Thursday, August 31, 2006

Our Insults Are Showing (and telling)

I've been visiting on a remarkable young woman's blog this past week or so, ever since she quoted me there. She is sorting out some things pertaining to how much of the conservative stereotype of the ideal woman, which she grew up with and assumed was scriptural, really has a solid basis in Scripture.

I've tried to tread very lightly there, because that rarest of rarities--civility--seems to be the rule of the day. I've decided not to link to that blog nor to call further attention to them. Not sure why, exactly, but that seems right for now.

Why it's getting any mention here at all is because one of my all-time, least-favorite insults showed up in the comments there yesterday: "Feminized men." When it did, I asked the commenter to clarify what she meant by that term. (Like so many other phrases and terms popular among pro-patriarchy Christians, there doesn't seem to be any real consensus when it comes to defining them.) She seems to basically hold with the "Wild at Heart" stereotype of the manly sort of man, one who seeks adventures, works with his hands, isn't tame, and who brings up his sons to play with guns and be boisterous because that's what boys do. (She said that boys who are expected in the schools to sit down, be quiet, not play with guns aren't being allowed to be boys.)

I am disappointed to see this stereotype being bought into, but I know that's simply where many young Christians, men and women, are required by their teaching and traditions to be. And to the extent that individual women find a rugged "Marlboro Man" (hopefully sans the cigarette!) to be more their "type" than a quieter, artistic sort of man, there's nothing wrong with that! I doubt she's actively lobbying against male dancers, introverted male desk workers, male clergy (a less than overtly rugged calling, to be sure!), and so forth. I'm hoping that she, like so many Christians, simply hasn't thought through the reasons why she would choose to declare so many men "feminized."

I find human beings to each be created unique, masculine or feminine simply by virtue of being created male or female respectively, and not all are easily boxed into culturally defined patterns. I've seen the hurt those patterns cause some men, such as men who are gifted artists, dancers, musicians, etc. I think it can also hurt women who don't fit easily into the "captivating" mold, who are more adventurous than some women find comfortable. I never cease to be amazed at the unique combination of traits and passions God places in each one of us. I think sometimes people go way overboard in declaring some of those traits/passions "feminine" and others "masculine." I read on one particular website that advocates "gender roles," and was shocked to find that nearly every one of the aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit was called "feminine"! Then, it goes on to say that only men are to be spiritual warriors. I don't think we can divide up the Bible that way into "feminine" and "masculine."

I've been disturbed over the past number of years at how quick people are--including women--to use anything to do with "feminine" as an insult. It shows in many of the vulgar ways people of the world insult others. To insult a woman, you refer to her sexually and to her personally as less than human. But to insult a man, you attribute female sexuality to him, or else you call into question his mother's virtue. It says a lot, albeit subtly, about how our English-speaking society (de)values women. If you declare a man "effeminate," "feminized," or some less couth reference to the female, you lessen his worth as a man and as a human being. Yet the opposite is not generally true. Instead, you lessen a *woman's* value by assuming she is not attracted to men, is promiscuous, has an unattractive body, or some such. Calling her "mannish" is not a compliment, but it is a much milder insult than saying a man is "effeminate." I think this has roots in our society for so long considering it just "the way it is" to think that women are not as intelligent, not as fully human, as men.

In short, we have a value hierarchy (traditionally) in our society, and it looks something like this:
  1. Alpha male
  2. Unattractive-looking male who conforms to other "masculine" stereotypes
  3. Male, but non-conforming to "masculine" stereotypes
  4. Attractive, stereotypically "feminine" female
  5. Unattractive female who conforms to other "feminine" stereotypes
  6. Female, but non-confroming to "feminine" stereotypes
It reminds me of the sad old prayer, in which the Jewish man prayed his thanks that the Holy One did not create him a slave, a Gentile, or a woman.

Now I am mindful that, in their own system and to those who buy into their system, pro-patriarchy Christians at least do lip service to "respecting" women. Fit their mold and don't rock the boat, and there will be a modicum of respect if you are a woman. The problem is, not all women, and not all men, fit their molds. God doesn't respect those molds. Both men and women are expected to grow into the people God created them to be, not necessarily the people the pro-patriarchalists insist we have to be. When by the Spirit of Almighty God you outgrow that mold, you have a dilemma: Obey God, or obey the patriarchal pattern they say is required of you and every other member of your gender.

There comes a time when we have to think about what our rules and regulations say about us. The portions of Scripture that define its consistent themes (Exodus 20:1-17 [the Decalogue] , Deuteronomy 6:4-5 [The Shema], Micah 6:8 ["What does the Lord require...], Matthew 22:34-40 [The Great Commandments], Matthew 28:19-20 [The Great Commission], and John 13:34-35 [The New Commandment], among many others) take what could seem complex and reveal to us that the laws of God are simple (though never easy to obey in their fullness). The rules of "gender roles" are one of the many ways that present-day Christians burden believers with requirements that God does not place upon them.

All this to say, I think we need to "mind our witness" when speaking of others, whether in the world or of one another in the church. Like it or not, the non-Christians of the world pay attention to the respect we do and do not show one another. I believe that declaring certain men--and churches--"feminized" is a thoughtless, malicious, and false means of merely insulting those we have decided we need not love. It is a way we keep waging war against those we (not God) have decided to declare "outside" our comfortable, easy definition of "Christian." Us vs. Them, with God on the "us" side, of course.

Now if the woman who brought up the "feminized men" insult happens to visit here and read this post, she is certainly free to upbraid me for using her preferred terminology as an example of this much larger practice within the conservative church. I freely postulate that most Christians who do this have not given the practice careful thought; perhaps they are merely repeating what they have been taught by those whose opinions and positions they respect. I firmly believe, however, that the time has come for us to recognize that human beings created male, are masculine by virtue of their being male. Human beings created female are feminine by virtue of their being female. Outward conformity to roles defined by 1950's upper-middle class American values does not make one masculine or feminine. Declaring such roles "Christian" does not make them so. And insulting fellow human beings by calling them "feminized" because they don't conform to such "roles" is, frankly, sinful and needs to cease. The same goes for bemoaning the "feminized" church. The truth is, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever, doesn't need the cultural conformity police to decide the church is too pink or too blue. So long as we're blood red (as in, covered by the precious blood of our Redeemer), whether we're feminine or masculine enough to suit anyone else really doesn't matter. We're the bride of Christ, being transformed into his likeness, serving Christ as he reconciles all creation to God. "Feminized"? Please...get real! Stop bowing down to the idol of "gender roles" and remember Who, alone, deserves our worship!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Guest Bloggers: Rosie & Jenny, Singers Extraordinaire

Greetings, friends of our human slave Psalmist. Rosie & Jenny here. We just sang "Happy Birthday" to our cousins Whistle and Fish, the one-year-old-today officially now CATS!!! over in the Gulf Coast area. Our human STILL doesn't have any pictures of us that we can upload (have you ever known a lazier human?), so our alter egos will have to do to prove that not only are we beautiful, we are talented:

Jenny: I'll go first. Here's me (with green contacts covering my beautiful one-gold & one-copper eyes) singing one of our human's favorite roles, the Queen of the Night, in Mozart's The Magic Flute. (Psalmist doesn't have the high "f" this role requires--she's proven this too often for our delicate ears' comfort. But she still really likes the Vengeance Aria. I sing it for her every now and then so she can get a fix...or at least, I lip-sync it with the CD! By the way, I really do look a lot like this lovely cat diva, only my mane is even longer and fluffier. (thinking to myself...Psalmist needs to buy me a pearl and diamond choker like the one in the picture. I would be oh-so-gorgeous in fine jewelry!).

Rosie: Here I am! Now it takes a lot of make-up to get my cute brown-and-white tabby self to look like a siamese singing Madame Butterfly, but I suffer for my art--and a kimono hides a multitude of feline figure flaws! Sad to say, Psalmist isn't a particular Puccini fan, so I don't get to sing this lovely, tragic role very often. I think she's just jealous because she has just a so-so chamber voice and couldn't handle romantic opera at all. Besides, I'm so much prettier than Psalmist is, and it takes a great beauty to pull off this role. (I'm way prettier than Jenny, too...but don't tell her *I* said so!)

Jenny: I heard that! (Hiss---Growl---bat, scratch--Hisssss!)

Rosie: Gotta go, human blog readers. There's a big fluffy drooler here who needs to be reminded who's Top Cat in this household.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Day-Late Hump Day Humor: On Notice!

Thanks to St. Casserole, I've got a hump day humor pic, albeit a day late. Just haven't felt too humorous here lately. Her custom "You're on Notice" board gave me a good laugh. Here's mine. (You can go here to create an "On Notice" list of your own.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Of feminism, racism, and patriarchy among Christians

I've been doing some painful reading lately. I knew it would be painful; perhaps this reveals a latent masochism I didn't know I had.

As a Christian who is committed to the equality of all persons which underlies the Holy Scriptures, it's always difficult to read much of the writing of people equally committed to finding patriarchy mandated in those same Scriptures. What's truly sad right now, however, is the falsehood and animosity toward us egalitarian Christians that many pro-patriarchalists are using to "defend" their preferred lifestyle.

One example is a group that identifies themselves as "Christian Anti-Feminists." Their description's opening sentence reads, "Christian Feminist is an oxymoron." Now I know this to be absolutely false, given the many people I know personally who are both Christian and feminist; I also happen to be both. This assertion, however, reveals a fundamental fallacy of the group's position, one common to many Christians who use "feminist" as their f-word of choice: Feminism, as they describe it, is a philosophy of female supremacy. This is why this group goes on to say (paraphrasing here) "Putting Christian in front of 'racist' doesn't make racism Christian." Of course it doesn't! This is why I have trouble understanding how Christians can endorse patriarchy as Christian, when it is actually antithetical to fundamental Christian teachings. (More about that in a moment.) The corrective to this kind of falsehood about feminism is to lay one's hands on a decent dictionary and find out what feminism really is. The word can't be taken at face value; it refers to the belief that both women and men are entitled to the same rights as fellow members of the human race. Unlike "racist," which means a belief in the superiority of one race over others, "feminism" in no way stands for any belief in the superiority of women. In fact, it is a highly insulting thing to so thoroughly mischaracterize "feminism" as to equate it with the gender version of "racism." I'm not certain this wasn't intentional on the part of the individual(s) who set up that particular group...but then, I'm not certain that it WAS, either. Either way, however, the rhetoric of this group makes it clear that they're not about to give up their inaccurate beliefs about feminism any time soon. That strawman is too easy to knock down in their quest to portray men as victims of feminists' attempts to take over the church and the world. Telling the truth about feminism and feminists after all this time would be inconvenient, to say the least!

It would also help if the "anti-feminists" of the Christian persuasion out there, would remember that just as there are Christian and non-Christian cab drivers, and school teachers, and physicians, there are plenty of Christians AND non-Christians who believe that women--like men--are members of the human race and therefore have certain "inalienable human rights." Just because you're offended by the worst behavior and writings of non-Christian feminists, doesn't give you the right to lie about Christian feminists by saying they don't exist and/or attributing the worst of the secularists' beliefs to those Christians. The evidence of Christian feminists and our true beliefs are all around you, including in your churches. (I think I just heard a collectively aghast, "Not in MY church!")

There are also a couple of weird little online conversations about (hold on to your hats, here) Christian egalitarians promoting a kind of patriarchy. (We don't, of course...but hang in there just a little longer while I explain.) These conversations have a common source in one woman who likes to pretend and contend that Christian egalitarians are actually communists. (I'll leave it at that. That's such an absurdly false notion that nothing further needs to be said.) The patriarchy nonsense goes like this: Patriarchy is God's design for the human race because God is our Father. Since God is our Father, patriarchy is good. Therefore, to say that patriarchy is anything but God's good design is to deny the Fatherhood of God, which makes the devil the father of any such person. This means that since egalitarians say that patriarchy is not commanded or commended in the Scriptures (which is in fact what most egalitarians do say, since that is the truth), this proves that egalitarians endorse a form of patriarchy in which their father is the devil. (How's THAT for a clever insult and denial of the very faith of their Christian egalitarian brothers and sisters?) This all piggy-backs on a conversation not long ago in which an extreme patriarchalist author, much respected at his own small venue, wrongly claimed that an egalitarian woman there was calling patriarchy "evil" (she was not), and that in doing so, she was dangerously close to committing the unforgiveable sin. Here again, since the assertion is so laughably false, I'm not going to comment any further. However, it is not difficult to see where the seeds of the "egalitarians are children of their father, the devil" claims were first planted.

All that, because some egalitarians do say that patriarchy is evil. I happen to believe that it is, because patriarchy is an extrabiblical construct that invariably requires some human beings (all men) to usurp the power that is rightly God's alone, in order to control other human beings (all women). In the case of Christians who believe patriarchy is a godly thing, they prooftext an elaborate set of rules and "roles" that require all married men to be the leaders of their wives and all church leaders to be men, to whom all women must submit. They must make unfounded assumptions about theological meanings of creation order, attire, modes of learning, definition of "church," and the nature of authority in the exercise of spiritual gifts, that are then defended by out-of-context verses and fragments that deal with entirely different issues. They ignore context altogether in most of their defenses and leave out entirely God's sovereign prerogative in how the Holy Spirit works in marriage and church. That doesn't matter. What matters is that patriarchy be (re)established as "God's way," by whatever means necessary.

Patriarchy is an ancient practice rooted in the rule of the stronger over the weaker. It feeds on and fosters misogyny in society, keeping women and children marginalized and dependent upon fellow flawed human beings for their very survival. Here in the affluent West, where society is at least somewhat egalitarian, we have seen that it is possible to set aside patriarchy in favor of the equal human rights for which Americans have fought so hard and which we claim to cherish. Those who would abridge the human rights of women and deny the image of God in them by enforcing patriarchy, fail to recognize that patriarchy is defined by the surrounding culture; it is never established by God. God created the human race male and female, declaring humanity "very good" in that initial design. Man and woman are halves of the human race ideally matched to each other, declared so by God in the beginning. Only when sin entered the world did God observe that the man would (NOT "must") rule over the woman, while the woman would (NOT "must") desire him inordinately. Neither the undue desire nor the ruling over is commended by God, and certainly neither is commanded. In our fallen state, that is how humans tend to act: the bigger, stronger half seeks to dominate the more vulnerable half who was created to be his ideal counterpart, even while she turns away from God and eagerly toward him. He usurps God's place in her life and she accepts him as her lesser god. Both, in their sinful selfishness, use each other instead of relying on God as the ruler of their lives.

As Christians, we find a starkly different paradigm commanded for our life together. Each of us is to defer to the other, to practice both self-sacrificial love and a chosen, willing submission. No matter what positions of power and authority this world may give us, as Christians we set them aside in order to be the servants of all. Even in the church, even in the home, and particularly in the one flesh unity of marriage, in Jesus Christ, the "wisdom" of this world is turned upside down. In weakness is strength. In chosen slavery to others, we lead. In poverty, riches. In surrender, victory. In Christ, we find no divisions of nationality, earthly inheritance, or gender; we are all one. We can choose to surrender again to the yoke of slavery, or we can live regenerate in the freedom Christ continues to offer us.

So yes, I believe patriarchy is evil. God, who created all that is, is the Ruler of us all. King and Father, Rock and Source, Shield and Strength. Human "patriarchs" cannot and should not presume to Almighty God's place of authority in our lives. Each of us called Christian is a servant of Jesus Christ, our Head and Leader. We serve in his name and as he calls us, each and all. As our Teacher and Lord washed his disciples' feet, he taught us that we ought to wash one another's feet. Let NONE of us demand from any other, a subservience that would legislate what Christ showed us we should ALL choose freely to embrace in our life together. Let none of us fall for the lie that patriarchy is God's best. That is what the world, historically, has believed. The legacy of patriarchy is sin, for that is all this world's principalities and powers can ever offer. Christ's Way is much more excellent.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Things are "percolating"

I suspect that if I only had eyes to see as God sees, I would recognize remarkable processes at work. As it is, I'm seeing some glimpses of possibilities for which circumstances are coming together.

My church held a "Missions Fair" yesterday after worship. After a good ol' Methodist potluck lunch, we heard representatives of various local and regional missions, explored their agencies' displays, and finally helped assemble overseas school kits in homemade book bags created by various church members.

One speaker represented "Depression Connection," a good solid ongoing ministry in our annual conference. They are trying to expand the number of support groups in our area. I've been getting nudges for a while that I need to look into volunteering for small group facilitation, but between my schedule and a lack of need at my own church, I hadn't identified anyone to approach about this. "Ding" - connection made. I learned afterward that my pastor had contacted the speaker in response to an "ad" asking for volunteers and venues, but she'd not been sure we'd be much help to him because so far no one had "surfaced" as potential facilitators. So both my pastor and the agency rep were quite pleased with my volunteering for group facilitation.

In the discussion following this event, my pastor also indicated she would be speaking with our Pastor/Staff Parish Relations Committee concerning long-term staff needs and an eventual expansion into "general" ministry areas for me. We also talked about our church's immediate need for a staff coordinator for children's ministry--our current volunteer is spread too thin and seems incapable of delegating any tasks. Though there is no money for this at present, we do recognize the need and are seeing an increase in new families with elementary age children in our church, due to intentional efforts at reaching these families in our growing community. I have agreed to be an unofficial liaison for the present time so that we can begin to build a children's council; this would do wonders for keeping us accountable and eliminate some of the "double-booking" that comes from people not talking to one another about event scheduling.

Anyway, my point is: I'm beginning to find outlets for my skills and gifts in other areas of ministry beyond music. Music's going well as well, as we begin to get geared up for the fall. It's just that sometimes I long for those longer-term eyes, as the Spirit percolates things through my soul and I wonder what's "cooking." (This Christian "not being in charge of my own life" thing sometimes can chafe!)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What the Bible Is Not

I recently read a rather smug piece that described the Bible as "an owner's manual for what God created." I was amused at first at such a simplistic mischaracterization of the Holy Scriptures. As I read, however, I realized that the writer was on a tirade against egalitarians, falsely accusing us of denying the "manual" as well as the Creator. I surfed away from that short little poison pit with a mixture of sadness at such fundamental "missing the point," and anger that someone who knows very well how wrong he is, would enjoy making his false portrayal of his philosophical enemies ("enemies" is his term, not mine) yet again. It's an old, old game. Stupid, really, since anyone who has read any egalitarian writings knows we do not deny either the Bible or God. What we deny is that patriarchy is godly, commanded, or commended in the Scriptures.

Anyway, after the anger dissipated, I realized that this fellow did me one favor. He reminded me that there are lots of ways Christians misuse and mischaracterize the purpose of the Scriptures in order to futher their own agendas. So here's my (unfinished) list of some things the Scriptures are NOT:

1. An "owner's manual." If there's any Owner of anything in the created order, it is the Creator, who hardly needs a manual.

2. An "instruction manual" for life. This is mostly not true. While the Scriptures do contain some instruction, it is incomplete and mostly useless without a vital relationship with the Teacher, the Living incarnate Word of God (Jesus Christ). The promised Counselor, the Holy Spirit living in us, will reveal all the Scriptures have to teach us.

3. A set of "predictions" of the future. The apocalyptic threads of Scripture tell the truth of God about ultimate good and evil, often in allegorical and image-rich ways. The Bible, however, is not intended to be a code book about future events. Guess what, kids? We know the ending, and God wins. Our job is not to predict dates and events, our job is to be faithful in spreading the good news while we look eagerly to the future.

4. A book of law. There are lots of laws in Scripture, some of which we would do well to follow and some which, quite frankly, simply no longer apply in their specifics. We Christians know and follow the Fulfillment of the Law, the Lord Christ himself. He taught us that if we love God with our totality and love neighbor as ourselves, all the specifics of the law will sort themselves out.

5. A blueprint for society. Uh, no. We're to be the salt and light in the society that IS, not remake society over into a theocracy. If we're faithful in spreading the gospel, society will be remade on the level God desires. Anything else is superficial, imposed rather than chosen, and will not last. Society changes for the better when citizens' hearts and lives change.

I look forward to readers' further "The Bible is not..." comments.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Precious in God's Sight

It's been a difficult couple of weeks, for many reasons. Compared to many people, I have no reason to whine, and I promise not to--at least, not much! However, I am physically tired, mildly ill, fed up with the hellish heat that is inescapable at the height of the eight-month Texas summer, trying to recover from an overwhelmingly heavy workload last week, and worn down by a rather silly yet sad online situation. I'm praying on all counts. It's the latter issue that I have a need to "process" right now. This problem centers around some really bizarre, pathetic harrassment by someone who, due to her thinking I'm someone I'm not, has decided to smear me.

So far, "Psalmist" is fine. It's my other blog persona, which I keep totally separate from this one, that is being targeted. If she ever discovers this blog, I will have to take fairly drastic action. She comments to the other blog every day, sometimes several times, always in a manner almost certainly calculated to violate the comments guidelines that I had to post because of her VERY inappropriate comments. She is also the reason I had to resort to full comment moderation for the blog. I'd just yank the thing down, except that it's a ministry of sorts; I work hard to keep it safe for people to tell stories about a specific kind of experience, in the hopes that they grow stronger in the telling. Perhaps the unacceptable situations they tell about will improve as a result as well.

My biggest problem isn't actually with the person spamming and attempting to control the comments. My problem is my own attitude. It's very easy to become exasperated and, in that state, one of my worst faults--sarcasm--can escape if I'm not very careful. What to do?

Well, as I said, I pray. This series of unpleasant interactions has been the impetus for MUCH prayer! And sometimes prayer is answered quickly, in a way we can recognize and put to good use. That happened this evening. While praying over yet another comment that clearly needed to be rejected (calling someone--me--a "terr0rist" is against the guidelines. [Sorry about the zero, but I don't want keyword searches to help her make a connection to this blog!]) I know what the individual looks like, from a few months back when I stumbled onto her husband's ministry website. Just a short time ago, God blessed me with a vision, of a sort I get now and then, in which I saw this middle-aged woman as a little girl of about two or three years old. Tiny, dimple-faced, curly dark hair and laughing smile and eyes. Altogether adorable. And as has happened before, when there is conflict with someone, God has made it clear that *this* is how the Almighty sees this precious little one...and in my personally unique toddler version, how God sees me, as well. We're just little children in the sandbox of this sin-riddled world. Some of us play better with others than the rest do. Some are enfants terribles. Yet the sandbox is the only place for us to play together.

What this vision taught me is that God, the quintessential "permissive parent," doesn't issue time-outs or other kinds of punishment, nor are we spared the consequences of our spats. God also doesn't delegate punishment or manipulation of consequences to me. So while the "reject comment" button is my responsibility to use wisely and impartially, that's all that's necessary. I don't need to respond in any other way. I need to be prepared to graciously publish any comments that may, in the future, conform to the guidelines, even if they are constructively critical of me. And I don't need to feel guilty for rejecting a comment in which I'm accused of things I haven't done and in which I'm called a "terr0rist." I'd do it in a heartbeat for anyone else; I don't need to hesitate when I'm the target.

There she is again. Bouncy curls and charming smile. Chubby knees and ruffled socks with mary janes. Pretty red dress. High-pitched, musical laugh. wonder her Creator treasures her so! Not only the beauty of a lovely little girl, but the beauty of an eternal soul, bought at the highest possible cost. Dear Lord, help me to see this daughter of yours as you see her, no matter how wide a barrier sin may erect between us. Please grant me the grace of this image every time I am tempted to "give her what she deserves." And would it be too much to ask that her heart may be softened as well, especially toward the dear child she has mistreated for such a long time? Her horrible words to her break my heart; I know they're devastating to the one she targets with them. Heal us, heal us all, O Great Physician. May the peace you promised, not of this world, flood our hardened hearts and melt away all our strife. For your own sake I ask it. Amen.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ten Books

I have been "tagged" for a book meme, courtesy of Singing Owl. Thanks--I think!

I've always been the odd one out in a family that did not really value education or reading for its own sake, for I dearly loved to read. It was a difficult childhood, partly because of this, but reading took me to safer, lovelier places. So please bear with me as I list books from my early years along with more recent titles.

1. One book that changed your life:
Ragman and Other Cries of Faith, Walter Wangerin, Jr. This book of short stories is incredibly powerful. I recommend them all, but "An Advent Monologue" contains what I have come to think of as the best non-Bible motto for my life: "I can make good come out of evil; I AM the good come out of evil." (shivers even now just to think of this story)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle. It's been years ago now since I read this book last, but I used to read it once a year or so. I still think it is one of the best written science fiction books ever, perhaps because though it was written for children, it wasn't written "down to" children. Thus, it is both very accessible and relatively sophisticated. Both appeal to me.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
Even it if is cheating, I would want the Bible, preferably an interlinear, along with a Greek and a Hebrew lexicon so that I could improve my very basic skills.

4. One book that made you laugh:
You've Got to Dance with Them What Brung You, Molly Ivins. It's pretty bad when you can't recall the last funny book you read that wasn't primarily pictures (as in Bad Cat, which was wickedly funny. But Molly, the quintessential liberal Texas colunist and good ol' gal, can always make me laugh. Her columns, particularly when they focus on Texas and/or Texas politics, are just edgy enough to make you think, but not so much as to be genuinely mean-spirited. She's an equal-opportunity insulter, an old-fashioned observer of the human condition, Texas political style. I have to say, it's almost as funny to read the negative reviews of her books on Amazon. (It's humor, ah say, it's HUMOR, suhn!)

5. One book that made you cry:
Charlotte's Web, E.B. White. I will never forget being nine years old, reading one Saturday morning when I was probably supposed to have been cleaning my room, crying my eyes out because Charlotte, the noble spider, died.

6. One book that you wish had been written:
The Life and Times of an Apostle: An Autobiography, Junia [the Apostle].

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships, John Gray. What cr*p! What's scary is how many "Christian" books echo the same ridiculous themes of women and men being first male and female, and only secondarily fellow human beings.

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Jesus: A Novel, Walter Wangerin, Jr. I'm enjoying this book immensely! A strong, human (and yes, of course, divine) Jesus, and his very Jewish mother: fiesty, strong in her own right, very human but passionate about those she loves. Wangerin is a master of character development and description.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Woman Be Free , Patricia Gundry. I got this a couple of months ago when I ordered some CBE books...I must be the only egalitarian Christian who HASN'T read it yet! Pat, I promise I will, as soon as I'm done with the novel. (Slow going because I'm so sleep-deprived and get through only 10-20 pages before drifting off.)

10. Now tag five people: Catherine (Come to the Table), Lorna (See-through faith, St. Casserole, St. Inuksuk, Sue (Inner Dorothy)