Sunday, August 28, 2011

WHY CAN'T A MAN STAND ALONE? WHY CAN'T AN ALIEN BE JUST WHAT IT SEEMS? The friend I mentioned in my previous post about Attack the Block sent me a really good email clarifying her point. Because there's one very specific plot spoiler, I've posted it over at the spoilerous blog, but the main point is: "...[T]he kids, like the audience, imagined they were in a different kind of movie, and that turned out to be a disastrous mistake." They needed a different kind of hero from the kind they wanted to be.
IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, BABY: Some scattered notes on that Christopher Roberts talk (I've ordered his book, as well).

* CR argues that Augustine speaks, against several other early Christian theologians, for the body and for sex difference as a feature of our life in Eden, not a precursor or foreshadowing of the Fall. For him, to have a sexed body is to have a vocation.

* CR: Progressive theology of marriage separates creation and redemption--for progressive, pro-gay-marriage theologians, sex difference is about creation/procreation and is private, while redemption (linked to marriage?) is ecclesial but unisex.

* Some good if glancing cultural criticism, calling for a switch from a dating model of young adulthood to a discernment model.

* One questioner deploys transgender people as wedges to get gay marriage for cis people. I disapprove of that as a rhetorical strategy [eta: because it uses other people to get what you want, rather than attempting to serve or understand them]. It also tends to obscure the actual theological questions involved in transgender experience. (More.)

* CR gives really interesting pushback on JPII's “genius of women” stuff and whether there are inherent characteristics of gender i.e. boys don't cry, girls are nurturing.

* From my perspective, his least-satisfying answer to audience questions is the one about gay adoption, where he chooses trivializing language, so just be aware of that going in.
Celibacy is a sign that intercourse between men and women is not compulsory--that sex is a gift, not a law or a right.
--Christopher Roberts, here; more on this in a moment

Saturday, August 27, 2011

NO ALIEN INVASION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION! Last night I saw Attack the Block with a couple friends, and I absolutely, relentlessly loved it. It does exactly what it promises--aliens attack a British housing project, working-class/underclass community bands together to save their home--and does it with tons of energy and heart. It's sort of sf/horror/comedy, and real comfort food, giving you every cliche of its genres but giving them to you with style and love. Demi-spoilers in what follows.

I was really interested in the gender issues, in part because unlike the race/class issues they were never raised explicitly. All the men in this movie are gangsters, mini-gangsters, or layabouts. The women are much more responsible, and the girls are both drawn to the local guys and deeply mistrustful of them. That felt pretty real to me.

One friend suggested that the movie overturned the "action hero" archetype: A man doesn't become a hero by killing. He becomes a danger by killing. He becomes a hero by risking his own life to save others. I think that's sort of true (and the "carrying the evidence of your sin on your back" scene actually reminded me of the amazing waterfall scene from The Mission--that's how much this movie believes in its characters), although it is mostly a feel-good movie and that limits how much it can overturn worldly ideals of heroism.

This is a really, really funny movie, which never takes itself seriously; and yet it's also a movie with a really strong emphasis on redemption, forgiveness, and the need to attempt understanding of others. I was hugely fond of it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'M ON A SUBMARINE MISSION FOR YOU, BABY: A series of stupid thoughts about the Michelle Bachmann "wifely submission" question. These are really just kind of starting points for thought, not actual thoughts, but I haven't seen them anywhere else yet, so hey.

1. Obviously this whole conversation would be so different if most American Christians genuinely believed that submission is a privileged, honored position. It was rarely the eldest sons who inherited the king's mantle, you know? Exaltavit humiles.

2. If husband = Jesus and wife = Church, then by transitivity wife = Mary... whom Jesus did actually listen to. Which suggests not that Mary is God but that "submission" in a Christian context is more complicated than simply an army-like command structure in which He gives the orders and she follows them. There is some kind of interweaving in which both are necessary to hear and understand God's will. I think that's a possible Catholic understanding of Bachmann's "lol, really?!" respect-based answer to this question.

The other thing you could say is that nuns are the Brides of Christ in a really obvious way, and yet they are not known for a lack of feistiness.

So again, maybe the hermeneutic here is more complex than just "I am a computer which runs program DOMINION when my husband presses the ENTER key."

3. I was really intensely struck by this passage from an MSNBC "Meet the Press" interview with Bachmann:
MR. GREGORY: But you said that Gald — God called me to run for Congress. God has said certain things about, you know, going to law school, about pursuing other decisions in your life. There’s a difference between God as a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration, and God telling you to take a particular action.

Because... I don't remember what Bachmann answered, and I can guarantee it wasn't what I'm about to say. But this whole question is just so far from what I understand.

God is not a sense of comfort. God is not a "sense of" anything, actually, He is a source of joy or peace or what have you but not the internal sense of it. But okay whatever, I've totally said ridiculously dumb things in live interviews. Move on.

When I follow God I find peace.

That does not mean that I find happiness or comfort. I think I was well served by reading Dorothy Day's autobiography early in my conversion, because Day makes it clear that peace is not comforting or nice or easy. Peace is the hard work of dragging each moment into place like a giant brick. Peace is grueling. Peace is debilitating and you feel stupid and boring and dumb and worthless every time you drag another stupid boring brick up to its place.

Peace is about finding your place.

Your place may not be comfortable. It may not be pretty; maybe part of your vocation is to make this kind of Christian life beautiful! Maybe you have the painful crown of the pioneer.

But Christ will move you past happiness, past comfort, into the hard work of peace.
IT'S AN UNSAFETY DANCE--IT'S AN UNSAFETY DANCE! Disney's Skeleton Dance, via Kindertrauma. I had a music teacher in middle school who did us all the favor of wheeling in a giant tv on a fat black cord every Halloween so we could watch this, followed by the Fantasia "Night on Bald Mountain." So middle school wasn't all bad, is what I'm saying.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Author’s note: This was originally delivered as a talk at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL on April 1, 2011, as part of a series of chapel service talks titled “Sexuality and Wholeness.” The theme for this third talk in the series was “Homosexuality.”

I’d like to frame what I have to say today with a story from the Gospel of Mark (10:23-31). In this story, Jesus’ disciples are afraid of being left on the outside of the circle of God’s saving grace. Having just seen a rich man depart with Jesus’ pronouncement, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!,” the disciples wonder about their own fate. If the rich—those who were supposed to be a sure bet as candidates for salvation—may miss the kingdom, then what hope is there for the rest of us?

In an effort to shore up his own chances, Peter blurts out to Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” He seems to be hoping for Jesus’ affirmation here: Yes, Peter, I can see that. You’re safe! Since you made such a great sacrifice on my behalf, I’ll guarantee you a spot at the heavenly banquet.

Interestingly, that’s not the response Jesus gives. Rather than buttress Peter’s confidence in his own heroic efforts, Jesus undercuts that sort of self-reliance. He says, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Notice, Jesus doesn’t condemn Peter’s choice to leave behind his fishing nets and follow Jesus. After all, Jesus is the one who had commanded him to do so (Mark 1:16-17)! Instead, Jesus shifts Peter’s perspective on that act of self-denial. Rather than view it as a badge of honor, or a kind of qualification ensuring him a place on heaven’s roster, Peter should understand his forsaking the life he’d always known as a venture in receiving from Jesus a life so staggeringly full of grace and glory that any sacrifice made to obtain it pales by comparison. If Peter has left behind his family, Jesus says, he receives a new family in his discipleship. If Peter has given up property, he inherits a choicer piece of real estate. If he forsakes a fine house, he gains a mansion. If he gives up his life, then—in Jesus’ favorite paradox—he gains it. Following me, Jesus seems to say, isn’t simply about relinquishing things. It is about receiving the abundance of eternal life. ...

In the years since I have begun to tell the story of my sexuality to my fellow Christians in the churches I have been a part of, I have found Jesus’ words to be true. Jesus has given me brothers and sisters and mothers and children. Knowing my celibate lifestyle, the Christians I’ve befriended have committed themselves, through the unity secured by the Holy Spirit rather than through biological ties, to being my family, whether or not I ever experience marriage myself. They have invited me into their homes, taken me on vacation with them, and encouraged me to consider myself an older sibling to their children.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

She was searching his eyes now--looking perhaps for the flickers of some silent story, an inner late late show.
--John Hersey, Too Far to Walk

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

KITCHEN ADVENTURES: I AM AWESOME TODAY. At least in the kitchenette!

For lunch I had soccas again. This time they were thin, fried brown and crispy in a thin slick of olive oil. I mixed the chickpea flour and water with a ginger-sesame vinaigrette thing; minced garlic; minced ginger; minced jalapeno; chopped button mushroom; cumin, salt, and garam masala. On the side I made a yogurt-cucumber-cilantro sauce. Then a big glass of whole milk, because why not.

For dinner I had two sandwiches: hot and cold. They were otherwise identical except that the hot sandwich also had thinly-sliced jalapeno, and the cold sandwich had sliced Persian cucumber.

Both sandwiches were on halves of a mealhada roll. I spread the bottoms of the roll halves with wasabi mayonnaise (left over from a visit to Black and Orange, the burger place on CT Ave which used to be Rogue States, and by the way that place is terrific) and layered tomato, onion, cilantro, roast beef, an awesome black-pepper cheese that was on sale at Whole Foods, and the top of the mealhada roll. The hot sandwich got wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 375 for 15 minutes. I ate the cold sandwich while I was waiting for the hot one to be ready.

Everything I have just described to you was fantastic. Today I have eaten like a queen. I thought the sandwiches might have too many conflicting flavors, but I was wrong--everything worked perfectly. Each bite was great! They were both really messy, though, so have some napkins or paper towels on hand.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

..."Normal" nondepressed persons have what psychologists call "positive illusion"—that is, they possess a mildly high self-regard, a slightly inflated sense of how much they control the world around them.

Mildly depressed people, by contrast, tend to see the world more clearly, more as it is. In one classic study, subjects pressed a button and observed whether it turned on a green light, which was actually controlled by the researchers. Those who had no depressive symptoms consistently overestimated their control over the light; those who had some depressive symptoms realized they had little control. ...

Depression also has been found to correlate with high degrees of empathy, a greater concern for how others think and feel. In one study, severely depressed patients had much higher scores on the standard measures of empathy than did a control group of college students; the more depressed they were, the higher their empathy scores. This was the case even when patients were not currently depressed but had experienced depression in the past. Depression seems to prepare the mind for a long-term habit of appreciating others' point of view.

more (via Ratty; and I definitely don't agree with all of what he says here--it's adapted from a new book which might give better context--but some of it does ring true. And I think this perspective can be helpful for depressed people seeking to find their individual style and mode of leadership.)
I like my human experience served up with a little silence and restraint. Silence makes experience go further and, when it does die, gives it that dignity common to a thing one had touched and not ravished.
--Djuna Barnes, quoted in Philip Herring, Djuna: The Life and Work of Djuna Barnes; I'm against seeking dignity for oneself as a general rule, but I liked this line a lot and I think it explains some of why I speak much more freely in fiction than in my occasional attempts at memoir-type writing.