Sheriff Joe’s Got to Go: Arizona’s Unfinished Election

Here in New York, concerns about a fair and accessible voting process in this past Tuesday’s election revolved around after effects of Superstorm Sandy, which took a severe toll on infrastructure along the mid-Atlantic coast. In the face of ongoing power outages and transportation gaps, not to mention intense personal and communal disruption, thousands of voters as well as many polling officials went to great lengths to cast and count their ballots.

Concerns of a very different sort plagued the electorate in a number of states due to the decidedly unnatural disaster of restrictive voter ID laws; nineteen states, to be exact, have passed such measures since 2011 (although some are not yet in effect). These laws’ potential unjustly to disenfranchise scores of eligible citizens was well documented during the campaign and no doubt was made actual in some places on Tuesday. While this election cycle is now over, the work of assuring free and fair elections in a country that purports to value participatory democracy is surely unfinished business. Continue reading

The Last Laugh? Theologizing Humor and Joy With the Cardinal and Colbert

My attendance at the much discussed “The Cardinal and Colbert” extravaganza here at Fordham University last Friday made for rare moment in the life of a grad student: being plopped down in the midst of several thousand hooting, hollering, maroon-shirted youngsters. As a matter of principle, I resolutely did not do the wave, but I have to admit the pep rally style enthusiasm was a tad infectious, not to mention the unusually high celebrity quotient for the Bronx. The evening was a particular point of pride in that it was the brainchild of two professors in my own theology department, Michael Peppard and Charles Camosy; kudos to them for conjuring up and seeing through such a novel and energizing event.

The personalities brought together for conversation embodied the topic at hand: “Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life.” Stephen Colbert and Cardinal Dolan are each known for their prominent status as smile-wearing and smile-causing Catholics, albeit in very different ways. Fr. James Martin, SJ, the moderator, has written frequently on the subject of faith and humor, intent to show the twain shall in this case meet – and perhaps must. If there was a core message throughout the evening it was this: joy is an active and essential component of the spiritual life. Faith yea,even Catholic faith! – is not well served by the images of gloomy piety and somber sanctity often associated with it. Continue reading

“Fagbug:” Beetle-Driving Grad Student Confronts Homophobia On the Road and On Film

Summer leisure time or attempts to beat the heat may find some of us looking for on-screen recommendations. If you have already exhausted Netflix’s store of Dawson’s Creek in all six seasons of its teenage soap operatic glory (that was my June. True story.) or have the good sense never to do such a thing, I suggest checking out an interesting documentary called Fagbug.

Marc rides the FagBug

(Photo credit: feastoffun.com)

The title character, so to speak, is a VW Beetle owned by Erin Davies of Troy, New York which was vandalized in 2007 with the word “fag” spray painted in red on its front driver’s side window and “u r gay” on its hood. I have fellow WIT blogger Megan McCabe to thank for bringing to my attention the film in which Davies traces her remarkable and unpredictable response to the crime. While I realize I’m a bit late jumping on this particular Volkswagen-bandwagon – Fagbug appeared in 2009 – I suspect the “Best Gay Car Movie of the Year” (thank you, Vanity Fair) may have slipped under the radar for many. And I think it’s a story worth sharing. Continue reading

Monseñor Romero and the Asceticism of Truth

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a screening of a new documentary about Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador. Monseñor: The Last Journey of Óscar Romero will be formally released by First Run Features this week, marking the 32nd anniversary of the Archbishop’s assassination on March 24, 1980. Professor Michael Lee of Fordham’s Theology Department organized the event, which included introductory comments and a Q & A session with Rev. Robert Pelton, CSC, the project’s originator, and Juliet Weber, one of its co-directors. Fr. Pelton was a peritus (theological advisor) to Cardinal Suenens of Belgium at Vatican II, worked for years in Chile, and is now director emeritus of the Latin American/North American Church Concerns at the University of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies.  In this last capacity he began organizing the annual Romero Lectures, out of which grew the inspiration to produce a documentary.

Monseñor focuses on the tumultuous three years between Romero’s appointment as the local ordinary of San Salvador in 1977 and his death in 1980. The documentary is a treasure of archival video footage and audio materials, including Romero’s cassette-recorded diary, homilies, visits to local parishes, and reception of Salvadorans into the archdiocesan center. Ms. Weber remarked that for her the sound of Romero’s voice carries the story; it was striking also for me to hear its weariness some nights as he recounted numbers of disappeared, tortured, and murdered, and then its powerful conviction in denouncing injustice and proclaiming the Gospel at the altar on Sunday mornings. In addition, the project emphasizes Romero’s role as pastor and his deep commitment to – and learning from – the people of El Salvador. To that end the film includes extensive and equally moving recent interviews with campesinos – some local church leaders, some former FMLN guerrillas, some both – as well as legal advisors, fellow priests, and several military and government officials who reflect on Romero and their own context.

Just a day prior I had occasion to view part of another documentary about El Salvador, this one focusing on the life and struggle of the revolutionary groups tucked away in the mountains. It is called In the Name of the People: El Salvador’s Civil War and was shot in 1985. I’ve yet to watch the rest of it, but plan to do so soon since it turns out the entire film is available online.

Continue reading

“Sacred Topographies:” 2012 Fordham Graduate Theology Conference

Hi folks. For graduate students in the area or those itching for an excuse to visit the Big Apple, we here at Fordham will be hosting an interdisciplinary conference this fall, October 20th, and would love for you to be involved. Just announced, the theme of the 2nd annual event is: “Sacred Topographies: or, parks & revelation.” Information on the keynote speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Castelli, and a link to the conference page are below. If this is of interest, please consider submitting a paper proposal or planning to attend. And feel free to spread the word!

Greetings!

The Theology Graduate Student Association of Fordham University is hosting a graduate student conference on October 20th, 2012 at the Lincoln Center campus, midtown Manhattan. We are soliciting paper submissions from graduate students, and warmly invite your 500 word abstracts for consideration. Deadline for submission of abstracts (to fordhamtgsa@gmail.com) is Monday, May 21st

Elizabeth Castelli, of Barnard College, will give the keynote address at the conference. Professor Castelli is a specialist in biblical studies, early Christianity, and feminist/gender studies in religion. Her book Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making is a standard text for students of early Christianity, martyrdom, and the function of memory in religious identity-formation.  She has also authored or edited numerous books and articles including Imitating Paul: A Discourse of Power and Women, Gender, and Religion: A Reader.  She serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of the American Academy of Religion as well as the Journal of Early Christian Studies.  Prof. Castelli is also an advisory board member of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University.

Please see the attached Call for Papers for details. All inquiries and submissions should be sent tofordhamtgsa@gmail.com.  Further details and conference schedule will be posted to the following site: https://sites.google.com/site/fordhamgradtheoconf/ 

Woman and A Lady at the Museum of Modern Art

When my sister visited last week she and I had a chance to do some of the New York City exploring I haven’t made much time for since moving to the Bronx in August. Our Big Apple adventures included a Friday evening trip to the MoMA. Although probably dulled by the effects of our largely food-based itinerary, our senses were stimulated by the array of artistic expression contained within. A couple of exhibitions in particular set the feminist wheels spinning in my mind.

Woman I 1950–52 Oil on canvas 6' 3 7/8" x 58" (192.7 x 147.3 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase

We began by wandering the extensive sixth floor presentation of Dutch-born American artist Willem de Kooning’s works, which span over half the 20th century, employ various media, and cover several styles and themes. My sister and I were joined by a Fordham colleague, a fellow feminist theologian with a background in art history. She was especially intent to show us de Kooning’s third “Woman” series, produced in the early 1950’s. They are, I learned, an important and tensile convergence of figural representation and abstract expressionism; to some of his contemporaries, the perceptible central image in these paintings betrayed his previous and more thoroughgoing abstractionism. They are also controversial in content; de Kooning’s depictions have been variously hailed as progressively subversive and repressively misogynist. Together we puzzled over the paintings and our responses to them. Alluring? Unnerving? Angry? Grotesque? Hateful? Whatever else, somehow compelling. On the one hand, they seem to destabilize the staid genre of seated portraits; my Fordham friend and the gallery notes also helpfully pointed out some of the Marian imagery orienting this tradition. On the other hand, the bulging eyes, almost porcine nostrils, always prominent breasts, all marked in bold but meticulously considered brush strokes, connote something distressing and perhaps violent, especially to a viewer who may herself be categorized by the title of the represented figure. The MoMA’s website says this about Woman, I (1950-2): Continue reading