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Considering different perspectives offers Kathryn Pasker Ineck fresh insights on age-old concepts.

One bright afternoon in early summer, my sister and I were excited to be outside, playing with the neighborhood kids. Winter and spring can be rather damp in Oregon, and it felt like a treat to be out in the sunshine. I remember that we were all facing each other, holding hands and getting ready to play Red Rover, when one of the kids directly opposite me held up his right hand. I had just learned that my right hand was the one I used to hold a pencil, and when I saw that his right hand was on my left, I decided that each person’s right side must be unique to them rather than understanding that my perspective was off.

As a result, my entire life has been spent mixing up left and right, and I find myself skipping a beat as I try to puzzle it out. However. If you ask me the words in Spanish, I know the directions right away: izquierda is never mixed up with derecha, perhaps because I learned them in high school and didn’t have my 4-year-old brain trying to make sense of the world around me! My perspective was different.



I have experienced this kind of perspective shift as an adult, too. In grade school and even high school, math was always an elusive mystery, always just out of grasp on the outskirts of my mind. I memorized algorithms to make the equations work without genuinely understanding the concepts, but still passing the classes with flying colors. I just knew that 8x7=56 but not why or how. I was able to muddle through, but felt like an imposter with good grades and no true mastery.

Enter homeschool. I was teaching my second son the dreaded Common Core math when lo and behold, the textbook offered multiple different techniques and statements to explain concepts. It turns out that multiplication is repeated addition problems, so 8x7=56 because 8+8+8+8+8+8+8=56. Mind blown. Even more stunning was when he entered eighth grade and we learned together that, just as multiplication is repeated addition, exponents are repeated multiplication problems. What?!

I am proud to say that math now feels like solving puzzles rather than enduring torture. From where I sit, I am thrilled that I have a new perspective on this most frightening of subjects and have many tools at my disposal to offer my kids as they encounter the mysteries of dividing decimals by decimals…or balancing quadratic equations (who am I kidding? I have my oldest son on hand to help me with that!)

Perspective matters. It matters even more as we read the Bible. Take the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Book of Genesis. Abraham waited his whole, long life for this child of his wife, Sarah.

God put Abraham to the test and said to him: Abraham!
"Here I am!" he replied.
Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you. ( Genesis 22:1-2)


I have been hearing a lot of secular commentary on this story recently as a way to discount the idea of a loving God: why in the world would a loving, all-knowing God put anyone to the test, especially His leading follower? Most Christians respond that God wasn’t testing Abraham, but that God was allowing Abraham to test his own faith. Regardless, in the story, Abraham takes his son, perhaps as old as 14, and binds him in preparation for sacrifice. How terrifying for Isaac! At the last moment, God stops Abraham from killing his son and offers a ram—caught in a thorn bush—to be sacrificed in Isaac’s stead. Test over. Abraham wins.

But wait. Perspective is everything. Abraham and Isaac were living among cultures in the areas of Ur and Canaan, as well as others, all of whom practiced human sacrifice. To our modern-day sensibilities, human sacrifice is clearly barbaric and evil and foreign and unthinkable, but to them, it was common practice. I posit that God was not testing Abraham’s faithfulness, but that He was showing to Abraham and to Isaac that human sacrifice is never to be practiced among His followers. God is a God of love, mercy, and compassion. 


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We must read Biblical accounts with an eye of anthropology and not just our own, modern perspective. #catholicmom


In other instances in the Old Testament, there are a plethora of examples of barbaric and even shocking battles and bloodshed, and often it looks as though the Lord is a god of brutality. Here we must read the accounts with an eye of anthropology and not just our own, modern perspective. We must get to know the perspective of the cultures and the history in which and for which each book was written: the time period each represents.

God is teaching us throughout the ages that His law is one of love, and He shepherds His people, little by little, decade by decade, century by century, toward truth and justice, compassion and mercy.



Copyright 2022 Kathryn Pasker Ineck
Images: Canva