Best of the Week
of April 11, 1999


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of April 11, 1999, as selected by Y? These
postings, as well as "Best of the Week" entries from previous weeks, also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

Question Code Key:

A=Age

GD=General Diversity

RE=Religion

C=Class

G=Geography

SE=Sensitive Matters

D=Disabilities

O=Occupation

SO=Sexual Orientation

GE=Gender

R=Race/Ethnicity

THE QUESTION:
SE67: What do heterosexual and bisexual women think about when they fantasize about men? I don't mean only very sexual fantasies, I mean what are they thinking when they see an attractive male? i.e. "He's so hot I could just..."?
POSTED APRIL 16, 1999
Wondering, closeted non-straight, Miami, FL

ANSWER 1:
"...rub him down with olive oil, garlic and lemon, sprinkle him with coursely copped basil and arugula and serve him up on sourdough rye."
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
Catherine H., bisexual female, 26 <
tylik@eskimo.com>, Woodinville, WA
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
RE151: Here in Austin, the Church of Scientology seems to recruit more heavily than most other churches. I often find fliers from them on my car, and members have approached me when I pass their building to invite me to come inside and take a "free personality test" or watch a movie about their religion. Why is this?
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
S.R, white female, 21, Austin, TX
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THE QUESTION:
GD67: What do people of various demographic backgrounds think is the single most-important factor in continuing race-based tension in the United States? Racism? Economic disparity? Lack of communication and/or understanding? Other factor(s)?
POSTED APRIL 16, 1999
William Y., 54; African American/mixed heritage <
yatesw@brevard.cc.fl.us>, Indialantic, FL

ANSWER 1:
I think the reason for much racial tension is the inability to respect and treasure the cultural differences between races. It is also the failure to be willing to let go of grievances and to say I'm sorry for older ones. My ancestors, for instance, were slave owners (can a man really own another man?). I found some African Americans who were doing research on their ancestry who bore my surname. I felt it was important for me to apologize for the wrong my ancestors inflicted upon their ancestors, and I did. Much healing and understanding took place on both sides.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
54-year-old white American male <
feagin@home.com>, Columbia, MD

FURTHER NOTICE:
I believe the major impediment to racial cooperation is the habit militant fringes of all races have of blaming everything on race. A poor black person has more in common with a poor white person than he does with a middle-class black person. People would see this if "racial advocates" didn't make a living stirring up trouble and then getting people to support their cause and in the process providing a nice income for the "advocates," too. I feel that until minoritis adopt a saner and more rational approach to race relations, the real problems will remain unsolved, for example the government official who was forced out of office for using the word "niggardly." This instance reinforced my feelings that, as a white male, I may be attacked for anything I say or do, and as long as a minority or female is involved, I'm wrong no matter what.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
G.B., 32, white male, Detroit , MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Economic disparity. The haves are scared by have-nots,. and the have-nots resent the haves.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
B. Hale, white have <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford , CT

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
In my view, racial tension has an awful lot to do with economic inequality, especially in terms of relations between whites and African Americans. Years of slavery and legal racism (which ended less than 40 years ago) means a disproportionate amount of African Americans to this day are poor. Unfortunately, many white Americans have this pull-yerself-up-from-yer-bootstraps attitude that African Americans have to take 100 percent responsibility for eradicating poverty, and because there's no longer any legal ways that African Americans are not "equal," many whites fight to eliminate social programs like welfare and Affirmative Action and equitable school funding to help African Americans get out of poverty.

If the United States is truly going to atone for the evils of slavery and things like Jim Crow laws, the country needs to take responsibility for eradicating poverty as best we can. Laws that make everybody "equal" are not enough, and alone this false kind of "equality" fuels racist white sentiments that African Americans aren't successful because they are lazy, ignorant, etc.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
Rhiannon, 28, white female <
rock0048@tc.umn.edu>, Minneapolis , MN

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I think the single-biggest reason racial tension and racism continues to exist is that even many non-racist people have the false belief that racism is "normal," "natural" even "inevitable." If it were normal, natural and inevitable, it would be inborn. But it isn't. Racism must be taught and aggresssively forced and reinforced. Believing racism is "normal" is not only false, it makes apologies and excuses for racism. It is also a defeatist and fatalistic attitude that helps perpetuate racism. The same lame excuses were used for slavery: "People have always been this way; it's only natural." But just as slavery has ended almost everywhere, there is no reason racism cannot be ended, or at least become rare. It may not happen in my lifetime, not until we get rid of these defeatist attitudes, but I hope it will in my children's.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
A.C.C., Mexican and American Indian, San Antonio , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I think that the biggest factor in today's society would be a combination of cultural differences and class struggle, usually marked by economic disparity. Race has become a very convenient means of dividing people along cultural boundaries, so we can attribute certain negative opinions we have about a culture onto people of a given race. Add the class struggle, and things get worse. Think of the stereotypes you hea: White people are all rich and racist, and they make sure black people are kept poor and out of businesses. Black people are all on welfare and do drugs all day when they are not doing drivebys. Asians are all ninja math wizards who live with their entire family in one house. Latinos are lazy and dishonest. All of these stereotypes are based on culture and class struggles. Of course, when you get right down to it, it is nothing more than the latest version of the "us vs. them" mentality. We just draw the lines a little differently every once in a while.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
John K., 25, white middle-class male <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford, NJ
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
R649: I ask this question with curiosity, not anger: I have observed that many white people (particularly men) feel superior to those around them. Like, from the first time they see a person, they exhibit an air of superiority. My first impression when I meet another person (usually) is that they are at least my equal, and I usually find out after some time whether this is true. Why is the first instinct of many whites one of superiority?
POSTEDE APRIL 16, 1999
Randy H., African American, male, 25, agnostic, Silver SPring , MD

ANSWER 1:
When I meet someone new, I usually have a feeling of questioning and slight paranoia: Wondering what they are thinking of me, what judgments they are making of me, how they are perceiving me, and so on. I really believe in "You only get one chance to make a first impression" and thus am very concerned with how I am projecting myself when I meet someone new.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
D.M., male 26, white, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE:
Being a white male, I had to resist my first impulse, which would have explored whether this was your perception and not reality. However, as I really thought about it, I have a possible explanation for what you have asked: White males are hugely competitive. I am sure volumes have been written about why. However, in a society whose rules were created by white males, failure is intensely personal for white males. We have homecourt advantage all the time. We have no one to blame, as individuals, for having not succeeded in society (not to say that we don't try to find someone to blame - mothers are convenient!). I find that projecting an aura of invincibility is a way to further my own competitive advantage by at least making sure others know I am confident in myself. Women frequently comment that confidence is an attractive trait in males. My take on this could be all wet, and is based on absolutely not one scintilla of research or scientific evidence.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
Steve, 42, male and very confident, TX

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I think it has something to do with the way most white men are raised. We are supposed to be highly self-reliant and dominant in just about every aspect of our lives, or so the traditions seem to go. Everything is about emotional restraint and being better than the next guy. A lot of this comes from the fact that white men feel they are in constant competition with others. It might come from European culture, where most of the influence on society came from the men and women attached to royalty. In order to increase your position in the eyes of society, you had to dominate the competition. While that no longer holds true in our society, that unspoken tradition still seems to hang around.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
John K., 25, white male <
the-macs@geocities.com>, Cranford , NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Randy, are you feeling insecure around these people and making a perception? Speaking from age and experience, you will soon learn once you're secure with who you are that what other people think, feel and believe doesn't matter to you and what you're trying to achieve. Hey, some black people project "an air of superiority."
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
43, black female <
ANABWI@aol.com>, Plantation, FL
]

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I believe our past experiences can have a huge impact on how we perceive other people. The first thing we see, whether we like it or not, is color. It could be a subconcious thing, or you are hanging around the wrong white boys. Another possibility is that maybe they are intimidated by you. The common myth about black men's larger penis size is a major issue for a lot of white guys. It scares them. There's a lot of other things, too, but I'm not alotted that much space.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
Aimee, 23, white female <
aimeeroyer@worldnet.att.net>, Peoria , IL

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I have seen this in many ethnic backgrounds. I have actually found many black men I have met to have the same attitude as the white men you are describing. There are many reasons for this type of action, though. It may be that they are self-confident - moreso than you or I - and it appears as if they feel they are better than others. It may also be that they don't have the self-confidence and are trying to compensate. I try not to judge people until I know them better, but I know this attitude is hard to break through.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
Stacia, female <
sljbuttercup@yahoo.com>, Madison , WI

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
Men tend to be status-driven, meaning a lot of energy goes into establishing a pecking order and improving one's place in the pecking order. Consider sports and business organizations and even the way men tease one another - it's all about rank. Women, in contrast, tend to be connectional, meaning they seek commonalities and empathies in their relationships with other women. Check out the work of Deborah Tannen.
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
B. Hale, master of all I survey <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford , CT

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
Maybe what you are seeing is formality, not superiority. I have noticed that Hispanics, to some extent, and African Americans, to an even greater extent, seem more comfortable than European Americans with becoming familiar with new acquaintances quickly. Perhaps it stems from deepseated cultural history. In general, European cultures had a strong history of feudalism, where your master was probably not of your close bloodline. You were ruled by a stranger and had to keep a "respectful" distance. Just a wild guess. I'm not a cultural anthropologist. Do you notice this reaction when European Americans interact with each other,or just when interacting with other ethnic groups?
POSTED APRIL 17, 1999
Stacee, 30 European-American, female, Houston, TX
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
G68: A while back I moved from a Miami suburb to the Boston area for college. People here seem less inclined to greet one another on the street and less courteous in general. Does anyone have an explanation for this, which many others have noted as well?
POSTED JAN. 20, 1999
Alex, 18, white male <
purdy@fas.harvard.edu>, Cambridge, MA

ANSWER 1:
It is not so much that people are less courteous in the Northeast, but that things are quite a bit faster paced. Boston has been called "The fastest city in the country" by USA Magazine, and not without reason. If you can get the average Bostonian to stop and chat with you, you will find they are the same as anyone else. Granted, we of the Northeast tend to be more brusque and hurried, but we're really not that bad.
POSTED APRIL 16, 1999
Marc, 18, male, college student and Massachusetts native <
MDeScham@lynx.neu.edu>, Boston, MA
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
R648: Why do most bad drivers seem to be Asian? I like to think I am a non-bigoted, non-sterotyping person, yet this is the one area I fail at. Everytime I see someone not following the law in a car or displaying an obvious lack of understanding of the rules of the road, or even just a total disrespect or obliviousness to other cars and pedestrians, the driver is almost always Asian. Why is this ?
POSTED APRIL 14, 1999
D.M., 26, white male, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

ANSWER 1:
Many Asian immigrants are not used to driving. Many of the immigrants from Hong Kong are used to taking transit to work, or (at least the ones who are well off) have chauffers to drive them.
POSTED APRIL 16, 1999
Cynthia, Canadian of Chinese descent, 19, female, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE:
Let me suggest to you that possibly this has something to do with: a) the fact that Vancouver has an extremely large Asian population, which increases the chances that you will see an Asian driving badly, and b) you are perhaps more likely to notice the offense if it is committed by an Asian, and more likely to attribute it to their race
POSTED APRIL 16, 1999
A former Vancouverite

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
"Asian" is an all-encompassing term. It could mean Chinese, Japanese, Laotian, Vietnamese and Hmong individuals. If you read the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, it depicts the Hmong culture exsisting within the American culture. It even talks about the bad driving. The refugees (mostly adults) do not understand the written language but have a need to drive, so they devise ways of passing the test. The reason they need to drive, is to visit family, which takes a No. 1 priority in their culture - not rules of the road.
POSTED APRIL 16, 1999
Leah, female, cross-cultures psychology student, Erie, PA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I don't think the question coming from Vancouver, a city with a large Asian population, is a coincidence. It is obvious that in an area where there are many people of a certain category, those people may dominate various habits and activities, both positive and negative. Here in the Detroit suburbs, where there are varied genders and nationalities, bad drivers seem to come in various colors and ages.
POSTED APRIL 16, 1999
Michael Z., 28, white male <
Mjick@aol.com>, Southfield, MI
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
R647: Why does it seem that many First Nations people (natives) speak very slowly?

POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
C.P., 21, white female, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
To respond
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THE QUESTION:
R645: I have seen a lot of rap album covers, and I notice the rappers are never smiling. Why?
POSTED APRIL 12, 1999
Patrick W., male <
pwalsh@bellsouth.net>, Jacksonville, FL -

ANSWER 1:
It is not a black/white/rap/rock thing. Pop culture has not realized that true joy does not come from accumulation of material good; therefore they (successful entertainers) are unhappy. It seems rap stars are the unhappiest of all successful people. They display this by gunning their brothers down. Rock stars just commit heroin-a-cide or drown in a bottle. Popular culture in other parts of the world focuses on family and self-improvement. If they made albums, they would be smiling.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Parkman, 31, smiling <
parkman_2000@yahoo.com>, West Palm Beach , FL

FURTHER NOTICE:
A lot of the artists feel the"hard-core" image is what's in and what sells. Most artists are not smiling because of the content of their work and they have to stay consistent with the "image."
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Clorinda R., black female, Greensboro , NC

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I believe it has something to do with the preconceived notion that rappers are supposed to be tough, and hence the straight face. Or maybe because of the context of their music, which is about struggling and oppression, they think the message would get to the audience better if they kept a straight face.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Ify, black girl, Miamil, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I'd have to disagree with Parkman in the suggestion that rappers are the most unhappy of all entertainers. I don't believe any one group is any more or less happy than another based on the genre of music. And how many times have you heard a true story of a rapper, once in the profession, committing murder? I believe the straight face represents the hardcore image that sells worldwide. A smile softens that image. Ask the Hanson brothers. It all depends on the market.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1999
Jacquel, African-American, 20, Chicago, IL
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THE QUESTION:
SO13: Do lesbians enjoy looking at nude, pornographic pictures of women as much as men do?
POSTED MARCH 23, 1998
Don B., Brunswick, Ga.

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I will not look away from a nude picture of a woman, because I think women have beautiful bodies. I also look at nudes to critique a body, just as a lot of others do - "Nice legs! Whoa, is that a pimple on her buttock?" The only time I look at porn is if someone else (usually my male neighbor) is looking at it while I'm around. I don't watch for long, but when I do, I'm usually clowning the sex scenes - "Ha ha wow, that girl looks mighty uncomfortable." I never get sexual pleasure out of looking at pornography, but I usually do get a good laugh.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Chrissy, 21 lesbian <
chrissy@home.com>, San Diego, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
I am a a bisexual woman who gets very turned on by watching pornography. It is one of the traits my boyfriend likes about me. I get more turned on by the lesbian than heterosexual scenes. I think it is because women know what women like, so they understand more of what they are doing and it is usually not as harsh-looking as the heterosexual sex in porns.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1999
27-year-old, just realizing I'm a bisexual female, Erie , PA
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THE QUESTION:
RE150: As a 21-year-old female who was born Jewish but never practiced, I am beginning to explore other religions in hopes of finding one that suits my beliefs. I am considering Catholicism. Do Christians see converts as "true and equal Christians," or will I never be truly accepted as one of them?

POSTED APRIL 8, 1999
Kate, 21, female, Ithaca, NY

ANSWER 1:
I don't know if this answers your question, but there is an old Yiddish expression that might. "If you ever forget that you are a Jew, a gentile will remind you." Being a Jew is part of who you are. Explore your Judaism. Speak with other Jewish women (and men). A good place to start might be at Cornell University. Jewish students at the campus "Hillel" organization may help you find what's right for you.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Mark, Jewish male, San Francisco Bay Area , CA

FURTHER NOTICE:
As long as you believe the teachings of your religion and feel that it is fulfilling your religious needs, there should be no reason that you feel uncomfortable; if you feel this way, there is something missing spiritually. As long as you practice wholeheartedly, the Lord will always accept you.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Laura, female, 29 <
funk@sofnet.com>, Monett, MO

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I am a Catholic who sees everyone as an equal when the topic is God. If there is a religion that believes that you are not an equal, it's probably a cult. I think the worst thing about Christianity is religion - in the big picture, we all believe in God. My parents are Baptist, my sister is non-denominational and I am Catholic. It's a really interesting Sunday around our family. Just remember one thing about Catholicism: Some religions think Catholics think they are better than the rest, but I can assure you, it's not true.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Rob, 28, Catholic <
innvertigo@msn.com>, Warren, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
In my experience, Christians love to get converts from other religions.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Patrick W., male <
pwalsh@bellsouth.net>, Jacksonville, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
Catholics will think it's wonderful that you're a convert. The priest told me that if I converted, my husband and I were sure to go to heaven. Will you fit in? The other Catholics won't know you weren't born Catholic unless you tell them. If you tell them you're a convert, they will take you under their wing. If you don't tell them, they will assume you were raised Catholic. You will always know the difference, though, because you haven't been immersed in it since childhood. You as a convert will always see Catholicism through different, more objective eyes. You will be good for the Catholic Church.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Colleen, 38, raised Catholic <
congdon@illuminet.net>, Quantico , VA

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
It's all fine and dandy that you go searching for a religion that suits your beliefs, but with all due respect, adjusting your beliefs to suit your religion might be more worthwhile. I'm sure you've heard this all before, but there is truth to the saying "The grass is always greener on the other side." Before you step over the fence, do yourself a favor and check out and truly examine your own back yard: 3,000 years of an incredible history and the millions who died trying to preserve it. The very least you owe them and yourself is an educated decision.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Lon B.-D. <
AbieDee@aol.com>, New York , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 6:
I've been Catholic all my life. My father converted to marry my mother. I've never seen anyone singled out for criticism as a Catholic because they weren't born that way. If anything, we tend to fall all over converts when they are baptized and confirmed (it's a big deal, right in the middle of Mass, singing and praying just before Easter; wear comfortable shoes, it goes on forever). I think Catholics especially like adult converts because it confirms our belief that we were right all along. We like being right. We are the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, after all.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
M.J. Frazer, female, white, Catholic <
Mfrazer7@aol.com>, Worcester , MA

FURTHER NOTICE 7:
It's fine that you want to shop around to find the right religion for you, but you should really learn about your own religion before searching outside. A non-practicing Jew often doesn't know what Judaism is about. I tried Christianity and then found Judaism (my own religion, which my parents don't stress). Judaism is very complex, enlightening and satisfying. Many students of talmud go on to get very high marks in university because of the discipline they've picked up. I find the wisdom in midrash is helpful in everyday life as well. You can try learning more by going to a reform rabbi to start. He/she can guide you. It would be foolhardy to pick up another religion before you know the true value of what you're discarding.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Ronit, 35, Jewish female <
casey5@mydejanews.com>, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 8:
You will be fully accepted (except by Nazis). Remember to study the faith you were raised in, also, because you may actually find that you need not look further. It is strange that people of one faith become disillusioned by not practicing it, and then when considering alternative beliefs spend a great deal of time to learn about them. Why not put as much time into learning about your current faith? You may be wondrously enlightened!.All religions teach morality, or conscience, and just use different stories and props. Therefore, for all potential conversions, unless it is to bring a marriage into one religion - a most important part of a marriage - use your local social and outreach educational sessions at churches, synagogues and college campuses as pleasant ways to study your religion.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Ken, male

FURTHER NOTICE 9:
The Catholic Church welcomes converts. In fact, converts are often looked at as "better Catholics," though I suspect this is largely a cop-out by "cradle Catholics" to excuse their lack of piety, as if to say "don't expect too much of me - I was just born into it." Single converts are often heavily prevailed upon to enter the priesthood or religious life. I can tell you that in more traditional circles (Latin Mass, etc.), you may have to do a period of "probation" because, frankly, someone not from a Catholic family has more to prove in regard to their orthodoxy. There is also the ethnic factor. In some traditional congregations (not all), you are regarded as having no "pedigree" because you're not from an old Irish, or Italian, or what have you, Catholic family. This is left unspoken but it is still there. Still, if you come in and "listen more than you talk" the first few years, you'll be just fine.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Pius Augustine, traditional Catholic, 38, Columbia, SC

FURTHER NOTICE 10:
One of Christianity's major beliefs is evangelism, or "spreading the "Good News" of Jesus Christ." A "true Christian" is someone who believes in the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit), and accepts Jesus as Christ the Savior, whether you've believed that all of your life, or have recently had a change of faith. You have the choice of participating in more visible signs of faith, such as Baptism and Confirmation, and as a Catholic, you would be invited to the Holy Eucharist to receive Communion; however, one cannot be any more "Christian" than his or her neighbor. A priest is not more "Christian" than his congregation - he is just a leader and counselor. Of course, these are my personal beliefs as an Episcopalian, and unfortunately, some Christian congregations are less hospitable and more "exclusive" than others. But I also believe that, as a whole, the Christian family is very open and friendly.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Shawn D., 23, gay Episcopalian <
pharaun@aol.com>, Fort Worth , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 11:
Catholic converts are equally embraced by the Church. Once you are baptized and receive the other sacraments, you are a full participating member. There are no second-class citizens. I think the fact that you choose to join and learn about the dogma beforehand makes you in someways a better Catholic than those who were baptized at birth. In a way it is like how naturalized U.S. citizens probably have a better grasp of U.S. history and patriotism than citizens who where born here.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Jennifer, female, Toledo, OH

FURTHER NOTICE 12:
Considering that all Christians are, in effect, "converts" stemming from Jewish roots (Jesus Christ was a Jew), I think most Christians are accepting of converts who profess their faith in Christian principles and teachings. It probably depends on how fundamentalist the church you are considering is. I am Methodist (a Protestant Christian religion), so I'm speaking from a Christian, but not Catholic, point of view. I remember in college having a friend who converted to Judaism and was never really accepted as a "full-fledged" member of the religious community. I think part of her battle was that "being Jewish" is partl ethnicity and part religious practice (and she obviously didn't have a Jewish heritage).
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Amy D., female, St. Paul , MN

FURTHER NOTICE 13:
All Christians/Catholics are not of one mindset. Acceptance by indiviudal members will be based on many factors, including your charisma, your perceived sincerity and a person's background and opinion of what a member of a particular religion should be like. In other words, people are people; they like good-natured, kindred spirits. If they don't respond to you, they may be shy, nasty, hurried or troubled, but it may ot be because you're not a "true" believer. Just like any worldly social gathering, expect a larger church to seem less caring but demand less social interaction. As long as you respect the general rules of conduct, nobody will know your "status." Few will introduce themselves, either. At a smaller church, people will look at you like the new kid in class, but they also may be inclined to invite you to dinner that day. I think you will find most people in a religious setting are looking for answers, too. If you respect their traditions and maintain a humble spirit, you'll be fine. If for some reason the church itself does not agree with you, try another one, remembering, though, that the servants aren't the master. Judge the church as a whole and how it helps you establish your own spiritual wellness.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
J. Berry, 34, recent Catholic convert from Methodist <
berryx@earthlink.net>, Alexandria, VA

FURTHER NOTICE 14:
A parish priest with a very ethnic Jewish last name at my Roman Catholic church was raised Jewish in Brooklyn, NY. He converted and joined the seminary at 30. Does that count as "accepted" enough?
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Andy, 30, white, straight male, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 15:
I'm 48, became a Christian at 31 and was born Catholic. Christianity is not a religion but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Avoid confusing Christianity with religon. You will find that all true Christians are converts (from unbelief to belief), and so you will be accepted by them and share community with them. Jesus had a problem with religion getting in the way of people relating to God. You can become a Christian without the religous trappings.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Lord Og, 48, male, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 16:
A Christian is someone who chooses to follow Christ. By making that choice, in a sense all Christians are converts. Anyone who doesn't accept you as a "real" Christian is not following Christ's commandment to love their neighbor.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
T.R., 17, Latter-Day Saint (converted) <
beforpeace@yahoo.com>, San Jose , CA

FURTHER NOTICE 17:
Christianity is a religion built upon conversion, so generally Christians will accept you as an equal. You may be seen as a "baby" in Christ, but you wouldn't have second-class status just because you are a convert. In fact, some denominations seem to favor converts. I was raised in the Southern Baptist church. That denomination emphasizes the "Damascus Road" experience, which is the dramatic conversion the apostle Paul had, in which he is literally blinded by the glory of God. When I was growing up, I felt a little uncomfortable because I came to know God slowly and as a very young child. Sometimes I felt like I was the second-class Christian because I couldn't recount some dramatic story! I encourage you to explore many Christian denominations, begin reading the Bible (the gospel of Matthew is particularly good for someone with a Jewish background) and pray.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Stacee, 30, Christian, attending an Episcopal church, Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 18:
Since people aren't "born" but "raised" Catholic, it matters little when you decide to go through the process. People become Catholic after completing a series of sacraments (Baptism is the initiation; Confession, Communion and Confirmation are the final touches). Christianity does not observe the same heritage through birthright that Judaism does. Most people don't know or care how or when you became Catholic, they're just happy you're there.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
D.M.M., Catholic, 24 <
donikam@hotmail.com>, Charleston , SC

FURTHER NOTICE 19:
Why not explore your own religion first? You say you haven't practiced, so why not see what Judaism is before giving it up? There is so much meaning in Judaism. I'm sure your ancestors suffered because they were Jews; how can you give up something that was so precious to them?
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Shevi, Jewish, 22 <
shevi@geocities.com>, Baltimore , MD

FURTHER NOTICE 20:
I was raised Protestant but have been considering (in a vague sort of way) becoming Catholic. The last time I was at mass I looked in the Catholic Book of Worship and it said that although in Christian-dominated societies baptism of infants is practiced, baptism of adult converts is the norm and infant baptism takes its meaning from adult baptism, not the reverse. The first Christians were Jewish and continued to consider themselves as such. And of course in "born-again" Protestant churches, everyone is a "convert." If you are interested in converting to Catholicism, there are groups to guide you through the process of the R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
C.P., 21, Montreal, Quebec, Canada ,

FURTHER NOTICE 21:
I hate to say this, but it really depends on the congregation. I went to the same church for 20-plus years (Roman Catholic) and was never accepted as a member because my family went to public school. We grew up in a really small (read: close-minded) community, so if you didn't have 100 or more years of ancestory in the city, you were labeled a "newcomer" and didn't quite fit in.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
C.H.P., 28, white female, Center Line , MI

FURTHER NOTICE 22:
A large percentage of Protestants are of a sort of mongrel background, especially those who have moved around the country a couple times or who have married someone of a different denomination, which is very common. I believe more than half of American Jews now marry outside the faith, so your story must be pretty common. Our denomination is very welcoming of people from different religious backgrounds.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
B. Hale, United Methodist <
halehart@aol.com>, Hartford, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 23:
I think your question goes more to human nature than religious belief. Protestant teaching, at least as far as I've experienced it, says that there's no such thing as "more Christian," and even if there was, it would certainly not be based on birthright or seniority. Fellowship with other Christians is supposed to be a joyous event unclouded by base and petty feelings such as bigotry, jealousy and elitism. In practice, it has been my experience that most churches, like most other organizations, have at least one or two people who like to be more actively involved and in control, have an exaggerated sense of self-worth and can even be judgmental in a gossipy sort of way. But they are, by far, the exception rather than the rule. Every congregation I have belonged to has eagerly accepted, even celebrated, new members, especially converts. Also, remember that every Christian, whether born to Christian parents and raised in the Church or not, imust by definition at some point in their lives make a decision to accept Christ and his teachings. So in a sense, all Christians are converts.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Mark, 32, white, married Protestant, Alexandria , VA

FURTHER NOTICE 24:
The healthy Christian has a deep and fulfilling relationship with Christ Jesus. That is the main focus. Christian believers will welcome converts with open arms. But you need to realize that there will be some believers who don't accept other believers because their doctrines don't completely match. I have been a believer for many years, and I still meet some who say I am not a real believer because I don't have the gift of tongues. The Bible needs to be your source of what is true, not what any particular church teaches.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Ronald V., 46 <
draugas@mailcity.com>, Edmonton , Alberta, Canada

FURTHER NOTICE 25:
Yes. The Apostle Paul (a Benjamite) says that the Gentiles are "grafted into" the tree, but the Jews are already descendants of Abraham. Cool, huh?
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
A. Strickland,48 <
Strickland13@netscape.net>, Panama City , FL

FURTHER NOTICE 26:
As someone who was born and raised Catholic, I can tell you that yes, if you were to convert to Catholicism, you would be accepted. In fact, every year during Easter time (actually the Easter vigil mass the night before Easter), the church performs a special ceremony welcoming new Catholics to the the church. It is a very nice mass, and the church does indeed accept converts with open arms. However, I do suggest that if you are considering Catholicism that you really do your research and that you make sure it is indeed a religion you want to be a part of. I believe religion is a very personal choice and that one religion that may be right for one person may not be right for someone else.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Rai <
neff@acsu.buffalo.edu>, Buffalo , NY

FURTHER NOTICE 27:
If a religion does not accept you, it is not truly Christian. Christ did not show partiality to anyone. He witnessed to all. The determining factor was not a person's background but his/her heart condition and future actions. Remember too that Paul said "There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) I encourage you to look at all religions and make your choice based on: 1. On what are its teachings based? Are they from God or primarily men? (2 Timothy 3:16, Mark 7:7) 2. Consider whether it is making known the name of God. (John 17:6, Matthew 4:10) 3. Is true faith in Jesus Christ being demonstrated? (John 3:36, Psalms 2:6-8, James 2:26) 4. Is it largely ritualistic, or is it a way of life? (Isaiah 1:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Galatians 5:22,23) 5. Do its members truly love one another? (John 13:35) 6. Is it truly separate from the world? (John 15:19, 1 John 2:15-17) 7. Are its members active witnesses concerning God's kingdom? (Matthew 24:14, Matthew 10:7, 11-13, Acts 20:20)
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Trish <
blouin@rconnect.com>, MN

FURTHER NOTICE 28:
I feel there is no such thing as a "true Christian." We were all born into sin because of the sin Adam and Eve committed when they disobeyed God. We are all descendants of Adam's loins and were born into sin except Jesus, who was born of the holy spirit - the only true Christian. He died on the cross that we might have life, and accepting his salvation makes you as Christ-like as you need to be. But as you grow in your faith, you will come to understand deeper truths and desire to live a life as Christ-like as you can, but just know that we are all forgiven for our sins through the grace of God, which is symbolized by his son Jesus.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
Clorinda R., 22, black female, Greensboro , NC

FURTHER NOTICE 29:
If you already have a set of beliefs you are happy and comfortable with, why are you searching for a religion to match them? I see the value of studying religion, systems of beliefs and philosophy. I would recommend spending some time studying and asking the question, What need does this fill and do I need this religion?
POSTED APRIL 14, 1999
A happy atheist <
wilsonpa@rf.suny.edu>, Albany, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 30:
Kate, have you explored Judaism? I'm asking because you mention you were born to a Jewish family but have never practiced. You might be surprised at the breadth of belief, practice and philosophy available within various Jewish congregations and movements. As I understand it, nobody is "born Catholic." A person becomes Catholic, or Christian, at Baptism.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1999
Robin, 36, practicing Jew from non-practicing family <
rmshapiro@hotmail.com>,Bluefield , WV

FURTHER NOTICE 31:
I asked the original question. I investigated Judaism and realized it was not the religion and set of beliefs I agreed with. I always knew/felt that for some reason, I believed in Jesus Christ as a prophet, and so I started investigating Christianity. Although I also researched Eastern religions, Christianity was the only set of beliefs I felt a connection to. Once I realized I had an "affinity" for Jesus and the New Testament, I found Catholicism. For the past six months, I have gone to mass with friends, read the Catechism of the church and various other books, and am almost certain I want to join the church. I know my ancestors fought and perhaps were even killed for their belief in Judaism, but their sacrifices and strength have given me the chance to find my God and religious home. I am sure they would prefer for me to be Jewish, but I know they would want me to have a sincere belief in and devotion to God - which I did not have until I began this spiritual exploration. I am beginning to research RCIA classes and how they are taught at different churches. I want a church where I am not a 'pledge,' but a non-full member during this period. If possible, I want to be able to stay to see the Eucharist at mass as I have been doing these months. I do not know if all churches follow the dismissal of candidates, so if anyone has any knowledge about this, it would be very appreciated.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1999
Kate, 21, female, Ithaca, NY

FURTHER NOTICE 32:
In all the responses to this question, no one has raised the issue of the Jewish Law on the subject of conversion. Jewish law states that a person who is legally born Jewish cannot legally (Jewish Law) convert out of the religion. Naturally, a person can practice any religion they choose. That is the freedom of a free society. Although difficult, a person can convert to Judaism but again, cannot convert out. It is a one-way street.
POSTED APRIL 14, 1999
Les H. <
lphfla@aol.com>, Fort Lauderdale , FL
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THE QUESTION:
R643: While watching a show on the U.S. Space program the other night, I was struck by the fact that all of the engineers were white males. Recognizing that the time depicted was the 1960s, I did some research and found that the engineering field is still dominated by white males. Data showed that while there has been some increase in women and minorities in engineering, engineering graduates are still 80 percent white male. This contrasts to fields like medicine and law, where white males now make up less than half. Why aren't more women and minorities drawn to engineering?
POSTED APRIL 5, 1999
Steve, 31, white male engineer, Houston , TX

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Unfortunately, the numbers you quote are pretty accurate. Enrollments at most schools of engineering are still predominantly white and male. The school with the best female population numbers (Puerto Rico) is only at 20-25 percent female enrollment.

There are many reasons for this. Many have been mentioned, including lack of preparation. However, this is a male-dominated field, and it will take a long time to change that. Although more women are entering the field and studying engineering, this has not yet translated into more female engineers - there are still great problems at the workplace, and many woman leave the field soon after entering it because of the environment they encounter. Engineering firms are still, by-and-large, run by members of the old-boy network. Women are invited in, but not allowed to excel. Salaries for women engineers are significantly lower than for males in the same field, with the same experience. Sad, but true. There are programs in place to help ease woman into science, math and engineering fields, but they are slow in advancing. I work at a college of engineering with few female faculty members or faculty of color. Lack of role models is also a significant factor for advancement. Progress is being made, but without significant involvement of the male engineering work force, this progress will be slow - steady, but slow.
POSTED APRIL 13, 1999
S.M. Kolls, 33, white, college administrator, Society of Women Engineers advisor, <
smkolls@coe.neu.edu>, Boston, MA
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