Anatomy of a Twitter Beef

1.  The Spark:  On Saturday afternoon, I got home to find this on my Twitter feed.

I suppose that’s why religion in the US is such a mess right now... — Carol Howard Merritt (@CarolHoward) August 10, 2019 Prior to seeing this tweet, I had no idea who Carol Howard Merritt was.  As it turns out, she is a Presbyterian minister and author, but I didn't know that until later.  All I knew from reading this is, according to her (1) everyone who believes that one must affirm the (her terminology) "literal bodily resurrection" are fundamentalists; and (2) those same folks are responsible for what is wrong in American religion.

In context, it should also be said that Rev. Howard Merritt certainly seemed to be subtweeting Ben Crosby, an Episcopalian divinity student who has taken the position online that if one doesn't or can't affirm the Nicene Creed, then one should not be ordained, or allowed to be ordained.  Crosby, and others, pushed back.

In the interests of full disc…

A Return to Another Theology of the Body, Part 6--More on Purity Culture

The former is a recent, largely white, evangelical, American phenomenon with a dose of fundamentalism & a lot of weird cultural stuff & marketing thrown in. — Tish Harrison Warren (@Tish_H_Warren) July 22, 2019
Of course, you can hate and reject both. That's cool. Just don't conflate them or write about them as the same thing. Or think they are theologically the same phenomena. — Tish Harrison Warren (@Tish_H_Warren) July 22, 2019
I have seen a couple of people make a variation of Rev. Harrison Warren's argument on the Interwebs in the last couple of days.  It is prompted, in large measure, by the announcement that Joshua Harris, author of the evangelical purity culture ur-text I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is getting a divorce from his wife.  This is seen, not unreasonably, as symbolic of the moral and conceptual failure of the purity culture project, at least in its late 90s/early 00s presentation--the whole point of going through all of this purity culture stuff was…

Nazareth, Kentucky

Last week, I went on a retreat with the CMMR.  We drove to Nazareth, Kentucky, to the mother-house of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.  Nazareth, and that part of Kentucky generally, is a really interesting, and kinda strange, place.  The area was settled soon after the Revolutionary War by English Catholics from Maryland and some French Catholics fleeing Napoleon.  As a result, this area of north-central Kentucky (including the bigger towns of Bardstown and Elizabethtown) has this unusual Catholic through-line permeating what is otherwise the normal, rural American South.

Likewise, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth themselves were formed in the U.S. in 1812 to minister to this population, and other similar pockets of Catholics in the South and Midwest.  Thus, they are a uniquely and exclusively American expression of Catholicism.  Sure, they looked to European models for guidance (their rule is that of Vincent de Paul), but they are products of this soil from the jump.

On sig…

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…