Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I've Been Outed!

For a couple of years, I have been in a book club with women at the university where I work. It is a wonderful, eclectic group of ladies from academia, advising, student affairs, etc. with an age spread from late 20s to retirement. We are very laid back and meet every 4-6 weeks, covering a wide variety of books from contemporary fiction to classics and young adult fiction to biographies.

The fact that I am married to a pastor has never come up. I don't hide it, ever, but there has never been a reason to discuss what my husband does for a living. The book club knows me simply as Pam...or the chick from the south...or the one who loves Jane Austen...the professor in Communicative Disorders...or the woman who thought we should all go to the movie and see The Words. They don't know me as Pam, pastor's wife. However, last time we met, I was outed and now things are somewhat changed.

I have previously posted about how people sometimes act differently once they know that I am married to a pastor. Like I have super special access to God or I am extra holy or I'm judging everything they do and say with my special Holy Ghost Radar. Ummm...no! I can be as selfish, petulant, condescending, irreverent, obnoxious, and petty as the next person. We're all in this together. What it does mean is that I try my best to follow a radical Jesus who loved the unlovable, pushed the status quo, and believed in social justice. And...I am married to a man who does the same and "professionally" encourages, teaches, and "disciples" (if you wanna get into religiousese) others to do so as well.

So the last time we met, my book club discussed The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University by Kevin Roose. (Side-note: This should be required reading for all college students, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, agnostic, purple-people eater, doesn't matter. It's an excellent book and deserves a forthcoming blog post all of its own). At any rate, since the book is so much about the Christian faith and the stereotypes, fundamentalism, and subculture that go with it, it was natural that I should bring up the fact that I am a practicing, growing Christian and am, in fact, married to a pastor. Everyone took the news very well :-) and I was relieved that I could tell that they weren't re-scanning through every previous conversation to see if they had ever said anything that I could have taken offense at. Whew! We had a great discussion about the book, faith, how to talk about faith, etc.

So today the book club met again. Since we selected a book during Banned Book Week, we decided to read a "challenged" young adult book and settled on One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones. The book was challenged, in Fond du Lac, WI no less, due to “sexual content was too mature for eleven- to fourteen-year-olds.”

It was a great read that I personally didn't feel was at all too sexually mature for the target age group. The 15 yr old protagonist talks about making out with her boyfriend and maybe letting him get to second base. If you think that teenage girls aren't thinking and talking about such things...then you are in deep, deep denial. At any rate, that is very much an aside to the story anyway. It's a lovely and beautifully written tale of a teenage girl who moves from the east coast to the west to live with a father she has never known after her mother dies. It is funny, touching, and very real. I kept imaging my 13 or 14 year old self reading it and I know I would have adored it then and I did so now as well.

At any rate, that's neither here nor there in relation to the real topic of this post. Now that I've been "outed" as a pastor's wife, others tend to perceive me as an uber-Christian. (Well, maybe those who don't know me intimately-hah! My closest friends and family know the real truth). I was about 20 minutes late getting to our meeting today because of my class, but when I arrived, before I barely had time to sit down, one of the women asked me, "So, with your faith, how do you feel about banned books?" I don't think anyone else was asked that question, unless it happened before I got there. I wasn't offended at all and was happy to talk about how my faith does affect what I read, how it read it, and what I do with what I read. However, the fact that I got this question and no one else did, indicates the slight shift in perception.

And maybe they were shocked by my answer. I LOVE banned books and I try to read a few every year. (Unfortunately, I forgot to wear my "I Read Banned Books" bracelet today.) I was then asked a follow-up question about how I feel if people are offended by the fact that I read banned books and am so open about it. My answer? I don't care. It would be a lie to say that I don't care what others think of me. I'm human and I do care. Also, I don't want to intentionally be offensive. It's just that I honestly don't care if someone thinks less of me because I have read and enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, Brave New World, The Color Purple, and Huckleberry Finn. If you disagree with me, you have actually read the book, and you want to engage in a civil discussion, I'm all in. If you just want to pass judgment because James Dobson, the American Family Association, or Unplugged said it was a "bad" book and you haven't read the book or explored it any further, then I don't care what you think of me.

Next on my list...a re-reading of banned book The Great Gatsby.