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I write that headline sarcastically because so many Orthodox Jews I know believe I will end up returning to Christianity.
Khunrum writes: "Another neurotic weirdo who probably doesn't put out. Yeah! She'd be great for you."
Amalek18: I'll bet she is way hotter than the vulgur Jewesses now writing about sex (Amy Sohn, et al.)
Khunrum chides: Too much dogma counselor. Let's put some fun into religion i.e.. The Branch Dividians...bring on the girls...
Fred replies: The problem with Koresh is that only the cult leader got to schtuppe the fair young maidens. Now, on the other hand, the polygamist Mormons basically said you could have a stable of cuties as large as you wanted, and they weren't real big on age-of-consent laws.
Chaim writes: A happy life cannot be based on empty sarcasm, uttered from the sterile McBoxes of Silicon Valley. Admit it Fred, we on this list all wish we were living the sort of life that she seems to have.
Luke says: Someone like Lauren Winner who is most interested in personal salvation and a personal relationship with God will usually choose Christianity. Judaism instead emphasizes the community. It's not primarily about personal satisfaction.
Judaism does not put much stock in dreams like Lauren's as the guide to religious truth.
From the 10/4/02 Wall Street Journal:
Gene Edward Veith writes on djchuang.com:
Lauren Winner writes on Beliefnet.com: My unmarried evangelical friends, I think, are fairly representative. Some of them are virgins. Seriously chaste virgins. Others are virgins in Bill Clinton's sense: in the tactful euphemism of my friend Sheila, they "entertain through other orifices" nightly.
Then there are those who do have sex, like Jill, a Wheaton College grad who lost her virginity in the Billy Graham Center.
The problem isn't that Sarah made my sex life her business. It's that her evangelical vocabulary left her with nothing to say but "whore."
A Slippery Slope Into Debauchery
Lauren Winner writes on Beliefnet.com: Paul M. turned up at his pastor's house five weeks ago, in the middle of the night. "In the pouring rain," says Paul. "It was like something out of a movie. But I was desperate, and that's what pastors are for, right?"
Paul hadn't committed murder, or realized he was an alcoholic. He wasn't flirting with atheism. He was spending two hours a day glued to his computer screen, hooked on web porn. Paul--a Boston-based 28-year-old graduate student in sociology--says praying with his pastor put him on the right track. But he's not taking any chances."For now, my computer is in the garage."
A Baptist who was born again at age 12, he says he used to "walk right with the Lord." But once he was hooked on web porn, he began skidding down what could have been "a slippery slope into debauchery."
From Publishers Weekly: "Raised by a lapsed Baptist mother and secular Jewish father, Winner feels a drive toward God as powerful as her drives toward books and boys. Twice she has attempted to read her way into religion to Orthodox Judaism her freshman year at Columbia, and then four years later at Cambridge to Anglican Christianity. Twice she has discovered that a religion's actual practitioners may not measure up to its theoretical proponents. (Invariably the boyfriends or their mothers disappoint.) It is easier to say what this book is not than what it is. It is not a conversion memoir: Winner's movement in and out of religious frames, but does not tell, her tale. It is not a defense of either faith (there is something here to offend every reader); and Winner, a doctoral candidate in the history of religion, is in her 20s young for autobiography. Because most chapters, though loosely related to the Christian church year, could stand alone, it resembles a collection of essays; but the ensemble is far too unified to deserve that label. Clearly it is memoir, literary and spiritual, sharing Anne Lamott's self-deprecating intensity and Stephen J. Dubner's passion for authenticity. Though Winner does not often scrutinize her motives, she reveals herself through abundant, concrete and often funny descriptions of her life, inner and outer. Winner's record of her own experience so far is a page-turning debut by a young writer worth watching."
From Library Journal: "The book is a humorous, sexually frank portrait of a deeply engaged faith shopper, "stumbling her way towards God." The memoir focuses on her undergraduate years (when she converted to Judaism and then to Christianity) and her life as a doctoral student in religious history at Columbia University. One has a sense that Winner's head is still spinning and that she is still catching up with her changes of heart. The turbulent narrative is at first hard to follow, but its disorder becomes a delight as the author's gentle, self-effacing humor emerges. Winner offers a rare perspective, connecting Christian and Jewish traditions in unexpected ways."
From Booklist: "And yet--while her struggles to take a life turned inside out and make it fit are absorbing, there is enough self-indulgent nattering here to provoke the occasional wince. Also, she sidesteps some of the more difficult questions as she tries to reconcile her Jewishness and Christianity. What, for instance, does she believe is the fate of those not saved?"
Novelist Betty Smartt Carter reviews Lauren Winner's book Girls Meets God in the Nov/Dec 2002 issue of Christianity Today:
[Lauren] lived for a summer with an Orthodox family in New York, learning to make challah and study Talmud, dressing in ankle-length skirts. While at Columbia University, she formally converted to Judaism by going through a ritual bath called a mikvah. Rabbis streamed in to witness the bath, though allowance was made for female modesty:
Winner is honest, though, in ascribing much of her disaffection to her own failure as a Jew. After her initial love affair with Judaism, she lost her enthusiasm for it. She didn't study enough, didn't keep the Sabbath. "If it was a marriage," she says, "me to Orthodox Judaism, I failed long before I met up with Jesus. I failed from the beginning."
Having failed as a Jew, Winner set about learning to be a Christian. Ever orthodox by inclination, she found herself theologically most in line with evangelicals. But this made her yet another kind of anomaly: an artsy Ivy League grad student with friends who watched The 700 Club. The juxtaposition exposed the snobbery of her academic community, but it tempted her to snobbery of her own. When she overheard a fellow graduate student suggesting that she might be a fundamentalist Bible-thumper, she wanted to tell him, "No, no, I'm not one of them, I'm one of you. I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, but I also wear fishnet stockings and drink single-malt Scotch."
Besides the sense of being a stranger in at least two worlds, she faced internal struggles: gnawing loneliness, sexual desire, and doubts about Christianity itself. Then there was her nostalgia for the old life. It turned out that Judaism wasn't so easy to walk away from. It had become part of her:
The task ahead of her was to discover what it meant to have Jewish vision from within the Body of Christ.
I just read Lauren Winner's book GIRL MEETS GOD and I loved it. It was beautiful and honest and haunting. I could identify. I found her personal strugges far more interesting than her theological and religious reflections. I do not seek spiritual, religious or moral truth from Christianity. Many critics slammed her for "self-indulgence" but to me these are the most interesting sections of the book.
JHamer writes on Amazon.com: "This woman is killer smart, funny, and immensely entertaining. I have met few people who are this candid in person; I have never seen anyone this honest in public. She creates these beautiful constructs, the conclusions of which go straight to your heart, making you cry because you are more than you were and you know she speaks the truth."
I saw saddened by the nasty tone of many of the negative reviews on Amazon.com. Critic after critic said she had to get older to get wiser to deserve writing a memoir. I disagree. Her youth, impetuosity, inexperience and vulnerability are precisely what appeals to me in this book.
I showed it to a bunch of Jewish friends over the weekend and they were aghast that any one could convert to Orthodox Judaism and then Christianity. As a convert from Christianity to Judaism, I'm not at all threatened by Winner's move. I understand that the heart has reasons of its own that the head will never understand.
I've changed away from religious triumphalism. While I believe Judaism is the truest religion, all religions, including my own, have such serious moral and rational weaknesses that it becomes absurd to say any one is the TRUTH and that all others are false.
Chaim Amalek writes: Concerning your take on that wonderful Winner book, is this not further proof that you are not an orthodox jew, if indeed, you are any sort of jew at all? A BELIEVER thinks his way is the best, and you do not. And speaking of believers, check out the sunday nytimes mag article on the spiritual founder of al qeada. It is what you think but more too. As with Pierce, even those who wish us ill can have interesting things to say.
Winner is a sweety. I could see why she would not feel at ease amongst the Jews. Not enough of the Levant in her. Ditto you. Judaism is for cynical deracinated hipsters and lefty lawyers and nerdy short accountants and guys who tattle on other guys in temple, don't you think?
Lauren Winner writes:
Luke says: I identify with everything Winner writes above. Sitting at my table on Friday night was a Jewish woman who said to me with breathtaking confidence eight years: "You can't become Jewish. You're either born it or you're not." I've never forgotten or forgiven her words.
The lack of intellectual curiosity among people who practice Judaism never ceases to depress me. There's little excitement over intellectual discussion in Jewish life. Just check all the Jewish weeklies like the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. Dull.
Luke: "Did you ever read Lauren Winner's book and what did you think of her journey?"
Professor Ari Goldman: "I was sad to see her go but I wish her well. Her publisher just asked me to blurb her new book and I declined because I don't want to endorse what she's done. I'm happy that she found something meaningful in her life. I'm sorry Judaism couldn't fulfill her."
Luke: "She found something more comforting."
Luke: "She found that closer personal relationship with God. You don't hear much talk about personal relationship with God in Judaism."