to the study have been mixed, with some experts arguing that we need better data to determine with certainty that sperm counts are decreasing. There also isn’t clarity on what may be causing the decline, with suggestions including chemicals or environmental factors that are impacting the development of preborn boys. Others suggest that smoking, drinking, and a poor diet all contribute. It's important to note, though, that while the fertility rate has been plummeting throughout the world since 1963 – when it was 5.3 children per woman, compared to about 2.3 today – this decline is not because couples are unable to have children. Rather, through abortion and birth control, children simply aren’t welcomed into many lives any more. Canada’s rate is a dismal 1.4, meaning that our population would be plummeting if not for immigration. The very first command God gave to humanity was “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Young men and women, let’s not get old trying to discern God’s will for our lives when much of His will is printed in black and white in His Word. Find a godly spouse, get married, and embrace the gift of children if you are able. He knows what is best for us....

History

USS Meredith Victory: the “Gallant Ship”

There was nothing about USS Meredith Victory that would make it stand out from the crowd. The ship was a cargo vessel, built as part of the merchant marine during the Second World War. It was 455 feet long from bow to stern. The width at the widest point was a mere 62 feet. To give that context, a Canadian football field is 450 feet long from the farthest part of the endzone to the tip of the other end zone, and 195 feet wide. The Meredith Victory was not an especially big ship. The ship, however, was destined for a brief moment of fame. During the Korean War, the vessel was sent to bring supplies for the troops of the United Nations forces. With the Chinese invasion in December 1950, United Nations and South Korean forces were pushed to the brink. Close to 100 ships, including Meredith Victory, were sent to the port of Hungnam to evacuate 100,000 troops and as many of the 100,000 civilians as possible. Leonard LaRue, captain of Meredith Victory, offloaded any cargo or weapons that had been on board and set off for the port in order to accommodate as many refugees as he could. Room for two dozen On December 22, his vessel was guided through the minefield in the harbor by a minesweeper, and was then left to load passengers. Meredith Victory normally had a crew of 35, with 12 officers, and bunks for up to 12 additional passengers. There was food, water, and sanitation supplies for only that small complement of 59. By the time the ship had been fully loaded, around 11 the next morning, Meredith Victory had brought on approximately 14,000 Korean civilian refugees. No one would have blamed the captain if he had left the port hours earlier, leaving many of the refugees behind. The ships that had escorted Meredith Victory safely in had left during the night, making the vessel’s trip out through the minefield extremely perilous. All around, United Nations ships were shelling the port in order to deny it to the enemy forces. Yet Captain LaRue stayed until his ship was, literally, standing room only. Left vulnerable without a military escort, the ship arrived in the port of Pusan on Christmas Eve. First Mate D.S. Savastio, with only basic first aid training, had delivered five babies en route. Despite the bitter December cold, the lack of light or heat in the holds, and the fact that many were forced to stand on the ship’s deck shoulder to shoulder due to overcrowding, there were no injuries. However, Pusan already had its own problems with refugees, and was only able to accept those injured before boarding the ship. Meredith Victorysailed another 50 miles to Geoje Island, where it was able to unload the refugees on Boxing Day, December 26. Seeing rightly begets bravery After the war, the South Korean government awarded the ship the Presidential Unit Citation. An act of the U.S. Congress gave the vessel the title “Gallant Ship.” And the Guinness World Records group has called the event the largest evacuation from land by a single ship. Considering when it happened, it’s tempting to look at this story as a Christmas Miracle, the kind you might find in a Hallmark movie. The description certainly fits. However, it’s worth noting that Leonard LaRue, the captain of Meredith Victory, said that he believed “God’s own hand was at the helm of my ship.” His words are backed up by his later decision to give up the sea in favor of a life in a monastery. While that was a wrong turn, it’s clear that LaRue saw his life, and the lives of these thousands of others, as gifts from God. So he cherished them. And took enormous risks to try to protect these fellow Image-bearers. Faith isn’t a guarantee of success, but trusting God fully can be the catalyst for us to show love to others – even at great risk to ourselves – because we know that come what may, God’s got us. James Dykstra is a sometimes history teacher, author, and podcaster at History.icu “where history is never boring.” Find his podcast at History.icu, or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts....

News

Saturday Selections – Jan. 7, 2023

Tariffs help producers only by hurting consumers (3 min) Tariffs at best protect the domestic producer at the expense of domestic consumers by requiring them to pay more. Christians can ask, why should the government be showing partiality (Lev. 19:15, Matt. 7:12), picking the one over the other? And tariffs will hurt producers too, when they have to pay more for the goods they use to produce their own product. How to get married "If you are considering marriage at some point in the future, let me urge you to consider making your marriage about something bigger than just a great party with friends. " The inequity that anti-racist activists won't talk about In the US the black abortion rate is about 4 times that of the white abortion rate. How come we never hear antiracist activists talk about that? As John Stonestreet writes: "One problem is that such a conversation requires frank talk about counterproductive attitudes toward marriage and solo parenting in low-income black communities. It requires discussing antisocial behavior and personal responsibility." According to statistics he shared, a single woman is twice as likely to abort as a married woman, and black women are much less likely to be married. So acknowledging the abortion disparity would highlight a topic the Left doesn't want to discuss: the importance of husbands, fathers, and marriage. Dining out on the Lord's Day If you're against Sunday brunch after Church, your Christian friends might peg you as being rather legalistic, trying to earn God's grace by being so overly righteous. But there's another sort of legalism that seeks loopholes to get around the spirit of the law, even as it seems a person is still obeying the letter of it. As this article argues, it's actually dining out on Sunday that's legalistic, but of this second sort. Ethics of "would you kill baby Hitler?" are more important than you probably think This isn't an explicitly Christian article, but the point sure is: that the end can never justify the means. Why? Because the ends aren't in our control, but God's (Prov. 16:9, 19:21; James 4:13-17). Whereas the means are the way we can show our love for Him. It's when we understand this and submit to it that exciting possibilities open up: in our hypothetical example, instead of murdering baby Hitler, we might hug, coach, mentor, and/or discipline him. So many lawful, rather than awful possibilities! For a real-world application consider how those who think they can murder in the name of mercy aren't motivated to seek out better palliative or long-term care possibilities. It is when we rule out the option of choosing evil that we'll start discovering these other better ways of alleviating suffering. Closer to home, in our cultural battles, God's people will often stay silent about Him to, in our minds, be more effective at seeking ends that are in accord with His will. Think of the abortion debate and how rarely God is ever mentioned. We'll forgo the reason God created us – to glorify Him – to pursue these ends. But what if we ruled out means that rob Him of His rightful glory? What other options might open up to us then? Could it be that we'd discover the most God-glorifying argument against abortion – that we get our worth, not from what we can do, but from the One in Whose Image we are made – might also be the most effective one? Aaron Rench: Start a Fire (3 min) A little something to get the blood pumping... Hitler picture credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H1216-0500-002 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons...

Parenting

4 problems with State-funded daycare

…and the erosion of the family that the Church isn’t talking about enough **** Orthodox Christians are champions of the family, and rightly so. Stretching back to the beginning of history, marriage – and, by extension, the family – was the first institution that God created (Gen. 2:18, 24-25). Chronologically, the family supersedes the State, the Church, and any other institution in society. For that reason, Christians often call the family the “basic unit” or “basic institution” of society. Inseparable from the concept of the family is the principle that parents have the primary responsibility to care for the children that God has entrusted to them. This responsibility springs from the unique, natural relationship between parents and their children. Over the first few months and years of their lives, most children are raised almost exclusively by their parents. Over time, parents may gradually delegate some of their responsibility to professional caregivers and teachers. However, their right and responsibility as primary caregivers are never forfeited; they are only delegated. Ultimately, parental responsibilities towards their children are non-transferable. This responsibility is not only natural but also biblical. Throughout the Bible, God commands parents to teach their children the law of God, their shared history, and their religious practices. The wisdom of the book of Proverbs is imparted as from parents to children: “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” Deuteronomy 6:7 also says that the people of God, “…shall teach diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Although the Bible teaches that parents bear the primary responsibility to raise their children, it does not indicate that parents are required to do it alone. All parents need assistance in this task. In the Reformed tradition, we even make commitments at the baptism of our children to “instruct them in these things or have them instructed in them” (from the “Form for the Baptism of Infants,” in the Book of Praise). We acknowledge, basically from day one, that there may be others involved in the raising and teaching of our children. Because of this natural and biblical basis, Christians have traditionally advocated for primary parental responsibility in matters of modern education (for example, by advocating for parental choice on whether to homeschool or which school to send their children to). But as the church and individual Christians became less directly involved in delivering education, the government gradually took on more responsibility in this area. Public schools have been available options for more than 100 years now. Almost 90% of Canadian children now attend a fully funded, secular public school for the greater part of their childhood and adolescence. This has had an immense impact on our culture and ongoing transformation into a secular society. Now, governments in Canada are proposing the single greatest expansion of state authority over the family in the past century in the form of child care policy. And Christians aren’t even batting an eye. The State’s plans for childcare When governments and advocacy groups speak of child care, they generally mean non-parental, institutionalized daycare, where trained professionals care for children from a wide variety of households in a daycare facility. (Because child care should refer to the care of a child no matter who provides the care, we’re going to use the term daycare to refer to this professionalized, institutionalized form of child care.) Daycare typically focuses on children aged 0-5. Recently, daycare has been undergoing a transformation away from being about just caring for children and towards early childhood education. For example, British Columbia recently moved responsibility for child care under the Ministry of Education. This signals that, in essence, the government wants schooling to start at an even earlier age. In their 2021 budget, the Canadian federal government earmarked $30 billion over the next five years to daycare, with an annual commitment of $9.2 billion by 2026 and beyond. Their goal is to cut daycare fees in half by 2022 and to ensure universal $10 per day daycare is available to all parents by 2026. Subsidizing and regulating daycare falls within provincial responsibility, so the federal government will have to coordinate their efforts with the provinces. This is similar to how Canada’s health care system works: the provinces are responsible for health care, but the federal government provides provincial governments with billions of dollars in funding under the condition that their health care system meet certain national criteria. Now, although each province requires all children to receive a formal education, there is no such requirement that all children must attend daycare. As it stands right now, the provinces are only planning to make universal, subsidized childcare available for those who want it. Prior to the pandemic, the parents of 57.6% of children wanted non-parental child care, despite the current high cost of such child care. The government – and many daycare advocates – are keen to establish government-funded daycare spots for a variety of reasons. Their primary argument is that access to daycare helps achieve gender equity for women by relieving mothers (who are disproportionately involved in child care) of the responsibility for caring for children. This enables more women to be employed and narrows the labour force participation rate gap between men and women. Second, advocates think that subsidized daycare will make life more affordable for the average Canadian family. Third, they claim that early childhood learning programs and quality daycare lead to better outcomes for children. Four problems with State-funded daycare Why is this approach to child care something Christians should be concerned about? There are at least four problems with this model: #1: Subsidized daycare encourages more parents to spend less time with their children If parents are ultimately responsible for raising their children, particularly young children, then subsidizing daycare encourages parents to hand off responsibility for raising their children to others while they pursue economic goals or search for self-fulfillment outside of the home. A classic principle of economics is that when you subsidize something, which is functionally the same as lowering the cost of something, people demand more of it. They demand more of it because it is cheaper for them. The same principle holds true for daycare. If the government subsidizes daycare, some parents who already use daycare a couple of days a week will find it convenient to use it for the entire week. Or some might start sending their child at age 3 instead of age 4. Other parents, enticed by the lower cost of daycare, will start sending their children to daycare for the first time. Obviously, the time that children spend in daycare is time not spent with their parents. #2: Subsidized daycare encourages parents to see children as a burden rather than a blessing The primary argument in favor of subsidizing daycare sees children as a burden rather than a blessing. Supporters of subsidizing daycare view it as a way to increase women’s participation in the labor force and the economy. Without access to daycare, women are “stuck at home” or “forced to stay home” to care for their child(ren). This is against their presumed “true desire” to rejoin the workforce, either to find fulfillment in a career or a higher material standard of living. According to this mindset, children are not a blessing, but a burden on the career advancement or financial stability of parents, particularly mothers. Subsidizing daycare contributes to this mentality.  #3: Subsidized daycare fails to appreciate the choice of some parents to care for their own children The subsidization of daycare underappreciates the decisions of some parents to stay at home and care for their own children. Our broader culture already looks down upon this decision as, at best, a waste of time or talent or, at worst, perpetuating outdated or sexist stereotypes. This disregard will only grow if our provincial governments support only daycare. For Christian parents who choose to raise and/or educate their own children, they would be required to pay taxes to support publicly funded daycare while also forgoing the income of a second parent in the workforce that most other families enjoy. In a country where the cost of living – particularly housing – is rising quickly, this extra taxation without any resulting benefit makes it more and more difficult for a parent to prioritize raising their children themselves.  #4: Daycare is not in the best interest of all children In discussions around daycare, many advocates speak primarily of the benefits to parents, particularly women. But what about the children? Are daycare programs good for all children? A significant body of evidence suggests not. In their 2019 report A Positive Vision for Child Care Policy Across Canada, Cardus describes how Quebec’s universal, subsidized daycare led to poor outcomes for children. A working paper published by Baker, Gruber, and Milligan finds a correlation between attendance of an institutionalized childcare center and lower social and behavioral skills.* These findings should not be surprising when we look at the biblical pattern of parents having the ultimate responsibility for raising their children. God designed the structure of a family, and we know He designed it for His glory, our good, and the greater good of society. What can we do? For these reasons, Christians should be critics of universal subsidized daycare. Yet, this change in government policy is an opportunity for Christians for at least two reasons. First, we should continue to praise parents who fully embrace the responsibility to care for and educate their children themselves. The child care provided by stay-at-home parents has been discounted for decades. We live in a capitalist culture driven by goals of productivity and career advancement where many find their primary identity in their work. We also live in a secular culture dominated by individualism and materialism where being a stay-at-home parent is often met with disdain. We need to laud parents who make sacrifices in other areas of life to fulfill this responsibility well. We should support policies that enable parents to care for and educate their children themselves rather than encouraging parents to pass this responsibility to others at earlier and earlier ages. Secondly, daycare is an incredible opportunity for the Church. Canadians are calling for a government-supported daycare program because they often don’t have the social networks to help them in this task. Many families need daycare due to poverty, disability or sickness, or single parenthood, and we know that childhood years are fundamental in shaping children’s character. Rather than leaving only non-Christians to care for and educate young children, Christians should also pursue childcare careers and make child care a mission field. Conclusion Subsidized daycare is often presented as a pro-family policy because it reduces the expenses of many families. Although it might materially enrich some families in the short-term, however, it is more aptly characterized as a get-moms-back-to-“real”-work strategy. Our culture increasingly thinks children should be entrusted to professionals over parents. Parents, relieved of their duty, are then expected to work full-time. Extending significant funding to daycares will entrench this mentality in our society and perhaps increasingly creep into the Church. Instead, government policy ought to emphasize that the care of children is primarily the responsibility of parents, and this is a task – and calling – to be taken up with joy. We have a window of opportunity to influence the shape of childcare systems now as these systems are being formed, but it will be much harder to change these systems once they are in place. Consider the points raised above, talk about it with your family and friends, consider how you can be a salt and a light to the world around us, and start a dialogue with your representatives today. Endnote * Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber, Kevin Milligan. (2019). The Long-Run Impacts of a Universal Child Care Program. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. 11; 3. p. 1-26 Levi Minderhoud is the BC Manager, and Anna Nienhuis is a policy analyst and editor for ARPA Canada....

Parenting

Keeping in touch with the grands

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged…” Prov. 17:6a “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” Prov. 13:22a It used to be that if someone mentioned a woman’s grandchildren, she would dig in her oversized purse for a small album and show off the pictures of her precious little people. Grandfathers, too, would pull out a wallet that trailed plastic sleeves filled with photos. Nowadays we might have to wait while he or she scrolls through their phone, but grandchildren remain every bit as loved! They are wonderful! They amuse, hug, and love us and remind us of when our own kids did this or that. They are usually not ours to raise and discipline, but they are ours to love and assist. If they don’t live nearby… It is often the case that grandparents won’t have the joy of living in the same general area as our grandchildren. Universities, jobs, missions, and marriages may take them to another province or state or even to a faraway country, and as we saw these past few years, governmental decisions may make visits even more difficult. We can praise God that it no longer takes a month or more to contact anyone, even if they are on the other side of the world! Most of the time there can be instant communication. We can all agree that long-distance communication pales in comparison to actually being together. Holding a child in your lap to read a story, swimming together in a pool, and hugging are all activities that require one’s presence. But when the circumstances of life insist that grandchildren are physically out of reach, there are ways to let them know that they are loved and to be a regular part of their lives. If the grandparents get it started, hopefully the grandkids will respond in kind. Here are some great ideas I’ve collected from friends and acquaintances. Some of these may suit your situation and help you nurture those long-distance relationships. So what can grandparents and grandchildren do to be a regular part of each others’ lives? Visit as often as possible. Even a visit for a couple of days helps to build the relationship and remind them of your love. Perhaps you can transport them to visit you one or two at a time. Learn about their lives. One daughter told about how her mother-in-law talked to the kids once a week on the phone, and had a knack of asking leading questions. She knew the names of their teachers and friends, what books and games they enjoyed, and what their interests were, so she talked knowingly about those things. When she sent them cards or small gifts, they would talk about those. Even though they only saw her once a year, the kids felt like they knew her and they knew that she loved them. Write letters. Everyone loves “snail mail” that is personal. Stock up on some stickers and coloring books. With one stamp you can send a letter (remember to print if they are younger than 9 years old!) with a page of stickers and a page taken out of a coloring book. Perhaps you can write them a silly poem, or tell them an anecdote from your week, or a story about their dad or mom when they were young. Send cash or gift cards. Many gift cards (such as Walmart!) do not work across the border, and banks in the US and Canada charge fees to process a foreign check. Postage for packages anywhere can end up costing twice as much as the gift! I have had success with including a small amount of cash in a birthday card. For larger amounts, PayPal has been our best option. If they have a Wendy’s nearby, you might send them a 5-Frosties-for-$1 coupon book around Halloween. Just be sure that they can easily cash in whichever gift card you send to them. Ask grandkids to write back. Ask the kids to write back to the grandparents, even if it means having little ones dictate their words to a parent or older sibling. Writing a thank you for a gift or remembering the grandparents’ birthday is also a loving way to respond. Schedule a regular online video call. Zoom/Facetime/Facebook Messenger, etc. make it possible. Ask to speak to one child at a time. This may lessen silliness or arguments about whose turn it is. If the time zones make it difficult, try making short calls here and there rather than setting up a full appointment. Even a 5-minute call just to tell them about something that happened and ask about their day shows that you are a part of their life. Let grandkids call. Allow the kids to call the grandparents when they want to, within reason. If there’s a 3-hour time difference, Grandpa might not respond at 6 a.m. Pacific time. Read a weekly story book You can read them part of a chapter book each week. They will look forward to your next call! Go to the library to improve your collection. Record your reading of the book and send it so that their busy family can listen to it at their convenience. Do an art project together. You can do this while chatting via Facetime, Zoom, or the like, after making suitable arrangements with their parents. Sing or play a short song. Do it regularly to help the little ones recognize you. Play games together. Kids love to play Battleship over Zoom/Facetime/Facebook Messenger. Another option is Drawful, which is part of a group of online games at Jackbox.tv. We had family members from 5 or 6 locations play this Pictionary-type game together. Play Marco Polo together. There’s a phone app called Marco Polo (easy instructions can be found when you Google it) where you can send a video message to them to listen to later. This could include reading a story, sharing a Bible verse or song, or even showing them how to draw or create something. They can watch it repeatedly! They can send you videos as well, sharing the songs that they learned, introducing their friends, showing off their pets or their dance steps, or hearing them tell about a funny movie that they watched. Try “Friendship Lamps.” One grandmother bought Friendship Lamps for herself and all of her grandkids. You simply plug them in and connect them to your wi-fi. Then, through the power of the internet, when one person touches their lamp, everyone else's lamps light up with a special color that is unique to that person. So, if Grandma touches her lamp, all the grandkids’ lamps will turn orange, and they know that she is thinking of them. One grandparent declared that her grandkids love it. Ads on the internet list a “set of two” for about $150 US. Conclusion     Long distance between loved ones doesn’t have to bring an end to regular communication. You can show your love, give a listening ear, make them laugh, teach them a skill, and most importantly, share the steadfast love of the LORD and ideas for employing the fruit of the Spirit in everyday life. It just takes a bit of planning and effort on the grandparent’s part to get it started. “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children...” Ps 103:17             ...

Christian education

Calvin Hutchinson: from chemical engineering to high school teacher

There are all sorts of paths to teaching and reasons to teach, and in this interview, conducted with Mark Penninga (and lightly edited), Calvin Hutchinson offers up his own. ***** My pathway into teaching is a fairly bizarre one. I went to university at McMaster in Hamilton, graduating with a chemical engineering degree. With this degree, I was able to get hired by a consulting firm, and for the next little while I worked with a number of different companies doing IT management, project management, and general business analyst work. After spending some time working in New Brunswick, I came back to Ontario and was asked to fill in at Emmanuel Christian High School (ECHS) for a teacher who had to take emergency medical leave. I finished one semester and, while I had fun helping out, I made the decision to go back to consulting as I felt that I was too close in age to the students at the time. God wasn’t letting me leave education completely though. Shortly afterward I was asked to help out with coaching the boys’ basketball teams. And then I joined the board of directors for ECHS. It was through this experience that I received the “management” view of the school, and realized there was a huge need for effective educators. A major part of the board’s early spring meetings, and a huge source of stress, was making sure that we had enough staff in place to even run the school for the following school year. This still happens every single year in many of the Reformed Christian schools. The private Christian education I had taken for granted my entire life seemed to actually be struggling to continue. The story of how I decided to become a teacher again is a fairly personal one, but to sum it up, I needed a change, I saw the different talents and paths God made available to me, and saw the need for Christian educators, I listened to some advice from those much wiser than me, and decided to give teaching another chance. It was the best decision of my life to date. It doesn’t matter how grumpy I am in the morning, how little coffee I have had, or even if my car gets a flat tire on my way into work and everything goes wrong, whenever the students come into the class, I start to smile. Each student is completely unique, and has their own personalities and quirks that are fun to get to know and interact with. This makes teaching the same subject year after year seem completely new, as each group of students will respond to a different teaching method and delivery. And when you are willing to create an environment where having fun while learning is the norm, then there is no end to the uniqueness that students are willing to bring to the class. I remember teaching a class on microbiology where I made an analogy comparing enzymes to turbochargers. I was told I was wrong, and received a 30-minute lecture from my students telling me why I was wrong, and on the difference between superchargers and turbochargers. A little off of the government curriculum maybe, but I guarantee that the students remember what an enzyme does. Interactions like that happen on a daily basis, and it is amazing to experience. I have so much fun doing my job every single day, and am so grateful that God led me down the pathway to being a teacher....

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