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Management Speak

'While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. 

'“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”' (Mark 14:3-9)


MEMO Do not break this thing,
Do not waste that;
Do not let down your hair and weep and make a scene.
Do not keep bothe…

The Woman With a Flow of Faith

One of my favourite stories in the gospels is that of the “bleeding woman” who reaches out for healing amidst the bustle of the crowds around Jesus. I love how it’s juxtaposed with that of Jairus – a prominent community leader also seeking Jesus’ compassionate intervention – and how Jesus goes out of his way to ensure that she is seen, heard, honoured and remembered (as well as healed) no less than the man of high status.

I got a bit upset, recently, on hearing the harmlessly-meant suggestion that her faith had somehow been "smaller" than that of Jairus, because she acted in secret and with "less to lose". This analysis, I felt, failed to do justice to the gap in privilege, opportunity and sense of entitlement between the two supplicants, and to her courage in overcoming that gap. (Note, in particular, that when she does actually reveal herself it is an act of brave obedience with nothing to gain and everything to lose, as she has already been healed). For me, it …

Naomi's Best Friend's Wedding

In Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, the protagonist is repeatedly approached with proposals to adapt her novel into a screenplay, all of which eschew the challenging societal critique at the heart of the book in preference for comfortable, familiar-story-arc reductions likely to please and appease a wide audience. It got me thinking about how we frequently and instinctively do that with the Bible – and about how much we risk missing or diminishing when we default to readings that conform to our prior expectations, rather than allowing scripture to conflict with and challenge those expectations.

No doubt I’m desensitised to this when it suits me. But I’ve grown quick to notice when the Bible’s accounts of female characters, already fewer in number than its stories of men, are read through a filter of familiarity and a priori gender assumptions. The book of Ruth is a prime candidate – partly because we do love a good love story, and partly because it is hard for us in the here and …

Brothers and Statistics

The other day I enthusiastically embarked on a book by a male theologian popular with some people whose opinions I rate considerably. It took me to the end of the preface to start wondering whether it was too late to cancel the Kindle purchase. Of the 30+ luminaries, mentors, colleagues and assistants mentioned by name as having helped make the book happen, precisely one was female. [1] Now, such cases are hardly rare: I've read plenty of similarly-prefaced books without batting an eyelid, and probably many more where the data would have been on a par had they been available. But for some reason – perhaps because I'd had such high hopes for the author – I just couldn't let this one go. Here was a book which purported to instruct the church, and yet it seemed as though the author was quite content to disregard half the church in the writing of it. Was it even worth my reading? How relevant could it be to me, if I was irrelevant to it?

Meanwhile, Christian feminist Twitterl…

Lean In

In an effort to pre-empt all the "yeah, but"s that this sonnet invites, I invented the foot-sonnet...


LEAN IN Are you sitting comfortably? Then lean in.
Once upon a time there was a table
Where it happens. All the seats were taken
While we women were off menstruating,
So we waited, brought the drinks and snacks
And hovered in our heels and push-up bras
Pretending to a winsome cluelessness,
While they made laws and wars and wrote out cheques.
But we took notes. And when the moment came,
We’d take it: nothing beyond sacrifice
To prove ourselves as fully man as them:
We’d fight, pollute, exclude and brandish choice
With laughter, all to gain a seat or two –
And after, who knows what we might not do.†  † Sure, many men have led with wisdom and
The best of motives; many women feel
Empowered in a push-up bra and heels;
Our bodies do not warrant being scorned,
And nor do acts of service for the sake
Of others. Free market economies
Have made the poorest richer, militaries
Can help …