Monday, August 24, 2009


1. Since we're in the rare position this summer of nobody having to work on the weekend, we've been trying to get back in the habit of going to church. A large part of why we drifted away from our last church was the lack of childcare, since for some reason I find it difficult to develop my spiritual life with a bored toddler using me as a jungle gym. While K is now old enough for Sunday School, Alec is going to be starting up the pew wrestling matches soon enough so we decided to look farther afield. I found a nearby church that just recently declared itself Open and Affirming, offers a nursery and seems like a nice compromise of being large enough to offer good religious education and programs, yet not so large that you feel lost in the crowd, and we've successfully gone there three times in the past six weeks, which isn't bad given that we have two pint-size insomniacs who live to keep us up at night.

This Sunday was the first where we heard the minister preach, since she was on vacation the first two times we came. The sermon favorably impressed me in two ways. The first is that she was preaching on the armor of God, a topic heavily favored by Evangelical types* and nervously avoided by we hippy-dippy liberal progressive types because the literal interpretation of that particular scripture is that the armor is protection against Satan. However, this minister delivered a quite excellent interpretation for a progressive liberal Christian context. And she did it by referencing Star Wars, the Mirror Mirror episode of Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and specifically enough that it was clear that she was very personally acquainted with all of these things, not just drawing from popular culture.

A challenge we've had in finding churches is that while everyone is always very nice, we never seem to find anyone we have anything in common with. A church with a minister geeky enough to be able to preach in detail on the opening scenes of book 7 of Harry Potter seems very promising on that front. Another good sign is that even though it was August and therefore sparsely attended, there were two other families there with babies - not having young families is another issue we've encountered while church-shopping.

So I'm hopeful we'll be able to keep up with attending as we move into the fall and I start working again.

2. We went to see Ponyo this afternoon. Oh my, it was a cute movie. The animation was gorgeous, as usual. The plot didn't bear close examination, but it was enjoyable and didn't even hit us with the 2 x 4 of environmental awareness. It was K's first Miyazaki in the theatre ex utero, since we saw Howl's Moving Castle when I was a week overdue with her. She absolutely loved it, and while she said it was scary afterwards, she didn't need to leave the theatre, which we've had to do in the past. So if you're the parent of a very sensitive small child that you would like to take to the movies, while it's not completely free of scariness, it's pretty mild and a good movie for the young scaredy-cat.

3. After months of frustration trying to figure out how to take good pictures on my camera without using the flash, I discovered quite accidentally last month that my camera has a specific setting for that right there in a place that should be obvious for anyone to see. The combination of discovering that, the fact that Alec's changing table is one of the few places that gets natural light in the house and Alec starting to smile has meant that I now have a lot of portrait shots of him on his changing table. But it's hard not to keep taking pictures when you have a model like this:


* Here's the story of how I became acquainted with the theology of the armor of God: when I was a teenager, the church I grew up in decided to purchase a Sunday School curriculum that consisted of a scripted series of shows using puppets and humans in a combination of skits and singing to teach concepts. It was called Caraway Street, and any slight resemblance to certain shows on PBS is a COMPLETE coincidence. I always felt it was kind of outrageous how concerned the creator of Caraway Street was with protecting his copyright considering that he was stretching the concept of fair use until it was practically doughnut-shaped.

Anyway, the creator of Caraway Street was some sort of Evangelical Baptist-type, and my church was UCC, which made for some incompatible theology issues. This particular church was not at all liberal**, but we still didn't traffic much in Devil talk or go in for heavy evangelism. So when the creator came to train us and showed us the pamphlet we could give the children so they could convert all of their friends on the playground,*** we nodded politely and somehow never remembered to pass them out after he left. And initially the scripts seemed fine. The emphasis on memorizing the books of the Bible seemed a bit inane, but harmless.

But through a complicated series of events, I wound up in charge of the program****, which meant I was in charge of making up cue cards, and found myself progressively editing the lines more heavily every week as more fire and brimstone kept creeping into the skits. And this is when I first encountered the armor of God: the week I had to start completely eliminating skits because Satan was starting to take on a speaking role. And the damn thing kept coming up again and again. I suppose I can understand why, since it lends itself to easy slogan-y chanting (the breastplate of righteousness! The sword of demon slaying! The tinfoil hat of alien-mindray repelling!). But I started to hate it very quickly, as I kept having to make the singing portions longer and longer to cover the fact that the scripts were starting to get quite anemic after I was done editing for hellfire.

** In fact, I believe they later left the UCC. The fact that many people didn't have nearly as many issues with the scripts as I did is a good indicator of why my family left the church later that year.

*** This being a heavily religious area (my home town had literally a church per every square mile, and a common question was "What church do you go to?" not, "Do you attend church?"), I think they would have been forced to convert the local squirrels due to a general lack of young heathens among their classmates.

**** The fact that a 16-year-old was in charge of the church's Sunday School program for a good six months is an excellent indicator of why we left the church later that year.

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