Famous child of divorce: Kurt Cobain, revisited

Today would have been Kurt Cobain’s 51st birthday. I wrote about him two years ago, here. He committed suicide on April 5, 1994.

Today, I want to take a look at one of Nirvana’s music videos, to explore the “child of divorce” theme and see if we can find it there. I find some of the imagery and lyrics relevant to that theme. Of course, it is possible that I am “reading into” this video. But let me present my case and you can decide for yourself.

First, two general impressions: 1) the entire music video seems like a dream. There are disparate images, blurry images, and lyrics that say contradictory things. 2) there appears to be a recurring theme of abnormality, or of feeling abnormal.

Next, let’s consider several of the images, and their abnormality.

  1. When I posted about Cobain two years ago, I watched this video a few times. The first thing that I noticed, that made me wonder if this was his life as a child of divorce, was how his face is presented as being split. This image appears a few times in the video. I have actually felt this way–a physical sensation that goes down the center of my body, that makes me feel as if I am two halves.
  2. An abnormal spermatozoon at about the :54 mark, with an enlarged head and split tail.
  3. A dog with a cone around its neck. The dog is obviously sick, but it is outside in the rain. Its owners are not caring for it properly. Children of divorce experience more neglect than their counterparts in intact families.
  4. The concrete stairs with water running down them. There is a gaping hole in them, near the bottom. They appear a number of times in the video. Sometimes I am sure they are outside stairs (for example, when the dog is standing on them). Other times I am not sure. When Cobain is swinging from the chandelier, for example, is that outdoors or indoors? Maybe this is another example the lack of a clear demarcation… what is in? What is out?
  5. Blurry images of the band playing their instruments. Blurry self image of the child of divorce?
  6. A revolver in the swimming pool. Nine times Cobain says that he does not have a gun, yet there it is.
  7. A baby in the swimming pool, apparently swimming after a dollar bill on a fish hook. This is the most well-known image of the video. I don’t know how to tie it into this theme. Even so, the situation is not normal.

Then there are some selected lyrics, saying contradictory things:

  • Come as you are, as you were
    As I want you to be
    As a friend, as a friend
    As an known enemy…
  • Take your time, hurry up
    The choice is yours, don’t be late…
  • Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach…
I’ve frequently argued that children of divorce must accept many contradictions so that their parents can “move on” with their lives. They become outsiders to their own parents, who might be viewed as spies for the other parent. The half of them that represents the rejected parent must be rejected as well, so that the parent will not be reminded of that past relationship.

Not the be-all, end-all analysis. Just some things I’ve thought about since coming across this music video a few years ago.

 

I do believe that the children of divorce are communicating their pain and confusion. But as a society, we’re not listening.

 

If you liked this post, you might like the ones I wrote about Chester Bennington of Linkin Park:

 

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John Calvin contrasted with modern Evangelicalism

Here is one person’s understanding of John Calvin (a Protestant reformer) and modern Evangelicalism. Written by a former Evangelical who converted to Catholic, in part due to what he discovered about Calvin:

When I finished seminary, I moved on to Ph.D. studies in Reformation history. My focus was on John Calvin (1509-1564), the French Reformer who made Geneva, Switzerland into a model Protestant city…

john calvin public domain
Protestant Reformer John Calvin.

Calvin shocked me by rejecting key elements of my Evangelical tradition. Born-again spirituality, private interpretation of Scripture, a broad-minded approach to denominations – Calvin opposed them all. I discovered that his concerns were vastly different, more institutional, even more Catholic. Although he rejected the authority of Rome, there were things about the Catholic faith he never thought about leaving. He took for granted that the Church should have an interpretive authority, a sacramental liturgy and a single, unified faith…

In 1551, Bolsec, a physician and convert to Protestantism [and a former Catholic monk], entered Geneva and attended a lecture on theology. The topic was Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, the teaching that God predetermines the eternal fate of every soul. Bolsec, who believed firmly in “Scripture alone” and “faith alone,” did not like what he heard. He thought it made God into a tyrant. When he stood up to challenge Calvin’s views, he was arrested and imprisoned.

What makes Bolsec’s case interesting is that it quickly evolved into a referendum on Church authority and the interpretation of Scripture. Bolsec, just like most Evangelicals today, argued that he was a Christian, that he had the Holy Spirit and that, therefore, he had as much right as Calvin to interpret the Bible. He promised to recant if Calvin would only prove his doctrine from the Scriptures. But Calvin would have none of it. He ridiculed Bolsec as a trouble maker (Bolsec generated a fair amount of public sympathy), rejected his appeal to Scripture, and called on the council to be harsh. He wrote privately to a friend that he wished Bolsec were “rotting in a ditch.”

What most Evangelicals today don’t realize is that Calvin never endorsed private or lay interpretation of the Bible. While he rejected Rome’s claim to authority, he made striking claims for his own authority…

Calvin was part of the problem [of fracturing within Protestantism]. He had insisted on the importance of unity and authority, but had rejected any rational or consistent basis for that authority. He knew that Scripture totally alone, Scripture interpreted by each individual conscience, was a recipe for disaster. But his own claim to authority was perfectly arbitrary. Whenever he was challenged, he simply appealed to his own conscience, or to his subjective experience, but he denied that right to Bolsec and others…

The whole thing is worth reading.

Scriptures at the Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee western shore
We’re staying near the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. This is a photo of its western shore.

Today we are at the Sea of Galilee. We arrived last night, and will be departing tomorrow. Our tour is constantly on the move, and every day is filled with many different sights. I couldn’t go with my group today to see the sights, because I had homework to finish. I worked on it like mad before leaving for this trip, but couldn’t get it all done. Some of it is due on Sunday, and because of the crazy touring schedule, today is the only day that I could have finished it. The entire trip, I knew that there would be at least one day that I would not be able to see the planned sights, and today was that day.

So everybody else boarded the bus after breakfast, and I stayed behind. I felt a little sad and lonely, but the area is very beautiful and the weather was perfect (the area reminds me of Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad). Plus, I’m at the Sea of Galilee!! How cool is that? I felt confident that the Lord had something special for me today.  We are staying at a kibbutz that is on the lake, and it is like a small resort. It was very quiet all day, since most of the guests were out touring with their groups.

Before starting my homework, I sat down by the lake to pray and to read the scriptures. After I finished praying, I opened the mass readings for the day. The gospel reading was from Mark chapter 7. I hoped that the Sea of Galilee would be mentioned.

Golan Heights 20180209
Golan Heights, the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee

“Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (that is, ‘Be opened!’) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.'”

I was so touched! Here I was, sitting by the Sea of Galilee, perhaps near an area where Jesus himself once walked, and there it was in today’s reading.

Later, when reading it again, I noticed the part where it says, “He took him off by himself away from the crowd.” Then I got teary, because I had spent the day by myself “away from the crowd.” Yes, the Lord was with me, and he did have a special little signal for me today, as I thought he would.

(I took these photos later in the day, when it started to get a bit foggy. Earlier in the day it was very clear. I wish I had taken the photos then. Just imagine yourself at Batiquitos Lagoon on a quiet, sunny day, and you will have a good idea of what it is like here.)

 

12 ways to spot a misogynist

Women haters (unconsciously) get off on treating women badly. Every time they can put down a woman or hurt her feelings, they unconsciously feel good because deep down in their hidden brain, their bad behavior is rewarded with a dose of the pleasure chemical dopamine—which makes them want to repeat the behavior again and again. […]

via 12 Ways to Spot a Misogynist | Psychology Today — Parental Alienation

Love with me

james judith jennifer johnson c 1966
My dad, my mom, and me. One of three or four photos of  us together.

I woke up this morning and had an epiphany: I cannot love my parents as if they were two separate people.

A couple days ago, I had a flood of emotion come over me about my mom. I could see her as I saw her when I was a child, as my beautiful mother whom I loved and adored. It was a deep and powerful feeling that I had not experienced since I was very young.

And my dad was connected to this emotion. If I let myself love her like that, I must also love my dad like that.

All these decades, I had been trying to separate them in my heart, since they seemed separate in my mind. All that did was make me confused, sad, and angry. My negative emotions never made sense… they are two individuals, right? That is how they behaved, after all. All I knew was that I was supposed to love them separately, because that is what their divorce and rejection of each other, and each other’s families, communicated to me in unequivocal terms. But all that did was diminish them in my heart, no matter how hard I fought it. And I did fight it.

It is still so weird to put them together in my heart, to love them together. It is good, but weird, old, so old it seems foreign… and scary.

This song by Keith Green comes to mind now, and brings tears to my eyes, Love With Me.

 

 

Weight loss

When I was younger, I was very thin. Never had a problem with weight. Even after bearing children, I lost all of the baby weight without really trying very hard. But when I turned 40 or so, the pounds just started to creep up! Very frustrating because nothing really changed in my diet or exercise. I got so heavy that I weighed 3-4 pounds more than I ever did while pregnant! Yuck. I didn’t like that at all.

I am happy to report that I’ve lost 16 pounds in the last six months, just through making better choices for food. Then, a couple weeks ago, Rebecca and I decided to join a gym. At first we were going to try to go together, but it hasn’t worked out that way so far.

When I go, I’ve been running on the treadmill and doing the weight machines, on alternating days, about 4-6 times per week. I can run for three miles without needing to walk or stop. My goal is to gradually increase both the length of the run, and the speed. Right now, I don’t technically run the entire time, I jog then run then jog then run, alternating like that. But I feel good about it because it is definitely not walking, except for the warm up and cool down.

I am not certain what my ideal weight should be, but my current goal is to lose another 16 pounds. I suspect that will be a good weight for me, but I’ll do some more research, talk to people, and see how it all goes. Will probably take another six months to do.

My jeans are getting big and it’s a good feeling. 🙂

Acts 15: private judgment and authority, part two (first response to Jesse)

I previously wrote about an exchange I had on a Protestant’s blog. On that same blog, another Protestant named Jesse invited me to respond to his post about private interpretation. My answer was similar to the other answer, but takes a different turn near the end:

council of jerusalen
The Council of Jerusalem from Acts 15

… in Acts 15 those who favored circumcision for new Christians were forced to use their private judgment regarding the verdict of the council. They had to choose to accept the council’s verdict, or their own view of Scripture. In like manner, the Catholic position is that an authoritative council, or the Pope, or all the bishops throughout the world, exercise a magisterium regarding what Scripture means. In just the same way as the council in Acts 15, with respect to all Christian dogma, Christians must accept this human authority on the meaning of Scripture and other matters. We are not free to interpret Scripture in a manner that contradicts the human authority. We certainly can read Scripture ourselves and the Church encourages this. I believe that Catholics can legitimately dissent from certain Catholic teachings (not all, just certain types) but I am not clear on how that works (Google the phrase “faithful dissent” if you want to learn more about it). I do know that the Church teaches that we must follow our conscience even if our conscience is wrong.

Catholics may use private judgment in a limited sense. But when we talk about private judgment, I am not sure that we are talking about the same thing. It seems like Protestants have much wider bounds to their private judgments than Catholics do? For example, I’ve heard of Protestant churches splitting over non-doctrinal issues. If true, that is private judgment going too far, don’t you agree?

You mentioned some limits of private judgment in your post by listing some reasonable sounding criteria, then saying this: “…and by obeying the wisdom of the godly church leaders or instructors who give us the necessary tools for properly understanding the written Word of God.” Aren’t you saying here that Protestants have a magisterium? That’s what it sounds like to me. We need a magisterium! After all, we are sheep, as Jesus said. We are not all able or capable of doing the theological work of discerning dogma, canon, etc. Because we are sheep, we need help, and God has provided it.

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin (a former Protestant) has pointed out that Protestants inadvertently recreate their own magisteriums because somebody must establish and maintain group cohesion:

The typical Protestant church thus unconsciously reinvents the Catholic [magisterial] system that it consciously scorns. It does this out of necessity, since there is simply no way to maintain an organized, healthy group which works in harmony without having someone with the authority to determine what the group is going to do and to expel those who won’t go along. You cannot have a classroom, a work crew, a social club, or a nation without someone with that kind of authority, and you certainly cannot have a church without one. Someone in any group must be able to say, “This is what the group is going to do” and “If you won’t do it and will continually publicly oppose it, then you cannot be part of the group. You must leave the classroom, work crew, social club, society, or church.”

I think it is very tempting to think that we are absolute individuals, discerning every single dogma on our own with the Holy Spirit. Speaking for myself, I know that I did not discern the dogma of the Trinity on my own, for example. Somebody told me about it and showed me the Scriptures for it. I suspect that is what goes on with everybody.

God in his mercy gave us a magisterium that we can rely upon to help us know His will and His ways.

If you would like to read the exchange, go here.

Image credit: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing

 

Would you choose the old manna or the new? Exodus 16 and John 6

OT manna
Moses and the bread from heaven from Exodus 16

Let’s say that an angel appeared before you. He held out his hands, and in one hand was a piece of manna from the Old Testament, exactly the same manna as what happened in Exodus 16. In the other hand was a piece of bread taken from one of your church services. Which would you choose? (I have left the type of bread open-ended so that any Christian who reads this can insert their own type of bread.)

I would not choose the old manna. I would choose the bread from one of my Church services, which is the Catholic Eucharist. This is because I believe that the new “bread from heaven” is superior to the old.

sheen eucharist
The new bread from heaven is superior to the old

The new “bread from heaven” is the body of Christ, as taught in John 6. The body of Christ is far superior to the old manna. If I had chosen the manna from the OT, let’s consider the ramifications. How is something from the old covenant, that was annulled because of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, more desirable than something from the new covenant? Did Christ institute the new bread from heaven, yet somehow the old bread from heaven is more desirable? How can that be? If I were to choose the old manna over the body of Christ, what would that say about my belief in the new covenant? Wouldn’t it say that I didn’t really believe in the new covenant, or that I believed it was weaker than the old?

Which would you choose, and why?

Acts 15: private judgment and authority, part one

Several days ago I had an exchange on another blog, a Protestant blog. Overall it was a cordial exchange and I think it went well. He made his points, I made mine, and we countered each other in a pleasant way.

I want to post portions of what I wrote there because I think it is important. It has to do with the idea of private judgment, and how private judgment ends at God’s established authority. Catholics often criticize Protestants for exercising an “absolute right to private judgment,” and Protestants will counter by saying that Catholics legitimately exercise private judgment too. But each side does it in a different way, with different limits. Here is what I wrote:

It is accurate to say that I made a private judgment regarding the claims of the Catholic Church. After that, I surrendered it. I do not continue to exercise it on individual doctrines, because I believe that the Church is Christ’s bride, and whoever hears her hears him.

I may be mistaken, but it seems that private judgment means something a little different to Protestants? The Catholic surrenders his private judgment once he becomes Catholic, because God only teaches one truth and the Church is his authority on earth to teach it. I am not certain this is the case with Protestants. I say this because of the different Protestant faith communities that exist. Aren’t they all continuing to exercise private judgment on various matters? I’ve heard of churches splitting over non-doctrinal issues. Wouldn’t they claim they were exercising private judgment? At what point do we surrender our private judgment?

I am completely convinced that God’s mercy is better revealed in and by the Catholic Church than the alternatives. So yes, that is my private judgment on the matter. I don’t think Catholics are being hypocritical to “call out” Protestants for their (seemingly inordinate) use of private judgment, but they might need to do a better job explaining it? It just doesn’t seem like we are talking about exactly the same thing.

I also wrote this:

… let me take an example from the book of Acts to support the idea that Christians need, and actually do have, a final human authority to resolve disputes or contradictions, and that private judgment ends with that authority, not with the Scriptures.

Certain Christians believed that people needed to be circumcised in order to become Christians. Others responded by saying that circumcision was not necessary. Debate ensued. Those who believed in the necessity of circumcision undoubtedly had clear Scripture verses on their side. But what happened? A council was convened, and more debate ensued. Ultimately, the council decided that circumcision was unnecessary. After making their non-scripturally based arguments, they cited one rather weak verse to support their position, a verse that does not even mention circumcision. Those who favored circumcision had to make a private judgment: either comply with the council, or with their own view of the Scriptures.

Given what I know of debates today between Catholics and Protestants, I find this circumstance quite convincing for the Catholic position. Debates today rage on and on over this or that doctrine, and victory is claimed on the strength of the verses presented. Not so in Acts 15. The issue of circumcision was decided by human authority with weak Biblical support.

peters vision
Peter’s vision from Acts 10

The issue of circumcision was decided by human authority. Peter had a vision about the gentiles coming into the Church, and there was a lot of debate during the council. Even if I concede that the council was totally following the Scriptures only, and not influenced by Peter’s vision at all (which seems highly unlikely) or anything else, it doesn’t matter. The council decided what the Scriptures meant, and those who disagreed had to make a private judgement: agree with the council about what the Scriptures meant (and change their views), or hold onto their views. They did not get to retain their previous interpretation of Scripture and remain in good standing as Christians.

The council was what enforced the issue, not the Scriptures. It should be obvious that the Scriptures can’t enforce anything. I’ve touched on this idea before here. Similarly, the NT verses discussing church discipline mean nothing if there is no human authority that has the final say.

If you want to see the entire exchange, go here.