Background: One of the deepest writers in the entire ‘sphere also happens to be one of those who writes the least: Ace of Spades. His posts can sometimes be just a few short sentences in length, spaced apart by the occasional break. When added together they rarely amount to more than a paragraph or two. However, each word is fraught with meaning (almost always on multiple levels), and he can accomplish with a few lines what others need an essay to convey. Yet the insight he hopes to convey isn’t always obvious, and all of his posts need to be “unpacked” (or unzipped, to use computer terminology) to some degree. I’ve unpacked posts of his before, and he expressed appreciation for my effort. At the same time he asked me to make similar efforts in the future, and this post follows in that path.
The post I want to examine today is “… [there’s] oh so many ways for me to show you how your dogma has abandoned you…” Like nearly all of his posts, it begins with a song which helps set tone and context. I suggest listening to it before reading further. I intend to analyze his post line by line, so it may help to read the full post at his site, as I don’t intend to post it all together here. Also, while each line will have analysis, much of it will be at the end of the post as well. Now to get to it:
All pig-tails and patent-leather shoes.
These two features together hint at femininity in a juvenile context- a young school-age girl. She is young and innocent, and looks the part- wearing her hair in pig-tails and dressing up in nice looking clothes for when she goes to school. This sets up the point of view of the post- that of a young girl (at least in the beginning).
Daddy never seems to care.
The key language in this line is the word “seems.” Ace included that word on purpose. Whatever “Daddy’s” actual intentions might be, they are ultimately irrelevant in this context. What matters is how the young girl from the above line perceives his concern, his lack of care about her.
This is important because “Daddy” might care, but not be in a position to do anything about it. If the father of a young girl has been kicked out of the home and separated from his children by force of law because “Mommy” decide to frivorce him, then what he wants or intends doesn’t matter. The amount of time he can spend with his daughter will be limited, in some cases quite severely. And no matter how much Daddy tells his daughter that he loves her, that he cares for her, that he wants to spend time with her… she won’t believe him if he doesn’t spend much time with her. She cannot help but rationalize his limited contact as a lack of care on his part, no matter how much the matter is explained to her. For a child, a father’s presence, or the lack thereof, is not something which is guided and directed by a rational thought process (no matter how smart the child).
As a side note, even if the biological father is present, but he doesn’t act like an actual father (that is, as a masculine man exercising the office of fatherhood), it is like he isn’t even there at all.
And fathers are the first glimpse of God all children see.
The fact that this line alone is in bold makes it clear that this is the most important line in the whole post. So why bold it?
Numerous studies have shown that it is the father, not the mother, who has the greatest influence on a child’s faith. A devout father can lead his children to follow his faith, no matter the beliefs of the mother. Yet not amount of holiness by the mother can compensate for a father’s disbelief. The reason why is as Ace describes- in their father children see their first real glimpse of God. How so? A father- a true father who can act as such, acts much as God: he admonishes and disciplines when necessary, he provides strength and comfort in times of distress, he pushes for improvement as required, and he loves throughout.
A child’s relationship with his or (in this case) her father helps that child understand boundaries, to understand authority, to get a sense of what is right, and what is wrong. Nothing can replace this understanding.
Left little choice, you choose to sin.
An interesting line. choice in what? By itself this line is incomplete.
Just to get some attention.
Now the previous line makes sense. The young girl from before is feeling the effects of her father’s absence. Without realizing it, without understanding it, part of her- deep in her subconscious- needs a strong male presence in her life. Specifically, she needs the presence of a father. Only she cannot comprehend that. She can only understand that she wants male attention. And so she seeks it. She seeks it from other men, to get that attention and validation that she knows she wants, without understanding why. Without that firm foundation which can only be build over years by a strong and loving father, she will invariably seek that attention in a sinful fashion. Fornication cannot help but seem like love to her.
But boys are not the Almighty.
This line hints at two things, neither of which is mutually exclusive. And when you get down to it, they derive from the same point. Why “Almighty,” when the previous lines suggest that it is a father that the young woman (for she is no longer a girl at this point) seeks? Because she is also seeking God. For just as her need for a father’s presence was not met, so too her need for a sense of God’s presence in her life is not met. For as was indicated earlier, our ability to know God is in large part shaped by our father. To not know the former is to inhibit our connection to the latter.
The men she is sleeping around with cannot (and even if they could, likely would not) give her the love that she seeks. Eros is what her hormones tell her to seek, but it is Agape that her soul longs for- the true, lasting and selfless love of a father, both one of this world, and Eternal. Sadly, this is beyond her ken.
Thus, the emptiness still grows—
Eros without Agape is poison to the soul. We cannot fill ourselves solely with Eros, no matter how hard we try. Instead we simply feed into our hunger, demanding more and more. [Edit: Think of it like salt and water. Salt is good and necessary for our health, and adds much flavor to life. But too much salt, and not enough water, and we throw our electrolyte balance off. This can kill our body if not swiftly correct. Just as Eros can add flavor to our life, without Agape to keep us balanced we risk death, only of the eternal sort for it is our soul which is threatened.]
All the while the emptier and emptier we feel. For the young woman caught in this trap, there is seemingly no escape. She moves from man to man, and yet her need for that male presence only grows greater. She thirsts, and goes to the well, but cannot be satisfied. All because she is going to the wrong well, which she knows not.
regardless of how much they put in you.
The obvious inference here is what this double entendre suggests: the sexual act, which literally involves putting something in the young woman. However, it is more than just that. Some of the men might mean well or even be serious in their attentions/intentions. They might actually love the young woman. But that doesn’t matter- they cannot provide what she needs.
The years fall away and that little girl continues to struggle.
This is a trap from which the young woman cannot seem to escape [but I repeat myself]. Ironically, while she is no longer a little girl in body, in many ways her mind and emotional state never advanced beyond the tender years. How could they?
(Still wearing pigtails and patent-leather shoes.)
Once again, two meanings are present. As the previous line hinted at, the young woman is still mentally and emotionally a little girl. Her maturation process was incomplete, as a core ingredient was missing.
The other meaning hints at the sexualized lifestyle of the young woman, as well as her increasing age. In an effort to try and recapture her youth, and that sense of innocence from before, she tries to adopt a more youthful appearance. She wears clothing and hairstyles that make her seem younger, or otherwise bear some connection to her youth. On the one hand this ties into her sexuality, and a desire to keep it at its peak (even though that is only a brief window). On the other hand, this attempt to recapture her youth is a desperate attempt by the woman to try and repeat her childhood. To have a youth again where that strong man she desperately needs will be present this time.
To wrestle love from the unloving.
Yet another reminder that those men she associates with, those men she sleeps with and gives herself to, cannot give her what she
wants needs. Nor can they be truly blamed in this [absence on her part], as it is not their place.
But it is not only men who she attempts to wrestle with. It is causes and movements. Anything and everything that gives even the faintest flicker of potential meaning and purpose. She longs for a place where she can belong. But causes and movements are cold. Unloving. They too cannot give her what she
wants needs: a family as it was meant to be.
To punish herself until absolution arrives.
Self-loathing invariably becomes a part of this. The young woman is miserable, and no matter how much she may deny it to others, she knows it deep down inside. Her misery is something she knows is a result of having done something wrong, although she may not know what. Her sense of guilt, as ill-formed as it is, drives her to yet further misery. All in the hope that it will end someday. That she will finally have paid a heavy enough price for whatever it was that she did wrong. A wrong for which she was punished by not having a real father in her life.
Yet it never does.
Of course, she was not responsible for her father not being in her life. Her upbringing is not something she shares blame in. But this is something she never hears, or rather, never hears as she should. She might be told that it isn’t her fault. But that is meaningless or ultimately futile without being told whose fault it is, without understanding why things were wrong in the first place.
The humanist sacristy is empty.
A sacristy is a place where clergy prepare for services. So what does Ace mean by this line? He is trying to indicate that humanism has nothing, has no one, to actually carry out services in the first place. Its very nature is to leave people to fend for themselves, to suffer through life’s trials without solace or guide… or absolution.
The progressive wine is soured.
I take this to mean that much of the appeal of progressivism is gone now. It has sat at the same place for so long it has gone stale. No one wants to drink it, although they may feel compelled to do so. After all, it is a liturgical center-piece of the present-age “social gospel,” and so cannot simply be dispensed with.
And no one listens in the digital confessional…
We, all of us, seek absolution. We may not realize the need to repent and confess our sins, but we have it all the same. Sometimes (perhaps even most of the time), we rationalize away this impulse. We call it something else. But its essence remains the same- after all, a rose by any other name is still a rose.
Alas, the internet is no proper confessional. Ace says that no on listens, because to hear, and to listen, are two different things. To listen to something is to pay attention to it, to recognize its meaning and to try and understand what is being said, even as we hear it. But over the internet true listening is not possible. Only hearing. Too much is lost in the process of putting words onto digital ink, of spilling it across monitors the world over. There is something inhumanly mechanical about the internet which disconnects us, even as it helps bring us together like never before. Because of this, the internet can never replace the confession booth.
save the echo.
Interestingly enough, part of us still knows what we are saying, even if we cannot accept that truth. So ultimately a digital confession merely rebounds at us and amplifies the need we feel.
You were forgiven – and loved – long before you strayed.
This line applies both to the young woman’s earthly father, as well as her father in heaven. The theology involved should be pretty basic to most any Christian, and so I won’t go into too much depth. But it is worth pointing out that God knows we are going to stray, that we are going to sin, long before we ever do. His sacrifice at Calvary was not merely for what we have done, but for what we have yet to do. It is a sacrificial love that persists throughout the ages.
Underlying this is the call by both Daddy and our Father to return. To come home. To seek him/Him out and to try and create a proper relationship this time.
Oh, child, who told you that you were naked?
The end is always a good place to return to the beginning, to Genesis. Here Ace alludes to the Fall, to the eating of the Fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. Yes, I know, obvious. So why include it? To remind us that no one told Adam and Eve they were naked. They knew it themselves as a result of eating the Forbidden Fruit. Likewise, the young woman (or should I say women?) featured here was never told that she was on the wrong path. No one needed to tell her. The understanding that she is naked, that she is in a shameful place, is intrinsic to her nature. When we revolt against the natural law, we cannot help but recognize that a crime (of sorts) has taken place.
So what is the full context of what Ace is trying to say? Again, there are many layers here.
On one level Ace states that the absence of a strong father in a young woman’s life will almost invariably lead her towards a life of dissolution and sin. The absence of a strong masculine presence will ache within her akin to hunger pains, and she will gorge herself upon men (seeking masculinity) in order to try and sate that hunger. Sadly, such binge eating will never alleviate her need.
Ace is also explaining that the crisis of faith we are seeing now in Christianity is the product of the destruction of the institution or office of fatherhood. Without strong fathers in their lives many children cannot help but abandon the faith. Of course to them there is no abandonment; without a father they never really knew God in the first place.
He is also pointing out that the humanist and progressive institutions of our day cannot replace what they destroyed. They are, at best, base mockeries of something greater. Though they may mimic the form of Faith, they can never replicate the function. Just as realizing their nakedness was innate to Adam and Eve after taking the fruit, the desire to confess and be absolved of our sins is also innate within us. The present progressive paradigm, however, cannot meet that need, as it rejects its existence in the first place. You cannot heal a spiritual injury when you refuse to recognize there is an injury in the first place, or even anything spiritual.
I am sure there is more to it, but my time is limited and so I must cap my analysis here. Mayhaps Ace will fill in what I could not.
[Update: I fixed a number of typos and grammatical errors, plus added a few words and an example to the post. Hopefully it will be easier to read now. Sorry for any confusion or post ugliness- I hadn’t intended for this post to go public when it did.]