The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Archive for December, 2008

What is a Christian?

Put two theologians at the dinner table, night after night for seventeen years, and you may find that they sometimes actually talk theology. They also talk about child welfare, writing, kids, and, lately, how cute and lovable the dog is.  Tonight, however, it was theology. Why? Because we have two feet of snow, the kid has our chains, and our cable TV is out. But we do have internet which allows us to stay in contact with friends and family, and provides us with ways to amuse ourselves.

Jenny brought the subject up. She posits that some atheists are trying to control the rest of us by demanding that all holiday displays on public property be forbidden. I, being always the contrarian, pointed out that Muslims, the largest growing religious demographic in the US, just had a religious celebration and bet that she couldn’t name it. I won. I knew I would. She then started to discuss the practice of female circumcision. After I uncrossed my legs and wiped the ouch off my face, I pointed out that female circumcision is not a tenet of Islam and that there are probably Christians in some parts of the world that practice female circumcision. Old habits die hard. I should have brought up the subject of male circumcision as well, since it is a Jewish and Christian practice that hurts none the less because it’s victims are newborns. I’ve long believed that it is a practice partly responsible for the emotional stunting of males. And I was glad I had daughters because my then-husband and I disagreed on circumcision, he being for it, I being against.

Then Jenny dropped her bomb: What is a Christian?

Of course, as a post-Christian Christian who take Jesus way too seriously to be a Christian in a society that has bastardized his message and cheapened his revolutionary commensality and radical inclusivity, I was stunned to silence. Since there are those who would call me Christian (mostly non-Christians) and those who would call  me non-Christian (mostly Christians), I had no good answer.

But, after much reflection, I have an example of what a Christian is although the person I am about to tell you about is more a Christian like me. That is, a former Christian who still follows the path but has left the dogma behind. She does not attend church, having finally given up on the institution.

Our friend works for the county, or maybe it’s the city, doing something with prisoners.  We currently are in the midst of the worst winter storm in 40 years, Portland is frozen under feet of snow and ice, and the city, or maybe it’s the county, is closed. As in not working.  As in everyone stay home and off the roads.  But our friend gets up at 5 am and walks four miles to her (closed) office in the snow and ice. Once there she starts calling around to find out who is being released and what they need.  She arranges for shelter vouchers, warm clothes (they are released in sweatsuits), other necessities. She knows that prisoners will be released come hell or high water and that they will need things she can provide. After about four hours of this (her office is, after all, closed) she walks the four miles back home.  She has done this every work day since the storm hit. (I think we are on day six? seven? maybe longer as our garbage was not picked up last Monday or this Monday due to road conditions.)

Now, I ask you, is she a Christian? I’d have to say yes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say she is a saint. Not in the capital-S sense, but in the small-s sense. Which is the sense all followers of Jesus of Nazareth, be they “Christians” or not, are called to follow.

Others may argue with me. She does not go to church, belongs to no Christian community that I am aware of, I’m not sure she’d even claim to be a Christian anymore. But she follows the teachings of one of the greatest teachers ever known in ways most of us would never even think of.  I’d have to say yes, she is a Christian. Even if she isn’t.

Things I've Learned Recently

  • The difference between the temperature and the dew point.
  • How to use Facebook
  • It’s ALWAYS scary to see your kid thrown up in the air by football players
  • I love snow but I’m getting bored being stuck at home without a car
  • Publishers are even crazier than I thought
  • Unitarians take snow days and close the church
  • Contrary to public opinion, the roof will not fall in if I attend an Episcopal church
  • Nor will the priest pass out from shock
  • Or even make a funny face upon seeing me


Today, for the first time in about a zillion years, I actually made something other than tacos. And I did it all day. First thing in the morning, the Divine Miss M asked for pancakes. Last night she fell asleep in the recliner watching TV with me and she looked so young…like maybe three…so this morning I made her pancakes. I am terrible at pancakes. Something in them fights me every step of the way. But, for the DMM, I made them.

Immediately after the pancakes, I made Almond Crescent dough and Pecan Tassie dough. These are two cookies my mother used to make and I have to make them too. Funny how those traditions work. She’s been dead for eight years but the cookies go on.

Then the DMM (aka Meg….who was Meg until she was five and decided she wanted to be Maggie and now has decided that Meg is a better name for a college student) cleaned the kitchen again (i’d already cleaned it once) and we made Almond Roca. Just because we could.  She also made the dough for Cream Wafers, my traditional Christmas cookie. (Caitlin, the mid kid, called yesterday to get the recipe…..another old family tradition….losing recipes.)

I tried to work while Meg made Almond Crescents and then I started to make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup (at Meg’s request) until I got distracted by the weather channel and the possibility that Meg was going to drive my car 30 miles in the snow. Meg finished making lunch. I finished worrying (after having Jenny debrief me about why I am so worried about Meg when Caitlin drove in the snow all the time…of course, Caitlin went to college 240 miles away so I didn’t know.

I made Meg leave before dark, and I made her call me when she got there, and then I made mole. Which is Reeses Peanut Butter cups with jalapeno peppers and turkey. I am actually wearing the mole because it never comes out of the jar cleanly. I don’t know what that is about but it is true.

Anyway, I’m all cooked out and Letterman is on.

Tomorrow I may wax philosophical.

First Things First

I just want to state, for those of you who care, that it’s only been 11 days between posts this time. I’m getting better.

Weird News

Time magazine arrived today. I prefer Newsweek but for some reason we get Time. Today it was worth it.  First, there was the article early in the magazine about how shrink-types have discovered that 50% of college students have psychiatric problems. This led to a discussion, at our local Scottish pub over steak and mushroom pie, about college students we have known and their various psychiatric problems. I was a college student with psychiatric problems, not the least of which was a roommate who was a psychology major and once diagnosed me, while taking an abnormal psych class, with “manic-depressive manic-depression.” Whatever that is. I was, to quote a psychiatrist friend of mine, JPN. (That’s Just Plain Nuts for you non-shrink types, and she swears she puts it in the charts of folks she can’t otherwise diagnose. Sort of like FLK – pediatrician talk for Funny Looking Kid. One of my kids was an FLK as an infant, but she turned out okay.)

Anyway, later on in Time magazine, and still at the Scottish pub although before the whiskey-laced cheesecake, was an article on a recent high school graduate who has changed her name to Cutout Yes, you read that right. is her last name. Now,  I thought it was a burden having a hyphenated last name. I once had this conversation with someone who needed my last name:

Me: It’s Landis-Steward [I actually said Landis hyphen Steward]

Idiot: How do you spell hyphen?

Me: No, it’s a hyphenated last name, like, you know, a dash.

Idiot: Dash? I thought you said it was hyphen.

You get the idea. But .com as part of your name? This young woman is writing college essays about why she changed her name to something insane. All I can say is Time missed a great layout opportunity!

But, here are the truly important thoughts on this:

No one should be allowed to:

a) change their name to something stupid

b) get a tattoo in any place that shows

c) pierce anything except ears and belly buttons

Until they a) turn 40 or b) prove they can become gainfully employed and stay that way.  Nuff said.

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