7 Quick Takes: What Fundy Kids Do on Halloween

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If you were a normal American kid, you went trick or treating on Halloween. If you were evangelical/fundamentalist/Calvinist, this was not an option, but neither was mere inaction. See, when kids come knocking at your door yelling “trick or treat,” you may see this:

Trick_or_treat

But fundies see this:

Welcome_To_the_Abyss

You gotta be hot or cold, or Jesus will spit you out of His mouth. And stumping around the neighborhood in a Frozen costume is clearly the same as witchcraft, which is evil. Do you compromise with evil, punk?

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Even without compromising, well-meaning fundie parents still disagree on how to fight the power. Really hard-core fundies turn off all the lights, hide in a windowless room, and read Jack Chick tracts with flashlights. This is only for Hard Core Fundies, so leave this for the professionals. Reading Jack Chick without sufficient pre-brain-washing is known to cause uncontrollable laughter and/or vomiting. Proceed with caution.

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Those of an evangelical bent prefer to fight fire with fire, and thus was born the “Tract or Treat” movement. Instead of passing out candy, parents pass out a tract. I couldn’t find stats of increased TPing in response to this bait and switch, but the Lord hath said that in this world we will face persecution.

Tract_or_Treat

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As a Calvinist kid, I celebrated Reformation Day instead. God in His wisdom predestined that Luther would nail the 95 Theses to the church door on October 31, thereby providing His elect with an ironclad reason to avoid Halloween altogether. While the unchosen heathens comforted themselves with candy and costumes, we covenant children went to church for a festival. They tried doing a Reformation play about Luther, but even the adults got bored, so we stuck with roasted marshmallows and hay rides. Calvinists have gotten more hipster since I was a kid, so they probably have Luther-themed mixed drinks nowadays.

Reformation Day

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Baptists got bored with Jack Chick and noticed the Presbyterians having fun for once. You know it’s bad when the frozen chosen party harder than you, so Baptists came up with the Fall Festival. It was held in the last week of October, and kids dressed up in costumes that weren’t scary, and there was candy, and everyone agreed that it Definitely Had Nothing to Do with Halloween. Obviously.

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These days, the biggest threat to Halloween isn’t fundies – it’s overprotective parents. I hadn’t heard of trunk or treat until a few years ago, but now it’s taken over. They’re everywhere, with parents walking hand in hand with their kids from car to car in a church parking lot, without even the word “trick” to wreck their innocence. These tend to be held in the weeks before Halloween, which means that by the actual day, kids will be overcome in a sugar coma and won’t care. Which is perfect for parents whose biggest fear is their snowflakes being independent.

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Dang Jack Chick, you got outdone by yuppies. You’ve gotta up your game.

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5 Favorite (Completed) Shows on Netflix

(Alas, they took away King of the Hill, a traitorous act. In lieu of its splendor, here are some valid substitutes).

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The IT Crowd

So you know nothing about computers or geek culture? Doesn’t matter. If you have a soul, or if you like British humor (but I repeat myself), you must watch this show. There are only three seasons of pure joy, and you will be so addicted that it will only take two days.

The basic idea is that Jenn, who says she knows “a lot about computers” on her CV, is assigned to manage the nerds in the unappreciated, dismal IT department in the basement of an enormous, profitable London corporation. (We never learn what it does). Her coworkers are Moss, a brilliant, socially inept hard worker whose mum packs his lunch, and Douglas, a slacker Irishman, also brilliant and slightly more socially adroit. And Richmond, featured below.

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Malcolm in the Middle

It’s a longer-term investment, but the rewards are worth it. Among other things, it’s unexpectedly the most pro-life show I’ve ever seen. In season four, the parents discover that Lois is pregnant. Not only are they broke and exhausted from parenting four wild boys, but this is right after her sociopath mother calls a lawyer to sue them after she slips in their driveway. At first, the boys are furious at the parents, and can’t believe that they will be even poorer and more crowded than they already are. And then Malcolm complains that he won’t be able to go to college because of their stupid brother. The word “brother” makes them realize that this is a real person, not just an inconvenience, and in a rare show of kindness they assure their parents that they are happy to share beds and make sure the new kid is welcome.

Unlike that saccharine piece of crap called Seventh Heaven, the few warm-hearted moments aren’t cheap. The boys spend most waking moments trying to kill each other, and the show is realistic about bills, debts, and the nightmare of living from paycheck to paycheck. When a real emotional moment comes, it actually means something. (It’s also hilarious).

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30 Rock

If you like mad-cap humor, you can’t miss Tina Fey’s delightful romp as Liz Lemon. The characters feed off each others’ idiosyncrasies, with even the straight characters being a bit… off. Tina Fey’s writing is crisp and never predictable. The only problem I have with the show is hating her boss Jack, but that’s supposed to happen.

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Scrubs

Bar none, Scrubs is the best show in the history of television. Doctors think it’s more accurate than any other show, showing what it’s actually like to be a resident. It’s got it all: comedy, character development, tragedy, romance. No other show has made me turn from laughing to sobbing so much, and no other show has made a greater impression on me, even when it comes to ethics. If that seems like a strong statement, then you haven’t watched the show. Don’t just jump in and watch some here and there: watch the whole shebang from beginning to end.

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Arrested Development

However, if you limit the field to comedy, Arrested Development takes the cake. The show about “a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together” is brilliant and hilarious. The characters are outrageous, with beautiful chemistry, but it’s the narration by Ron Howard that really brings it together. Michael Cera had his start on the show, and it’s where he perfected the “sweet but awkward kid who just wants to survive a wild ride” theme. It’s the kind of show that makes you want to share quotes with random strangers.

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Motherly Love

7 Quick Takes: Food Allergies

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I had food allergies before it was cool. It came out of nowhere: one night my parents and I were eating dinner, and I started breaking out in hives. Thus began a nightmare of trying to figure out what was wrong. Since food allergies were hardly a blip on the radar back then, it took some time before my pediatrician referred us to an allergist. By that time, my skin was so sensitive that I couldn’t handle an allergy test (the “prick” test).

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Dermographism – no pens required.

In typical middle school angst mode, I decided I would “never ever” know what the deal was. Eventually we were able to do a test, and I was allergic to wheat, corn, and oats. Let me tell you, the coolest lunch you can bring to school is NOT rice cakes with peanut butter.

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Since then, food allergies are much more common, but I’d imagine it’s still pretty tough to deal with as a parent, especially if you didn’t have them yourself. From my own experience having them in middle and high school (and then a reboot in my twenties, because why not), here’s a bit of advice.

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First off, don’t make a big deal about it. I remember being more stressed out about my mom being stressed about it. Myself, I was just glad to get a diagnosis and stop being a human scratching post. Don’t make your kid feel guilty about how difficult it is to shop for their food or cook stuff from scratch, and don’t bemoan the things they use to eat. The less drama the better all around.

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A word about getting diagnoses: you should. I see a lot of people doing elimination diets, regardless of whether they’re sick or not, and this strikes me as odd. For one thing, it’s very difficult to do a real elimination diet without a doctor’s supervision and still get enough nutrients. Any time you cut out whole food groups, you’re at risk of causing a deficiency. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that your kid’s allergy will even get detected by such a process. Not everyone is allergic to peanuts and shellfish; we never would have guessed corn or oats, for example. And unless you make it your second job, it is very difficult to properly eliminate an ingredient, since things like corn and wheat and soy have code words listed in ingredients (and even in medications) that laymen just won’t recognize. It makes sense to go to an allergist and get tested. Plus, some schools or other organizations will take you more seriously if you have that official diagnosis.

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If your kids are old enough, expect to advocate for themselves once they understand what to avoid. Most kids lack the confidence to ask about ingredients, ask for substitutions, etc, just like many kids might shrink from making official phone calls or speaking in public. This is a great opportunity to nip that in the bud. If they can understand what the allergies consist of – the different “code words” in ingredients labels, for instance – then they can learn to speak up. Don’t jump in too quickly as their advocate (which is humiliating), but don’t give them an out either. If they want substitutions and special accommodations, they have to learn to ask.

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On a similar note, let them do typical kid stuff. I went on field trips and slumber parties and week-long summer camps with food allergies. And yes, it was awkward, getting my own stuff from the camp kitchen as we had pre-arranged, but everyone was nice about it, and it built confidence. Nowadays it’s probably even easier, since food allergies are much more public. Make sure teachers and camp counselors know about the allergies – what medications your child needs, what’s off limits, what reactions to watch out for. And then set them loose.

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Don’t stress too much about finding one-to-one substitutions. For one thing, you probably can’t. My poor mom tried to make me a wheat-free birthday cake, with mixed results. While there’s more and better alternatives nowadays, they’re often very expensive. Besides, most alternatives are sad and second-rate: would you ever eat carob and think “hey it really is like chocolate!”?

Instead, think of other foods altogether, and other cultures. American foods are heavily tied to wheat and corn and dairy, so if you have to avoid these it’s best to look at other cultures. Think of Mexican or South American or Asian cuisines. You can even look at different regions in the US. I was lucky, because Southern cuisine relies heavily on rice, and my family used tomato or meat based sauces rather than flour/white sauces. It’s OK to get outside the American paradigm of spaghetti and pizza and sandwiches.

Prayers for Life

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Usually I try to keep things light on Seven Quick Takes, but there is so much sadness right now that I can’t manage it. The signs that we live in a culture of death are everywhere. Let us all work towards a just society.

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Yesterday, the state of Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner, the first woman executed in Georgia since World War II. Concerning its rarity, you might assume she was a hardened criminal, a menace to society, perhaps a bomber or terrorist. You would be wrong: she conspired to have a man kill her husband. The actual killer had his sentence reduced because of a plea bargain and will end up getting out in eight years. During her years in prison, she converted to Christianity, received a theological degree, and worked to help her fellow inmates. As a final irony, she gave another inmate the gift of life, talking her out of committing suicide. In light of her rehabilitation, thousands called the state department of corrections pleading for her life. As they prepared her for death, she sang Amazing Grace.

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By now you have likely heard of the most recent school shooting, this time at a community college in Oregon. The total number of deaths is still unknown as of this writing, though recent estimates say 10 including the shooter.

The night before the shooting, he allegedly boasted of his future killing spree on social media, where he was egged on and encouraged by others, who provided suggestions on weaponry and how to take hostages. He pondered that this would be his way onto the news. In other news, the NRA is still by far the most powerful lobbying group in Washington, on the right and the left.

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In response to the recent videos on Planned Parenthood, there has been a social media trend called “Shout Your Abortion.” The goal is to end the shame surrounding abortion, to bring it out of the darkness into the light. Yes, agreed. Let’s bring the practice out in the open so we can see exactly how many unborn are killed every year, how many viable infants are slaughtered, how many have developed brain stems and spinal cords when they are killed. Let’s look with open eyes at this darkness and call it what it is. Somehow I don’t think that’s what they have in mind.

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When US voters go to the polls in 2016, our only choices may consist of those who are pro-torture. They won’t say it that way: they will say they are pro “enhanced interrogation,” or they might try evading the question by saying that “America doesn’t torture” ala Jeb Bush. Perhaps, like Hillary Clinton, they were well aware of Abu Ghraib’s horrors, knew that psychologists were hired to determine exactly how to mentally and physically break prisoners. Right or left, most presidential candidates know that many Americans are happy to torture prisoners of war, or even US citizens, in the name of false security.

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What can we do in the face of darkness and evil? What options do we have when powerful lobbies and politicians and corporations benefit from the culture of death?

Look in your surroundings. Are there elderly people in nursing homes who have no one to visit them? Are there single mothers who need help with babysitting? Are there prisoners who need letters and visitors? Are there homeless people on the street who need someone to acknowledge them as people, to talk to them and shake their hands and give them bottled water?

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Fight the culture of death in the way that you talk and think of yourself and others. Do you see some people as less worthy of life? Do you honor the unborn but consider criminals to be scum? Is there some segment of society – an age group, a disability, a nationality – that strips someone of dignity in your mind? I fear that it begins when someone’s life threatens our own wealth and prosperity: the baby that came at the wrong time, the refugees that would “take our jobs,” the criminal that would require housing in prison, the elderly person requiring medical care. We value our happiness over the very lives of others.

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In 2013, Pope Francis had this to say about our culture of death:

What is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as “unnecessary.”

All too often… people do not choose life, they do not accept the Gospel of Life but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others…. As a result, the living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death.”

May God save us from such idolatry.