Saturday, February 05, 2005

Bookshelf Sightseeing. One of the many pleasures of visiting our children is the opportunity to look at the books on their bookshelves. Carol and I visited Walter and Morgan in Austin last weekend, and had such a good time. And I got to look at their books. Two of them I borrowed and brought home with me, both by Frederica Mathewes-Green. One is Gender: Men Women Sex Feminisim, which was published in 2002, and the other is Facing East A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy, which was published in 1997. I read most of Gender last weekend and finished it today, so I'll discuss it briefly. (I'm looking forward to Facing East.)

I feel like I know Frederica, not only because of the honest and friendly way she writes, but we apparently are about the same age, both went to college about the same time, both are married for a long time, both have thought about the same issues as we grew older (she much more profoundly, obviously). I would really recommend Gender, not only because of the way she approaches headline issues - feminism, abortion, sex, children, marriage, homosexuality, but also because she is an articulate representative of our generation.

The Gender copy I just finished reading is Morgan's, and so I had the benefit of her underlinings. Its not like picking up and using someone else's toothbrush, but to read a book that somone else has obviously poured over and annotated is almost like sharing the reading experience. Time and time again, when I read a sentence of Frederica's that seemed so right about an issue, Morgan had underlined it. Carol and I are so blessed in our daughters-in-law!

Here are some things Frederica writes about:

Women have "the right to have our bodies left whole and healthy, unlatered for any goal of social engineering or impossible idea of beauty."

Women have "the right to be different from men". Not only that, she writes, "it seems more likely that gender differences are meant to fit together [as distinguished from being in conflict]." What a wise woman!

"[T]he fight against legal abotion cannot stand alone. If we could padlock all the abortion clinics tomorrow, we'd see the next morning a line 3200 women long, pounding on the door. We wouldn't have solved the problems that make their pregnancies seem unbearable. We wouldn't have changed the context that normalizes promiscuity and undermines a woman's authority to say no. We wouldn't have restored respect for the profession of mothering, or respect for fathering for that matter, so that men would be proud to love the moms and support the children whose lives they begin."

Getting close to home, she writes about the generation she and I share - raised as we were in the Ozzie and Harriet 50's. She points out that the fifties led to the sixties. "The kids that grew up in those tidy two-parent homes weren't out of their teens before they began doing all they could to overthrow that wholesome security. . . . Though there are many factors, one short response [to why we Yuppies turned out the way we did] might be: children received too much pampering attention."

She calls the process of child-rearing a "process of unlearning self-centeredness . . . a difficult, life-long one, elsewhere known as 'dying to self'. "

"Responsible parenting does not isolate children in a special protected sphere, but places them at Mom or Dad's knee learning daily the trades, chores, and skills of adulthood. . ."

Her chapter on the "gay threat to traditional marriage" (her quotes) is right on target. She sees homosexuality as a "spiritual hindrance for the people involved". But "if we [Christians] were so concerned about defending marriage, why weren't we talking about the most obvious threat: divorce? . . . And what about promiscuity?" She has more to say about the homosexual issue (for example, that it is an issue related to the transcendant issue of chastity and purity with which the hetereosexual community has so much difficulty). It it is so refreshing to read her evaluate this troubling matter. Its so good to move away with her from the "nurture vs. nature" arguments, the scriptural exegesis, the sort of judgmental positions many "evangelical" Christians take that seem so contrary to Jesus' example when he was dealing with those that his culture had singled out for special condemnation.

I could go on, but I will just end with saying that Gender is a book that is well worth reading. I am mailing Morgan's copy back to her this week. Maybe she will let you borrow her annotated copy.

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