Month: August 2014

Beauty and Book Covers

Last week at work, I posted a nice little behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of some of our book covers, along with our lineup of fall books.

Photoshoot

One woman on Facebook shared it with her friends, which you’d think would be great.

Except this was the caption she put on it: ““If only I were as beautiful as the women on covers of Christian novels. Perfect skin. Perfect eye brows. Perfect shape. Beautiful clothes. What is the perfect outside of the women on the covers saying to the women who buy these books?”

Now, when something like this happens you can either A. ignore it or B. launch an ethical investigation.

(If you didn’t instantly know which option I chose, we need to be better friends. Because it matters, guys. What you believe about stuff—the whys and what ifs and rights and wrongs of daily life—they are significant.)

Is Bethany House doing a terrible thing by portraying attractive people on our covers? My instinct was “no,” but I wasn’t sure why. After all, the issue didn’t seem that different from Barbie dolls and fashion magazines that have chipped away at women’s sense of self-worth and beauty.

Recently, I was reading a book where, after citing an unofficial survey that found that only 10% of women on Christian book covers came close to being average, the author said, “Glaringly obvious is that Christian culture…has chosen to present some of the same values as secular culture with just a little alteration. For sure, youth and looks matter, at least by implication. And they seem at times to matter more than what is in the heart and soul.”

So, are Christian novel covers undoing all the hard work we do to teach young girls about inward beauty and such? (more…)

Scenes with the Pharisees

Today’s blog post weirdly came out as a script, and I decided not to stop it. It was inspired by a friend’s post on how Jesus is basically Admiral Ackbar and also my recent reading of Mark 12. Enjoy! (Bonus points if you read the Pharisees as speaking in British accents. For some reason, that’s what they did in my head.)

Pharisee

 

Cast

Jesus

Levi, Simon, and Micah—Pharisees

Addon and Hezekiah—Sadducees

Disciples and Various Crowd Members

(At rise, Pharisees and Sadducees are clumped together at right, in the midst of an intense conversation.)

Levi: All right, here’s one thing we can all agree on: this Jesus character needs to go. He’s nothing but trouble.

Addon: Absolutely. The man’s a raving lunatic!

Hezekiah: A firebrand heretic!

Simon: And about to be voted Mr. Galilee by the entire Jewish nation. (All glare at him.) Just pointing out that you’re taking a shot at the most popular figure in the country. That’s all.

Micah: He’s right, you know. A direct attack will never work. The people would hate us.

Levi: We’ll just have to trap him! Get him to say something that will make his so-called followers turn against him. (Suddenly grins.) And I have just the thing.

(All huddle in to whisper. Jesus enters left, followed by disciples and various crowd members.)

Levi: Here he comes! Places, everyone! (All of them split up and approach Jesus with extremely fake smiles.) Well, if it isn’t Jesus son of Joseph, the carpenter rabbi. Imagine running into you here!

Jesus (Not buying it): Yes…imagine that.

Levi: Teacher, we know you are honest.

Hezekiah: So honest!

Micah: And that you don’t care what anyone else thinks of you.

Hezekiah: Not a bit.

Addon: And that you aren’t swayed by appearances, but teach correct doctrine.

Hezekiah: Straight from the Torah, yes sir.

Levi: (Through gritted teeth) Okay, that’s enough, Hezekiah! (To Jesus) So, knowing all that about you, we have a question.

Jesus (Dryly): I can’t wait.

Simon: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar—the bloodthirsty pagan ruler—or should we break the law and risk starting a riot by not paying taxes?

(Jesus thinks for a minute as the Pharisees and Sadducees watch gleefully.)

Jesus: Anyone have a denarius on them?

Addon: I do! (Hesitates.)

Jesus (Sighing): I’ll give it back.

Addon (Sheepish): Ah, right. Of course. (Hands it over.) (more…)

The Nerdiest Quiz You May Ever Take

Contrary to popular belief, the “bad guys” of the Gospels did not wear capes, twirl their moustaches, and interrupt Jesus’ parables with sinister laughter.

Nor were they just generic anti-Jesus people who opposed him for no reason beyond the fact that, you know, someone had to put him on the cross and stuff. Understanding the culture of the New Testament helps a lot to give the stories in the Gospel the right context.

So, because my brain resembles what would happen if you put BuzzFeed in a blender with systematic theology, here’s a quiz to help you get to know four of the major Jewish groups around during Jesus’ day.

Pharisee

Which New Testament Era Political-Religious Group Would You Belong To?

Are you a woman?

Yes—Great, then in Jesus’ day, you would be a woman, and your theological/political views wouldn’t really matter. You are done with the quiz. (Kidding. I mean, not kidding in that women’s views didn’t matter in that time period, because they didn’t, but you can still take the quiz.)]

No—continue on with the quiz.

You are in a spaceship. There is a small room with one big red button marked, “Do Not Push.” What do you do?

  1. Lock the room and ask someone else to hide the key so you can’t even go in it. Problem solved.
  2. Only push the button in an emergency.
  3. If you don’t push the button right away (which you might), it at least torments you every time you look at it.
  4. You are not even tempted by the button. Who cares?

If there’s ever a situation where you don’t handle conflict well, it’s probably because you…

  1.  Think of yourself as slightly superior to the other person.
  2. Just want everyone to get along and try to cover over any disagreements.
  3. Get angry and lose your temper.
  4. Secretly know you’re never going to change your mind no matter what the other person says.

(more…)

Why We’re Terrible at Accepting Compliments

When I was little, I remember feeling really confused about parents and teachers saying, “I’m proud of you.” Because my little Christian-school-educated mind had picked up on the fact that pride was a sin. Like, a really bad sin. Satan’s favorite sin.

So how does that line up with gold stars and award ceremonies and talent shows and my A+ spelling test on the refrigerator?

compliment

This question came up again because this weekend I posted on Facebook about a contest I won…but I almost didn’t. When I asked myself why, I came up with a few reasons, and none of them were good. Like many Christians, I often fall into the trap of thinking a compliment is a bomb—that I have to run from it, defuse it or, worse, throw it back.

“Oh, no, it’s not really that great.” “Thanks, but I wish I could have done better.” “Um…uh…” [blushes and changes the subject to the weather].

Why do we do this? Three reasons, I think. (more…)