"That which does no earthly good cannot be heavenly minded." R. Rivera

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Are You Smarter Than A 4th Grader?

 A few weeks ago I was listening to NPR in my car. Conservative Christians in the state of Iowa were discussing if they would vote for Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich largely on the basis of party loyalty and ignore the fact that he is far from the family values candidate (something they would clearly never do if the candidate was a Democrat). In other words, would conservative Christians suspend their much vaunted beliefs, hold their noses and vote party, anything to defeat President Obama later this year?

One prominent evangelical leader put it this way: "I hate Obama," but I'm not sure what to do about Gingrich, particularly as Gingrich has often touted the sanctity of marriage while engaging in marital infidelities. Another problem for this evangelical leader was the fact that Gingrich had switched from the Protestant faith to the Catholic religion of his latest wife.

What struck me most about all this was how easy this evangelical leader said on national radio, "I hate Obama", and I've heard this invective against Obama by conservative Christians many, many times from the time then Senator Barack Obama began his bid for the U.S. presidency up to this very day.

This is actually not a political post. What I'm really getting at is this. How do people who claim to follow the one who said to love even our enemies, demonize and hate so much? How do we so easily create "otherness"? Otherness that has no feelings or pain that touch us, otherness that has no humanity we are bound to consider or respect, otherness that can become downright demonic, since the invective would indicate that the "other" have no redeeming virtues at all?

I think my wife is a brilliant public school teacher. She has to teach children who have been bred as super-consumers, children with the largest personal disposable income in history (spending some $45 to $50 billion a year), children who influence parental buying to the tune of $750+ billion a year, children for whom almost everyone, including teachers, are little more than customer service reps, and they the consumers are always right. As you can imagine this kind of culture breeds constant school disruption and disrespect in endless forms.

One day my wife asked her 4th graders, who is the most important person in the world to you? They responded, as you would expect, their parents; next their friends. Parents, then friends, were the people in the world they loved and respected the most. My wife then asked why they didn't love and respect the kids that were not in their clique, or even their teachers, treating them cruelly at times, bringing them tears and pain? It stopped them cold. Why don't you treat us like you treat your parents and your friends? I am botching this story because I cannot capture a moment so powerful that several children began to cry, including boys, repentantly. It was the first time that some of them realized that their teacher and other kids they excluded from their lives and hurt are human in the same way that their parents are human, in the same way that their close friends are human, in the same way that they themselves are human.

This lesson left an impact on the children and as a result, my wife tells me, some of them are more sensitive about the way they treat others. In a political and economic culture unfriendly to this principle, one wonders if it will survive into their adulthood. Leaving that aside, I thought about this a good while, and it came to me that maybe this is at least a part of what Jesus meant when he said that, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:2). In any case, some 4th graders learned something real about treating others the way they want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), making them far smarter than many adults today. Are you smarter than a 4th grader?


Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Thank you.

Maybe some will remember, maybe some won't. Or maybe another individual will ask them the same question years from now and that moment will come back but I hope the result will be that there will be another kind individual in the world.

Sizzle and Zoom said...

When I put Matthew 18:2-4 on my website for a Christmas post I included this, too,"Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." It's the word
'humbles' that makes it so easy to
understand the heart like Jesus'.
I agree with everything you said today. It just makes things clearer for me if I humble myself because our hearts have been so hardened by sin since childhood-how do we get back there if not by humility.

Dawne Boynton Polis said...

Your wife is a wonderful teacher, Ruben, and not just to young children, but to all of us who read her each week.

Palomasea said...

I so agree, dear Dawne. Anita has taught me, and has reinforced life lessons of great magnitude. Alex still considers last year the greatest of her school years so far. This post, dear Ruben, gave me chills, and made me cry.
Amen to everything you have said here. Anita, dear one, you are doing the Lord's work every day...
One child at a time:)
Hugs to you both,
- Irina and Alex

lisa Moran, Bilancia Designs said...

This is quite a powerful post....on so many levels.
I applaude Anita for prompting these children to look inside themselves and ask, "Why would you treat ANYONE differently based upon _______ ??"
It's tough to hear anyone utter the word HATE for any reason...yet practically everyone does it for one reason or another.
I believe this will be a year of significant CHANGE in this country. I do not want to preach politics...but people have had ENOUGH...and unfortunately, a slip of the tongue that utters harsh words is the only way some people can communicate...good, bad, or indifferent.
YOU truly know how to get the heart pumping...my friend.
LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog.
Wishing you a PEACEFUL week, Ruben... xo

Wendi @ Classic Chic Home said...

Thank you for writing such a powerful post. I strive daily to be more Christlike in my words and actions, and have raised my children to do the same.
I pray that your and Anita's efforts are met with open minds and hearts. LOVE is so much stronger than "hate".
~ Wendi ~

Debbie said...

Anita is light. And someone will remember. It is so good to know that there are others out there in the world who believe as I do. What is a good life? How is it measured? By things and status and Chanel bags, vacation homes and Mercedes Benzs. Not by humility, kindness, giving, loving. I NEEDED this post today Ruben. Thank you ... and thank Anita. You are incredible people.


wendy said...

Well written Ruben.
I have to of course, agree with everything you wrote here.
I am a fan of Maya Angelou....she always says "words have POWER" to heal, to hurt, to destory, to love....
she does not allow people to come into her house and "demean" others, say unkind words, tell racially or otherwise inappropriate "jokes" ...(side note: why do people think that in the name of HUMOR we can be so nasty about people)
anyway, Maya says "words" they get in your furniture, in your drapes, you walls, everywhere....and finally into you.
I think no matter what your political stand is, your religious beliefs, your race, ....no matter what
everyone deserves RESPECT and kindness.
there is no room in this world or in humanity for HATE

Sheesh, I guess I could go on about this forever.
That was a great lesson Anita put forth to her students.
something every single one of us needs to remember.


wendy said...

oh, and just one more thing (sorry)
when my kids were little we had this song we sang in our house that part of it goes like This:

I want to be kind to everyone
for that is right you see
So I say to myself
remember this
Kindness begins with me.

lisa Moran, Bilancia Designs said...

I had to come back and reread this amazing post. I'm deeply moved by your incredible message and have asked my friends to stop by (that don't follow or even know/care what a blog is :) I'm sure they will be as blown away as I am.
Your "gift" for writing such thought provoking topics is truly remarkable. I am so convinced we will all be waiting in line one day with a "Ruben Rivera masterpiece" in hand, waiting for you to sign it. You are well on your way, my friend.
Thanks for the inspiration today. One can NEVER get enough.... xo

Anonymous said...

This is my solace Rubedude.
The best BAND ever.
For you my friend take a load off!!!


Angelsdoor * Penny said...

It is such a simple thing to remember Ruben, isn't it? Yet, still there are so many that just don't get it... Thank you for this post.. You and dear Anita are a blessing to all.
With great admiration

Anonymous said...

this was awesome guys...
more questions such as this
need to be incorporated into
children's everyday thinking.
real thinking
real contemplation
seem to be missing...
in this rush of days
and passing moments.
well done Anita!
happy day to you both.