Several years ago I spent a few days in Las Vegas (my first time). There I discovered, while walking the strip, that there are locales in conservative America where one publically receives free and graphic pornography. The dozens of business cards handed to me as I walked the city of sin not only provided an image of the naked women, but often, a woman seemingly engaged in some sort of sex act. I think at the time I was quite surprised by this. I was not surprised to see such an image, but surprised at how alien these sex acts looked and how the sex act itself had taken on a clumsy, or rather cliché, closeness with performance. Continue Reading »
Every Orthodox person who loves someone of the same sex risks hearing the following:
“I can no longer offer you the Eucharist. While I cannot tell you to leave this parish, I would prefer you no longer attend.”
Few words are more painful to hear.
We can argue endlessly over proof-texts from scripture or the tradition, wielding verses and canons and quotations like scalpels cutting out a cancer, or swords lopping off limbs. How many of us, though, stop to wonder what it is like to be a partnered lesbian woman or gay man in an Orthodox parish?
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the movie version of The Exorcist so around Halloween news articles about the book, the movie, and the actual events that inspired both began to pop up all over. I would like to take this fortieth anniversary to reflect a little on the role of gender in the understanding of possession, both as it is portrayed in popular culture (The Exorcist) and through history. My interest in this topic comes from my love affair with the movie. Having been an undergraduate at Georgetown University, I saw the movie five times in my four years there – once every Halloween when the university would show the film in Gaston Hall and once in theaters when “the version you’ve never seen” was released. I also have a vivid memory of reading the whole book one Saturday my sophomore year because although I started it in the morning, it took me into the evening to finish it and I remember coming downstairs to see my roommates saying, “I couldn’t be up there by myself anymore.” Scary stuff. Continue Reading »
Today, November 11, marks Veteran’s Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada. Originally called Armistice Day and begun to mark the end of the “War to End all Wars,” Veteran’s Day now celebrates the service and sacrifice of soldiers who have fought in all of the United States’ wars. (Turns out the First World War was not the war to end all wars after all).
Today I find myself torn between two undeniable realities.
One: millions of U.S.-Americans have fought and sometimes died with the intention of securing the “freedom” of their fellow countrywomen and men.
Two: many of these wars have been unjust. The United States military has oppressed at least as much as it has liberated. It has inflicted violence upon the defenseless bodies of children at least as much as it has protected them from it.
OK, so blog post discussions are not immune from derailment, and blog spots are hardly consistent in promoting the kind of discursive exchanges an optimist might assume. But Facebook does seem to promote a special kind of dialogue, one that is possible because a) most people have an extensive list of Facebook friends well beyond particular academic or discipline specific interests, many of whom have strong opinions about faith, the bible, and well, pretty much everything. And b) the whole idea behind the Facebook exchange is instant call and response; quiet and patient reflection would obviously not work in the Facebook format. More often than not, this leads to a frenetic exchange that tends to reveal more about its participants than it does about ideas. Continue Reading »
Optimism is clearly a condition of the Radical Orthodoxy imagination. This confidence is evident in the exegesis of theological tradition, the apologetics of Christendom, and especially in the efficacy of the Eucharist and liturgical formation. The claims regarding the Eucharist proffer a particularly high view of the ontological significance of Eucharist for the church. For instance, William Cavanaugh suggests it is ‘the Eucharist which makes the Body of Christ’. Graham Ward pushes transubstantiation to the point that the Eucharist is the form of God’s liberative action in the world. He argues: ‘for it is not that Jesus, at this point, stops being a physical presence. It is more that his physical presence can extend itself to incorporate other bodies, like bread, and make them extensions of his own. A certain metonymic substitution is enacted, re-situating Jesus’ male physique within the neuter materiality of bread (to arton). The ‘body’ now is both sexed and not sexed’. At a glance it seems that radical orthodoxy has indeed something radical to say about gender, sexuality, and bodies. And yet, in my view, it is precisely here that radical orthodoxy falters in its reading of the Eucharist and liturgy.
Proponents of radical orthodoxy nearly always assume a posture of pure theology, as if their claims stand outside the realm of ideology. Correspondingly, the patterns of worship are established as the divine antipode to the world ‘out there’; as counter-philosophy, as counter-narrative, and as counter- liturgy. That traditional patterns of worship have been experienced as highly problematic and oppressive for women (as with many marginalised people groups) is nearly always inconsequential to the confidence placed in the liturgical narrative of radical orthodoxy. Ironically, despite radical orthodoxy’s critique of modernity’s atomizing of the subject, the actual bodies participating in the Eucharist seem immaterial (it may even be that the ontological importance of the Eucharist is purely rhetorical). Continue Reading »
A few years ago, I wrote an article entitled, “Privilege as Blindness: Why North American Christians Need Haiti” for the online theology journal, The Other Journal. In it, I argued that social privilege impairs the privileged person’s ability to see social reality accurately. Social privilege, I claimed, induces a type of “blindness.” I intended to use this methodology to uncover the United States’ relationship to Haiti as not just unjust but imperial. This was my one and only goal; my singular intention.
A few days ago, I was chatting with a person I have befriended through the blogosphere. In the course of this conversation, I shared my article with him.
Although our initial conversation took place on Twitter, he responded the next day via Facebook message. I felt my phone buzz while perusing the “ethnic foods” aisle of the grocery store. After tying up some of conversational loose ends, he wrote:
“Anyways, about the Other Journal article you shared, and which I enjoyed back then and now: … [in the past], i got called out for ableist language and using ‘blind’ as being something coldhearted. I dont know if your article is using blind the same way, but someone could consider it that way.”
When I first read his message, I scoffed, “how ridiculous. It’s obvious that I don’t mean ‘blindness’ to refer to actual blind people.”
Then, I thought, unleashing what was clearly my most delusional and self-aggrandizing self-justification of all time: well, if someone wants to critique me for speaking in the language of the gospels, what can I do? If it was good enough Jesus, I guess it’ll just have to be good enough for me.
But I was unsettled. My mind searched for additional self-defense. I turned nasty.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ableism, culpable ignorance, epistemology, fraternal correction, James Keenan, love, sin, sororal correction, the failure to bother to love, Thomas Aquinas | 7 Comments »