Wednesday, November 30, 2005

stealing christmas?

i'm just not sure what to think about all this controversy over calling "Christmas" trees "holiday" trees. my gut reaction is that it really doesn't matter - i mean, the meaning of Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with the Christmas tree. in fact, if i remember correctly, the Christmas tree was actually part of pagan festivals around the end/first of the year that Christians sort of took over and made part of the Christmas celebration.

but really - what does the tree have to do with Christmas anyway? it really is sort of representative of the holiday season as a whole. no one is taking the manger, and calling it a "holiday manger." no one is taking the cross and calling it a "holiday cross." if i were going to live and die for some symbols of faith, i think those would be more likely.

however, i know that there is a deeper issue here, and that's the question of whether our society will become void of religion. how much are children allowed to talk about their religious beliefs at school? how much are adults allowed to practice or communicate about their faith at work? how much are governmental leaders allowed to speak about prayer? are athiests really so much in the minority politically, that they need to be protected by taking "in God we trust" out of our money?

the quesiton is, what kind of society do we want to become? in truth, the founders of the country were religious to some extent. our whole ideology is founded on judeo-christian values of working hard, forgiveness, ethics, etc. not all of these values are espoused in a "Christian" way, and not all of them really reflect the values and the principles of God's character as he communicates it in Scripture. but to deny that those things were part of the foundation of our nation - i don't know. we can re-write history, if we want to... but at what cost?

separation of church and state is probably a pretty good idea. but we've gone way beyond that, i think, when we don't allow people to live lives of faith that encompass their whole being. if we have the expectation that people will dichotomize their faith from their public lives - well... i don't think it's going to work. there is a segment of people in any religion who believe that faith is supposed to transform and be central to their lives. they will not dichotomize no matter what anyone tells them.

i find this whole discussion completely fascinating. there is a real ideological conflict going on - much of it in the courts - and there is no assurance of which ideology will win. it will be really interesting to see how the "in God we trust" case makes it through the 9th circuit (though the disposition of that case in that circuit may be fairly predictable), and then if the Supreme Court sees fit to hear the case. the history of religious rights and freedoms in our nation has been fairly convoluted, and the Court has not held a consistent position throughout the years. very interesting stuff...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

a job offer

so i got my first actual law job offer today. exciting stuff.

it's with an organization committed to fighting for civil liberties. it would mean being able to study constitutional law for the summer, and to have the opportunity to advocate for something i believe in.

so i guess i have some decisions to make. i'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of other places. and being an organization rather than a firm, i wouldn't be making much money - so i'll have to see if i could make it work. but it's fun to know that i have the option of such a great opportunity.

just thought i'd share the good news. exams are coming, so i may not be around much for the next couple of weeks. but i'll be saving up a bunch of things to talk about afterwards.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

a missing person

an interesting thing occurred this weekend. i was at church, and in our little sunday school class we were discussing the presence of God in our everyday life. we were using a pre-set curriculum, and it directed us to the Bible where we were supposed to look at Jesus's life, and how he stayed close to God while he was on earth.

what i found interesting was that we never read a thing about the Holy Spirit. how did Jesus's life on earth and his ministry become divorced from the Spirit's power? how is it that we somehow think that we can encounter God without the presence of the Spirit?

i always thought that it was the Spirit who enables us to understand Scripture, to hear the voice of God in our lives. i thought that the Spirit was the comforter, our advocate. i thought it was the Spirit that gives us gifts and does the refining and transforming work in our hearts and lives.

either i'm missing something, or we have a person missing from the Trinity.

Friday, November 18, 2005

the scripts we follow

everyone is following their own relational script, and each script has its own set of rules.

where do these scripts with their rules come from?

family culture

  • what kind of relationship your parents have with each other – their roles, the way they treat each other
  • what your parents tell you/show you about how to treat others
  • how you & your siblings relate

community culture

  • the difference between the east coast & the west coast
  • the difference between a rural and city community

greater culture

  • Western thinking
  • Eastern thinking
  • American
  • Australian
  • Chinese

values & beliefs about right & wrong

  • religious beliefs/faith
  • cultural mores about right & wrong/relationships

so when two people meet and a relationship begins to form, they are each interpreting the other’s actions through their own script. what you say and do, i interpret according to my own script (what your actions would mean if I did them) and vice versa.

very early on i realized that people have different scripts. i moved overseas when i was 13, right at the age you would normally be learning how to form lasting relationships. being dropped into another culture during that point of life basically amplifies all of these factors. not only are you trying to figure out how a normal person makes friends and keeps them, you’re also trying to figure out what script everyone is living by in the broader cultural sense. unfortunately, these scripts aren’t written down anywhere, so you kind of have to learn as you go.

along the way, i adopted some of the values and cultural tendencies from Asia. i also realized, after trying to have cross-cultural friendships, that it’s a lot easier to identify the scripts and their rules outright and in conversation with the other person than to try to figure them out on your own. even if you can’t totally figure out what’s going on, if two people talk about it and agree, you can make up your own rules for the relationship that will fit with the script that each of you is following.

i’m pretty sure that this is an issue in all relationships, because everyone is from a different family. no one is going to be following the exact same script as someone else. not being aware of that fact often causes conflict, but people will attribute these differences to personality, or maybe even make them a character issue. unspoken expectations are really hard to deal with.

however, for cross-cultural kids, i think these issues are always going to be big issues, at least at the outset of a relationship. by virtue of living in another culture, we no longer really fit in any one culture – our script has foreign words thrown in here and there. the whole thing makes sense to us, but the people from neither culture will be able to totally relate to everything that we do or say.

my response to this issue has been to become very direct in relationship formation. while i have adopted much of Asia’s indirect communication style, in this one area i am often shockingly direct. i like to simply lay it all on the table, explaining the script that i follow and the rules that make sense to me, so that we can start out on the same page. it saves me a lot of agony trying to figure things out by trying to interpret what’s going on, and saves the other person the trauma of trying to figure out where the heck i’m coming from all the time.

it’s been interesting this week as i’ve made 2 new friends. one is another cross-cultural kid. his response to my direct communication seemed positive. we’re conversing now quite freely about a lot of things. each of our scripts still exists, but at least we recognize that they’re there.

the other reaction was very different – the person was not quite sure what to do with my comments, and how to respond. i think it sets normal people off balance a little to be told they even have to think about such things. to be honest, i receive the second reaction much more often than the first.

i have to tell you though, it feels good to occasionally make a friend where the script is similar for both of us. it’s a lot easier to make small changes to the script to adapt to the relationship than to make big ones. after moving so many times, and trying to learn lots of scripts, one of the things that makes me feel most at home is knowing that another person either shares a similar script or at least realizes that the script is there. with my family recently gone again, it’s been comforting to remember that there are others who see the scripts and are willing to deal with them.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

article nine

if anyone is looking for new ways to torture or annoy people, i would suggest article nine of the uniform commercial code.

this is the law that governs secured transactions, where a person's personal property or fixtures secure a loan.

whoever wrote the article, i swear, did so with the intent of torturing those who would be forced to read and interpret it. there must have been a more user-friendly way to organize the information and explain what they actually mean.

this is one class that i will not be sad to leave behind. but i am glad that i don't have to learn it for the first time when i study for the bar exam... i would have failed the secured transactions portion if that were the case.

so - i'm off to torture myself with the study of it. wish me luck...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fields v. Palmdale School District

i don't write much about law here, because the more that i learn in law school, the more i realize that i don't know. there's so much out there, and we're doing such a sweeping overview that it's unfair to say that i know more than a little bit of the language and am beginning to understand the process of reasoning that the law requires.

that said, i've been very interested by the 9th Circuit's recent decision in Fields v. Palmdale School District that says that a parent does not have a constitutional right to control sex education in public schools. the reasons i'm interested in this are many: i have found that i absolutely love constitutional law... more than any other class, i enjoy learning it, reading it & thinking about it; i'm also in the middle of a big research paper for a writing class on non-parental visitation & custody, and how the recent decision of Troxel v. Granville in 2000 has affected the constitutionality of these things, so this topic is at the forefront of my mind; finally, one of the most interesting topics of constitutional law for me was the privacy interests that have somewhere been extended from the right to be left alone in your own home and the rights that are now among the "penumbra of privacy" interests supposedly protected by the 4th amendment... very interesting stuff.

so when i heard about the decision, i had to go & look it up. and when i did, i was struck again by how differently a legal mind thinks than a normal person's mind. being so new to the legal community, i'm still using both sides of my brain - and hopefully i'll be able to continue throughout life. but this is how it's different:

when you read about sex education, you think, yeah - parents should have a right to make decisions about what their kids encounter at school. different kids require different sensitivities, different levels of knowledge, etc. and it's my understanding that many states have laws about this, or maybe school districts have policies that will allow the parents to opt children out of sexual education classes. this is a good thing. and if you look at other cases in courts, you do see that sexuality is supposed to be something that's part of protected privacy... right? seems logical. and you realize that if the school district stops asking parents, the parents who care are going to take their kids out of the schools - send them to charter schools or private schools, etc, where parental involvement is much more recognized. so on a lot of levels the parental outrage makes sense, & you want the parents to win. you want the decision to be that parents have a right to at the very least be informed of the kind of education their kids are receiving.

and then you look at the case. the action was brought not under state law, but a federal civil rights action. and to be honest, i've never even read the statute that gives rise to that cause of action. but in actuality, the case was decided on the basis of the pure privacy interest debate - the privacy rights of parents having to do with the sexuality of their children. and i've got to say, i think the court made the right legal decision. because i really do think that we're already beyond the scope of the privacy rights granted in the constitution, with our decisions about bodily autonomy, etc. it's not that i think we shouldn't have those rights... i'm just not sure that they come from the constitution. if the court had decided that parents have this fundamental right... had said it was a fundamental liberty interest... it seems like that would have been an extension of a principle. and i for one, am not sure that that principle should be extended any further than it is.

and truly, the court had a good point, as far as social policy. do we really want to grant every single parent in a public school district the right to dictate what is taught & how it's taught? probably not... how would a school function then? it's already hard enough for the schools to get kids educated.

but there might be some other answers. like the parents could have petitioned on a local level for an information requirement about all sexual education classes/activities. they could have petitioned their state to institute state laws that gave them that kind of protection. they could have insisted on it, formed a grassroots effort, and taken their kids out of the schools.

but they didn't - they chose to sue and effectively to try to extend the privacy rights of parents. so that's interesting to me. because you know that the "conservative" base is usually the group that would be uncomfortable with sex education. and yet these same people are arguing that the constitution should be interpreted to the letter, and nothing more. so i have to wonder... what were the parents thinking? did they understand legally what they were trying to do? or were they operating from the regular person mindset that sees a problem & wants to fix it, but not realizing what effect the decision would have if they won?

interesting questions. and just so you know, i'm not sure exactly where i stand in the constitutional law realm yet. i'm still trying to discern where i would come down on so many issues. these are just kind of my initial gut-reactions... my disclaimer is that i'm just a law student spouting off... i'm not well enough informed to actually know yet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

just a glimpse

mmm... books have got to be my most favorite things in the whole world.

i recently attended a party at one of my professor's homes. when he was giving us all a tour, he took us into the library, and into the living room, both of which had shelves & shelves of books. and i was drawn in. i could have spent hours perusing the shelves, looking through the books, feeling them, smelling them.

i love books. i love them because they have the power to transport you to another world. i love them because they can teach you empathy - to really feel what another person (real or imaginary) is thinking and feeling. i love that they lead to knowledge and understanding. i think above all - i love to learn. books represent all of the things that are out there that i don't know, but could spend a lifetime learning.

i also like looking at other people's books because they tell you a lot about who they are. my professor has books on opera, Hitler, Germany (I gather he's of German descent), art, and law, of course.

when i came home & looked at my shelves, i wondered what my bookshelves would tell you about me...

i have my dad's castoff introductory theology books - giving a snapshot of my childhood home. i have lots of children's books - i love the innocence and fun of reading a good kid's book - CS Lewis's Narnia, the Magic Bicycle, Caddie Woodlawn, Tales of the Kingdom, and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory... and many more. they also remind me of my childhood - i wasn't one to play much, but i constantly had a book in my hand - no matter where i went. and then i have my favorite historical fiction books. my favorite authors include George MacDonald & Michael Phillips, who edited many of MacDonald's books & later wrote many of his own. i read most of those in my teens, and they had a profound impact on my spiritual growth. and then of course i have my textbooks - psych books and youth ministry from undergrad, and law textbooks from now.

so there you go. just a glimpse of what's on my shelves, and maybe a glimpse of who i am.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

seeing through the veil of humanity

do you ever wonder how much what you believe is truth is affected by subjective things?

moving overseas as a teenager made me see how much our culture affects our perception. those things that we would call right or wrong, the process we might use to get there, and the whole framework from which we see the world is affected by the worldview that is born in our culture.

in recent years i've also seen how much personality affects perspective. two people can have the same thing happen and yet experience it differently. one person, whose personality thrives in rationality, will see and experience truth in a very cognitive way. a different person, driven by emotion, will sense truth, will sense what is real.

these things also affect our relationships, i think, and is one reason why every relationship looks different. every marriage is made up of two individuals, distinct as individuals, and together, distinct from other couples. what works in their relationship may not work in others, because they are unique. the way each experiences their relationship may be different from the other, and the way they experience it as a couple is different from other couple's relationships. cultural values also affect our expectations of what relationships will be like: what we will gain from them, what we will give to them, and what they should consist of.

all this makes me wonder how much our personalities and our worldviews affect the way we see and experience God. many of us walk thru life believing that we really know and understand who God is, and what he wants - almost as if he is containable inside the human imagination. sometimes i think that we forget that our understanding of truth - of God - is limited by our human perspective, a perspective that is informed by our personality, culture, and life experience.

we are so quick to call our beliefs truth. it's so tempting to do so. to know truth is to be secure - or at least to think that you're secure.

besides the fact that he is a being who exists apart from our beliefs, could our diversity of personality and life experience account for some of the differences we face? could this be a reason that God seems near to some, yet far from others?

i think that it must.

i do believe that God is truth. i believe that truth - that God - is absolute. i simply understand that whatever i know of God & experience of him is affected by my humanity.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

just a little note

i know... it's been a bit since i've written a good, thoughtful post. i have been thinking about things - but nothing developed enough to write about. in addition, the semester is getting down to the wire - studies for exams, final paper for my writing class - just trying to keep up with life & i seem to be losing at the moment.

i'll be be back soon - i promise...


Monday, November 07, 2005

today's top ten

my top ten childhood movies:

10. Fiddler on the Roof

9. Anne of Green Gables

8. Swiss Family Robinson (I loved the treehouse!)

7. Sound of Music

6. Ernest Goes to Camp (is this where my love of summer camp started?!)

5. Babes in Toyland

4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

3. Herbie - the Love Bug (btw, my dream car is a 1970's vw bug... yellow, of course)

2. Parent Trap

1. Annie