Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lessons from cultural interchange

I just came back from the 2011 Sigma Tau Delta Convention in Pittsburgh.  This explains why I haven't blogged or read many blogs since then.  In my absence, I won the weekly contest for posting Tyler Tarver's stupid video of the week and watched my post "Change" become my most popular post with -- wait for it -- TWELVE pageviews. Additionally, special thanks to Clay Morgan for some suggestions on where to visit; unfortunately I didn't have a chance to do any of them.

What I did have time for was to attend a panel put on by the students from American University of Kuwait on Arabic poetry.  This was stuff I never heard before.  Interesting stuff.  Of course, I only got a taste while I was there, so I'd have to read/hear more before I could make any more value judgment.  After the final session featuring Dave Eggers, I got to talk to one of the students briefly before I got a text saying we were about to leave the hotel, beginning our 18-hour drive from Pittsburgh to Hammond.

Since Coushatta, Louisiana, has no Muslim population (shocking, right?), I haven't grown up around the Arabic culture.  I long ago learned that Muslim women tend not to speak to men to whom they are not related, so just having the conversation was an honor.  She didn't shake my hand, but I half expected that anyway.

So this woman -- I can't call her a chick, which should come as a surprise for those who know me well -- was covered head to toe except for her face and hands.  We were able to hold an intelligent conversation without me being distracted by her body.  It was actually kinda nice.  The thought came to mind that it's the complete opposite of a "butterface."  In other words, whereas butterface usually means "Everything looked good but her face," in this case, the face was all you got to see; the rest was left up to your imagination.  I have to say, most Muslim women I have seen have become very creative with their dress, making garments that are unique and attractive to the eye while maintaining their modesty.

I wish I could get half of their understanding of modesty into the minds of the average Christian female.  While most Christians recognize the veiling of the body as a cultural imposition, they tend to believe the answer is going to the far extreme.  These women like to tout their "liberty" (and resistance to male dominance) by wearing as little as possible, completely ignoring the fact that men might be distracted by their appearance.  When confronted with the possibility of leading their own Christian brethren into sin, they point to oppression as the reason they should be allowed to wear whatever they please.

In the end, I came to appreciate the conversation we were able to have while it lasted.  Not being a Christian, she already hits one of my more obvious deal breakers, but it reminded me of a few things:

1) I'm not crazy for expecting a Christian woman to be modest.  If a woman who doesn't know Jesus can respect the standards set down for her life, certainly a woman of God can do the same.
2) I'm not crazy for expecting my wife to be someone I enjoy talking to.  I like to talk about many things.  If we can't even talk, how am I supposed to have a relationship with you?

That may be all I have. Ah well.

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, Life goes on, brah!
Lalalala life goes on!


  1. Nice thoughts on modesty!

    Some of us try... I promise!

  2. I agree that modesty is something that unfortunately few Christian women under a certain age have a grasp of these days, despite the countless books and seminars held on the subject.

    I don't want to excuse the behavior, but I know personally many Christian girls who fudge the modesty rules, unconsciously (or consciously) soliciting attention from the opposite sex. Every single one of them has "daddy issues". It's not an excuse. But it is a problem. One that I hope this generation of Christian men will acknowledge in their wives, sisters, and friends, and strive to make the difference in their daughters lives.

    As a funny sidenote: When I went to post a link to my current blog post on Facebook, for some reason Facebook didn't synopsis my post. It shows your comment. Making it appear as though my post begins with the words "Dag, yo." Brilliant. I laughed out loud. And I can't get it to NOT do this. So, if your blog gets a little more traffic than usual today, you know why.