Part 1

On page 143, we find more of Irene trying to get Rayford to change churches….

Geez, when I began looking into Orthodoxy, my husband said he would go with me if I chose it–but I could tell he didn’t want to.  So I released him from his promise so he could go back to the Lutheran church, after we spent several years trying to find one church we both liked; I became Orthodox on my own.  I do not push him like Irene does.

She has to realize that conversion from one church to another cannot be made lightly, that it has to be desired by the heart, not badgered.  Rayford also has to realize that he can’t ridicule and force her into staying in a church she does not like.

My college memoirs speak of my ex Phil trying to shame me into becoming Catholic because “otherwise we can’t get married,” even though I was staunchly Evangelical.  St. John Chrysostom has some good words on the matter:

It is as if Paul were saying, “If your husband is not contentious, it could very well prove to be worthwhile if you stay with him.  So stay, give him advice, persuade him of the truth.”  No teacher is so effective as a persuasive wife.

Notice, however, that St. Paul doesn’t forcibly impose this idea, and demand that every spouse, no matter what the circumstances, attempt to persuade his partner in this way; such a demand would be too burdensome.

On the other hand, he doesn’t recommend the whole situation to be dismissed as hopeless (Homily 19 on 1 Corinthians 7).

However, he says that if your unbelieving husband tries to force you to violate your beliefs, beats you, picks fights, it’s better to separate, and better to let the unbelieving spouse leave.

So you see he advocates gentle persuasion for a spouse who is open to it, but not forcing your beliefs on the other.

On page 153, we see the natural outcome of henpecking your husband: He starts looking elsewhere for solace.  He starts driving home a hot stewardess, Hattie, whom we already know from the post-Rapture books.

We read, “He was certain he had never had as beautiful a woman in such close proximity.”  Not even his ex-girlfriend, who was hot but self-centered?  Hasn’t he ever, in his entire life, driven home a beautiful friend, or sat next to a beautiful girl in a class or church, or had a beautiful teacher?

This next part is not related to theology, but I was pleasantly surprised to find, on pages 164 to 167, the answer to what happened with my car years ago: Buck and his best friend Dirk are stuck on the side of the road after an engine lock-up: Buck has not been paying attention, so the car runs out of oil and overheats.

[S]uddenly all the gauges lit up, the dashboard lights went out, the headlights dimmed, and the car shut down.

Back at my first job after college, I was forced to drive because my job was in the next county, out of range of public transportation.  I also had an old beater, because I couldn’t afford anything better.  The oil began leaking, so I kept oil cans in the trunk, and tested it every time I filled up (which was every few days).

Despite my diligence, on the way to work one day, in terrible wintry weather, my car suddenly began slowing down right on the highway!  I couldn’t get it to behave, so I pulled over to the side before a catastrophe happened.

This was the mid-90s, when a few people had cell phones, but I didn’t get one until 2007.  So until a sheriff’s car came by, or somebody took pity on me, I had to deal with it myself, knowing almost nothing about cars, and being scared of driving.  (Situations like this did not help the fear.)

I had no clue what happened, or how to fix it, but since I knew how to deal with oil and had an oil can, I tried that first.  After dumping in two quarts, I got back in–and my car was fine after that.

I always wondered what that was all about, but here, in an unexpected place, I found my answer: an overheated car, apparently out of oil, and engine lock-up.

Irene’s conversion has somehow made her automatically proficient in Christianese.  Just on page 177, for example, she uses such terms as, “soak up real Bible teaching and preaching” and “I’m starving to death spiritually.”  It must have been implanted in her brain along with the salvation.

Also, remarkably, her conversion has somehow turned her–not into an obedient and submissive wife, since she keeps badgering Rayford about converting and arguing with him over the funeral–but into a wife who wants to be obedient and submissive.

Didn’t Irene grow up sometime in the 21st century, when the culture has moved away from that whole man-the-head-of-the-household thing?  I can’t imagine Rayford’s (most likely) liberal church insisting on such things.  That’s far more easily found in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical churches.

Liberal churches tend to celebrate being open, welcoming, affirming, allowing homosexuality, women breaking barriers and being preachers, that sort of thing.  Yet from what Irene says here, Rayford expects to be the head of the household, and expects the woman to submit:

“Right now everything in our marriage is how he wants it.  There’s no real give-and-take….

“And if he’d just give me an iota of consideration, I’d be more than happy to let the rest of my life revolve around him.  Something tells me, though, that he’s got the wrong idea of what it means to be the head of the household.”

“Hey,” Jackie said, “even Christian men often miss that.”

Once I get through gagging over making her life revolve around a man, I sputter again over the “even Christian men.”  What do you mean, “even”?  Are you suggesting that the 21st century American culture-at-large–probably at least a few decades from now–would still be forcing that outdated idea on wives?  This is 2013!

By the time the events of this book supposedly take place, marriages–if they still exist outside religious groups–will probably be even more egalitarian than they are now.  Rayford’s concept of the woman doing whatever he wants, should be long since dismissed as archaic.

The following pages try to make Christian marriage sound more equal than the concept that wives are subservient because God says so.  Basically, you submit to each other, the husband is responsible for his wife’s spiritual health, he should treat her right, etc. etc.

Which is a great improvement, and sounds like what I heard in Evangelical churches around 2000.  It isn’t about the husband getting his way all the time and deciding where to go, what to do, what to eat, etc. etc.  He’s supposed to honor her and listen to her concerns and input, not terrorize and abuse her.

However, the husband still gets to make the decision if they “come to loggerheads over some important issue.”  I’ve also seen in the post-Rapture books that even Chloe would get sassy but ultimately submit because she’s “supposed” to do what her husband says.

And saying my husband is responsible for my spiritual health, makes me sound like a child who can’t take care of my own spiritual health.  I can’t imagine letting my husband make spiritual decisions for me, or tell me what to do.

You’d think someone of Irene’s generation, would fight tooth and nail against any sort of control by her husband.  That even a housewife like Irene would insist on more to life than having it “revolve around” Rayford.

Cameron then goes to his mother’s funeral.  His sister-in-law, Sharon, cries through the whole thing–which would be understandable.  But we learn that it’s not for grief of her loss: Cameron’s mother was already a Christian, but not Sharon’s kind of Christian, not properly “saved.”

Sharon constantly badgered her to get “saved,” and got rebuffed again and again.  Cameron’s mother finally said enough is enough, and she’ll stick with what makes her comfortable.  To which Sharon “got into making sure ‘you’re not comfortable now but burning in hell later.'”

I’m not a bit surprised that they “barely spoke for more than six months.”  But then Cameron’s mother got cancer, and they were close again, “but there was no indication that Mrs. Williams had ever received Christ.”  So Sharon was now distraught for fear her mother-in-law was now “burning in hell.”

What?  But she was already a Christian, right?  Why would she be burning in hell?

On page 217, Irene refers to Rayford’s church (and her own, though she desperately wanted to switch to New Hope) as a “country club of a church.”  What kind of church is this anyway?

On page 218, Cameron is back at Princeton, “finding it hard to concentrate on finishing.”  This seems understandable at first, because his mother just died, his mommy, his first beloved–until we find it’s because he can hardly wait to start his new job.

What?  I can understand being excited for a new job, but dang it, his mother just died of cancer!

To be continued……