Kali Mama came to visit. I had the opportunity to have lunch with her, her amiable sister, and her three charming sons. We spoke about regional differences, our life stories, ghosts, blogging, and in fact about almost everything but knitting. Here we are in an unrecognizable picture.
Kali Mama’s blog tends toward the salty and spicy, but in person, she is also sweet. I hope this is not a secret that I am giving away, here.
Work was calm, apart from my making a serious mistake with the charge machine, and then I had my class in the evening. My friend Partygirl and I, as you will know if you always read my blog and have total recall, go together to a class largely populated by fundamentalist Christians. We are then split up into small groups, and she and I are not together. In my group, I am the only one who accepts the theory of evolution, so I already know that some of them disapprove of me. As one of the ladies from my church put it, “They all think you’re going to Hell.”
So last night there was a bit of discussion of worldliness. Now, I am fairly sure that those of you who read this have never found yourselves in a discussion of worldliness. If you did find yourself in such a discussion, you would probably be for it, rather than agin it.
But the ladies in the class were pretty down on worldliness. They were discussing Acts 19:19, which is a little vignette of people burning scrolls about sorcery.
I had to admit that I hadn’t seen much application to my own life, though I had come up with superstition and materialism as things to avoid. I often draw a blank in this class. We are supposed to be able to extrapolate from a five-word sentence to a whole raft of conclusions about the motivations of the characters and how it resembles our own lives. I am constantly having to write down “insufficient data.”
The other ladies are more creative than I, however.
“I don’t have any scrolls of sorcery,” one admitted, “but I have books. And Sudoku puzzles.”
There was widespread murmuring. Apparently many of these ladies are tempted to do Sudoku puzzles in the newspaper. And what they suffer from the temptation to read worldly books instead of the Bible is something awful!
They are also troubled by gluttony.
The group that Partygirl is in were confessing to reading horoscopes and watching unseemly TV programs.
Actually, there are some pretty unseemly TV programs out there. She may just be in a wilder bunch than I am. But — even if we accept the burning of occult scrolls as a good thing — it seems like a big jump from occult scrolls to novels.
Of course, I don’t know what kinds of books these women are reading. And I don’t know about their personal experiences with gluttony. It just seems to me that Mother Teresa could have read novels and done Sudoku puzzles without causing any raised eyebrows.
I caught the woman in the hallway as we were leaving. “I think you should do your Sudoku puzzles,” I said. “Just get up a little earlier and then you’ll have time to do your Bible study, too.” She is a nurse, so we chatted a bit about the importance of keeping the brain elastic.
Partygirl looked askance at me, so I told her about the discussion we’d had, as we walked out to the car. St. Francis, I pointed out, had been in favor of enjoying God’s creation, and no one could call him worldly.
“Are Sudoku puzzles part of God’s creation?” she asked. And, indeed, one of the more extreme ladies had suggested that Satan was planting all these worldly distractions.
We are just out of our element in that group, that’s all. This probably helps us to keep our brains elastic.
But I do think that outsiders fail to realize the level of creativity fundamentalists bring to their reading of the Bible. We think they are literal about the Bible. We don’t realize that they can look at “Dinah went to visit the women of the land” and conclude that Dinah was seeking sensationalism, that she dressed like a tart, and that she was — in short — being worldly. No wonder she was raped. There was widespread agreement in the group — and these are intelligent, sincere women, too — that this little phrase about Dinah was enough to demonstrate her worldliness.
I look at these passages and think “Where are they getting this?” And I have taken lit classes from Freudians, too. You’d think I would be beyond amazement.
Today is Book Club, a good antidote to the fundamentalist group. We are discussing Henry James’s Daisy Miller, a novel about respectability. The heroine behaves very scandalously, by the standards of her time, and dies in the end, perhaps as a punishment, but at least she doesn’t do Sudoku puzzles.