A Return to Another Theology of the Body, Part 5--Breaking Things Apart

The word "analysis" derives from the Greek roots "ana" meaning "up" and "luein" meaning "loosen."  To analyze something then, in a sense, is to loosen up the parts that make it up in order to see how they work.  If you don't pull the pieces apart, it becomes hard to see how the thing you are looking at works.  Something that looks like a single, unbroken thing may be made of up components, and those components are may be different, but you won't know that until you "loosen up" the connections between the components.  That's what analysis is.

There was an op-ed piece in the New York Times last weekend from a writer with whom I had not been previously familiar, Katelyn Beaty.  As Beaty recounts it, she was raised deep in American conservative Protestantism's "purity culture" of the 1990s, with its hyper (and, perhaps, monomaniacal) emphasis on women and girls refraining from sex until marriage, and thus…

The Pros and Cons of Rolling a Boulder Up the Hill

Three weeks or so ago, author James Carroll lobbed a grenade into the collective lobby of the Roman Catholic Church with a piece in the AtlanticIt's title, "Abolish the Priesthood," while not an inaccurate description of Carroll's argument, fails to capture the totality and nuance of what he is saying (and it's worth noting that authors generally don't write the headlines or titles of their pieces, and so to the extent your beef is with the title, it's a beef with the Atlantic and not Carroll).  But Carroll is no stranger to chucking incendiaries into Catholic spaces--this is the author of Constantine's Sword, which, among other claims, challenged the narrative that Pope Pius XII was a protector of Jews during the Holocaust.  And he was clearly trying to similarly stir things up with his wide-ranging critique of the Roman Catholic priesthood.

And stir things up he did.  Reaction to the piece was wide-ranging and loud.  And it is in this reaction th…

On Being Pro-Choice

If there is anything we probably don't need in the Year of Our Lord 2019, it's a dude pontificating on abortion.  And, yet, we find ourselves, at least in the United States, in a place where the issue has absolutely come to a head, in the form of a serious of extremely severe restrictions on abortions passed in Georgia, Alabama, and my home state of Ohio.  In that light, I think everyone has some sort of obligation to indicate where they stand.  And I think it is particularly incumbent on people of faith, and especially Christians, to talk about where they stand, as the motivating force behind these moves has been explicitly Christian in its framing.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece that described what I think is a more constructive framework for thinking about the philosophical issues behind abortion.  I stand by what I wrote there, but upon re-reading it I noticed that I never committed to a particular position.  So, here it is--for the reasons set forth in that piece,…

In Memoriam: Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans passed away yesterday, as a result of a cascading series of complications stemming from the flu.  She was 37 years old, and leaves behind a husband and two very small children.

Social media was awash in tributes to Evans yesterday, and she had an obituary in the New York Times and other general-interest fora.  Many of the personal tributes were from folks with a similar background as Evans--raised evangelical (perhaps fundamentalist) Christian, once committed to this model but in time came to have grave doubts, struggling to rebuild some notion of the faith.  The tributes were particularly poignant from women, for whom she provided a voice in a place that does not often take women's voices seriously, and/or LGBT folks, for whom she was one of the earliest and most uncompromising advocates for their full inclusion in the evangelical space.  I was also struck by the praises from writers and theologians of color regarding Evans's commitment to building inclusive…

Talking About the Resurrection, Part 2--The Basis for Our Hope

Having affirmed Nicholas Kristof that there is value in the teachings of Jesus even in the face of skepticism about the physical resurrection in Part 1, I would like to address Rev. Jones's position on the resurrection.  I should note that Rev. Jones reported yesterday that she has been subject to online harassment as a result of her interview, which is (unfortunately) unsurprising, surely true, and totally unacceptable. I hope, and don't believe that I am, adding to this harassment with this post, but only to express why I think her answer doesn't really hang together or get to the heart of what is at stake with Christianity.  And, in particular, I don't think it can really answer the most powerful and sophisticated critiques of Christianity.

But, first, let's start with what Rev. Jones said:

KRISTOF Happy Easter, Reverend Jones! To start, do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection? I have problems with that.

JONES When you look in the Gospels,…

Talking About the Resurrection, Part 1--Jesus's Teachings Matter

On Sunday, Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, continued a series of interviews he has done from time to time with Christian religious leaders and thinkers.  This time, his conversation partner was Serene Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary in New York City.  She said a number of things in this interview, some of which I agree with and many of which I do not, but the one that got the attention was her somewhat dismissive handling of the idea of Jesus's physical resurrection on Eastern Sunday (or, more accurately, Holy Saturday evening).  When I first saw the criticism of Rev. Jones circulating on Twitter, I made the cardinal sin of online takes and fired off some Tweets without reading the article when I got home from Easter Vigil early Sunday morning.  Rev. Jones and Union have said some, in my view, kinda dumb stuff in the past that I have dragged in this space, and I assumed this was more of the same.

Having now read the interview, I still stand…

"Shun Not Suffering, Shame, or Loss"

This question has been asked of me, and I think it is a fair one--why would anyone celebrate or remember the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth?  In my experience, when that question is asked, it is not being asked from the place of "why would anyone care about what happens to this person anyway?," as part of a broader project of skepticism about religious things generally or Christian things specifically.  Yes, sure, some people will do that in a trolling kind of way, but you can usually spot those people straight off, and those folks can thus be easily ignored.  Don't feed the trolls.

But, in my experience, this question generally comes from a more sympathetic place.  Why do we come to church on a Friday year after year, and hear again and again this long, brutal account of a man being tortured and killed?  Particularly as, we believe, the story ultimately has a happy ending two days later.  Why dwell on the horror?  Good Friday services are, in my experience, emotionall…