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I’ll be teaching a year-long introductory college class on Catholicism again for 2014-2015. As I prepare to teach this class again, I’ve been thinking not only about the requisite alterations I need to make to the syllabus, but also about what teaching even is and what it means to me.

Here’s why.

I am recalling a memory I filed away at some point, and it has to do with women, the practice of teaching in a university context, and how we place those two things together.

One early September a couple years ago, I was at a departmental party, and I ended up having a conversation with another female graduate student in theology who was preparing to teach for her first time. We had never met before, so our exchange gravitated toward our most obvious common tie: starting a new semester and being relatively new university instructors (though I had taught once before). Continue Reading »

Sarah and Lindsey at A Queer Calling finally laid out their celibate gay agenda:

A Queer Calling came to be at a time when we felt a need for more meaningful interaction with other people on topics such as celibacy, vocation, spirituality, and LGBT Christian issues. It began as a project to help us explore where God is calling us, and to give us something new to enjoy together during Lindsey’s period of unemployment. We write because we see celibacy as an important topic that far too many people dismiss as old-fashioned, oppressive, and indicative of a lack of self-acceptance. And that’s all.

Without qualification, I trust the “agenda” of A Queer Calling. I appreciate that they are clear that their story is not meant to be used against others who do not share their theological view or family practices. More importantly, I respect and admire the way they carefully discuss difficult topics and the respect they convey through their analysis. I respect the choice of Sarah and Lindsey to share a celibate life together, to tell their story, and to advocate for their place as supported celibates within their communities. Continue Reading »

*Spoilers all throughout this piece.

The train is a lie. It seems likely that it’s conditions for possibility are based on a lie (in my view it seems likely that Wilford manufactured the climate crisis himself or with others in order to solidify his place in the world as a genius and exceptional). It’s order and chaos are based on more lies and arbitrary distinctions (which Tilda Swinton elucidates so marvelously in her rant on why one wouldn’t wear a shoe on their head even as the violence of this analogy and the distinction it grounds is being performed before the inhabitants of the back of the train). Even the Snowpiercer’s technology, a purportedly perpetual motion engine that powers itself, is revealed to be a lie, for it depends on other parts of the train that began to fail and so must be replaced by children’s invisible labor in order for the train to keep going. So there is a lie of a self sustaining individual and independent power as the source of life on the train (the engine is narrated as agent in gathering snow and purifying it for the water supply, but if the engine depends on child labor, it is clear that it is the labor and lives of the most vulnerable that is the grounds of the social life and social order of the train) How does one disrupt the lie? Joon-Ho imagines this by refusing the lie that grounds the reason for the train itself: that the world is forever uninhabitable.

Joon-Ho reveals the possibility of lateral movement and lateral thought when Nam and Curtis converse outside of Wilford’s door; there is a shifting of the imagination Joon-Ho instantiates through his shifting of the camera at the moment when Nam reveals his observations about the outside to Curtis and his belief that it is now possible to survive outside the train.

The shift that occurs visually represents a shifting of the field in view, that there is other movement available than the vertical movement from the bottom of the class barrel to the top of the class barrel, that there is a more fundamental restructuring of thought which enables one to stop thinking of the walls of the train as walls and to consider them as doors instead, as things that can be opened up. In this shifting, it is a gesture to the kind of radical immanence which troubles transcendence of the trains hierarchy and distinction as the goal for revolutionary movement, suggesting that seeking transcendence, at the end, will still occlude the mechanization of human bodies and their valuation based on their place and how well they fit into the order of the train. Joon-Ho also includes brief flashes back to various behavior we saw Nam engage in that seemed odd and out of place precisely because he was operating from an imagination that was out of place–that was out of order with the lie of the train’s necessity–and was preparing to make that alternately imagined reality possible all throughout the fight to get to the front.

Given who survives at the beginning of the end, the film also eschews white liberal anxieties about white people’s place as overseers of what ought to happen. It illuminates that if there is a place for white people to animate revolutionary struggle and the reinvigoration of the imagination, it is in refusing to take control of the train and letting the self determination of the most vulnerable lead the way in derailing capital’s reproduction of distinction. That is, Snowpiercer imagines a world without whiteness as it’s beginning, which is not a beginning of a decline, but the beginning of the end of distinction, a beginning of an alternate way of inhabiting time and the space of the world; a refusal of the myth of distinction as necessitating separation from the world and reentering the precarity of the world and of humanity with eyes open to the risks that lay with being in the world but also the hope that there is life in the world that can be sustained within the world, not shielded from it in the false distinctions and social order of a white supremacist, capitalist, and patriarchal imagination.

*an addendum:
I wonder, too, if Snowpiercer, with it’s tightly crowded rear train cars policed by military and aristocrats following the order of an unjust law says anything to us about the conditions which ground the situation with Israel’s war on Gaza. That is, the mundaneness of the Israeli state’s violence and the manufactured crises in the Middle East that serve as justification for unwarranted brutality and further enclosure under extreme conditions. It seems the film does much to, in exploding the situation of the train as an allegory or parable about capitalism, law, order and power, reveals the absurdity of such positions that claim to be neutral. There is no space for neutrality in such a extreme power disparities. That the resistance of those in the back cars cannot be subject to a morality that finds an order which is grounded in the law that maintains the train in the first place. The choices of those in the back to resist (and Nam and Yona show that there are multiple ways of inhabiting the space of resistance) is conditioned by their enclosure, and thus is subject to an inquiry as to why the enclosure exists in the first place and who benefits from maintaining it as such?

For the past two summers (2012 and 2013), I’ve been fortunate enough to spend July in Paris, doing research for my dissertation.1 I had been to Paris before, visiting for a week when I studied abroad in France, but now that I’ve gotten deep into French religious history, visiting Paris took on a whole new meaning. For example, my sister and I went to mass at St. Médard, a church that was made famous by the Jansenist convulsionnaires. I also visited St. Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, a parish with a connection to Jansenism and the tomb of the Abbot of Saint-Cyran, and St. Étienne-du-Mont, which is the final resting place of Blaise Pascal and Jean Racine.

However, there are two little-known sites that I encourage anyone interested in French religious history to go see: the former convents of Port-Royal du Paris and Port-Royal des Champs. I’d like to use this blog post to explain why you might want to visit these sites.

Now I’ve already done a lot of name-dropping in this post and people may not recognize all these names if you’re not up on your early modern church history. You may be wondering why in the world you’d be interested in visiting these two former convents, so I’ll provide a brief historical overview.  Continue Reading »

A recent post from Zach Hoag on LGBT persons and the blessings they bring to the church troubled me and reminded me of why I think third way is the worst way. Namely, its appearance as well reasoned and the hidden violences that animate this position.

The “draw” of the third way comes primarily through its mode of narrating the world: It is a frail and broken world where people are unkind to one another, hurt one another, and increasingly polarized. It is a world where people’s ideologies position them into one of two camps. Either for “this thing” or against it. Each side wants to say there is no middle ground, no nuance–that it is black and white. But, the third wayer reveals to us, this is a false image! Yes, the world is frail and broken, yes we hurt each other and increasingly polarized, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s another way. A way that is more peaceable, more just, more Christ-like. A … THIRD WAY. Continue Reading »

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The Australian government is currently conducting a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. A major focus of this investigation has been the church; how the individual denominations have responded to allegations of sexual abuse, and how the denominations, in many cases, worked to cover abuse up. Having followed the lead up to, and evidence given to the commission fairly closely, I was not entirely shocked, but certainly disappointed to witness a number of religious leaders behaving defensively.[1]

What saddened me, as the evidence mounted up against the various churches, was the deep level of defensives rearticulated by lay members of denominations. Having known a number of people directly and indirectly implicated and associated with various cases before the commission, I was involved in a number of conversations that mirrored institutional patterns of self-justification and diversion. I was told that the bare minimum legal requirements had been met on many occasions (as if the Church, that which continually argues for a particular moral and ethical ordering of society, should be celebrated for doing the very least expected of them). I was exhorted to think of offender’s families, and the great cost to them in a time of public transparency. And I was I was reminded that all people sin and that we are not to judge. In short, I was reminded that institutions protect themselves at all levels of participation, and that power is always mobilizing to protect the powerful and the power discourses of those very institutions.

Of course the Church has a unique explanatory power when it comes to responding to the handling of sexual abuse. A tragedy laid plain in the testimonies given at the Royal Commission, is that religious institutions not only dealt inadequately (and this word is hardly strong enough) with allegations of sexual abuse in the past, but that they can continue to do so. And it seems this defensiveness is made possible by the theological discourse that is rehashed time and time again.  Continue Reading »

I most love blogging for the way it places me just a keystroke away from people I would otherwise never even pass by on the street.  I can communicate with and receive feedback from anyone with an internet connection.  In this way, blogging is a form of communion.  It does not replace (or even come close to) the communion our bodies can make, but I am grateful for it nonetheless.

I received some rather unexpected reactions to my latest post, “Gay and Catholic? A Response to Eve Tushnet.”  I would like to address one of them here.

Both in the comments’ section of my post and in a separate blog post written in response to mine, I was accused of “reducing” gayness to sex.  One commenter contended that for people like Ms. Tushnet, gayness involves “desiring profound emotional intimacy with their own gender, deep spiritual friendship, appreciating the goodness and beauty of themselves and their companions–with part of that being sexual attraction…but not being the primary, overriding or sole determiner of the orientation.”

One blogger accused me of just not understanding what it means to be gay (people who know me in real life will understand how funny that statement is) because I do not realize that “being gay has much to do with how we love. Love, however, can be had without sex, just as sex can be had without love.”

Continue Reading »

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