These words in this post are not responses to John Hobbins' response to me. (John, hope you'll understand that you've given me a lot to think about - although I'm sincerely humbled that you'd give so much thought to our interactions, sincerely challenged by your efforts to dialog.)
This weekend my family and I stopped by the Barnes & Noble bookstore on the way back to the car after walking around downtown Fort Worth on a beautiful evening together. (It was the restroom stop for some, so I peeked at the books, of course, and saw near the men's room on display was Richard B. Hays' nearly 10-year-old work, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, in which the Christian theologian confesses to looking at the Jewish George Steiner's review of The Literary Guide to the Bible (edited by the Jewish Robert Alter and the perhaps Christian but definitely not Jewish Sir Frank Kermode); Hays, the Christian, after he's already written his book, explains, in his late-written Preface, how he is not at all happy with the view of Steiner, the Jew. Hays writes on pages ix and x: "If so erudite literary critic as Steiner labors under such distressing misapprehensions about Paul and his argument in Romans, the need for the reading of Paul offered in the following pages is perhaps greater than I realized when I began to write. 'Hatred of the Jew?'. . . . In short, although Steiner's remarks might be applied, with some justice, to the evangelists Matthew and John, they badly misrepresent Paul." Hays, of course, does not mark the positions (i.e., Christian, Jew, male) of Paul, Steiner, himself and so forth. But the male Christian theologian does wonderfully acknowledge that "Steiner labors." Just how does a Jew labor, however, when thinking about Christian thinking about Paul?
I'm telling this story just to begin to say that positions are too often unmarked. That this is dicey. That when one presumes to tell that another's position is a bad misrepresentation, that very one himself may "badly misrepresent" that other. Wow. That sounds complex.
So here's another story. When at a rhetoric conference not too long ago, a feminist scholar announced early research on the phallogocentricism of Alcoholics Anonymous. She was seeing that in the Big Book most testimonials were from men and not from women, and that of course the founders of AA are men. Mine was the first question to this line of thinking, wondering whether the collaborative and dialogic nature of "meetings" wasn't actually "laboring" to deconstruct the masculinism of addiction and whether "recovery" from the "disease" wasn't very akin to "feminist recovery work" in many other contexts. The researcher answered that my question did not address directly the male dominance of AA. But to my delight, the keynote speaker of the conference was in the room, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, and she was much more successfully able to challenge the line of research, framed itself in a male-ish paradigm, from which feminists like Beth Daniels recover on both sides (i.e., by study of Al Anon and, unfortunately also, by necessary engagement in Al Anon). How does one critique without admitting one is affected by? What's at stake except what's personal, what's also gendered?
My favorite Greek word in the "New Testament" is this ironic imperative spoken by Joshua and by the Jewish John the Baptist: meta-noia. That's another story for another time when I have more time. But these two Jews, men who are affected by the effects of a male dominant bible-reading society on their on mothers and sisters, are calling for something personal. For re-covery work, personal and gendered.