Archive for January, 2010

Cannonball 17: Echoes Down the Corridor by Arthur Miller

Echoes Down the Corridor Echoes Down the Corridor by Arthur Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I started taking the train to work, I was really excited about how much reading I was going to get done. I happily imagined a future in which I’ve read every book I’d ever wanted to read — and all thanks to the LA Metro! People would talk about the classics and I’d airily reply, “Why, yes, I’ve read it.” I’d get a forward asking me to check all of the books I’d read, and I’d be able to check all 100 books on the list. I would be so well-read!

Well, the reality wasn’t quite what I’d imagined it to be. I do still read a heck of a lot, but it’s what I’m reading that was unexpected.

I don’t have a lot of money to spend on books, and I also don’t have a lot of time to go to the library. As a result, I ended up borrowing books from friends here and there, borrowing lots of children’s lit from my sister, who’s a teacher, and the kids at my church. Mostly, though, I ended up reading books that have been sitting on my shelf that I never got around to reading.

Most of those books were on the shelf for a reason. I hadn’t had any sort of burning desire to read them in the past. Most of them were okay. But none of them were too terribly well-written or compelling. It was a nice way to pass the time, but that was about it. It was getting so that I’d almost forgotten that I’d ever been moved by anything I’d read in a book.

Then, one day, I thought I’d hit rock bottom. There was a book on my shelf that I’d read part of the way through, but that I couldn’t really remember at all. It was given to me as a gift from a friend. She asked me to let her borrow it after I was done, and I never lent it to her because I never finished it.

It was a collection of essays by Arthur Miller. I figured I must not remember it because it wasn’t that interesting, but I wanted to get it under my literary belt, so I chucked it into my bag and headed for the train. And then I opened it to this:

Nobody can know Brooklyn, because Brooklyn is the world, and besides it is filled with cemeteries, and who can say he knows those people?

That is the first sentence of Echoes Down the Corridor. I read it and was instantly transported to Brooklyn. And then back in time to the Brooklyn of Miller’s own childhood. I devoured the essay greedily, savoring his descriptions of the colorful characters of the Midwood section. I could hear the children shouting in the streets, the housewives gossiping in line at the grocery store, the honking of horns. He doesn’t describe any of these noises, and yet, somehow, they automatically popped into my mind as he described his neighbors and relatives. That is the power of Miller. He’s conjures.

As soon as I was done with the first essay (“Brooklyn is a lot of villages. And this was one of them.” *SIGH*), I dove breathlessly into the next one. And then the next one.

Something about his writing grabbed hold of me. About halfway through the book, I realized what it was. It was good writing.

In all of the books I’d been reading since I started taking the train, I’d read a lot of interesting stories and fascinating histories. But I hadn’t enjoyed reading really good writing for so long that I didn’t even realize that I was yearning for it. As I read on the train for those three days, I drank deeply of Miller’s words — a veritable nectar to my parched literary soul.

Miller touches on subjects from his childhood to politics to personal anecdotes — Miller lived about as full a life as anyone could hope for. He wrote about the arts and world events and even his own plays. I’d laugh out loud at one essay and then turn a page and be in tears. Whether laughing or crying, I was always thinking. I was thinking about the myriad topics that Miller chose to write about and how such a varied collection of works could come together into such a cohesive volume.

What brings them together is Miller’s life. These are his experiences, his thoughts. What holds them together is his poetic prose. Arthur Miller lived for these words, and he made these words live for him.

After I finished the book, I was a little depressed for a while. Reading writing that good made me despair a bit of ever aspiring to similar heights of genius. Who am I to try and write when works like Miller’s already exist — and go unread on people’s bookshelves for ten years?

But that, to me, is the ultimate beauty of this collection. Despite feeling sharply my inferiority to Miller’s genius , I couldn’t resist the desire to write. Miller had inspired me. And that is the greatest gift that a writer can give: inspiration.

I may never write as prolifically or as insightfully or as beautifully as Miller. But it’s to his credit that he has made me want to try.

View all my reviews >>

I’m Just Here for the Food: Pho Vinam

“I’m from Denver.” from John 8Asians on Vimeo.

And that’s what I think of now every time I think of pho. If you don’t already, watch “Modern Family”. IMMEDIATELY!!


Confession: I like pho.

I don’t love pho. I don’t hate it. I’ve always kinda just thought it was good, but that it would never be my favorite thing to eat.

I will admit, however, that it can be very satisfying on a rainy day.

And it was a very rainy day when I stumbled into Pho Vinam.

I didn’t want to go in at first because it only had three stars on Yelp! But I was determined to have soup because it was raining (I’m a little OCD about that), and the Thai place we tried to go to first was closed.

So I decided to risk it and bravely made my way to Pho Vinam.

The interior is pretty standard for a pho place — a few booths, but mostly tables, with the requisite sriracha and hoisin acting as a savory centerpiece.

I ordered the rare steak pho, which is a standard order for me.

The food was done quickly. I ate and was satisfied.

The broth was pretty good — flavorful and not too watery. They gave me lots of sprouts and cilantro and onions to add. There was plenty of steak — maybe more than I’d ever had at any other pho place.

And the kicker was that it was so cheap. Less than five dollars!

I left extremely satisfied. I got my soup fix, and I was actually shocked that Pho Vinam only had three stars on Yelp!

So, Pho Vinam, here’s something to get you one star closer to where you deserve.

Pho Vinam
1201 University Ave #107
Riverside, CA 92507
(951) 784-4290

I Can Has Response? Part II: alon, Mike B., anhelo, Frank Stein, DeistBrawler, fifteenkeys

MAN, you guys gave me a lot to think about. I actually needed to take a pretty hefty break after writing my last post on this topic because it took every iota of my mental capacity to write it out.

Many thanks to all for their kind comments and gracious civility in discussing what could potentially be a sensitive issue. I really appreciate that those who disagree with me do so respectfully and I hope that I have responded in kind (pun unintended. I detest puns).

And big ups to alon for prodding me to finally finish this post — it’s been sitting as a draft on my dashboard for ages. My bad, and thanks for the poke.

And with that said: on to the responses!


alon: It is fascinating to me how this review was introduced; in this sort of disarming, slightly deprecating fashion. I’m not sure it isn’t a bit disingenuous. At the same time I’m absolutely sure it is a bit manipulative. By this, I mean that it has the intended effect of shielding the reviewer from criticism of her beliefs by shifting our focus onto her as our subject, before she presents her subject, the book.

alon: You know, now that you mention it, I did come out of the gate with my defenses up. I guess I just expected the majority of the Pajiba readership to judge me for my views on marriage and women’s roles. My expectations showed that I was really kinda judging Pajibans — presuming that they would dismiss me wholesale as a commenter because of my views in this one area — and I humbly admit that I was totally wrong on that count. Most people were wonderfully thoughtful, even (and perhaps especially) those who didn’t necessarily agree.

See, the scathingness is just a cover. You’re all softies, you. 😉

That said, I really do welcome your views and appreciate your willingness to dialog about this stuff.

But moving on: For me, it isn’t that she chooses to believe one thing or another, my god, I’m a Marxist, 90% of Pajibans would think I’m nuts as well. My issue comes from the belief itself, the thrust of which is contained in the reviewer’s words: And I happen to believe that mankind was created to love God. Not only does this stance pose a tremendous epistemological challenge, (i.e. How do you know this? The Bible tells me so. How do you know the Bible is a valid source for this truth? The Bible tells me it is. Etc.) but it presents a set of deeply troubling ethical issues as well.

Let me take a minute to address the excellent point that alon brings up: the problem of circular reasoning.

I believe that the Bible is true. Why? Because I believe that God created it and inspired it, using people throughout biblical history to write it down. How do I know that God created it? Because the Bible tells me so. But how do I know it’s true? Because God said so. Etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

I understand that it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people to believe in the Bible’s inerrancy and base that on its own authority. It’s like a thread troll saying: “You guys are all idiots and I’m smarter than you. I know this because I’m smarter than you.” We all know that the troll’s stating this doesn’t make it true. In fact, his trollish behavior shows that the opposite is probably true.

However, I don’t think it proves that his statement isn’t true. He might still be smart — he’s probably a jerk, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s an idiot. He might be a really smart, but also extremely arrogant and unpleasant.

Some might say that the very fact that the thread troll uses circular reasoning to prove his point shows his idiocy. Nothing can be proven by circular reasoning. But to me, this raises this question: then how can we know that anything is true?

Some argue that we can only know the truth based on empirical evidence. And they say that there is lots of evidence showing that the Bible isn’t true.

Now, I don’t have the time or space here to drill down into every single statement in Scripture that anyone thinks is false. But I guess it really ultimately comes down to whether or not God exists. If He exists and He is the perfect and holy God that Scripture describes, then He has the power to make everything in the Bible true (sorry, I know I’m totally overgeneralizing, but I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, here).

And is it possible to prove to all mankind that God exists beyond the shadow of a human doubt? I don’t think so. If there were, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion, now, would we?

Some wonder why God, if He exists, doesn’t just show Himself and prove His existence once and for all. I don’t know why He doesn’t, but the Bible says that God’s ways are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth (Isaiah 55:9). The Bible also says that faith is valued by God (Hebrews 11:6). If we just saw Him, we wouldn’t have to have faith. So, in a way, He doesn’t reveal Himself so that it’s possible for us to have faith.

I think it’s important, too, to remember that the Bible says that God doesn’t exist for us. He doesn’t have to prove or explain Himself to us (Isaiah 45:9).

But I digress. So I don’t think God has ordained for us to know Him through tangible proof. But I also think it’s impossible to prove that He doesn’t exist.

Remember that example of circular reasoning I used above? I think that goes for the atheist, too.

How do you know that there isn’t a God? Because I haven’t seen any evidence of His existence. How do you know that there isn’t any evidence of His existence? Because I haven’t seen it. How do you know that there isn’t evidence out there somewhere that proves His existence? Because I haven’t seen it.

I don’t know if that makes any sense at all, but I guess what I’m trying to say in the most convoluted possible way (sorry ’bout that, btw) is that, when it comes to ascertaining truth, we’re all pretty much on equal footing, aren’t we?

But I’m getting sleepy, so I’d better plug on before I stop making any sense at all (not that I’m necessarily making much now).

If we accept that the Christian God presents the blueprint for a Godly life, one that glorifies and expresses love and devotion to him, in this book called the Bible, then we must be absolutely clear that what the Bible presents is in some way universally ethical.

For what it’s worth, that’s exactly what I believe.

What I do not believe is that it’s the believer’s right to enforce everyone else to behave accordingly. I believe that the Bible is true and I want to live according to it. Others disagree and they live according to their own moral standard. It’s not for me to force them to live according to my moral standard. I believe that we will all face the consequences of our decisions when we die (Hebrews 9:27). I also believe that my consequences have already been faced by Jesus Christ.

I love my friends and family (and even all of you Pajibans, in a very general and anonymous, internetty kind of way) and I don’t want them to bear eternal consequences for any bad decisions they’ve made. This is why I take part in these conversations — because I believe that God uses these sorts of conversations to change hearts.

Aside: I hope it comes across clearly that I say these things not to justify myself but because I love you guys.

And that segues rather nicely into this next bit:

And even if the context argument is made (and I agree ALL religious texts MUST be read in context.) there are at the very least massive contradictions running throughout the Bible, the least of which is the staggering psychological change between Hashem – יהוה in the Torah and God in the New Testament. So how can one be absolutely sure of the ethical imperative of this religious text? Taking this point further, if we are all created to love God, are we sure that God is worthy of our love? The reviewer seems sure. I think before I take a book like Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God seriously, I’d have to be convinced.

I can see why you see such a huge change between the God of the Torah and the God of the NT. I think it was Snuggie who said that she literally thought that He was two different Gods because the OT God seemed so fire and brimstone and the NT God seemed so peace ‘n’ love.

But I think He is the same God. His level of holiness is the same throughout. He still demands perfection. But the difference is that in the NT, that perfection is fulfilled in Christ.

His level of love is the same throughout, too. Sure, there were times when people got swallowed up by the ground or wiped out by a worldwide flood. But some were saved — and they were saved through faith.

That’s the same as in the OT. Jesus’ incarnation just gave people a clearer picture of how faith saves — God justifies us. We don’t (and can’t) justify ourselves.

And to answer the question of knowing whether or not God is worth serving — He’s worthy of our worship by virtue of His being God. The Bible says that God is perfect, and that He doesn’t have to prove Himself to us.

But the Bible also says that He is kind and loving. If He’s perfect, then He’s also perfectly kind and perfectly loving. Just something to think about.

Christians evangelize from a universal position (that they have the universal truth (i.e. we were born to love god, etc.)), but exclude the non-believer from their universal love, acceptance, humanity, etc.

Some so-called “Christians” do exclude the non-believer from universal love, acceptance, humanity, etc. They exclude non-believers from Christian love by hating them. They exclude non-believers from Christian acceptance by ostracizing them. They exclude non-believers from Christian humanity by seeing them as second-class citizens.

If Jesus treated me and thought of me the way that those so-called “Christians” treat non-believers, then He would never have bothered dying in my place.

The Bible tells Christians to love their enemies and pray for those who curse them. The Bible tells Christians to be gentle and kind and to love one another — doing this will show the world that they belong to Him. The Bible doesn’t tell us to cast out non-believers. It tells us to cast out people who claim to be believers, but are not living in obedience to the Word of God — and even then, it’s only as the very last resort, and it’s still for the sake of eventual reconciliation, not for the purpose of shunning and lording it over them.

Nothing makes me sadder and angrier than to think of all the atrocities committed in the name of Jesus Christ: lynchings, homosexuals being beaten to death, abortion clinics being bombed, the Crusades — these things all fly in the face of Jesus’ teachings.

God never commanded the Christian to cleanse the world of all sin. No, that’s Jesus’ job. He only told them to go forth and make disciples of all nations, and one can’t do that by simply changing behaviors. In fact, we can’t do that at all. We go forth (whether abroad or simply to work or even just Pajiba, apparently) and preach the gospel and God changes hearts.

I hope I haven’t completely bungled this; my thoughts are kind of all over the place and I’m certain that I’m going to read over this later and wish that I’d said this or not said that or said this and that differently. But please bear with me; I’m doing my best, and even that might take a few tries.

Thanks again, though, alon, for your thoughtful comments. You raised a lot of great points; I wish I could have done a better job of addressing them.

Mike B. “And I happen to believe that mankind was created to love God. We are happiest when we love Him and trust in Him. And, as a woman, I was created to love my home and the people in it. I will be happiest when I love it and them and find satisfaction in making it a place that reflects my love for God and for my family.” There’s a lot wrong with this thesis: (1) “And I happen to believe that mankind was created to love God.” Much like couples who have a baby to save their marriage, creating a human to fix an emptiness is selfish. It’s also akin to starting one’s own fanclub.”

Actually, I never said that God created us to fill an emptiness in Himself. God doesn’t need us. The Bible doesn’t tell us why God created us beyond saying that it pleased Him to do so.

Did He create us to praise Him? The Bible tells us that He did. This may seem selfish at first, but is it really selfish if He really deserves all the praise?

That, and, if He’s perfect as the Bible says, then He can want us to praise Him without any wrong motivation. When God does it, it’s right because He’s God.

I know I keep apologizing about not explaining things well enough, but my brain is just too small to grasp a God who is bigger than I. That said, I hope my explanation makes some sense to you or at least shows you why I believe God didn’t create us out of selfish reasons.

(2) “We are happiest when we love Him and trust in Him.” I quibble with “we.” I’m as happy as I can be most of the time, and I do not love God. In my younger years, when I believed in — and maybe even loved — God, many a miserable night was spent trying to talk to Him. I was certainly not at my happiest. He certainly didn’t prove trustworthy. My atheism, though, didn’t grow out of an “I’m mad at you!” stance towards God. My atheism made the world make more sense than my belief ever did.

This is going to be sticky… there’s no way to say this without stepping on toes… but I guess it has to come out, so here goes: You may be happy, Mike, maybe even REALLY happy, but I still believe that you could be happier. And I’m not saying that the answer to this is to simply pick up a Bible and start reading. It’s not that simple because you can’t just make yourself start believing something.

What makes you happy? Comfortable circumstances? People? Simple pleasures, like reading one of Prisco’s reviews on Pajiba? Those are all wonderful things, and definitely things that make me happy, but those are all temporary. Those who find joy in God find a permanent joy that will never fade.

But you tried the God thing and it made you miserable. Now, I say this with much respect: have you ever considered that you weren’t praying to the God of the Bible? Lots of people believe in God; few believe in the God of the Bible, and even fewer believe in Him to redeem them.

I’m not saying that you weren’t genuine or sincere in your pursuit of God. I just know that there are a lot of churches out there that don’t teach the Bible — they teach philosophy and moralism and psychology with a little Scripture thrown in to give it a semblance of authority.

I don’t know the circumstances of your previous experience with God and the church, so I can’t really say more than that about your personal experience. But I believe the Bible to be true, and those I know who have put their faith in Jesus Christ are proving this principle of joy out through their lives in a variety of circumstances, trials, and difficulties.

Oh, and about my usage of “we”: my bad. The flood of non-Christians to my blog is a relatively new phenomenon and I’m still used to writing for a mostly Christian audience — “we”. I’ll try to keep that in mind in my future writings.

That said, I meant the “we” in the sentence you quoted. I believe that this applies to all mankind. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t bother having this conversation.

(3) “And, as a woman, I was created to love my home and the people in it.” And men do not love their homes, and the people in it? Or men weren’t created for that? If anything, as a human you were created to love the world. Plus, the sentiment smacks of, “As a lady, I find math difficult. Fortunately, you should see my floors!”

Hahaha, that last bit made me laugh because my floors are absolutely filthy right now.

Sorry about that sentence; I think it was confusing. In Christian jargon, to “love” one’s home is to love being there and taking care of it — including the floors you mentioned. To love the people in it is to care for their most basic needs.

Men love the home, sure. Some even enjoy doing the dishes or vacuuming. But their primary role is to support their family and to be the breadwinner. If a man quits his job so that he can stay home and help his wife with the floors, then he’s not fulfilling the role for which he was created.

And taking care of a home is so much more than floors. It’s creating a welcoming and comforting atmosphere. It’s setting the mood in the home so that it’s a refuge for one’s family.

Maybe that smacks a little of “I’m too stupid to do anything but clean.” I assure you that this is not the case. The best stay-at-home moms I know are the smartest ones. They have the killer instinct and the quick wit. That’s how they’re able to juggle so much at once. Working in the home is NO PICNIC and it’s certainly neither easy nor glamorous. It’s a thankless job, for the most part. But the women I know who do it, love it.

(4) “I will be happiest when I love it and them and find satisfaction in making it a place that reflects my love for God and for my family.” Woe, then, to the woman who has no family, who has no home. Who has no family because she doesn’t want one, or because she can’t create one. Where is her happiness if she never achieves familyhood? Has she failed God? Has she failed us?

I laughed at this part, too, because I’m totally still single and living at home. I have no family of my own, but I have parents and a sister under the same roof. This home isn’t mine; it’s my parents’. But I can still apply the principles of loving the home and the family.

My parents love that I don’t mind living at home and helping them with stuff. It’s not just stuff around the house, either — I help them manage some properties they own and I explain all of the official letters they get from the IRS and other government agencies because their English isn’t great, and I even cook for them on occasion. They love me for this. And I love them, so it makes me happy to make them happy in this way.

Now if I had the opportunity to move out and they were okay with it, I totally would. I think they want me to get out there and be on my own eventually, but right now they kind of still need me.

What about the girl who has no immediate family or whose family wants nothing to do with her?

Well, the Bible likens Christians to family. They’re a spiritual family. You don’t have to live with them (especially if they don’t ask you to move in) in order to show them love. There are dozens of practical ways to love other people, even if you’re not under the same roof.

That’s why I wrote what I did. I felt that her thesis wasn’t at all inclusive, because, paradoxically it seems, she made it too inclusive. I am very happy with my life. Not always, certainly, and it’s a process, of course. But I am happy with my life that lacks God. So the “we” that Jelinas introduces in her thesis leaves me out. In fact, it would almost seem to suggest that Jelinas doesn’t believe I could have any level of happiness. And that’s just not the case.

Once again, I never meant that no one can ever experience any measure of happiness without God. If this were true, then every church would be bursting at the seams. The concept of common grace is what we’re looking at, here: blessings that God gives to all of mankind, things that are common to every life. Happiness is part of the human experience, just the same as suffering and sadness are.

But the Bible tells us that ultimate joy comes of doing God’s will.

Of all of the comments, Mike, I thought yours was the most raw and personal. I’ve gotta give it up to you for baring your soul like that. I really appreciated your willingness to put not only your beliefs, but really yourself out on the line, here.

And, for what it’s worth, I’m glad that your life isn’t miserable. 😉

anhelo: I think the best thing to do would be to go to the source, and in this case that would be the bible and most likely your spiritual leader.

I couldn’t agree more, dude, and the former before the latter for sure. Makes me want to grab my Bible, a good friend, and head out for some Korean food and a rousing discussion about what I’ve been learning about the Bible lately.

Frank Stein: But does the book address body thetans and their removal?

That made me snort Diet Coke. AHAHAHA!!!!

Brenton: What’s a legalist?

Excellent, excellent question, Brenton. A legalist is someone who tries to earn God’s favor by their works: good deeds, obedience to the Bible, spiritual “merit badges”, if you will. The quintessential legalists were Pharisees, and Jesus had some pretty harsh words for that lot. He accused them of being whitewashed tombs: all pristine on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones on the inside. They worked really hard on doing the right thing and living good lives — all the while patting themselves on the back and priding themselves in being better than everyone else.

The Bible is clear: we aren’t saved or redeemed by our own merits. We are saved and redeemed by the merits of faith in Jesus Christ.

Legalism is pretty insidious, though. It creeps in where you didn’t think it existed. It often manifests itself in being judgmental. If someone doesn’t read the Bible the way you do, then they’re wrong. If someone drinks alcohol and you don’t, then they’re sinning. If someone doesn’t drink alcohol and you do, then they’re immature.

Ultimately, though, I’ve seen it most often in my life in thoughts like this: “I’m such a faithful Christian. I read my Bible every day this week.” As though reading the Bible makes me a good enough person to get to heaven on my own merit! This kind of thinking implies that I don’t need Jesus; that I can save myself. This is a LIE. I’m no better than anyone else around me, including thread trolls. I need Jesus to save me.

And once a person realizes that she’s only getting to heaven because Jesus paid her way, she realizes that she has no right to scoff at others’ mistakes when she’s made so many herself.

Conversely, legalism can also manifest in self-flagellation. When we don’t live up to our own expectations for ourselves, we get all depressed and we feel worthless. We deride ourselves and moan. But the person who truly believes that their passage to heaven has been paid by Christ knows that God doesn’t love us any more on the days when we’re doing well than on the days that we’re not. He loves us the same every day.

So the last thing I want to do is give myself a list of tasks to complete like the authors of Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God kind of did. If I completed that list, it would be very difficult for me to give credit to God instead of to myself. And if I didn’t complete it, then I would feel like a worthless failure — because I didn’t finish some stupid list! And I’m not worthless — the God of the universe loved me enough to die for me! How’s that for worth?

Aside: Sorry about that, Mike B.; that was a pretty blatant go-back on my promise to be more conscientious in my usage of “we”. I got carried away.

DeistBrawler: Wanted to get my two cents in and actually say that yes, for once, the Brawler has decided not to brawl.

Thanks, DB. I think I can understand you. I, for the most part, try not to deliberately stir up arguments about faith. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When I come to Pajiba, I’m coming as a guest. You don’t walk into your host’s home and start sneering at the way he’s decorated the place; that’s just rude. Actually, sneering is just rude in general.

Since the landscape of Pajiba is largely liberal, I keep my conservative trap shut out of respect for the host. Now, when Pajiba chooses to ask me point-blank what I think (say, by posting on the site a review that was clearly marked as a Regular Read — btw, Rowles, remind me to thank you again for doing that. You have no idea how much sleep I’ve lost since the day it was posted), then I feel free to talk about it.

And I can appreciate that, when someone like me has the floor, you let me have it.

Not to say that anyone who disagreed with me was being rude; on the contrary, I was so glad that it stirred up such a great discussion. But I think I can get DB‘s thinking behind his decision not to throw his hat in the ring, and I can respect that just as much as I respect those who dove right in.

If I’m off the mark there, DeistBrawler, do feel free to correct me. Or not. This is America. You can do or not do what you want. 😉

fifteenkeys: Listen, I’m all glad that you believe whatever things you do, but that shouldn’t shield you from the criticism that this site demands to be cast upon you. Unfortunately, I think it has.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think some people agree with some of the things I said. Some disagreed and they said so plainly — and their comments were just as welcome as my review. While Pajiba is ostensibly a scathing place, I think there’s a definite undercurrent of respect and camaraderie here. If people are “shielding” me, I don’t think it’s because of what I believe. I think it’s because of a mutual respect that Pajibans have for one another.

Those who know me from the threads know that I’m not a complete fool. I have decent taste in movies and books and TV. Not everyone believes in God like I do. Not everyone loved (500) Days of Summer like I did. But they believe that I have a right to have an opinion about it and I believe that they have that same right, and we all believe that talking about it can be fruitful and very, very, very entertaining.

And so, in the words of the Man Himself: “It is finished.”

Is that sacrilegious? Or sacrilicious? I’m sleepy.

Thanks to those of you who stuck around to read my responses (at this point, probably only Andrew and alon). I’m sorry it took me so long and that even when I did it, it was kinda slapped together. But I really appreciated the conversation and the unexpected friendships that have kind of grown out of this.

Oh, and speaking of which: my conversation with Andrew is ongoing. We’re still discussing this, and I’ll be posting a blog relating to this thread under a new category I’ve created on the blog: “A Civil Conversation”. I figure I’ll post a blog and Andrew can either respond in the comments or post to his own blog (do you have one, Andrew? I haven’t seen a link) and post the link in the comments.

And we can go back and forth forever on this! YAY! *kisses sleep goodbye*

If you’d like to participate in that, too, then please comment away! I’m sure Andrew wouldn’t mind!

Thanks again, everybody, for your thoughts and opinions on this matter. Obviously, it’s a subject that’s very important to a lot of people, and I’m glad that I got the chance to discuss it with you guys. 🙂

Cannonball 16: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was a little apprehensive when I opened up this book because it was written by Rick Riordan. My first experience with Rick Riordan was not a positive one.

I was expecting more of the same when I picked up The Lightning Thief, the first book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I’d never heard of the series until my li’l buddy JN recommended it to me because I live under a rock, apparently, as this book has already been reviewed on Pajiba.

Never have I been happier to be wrong.

Riordan spins a gripping little tale, masterfully weaving Greek mythology into a contemporary setting.

It’s a cute, child-friendly take on a tale that every kid wishes were his at some point in his life: the crappy parts of my life are only temporary because I am the child of someone important! When I was little, I imagined my “real” parents were celebrities or royalty. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my parents, who were always working at their liquor store (my parents were Koreans who owned a liquor store. I am a cliché in so many ways) — it was just that I longed for the glamor and adventure that I only read about in books.

But I must confess that Percy Jackson has a harder life than I do. He keeps getting punted from school to school because things have a way of going wrong when he’s around. His stepdad is a malodorous, mouth-breathing, Cro-Magnon jerk who loves nothing better than to hassle Percy. The only real bright spot in his life is his beloved mother and a fuzzy, if bright, memory of his real dad.

Of course, “everything changes” (cue jazz hands) when Percy’s suddenly attacked by a teacher at his school — who turns out to be a Harpy in disguise. This Harpy attack sets off a chain of events through which the truth about Percy is revealed: he’s the son of a Greek god!

This revelation gets him enrolled in Camp Half-Blood, a sort of summer camp for kids with divine parentage. At first, we don’t know who Percy’s father is, but (SPOILER!!!!) it’s soon revealed that his father is Poseidon, god of the sea (and if you couldn’t figure that out from the first quarter of the book, then I just don’t know what to tell you).

Since every hero must complete a quest, Percy is given the task of finding Zeus’ lightning bolt, which was recently stolen. None of the other gods will confess to taking it, and Zeus is threatening to go to war with Poseidon, whom he’s accused of stealing it, if it isn’t returned in short order. As Poseidon’s son, it falls to Percy to discover the identity of the real thief, find the stolen bolt, and return it to Mount Olympus in order to prevent a divine war of catastrophic proportions.

Riordan did a great job of bringing elements of classical Greek mythology into this kids’ adventure story. He doesn’t dumb it down, either. While it’s never explicitly stated, it’s pretty clear that certain gods (I’m looking at you, Hermes) are philanderers, just as they were in the myths. He includes lesser-known characters (such as Chiron the centaur — I’d forgotten who he was) as well as the standard gods that everybody learns in the ancient civilizations unit in sixth grade.

And as far as adventure goes, the book is tons of fun. The action never lets up, and it’s no surprise to me that the series is so popular.

Between this series and The Mysterious Benedict Society, there are going to be a lot of children’s books in my to-read list this year.

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I’m Just Here for the Food: El Antojito

You can keep your crunchy shell: if it ain't a street taco, it ain't a taco.

I love Mexican food.

Growing up in Southern California, you’d be surprised at how hard it can be to find good authentic Mexican — not because great Mexican restaurants don’t exist, but because it’s hard to spot ’em in a landscape of whitewashed wannabes.

But, as I got older, I learned how to spot the really auténtico places.


Rule #1: It should be staffed entirely by Mexican dudes. A friend of mine once got in trouble for saying that he bets that the reason those taco trucks are so good is because they “make it with their dirty hands.” We all laughed at him because it was such a racist thing to say, but you know what? I think he’s right. If they’re speaking anything but Spanish to each other, I turn around and walk right out.

Rule #2: The clientele should be mostly Hispanic. This actually holds true for all “ethnic” food. If everyone dining in a supposedly Korean joint is white, then get out. Get out while you still can. Likewise, if I walk into a Mexican place and no one can understand me because I’m speaking perfect English, then I know I’ve got the right place.

Rule #3: If you’re there after dark, you should feel a little uncomfortable. If there’s a TV in the place, it should be tuned to Telemundo or a soccer game or, best of all, a soccer game on Telemundo. People should be looking at you funny. If they don’t, then that means that they’re used to seeing non-locals hanging about. You want a place that caters to the locals, not to the visitors.

Rule #4: There shouldn’t be cheese on anything that’s not supposed to have cheese on it*. Americanized Mexican food is covered in cheese. Now, I have nothing against cheese — I think it’s delicious, and it certainly has its place, even in Mexican cuisine. But no self-respecting taco joint will send you a plate buried in melted cheese.

*I will make an exception for carne asada nachos because they are so darned tasty, even if they’re not authentic.

Rule #5: The basics should BLOW. YOUR. MIND. Whenever I try I new Mexican place, I always start with what I call “The Taste Trifecta Test”. That’s three tacos: carne asada, carnitas, and al pastor. If they can get those three right, then they’re probably legit.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at El Antojito, shall we?

Rule #1: Check. The guy had to ask me twice what I wanted because my Mexican accent is awful (that’s right, Mexican. Spanish is the language, but there is an accent specific to Mexico).

Rule #2: Check. It was raining, so there weren’t many people, but I was definitely the only Asian in the place.

Rule #3: Dark parking lot? Bad neighborhood? Nothing but beat-up old pick-up trucks, vans, and Cadillacs in the parking lot? Check, check, and CHECK.

Rule #4: Check. Not a single shred of cheese in sight.

Rule #5: OH, MY GOD, CHECK!!! I ordered my Taste Trifecta, and HOLY FRIJOLES, it was amazing. I know I’ve raved about lots of other Mexican joints, and my reviews of King Taco, El Taurino, Taco Sinaloa, and Tacos San Pedro still stand, but they must now all bow to the KING OF AL PASTOR: El Antojito. Man ALIVE, that is some quality meat!! The carne asada and carnitas tacos were also excellent, but the al pastor was what really blew my whistle.

And the clincher: tacos are only a dollar each. You just can’t beat that price.

So, if you’re up for some comida auténtica, I would highly recommend that you take a trip under the 110 overpass, head on over to the wrong side of the tracks, and hit up El Antojito.

El Antojito
Corner of 168th & Figueroa
Gardena, CA 90247

I’m Just Here for the Food: Young Dong Sullungtang

It may not look like much, but wait 'til you taste it.

I love rain.

We get it so rarely in Southern California that nobody really minds all the traffic it generates (even though everyone still complains loudly about it). And we’re currently in the middle of the biggest storm we’ve seen ’round these parts in a while, so I’m pretty happy.

The only thing I love more than rain is sullungtang. Put the two together and you’ve got the best winter experience you can get in California.

Sullungtang is a hot Korean beef soup to which you add noodles, green onions, radish kimchi, and sea salt to taste.

But that description, while accurate, really doesn’t do justice to the dish. It’s just one of those things that doesn’t sound like much until you put it in your mouth and the heavens part and the angels sing and you wonder whether your life until then was real or just a dream because, sister, this is living.

That said, the portions are generous, and there’s really nothing better on a cold winter day, especially if it’s raining.

And Young Dong in Koreatown is hands-down the best sullungtang I’ve ever had. The broth is flavorful, the kimchi is amazing, and you can pick what kind of beef they put in it for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go daydream about the leftovers I’m eating for lunch tomorrow.

Young Dong Restaurant
3828 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 386-3729

Cannonball 15: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’ve never been to Chicago.

I’ve heard so much about it: its museums, its history, and especially the food. I’ve always wanted to go.

After reading Erik Larson’s book about the 1893 World’s Fair, my interest in Chicago’s history is slowly gaining on my obsession with the food scene there.

Larson’s book explores the events surrounding 1893’s World’s Columbian Exposition. The author fastidiously chronicles architect Daniel Burnham’s arduous task of creating the White City: a confluence of the day’s finest architecture, art, culture, and innovations — the best America (and the world) had to offer all in one convenient location.

He also guides the reader down a twisted path branching off from the main road: how serial killer H.H. Holmes (the eponymous “Devil” of the book) capitalized on the World’s Fair by luring victims to his infamous “Murder Castle” with low rates and his charismatic charm.

The book is nothing if not fascinating — Larson’s subject matter serves him well here. The obstacles Burnham and his colleagues had to surmount in order to make this Fair happen were staggering. The inventions that debuted at the Fair are fascinating (e.g. the Ferris Wheel. And did you know that the US runs on alternating current because Westinghouse submitted a lower bid to power the Fair based on AC? So interesting).

And the lurid details of Holmes’ escapades are gripping as well. I have a morbid fascination with serial killers (what drives someone to repeatedly commit the most heinous act possible?), and Larson’s account of Holmes’ “work” did not disappoint.

However, the book did suffer from the constant change of pace as Larson switched from story to story. Add in a tertiary subplot (the assassination of Mayor Carter Harrison) and you’ve got a trifecta of interesting storylines that have little in common aside from their setting.

The Devil in the White City was an ambitious project for any author to tackle. Larson did the best with his source material, but I can’t help but to wish that he’d decided to write three books instead of one.

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Cannonball 14: Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy

You're probably wondering what possible relevance this picture has to the subject of this post.

When I was in middle school, I had a HUGE crush on Jim French, the boy who sat behind me in homeroom. I was completely boy-crazy in middle school, so that wasn’t anything remarkable.

What was remarkable about this one was that he was the one boy that maybe liked me back. He saw beyond my thick glasses and bad hair and nerdy clothes. He saw through to the kindred spirit within that liked reading and board games and “The Simpsons”.

But, alas, it was never to be. My friend Mandy liked him and asked me to find out if he liked her. Looking back, I think she had an inkling of the young love about to blossom in my scrawny, teenaged bosom (*sigh* I was so skinny then. It’s the only thing I miss about middle school) and knew that the quickest way to squelch it was to make me her advocate. Being the loyal friend I was, I sadly agreed to ask him for her.

The next day in homeroom, I obediently steered our conversation towards Mandy. “What do you think of her?” I asked reluctantly.

“Mandy?” he echoed, surprised. “She’s okay, I guess. Why?”

“Well…” I took a deep breath. “I think she likes you.”

He was silent. He looked at me, saying nothing. Was that hurt in his eyes? I panicked.

“You should ask her out,” I babbled desperately. “She’s really nice. And I think she really likes you. You’d make a cute couple. She’s a good friend.”

He stared down at the notebook we’d been doodling on and smiled bravely. “Maybe,” he replied a little sadly.

He put away the notebook and pulled out a book and began reading silently. I knew at that moment that our friendship had been effectively ruined and would never be the same.

A few days later, Mandy came up to me and gushed that Jim had invited her to watch a Dodger game with him and his family. I smiled wanly and told her that was great.

Jim never talked to me again. Well, we’d greet each other in class, but that was it — the camaraderie of the previous months was gone forever. Even after he and Mandy broke up, we remained distant.

Then, in high school, he turned into a serious weirdo and started dating this really geeky girl who was a year older than us and stopped washing his hair. I was so embarrassed that I’d ever liked him that I didn’t talk about it for twenty years. Guess I dodged a bullet there.

But I’ll always be grateful to Jim French circa 1991 for three months of exhilarating friendship. He made me laugh, complimented my drawing, taught me how to play chess — and he introduced me to Tom Clancy.

Ahh, yes. There’s the tie-in. Jim let me borrow The Hunt for Red October. “You’ll love it,” he insisted. “The plot gets kinda crazy, but you’re smart enough to get it.” Oh, how that made me blush in the most unattractive way.

Anyway, he gave it to me right before the whole Mandy thing went down, so I never gave it back and I actually didn’t read it until I was in college. And he was right. I loved it.

Now, I have no idea how I came by a copy of Clear and Present Danger. I was scrounging around for reading material the other day and next to Jim’s battered copy of The Hunt for Red October, a copy of Clear and Present Danger had somehow weaseled its way onto my bookshelf. I decided to read it.

Clear and Present Danger Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Clear and Present Danger is Clancy’s fourth novel about CIA agent Jack Ryan. The book deals with a covert government operation sending a hand-picked and highly-trained group of soldiers into the hills of Colombia to fight a secret war on a ruthless drug dealer. Unbeknownst to Ryan, an enemy agent has compromised a CIA contact and is maneuvering to take down the leader of the drug cartel so that he can become its new leader.

In the meantime, Jack must figure out how to save the soldiers after the operation goes sour, how to bring the high-level government officials who set the plan in motion to justice, and how to keep it all under wraps so that the American people wouldn’t lose faith in their government or the war on drugs.

Let me say one thing about Clancy up front — he’s a decent writer and he sure knows how to build a plot. It’s not Shakespeare, but I can totally understand how he’s sold so many books. It was fast-paced and exciting; I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. The book reads like a solid action film — good guys go up against bad guys; everything’s shrouded in conspiracy; there are a few good gunfights and action sequences and then the heroes somehow save the day and tomorrow’s sun will dawn yet again on a free America.

I guess my only real problem with the book is this: if you read too much Tom Clancy, you’ve got to be pretty discerning or else you’re going to start seeing the world as US vs. THEM. If you buy into the view of the world that Clancy presents in his books, you won’t bat an eye at the thought of the US secretly invading Colombia to fight a guerrilla war on drugs — a “preemptive strike,” if you will (sound familiar?).

It raised a red flag for me when I read the book and the characters were outraged that one of the characters had abandoned the soldiers in Colombia to save his own hide — not so much that he had authorized their mission in the first place.

Sure, the characters are dismayed that this secret operation was given the green light. Sure, one of the characters (Domingo “Ding” Chavez — another thing Clancy does really well is creating great characters. He gives you enough backstory to get you invested in them, too) a moment here of “Why are we doing this?” and a moment there of “The poor guy I just killed is probably only involved in this drug ring to feed his starving family.”

But, for the most part, I thought that the message of the book was “protect America, no matter what it costs (the rest of the world).”

Personally, I just don’t think the issue is that black-and-white. So remember, dear reader: it’s just a book. It’s fiction. Don’t let a book you can buy at the supermarket form your entire stance on foreign policy.

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Cannonball 13: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

After all the seriousness on Book Bloggy Blogg lately, I thought I’d lighten the mood with a nice kid’s book review.

I promise to post Part II of my responses to the Pajiba post soon!

But for now: on to the review!!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 4) Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When JN gave me this book to read, he gushed, “Miss Jeena, this one’s the funniest one! I think you’ll really like it!”

Well, far be it from me to question my favorite young reader. I took the book and read it the very next day.

And you know what? He was right.

The latest installment in the saga of Greg Heffley covers his summer vacation. Author Jeff Kinney covers a lot of familiar ground for readers of books about summer vacation: summer jobs, boredom, trips — and, of course, fights.

When I was a kid, I fought with my siblings multiple times a day. Not a day went by that we didn’t fight. We were latchkey kids, so there was never anyone around to stop us. We would take turns fighting with each other and taking sides in others’ quarrels.

That’s why I (and most of mankind, probably) could appreciate Kinney’s hilarious depictions of Greg’s fights with his brothers, his best friend, and his father, amongst others. As opposed to his gimmicky use of outrageous situations in the last book, Kinney goes back to the roots of the series by focusing instead on the seemingly mundane moments that make up an adolescence.

My favorite thing by far in this installment was Kinney’s treatment of Greg’s relationship with his father. Like my own father (and, I suspect, the author’s), Mr. Heffley isn’t given to displays of affection. He shows his love by pushing his children to be better than they are. He gets angry when they fail to meet his expectations. There are times when the children of such a man wonder whether or not he’d jump at the chance to sell them to the highest bidder or abandon them at a baseball game.

But the strength of their relationship comes through in little moments of truce. Greg and his dad both hate this lame comic strip in the paper. As they sit at the breakfast table and complain about how stupid it is, it’s clear that Greg enjoys sharing the same opinion as his father, and that his father is secretly proud to have a son who isn’t fool enough to be taken in by idiotic dreck like Li’l Cutie.

Now, this is more like the series that pleasantly surprised me. Kinney, you got me again.

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I Can Haz Response? Part I: lainiefig, Yossarian, Snuggiepants the Deathbringer, Andrew, dg, Marcus, Patty O’Green, & nigguh bob

Right, so, I promised I’d respond to the comments on my recent Pajiba Review, but I realized that there’s just too much on there to respond to everything in one comment. But I thought there were a lot of insightful and thought-provoking comments, and so I thought I’d single out some of my faves to respond to.

And then I started responding to my chosen comments and realized that there were even too many of those, so now I’m splitting my responses into two posts. Not that anyone besides me is even reading that thread anymore.

And I want to thank Nicole Fuscia and Dustin Rowles for putting the review on Pajiba in the first place. I think it really speaks to Pajiba’s integrity that the site’s policy of open-mindedness applies to Christians as well as atheists and Scientologists and Marxists.

Now, I do feel the need to address the lack of… well, reviewing in my review. I really honestly didn’t think that review was eligible for CBR. That’s why I marked the original post as a “Regular Read” and didn’t count it towards my CBR count.

And since I was only writing it to satisfy my own obsessive need to review every last book I read, I thought to myself that the only people who would ever read it were maybe Nicole and my three regular readers, who attend my church. I know that those girls are familiar with the contents of these so-called “pink books” (the covers of books for Christian women are so often pink and/or purple), so I didn’t feel the need to get into the details of what the book was teaching.

It was lazy and I’ll admit it. Yossarian, amongst others, was absolutely right when he pointed out that the review was heavy on the opinion and light on the review. BTW, Yoss, I really appreciate your willingness to defend my right to freely believe as I choose, even if you don’t agree with those beliefs. I would absolutely do the same for you, buddy.

I just don’t want you guys to think that I’m normally that lazy when reviewing a book.

But, now: the comments.

Natural 20 and Neodiogenes: Thanks for the book recs; I’ll defs check ’em out.

lainiefig: Madd propz to you. Being a full-time mom has to be the most difficult, but most rewarding job on earth. And thank you for your warm wishes. When I grow up, I wanna be just like lainiefig.

Yossarian: Once again, your assessment of my review was totally fair. I can appreciate that you’re (constructively) criticizing my review and not my beliefs. I really didn’t do a very good job of explaining what the actual book was about.

For clarification’s sake, the book’s stand on biblical womanhood is that women should be excellent workers in the home. This doesn’t mean that they can’t also be excellent workers outside the home, but it does mean that their priority ought to be in the home. So if a woman is the number one salesperson at her sales job, but her husband feels neglected and her children are out of control, then she’s remiss in her spiritual duties to her family.

I know that this might seem like “housewife s***” (as Brenton so eloquently put it). But, as lainiefig can probably tell you, it’s so much more than that. It’s not just keeping things clean and bringing your husband a beer while he watches the game with his friends. It’s being the rock around which the home is built. It’s training up one’s children in righteousness. It’s building a haven for family and friends, a place that exudes love and comfort.

Being this woman requires crazy organizational skills, diligence and discipline, as much intelligence as she can muster (because not even stupid people want their kids to grow up stupid), superhuman patience, a sharp instinct and intuition for understanding her children and her husband (not just to anticipate their every want, but also to sense when getting what they want is bad for them), a hero’s courage (because, as lainiefig can probably also tell you, it can be really, really discouraging and disheartening sometimes) — I could go on and on.

But what I will say is that, according to the Bible, all this hard work is not without reward. Proverbs 31 (that’s right, Snuggiepants’ theme song) says that “her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (verses 28-31).

Yossarian also wanted to know: I would be interested to know specific things that you found helpful.

There were a few practical things I found helpful. For example, they provided a table to help the reader organize her finances. They also suggested that the reader prioritize daily time to spend in reading the Bible and praying. With all of the things that a godly woman has to get done in a day, it’s easy to let personal time with God fall to the wayside. They suggest that the reader find an older, mature woman to mentor her and give her advice and simply listen to her when she needs a shoulder to cry on.

Was there anything that you disagreed with?

Actually, the reason that I didn’t this book very much was that there were so many tips that it was a little overwhelming, and, after a while, I couldn’t remember why I thought I ought to practice these things — I was too busy feeling guilty about all the things I wasn’t doing that this book was telling me I should do.

So I guess I disagreed with the insinuation that a godly woman ought to live by tables and flash cards with Bible verses written on them and schedules. I think those things are very helpful, and Lord knows I could use some more structure in my life. But I thought the direction of the book was a little rigid.

In trying to help women be more pleasing to God, I thought they actually obscured Him with all of these practical tips. Let’s not forget the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).

Martha invited Jesus over and was getting ready for his visit. She was doing all the things a good hostess does, I’m sure. But, when He arrived, the Bible tells us that “Martha was distracted with much serving” (verse 40). When she complained that she was doing all the work while Mary just sat and listened to Him talk, Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (verses 41-42).

Jesus was saying that it’s more important to cultivate a relationship with Him than to get all the housekeeping done. And I did feel like this book actually cultivated more of Martha’s heart in me than Mary’s. That might be because I’m more prone to be like Martha than like Mary, but, then again, so are most people. I wish the authors had taken that into consideration a bit more.

If anyone has a problem with you making your own choices and living your own life as you choose we’ll smack them down for you.

I love you, Yoss. And not just because of that comment, either. You always have valuable insights to contribute to various threads all over Pajiba. Not to mention hilarious jabs galore — congrats on making EE this week, btw.

Snuggiepants said: I mean, actually living your life exactly according to Jesus’ teachings is NOT easy. No. Absolutely not. Radical, radical stuff, that is.

But having a relationship with God? Not difficult in the least. I don’t think it’s meant to be. So I haven’t found any sort of instructional materials (besides, again, the teachings of Jesus) to be necessary.

Amen to that. I mean, books are a nice shortcut, sometimes, and there are lots of books that have helped me to grow in my understanding of the Bible, but the Bible says that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (1 Peter 1:3). Ultimately, we’ll find all we need to please Him in the pages of Scripture.

Snuggie to Yossarian: The man may be the head, but the woman is the neck. And the neck can TURN the head.
–My Big Fat Greek Wedding

HA!! But so true. The woman is the ultimate influence in her family. There are so many examples in the Bible of women who influence their husbands for good (like Abigail) or also for evil (like Jezebel).

Andrew: I’m not trying to attack or deconvert you, but why would you worship a god who thinks that you are inferior? … Now, if you heard this from any other source, how would you respond? Would you say, “Yep, exactly right,” or would you call him out as a misogynist?

Andrew, I want to thank you for even throwing your hat in the ring. I thought your comments were clear and pointed without being disrespectful or disparaging. I know that these sorts of conversations can quickly veer from calm discussion into angry ranting, so I applaud you for having the courage to wade in and ask your honest questions. It requires courage to take a stand on either side of the discussion.

And, to answer your question, I don’t believe that God asks the woman to submit because He thinks she is inferior. In fact, Jesus Himself submitted to the Father, even though He is God (Philippians 2:5-8). God didn’t think Jesus was inferior. And He doesn’t think I’m inferior. In fact, because Jesus submitted to His Father in this, God highly exalted Him (Philippians 2:9).

According to the Bible, He had to create her because man couldn’t cut it by himself (Genesis 2:18). He needed her, not t’other way around.

Now, about what you said from 1 Corinthians 11, that talks about women submitting to their husbands (“the woman” and “the man” — not all women and all men. Women are only to submit to their own husbands (Ephesians 5:22)). I don’t take that as an insult to me or to my intelligence because God doesn’t mean it as an insult.

Back in those days, women were second-class citizens. They couldn’t inherit anything; everything they had was tied to their husbands. They couldn’t have an identity apart from their husbands. But, in the Bible, God calls women co-heirs. That was a pretty big deal for women back then. Their inheritance in heaven wasn’t tied to their husbands. It was only tied to their own personal, individual faith in Jesus.

God values women, and He doesn’t see them as second-class citizens any more than He sees His own Son as a second-class citizen. God elevated Jesus through His submission, and He elevates women through theirs — first to God, and then to their husbands.

1 Peter 3:15

You’re absolutely right. We are to be ready with an answer for our hope. This doesn’t mean, however, that we’ll be able to answer every single question that anyone has. The answer for my hope isn’t something like, “I know God is real because of all of these evidences.”

The answer for my hope is that I measured myself against the standard of God’s holiness and despaired because I couldn’t measure up. But God, through the Bible gave me this good news: the punishment for my sin was laid on Him and the reward for His perfect life was laid on me. And all I needed to do to make this promise mine was to believe that it was true.

And that was the answer I needed. And that’s why I am confident that, when I die, I will be in heaven, where I will see Jesus face-to-face for the first time.

So, I don’t think it’s meant to be an answer for every argument. According to the Bible, only God knows everything. It’s only meant to be an answer for the faith that we have. “Why do you believe what you believe?” I believe it because the Bible tells me so, and I see it proven true every day in my life.

Could atheists say the same? Absolutely. So why do I think I’m right and atheists are wrong? Because what I believe isn’t based on something I’ve deduced with my own reasoning. I’m a human, and nobody’s perfect, which means that I make mistakes. But God is perfect, and the Bible tells us that He doesn’t make mistakes.

That’s not meant to be a “I’m right because God is with me” sort of statement. Anyone who tries to manipulate the Bible to say what they want it to say is distorting the truth. I shouldn’t change the Bible to make it fit my pre-existing worldview. Instead, I should let the Bible form my worldview.

Sorry, I feel like I’m going on a lot of tangents, here. I’ll move on.

Throwing out clearly immoral concepts is fine with me.

But what constitutes a “clearly” immoral concept? Who defines what’s clearly immoral and what’s not? Society? Whose society? Is there really a clearly outline set of concepts that every human being in the world agrees is immoral?

If so, why? Because humanity is hard-wired to a certain level of morality? I believe it is. I believe that God created people with consciences. But consciences can be seared or dulled — my conscience was never meant to be my only measure of morality. The Bible says that this is why He gave us the Law (the Torah, to those of a Hebrew persuasion out there). The Law is meant to show us our shortcomings.

It is not, however, meant to save us. If we could be saved by the Law, then we’d essentially be able to save ourselves. This would mean that we’re capable of living perfectly, but the Bible (and experience) show us that this isn’t possible (Romans 3:10, 23).

So what kind of messed-up God gives His people a Law that’s impossible to follow? Well, He didn’t just leave them with the Law and say, “Good luck with that, suckas!!”

He gave them faith. Every person in the Old Testament who obeyed God did so out of faith and love, not out of fear and duty. Hebrews 11 says that Abraham believed God, and THAT’S what was counted to him as righteousness.

Sorry, another rabbit hole. All that just to say that, if you believe in absolute truth, you believe in absolute truth. And if you don’t believe in absolute truth, then you still believe in absolute truth because that statement is itself an absolute statement (hope that didn’t sound flippant. I just don’t have the time or space to get into all that right now. Maybe in another post).

Imagine a world where every Christian was happy and did good works and fed the poor and saved puppies while all atheists were depressed cynics who only cared about themselves. Even if that were true, it still would say nothing as to the existence of a god. A false belief (or one for which there is no evidence that it’s true) can still inspire people to do good things.

Andrew, seriously, I appreciate the way you think. These are great arguments and I hope my responses do them some sort of justice.

It’s absolutely true that the ends don’t speak to the truth of the means. If that were the case, then Christianity sucks because there are so many people who claim to be Christians whose lives totally fly in the face of everything the Bible teaches. That would be proof that Christianity is not true.

That said, I don’t think that the absence of this world of happy Christians and depressed atheists disproves the existence of God, either.

I agree with almost everything you say here. My only objection is that we should not respect people’s beliefs. We should respect their right to hold those beliefs and we should defend their right to have them, but the beliefs themselves do not automatically get respect just because people have them.

I actually agree with you here, too. One of the greatest things about America is the freedom to believe whatever ridiculous thing you want. That said, some of the things people believe are ridiculous. I mean, believing that you have little aliens living in you and you can pay your way to a higher plane of enlightenment? *eye roll*

(No disrespect to any Scientologists out there. But it does sound pretty far-fetched to me. And I believe that a man rose from the dead and is waiting to reward me in heaven after I die!)

Thanks again, Andrew, for your comments. I wish I could give more time to them, but I’ve already been working on this blog post for two days and I have to move on to everyone else eventually. But if you live in LA, I’d love to get together and chat more about it.

dg: is this book suggesting that all women are called to this role? Can men be called to this role?

The book doesn’t say that all women are called to this role — thanks for asking for that clarification, dg. Pat Ennis is actually single, as am I. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have homes or families. I live at home with my parents. My parents want me to live with them, so I submit to them by doing so. I help clean and cook, but since it’s really my mom’s house, I can attend to this duty and still hold down a full-time job (and spend plenty of time on Pajiba, to boot).

But if they wanted me to get out and live on my own, I’d happily do that, too. I’d take care of my own little home (or apartment, since I live in SoCal and there’s NO WAY I’d be able to afford a house), but since I don’t have a husband or kids, I’d probably have plenty of time to keep holdin’ down that (boring, low-paying) steady job.

As for men, the Bible is clear that their calling is to be the breadwinner in the home and to lead the family. The Bible says that a husband will have to answer to God for the way in which he led his wife and children. Yikes. I’d personally rather not have that responsibility. I’d rather blame our family’s shortcomings on El Hubbo. 😉

And, dg, about your responses to jen, Patty, and Andrew — I couldn’t have said it better myself. But I had to try, right? 😉

Marcus: Ummm, people, hate to piss on your god parade, but this is Pajiba, “Scathing Reviews, B*tchy People”, and you’ve just read the first review of 2010, hardly scathing, and hardly b*tchy, in fact, quite bible-womanly, which is to say, out of site and earshot, cleaning the home. So, now that you’ve been informed once again that you’re reading Pajiba, don’t you think you’ve been had? ;-P

Fair enough, Marcus; fair enough. That’s my latest New Year’s Resolution: to write a review of which even Marcus would approve.

Did I mention that I never meant for that review to make the site?

Patty O’Green: I have always been taught (conservative upbringing) that if the Bible says it, it is true – no debating.

Sadly, that’s how a lot of conservative upbringings go. Let’s be clear that “conservative” doesn’t always mean “Christian”. I was raised in pretty much the same way as you, Patty, but it’s certainly not how I plan to raise my kids (should I ever have them).

I’m planning to teach them that if the Bible says it, it is true. Now, debate away!

I agree to a point with what Patty said about there being no faith without doubt. We all have doubts; to deny that is pointless. But stuffing them deep down doesn’t get rid of them. Unless one works through those doubts, then they still exist and that faith isn’t anchored in truth, but in tradition.

However, I don’t think the genuineness of one’s faith is proven by overcoming past doubts or disproved by never having been tested. Theoretically, it’s possible to get it right the first time. If someone tells me and my friend a fact and she believes him, but I don’t and have to research the fact for myself to come to the same conclusion, does that mean that I believe the fact more? No, we believe the fact the same; I just took a little longer to come around.

I think, though, that the point is to work through one’s doubts and not around them. God created humans with intellect. It pleases Him when they use it.

nigguh bob: i have a question. if the bible is obviously skewed due to the social context of when it was written, then why was this book written as an interpretation for the purpose of teaching women (a societal roll which changes throughout history) about how to act “right?” Do the authors want women to act how they were told to act in the bible?

I wouldn’t say that it’s skewed because of the social and cultural context. The principles still hold. For example, back in the day, men would greet each other with a kiss on the cheek — something that they still do in some countries. But you generally don’t see that here in SoCal. So when the Bible says to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16), Christians don’t take that literally. It just means that they’re to greet one another with affection — however that manifests in their culture. In Kazakhstan, that’s cheek-kissing. Here in SoCal, it’s fist bumps and bro-hugs (that’s what I call it when guys go in for the handshake and then turn it into a one-armed hug).

But I digress. The authors never say that they’re trying to teach women how to act “right” in those words, but they do teach the principles behind the verses in the Bible about women. Some of those principles include nurturing one’s relationship with God, prioritizing the family (husband first and then children), and managing the home with excellence.

My biggest problem with the book was that it was awfully specific — in a way that the Bible really isn’t. I know that their intent is to give their readers ways to cultivate good habits and stuff, but giving a girl like me a list of things to do is a surefire way to make sure that I lose focus on the God I’m supposed to be pleasing and instead focus on checking tasks off that list.


Okay, that’s all I’ve got so far. alon said some really interesting things, too, and I’m still muddling through how to address them. But I promise I’m working on getting there, and whether it matters to anyone but me and God, I do want to get there.

Thanks for reading, Pajibans. You people are too cool. 🙂

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