Thursday, May 03, 2007


it just occurred to me recently that i now spend the majority of my time with people that aren't christians. at my job, at this memoir class. it's been quite a few years since this has been the case - about 7, actually. sometimes, i feel a little bit like a deer that has wandered of the reservation. most of the time i like it (no metaphor for this leaps to mind). it's been really different.

on an irrelevant note: i might join the fantasy baseball league a few of the chef and waiters at the restaurant have going. that would bring my participation to 2 leagues. but instead of just doubling my dorkiness, i think it increases a hundredfold. but money is involved, so i don't feel so bad.
second irrelevant note: conan o'brian is in san francisco right now doing shows. this past fall, i had insomnia often enough that i really got into his show. i'm sad all my other friends have jobs and can't go loiter outside the orpheum theater to get tickets.

back to my original thoughts... today i was telling my spiritual director about the little conversations that i've had with one of the chefs. none of them have lasted longer than 3 minutes, usually him wandering up and asking me a question and then ending with him wandering off. i try to answer as best i can off the top of my head.

upon initially telling him that i went to school and studied theology:
him: "so were you trying to figure out if jesus actually existed?"
me: "um, well, we were kind of operating on the assumption that he did."

him: "was mary magalene really a prostitute?"
me: "yeah, i think so."
him: "I don't know, i like to think of her as being the girl next door."
me: "i like to think that jesus would hang out with people that no one else wanted to."
him: "hm." shrug, walks off.

him: "where did the three wise men come from?"
me: "the east?"

him: "what can you tell me about seventh day adventists?"
me: "umm... they meet on saturdays? that's about it."
him: "what's the deal with people not eating shellfish or pork? i mean, i understand that back then, if they ate pork, they would die. but now that wouldn't happen, so why not eat it?"
me: "well... i think it kind of depends on how you view scripture. these people are pretty literal and strict about it, that if it works then then it works now and don't really think about changes in time and culture ... me, i don't know, i like shellfish. and pork."

then there's my writing class. my teacher wrote this book, jesus land. it's a memoir abut the relationship between her (she's white) and her adopted brother (he's black) who are the same age. they live in rural lafayette, indiana, and under the strict and abusive rule of their fundamentalist parents. it's a bleak life, filled with day to day racism, even within their own family. she deals with it by nursing a secret drinking habit and he withdraws into himself. to the two of them eventually get sent off to a reform school in the dominican republic where they endure even more harshness. the two of them survive, but her brother tragically dies in a car accident two years later, at the age of 20.

i read the book in one very late night and an afternoon. it is very well-written; hit pretty high on the new york times bestseller list. the story stuck with me for days. it boggled my mind and turned my stomach that people could read the Gospel and then twist it into something so ugly and mean. the school is real and thriving today. i don't get how i share the name christian with people that would treat other people - kids!- this way. at the same time, the beauty of the relationship between her and her brother shines brightly. as does the love of her older sister (who at this point in the story has been thrown out of the house for dating a catholic boy, who she ended up marrying, and converting - i found this part out when we met). i do recommend this book.

i met her when i was thinking about taking the class - before i had read the book. we chatted amiably, i told her part of story and how i'd written stuff. i knew that she didn't have a very high view of religion, but she did encourage me to take the class. i was a little nervous but figured that things would stay professional, and i was right. after i read the book a few days later, i couldn't really blame her for giving up on religion. we both remarked how our stories take such different directions from each other in regards to religion.

when i told my S.D. about it, she mentioned that she had read the book too. and she pointed out that through history people have been messing up the gospel message. i don't know how to feel about that ... it kind of depresses me. that there are glimpses of grace at all makes it all the more miraculous to me, and that God is indeed a forebearing God.

1 comment:

Katie S Brown said...

I am very interested in reading that book, I will have to pick that up somewhere. I too often struggle with the fact that so many different people share the name "Christian" but actually approach Christianity so differently. It's hard. But I guess all we can do is trust that we have a gracious and merciful God who knows each of our hearts.