Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

Women and Food

Two women cooking

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A few months ago I wrote a blog post about how I learned to cook when I was a girl while my dad got to sit on his ass and continue to brag about how he could only make steak and popcorn. This blog post was actually kindly featured by a woman named Addie Broyles, a professional journalist for the Austin American-Statesman. She’s a food and film critic, but she usually writes about food. She has her own blog, which she calls feministkitchen.

At the time I remember that I thought it was odd that someone would combine the topics of food and feminism and have enough to maintain a blog. She may have thought the same thing about Christianity and feminism with regard to my own blog.

I started thinking about Addie and her blog and how my most recent blog posts would fit in quite nicely with what she’s doing. With my last post about the blatantly sexist research article that tries to implicate working mothers for the childhood obesity problem, I thought about just why it is that women do the bulk of cooking in American households?

Most couples nowadays marry later in life. They’ve been out on their own for a while before they settle down. Presumably, the men would have to eat. Do they just make sandwiches and eat out all the time? I don’t think so. Most of the men I’ve known could cook on some level.

I always kind of thought that was sexy. One guy I had a crush on in my late 20s actually made baked beans from scratch, and the idea kind of got me excited. When I say from scratch, I mean he soaked the dry beans in water overnight and then cooked them and then stuck them in a dish with bacon and seasonings, Martha Stewart style. God, he was hot! He was a little blond accountant geek with wire rimmed glasses, but those baked beans made him Adonis.

So, we’ve established the fact that men can cook. Why don’t they? They do when they live alone. They do if they get paid to cook. Most highly paid chefs are still men. The most famous chefs are men. That’s not exclusively their domain; women are also professional chefs, but the majority of upper echelon professional chefs are men. Clearly, not only can men cook, but if we pay them to do so then, if you can judge their abilities to cook based solely on their career success and pay rate, they can cook better than we can.

To my mind, there are several possible reasons why women usually do the cooking:

  1. Society expects women to do the cooking, and therefore women feel that they have failed as women if they are not doing the bulk of the cooking. Maybe it’s women who actually insist on doing the cooking because they don’t want to feel like they’ve failed as wives and mothers.
  2. Men want women to cook because they simply prefer not to have to do so. As such, the woman does the cooking or it doesn’t get done. Women cook by default.
  3. Men want to do the cooking, but they defer to the women in their lives because the women prefer to do the cooking, which may have something to do with reason #1.
  4. Men don’t cook, unless it involves a grill or a smoke pit, because slaving over a stove isn’t “manly.” They don’t want to be seen as a wuss. So, men insist that their wives do the cooking because if they did the cooking it would make them less of a man.
  5. Men would cook, but they aren’t sufficiently motivated to do so. Obviously a big fat paycheck motivates them. But you don’t want to have to pay your husband to cook, so what else do big-time professional chefs get out of their careers besides money? They get praise and recognition.

I suspect the real reasons why women usually do the cooking are as varied as the couples themselves and their own attitudes towards food and gender but that the bulk of the reasons could have something to do with some combination of the reasons listed above or it could just have to do with the fact that men, on average, work longer hours in the workplace than women do. It averages about 42 minutes more per day, which is just about enough time to cook a meal and put the food on the table.

Do I think most men really want to work 42 minutes more than women do? No. I think some men find their jobs satisfying and fulfilling and do this out of choice, but I also think that there are probably even more men who toil in crappy jobs in order to support themselves and their families.

Why do they do this? Someone has to pick up the kids, and it makes sense that the person who picks up the kids is the person who makes the lesser amount of money. This means the woman usually picks up the kids and puts food on the table so the man can get an additional 42 minutes of pay at a higher rate.

This is why gender equality is in everyone’s best interests. If women averaged the same work for the same pay, then it would make sense for mom and dad to take turns cooking and cleaning and picking up the kids. Men would have less stress at work, since they’re not working as much, and they’d have better relationships with their wives and children because they’d have more time to spend with them.  The key to male and female satisfaction is in a more balanced relationship. This means that changes have to take place in both our private and public lives.

February 5, 2011 at 10:54 pm 4 comments

The Knitting Club

So, this weekend I took my granny squares and met up with a group of people who meet every other week at the Central Market to knit and crochet. I now have 97 out of 100 granny squares completed. When I get done with the 100 squares I have to crochet a black border around each one and then sew them together. I anticipate that I may be done sometime between now and the year 3000.

I wasn’t sure what I expected out of the group exactly, maybe a bunch of old biddies or a group of soccer moms. Neither was true. It was a pretty large group. There must have been at lease eight or nine people there. There were even two men.

We looked at pattern books and ate cookies and worked on our projects and talked. The lady who sat on my right was a technical writer who lived within walking distance of my house. The one on my left was a crochet guru who worked for a library. The woman directly across from me was from Oklahoma, and she teaches composition and rhetoric at a local university. The woman to her left was a former high school English teacher and a former Christian educator. And the two men were mos. Could the group have been more tailored made for moi? I don’t see how.

We talked about the news, its quality or lack thereof. The tech writer and I talked about the zoning plans for our respective neighborhoods and how sad it was that the area was destined to be Downtown: The Sequel. This means that it’ll be all vertical multi-use with outrageously high rents. In twenty years, they’ll have stripped this neighborhood of its poor and its minorities as well as its character. It will be homogenized, pasteurized, pristine, pretty, progressive, and predominantly white. It’ll also be pricey. I was glad that someone else besides me found that sad.

The tech writer was an African American woman, and when the subject of marriage and children came up, and I said that I thought marriage and children were both wonderful things but that I was tired of being made to feel less of a woman if I didn’t experience them, she said something profound. She said, “I have two grown children and a grandbaby. I’ve been married and divorced twice. All I ever wanted to be was That Girl. You know, like Marlo Thomas. Just a cute little career girl with a steady boyfriend.” Funny how you never think about the grass being greener.

We talked about writing and reading. We talked about grammar and novels. The meeting started at 2 and didn’t break up until nearly 5. Afterward, I went to the Mr. Brewsters for enchiladas and to see baby Punky.

I had intended to try a new church this weekend, but I didn’t get my nerve up and procrastinated instead, staying in bed under the covers and reading issues of The New Yorker. However, I did go to the church building on Sunday afternoon and drive by the outside so I would know how to get there for next week. I consider that progress.

I think I found a church that might fit with my particular brand of theology. I think I found some place where they might not think of homosexuality as a sin and where gays might be welcome to worship without being given the cold shoulder or the love the sinner speech. It’s small, and it’s close. The website talks about their commitment to service.

I like the Presbyterian church my landlords go to except that it’s all money. They pour most of their resources into buildings and programs designed to fill the needs of the church members and very little money comparatively into service and missions. Austin Stone is committed to missions, and they’re close now. I like the people who worship there, but that church is a member of the Southern Baptist Conference. I’m going to be pretty diametrically opposed to some of their theology. Plus, I’m pretty certain you’ll never see any gay or lesbian couples filling the pews at either of those churches.

January 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

The Fruit, The Fall & The Plan

A screenshot from To Beep or Not to Beep.

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Some of my readers seemed to get a little upset that I would say that birth defects or being born gay or transgender might just be a part of God’s plan. They mentioned the fall, when Eve and then Adam ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. One said that as he understood it God wasn’t in charge of the earth now.

Well, I think God’s always been in charge of the universe, not just the Earth. If not, then who is in charge? Us? That’s a laugh. Satan? That’s even funnier. God’s in charge right now. God was in charge back then. He may choose not to interfere on a daily basis or not to interfere unless we ask Him in, but make no mistake that God’s ALWAYS in charge. He can step in any old time that He likes.

I also stand by my statement that what we often perceive as people’s imperfections are a part of God’s grand design, a design so big and complicated that you can only see it from God’s perspective. Think of corn mazes and crop circles. You don’t know what you’re looking at until you see it from the air.

I don’t mean that what a lot of us would think of as diseases and defects are personally visited upon particular people as a punishment. That makes no sense. A little baby has done nothing to deserve fetal alcohol syndrome, as an example. I only mean that God purposely designed a world in which these things could occur.

Let me ask you something: do you really believe that God is so small that the mere eating of a piece of fruit totally thwarted his original master plan for the universe? That’s it. Us all-powerful humans learn the difference between good and evil, and all hell breaks loose. It’s back to the drawing board for God, like Wile E. Coyote.

No, the world is the same world that was created on day seven. The fall didn’t thwart God’s plan. But there had to be consequences for Adam and Eve’s actions. The consequences were banishment from paradise amongst other things.

What was Adam & Eve’s sin? Well, for one thing it was thinking that eating a piece of fruit would make them as knowledgeable as God. It was that arrogance and hubris. And for another thing? It was believing the serpent, taking the serpent’s word over God’s and assuming that God lies. It was failing to communicate with God and failing to trust God.

Why would God purposely create a world from the very beginning that included the possibility for error? Well, I’m not God, so I can’t know for sure. But I believe that there are three reasons. The first is so that we would learn to love one another in perfect love. We would learn that other human beings sometimes require help and care. We would learn compassion that way. When we show love for our fellow human beings that pleases God.

The second reason is that if God created a world that was all paradise all the time, then it wouldn’t really be paradise anymore. In order to recognize that you’ve got it good there has to be a corresponding opposite state of bad. Otherwise, good is just the status quo. There’s nothing good about it. It’s just what you’re entitled to as a child of God. Ho hum. Just another day in paradise.

Adam: Do you think God will walk through the garden again tonight?

Eve: Who cares? There’s no reason to talk with Him. We have everything we need.

Serpent: Psssssssssssssssssssssssst!

And the final reason that I believe that God created a perfect world of imperfection: so that we would learn to love God and to rely on God. The whole reason that the human race was created in the first place was to be in relationship with God. If we have free will and everything goes hunky dorey for us all the time, then there’s not much reason to be in communication with God. To thank him, some of you might say. But how do you recognize the need for gratitude when everything is just perfect all the time? That’s just the way it is. Why would I want to thank anyone?

If God didn’t want to be in communion with us he would have chosen, instead, to make us pretty dolls that he could just sort of move about the world, in much the same way that a little girl plays with Barbie’s dream house. Greek mythology often refers to humans in much the same way, as the playthings of the gods. I don’t think we’re playthings. I think we were meant to be companions. God didn’t create us just because he was bored. He created us because he was lonely.

I’m not so full of myself that I think these ideas are original to me. I’m sure that if I had gone to seminary that I could give you the name of at least one famous theologian who thinks the same way I do on the subject and can probably discourse on it much more intelligently than I can. What I’m doing is articulating my theology in a way that works for me. Hopefully, it works for you, too.

You can disagree. God made as many viewpoints in the world as there are people. The important thing is that we do think about God and speak with God and spend time with God and live our lives according to what we can best divine to be His will. But it would be a mistake to ever think that we can comprehend God’s plan for the universe, no matter how much time we spend reading the Bible…or how much fruit we eat.

January 14, 2011 at 1:22 am 8 comments

The Perfection of Imperfection

Cindy on the cover of the magazine George.

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I read two blog posts recently that really made me think about some things. People are always saying that God doesn’t make mistakes, and, indeed, I believe this to be true. God has a plan. We just don’t know what it is.

On John Shore’s blog, he published a piece of writing from a young man who was contemplating his first real exchange with a transgender female from the Thruway Christians. The young man talked about his struggle with how God could make a female who is trapped in a male’s body when God is perfect. Some people often use the same argument for why gays can’t be born that way. It’s got to be a choice because God doesn’t make mistakes.

There was another echo of that same concept on Julie Clawson’s blog, onehandclapping (also on my blogroll – please check her out), about Julie’s disability. Julie was born without an arm below the elbow. She talked of her frustration with well meaning Christians who believe that they should pray for her arm to sprout. And she talked about the same concept of God’s “perfection.”

Well, let’s think about that for a minute. Would we want a world where everyone was perfect? If perfect is a young Cindy Crawford, would we really want a world where every woman looks exactly like Cindy Crawford did in her twenties? I’m sure some guy out there will say yes. But I think most people like variety.

I realize that’s not quite the same thing as being born transgender or being born without an arm. But when we question God’s perfection over making people with disabilities or diseases or less than perfect looks, or less than stellar intellect, then aren’t we questioning God and his plan?

I don’t think that God is the god of eugenics. Do you? I mean, do you really think that God sits in his bunker in heaven with his tiny mustache and tries to create a super race of blond haired, blue-eyed specimens of perfection? Do you think the real problem is that we keep thwarting his master plan with our free will and haphazard procreation?

Yeah, me, neither. For one thing, the Hebrew people are God’s chosen race. For another, we’d all get tired of those tall blonde, blue eyed Nazis after awhile. Even they would get tired of one another and eventually long for some gorgeous, swarthy person of the opposite sex to whisper in Yiddish to them. I know I would, anyway. Please. Whisper “shiksa” to me.

The parallel may seem like a stretch – from questioning God’s perfection over a missing arm or a gender identity issue or a sexual orientation issue all the way to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. But really, not so much. It’s all the same concept, just on a different scale. I believe those things that we humans see as being imperfect are not imperfect at all to God. Learning to love people who are “different” makes us all a little more perfect in God’s eyes. And remember, even Cindy Crawford has that mole.

January 12, 2011 at 12:10 am 7 comments

Proof That Atheists Believe in God

Angry man

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I haven’t known that many atheists, let alone been close to them. But the ones I have known, frankly, didn’t seem like true atheists to me. They still seemed to acknowledge God’s existence. They just seemed angry or bewildered at God. They spoke of God and their frustrations with Him and their perplexity at the dichotomy of a cruel world and a loving God. They spoke of their disappointment and disillusionment with the God of their childhood.

Finally I have “proof” that atheists actually believe in God. An article I read yesterday on CNN is about a study on college students that will be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Students of all religious backgrounds were studied, and they reported having felt anger toward God. Not towards fate. Not towards the deck of cards they were dealt. Not towards The Force. Not towards Xenu. Towards God.

I ask you, logically, how do you experience anger towards someone who doesn’t exist? Well, you don’t. The fact is that whether you choose to believe that God created man or that man created God, God does exist for you if He’s real enough for you to be angry with Him. And anyone can start there.

January 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm 18 comments

The Bet

A typical Wal-Mart discount department store i...

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Nobody is all good or all bad. Vern (a pseudonym), the guy from my last post, is a great case in point. I mentioned that I worked with Vern when I was in college, a guy who might have very likely prevented me from being raped. I worked with Vern for about two years, from the time I was 19 until the day I turned 21. In fact, the last time I saw Vern was on my 21st birthday.

For most of the time I knew Vern he had a girlfriend, which was one of the reasons that we didn’t date. Vern was 24 and had a girlfriend who was 17, a high school student in the little town he was from. This should have been a big clue as to Vern’s maturity level, but I excuse myself with the thought that I was young. I met her once. She was a little on the plump side with long curly hair and mall bangs, the kind of bangs that required three cans of hairspray a day and made you feel like greeting her with, “Hang Ten, Mama.” She wore enough makeup for the entire cast of Dynasty.

They supposedly broke up and during that time Vern did take me out on a dinner date once. Dinner was a thank you because I typed a paper for him for a ridiculously low sum of money; it might have been $0.  I don’t remember, but it is possible that I was either that kind or that pathetic. After the date he drove me home and kissed me on the cheek and mumbled something about me being like a sister to him and drove off.

Well, I knew I wasn’t like a sister to him. I have a brother, and he’s never once flirted with me or noticed my hair, my perfume or the way my ass looks in jeans. I promise you that never happened. So, that was a bold faced lie, and I didn’t know why he had lied, but I knew for certain that was the case.

Now to be clear about the nature of my relationship with Vern and all his guy friends, I was treated extra special carefully because everyone knew I was a virgin, a young Christian woman determined to save myself for marriage. As such, I was afforded an extra little layer of protection or reverence as a paragon of all that is good and holy. Vern made sure of that. They didn’t even cuss around me, unless you count the n-word, which was used liberally in my presence, in spite of my protests. The good old boy network had all grown up Southern Baptist, Bible thumping, NRA card-carrying clichés.

These guys weren’t particularly religious or God fearing. That was a cultural thing and not a spiritual thing. Vern himself admitted to me that he went to church camp every summer when he was in high school solely for the opportunity to have sex with girls in the woods.

You might wonder what we had in common to be friends. So, I’m thinking about that. Okay. I came up with something. We both thought Vern was ridiculously hot.

He was hands down the vainest man I’ve ever met. He could have been the subject of that Carly Simon song, except I think he was a little too young at the time it was written. He actually made peacocks look like they have self esteem issues. Yep. I hate to admit it. But that’s all that we had in common. We both thought Vern was hot.

This guy was not movie star handsome or anything; he was too short for that, for one thing. But he was rather good looking. We both were back then. We made for a cute uncouple. Everyone said so, and the chemistry was there. You either have the hots for someone or you don’t. Not much thought goes into it.

On my 21st birthday I had quit my job at the physical plant of State Mental Hospital University, where I worked with Vern, and interviewed for my first job in youth ministry. The interview itself was on my 21st birthday. It went well. I was supremely confident that I would get the position, and I did.

Vern was graduating the next day. I promised to drop by his place and let him know how the job interview went. He told me he had something for me.

Two really weird things happened the minute I came in the door. First, Vern had gone to the trouble of purchasing me a birthday card. This was suspect. He was not a Hallmark moment kind of guy. The second weird thing that happened is that every roommate cleared the apartment very quickly. Also highly suspect.

After providing me with the birthday card he quickly provided me with my birthday present. This was a kiss on the lips from Vern himself. The arrogance with which he declared his smooch to be a gift that was bestowed upon me actually made me laugh, but he was a little too stupid and full of himself to notice. If anything I’m sure he mistook my laughter for genuine happiness.

The kiss evolved into a neck rub and then he wanted me to give him a backrub in his bedroom. When I was in college everyone was always rubbing on everyone else; the hormone levels were so high that you took full advantage of any opportunity to touch someone of the opposite sex. The backrub thing was nothing new. We’d done it before, just not alone or on his bed.

But I’m not stupid. This was a poorly planned “seduction.” And I was supposed to be so grateful for his attention that I’d roll over and give it up. Like I said, I’m not stupid, but I did think he was hot and he was a pretty good kisser so I thought there really couldn’t be any harm in playing along for a little while, except that I insisted that as the birthday girl I was getting the backrub first.

Well, you know the backrub thing didn’t last long, but it didn’t progress far enough for any of my clothing to have been removed, when there’s a knock on the door. So, Vern gets up to answer it. No one is there.

“Goddamit!” he said, and then he used a term that I find so offensive that I won’t repeat it, but it rhymes with wiggerblocker.

I knew there was no point in correcting him so I didn’t bother. He came back to bed, and we picked up where we left off, which was really not any further than first base. All of maybe five minutes have gone by. Someone knocks on the door. He goes to the door. Again, no one is there.

I took this as my cue to leave, so I got up off the bed and grabbed my birthday card and my purse. I told him I was leaving, and he blocked my way by standing in front of the door. He asked me if I was really sure that I wanted to leave. The sudden interest in getting into my pants was rather like the scene of a wartime romance; I guess I was supposed to be impressed with the urgency to do it before he graduated and left. He kissed me again. I told him that I was sure I wanted to leave. I should have told him that I couldn’t have sex with someone who was like a brother to me.

The next day Vern went through with the graduation ceremony but actually lacked three credit hours from graduating. As far as I know he never made them up. I guess a degree wasn’t really necessary to become the assistant manager of a small town Wal-Mart.

The girlfriend that he was supposedly broken up with was actually his current girlfriend, was carrying his child and was expecting to get married any day. I think she was expecting to get married because they were actually engaged. They really had broken up for a bit; he just never bothered to tell me that they got back together.

I also found out that not only was Vern boinking his downstairs neighbor but he was also screwing an African American woman who worked in the school bursar’s office. That was really the icing on the cake for me, not that he had interracial relations; I didn’t give a shit about that. What was wrong with it was that I’d never knowingly met someone who was so prejudiced against black people in my life. I knew the special kind of contempt that he must have had for her, but he didn’t have any problem with using her for sex.

I never did find out who was knocking on the door. I suspected that it was one of the roommates I’d dated, but neither one of them would admit to it. It could have been one of the roommates or the woman from downstairs or one of her kids; Vern was fond of playing with them. Whoever it was probably knew that I was inside.

The last revelation I found out about Vern was that he’d had the nerve to bet money that I would give him my virginity. I think it was $50, if I remember correctly, which even if you adjust for inflation, seems like a pretty cheap price for premium cherry. If you think about it it would have made a pretty good return on his original investment of a Hallmark birthday card. It’s a real shame that didn’t work out for him.

December 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm 5 comments

Early Christianity: St. Iranaeus of Lyons

St. Iranaeus (pr. Ear-uh-nay-oose) of Lyons was born in the first half of the second century in a Christian family, something unusual for theologians and priests of his time, most of whom were adult converts. He was the Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is where modern day Lyon, France exists now.

Iranaeus is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church in America. Iranaeus first came to the spotlight as a leader among Christian leaders when several priests were imprisoned during their persecution under the Roman leader Marcus Aurelius. Iranaeus delivered a letter to the Pope of the time, concerning the heresy of Montanism.

Iranaeus’ writings were very contemptuous of Gnosticism, and his views on the subject were influential in forming early church doctrine. He was very opinionated on the subject of Gnostics, and his prejudice sometimes led him to record inaccuracies.

For instance, there actually was a written Gospel of Judas; a copy that surfaced in Egypt in the 1970s partially survives to this day. Iranaeus had railed against the oral tradition of a secret document that purported to show Judas’ betrayal as a calculated piece of the Lord’s plan for Jesus, not a treachery but a humble obedience.

Also, Iranaeus claimed that Gnostics were sexual libertines. The truth is that Gnosticism was all over the map. Some Gnostics were promiscuous; others were stricter in their sexual abstention than was the official church. Later, he lost some credibility when these inaccuracies were brought to light.

His most important work was a book called Adversus Haereses, Latin for Against Heresies. It is from Iranaeus that we get the first inkling of a canon. He believed that the Old Testament and most of what has survived to be the New Testament should be considered scripture. He famously argued for the fourfold Gospel.

The fourfold Gospel was the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that we know to be the gospel today. In Iranaeus’ time there were many gospels. The gospels tended to each be more popular in certain geographical areas. As an example, there was a Gospel of Philip, a Gospel of Thomas, a Gospel of the Virgin Mary, a Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the previously mentioned Gospel of Judas, to name a few.

The canon wouldn’t be officially deliberated or decided upon until many years later, but undoubtedly Iranaeus’ views were influential in shaping the Christian bible. His vehement argument in favor of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John being the only recognized gospels suggests that it was a novel idea for the time. However, one might also conclude that they were the most popular and widely read gospels for the time, whereas the gospels that didn’t survive were lesser known, less widely read, and also possibly contained Gnostic views.

In Iranaeus’ writings against Gnosticism he introduced the concept of apostolic succession. He argued that the bishops of the early church could be linked all the way back to the Lord’s first twelve disciples and that none of these church leaders were Gnostics. It is from the concept of apostolic succession that the concept of papal supremacy further emerged.

Iranaeus had many other fascinating insights, much too many to expound upon in a blog post. But his most important contributions to early Christianity were his denunciation of Gnosticism and his contributions of the fourfold gospel and the doctrine of apostolic succession. He undoubtedly greatly influenced the future solidification of the Roman Catholic Bible many years before its eventual canonization.

He died in the year 202 A.D. and was later buried under the church he served, St. John in Lyons, which was renamed for St. Iranaeus after his death. The church and his remains were later destroyed by the Hugenots in 1562. Some church traditions hold that he died a martyr’s death, although there is no evidence to support this fact.

To read more:

December 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm 4 comments

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