Sunday, September 09, 2007

Table Fellowship, The Fall and the Sins of Women

The One In Which The Blogger Marvels At Not Having Blogged For More Than A Month. But Doesn't Stop To Ask If Anyone Gives A Rat's.

It's been that sort of month. Like life'd (fortuitously skipping the bit featuring countless cups of mint tea and a gazillion brightly coloured silk knots) bundled you up onto a plush flying carpet and hurtled you through the dizzying sights, sounds and smells of a Marrakesh market, and mesmerized, you've ogled and sniffed and tasted to grand satiation, and now, finally, a clearing, a light breeze and a fresh patch of green, and the only thing to do now is to flop off onto the soft grass for a long long nap.


People jetting in and out of Singapore. A fortnight here, a weekend there. People in Singapore, well-met amongst the throng of 4.6 million (excluding GST and tourists). Well-met too, the accompanying alarmed afros and peevish pontianak hair that reduced us to weeping wrecks, galeforce gales of laughter.

Dozens of quick but good catch-ups over food:
Dinner at rented country kitchen
roasts in a rented country kitchen, wood cabinets with flower motifs on white porcelain handles;

Archangel, Great World City
sandwiches and soup at Archangel, where assumedly, Emmanuel Stroobant not Michael, sold gothic purplish-grey squid ink bread in rough woven baskets;

Ben & Jerry's, Great World City
excited signage at Ben & Jerry's, Great World City;

the marvellous potential of double cereal dispensers discussed at iwannagohome!;

Galbiati, Rail Mall
Galbiati at Rail Mall, decentish nuked nosh;

Prego's, Raffles City
Prego with friends of a friend of a friend's. On the restaurant catwalk: a fey waiter with a diamond-studded tennis bracelet and a Tiger Beer Woman who was a Caucasian underaged teen from the back but makeup-caked lian granny from the front;

Botak Jones, Clementi
Botak Jones, Clementi: melt-in-mouth tenderloin. Or perhaps it was just the hydrochloric acid, impatient from the 1 hour wait, that had worked its way up the oesophagus;

Akashi, Vivocity
Akashi at Vivocity not just once but twice in a week, fuelling the planning of ministry events;

Pitch Black, Haji Lane
Marie Antoinette at Pitch Black, a cine-cafe (even their lav's funky). Sofia Coppola's interpretation kicking Merchant-Ivory in their proper period teeth: American-drawling Kirsten Dunst as the ill-fated queen rocking it to The Cure and New Order in Martha Stewart Land; the entire movie a showcase for porn of the interior decor, costume, cake and macaron variety, with a hapless Mr. Bean Louis XVI thrown in for good measure. Oh the orgy of lavishness! the rose petals! the pink patisseries! the macaron towers (all from Ladurée apparently)! the free-flowing champagne! the tall feathers! the hats! the hair! the dresses! the undergarments! the shoes (including a lingering shot of a baby-blue Converse sneaker)! the jewellery! all of which conspired to beat The Devil Wears Prada to an Oscar;

Corduroy Candy, Vivocity
Corduroy Candy, all hot fuschia/blue, balloons, huge rainbow lollies, slabs of chocolate with pastel sprinkles, enough liquorice to have placated the Viking hordes and the sweet heady smell of hot candy floss and buttered popped corn. At the entrance, a candystore girl battled wisps of candy floss that had lovingly taken refuge in her right armpit.

Seafood, Newton Circus
random seafood at Newton Tourist-trap;

Starbucks in the storm
rare Starbucks caps while it stormed outside;

Jap-themed Cook-in!
Jap cook-in, fireworks and anime after, thanks to the lovely G;

Mimolette where the prawn salad, duck confit and cod (one, pretty bony) were decent and shook hands but the bread-and-butter pudding blew a raspberry and ran away;

Peaberry & Pretzel, Sunset Way
Peaberry & Pretzel at the variously-hyped Sunset Way. Amidst borscht and bread, sausages and sauerkraut, veal cutlet in creamy mushroom sauce, potato salad and rosti, chocolate sundae and warm chocolate cake, moonlight and palm trees, theological theories were soundboarded;

Shahi Maharani, Raffles City
friends so good to meet up with, we started with North Indian at Shahi Maharani then progressed to tea at Yakun and ended up at Ben & Jerry's pushing midnight. Invitations commands to be visited in Hong Kong were issued, where, I was assured, extremely dusty inflatable beds awaited my arrival.

Ben & Jerry's
Friends nervously checking their Blackberrys while bemoaning the blackhole of work. Friends who'd changed jobs, friends about to pop, friends still awed by the miracle of life, friends in love, friends searching for answers, friends thankful to be alive, friends to chat with into the early hours of consecutive mornings, friends just to slump about with and badger the flickering screen with inane comments, friends who've been kept by the power of God.

Red Velvet, Food For Thought
Some nights, there was bible study - wrestling with Hosea, calling Gomer "Homer", and plunging forks into the last slice of Red Velvet (not raisin) cake from Food For Thought just up the road; meeting with God through his word and carrying each other's burdens in prayer (and many times also cute smiley babies).

Raisin cake!!!
Some nights, there was actually raisin cake! :-o

Blacks Midnight 7s
There was grunting at bad shots at the pool-table, yelling "yours! yours!" at frisbee, and screaming "go! go! go!" at breakaway rugby forwards at the Blacks Midnight 7s.

WOMAD 2007
There was WOMAD, which would have been nice on its own but was really magnificent with a pair of complimentary tickets in someone's grubby little hands: cold beers and hot kebabs, smiles and nods all round, Youssou N'Dour hitting the spot with the crowd, dancing with strangers, making fast friends with neighbours, mass-singing both parts of 7 Seconds with beers held aloft.

Cupcakes from Paisley & Cream
The only alone-time: I started thinking (a terribly rare event) at Bras Basah one evening and found, some time later, that my legs'd accidentally walked all the way to Outram Park. No problemo. The fruitful trot back yielded a bag heavy with happy things: Silje Nergaard's Darkness Out Of Blue for the mother of a birthday boy who really deserved a present on account of her son's birthday, chocolate satin ribbon for presents, cupcakes (slightly squished) from Paisley & Cream for sharing at a Simpsons Movie outing (Spider Pig! Spider Pig!), Chinese desserts from Mei Heong Yuan for the parentals, and underpants (because, like socks, there can never be enough).

It seems we do nothing but eat and chat all day long. What would Jesus have done? Pretty much the same thing (though probably not the underpants bit since he had linen cloth in stock thanksverymuch). Table fellowship given biblical precedent by the Son of God. Jesus spent so much time at laden tables that the party-pooping Pharisees scorned him as a glutton and a drunk. Or maybe they were just sore at not being invited. In any case, all Jesus' table jaws must have been pretty edifying. Not quite so ours though. But thank God that, at the times when the conversations were less than encouraging, there were always folk at the other end of the table demanding that all unhelpful talk cease with immediate effect, or else...! even though you think you are in the right! Thanks mates. (Of course, waving a knife about is usually quite persuasive.)

One common yabber thread of the past month has been the distinct sins of the fairer sex.

Some times, we are too blinkered in our expectation of sin, hoodwinked by old chestnuts from pulpits implying that only men sin terribly. Hark my warning O weak men, wags the pastoral finger sternly, round every corner in Geylang is a pornographic magazine waiting to pounce on you after you've been stupified by the potent combination of frogleg porridge, beef horfun and durian. Oh, and girls, don't be naughty ok? Thinking that only men are unfaithful, or that only men struggle sexually, is being a bit like good old Queen Victoria, who is singularly responsible for the lopsided nature of the English legislation against homosexuality, having refused to believe that lesbianism was possible.
Details, August 2007
Popular men's magazines have flicked on the lights to the fact that women can demonstrate their sinful natures in as many creative ways as there are opportunities. The August 2007 issue of Details advises: wake up and smell the Acqua di Parma. The tired old paradigm of the buttoned-up father who comes home late with the secretary's Revlon on his collar is so yesterday. Women are committing infidelity. Women have always committed adultery: Guinevere cheated on King Arthur with Lancelot, and Catherine the Great (despite the auntie moustache) on Peter III with various lads.

And it isn't just about marital unfaithfulness or the tackiness of black lace, red satin and Hotel 81. It is about the poisonous stream from which flows the tributaries of a woman's sins. A stream somewhat different from that of a man's.

The source of this is not lack of adherence to the moral platitudes of Focus On The Family With Dr James Dobson nor the result of being outside of Amish paradise. It is the sin and rebellion of the first man and woman, and the sin and rebellion of all their descendants, against God. In all our sin and rebellion, we reject God and everything God has instituted, included our designated place in God's good creational order. In the beginning, there was man and woman side by side in the Garden of Eden in perfect harmony. They were equal in value but different in design: Adam was created first to lead, to work the garden, to have dominion over the rest of creation. Eve was created second as the only suitable helper for Adam, to help him in his task of ruling the world, of being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth and subduing it (Genesis 1:28).

The Fall, The Consequences
The harmonious partnership went to the dogs when the first couple decided to rebel against God's word and his good order (they being two sides of the same coin). Eve took the lead in disobeying God by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and Adam not only wordlessly acquiesced but with supreme nonchalant insouciance followed in her hell-bound wake.

The natural consequence of doubting God's word and upsetting the Creator-gifted balance in their relationship with each other was that it would forevermore (until Christ comes again) be broken. Goodbye openness and honesty. And God gave them over to the natural consequence of their sin, describing it to Eve (and hence to all womankind thereafter) as:
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you. (Genesis 3:16)
In a compilation of talks from the London Women's Convention 2006 a kind soul brought back to Singapore, Carrie Sandom opines that after the Fall, the "natural" tendency of women has been to control and manipulate, especially members of the opposite sex. Her desire for her husband is not a sexual desire but the same desire that sin crouching at his door had for Cain (Genesis 4:7): to overpower him, to rule over him. And not just her husband but all her dealings with other men and also women. (Then, perhaps, Nietzsche found inspiration in his mother and sister.)

Because females are generally physically weaker than males, their lust for domination plays out in several ways: in attempts at sexual allurement, in verbal harassment, in coquettish innuendo, in emotional blackmail, in acting cute (an exotic Asian speciality) etc.

Margaret Thatcher was an anomaly amongst women with her power suits, power perm and handbag-bashing, for which she was duly despised. Far too obvious and forthright. An embarrassment to her own sex. Most women are more subtle. It is the suggestion of cleavage, the turned heel and the flirtatious giggle; it is amidst the proffered plates of cookies and cake and cups of tea, above the clang of cutlery at the tummy-warming homecooked meal; it is behind the big teary eyes and soft hurt voices, together with the warm ego massages and flattery, that the real power is cunningly wielded.

You know the type, says Carrie (but it is still early days yet in our local church so perhaps we don't). Not the outspoken ex-feminist types in military fatigues. Nor the uncomfortably straightforward types in severe no-nonsense greys. But the pleasant, pastel, engaging, "nice" types who dole out the sweeties and the compliments by the platter. The types who wouldn't dream of speaking up at a public meeting but work tirelessly behind the scenes to undermine male leadership; the types who keep a spidery web of informants to up the ante of their intrigue and put the power play of ancient eunuchs to shame (eunuchs being male-ish afterall); the types who speak so warmly to the pastors or bible-study leaders but decimate their character behind their backs.

This is why, Carrie continues, the Bible specifically warns women against distinctive sins. In addition to dressing modestly (eg. 1 Timothy 2:9, which it is often viewed as a loving act to the brothers but also prevents manipulation by sensuality), there are prohibitions on gossiping (1 Timothy 5:13) and slandering (1 Timothy 3:11, Titus 2:3). Gossiping and slandering encompass far more than barefaced lying. Gossiping is linked to busybodying and saying things one ought not to (1 Timothy 5:13). Slandering is more than making false statements injurious to a person's reputation; it also includes the revealing of things meant to be kept secret (Proverbs 11:13, 20:19).

Gossip and slander do not always begin with a telltale "Guess what I heard?" or "Do you know?" whispered excitedly behind a perfumed fan. They may be couched in Christian terms, in caring tones, under cover of the maintenance of the health of the church body or a particular brother or sister in Christ, or even, a prayer request. Outright bitching might actually be far easier, dispensing with even the need for the masquerade of godly packaging. When seasoned with the just right amount of malicious wit and roasted on the flames of exaggeration and half-truths, it is always welcomed by friends and acquaintances as an evergreen classic in the area of home entertainment.

Though different in nature, gossip and slander are no less damning than adultery or murder. God takes the sins of the tongue seriously. Whoever slanders his neighbour secretly, says the Lord in Psalm 101:5, I will destroy. Even if the slanderer manages to hide his talk from his victim, there is not stopping God's ears.

Gossip and slander are not a sign of a victimised personal history nor are they to be excused on account of the perpetrator's varied insecurities, as if she had been an innocent clean blank slate onto which the horrors of childhood were daubed in thick dark paint. They come from the pit of evil within that person, a sign of the black condition of her heart (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:22, James 3). And they render her worthy of a death sentence (Romans 1).

So the spiritually reformed, the saved child of God, one who is no longer a slave to sin, is to put away all falsehood (including half-truths, Satan's speciality) and corrupting talk (Ephesians 4:25-32), the old self with all its lies, malice and slander (Colossians 3:5-10, 1 Peter 2:1). To continue to gossip and slander even after knowing God and knowing God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die could be a sign that God has given that person up to continue doing what ought not to be done (Romans 1:29-32) and so has judged her for destruction.

And not just her, but all who give approval to those who practice these things (Romans 1:32). If we are passive partakers in gossip and slander, perhaps flattered to be one of that person's inner circle of trusted friends to whom these juicy tidbits are whispered or maybe happy for a snort of recreational sin after a long work week, the eschatological future should not make for pleasant contemplation either.

(Do you think, I asked female friends, attempting to intercept their fork trajectory towards my chocolate pudding, this sounds too misogynistic? Too cynical?

If it's biblical, they said, fork trajectory unhindered, it is right. And truth, especially truth for salvation, pwns accusations of cynicism and misogyny any day.)

What the Bible advocates isn't locking women up and throwing away the key nor burning them like Salem witches. It highly recommends a return to the creational order within God's church (eg. 1 Corinthians 11) and a proper use of the tongue: older women, for example, are to teach and train younger women to live their lives in a God-fearing manner (Titus 2:3-4), and prophesying, encouraging from Scripture for the sake of building up the body.

#03-32/33 Great World City
1 Kim Seng Promenade
Tel: 6836 4424

Galbiati Gourmet Deli
400 Upper Bukit Timah Road
The Rail Mall

80 Bras Basah Rd
Singapore 189560
Tel: 6339 7777

Botak Jones, Clementi
Block 325 Clementi Ave 5 (Kopitiam)
#01- 129 Singapore 120325
Tel: 6774 1225

Akashi Japanese Restaurant
#B2-07-09 Vivocity

Pitch Black
63 Haji Lane
Singapore 189256
Tel: 6392 3457

Corduroy Candy
1 Harbourfront Walk
#01-107 Vivocity
Singapore 098585

55 Fairways Drive
Singapore 286846
Tel: 6467 7748

Peaberry & Pretzel
106 Clementi Street 12

Shahi Maharani
252, North Bridge Road,
# 03-21B Raffles City Shopping Centre
Tel: 6235 8840

Paisley & Cream Cafe
#01-09/10 The Central

Mei Heong Yuan
67 Temple Street


At October 10, 2007 6:06 pm , Anonymous clay said...

"Because females are generally physically weaker than males, their lust for domination plays out in several ways: in attempts at sexual allurement, in verbal harassment, in coquettish innuendo, in emotional blackmail, in acting cute (an exotic Asian speciality) etc."

Sorry i didn't get it :S
How do women get dominion over men by verbal harassment, coquettish innuendo, emotional blackmail?
Can u help enlighten me? :)


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