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Out With The Old

April 15, 2014

MY MIDDLE SCHOOL CLOSED ITS DOORS FOR GOOD four and a half years ago. I discovered this while I was on one of my nostalgia benders (what is middle age for?) and had stopped by to walk the grounds after school hours and savor bittersweet memories of gym class, a girl in eighth grade named Monica and long-ago pick-up basketball games that filled my after-school hours.

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Being Poor in the Third World

April 13, 2014

Nine years ago the science fiction writer John Scalzi published a blog post entitled Being Poor.    It became very popular and was reprinted in a number of venues.    It consisted of a series of short statements that attempt to encapsulate what being poor in America really means.  The list is long, but here are a few examples:

Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal. [In 2005 the Federal minimum wage was $5.15.  ed.]

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

At the time I found the blog post reprinted in World Ark magazine (house organ of Heifer Project International) and posted a copy outside my office.  I had more or less forgotten it was there until one of my current students noticed it and said to me, “Why did you put this up?  It makes me sad!”  (Unfortunately, there is no way in print to capture the precise combination of humor, defensiveness and sadness that tinged his voice.) Read more…


April 9, 2014


An unintentionally ironic evaluation has been voiced, by some, following screenings of Noah. The film, it seems, has been deemed “historically inaccurate”. Phil Cooke, of the National Religious Broadcasters, identifies Noah as “more of an inspired movie than an exact retelling”. An “exact retelling” of what, precisely?

Persons exist who do believe in an historical Noah. Perhaps it is the relationship between that supposedly real Noah, and this reel Noah, which Cooke wishes to emphasize. Perhaps Cooke seeks simply to draw Noah into relation with the biblical tale. Marketing materials, following that possible motivation, identify Noah as having been inspired by the story of Noah and interested viewers are referred to Genesis.

Noah is not, I agree, an “exact retelling” of Genesis. I am not sure why that fact would matter. My opinion is that, among those suspicious of the creative retelling that is Noah, insufficient consideration has been given to the extent to which the biblical tale is, itself, a creative retelling. Creativity need not be taboo.

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A Lenten Exercise on the Creed, Part III

April 5, 2014

In this post we conclude our Lenten reflection on the Nicene Creed.  Parts I and II can be found here and here.  Please contribute!

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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Responding to Jimmy Carter’s Criticism of the All-Male Priesthood

April 3, 2014

800px-Priesterweihe_in_Schwyz_2When St. Thomas Aquinas argued that the female sex is an impediment to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders, i.e., becoming a priest or deacon, he cited the First Letter of Paul to Timothy, wherein the inspired author wrote that, in the gatherings of the faithful, women should learn in silence and with all submissiveness, never teaching or having authority over men.  Aquinas added, “Since it is not possible in the female sex to signify eminence of degree, for a woman is in the state of subjection, it follows that she cannot receive the sacrament of Order.” By and large, you won’t today hear apologists for the all-male priesthood follow Aquinas’s lead when trying to explain Catholic doctrine to a hostile audience.  To our ears, his reasoning rings of sexism, sounding exactly like the sort of arguments historically (and still today) used to defend the mistreatment and degradation of women.  Nowadays the church’s most common refrain is that it hasn’t the authority to ordain women because Jesus Christ didn’t give it that authority: it’s not the limits of women, but the limits of the ordained men that prevent women serving as priests. This line of reasoning works to maintain the exclusiveness of its priesthood while evading the charge of sexism.

No surprise, critics of the all-male priesthood disagree. President Jimmy Carter, for one.  He’s on tour for a new book, A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, about the abuse of women around the world. Women today suffer inequality, enslavement, murder, legalized rape, torture, and other atrocities enabled by religious beliefs, practices, and structures of power.  In interviews, Carter has included the Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood among the causes of abuse and mistreatment, saying that it influences people to think of women as inferior to men–the kind of thinking that precipitates abuse.

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Shifting the Focus: Objectification, Porn and the Longing for Belonging; A Guest Post by Leah Perrault

April 1, 2014

Vox Nova is happy to present this post by Leah Perrault.  Leah’s previous guest post at Vox Nova is available here: I’m Right Here. See Me.

Last week, John Rogove, over at Ethika Politika, put out a piece that got me thinking about pornography again. It was a fascinating economic analysis of the “market” for the bodies and intimacy of women in the face of rising costs of living (in this case, of university tuition).

I think the author is right to suggest that in the sexual “marketplace”, patriarchy is engrained, where women generally are placed in a vulnerable position by virtue of generally higher male demand for sex. This places women in a position of both power and vulnerability, and it is equally interesting to me that women get blamed for the problem and exploited by it, generally – also a sign of cultural, rather than merely capitalist, patriarchy.

Early in the post, however, I think the author fundamentally misunderstands the appeal of porn for the consumer when he writes: “That’s precisely the appeal of porn for the consumer: it takes a dignified human being, often one in a position of power or at least of autonomy, however socially limited, and degrades her: having already reduced her personhood to a mere symbolic social role, it then reduces even that to the simple material presence of a passive body, ready for consumption. It is precisely this body-as-meat ready for consumption that the entrepreneurial sex worker effectively exploits and sells as a product. ” I don’t think that porn is appealing to the consumer because it objectifies and depersonalizes the person viewed, though porn and porn use certainly does this. I think porn is appealing and addictive because it satisfies some unmet need in the viewer; porn speaks to a longing for sexual intimacy, for belonging and being desired by the other. When a person cannot find a meaningful relationship, fails to succeed in making it last or is seduced by a culture that promises instant gratification in every arena including human relationships, porn offers us the illusion of what we really want. In some cases, the viewer is threatened by the people or situations represented in pornography, and offers the illusion of control, manipulation or oppression of the other; this too is primarily about the dysfunction in the viewer, a fear of vulnerability, equality and intimacy. Read more…


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