Saturday, May 31, 2008

School news, and a new place to live

We have a date for Erin Sandifer to visit us at 11:30 Monday and converse with Stephen so as to allay his concerns - ours too - about the FBA she is to do on him later. We see no reason to suppose that Erin is intending treachery, as Linda Casas did a little more than a year ago when she came to our home. But her superiors are the same people, and I failed to anticipate their malice on that occasion, didn't I? We know what they're capable of, and they have shown not a trace of remorse in the past 18 months, indeed continuing to seek to harm Stephen throughout the IEP process and further traumatizing him by threatening to have him arrested as truant when they know he is not, because they are themselves not offering him FAPE. Whatever Erin might want to do, will she deal faithfully if those who cut her paycheck demand otherwise? Perhaps, but in view of all this, a father should trust and assume that? We have some things to pray about for sure.

Unlike Stephen, Joshua is being treated just fine so far. Unfortunately, his car was stolen out of the school parking lot, evidently by another student who found his keys when he misplaced them at school. It's been three days, and the car has not yet turned up, and maybe it never will. This has been very hard for Joshua, but the school has been very helpful.

Finally, Joshua's IEP meeting yielded us a new place to live. Someone had a place for rent, and we all went over to see it today. It's a little farther than where we would like, but not bad, and it has much to recommend it. We agreed on terms and expect to move in about the 20th or so. There will be room for Joshua when he moves out of where he is in November, if he likes.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Former soldier in Vietnam gives good advice

Note: I corrected the header today the 27th in response to Brian's comment.

Friday, May 23, 2008


I got the following mass email yesterday, in huge print and bright colors:

Do you believe that the word God should stay in American culture?

NBC this morning had a poll on this question. They had the highest Number of responses that they have ever had for one of their polls, and the Percentage was the same as this:

86% to keep the words, IN God We Trust and God in the Pledge of Allegiance
14% against

That is a pretty 'commanding' public response.

I was asked to send this on if I agreed or delete if I didn't .

Now it is your turn It is said that 86% of Americans believe the word God should stay.

Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such A mess about having 'In God We Trust' on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Why is the world catering to this 14%?


I get stuff like this all the time. It's not wholly useless to answer, because someone usually wises up. I answered as follows:

Is any of you able to imagine the apostle Paul caring that IN GOD WE TRUST be stamped on the money of the people whose trust is that money? When Jesus borrowed the tribute money to teach from it, does it seem to any of you that he wanted it to say IN GOD WE TRUST rather than bearing Caesar's image and superscription?

If Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, how do you suppose he feels about this question today? If we actually trust in God, why not believe in His word enough to learn his perspective on this and questions like it from our Bibles?

I got one response:

A thoughtful reply...but I think in the absence of God in so many places, and the anti-God attitude in some, people are hungry for reminders of His presence, wherever they can preserve it.

To which I said:

"To the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet," just as it is written, and so you truly observe. Days are coming that we will want to see one of the days of the Son of Man and won't see it, Jesus said, and in that day many false prophets and many false Christs will arise and deceive many.

But wasn't God absent in many places in imperial Rome, and didn't they have an anti-god attitude here and there in those days?

IN GOD WE TRUST on American money is a lie, indeed a blasphemy. It is in the purest sense to take the name of the Lord in vain - to use it in complete emptiness. For the ungodly to do so, to paste it on our coins to humor "Christians," like a piece of offal thrown to a barking dog, is understandable, and I expect of them no better. As Edward Gibbon said of Rome, the people believed the gods to be true, the philosophers believed them false, and the rulers believed they were useful.

But for people taking upon themselves the name of Christ to so degrade ourselves as to whine for such trifles from Caesar - who can imagine such conduct in Jesus or the apostles? Who can fear God and sit still for people to disgrace the Name in such fashion?

Stephen Attwood, "truant"

Having sent us a letter a couple of weeks ago calling Stephen truant and threatening to have him arrested, Chino Valley Unified School District sent Stephanie Johnson, "Coordinator Child Welfare and Attendance," to my door while I was at Orange County Family Court in support of Nate Tseglin, being reminded there that no matter how outrageously my kid is treated, there's always somebody else being done even worse. She left her card, and we talked on my phone on my way home. That evening, I sent her the following email, but first, the needed edspeak glossary:

FAPE is Free Appropriate Public Education, which all school districts are required to provide every student.
FBA is Functional Behavior Analysis.
AB2726 is a state-mandated IEP Mental Health Treatment Plan to be worked out with County Behavioral health.
Further note: I talked to Anne Savage today, and she never got the signoff from Erin, who she thinks just stuck it in the file - a misunderstanding I regret and and should have avoided.

From: Peter Attwood
Subject: Stephen Attwood: Attendance / "truancy"
Date: May 20, 2008 8:17 PM

This is to follow up on your visit and our phone conversation.

As I said, Stephen is not truant, because CVUSD still refuses to offer him FAPE. The placement at Keystone has failed, as I explained, because it put Stephen in memory of the failing H & H experience precisely a year before, which led to a treacherous act of abuse, in which CVUSD, under false pretenses, caused Stephen to be abducted from his home and family, and terrorized for three days in a mental hospital for supposedly being suicidal - and even the documentation that CVUSD has yielded up shows that he was not suicidal at the time. Unfortunately, Keystone uses the same manipulative management method Stephen first encountered during his false imprisonment at Canyon Ridge, the most traumatic experience of his life - and this too added to his fear and distress, making learning impossible.

Needless to say, your visit to our home today recalled this trauma to his mind. You evidently had no knowledge of this, but your supervisors, who in my view owed you a heads-up, are certainly well aware of it, and of the likely effect on Stephen of such a surprise visit from the agency that has so badly injured him and is still threatening him to this day. In short, CVUSD is showing the same willingness to traumatize Stephen, and the same refusal to work with us to assure him FAPE, that we have seen now since February 2007. The results in his life have been calamitous,
and it's my job as his father to keep that in mind and do all that I can to make sure it happens no more.

You wanted to know how you could work with us to get Stephen his necessary schooling. As my advocate has made clear before, the problem is CVUSD's refusal to offer FAPE. Distress at Keystone to the point of abreaction, with the result that he is less willing and able to do anything scholastic since he went there, proves for sure that Keystone is not FAPE for him, and yet CVUSD still obstinately refuses to consider anything else or to acknowledge that a placement that actually causes such regression and psychological distress is not "appropriate."

As I told you, and as no educational professional can fail to understand, the path to FAPE lies through proper evaluation of Stephen. After consulting with my advocate, I signed the authorization that Heather Williams sent me for the FBA, and I gave it Thursday the 15th to Erin Sandifer to take it with her to SELPA right after our IEP meeting with Joshua so she could hand it to Ann Savage.

Ann Savage has the paper and Heather Williams doubtless knows this, so it is now CVUSD's responsibility to bring this assessment to pass. I see nothing more for us to do or anything further to talk about until that is done, although if you do I will accommodate you, provided my lawyers are agreeable.

CVUSD has also said that they want an AB2726 evaluation. We'll do that as soon as CVUSD is up for it, as seems so far not the case.

In light of all this, it seems quite obvious that this accusation of truancy is simply an effort to further traumatize Stephen and to bully us to permit him to be injured in an injurious placement - just like the false imprisonment a year ago designed to force him onto psychotropic drugs as they had demanded for a month before.

CVUSD has behaved very well so far in the case of my other son, Joshua. Perhaps it would be best in this case to let the right hand learn from the left hand.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Do justice , or succumb to addiction (Proverbs (31:1-9)

The words of King Lemuel, the burden his mother taught him.

What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
Lest they drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the judgment of all the sons of affliction.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to him who is bitter of soul.
Let him drink and forget his poverty,
And remember his trouble no more.
Open your mouth for the dumb,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And judge the afflicted and needy.

- Proverbs 31:1-9

This mother's teaching comes immediately before the description of the virtuous woman. What struck me today is the way of escape from corruption and personal disintegration that God provides to the powerful - do justice and defend the weak. Put another way, if you have the authority and power to do justice and you don't, you should expect your wealth and power to devour you. For the helpless the anesthesia of drink may sometimes be appropriate. But for one in authority, that is the path to ruin.

The rich and powerful have their pains. Life is empty for them, too, because as it is written, "Futility of futilities, all is futility." It's easy in that position to find that if high living isn't working, let's try some more.

1 Corinthians 10:13 comes to mind: "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."

For the rich and powerful, the way of escape from the temptation to dissipate their lives in empty pleasure is to do justice to the oppressed - to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

For instance, my privilege as an American citizen is to use my relative security from being murdered, kidnapped, disappeared, and tortured to defend and speak for the non-citizens of the empire, who are regularly subject to these acts of arbitrary power and cruelty. God has not given me various privileges so I can consume them on my lusts. If I do, I myself will be consumed, like so many around me. My salvation, my way of escape, is to do for others as I need God to do for me in my own helpless condition. I'm not doing anyone a favor if I take this way of escape that God has set before me; I am thereby saving myself in this evil day, in which the love many is growing cold because lawlessness is increased (Matthew 24:12).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"The Bible does not deal with divinity but humanity." (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

The Bible is holiness in words. To the man of our age nothing is as familiar and trite as words. Of all things they are the cheapest, most abused and least esteemed. They are the objects of perpetual defilement. We all live in them, feel in them, think in them, but, failing to uphold their independent dignity, to respect their power and weight, they turn waif, elusive - a mouthful of dust. When placed before the Bible, the words of which are like dwellings made of rock, we do not know how to find the door.

Some people may wonder: why was the light of God given in the form of language? How is it conceivable that the divine should be contained in such brittle vessels as consonants and vowels? This question betrays the sin of our age: to treat lightly the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit. What else in the world is as capable of bringing man and man together over the distances in space and in time? Of all things on earth, words alone never die. They have so little matter and so much meaning.

The Bible does not deal with divinity but humanity. Addressing human beings about human affairs, whose language should be employed if not man's? And yet, it is as if God took these Hebrew words and breathed into them of His power, and the words became a live wire charged with His spirit. To this very day they are hyphens between heaven and earth.

What other medium could have been employed to convey the divine? Pictures enameled on the moon? Statues hewn out of the Rockies? What is wrong with the human ancestry of scriptural vocabulary?

If the Bible were a temple, equal in majesty and splendor to the simple grandeur of its present form, its divine language might have carried the sign of divine dignity with more undeniable force to most people. But man would have worshiped His work rather than His will . . . and this is exactly what the Bible has tried to prevent.

Just as it is impossible to conceive of God without the world, so it is impossible to conceive of His concern without the Bible.

If God is alive, then the Bible is His voice. No other work is as worthy of being considered a manifestation of His will. There is no other mirror in the world where His will and spiritual guidance is as unmistakably reflected. If the belief in the imminence of God in nature is plausible, then the belief in the immanence of God in the Bible is compelling.

Abraham Joshua Heschel on words (God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, p. 244)


Joshua's IEP meeting

We got together at the High School Thursday morning. The school psychologist did a very good report on Joshua. Everybody in the meeting made sense. We got some goals together, and we decided on services needed. They didn't lie about anything, have people there that weren't supposed to be, or try to screw us out of what Joshua needed.

Going into this, I had prayed about how to play it, because they were being very nice, but I can't forget that they have sandbagged before. I remembered that while the US and the USSR could never agree peaceably about Germany, and enormous armies with tactical nuclear weapons glared at each other over the Fulda Gap, they agreed on Austria in 1955, no problem, like the best of friends. And in the same way, as the Vietnam War was heating up in 1962, everybody agreed on a deal over Laos, which held for about 5 years.

So why have they kept on viciously trying to hurt Stephen and make me fight them on everything to this day, while behaving perfectly with Joshua? After all, it's the same father they're dealing with. If I don't know what to make of mysteries like that, I can be sure I have a lot to learn.

On another note, they took Jeff Morris and his law firm, Stutz Artiano, off the case and replaced them with Constance Taylor of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo in Cerritos. Does that mean they might want to work things out instead of trying every way to cheat us and to harm Stephen as they've been doing these past 15 months? Stay tuned, I guess.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The selling and shaping of our souls (Robert Jensen guest sermon)

by Robert Jensen

The last time I was in this pulpit to deliver a guest sermon, I spoke of the need for each of us to take up the role of prophet, to not be afraid of speaking in the prophetic voice, even when doing so involves risk. Today I want to talk about the other kind of profit, the allure of which can so often quiet the prophetic voice within us.

Living in the most powerful and affluent country in the history of the world, this is not mere word play with homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings). Can we resist the seductive nature of the material rewards that come with profit to find within us the spirit of the prophetic? If we cannot, what is the fate of this country? What is the fate of the world that this country seeks to dominate? And my subject today: What is the fate of our souls?

Let’s start with one of the most well-known verses from the gospels, from Mark, where Jesus says: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” [Mark 8:36]

What do we gain when we covet the wealth of the world that can come with accepting the systems and structures of power? When feeling self-righteous, we are tempted to say that we agree with Jesus, that when we place too much value on material rewards we lose something greater. But if we are to be honest, we have to acknowledge that those material rewards in the world can be extremely seductive. If you doubt this, when you leave church go visit a shopping mall. No doubt we all know where to find one nearby. Even when the reward is not “the whole world” but just one little piece of it in a store in the mall, the pull of those rewards can be strong.

That’s perhaps the cruel edge of this truth -- the fact that in this culture when we talk about “selling out” or “selling our souls” we realize the selling price is typically quite low. That’s what Robert Bolt was getting at in his play A Man for All Seasons, in which Sir Thomas More is convicted of treason on the perjured testimony of Richard Rich, who in exchange for his capitulation to King Henry VIII is appointed Attorney-General for Wales. In the play, More asks one final question of Rich after noticing that the Attorney-General is wearing the medallion of his new position. The stage directions call for More to look into Rich’s face, “with pain and amusement,” saying, “For Wales? Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to lose his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?” [1]

I don’t we want to take sides in British regional and class conflicts, but his point is well taken. We can find amusement in the crumbs for which some people will sell their souls, but there is also much pain in recognizing ourselves in the mirror that Thomas More holds up for Richard Rich. For what would I sell my soul? For what have I sold my soul? Do I ever dream of Wales?

At some point in our lives, we have all sacrificed a principle or undermined another person to get what we want, though most of us have never lied under oath and helped send someone to the gallows. But the fact that there’s always a Richard Rich to point to, always someone whose soul-selling is more egregious than ours, is of little comfort. As Rev. Jim Rigby reminds us, week after week in his sermons from this pulpit, the job of theology is not to comfort us in our conceits but to challenge us to go deeper.

That means not only reflecting on our own failures in such moments, but going beyond the idea that our souls are at risk only in a single moment in which we might be tempted to sell out. Just as important is the slower process by which that state of our souls can be eroded. I want to frame that challenge in the words of the writer Wendell Berry, using the first stanza of his poem “We Who Prayed and Wept”[2]:

We who prayed and wept
for liberty from kings
and the yoke of liberty
accept the tyranny of things
we do not need.
In plenitude too free,
we have become adept

beneath the yoke of greed.

Berry trains our attention on the day-to-day reality of the world in which we live, in the most powerful and affluent country in the world, in which many of us hold the freedom to enslave ourselves. So, let’s expand the question beyond the dramatic moments in which we choose whether we will sell our souls at what price and focus on how our souls are shaped by the everyday realities of power and privilege.

My focus today is not on the injustice of this system, not on the suffering that inevitably results in a world structured by empire and capitalism. I’m not going to talk about the cruelty of a world in which half the population lives on less than $2 a day. Of course we should remind ourselves constantly that our affluence is conditioned on that suffering around the world, and that we have obligations to change that. But right now, I’m heading down a different path.

Since we live in a country that seems only to know how to speak in economic language that assumes capitalism is the state of nature, let’s examine this question in the language of profit and loss. If we live in “the land of the bottom line,” to borrow a phrase from the songwriter John Gorka, then let’s talk in those terms. How might we approach a die-hard capitalist who cares only about maximizing self-interest and make an argument that it profits us not to sell our souls for the whole world, let alone for the shopping mall.

I’m using the mall as a stand-in for the readily available pleasures in a consumer-capitalist society that absorbs a disproportionate share of the world’s resources, the pleasures that come with what we might call the cheap toys of empire: big houses, fast cars, abundant food, nonstop spectacle entertainment, and an endless variety of numbing drugs. When we capitulate to the system, most of us get some combination of those things. Maybe there are some among us who have tapped into real wealth and real power, but my guess is that most of us here today are somewhere in the middle and upper-middle classes. We aren’t the ruling class, but we live well, at a level that in previous eras only the elite could expect. But look closer and what do we get? How do we feel when we are alone with ourselves in our big houses; when we park the fast car in the driveway; when we push back from the table after eating too much; when we switch off the television or drive away from the stadium; when the effects of those drugs -- whether legal or illegal, obtained from the pharmacy or on the street -- wear off.

An important note: I don’t want to ignore the fact that to those who have never had much in this world, access to material goods is not a trivial matter. For those who struggle for the basics, this kind of reflection on affluence likely seems self-indulgent. But still we have to ask: When we go so far beyond material security into the level of consumption common in the United States, and when we are through consuming the things that profits can buy, where are we and who are we? Do we like where we are and who we are?

For the moment, put aside empathy and compassion for those suffering with less. We don’t need to be told that the injustice of this system hurts others and that the fate of those others should be our concern. For the moment, ask yourself what have been the consequences for you and your soul of living with the cheap toys of empire.

It’s enticing to want to wiggle out of that one by pointing a finger at those who consume more -- Richard Rich in a Hummer, perhaps -- but that’s at best a temporary diversion. There are always others making choices that are easy to critique. I’m suggesting that instead we ask a more troubling question -- not about our empathy for others in the world who suffer with nothing or our contempt for those wallow in everything -- but about ourselves. How do we feel, deep down in the place where we don’t allow others in, where we often won’t go ourselves?

This country is awash in abundance of most everything except the two things we cannot really live a decent life without -- the meaning we desperately seek in a world of endless mystery, and the sense of real connection to others that we crave so that we can share that meaning.

There are big moral moments in our lives, times in which we must choose between allegiance to our principles and our fear of power, between our obligations to others and our desire for material comfort. In those moments, we should struggle to make sure we don’t sell our souls for the temporary pleasures of the world. But every day we also recognize that our souls -- our sense of what it means to be human beings -- are being shaped day-to-day by the same systems of power and privilege.

Let me be clear one more time: My pitch today is not just that all this matters for the sake of justice, but that it also matters for more selfish reasons. In this system, we lose when we allow systems of empire and capital to shape our souls, day after day in ways sometimes too subtle to see. We lose no matter how many toys we accumulate.

This is one of the main reasons I come to church and look forward to Rev. Rigby’s reminders of how hard it is to be a decent person in this world -- not because I’m so noble but because I’m so weak. I need to be reminded, over and over, that most of the pleasures of the empire are mostly illusion. The irony is that typically we work so hard for money that buys those cheap toys, yet we often are unwilling to do the hard work to get something more. That’s why we need some kind of church, some place to come to support each other in that struggle to be more than the culture expects of us.

That is always a struggle, even for the strongest among us. Wendell Berry has done more than most of us to resist this culture of greed through his efforts not only to theorize about sustainable agriculture and rural community but to live those practices, yet he reminds us that he struggles. I’ll finish with the last lines of Berry’s essay “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine,” in which he asks difficult questions about how we are to make these decisions. He ends not with a critique of others but an accounting of his own life. He laments the ways he still is caught up in the system and its machines, one of which is the chainsaw he uses to cut wood because of the speed and efficiency. But he also recognizes that it is “inconvenient, uncomfortable, undependable, ugly, stinky, and scary.” He ends that essay on a difficult, but hopeful, note:

I am not an optimist; I am afraid that I won’t live long enough to escape my bondage to the machines. Nevertheless, on every day left to me I will search my mind and my circumstances for the means of escape. And I am not without hope. I knew a man who, in the age of chainsaws, went right on cutting his wood with a handsaw and an axe. He was a healthier and saner man than I am. I shall let his memory trouble my thoughts.[3]


Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007). Jensen is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at and his articles can be found online at

New link

With all the excitement in Beirut, a new link - BloggingBeirut. Check it out. I recognize a couple of pics from my visit, but not the empty streets in daytime caused by the general strike.

I added to the links on the side, so you can go there any time to keep up.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 15:8)

Reading this evening, I realized how easily deceived we are if we do not understand the uselessness of sacrifice. Sacrifice does not in itself sanctify what is otherwise abominable. Paul begins his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 by making just this point, because real love is only possible if we first get this straight:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

All these things, if not arising from the love of God, are abominable - and futile. Look, if I'm going to be put through changes like having my body burned, I don't want it to profit me nothing!

What a hard concept: "Sacrifice and offering you have not desired" (Psalm 40:6).

But if we don't get this, we will honor evil just because it's a sacrifice. Why else do people in church pray for the safety and success of men invading other people's countries and murdering them in large numbers, devastating their land and poisoning it with depleted uranium, breaking into their homes in the middle of the night and dragging them away, taking women hostage and on occasion raping them - and all to dominate them and subdue them to the greed of empire! And it's clear what they pray for when they pray for the safety of these men - the torment and death of countless innocent people - because if the resistance had been killing a couple of hundred a week and shooting down a helicopter every day from the get-go, millions of people driven from their homes would still live in peace, hundreds of thousands would still be alive, and thousands of young girls would be in school in Iraq instead of turning tricks in Damascus and Amman so their families don't starve.

Of course those praying for all this would take a different view if this were being done by some other nation's soldiers in their own neighborhoods. What they would abhor if done to themselves and their own they prescribe for others, in complete contempt of the very well-known word of Jesus, who said, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do so to them."

And all this delusion because we think there is something noble in itself about sacrifice - honored by men, but abhorred by the God of truth.

And how do we know our sacrifice is abominable? Two points come to mind:
1) Are we proud of this sacrifice, convinced that it bestows virtue upon us? If so, look no further, because as it is written, everyone that is proud in heart is abominable to the Lord.
2) Are we nobly resisting the temptation to be decent human beings? As Jesus said to his disciples, days are coming when those who kill you will think they are doing service to God, so it's no marvel if those who murder and dispossess in our names think that they are doing their duty.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

"Ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7)

This came to mind as I was washing up in the kitchen this afternoon. Reminded by a bill for which the school district is using a transparent lie to refuse to pay for work they ordered on their own evaluation, I was reminded of the extraordinary wickedness that has characterized all their behavior toward my son for over a year now. Last week, for instance, knowing that his placement at Keystone isn't working, and even confessing their knowledge of that by reminding us that they want a functional behavior analysis to determine why not, they sent us a piece of paper saying he's truant and threatening to have him arrested.

They're not afraid to try to terrify him like this in the full knowledge of the harm they are doing to him. For educational professionals - knowing perfectly well what they're doing - to try to hurt a kid like that is truly evil.

But these people are not especially evil people. They're perfectly average educational professionals, probably no worse than the ones populating your district office. How does that make you feel about your kids being in their hands? :)

This wide gap between the banality and mediocrity of Stephen's tormentors and the shocking wickedness of their behavior has arrested me from the beginning of this affair. Clearly God wants me to learn about it. Accordingly I read Hannah Arendt's "Banality of Evil" some time back hoping to learn something, and indeed I did learn something important, which I addressed in an earlier post.

Arendt described the problem like this:

Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it - the quality of temptation. Many Germans and many Nazis, probably an overwhelming majority of them, must have been tempted not to murder, not to rob, not to let their neighbors go off to their doom (for that the Jews were transported to their doom they knew, of course, even though many of them may not have known the gruesome details), and not to become accomplices in these crimes by benefiting from them. But, God knows, they had learned how to resist temptation.

It's not just the Third Reich. Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn addressed the same issue. Huck knows it's his duty to betray his friend, the runaway slave Jim, and he knows he will go to hell if he doesn't. So finally, as he recalls their friendship, he says, "All right then, I'll go to hell," and tears up the paper. Huck Finn had failed to resist the temptation to be a decent human being - but not many do.

Getting back to where I was at the beginning of this post, I realized in this meditation that the only way in my learning that I ever come to the knowledge of the truth is when I come to the knowledge of the truth about myself. How am I walking in the banality of evil myself? How do I resist the temptation to be a decent human being so as to do some evil act that I think is my duty? Then, not when I feel tempted to do what I know is wrong, is when there is no limit to the evil I might do. Whatever I am learning, except when I learn the truth about myself, I am not coming to the knowledge of the truth.