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Tonight, many Orthodox will gather as a community to receive the Sacrament of Unction. A late addition to Holy Week services, unction “is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit.”

Holy UnctionThe seven Gospel readings reflect the open invitation of God. Jesus’ answer to the question, ‘who is my neighbor’ is that your neighbor is the one you treat as such (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus picks Zacchaeus out of the crowd, the tax collector whose sin is evident to all (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus sends his disciples out to freely give healing and teaching to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:1 & 10:5-8). Jesus calls us to unlimited forgiveness (Matthew 8:14-23, and, in St. John Chrysostom’s interpretation of the wise and foolish virgins, condemns our failure to use our gifts for the benefit of others (Matthew 25:1-13. The Syrophoenician woman is honored precisely because she understood that there is no limit to the abundance of God (Matthew 15:21-28). The gospel readings conclude with Jesus’ divine insistence: “‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:9-13).

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photoIn thinking about what to blog about, there are times when I just feel utterly compelled to write something—based on something I’ve read, an experience I’ve had, etc…—and then there are other times where I have to push myself a bit more, to really be disciplined and think through what I want to reflect on and process through (in a public forum). This is, of course, a part of what any kind of disciplined writing practice entails, I think, especially when one is in the part of the process of shifting from directed student-scholar, where one is told what to read and write about, to self-directed scholar-student, where one pursues their own interests, chooses their own texts, and moves from looming monthly to semester deadlines to the more inchoate timetables reflected by statements like “I think I’m going to take exams in August,” and “I’m planning on being done with my program by the end of 2015, but I have funding through 2016, so we’ll see…”

 

I got some great advice from a colleague back when I started my doctoral program, to keep a list of themes and questions that interested me, to come back to during exams and the like. At the time, I found this kind of funny, and silently judged said colleague—having to keep a list of themes and questions that interest you? My problem is that I have too many things that interest me—a list would just make that worse, I thought haughtily. I thought, at that point, that needing to keep some sort of list, rather than being a helpful organizational and recall tool, was a sign of some sort of lack of commitment to or passion about theology. Now, though, I’m feeling quite grateful that I took her advice anyways; I think the exam stage, for me, is where this is the most helpful—sometimes, when I’m trudging through, say, Calvin’s Institutes, or Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, it’s really nice to turn to a document that reminds me of some of the interests and questions I have. This list-keeping has also been handy for my blogging, and for my time management! When I see something on the facebooks that piques mScreen Shot 2014-04-03 at 9.05.40 AMy
interest, I add it to a running list I keep in a word document, oh-so-cleverly titled, “To Potentially Blog About?!” This month, as I turned to that list, two of the three stories/themes
that were at the top of it—as the screenshot below shows, ha—with asterisks beside them marking themes that I keep coming back to were Sarah Coakley and the whole Belle Knox story (the third, again, as the screenshot shows, being Divergent stuff, but I decided I wanted to wait on that one—still reading the book series!)

I say all of that as a sort of long introduction to explain the title (and content) of this blog post, which may seem like an odd juxtaposition… I was trying to decide between the two themes, and realized that, in some ways, they overlap quite a bit, at least in my mind. Before I get into that, some very brief comments about the title topics on their own…

 

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About a year and a half ago, biblical scholar Karen King introduced the world to a piece of Coptic writing in which Jesus made reference to his wife.  Today, we have learned that scientists believe that this papyrus fragment likely belongs to the fourth through eighth centuries A.D. and therefore is probably not a modern forgery.

But remember: even King does not consider this fragment evidence that Jesus actually had a wife.

In light of this news, I want to direct everyone to the post Sonja wrote about the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” back when it was first introduced to the world.  It remains the best piece I have read about this issue.

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Some Words of Thanks

Yesterday over at the blog called Catholic Moral Theology, Professor David Cloutier posted a thoughtful reply to my take on the debate between Massimo Faggioli and co-authors Michael Baxter and William Cavanaugh in the cyber pages of America Magazine.

I want to first of all thank Professor Cloutier.  It is truly a privilege to have someone engage with and comment on my work in the way that Professor Cloutier has.  I thank him not only for sparking up a conversation with me but for doing so with both kindness and intellectual rigor.  I have never met Professor Cloutier but I certainly hope to one day soon.  I echo his gratitude for the theological blogosphere—I feel immensely grateful to be able to have this important conversation with him almost as though we were sitting across from each other at some cozy coffee shop.

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Score. My own institution made Jezebel’s headlines yet again this evening: “Yale Threatens to Kick Woman Out of School for Being Too Skinny.” Said woman is Frances Chan, and according to a Huffington Post essay that she herself wrote last month, she is a 5’2″, 92-pound, 20 year-old undergrad whom the university’s health services decided was dangerously underweight. She writes:

In the past three weeks alone, I have spent ten hours at Yale Health, our student health center. Since December, I have had weekly weigh-ins and urine tests, three blood tests, appointments with a mental health counselor and a nutritionist, and even an EKG done to test my heart. My heart was fine — as it always has been — and so was the rest of my body.

Apart from her BMI (Body Mass Index) score, there was no basis for the university’s freak-out, as Chan explains:

I’ve always been small. I’ve been 5’2” and 90 pounds since high school, but it has never led to any illnesses related to low weight or malnutrition. My mom was the same; my whole family is skinny. We all enjoy Mom’s fabulous cooking, which included Taiwanese beef noodle soup, tricolor pasta, strawberry cheesecake, and cream puffs, none of which make the Weight Watchers shortlist. I just don’t gain weight easily.

FRANCES (if I may), I FEEL YOU. I can’t convey how much reading this story made my blood boil, as I myself have been on the receiving end of similar scolding for my skinniness.

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Last week, Michael Baxter and William Cavanaugh published a response to Massimo Faggioli in the pages of America magazine. Believing themselves misrepresented by Faggioli, they articulate strong arguments for what they consider to be a truly Catholic politics. While they claim that “Faggioli thinks that our approach would exacerbate divides in the Catholic Church in America,” they consider it “obvious…that encouraging Catholics not to invest all their political energies in party politics would go a long way toward healing rather than worsening divides among Catholics.”

Rather than “investing all their political energies in party politics” (something which I do not think Faggioli ever encourages), Baxter and Cavanaugh claim that “recognizing that both parties represent the Gospel in only fragmentary and distorted ways would help diminish the animosity between Catholics who vote Republican and those who vote Democratic.” For this reason, they reject Faggioli’s proposal to renew the Catholic Common Ground Initiative and encourage us to “consider ourselves Catholics before considering ourselves Americans” (again, I do not understand why participating in party politics necessarily requires one to consider herself an American before she considers herself a Catholic nor do I think that Faggioli espouses this view.)

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This is the third and final part in a series of posts on refusing the logic of reconciliation. Please read the first two before commenting.

In the themes it explores and relationality it depends on, the Best Man Holiday is a black movie in the best sense of the term. Full of imagination, not of a future possible life, but a life together that is already present and available now, it highlights the besideness of blackness that I’ve posited as a refusal of the unitive logic of reconciliation. In the past two posts I’ve attempted to sketch some thoughts on why reconciliation is antiblack, antiChrist, and against being together. More than a treatise on how social justice work needs to be done better by churches, these posts have been intended as a critique of the logic by which Christianity reproduces itself as coloniality. As an overcoming of difference through unity, and especially as an overcoming of blackness through the universally reconciling white body of the white Christ. Continue Reading »

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