Motherhood as vocation

Did you know that Mollie Hemingway, the confessional Lutheran journalist, has a column in Christianity Today?  Here are some links, going back awhile: Throwing Inkwells: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

I’m glad she has that forum.  Other Christians could benefit greatly from what many Lutherans just keep to themselves.  Here she is on how the doctrine of vocation can help stressed out, guilt-ridden mothers deal with “the mommy wars“:

How should Christians think about the Mommy Wars? Vocationally. You may have heard vocation used as a synonym for occupation. But Martin Luther used it to talk about every Christian’s calling to particular offices through which God works to care for his creation. We serve our neighbors as employees, yes, but also as citizens, parishioners, and family members. Through our web of relationships, we are the instruments by which God works in the world.

So, for instance, God heals us by giving us doctors and nurses. He feeds us by giving us farmers and bakers. He gives us earthly order through our governors and legislators, and he gives us life through our parents. God is providing all these gifts—but we receive them from our neighbors.

Parenting is one of the most important vocations we can be given. Yes, the obligations of childrearing are difficult, but when the duties are fulfilled with the knowledge that we are doing the will of God, our reward is great. Luther wrote that fathers should not complain when they have to rock a baby, change his diaper, or care for the baby’s mother, but instead should view each act as a holy blessing.

God has placed me as the mother of my children. So long as I’m not sinning, I am free to serve my children as I see fit. I have the responsibility to feed my children, but I can fulfill that task by slaving away in the kitchen to produce a five-course meal or by ordering out for pizza. I have the responsibility of making sure my children are educated, but I have the freedom to do that on my own or by sending them to whichever school my husband and I pick.

Sure, we all have a role to play in upholding community standards and making sure our neighbors’ children have their needs met, but we should also be careful not to intrude on others’ vocations. Just as we wouldn’t rearrange colleagues’ offices or tinker with their computers, neither should we presume to know best how they should manage their families.

So if you’re an overwhelmed mother, wave the white flag of surrender in the Mommy Wars and enjoy your vocation and the freedom it provides.

Take this job and shove it

So what do you think about that flight attendant who got fed up with a passenger whose overhead luggage fell on him after landing, whereupon he got on the intercom to cuss out the passenger, then grabbed some beer off the service car and activated the emergency exit to slide onto the tarmac?

Authorities said [Steven] Slater dropped several f-bombs on a JetBlue flight’s loud speaker Monday night, grabbed two beers, deployed the plane’s emergency slide at Kennedy Airport, and then took off.

From all accounts, the 38-year old Slater simply had had enough.

Sporting a cut on his forehead from fallen overhead baggage, Slater walked out of Port Authority Police Headquarters after the incident, handcuffed with a smirk on his face and absolutely nothing to say.

But passenger Philip Catelinet said Slater had plenty to say over the plane’s public announcement system while he was on board JetBlue Flight 1052 out of Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon.

“He said, ‘to the passenger who called me a (expletive expletive, expletive) you. I’ve been in this business 28 years. And that’s it, I’m done’,” Catelinet said.

Catelinet said Slater spouted the obscenities after his flight landed at JFK from Pittsburgh International Airport. Airport authorities said Slater snapped after he argued with a passenger attempting to get overhead baggage before the plane was parked at the gate.

via Judge Grants Bail For JetBlue Flight Attendant « CBS New York- News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of NY.

Now I’VE wanted to do that, when stuck on the tarmac and fed up with bad airline service, but it’s strange for someone working for the airline to take such measures against his customers.  I do know that flight attendants do suffer abuse from passengers. This reminds me of a time when I was stuck on the runway at Detroit, after my flights had already been messed up. A fellow passenger started complaining about the airline to the flight attendant, saying how every time he flies this airline he has problems, how this company is one of the worst run ever, how the owners don’t know what they are doing, and on and on. The flight attendant, the representative of this company to the passenger, shut him up by saying, “You think that’s bad? How would you like to work for them?”

At any rate, Mr. Slater certainly deserves the Johnny Paycheck “Take This Job and Shove It” award.

Interesting jobs

To celebrate the doctrine of vocation and as a build up to Labor Day, let us consider Interesting Jobs.   Here is one:  Major league baseball interpreter.

An interpreter’s job can be consuming, from taking phone calls from a confused player in a grocery store aisle to helping a player’s wife get a driver’s license.

“It’s one thing to be bilingual,” says [Kenji] Nimura, who is unique in the major leagues and especially valuable because he’s fluent in English, Japanese and Spanish. “It’s another to be bicultural.”

That’s why the role has grown as quickly as the Asian influence in the majors, where this year’s 12 Japanese players, three Taiwanese and two South Koreans usually are accompanied by an interpreter.

And note that the correct word is interpreter, not translator. Word-for-word substitutions seldom work between English and the Asian languages.

“If I give a direct translation, it will sound vague,” says Nimura, born in Japan but raised in Los Angeles. “I cheat a little. It’s like a scene in Lost in Translation. As long as I get the meaning right.”

Ever wonder why the translated answer often seems much shorter than the original answer?

“American players follow the formula,” Nimura says. “Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you said. In Japan, they don’t give you an answer until the end.” . . .

Nowhere do the cultural differences show up more than in trying to interpret what goes on in the clubhouse.

The hazing Kuroda received is unheard of in Japan. So are the moments like the day in spring 2009 that Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones wanted to pass a message to new pitcher Kenshin Kawakami.

“Tell him, I said, (expletive)’ ” a grinning Jones said to interpreter Daichi Takasue, then a 21-year-old fresh out of the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he had been trained specifically for moments like this.

Al Ferrer, the former longtime coach at UCSB who now trains and supplies interpreters armed with the knowledge to deal with coaches and game situations, laughs when he remembers Takasue relating the incident.

“He told me, ‘I bowed my head and said Mr. Jones told me to say (expletive)’ ” Ferrer says. “Ragging is not a part of their culture.”

Nor is swearing, something Guillen discovered during one of his colorful clubhouse speeches when Japanese pitcher Shingo Takatsu was on the roster.

“I saw the translator was quiet,” Guillen says. “I’m screaming to him, ‘Make sure you tell him what I say.’ The (interpreter) says, ‘We don’t have those kinds of words in Japan.’ “

via Baseball interpreters bridge gap between players, new culture – USATODAY.com.

What are some other Interesting Jobs?  Do any of you have one?

The Teutonic Knights

We’ve talked about the Hospitallers, aka the Knights of Malta and–in Bo Giertz’s novel by that name translated by Cranach commenter Bror Erickson–the Knights of Rhodes.  You have already heard of the Knights Templar, with their mysterious and allegedly occultic secrets and their alleged ties to the Masons.  There is also another order of monks who fought wars:  the Teutonic Knights.  Now they are in the news, as the remains of their original Grand Masters have been discovered in the Polish town of Kwidzyn, which was once the Prussian city of Marienwerder.  The skeletons will be buried, with great ceremony, in the cathedral, though not without controversy, the Teutonic Knights having pretty much ravaged Poland, while also using the sword to bring Catholicism to the Baltics:

The remains were discovered in the cathedral’s crypt in 2008 and identified by DNA and other testing as being those of Werner von Orseln, the knights’ ruler from 1324-1330; Ludolf Koenig von Wattzau, who ruled from 1342-1345; and Heinrich von Plauen, from 1410-1413.

Next to the coffins will be plastic replicas of what the men are believed to look – long-haired men draped in cloths – based on a 16th century mural in the cathedral, said Bogumil Wisniewski, a city archaeologist.

Fragments of original gold-painted silks found on their skeletons are being displayed separately.

The Order of the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary’s Hospital in Jerusalem was founded in the late 12th century to aid German pilgrims in the Holy Land. It evolved into a military order whose knights wore trademark white coats with black crosses. Later, they forcefully brought Christianity to swaths of northeastern Europe and ruled an area near the Baltic Sea coast in what is now northern Poland.

via Poles hope deadly knights will now bring some good.

They too, like the Knights of Malta, combined combat with running hospitals.  The order still exists, though without the military dimension to their good works.

How does the doctrine of vocation apply to these military orders?

It’s nature to nurture

The conventional view in academia today is that sex is biological, but gender is a cultural construction.  That is, roles that are attached to being male or female are nothing more than the impositions of culture.  Well, I just observed my 15-month-old granddaughter picking up her first doll.   She had played with teddy bears and the like, but she never even saw a doll that looked like a baby.  This one wasn’t hers.  But she picked it up, cradled it, supported its head, and kissed it.  How did she know to do this?  No one taught her to.  She is not particularly receptive to culture at her age.  Her brother, at the ripe age of three, had no interest in that particular toy, even though he has some inchoate notions of babies from the existence of little sister.  But she knew immediately how to play mommy.

The sacramental imagination

A common notion in studies of Christianity and the arts  is “the sacramental imagination.”  It goes like this:  Christians with a high view of the sacraments believe that spiritual realities are mediated by means of physical things.  Christian artists with those beliefs, therefore, can easily employ images derived from the material world in order to communicate their faith.  This is also why so many Christian artists are Roman Catholics, a church whose sacramental theology encourages this kind of imagination.

That may be.  But it occurred to me–while contemplating that “Luther and the Body” article I blogged about earlier in the course of this road trip that I’m still on (driving long hours giving time for just thinking)–that Lutheran sacramental theology offers a basis for this sacramental imagination more than Roman Catholicism does.

The Roman Catholic view of Holy Communion teaches that the physical bread and wine is no longer present. We receive Christ’s Body and Blood only.  We perceive the “accidents” of bread and wine, their appearance, but the only “substance” is that of Christ.   This take on the physical material reality seems to be more that of Eastern monism–that the physical realm is an illusion–than an actual affirmation of the physical as a vehicle for the spiritual.

The Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence, though, teaches that the bread and the wine, in their physicality, are still present, as is the actual Body and Blood of Christ.  (Again, don’t call this “consubstantiation,” which is the Roman Catholic attempt to explain this  teaching in terms of their own “substance” and “accidents” distinction that Lutheranism rejects.)

The mode of Christ’s presence is explained not in terms of different “substances” but in terms of “the ubiquity of Christ.”  That is, just as God is omnipresent without displacing the existence of other objects, Christ, because of His personal union of the divine and human natures, can be, in His body, present in bread and wine.   Not that He is in the Sacrament only in the sense of God being everywhere, but in a unique sacramental union in which He is present specifically through the Word of the Gospel, his body and blood being given and shed “for you.”

Now, this kind of teaching first of all is going to encourage those who believe it to think of God in Christ as being not far above the universe, looking down, as the imagination of many Christians has Him, but, rather, as being very close.  God, of course, is both transcendent and immanent, but the latter often gets minimized, which it can’t in Lutheran spirituality.

Furthermore, Lutheran theology also teaches the presence of God in vocation.  (It is God who gives us this day our daily bread through the vocation of the farmer and the baker; God milks the cows through the work of the milkmaid; God creates new life by working through mothers and fathers; vocation is a mask of God, etc., etc.)  This again encourages people to see the spiritual dimensions of the physical world.

For artists, it means that not only physical images can manifest the spiritual realm, the very act of creating–whether by paint, words, film, or whatever medium one’s vocation involves–manifests not just the presence of God but His activity, that He creates by means of human creation.


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