Here's the one I'm sending:
I’m writing to you in the hope that this is the one letter you actually read, the one letter
that makes whatever crucial difference is necessary to make. You claim to be a Christian,
a soi-disant “Jesus freak,” so by virtue of that self-definition, I am imploring you to do
what anyone who calls themselves “Christian” in the genuine sense of the word must do:
act like Christ.
It’s difficult to see how we appear to others sometimes. I am hoping that your image is
merely that: a public persona generated for the purpose of selling more copies of the St.
Louis paper or attracting more visitors to your blog -- an authorial voice speaking in a
kind of Vickie Iovine-inspired combination of ennui and brittle nonchalance.
Dana, I implore you to consider how you must appear not only to myself, but to others.
Please, please ask yourself if these statements, which seem so hostile, represent the “real
you,” or if this is how someone who is striving to be a follower of Christ should appear:
* “...it's usually all my kids' fault...”
* “I don't say dirty words anymore UNLESS I'm yelling at my kids....”
* “I own a gun which I always make sure is loaded and unlocked for my kids to play
* “Did you seriously think that something which began by RAMMING ITS WAY OUT OF
YOUR VAGINA was going to be a cakewalk?”
*[Referring to your child Ewan] “...his fat-faced, snowman eyes.”
There’s so much apparent hostility toward your child here, so much anger and hate.
Dana, this is your child, your child, the one you grew, the one who expects you to protect
him and love him, to give your life for him as God gave his life for his own children, in
Christian belief. Can you really, under any circumstances, imagine Jesus spanking your
child? Can you imagine him referring to Ewan’s “fat-faced snowman eyes,” as if he were
not only physically repulsive to you, but somehow inhuman, cold, his eyes the burnt-out
coals of a “snowman”?
Dana, you’re having to escalate what you’re doing. That’s what violence does. Humans
are mightily resilient to violence; we get calloused fairly quickly. Violence begets more
violence which begets more violence. It’s happening to you. See? “We've tried
smacking his hand, but lately noticed that it wasn't working because he would cackle and
grin whenever we did it and go right back to being naughty. When he proved immune to
hand-smacking, we knew we had to come up with a more intimidating form of
punishment, fast. Something more severe than hand-smacking but less severe than the
Catherine Wheel. Thus, we instituted spanking.” It’s not working. You’re having to
escalate more and more. Where does it stop? Does it really have to end with your
sacrificing your child or your relationship with the child on the ultimately fragile wheel of
torture you invoke here -- a wheel that broke apart at Catherine’s touch? Love, the story
suggests, or the divine power of God (whichever you prefer), is stronger than the violence
that would break it. Your solution is in your own heart and in your own words, if only
you would read them.
You suggest or imply more than once a degree of frustration in getting your children to
mind, which is something I can sympathize with deeply. I am not a perfect parent, nor do
I claim to hold the all-purpose solution to child behavior in my hand.
The only solution I have is this: love your children. Treat them as you would be treated:
that’s the whole of the Law in one breath, isn’t it? Monday-morning quarterbacking for a
second, if my child had been entangling herself in the Christmas tree, I would have led her
away from it. If she’d returned, I would explain why self-entanglement is wrong: the tree
could fall down, you could get hurt, et cetera. If she returned to the tree, I would have
given her a choice: leave it alone or we’ll take away the object you’re playing with.
Choices, consequences, explanations -- those aren’t perfect solutions, but morally,
ethically, they are better solutions. It’s closer to what one can imagine Jesus doing, isn’t
I realize it can be frustrating to reason with a child, but morally, ethically, it’s the only
right thing. You have to teach them how to reason, to understand that there really are
reasons for things. Force is always easier, quicker...but it is not better. Force will
accomplish what you want: Maximinus got rid of Catherine by a quick beheading when
the wheel broke...but did it stop what she said? Who prevailed in the end, Dana -- the
Christians or the Roman emperors?
As a world, but certainly beginning as individuals and parents who shape the children of
our world’s future, we must treat others as we would prefer to be treated. If you are
teaching your children that force is the way to get your children to accede to your will,
what will you do when you are powerless and they are powerful? You’re in your twenties
now; you won’t always be. In 2066, when you’re in your eighties, will you be happy if
Liam and Ewan treat you as you’ve treated them? With all my heart, Dana, I hope you
will be, because I hope that, as I’ve said, this is the one letter that counts.
I would like you to consider one thing. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within you.
It’s within you; it’s within your children. How can you strike a being who came from
God, who is of God and with God?
Better to love them.