Wednesday, September 12, 2007

the family-closing of the american mind-rambling thoughts...

Allan Bloom is a professor. When he discusses the student he discusses how a university professor can teach a modern student. As an aside he discusses how the modern student got to be the way he is...not really enjoying reading, or looking to books for wisdom and learning. As he talks about how a modern student became so closed minded to real classical learning he presents his view on the family. Some of his thoughts are:

"Its [meaning the family] base is merely bodily reproduction, but its purpose is the formation of civilized human beings"

"The parents must have knowledge of what has happened in the past, and prescriptions for what ought to be, in order to resist the philistinism or the wickedness of the present."

"The family, however, has to be a sacred unit, believing in the permanence of what it teaches, if it's ritual and ceremony are to express and transmit the wonder of the moral law, which it alone is capable of transmitting and which makes it special in a world devoted to the humanly, all too humanly, useful."

What fascinating thoughts! The third quote has been the focus of my thoughts. Moral law is extremely difficult to transmit without religion. The child or student comes to understand that the moral law can change with opinions and situations and is therefore practically meaningless. When moral law is connected to religion, that law is fixed, unchangeable and therefore powerful. Most religious people understand the concept of a rare exceptions, as those examples exist in most sacred texts; but what power is the moral ideal.

This stabilizing power is the basis of civilization and is best taught in the family! What a powerful thing a family is. That two people can meet and fall in love does not require education. The can marry, have children and become, for all intents and purposes a family. Somewhere along the lines education. Financial principles must be learned and applied, cooking, car maintenance, nursing skills, I frequent wish for drawing skills, along with a slew of other specific parental wisdom. In addition to this practical wisdom, history, science, geography, math, language are all applied in parenthood. Most importantly religious education becomes a necessity. Children come with a multitude of questions, create a multitude of moral dilemmas and demand to know the truth. What an inspiring and very humbling thought to consider a parents role to learn truth and teach a child how to then learn truth for themselves.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

blessed are the peacemakers...

I have spent the last year fascinated by the American Revolution and frustrated by the French Revolution. I have read books, discussed, and thought alot about why these two revolutions were so different. I almost reread all of Les Miserables again, because it's about the French Rvolution and I'll gladly make up excuses to reread that powerful book. I started reading biographies of the leaders of these two revolutions. While reading about the different leaders I started to see themes and catch ideas. some of these thought kept floating around in my head.

John Adams went to France to help Benjamin Franklin with foreign relations during the American Revolution. At that time in Paris 6,000 babies were being given abandoned at church door steps a year. Unfathomable! There aren't similar stats for America, but I'm not sure if there would be 60, at that same time in America. France and America had very different moral climates.

I wondered if morals alone could make the difference. Perhaps. Perhaps they are also connected with another factor. It appears to me that what the French leaders lacked was not charisma, speaking abilities, or education. They also had plenty of national pride. They knew how to rally people to a cause, and how to get things done. What they lacked was a knowledge of how to make peace. They were excellent at making a revolution. They were very effective at geting rid of those in power. They were very poor at knowing what to do once they had power. They did not know the principles of peace or how to inspire a society to keep laws that would make for a peaceful nation.

From the beginning of the American revolution, Americans had a concept of freedom. They checked the English very early in a clear legal way when they felt their rights were being hampered. Americans had a concept of what good governmetn looked like and acted like. Some Americans studied great political thinkers and philosphers to understand what good government could look like. American leaders valued peace over power. When the time came to form a government, there were men in America available who knew how to build peace and wanted to make it last. The constitution was the result of the work of those great minds.

France had a vague sort of notion that what was going on was wrong. They waited far too long to act. They waited until the masses were starving. Hungry people don't think rationally, they think desparately. Hungry people think in the short term. Leaders in France were educated in law, but usually in the sort of law they had just been living. They had grand philosophical ideas, but they also valued personal power. They were seldom able to see into the long term what would be best for France, because they were focused on advancing their own careers. They valued power over peace. Many of the political philosphies they admired were new and few were based on correct principles.

Now back to the 6,000 babies a year...This reflects on the moral state of the people as closely tied with their family life. In my opinion, the best place to learn how to be a peace maker is in the home. France's family life was suffering, America's was flourishing. It is easier to understand peace when home is a haven of peace. It is also easier to understand peace when we seek the Prince of Peace.

As I have studied this, the most hubling aspect is to consider our country today. I love America, but I can hardly say that family life is flourishing in America. I'm not sure if we are morally where France was, but I know we aren't where we once were. We are still desparately in need of peacemakers. Will we have them when we need them?