The invitation

I’ve always loved the Venice Boardwalk first thing in the morning before the fog has burnt off when it’s just locals milling about—those with and those without homes—and shopkeepers prepping for the day. On this morning, I can almost imagine what it would have been like in the 50s and 60s when this was something of a Jewish main street with the occasional Gidget in a sea of black fedoras.

Today, I’m dressed like a throwback to an earlier time when bathing beauties came to the beach completely covered. I’m wearing a dress with opaque black tights under and a blazer over. I approach the synagogue, a simple stucco building that doesn’t even attempt to take in its unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. I read on the website that once inside the first door, I’d encounter a second set of doors. I’m relieved I remember that the entrance for women is on the left because I feel awkward enough as a visitor without having to be escorted out of the men’s section. I’m the first person to arrive on the lady’s side and, as I take a seat, the men begin to chant prayers in Hebrew. I catch glimpses of them through a thin strip of lattice that runs across the top of the room divider.

A few minutes into the service, everything comes to a screeching halt. The men stop praying. A woman has taken the seat next to mine. When she sees me looking around, confused, she whispers, “They’re waiting for the minyan.” Almost no prayer in the Jewish prayer book is recited from the first person. They are generally offered from the perspective of “we.” Among the orthodox, only men count toward the minimum of ten worshippers needed for a valid “we.” This morning, the male congregants are slow in arriving.

As the minutes tick by, I feel a little like I’m dangling on a frozen Ferris wheel. Luckily, I’m not alone. The woman next to me is also here for the first time, though she is an actual Jew. Her grown children live in Los Angeles and whenever she visits, she likes to worship with different congregations. “My kids call me a ‘synagogue slut’,” she says. I snort my approval. We have such a good time swapping stories of religious tourism that I’m a little disappointed when the Ferris wheel cranks back to life after 15 minutes or so.

At the end of the service, the congregation gathers together on a back patio for the prayers over wine and bread. A table is spread with snacks of the dairy persuasion; I sample the banana pudding and soft cheeses. A woman in a red dress and gold sun hat sits perched on a low wall like some exotic, radiant bird. I smile at her. “Are you coming to my house for lunch?” she asks. She seems to be looking at me when she speaks and I think she must have me mixed up with someone else. The people I’ve met these past weeks have been friendly and welcoming, but no one has invited me to come home with them. Maybe she forgot her glasses?

“Do you have lunch plans?” she asks looking directly at me. She stands and I’m surprised at how tall she is. The hat puts her well over six feet.

“I…I…” I don’t know what to say. I hadn’t planned on lunch, especially in an orthodox home whose customs I understood only vaguely.


Dearest miners,

I was interviewed recently for a website called the Two Cities, which is a Christian-based site about culture and theology. Started by a group of students who met at a Christian liberal arts college, they seem to take an approach that includes humor and openness to meaningful discussion. I appreciate their desire to talk to the likes of me.

Here is a very brief snippet of the podcast conversation I had with writer Justin Campbell about the One None Gets Some project: The full conversation will be posted at the end of the week and I will link to it for anyone who is interested.

With much respect, Corinna

54 thoughts on “The invitation

  1. hee hee….Such fun for you; sitting next to a Jewish lady who was amenable to good conversation. Seems you knew what to expect and so did she. How do you think this helped your “search”? And, yes, of course, I want to hear the whole podcast.

    • Hi Frank, You know it’s funny because the more orthodox places I went to–the ones where I was really nervous about not fitting in and being a total weirdo–actually ended up providing some of the most profound and hilarious connections for me. It might be some sort of cosmic rule or joke that the more out of your comfort zone, the more lessons you get. Also, I loved meeting another “tourist” along the way (especially one who had such a good sense of humor) and she and I have actually stayed in contact.

  2. Corinna, Thank you for giving us the head’s up that you will be talking about “One None Gets Some” on another website. It made me laugh at myself that I was so startled that all this time that the ‘miners’ have been moving along together….some of us for many months….that there are others who are listening in on our conversations. I can only speak for myself, but I feel quite a kinship with the others who have been sharing stories and ideas and religious traditions and spiritual journeys….etc. What we have built together as a result of YOUR desire to find life’s essential meanings has become a much greater experience than just examining your journey……and I don’t quite know what to say about that, but that I am surely not the same person as I was before I met all of you. I have been on my own journey throughout these months……I hope that others might say the same thing. So I guess I am feeling a bit proprietary…..which is a strange and humorous place to be! I cannot even guess what other people make of our dialogue…..but I hope that they find it worthwhile! I’ll be listening to the podcast, too!

    And I do hope you went to lunch with the lady in the red dress!!

    • I could not agree more, Merrill! Its been a real privilege to share thoughts and opinions with everyone here, in an atmosphere where I don’t have to worry about being vilified for stating what I believe, nor do I feel a need to preach to others, who can articulate themselves quite well! But Corinna, you gotta tell the announcer to knock back a cup of coffee before he goes on the air! He’s a little too laid back–I almost passed out at my desk listening to him!

      Yes, corporatewife, I think you’re right–its is about control. I think that’s one of the ways many religions go past what their founders intended, whether its about gender, sexuality, or sex itself. In Galatians, Paul tells there is neither male nor female in Heaven, yet we try to enforce distictions here on earth. I’ve no intention of disparaging someone else’s faith traditions; if it works for them, so be it. But I can’t help but be suspicious of the rules when they don’t seem to be consistent with supporting the inherent dignity we as humans deserve.

      • Hi Tim, Could be that he just sounds calm and cool compared to me. I always sound like such a spazz when recorded! I swear the voice in my head is very mellow but then I open my mouth and it’s like I’ve had 20 cups of coffee. I must be very passionate about this topic!

    • Merrill, I’m so glad that this journey has been good for more than just me…that makes my heart feel full. I think the conversations we have are also being read by many people who might feel more shy about commenting, or maybe they are just working out what they think and don’t feel compelled to chime in, so I’m really glad for all our “silent partners” too.

    • I totally agree, Merrill. I have learned so much from everyone who writes and we do have something going. The respect is so great, and the ability to express our opinions when we know they diverge from one another and yet we are able to share them. Thanks for saying what you have said here. Hope you have a blessed week!

  3. I think Janice is not going to like that whole minyan thing!!! It’s interesting how the more orthodox, fundamentalist, conservative, whatever ~~ a religion is, the more repressive it is about women. One reason that occurs to me is CONTROL. Some men want to exert it so badly that they make whole religions out of it. But it seems to me that those men are the ones most full of fear, fear of their own true selves most of all.

    I am really looking forward to hearing about this lunch with the lady in the red dress. AND to the podcast! How DO you deal with comment trolls, Corinna!?

    • Hi Shelley, Yes, being female gets a little tricky in the more traditional/orthodox circles–regardless of which religion. But, in some ways, it’s actually easier to be female in terms of having to show up to synagogue and participate in the official prayers because it’s not required like it is for men. More on this topic and more to come on my lunch with my new orthodox friends!

    • I think it has to do with reading the Scripture in a more literalist way. There’s a much more broad way to read it. Actually Jesus was extremely liberal — and liberating toward women. He treated them as equals.

      I was surprised at Tim’s interpretation of Galatians as meaning that there are no males and females in heaven. I have always seen it as there are no dividing walls in God’s eyes between male and female, Jew and Greek (cultures), slave and free — here and now, not just in the hereafter; for God has broken down all those dividing walls through Christ, whom all believers live in and are thus “one” in Him.

      • Matthew 22:30
        “”For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
        – New American Standard Version (1995)

  4. sigh… im always late to the party…! Corinna – I LOVED hearing your voice – now i can “hear” you as i read your words!

    Frank – loved the poem on the other comments 🙂

    Merrill – YAY!

    Home within – Now, as far as this separation group thang’ due to gender-

    You know, I have been in circles where the bar is not set as high for women in regards to religious ritualistic doctrine…but in a way, I didnt find it liberating, I felt left out. As in, the men are going on a spiritualistic journey, and im suppose to be what? the cheerleader? I DONT HAVE FEMININE SPIRITUAL POM POMS > IM DOOMED!!! and then I look around, and the women are trying to be like cheerleaders somewhat in their encouragement and submitted silence and/or response…and I DONT HAVE FEMININE SPIRITUAL POM POMS> IM DOOMED!!!! AS much as I wanted to encourage those around me both male and female when it came to worship or prayer or preaching/teaching, unfortunately in those kind of gender discrimination settings it was like I had become the dog under the table, separated even further, waiting for the crumbs to fall….it was hard to “fall into line” just because of my gender – dont get me wrong, i can encourage, but I could not make myself get excited that I and others were being left out just because we had a uterus (well, some of us, mines in a incinerator somewhere). Submitting not out of respect but because they expect you to because you are a female and YOU MUST if you do not want to be marked as a sinner (OUTCAST! ALONE! SINNER! FREAK!) – its kind of like a very toned down version of Lord of the Flies situation for me lol..I must fall into place there otherwise I will be in danger myself. ugh – such an ugly thing to have to do…its like you have to go into ambassador/anthropologist/journalist mode in order to stay.

    I dont know if its because my life experience as given me the opportunity to have equal status with both genders on many fronts, but walking into a situation where I am expected to sit somewhere and do something due to my gender only, and what their traditional beliefs that my gender supposedly is good at, well, lets just say i was not only good at birthing two babies and having a soft spot for chocolate, I can also care for groups of people by negotiating multi-million contracts on their behalf successfully too… along with promoting laws to benefit the disadvantaged. And now I am being told that God says Im unqualified to pray out loud to him with men? *sits down, crosses legs and give the “stare”* no. I dont think so – i dont need to put myself in that position – its dangerous mentally, and spiritually.

    • C’mon, Janice–tell us how you really feel! 🙂

      Maybe its because of my background, but this whole male/female religious dichotomy never made much sense to me. My parents were married during WW II, and while my Dad was overseas, my mother went to work–she had my oldest sister to support. She told me once, she was, to the best of her knowledge, the first woman to work in front of the counter at a hardware store in L.A. (who knows if that’s true, but it just sounds so cool!). She continued working right on through two more kids and retirement, in a time when a lot of women took “lady-like” jobs and politely stepped down when it was time to have kids. My wife and I have always been equal partners in crime as well. On paper, we make about the same, but since I work in the public service, I don’t get the big bonuses she does, so she actually makes more than me most years. And I’m only too happy to spend her money (hee hee).

      What was proper 2,000 or 200 years ago doesn’t mean it has to work now. While not condoning it, the NT certainly recognized slavery, yet no good Christian could possibly support something so repugnant now. It may be true that the NT authors were products of their time and their writings reflected a male-dominated society, but the Bible still celebrates some very strong women, like Mary Magdalene and Esther. And lets not forget the male disciples were scandalized when Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman as an equal ( a female and a Samaritan no less) and traded quips with the Canaanite woman about who could be saved.

      Since I don’t read the Bible literally, but as a series of stories, poems, songs, and lessons on we should live our lives, I believe it is proper to adapt its teachings to our times. It was never meant to be a static book. So if, over time, God has given us the ability to advance the way we think about relations between the sexes the same way we’ve made progress on race relations (most of us, anyway), then we have cause to celebrate rather than fear the changes.

      Having said all that, bear in mind as I’ve said before, one of my sisters-in-law is a cloistered Roman Catholic nun who has willingly adopted the lifestyle expected of her order, and the role women play in that church. She did so willingly more than 30 years ago and continues to do joyfully. And I must say, despite choosing a different denomination, I have immense respect for her vocation. That does not mean I agree with much of what she represents, but I also realize respect is a two-way street.

      When it comes down to it, I think anything done in the name of God or any other deity that denigrates or pushes an entire class of people into second-class status is not His will for our times. While I can respect others’ choices, I don’t have to agree with them.

      • what makes me sad – is finding out there was so much more written out there, but because it was considered unnecessary/ paganish/blasphemy/female/against a certain propaganda of the time – they were destroyed.. or hidden – we can always hope!

        look, I wrote just one long winded sentence instead of a novel! ;p

    • Janice, I hear you (okay, I read you). I consider myself a feminist…or maybe more of a post-feminism feminist (I minored in Women’s Studies at Berkeley for crying out loud) in that I try to go through my life in a way that pays little attention to my gender. But there are those times when I become acutely aware of my gender. I’ve experienced those moments in the workplace and, now, at times in this journey. I suppose there is a biological difference between men and women but my brain and my heart tells me I’m just a person, a being like all the others. In some ways, religion has gotten me in touch with that more but some of the practices in religion keep reminding me of my gender.

      • Minor In Women’s studies, at Berkeley no less? Then yes, you do understand where my frustrations are rooted! I think I understand what you are trying to achieve here using this type of forum – isnt it somewhat the basis that humankind really is always searching for “that” answer to this question – “why are we here?” and that you, being a ” statistically classified” None are trying to understand, and maybe be able to relate to either a singularly or different formats of Religion based on a God/Gods centered universe? And then you write this wonderful series relaying this 🙂 ?

        I do understand that as a journalist you have to be Sweden…But heres one issue – and I really am looking forward to how you address this sometime –

        While we “mine”, we are visitors – everyone (usually) is on their best behavior, just as you would be if a guest in the home, male or female – so they politely accept/tolerate us, and we politely adhere to their way, maybe not agreeing,but since we arent committed, weve have an “out” so to speak. But unfortunately for the female gender, when we desire to go beyond mining to join or commit to their religion/church/synagogue/mosque/doctrines – whether being born into it, not fully understanding a complicated system, knowing but figure we can work around it, or being hidden from certain belief/doctrines until we commit -, we are prevented from participating in certain ministries/prayers/actions due to our female gender with the basis solely on their firm belief that God does not permit/want/love this. Yikes. Humans desire human companionship, and when it deals with spirituality, how much more so, and to do good works together…only to be turned away due to one female matter how good the worship, people, reputation etc., its a struggle, and I understand why there are many nones out there…

        I can respect cultures of different countries, because I already am part of a culture myself – theres that connection of Maslov’s theory going on there no matter what the world’s doing – but its when Religion and Cultures get muddied up to the point of a Caste system that I quietly (maybe) get a little puffy…like a lion fish, actually ;p and I must be careful I dont put myself or my family in danger, spiritually or likewise. So its be Sweden, walk away, or say something. No wonder I live out in the middle of no where with cows.

        I do so appreciate you taking the time out to follow up on our comments – you have given me, and im sure countless others insight to how you are processing this, and convey it in such a way that we can “be there” with you….and in that process, teach us something new, or stretch us, or make us think about it with a different perspective…thats a gift, you know 😉

        • Janice, I think you characterize what I’m hoping to do very well. My ultimate goal seems to be evolving a bit as I go, but my hope is to find what’s beautiful and necessary in all these faiths. I think Nones, feminists, scientists, etc. have a tendency to dismiss religion because of this or that detail or what we might perceive as a flaw in thinking or logic. I wanted to march in anyway and not get too distracted by the window dressing. I might not be able to stay forever because I can’t live with that particular window dressing, but that’s okay. I think I’ll live a better life and be a better person for what I learned in each of these places and in some way I hope to recognize some of the practices in my own way.

          • Corinna–

            I think you described your quest beautifully. Last year, we switched churches, although not denominations, due to some poor leadership decisions at our old church. Before switching, we sought the counsel of our new church’s rector. After we described our journey from Roman Catholicism to Anglo-Catholic Episcopal then, potentially, to more moderate Episcopal, she used almost your exact words in response. As you grow and change, so does your faith. What and how we believe changes over time, as we seek a deeper understandings of God’s role for us in this world. There’s a huge difference between this kind of maturing journey and the growing trend of “church shopping”, of which I think Saddleback is the ultimate example. If you find your current church’s message a little too challenging, just pick up and move to the next one down the street. I have a friend who occasionally attends Saddleback, because she feels she “should” attend church sometimes, and she finds Saddleback convenient, both in terms of location and its easy to digest message.

            Of all human social institutions, religious denominations seem to be unique because they demand a much higher degree of loyalty than most. You can be a Republican or a Democrat but not agree with everything in your party’s platforms. But, at least with some denominations, you either swallow the whole package or you’re invited out. I don’t think that’s what Jesus or God the Father intended for us; those are human requirements. I think He expects us to seek Him in the best way that works for us. If that happens to be a traditional denomination, great. But if it’s as a None, I think He’s okay with that as well. I think He does expect each of us to commit to the journey in one form or another, but He’s not much concerned with the mode of transportation.

  5. Corinna, eagerly looking forward to the entire podcast!! One of the most meaningful parts of this whole gig is that, as I was listening to you on the podcast, I was thinking, “Hey, I KNOW this person!” None of us like our voices when we hear them a recorded….”that just CAN’T be moi”….But we’ve been listening to the voice of your heart, so the phonological thing ain’t no big thing to us!! 🙂

  6. Hmmmm. I don’t know how much of the above was tongue in check…..can’t see the twinkle in an eye on these computers!…..but I see our relationship with Corinna more as that of symbionts. We exist can exist separately, I suppose, but the magic comes when Corinna’s blog posts are braided together with the myriad of replies from the readers. In this scenario, we are more equals. We derive mutual benefits from our relationships….as in symbiosis. MET

        • Oh, pooh! Those typos! But really, twinkles are so ephemeral, are they not? Perhaps sometimes we do seek something with more permanency… a twinkie, which can last for decades! However, I cannot imagine the discomfort! MET

        • Now I am feeling crazy…..The typo WAS as Tim prodded, although I didn’t catch that one! I was responding to Janice’s comments about twinkies and twinkles, where I just thought there was a typo! Perhaps, I am too exhausted to make sense Retired people should be wary of going back to work, even part time as I have been doing for the past three weeks. But, Walt, perhaps my unintended typo might have also have been full of wisdom; keeping one’s “tongue in check” can help a person avoid all kinds of problems…….especially when a person has the propensity to say whatever it is that comes to mind!! Let’s hope that there are no unintended messages this time around. It is all Tim’s fault, anyway. He is the typo guy! MET

          • I have been called the female version of Yogi Berra before, Merrill 😉 The odd thing is, most times the typo/verbal error fits ! LOL

    • Totally agree – you are spot on. I may not be able to comment often, but when i do get the chance, I feel better by doing so – interacting with you and others has been positive in my life 🙂

    • ” So here I stand in limbo, still trying to live out the Gospel, whatever gospel that may be. Caught among radical faiths, I’m searching for a truth that leaves room for me to breathe. And I like to believe—I have faith—that it’s somewhere to be found.” – Marie Helmy

      I do appreciate her sharing in such a way that captures not only her generation, but many generations – we all have *that* desire, no matter the gender identity.

      This ties in well, with your reply to me above, Corinna – but you have gone one step even further then Helmy, by being an explorer of sorts, and documenting your “trip” for us. Did we thank you yet 🙂 Thank you once again!

  7. I love that line: “Searching for a truth that leaves room to breathe.” That is what I try to be about……and sometimes that is about dismissing religion….but not being dismissive of those who want to travel another another path. MET

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