Parenthood Reveals My Self Idolization

When I think about it I am a little afraid of the outside influences on my sons. I think about the "quality" of his teachers, friends, coaches and other influences. I ponder what movies are appropriate and how much "screen time" they should have because, I tell myself, I want to find positive role models and good influences in my sons' life. 

Which is true.

But is also sort of masks a little truth which is if I allow all sorts of influences in my son's life that I can control then that means there is a possibility that my influence on him will shrink. It is the diminishment of me that is a big reason that I am able to find all sorts of reasons why my son cannot hang out with those people, have that teacher/coach, participate in that club/trip/experience and/or have too much screen time. 

Both of my sons teach me things everyday and I continue to be in awe at their curiosity and innocence. What I was unprepared for are the things that my sons reveal in me through my actions as a parent. And one of these revelations parenthood reveals to me is how much I idolize myself.

It is convenient that I always have concerns about how other people and things influence my sons but I rarely have any concern about my influence on him. The Bible speaks about elevating yourself over others. Jesus speaks about removing the plank in our own eye before talking about the speck in others. Putting myself at the center of my sons' lives is just another way that I am reminded of just how far I have to mature to be able to die to myself.

The Grand Marshal is Not the Leader

PDX Carpet was named the Grand Marshal of the 2015 Starlight Parade, March 20, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

PDX Carpet was named the Grand Marshal of the 2015 Starlight Parade, March 20, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

The Grand Marshal in a parade is not the leader. Yes, they may be in the front of the parade. They may be the most recognizable name in the parade to those observing the parade. It is an honor to be a Grand Marshal. You get special treatment and access. You may be the Grand Marshal of the parade, but everyone knows you are not leading the parade. And to be honest, the job of a parade Grand Marshal can be (and recently was) accomplished by a carpet roll.

If the Grand Marshal deviated from the parade route, no one in the parade will follow. It is clear that there is something other than the Grand Marshal who is the leader of the parade. Everyone knows it but few ever see who that leader is. 

The same can be said about Church. The clergy or senior leadership functions like the Grand Marshal. They may be in front, but they are not leading. The Church is (and has always been and will always be) lead by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit. 

Just because you are up front does not mean you are leader. 

Is our biology contributing to Church segregation?

Invisibilia is a podcast that explores the "invisible" forces that affect life. In a recent episode the reporters explore "The Power of Categories" and second half of the episode talks about a retirement community. 

If you don't want to take time to listen to the episode, or at least the second half, here is the setup. 

Man from India (Iggy) sets up a retirement community (Shantiniketan) that feels more like his native country. Other retiring people from India are attracted to  being a part of a community where they are no longer an outsider. While the community does not turn non-India people away it is still a community that can feel rather exclusive. The original founder does not want his children to live in a community like this - too insular - but he also feels that people are like salmon and as we get closer to death we desire to return back to what is most comfortable or familiar. And according to Jeff Greenburn, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona, humans get just a little bit more racist as we move closer to death. Here is the transcript from this point:

GREENBERG: I am a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona.

MILLER: And for the last 30 years, he's been studying how we behave when death is on the mind.

GREENBERG: That realization that, someday, we're not going to exist.

MILLER: And Iggy is absolutely right. If you raise the specter of death in a person's mind, which you can do experimentally, by the way, by simply asking a question like...

GREENBERG: ...What do you think happens to you as you physically die and once you're dead?

MILLER: People like people in their own group way better than they do when they're not thinking about death.

GREENBERG: So we had them rate them on, you know, traits like, you know, honesty, kindness, intelligence.

MILLER: Christians like Christians better. Italians like Italians better. And Germans, who most of the time are actually pretty lukewarm on other Germans...

GREENBERG: I think it's still - it's lingering, you know, guilt.

MILLER: ...If you get them to contemplate their own mortality, suddenly they really like Germans.

GREENBERG: So if you interview Germans near funeral home, they're much more nationalistic.

(LAUGHTER)

MILLER: But it's not just that we like our own more. Its reverse imprint is also true. We like people outside of our group much, much less.

GREENBERG: People become more negative toward other cultures.

MILLER: So why? Why might we do this?

GREENBERG: Well, because death haunts us as it does. We have to do something about it.

MILLER: Greenberg thinks it's this strange way that we try to fend off death. His thinking goes that people who are not like you, who do not share your language or your values or your beliefs, well, in some very primal way, it's like they can't see you.

GREENBERG: And so to manage the terror that we're just these transient creatures...

MILLER: ...We shoo those people who make us disappear away.

GREENBERG: Right.

MILLER: That is, when you dive deep into your own category, what you're actually getting is the illusion...

GREENBERG: ...That we're significant and we're enduringly significant.


And so if it is true that human individuals become more concerned with surrounding themselves with their own when they are thinking about their own death, is is also true that human institutions become more concerned with surrounding themselves with their own when the institution is thinking about it's death? Does the chatter of the "death of the Church" and the Church's inability to draw in new Christians create a feedback loop where the Church is only able (or willing) to drawn in others who look/act/feel like us?