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Reading Aloud 2

Johnie and his wife

They came to see me when I was up to my neck in housework. I was glad Johnie saw me like that for once. They returned to me my essay about the Church which at their request I had let them read. Johnie was not afraid of admitting that he had only ‘skimmed’ through it which disappointed me a little. He had discovered a few ‘points’, he said, without going into detail. His wife said, she had not taken offence at it.

I don’t see why anybody should. All I had done was list well-known facts and observations. She could see that people might take offence at it, she went on. I pointed out, this could only be, because they didn’t like the picture they saw which didn’t coincide with their own ideas. If they take offence, it’s not the picture’s fault. She said, we all have our defences where we’re touchy … We can be hurt … I reminded her that we’d been through all this on a previous occasion.

Johnie said, strictly speaking one should never take offence. I try not to, but of course I’m only human. You can’t say, Johnie went on, that whenever somebody hurts you, it’s your own fault. I said, yes, I thought it was. Being hurt is an emotional reaction, not a rational one. There is no reason for bringing in emotions. I reminded them that they had agreed previously to consider ‘being hurt’ a weakness. Wouldn’t it be much better people didn’t take offence ? Oh, I’m getting better at that, Johnie’s wife said, I’m far less easily hurt than I used to. Johnie said, but if somebody comes in and calls your children all sorts of names ? That’s hurtful. I said, he knew it wasn’t true, how could it worry him ? He could not force the other person to hold the same opinion, of course.

His wife passed on to my essay about the Church. She agreed that on the whole there was a lot to be criticized. But you say it with tongue in cheek, you want to laugh about it, don’t you ? I was very pleased about being understood so well. She gave me I didn’t damn the Church, she had certainly not seen it like that at all. I certainly did nothing of the kind, I said, I just showed what a human and earthly body the Church is. As a consequence, I would say that it cannot lay any claim to spirituality of whatever kind. Johnie’s wife didn’t like the conclusion I had drawn from the Church’s human and earthly character. There is a spirituality, she said. Look at my sister’s Church. They have female priests (we had briefly touched the hotly debated issue of female ordination), they bring a new … status … more loving, more … spiritual, if you like … I said I didn’t like that. Alright, she said, more gentle then … At this point I looked at Johnie who seemed doubtful. Anyway, they apparently all have a lovely relationship with one another, no oppression like here … I said it sounded lovely and I had always held that the Church can do important social work and create a better social atmosphere. But I still didn’t see the connection with spirituality. She repeated that spirituality was there and we left it at that.

We went on to discussing the disadvantages of patriarchy and the inequality of women even nowadays. This is a special concern of Johnie’s wife. She had written an interesting essay which summed up the main tendencies in this field. I said, her problem wasn’t one for me, because I simply please myself and seem to manage. As far as patriarchy was concerned, we might well owe that to Christian religion. Christ was a man after all. She said he would have to be one or the other, but I couldn’t pin that on Christ! Johnie also said I couldn’t do that, patriarchy being far older than that, and he looked pleased. I was far from ‘pinning’ it on Christ, I pointed out.

We then talked about the impending holidays and various travel plans. The weather forecast for the next day when we were due to go to the West Country wasn’t too good, I heard from Johnie. I told him that according to a saying in my country ‘the sky is always blue when angels travel’. He laughed and I asked why. He said he had assumed I didn’t believe in angels. What did he base his assumption on, I asked, I wasn’t aware of having discussed this subject at all. He made no comment.

They took their leave and Johnie’s wife was hoping I hadn’t taken offence at anything she had said. I laughed and reminded her of the attitude I take : I blame myself.
The idea that I might have hurt her had never come to me. I hope I haven’t.