Ben Russell, assistant director of early childhood education for the Boston Public Schools, is struggling to find the right formula, too. “Some kids aren’t ready, and I fear for those kids.” Children who struggle in kindergarten are the ones who grow to hate school and who will likely continue to fall behind, he explains. “What becomes of kids who are not reading at the third-grade level?” asks Russell. “We use those numbers to create prisons. And that is a tragedy.”
So to those white men who aren’t followed by police in their neighborhoods, or who can ride in an elevator with a white woman without seeing her clutch her purse; to the black man who can walk down the street without being sexually harassed by his male peers and who is taken more seriously than black women when he speaks or when he is in position of leadership; to the heterosexuals who are free to walk down the street holding their partner’s hand without the threat of violence: I have a message for every one of you who are intentionally in denial about your privilege. Equity has never hurt anybody. Seeing each other as the same and helping another rise to the one’s level has never caused the downfall of any nation or empire. Rather, it was always ego and denial that destroyed great civilizations. You will not only hurt others when you refuse to acknowledge and give up your privilege, but you will contribute to the downfall of the nation in which you so “magically” benefit from it.
But during the second half of the 20th century, Chudacoff argues, play changed radically. Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child’s play — a trend which begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space.
Because in the face of supermarket tabloids that barely allow a woman’s perineum to be stitched up before they are gleefully asking “how she’s going to lose the weight” and a celebrity culture that plans a tummy tuck before even nursing the new babe for the first time, we have forgotten how having a baby actually looks on a body. Here let me tell you: it’s a big deal to have a baby. After you have a baby, you are left with a softly pooched out tummy and aching nether-regions, sore breasts and your entire heart now laying beside you making noises like a kitten. You are weepy and exhausted, gloriously alive and powerful. You are a life-giver and so now you want both a nap and a hearty roast beef dinner for your troubles. Your skin is criss-crossed with stretch marks because you don’t participate in co-creation with God without being marked by the experience. You became a mother and, no matter how many sit-ups you do, your body will bear the imprint of that truth for the rest of your life in some way.
Being curious about someone’s ethnicity is perfectly fine, but just be aware that how and when you ask it has an impact on people, and if you’re an asshole about it, the impact is othering. I’ve never been curt enough to say it when people ask me about my ethnicity, but the question that always pops up in my mind is, “Why? Why do you need to know at this particular time?” Ask yourself why you’re doing it before you question someone about their background. If their ethnicity is relevant to the conversation, or perhaps you’re at a point in your friendship where the question is appropriate, then it’s fine. But chances are, if you’re asking just to ask, you really just shouldn’t.
But after spending years on Facebook, I’ve seen a trend that’s both interesting and troubling: If I find a hoax in my news feed, chances are it will have been shared by an evangelical Christian. I know that sounds like a terrible thing to say, but it’s true. In fact, it’s so typical and intriguing, that I’ve been keeping track of the phenomenon for quite a while. I’ve often wondered why mainstream Christians (not my high-church friends, not my Catholic friends, etc.) are so quick to pass on news stories and testimonials that are untrue.
There are so many styles of shared broadcasting these days. Our friends showcase a genre of “performance art” in the form of updates to social networks like Twitter and Facebook all the time and mainly about their kids. We can finger through the digital filing cabinets of platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Flickr for media evidence of those stories. The Internet seems to be a mile wide and an inch deep intellectually, but these stories remain immortal. Whether you’re a blogger or just a chronic over-sharer of baby photos, you are crafting a story that people will find even if they become digital archaeology.
We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers. You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.
We want to go serve the poor? Well isn’t that the cool and “relevant” thing to do? Looking to get a merit badge for Jesus? Want to stay in Awanna? Look, we’ve got VBS and mission trips. Don’t like the looks of that? Why don’t you Instagram us a picture of you and your friends making sad faces.