Quick Hitter: If You Want to Complain About Modernity, Complain About This

In case you think the Bible is irrelevant: The Book of Esther features a rich, bumbling, & misogynistic king with a fragile ego who relies his racist advisors to tell him what to do. He is ultimately bested by an orphan girl & some eunuchs. #HappyPurim! — Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) March 1, 2018
Not sure what you mean by "literal," but I never said it was. It's a satirical diaspora story of resistance & Jewish survival, a sort of Persian "dark comedy," likely based on history but not a straightforward recitation of fact. LOTS more options than "literal" vs. "fairy tale." — Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) March 2, 2018
What struck me about this exchange is how it reveals a way of thinking about stories and how they work.  Rachel Held Evans asserts that the story of Esther is relevant and important to our current situation.  Based on that assertion, her conversation partner immediately jumped to the conclusion that …

On Being "Tired of Coming Out on the Losin' End"

{I wrote this about a month ago, when the Bruenig piece was current, and then decided not to post it.  After thinking about what I wrote today, I changed my mind.  This is basically unedited from that original draft, except for a few typo fixes.}

Friend-of-the-blog Elizabeth Bruenig, who is now a columnist for the Washington Post (yay!), wrote an excellent and thoughtful piece about the recent Aziz Ansari incident/revelations.  Bruenig's position, if I might summarize it, is that the Sexual Revolution brought with it the notion that sexual interactions should be treated in essentially the same way as any other sort of social interaction.  And, in the context of other, normal social interactions, it is considered to be appropriate and praiseworthy to try to meet the needs and wants of other people.  So, as an example, if I am in a group that wants to go out and eat sushi, but I don't really care for sushi all that much, I might keep my objections to myself, suck it up, and eat …

Battling to the End

There is a dimension to the mass shootings in the United States, most recently the horror yesterday in Florida, that cannot be reduced simply to the lack of meaningful gun control.  It is certainly the case that, absent access to the guns, the destruction caused by incidents such as this would be dramatically reduced.  To be clear, this is absolutely reason enough to justify such moves--I am in favor of the complete ban and confiscation of all firearms in private hands in the United States, along the lines accomplished in Australia and the UK.  If accomplishing this goal is in conflict with the Second Amendment, then I am in favor of repealing the Second Amendment.  I am a gun control absolutist, and I believe that any and all efforts toward that end are good and salutary.  If such measures were in place yesterday, these kids would be alive today.
There is something going on that causes all of these people to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the lack of gun control …

Classical Liberalism is a Pretext, with Two Examples

Two stories came through the pipeline in the last couple of days that caught my attention.  The first was a piece by Ross Douthat arguing for some sort of extensive ban on pornography.  The other had to do with Shane Claiborne, one of the organizers of an anti-Trump revival in Lynchburg, Virginia, who received very strong push back due to his non-affirming stance on LGBT questions (example here, see also Bill Lindsey here), as well as the corresponding backlash to the backlash.  The backlash to the backlash primarily took the form of "how can you shun or criticize Claiborne and claim to be a classical liberal?," an example of which can be found here.  The link between these two stories is a discussion of classical liberalism, and so it is worthwhile talking about that for a bit.

We can think about classical liberalism as having two dimensions.  The first is political--a particular area of human life will not be regulated or otherwise coerced by the state, with the result bei…

What is Tradition and Where Should it Go?

Last night I listened to a discussion/debate between Ross Douthat and Dr. Massimo Faggioli, staged under the auspices of the Canadian Catholic media outlet Salt and Light Media, regarding the first five years of Pope Francis's pontificate (video replay can be found here).  Douthat has a book coming out about how Pope Francis is ruining everything (though, his posture at the debate was more like "he might ruin everything"), and Faggioli is and was one of Pope Francis's most articulate defenders.  While much of the ground covered was rather predictable, there were a couple things that cropped up that were interesting and clarifying for my own thought.

I found myself listening to the debate while also following it on Twitter, especially following the excellent Twitter account of Dr. Natalia Imperatori.  To me, she got to the heart of the matter with this exchange:
Changes in sexual ethics are a big thing, don't you think? asks Ross. "No" responds Massimo. …

A Brief Thought on that First Things Article

So, the conservative journal First Thingspublished a piece by Dominican friar Romanus Cessario, defending the Mortara affair.  For those not familiar, Edgardo Mortara was a Jewish boy living at the tail end of the Papal States period who was secretly baptised by a nurse in a Catholic hospital.  Having done so, Papal law required that he be raised Catholic, and so he was forcibly taken from his parents and raised more or less directly by the Pope at the time, Pius IX.  This has generally been seen as one of the more monstrous black marks on the Roman Catholic Church in its long history of anti-Semitism, and so the Hot Take of defending the Pope's action were bound to be controversial.  Ross Douthat, no liberal Catholic he, gave a strong negative reaction to the piece, as did others.

In particular, Douthat makes the case that the article is clarifying as to the nature of the traditionalist Catholic stance--i.e. still anti-Semitic.  I think Douthat is right, but it goes further than …

If You Can't Sin, then You Can't Change

All of these stories point to why I'm sadly pessimistic about a #metoo-style cultural shift in evangelical Christianity (and, to an extent, the broader Church). I'm pessimistic because of the deadly combination of patriarchy & (as discussed recently) evangelical exceptionalism... — Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018 As I've stated before, evangelical exceptionalism understands "the world" or "the culture" to be filled with darkness & sin, teeming with people who are "lost," and evangelicalism & evangelicals to be the sole bearers of light, the counter-cultural path to salvation... — Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) January 10, 2018 ...White evangelicals perceive "the world" to struggle with racism & sexual immorality, but not themselves. Because of this, it's rare to see serious efforts made at examining the ways racism & toxic masculinity/patriarchy are embedded in evangelical culture.…