Showing posts from November, 2014

Enterprise, Season 1, Part 1--Trying Out the New Car

Broken Bow, Parts I and II (the Pilot)Fight or FlightStrange New World Remember when you got your first car?  Not the car your parents may have let you drive, but the first car that was yours.  Prior to that, you had to abide by the limits placed on you by your parents--when you could drive, where you could go, who could be in the car with you.  All that ended when you got a car of your own.  Now you were free.  You could go where you wanted, when you wanted.  Even if the rules put on your by your parents were basically reasonable (mine certainly were) and you recognized that they had your best interests at heart, you couldn't wait to go out on your own, take road trips for no reason, see what was out there.

That's basically the plot of Enterprise.

Enterprise is set 100 years before the events of the Original Series, and 200 years before The Next Generation/Deep Space 9/Voyager.  One hundred years before the events of Enterprise, humans had their first contact with alie…

New Project--To Boldly Go

I have tried, with almost no success, to broaden the focus of this blog to include topics other than religion.  Don't get me wrong--I like talking about religion very much.  But I like a bunch of other things as well, and I want to have a more diverse set of topics to write about.  The question, of course, is what to write about.

In the last couple of months, I have been getting in closer touch with my inner nerd.  He has always been there, but for a while I have tried to keep him under wraps.  I am a serious person, and so I need to put that stuff aside, or at least keep it hidden.  Well, the hell with that--no one cares, least of all me.

But, here's the thing: there are major gaps in my nerd-dom.  The world of nerd-dom is basically binary--one is either a Star Wars person, or a Star Trek person.  I always viewed myself as a Star Trek person, but the truth is that I am a faux-Star Trek person because I haven't watched much of the prodigious Star Trek corpus.  There have b…

Two Points re: Douthat and Martin

I've talked before about Ross Douthat's recent comments about the Synod on the Family.  Recently, he and James Martin, S.J., had what I thought was a very thoughtful and interesting exchange that was reproduced in America Magazine (hat tip to Fr. Justin for sending it my way).  It is very much worth reading.  A couple of things struck me in reading this exchange--threads running through the conversation that are unspoken, but informing what is being said.

The first involves the idea that the Catholic Church holds marriage to be inviolable.  Certainly, that is the official position--marriage is for life and cannot be dissolved--and the need to protect that principle is at the heart of Douthat's objections to the Synod.  On the other hand, everyone understands that there is a way for one to "get out from underneath" a first marriage and enter into a second one with the full blessing of the Church, and that way is an annulment.  Now, I understand that an annulment t…

The Fantasy of the Past Has to End

I wasn't going to talk about the Vatican's "Complementarity" shindig for a second time in two days, but I saw a quote that I just had to talk about.  It comes out of the mouth of Russell Moore, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Dr. Moore was a speaker at the Vatican conference, and he attempted to make the case that we have it all wrong.  Traditional Christian morality is not about patriarchy.  Instead, patriarchy is the product of that terrible, unfathomable evil--THE.SEXUAL.REVOLUTION.

Here's how Dr. Moore says it:

The Southern Baptist ethicist said the sexual revolution appeared to have imposed a new patriarchy that enabled men to "pursue a Darwinian fantasy of the predatory alpha male" for the pursuit of "power, prestige and personal pleasure."

Just in case you missed that, Dr. Moore is asserting that the "Darwinian fantasy of the predatory alpha male" who seeks "…

Another Theology of the Body, Part VII--Complementarity: Useful Concept?

As we speak, the Vatican is finishing up a conference on the concept of complementarity between men and women.  Complementarity is a buzz word that is used often, especially in Evangelical circles, to contrast a "Christian" view of gender relationships with the view of gender that is present in Western culture (which the Vatican has taken to referring to as "gender ideology").  "Complementarity" emphasizes the fact that men and women are different, and that these differences need to be respected and incorporated into our understanding of gender and sexuality.

It is an incontrovertible biological fact that men and women are different.  Indeed, my last post was all about how the physical differences between men and women need to be a basis for theological reflection.  It is an equally incontrovertible fact that men and women have much in common, and are more similar than they are different--we are obviously not different species.  And, if you believe in a C…

I'm Not Saying...

[Edit:  A less charitable, but very much worth reading take, can be found here.]

Cardinal Sean O'Malley sat down for an extended interview with Norah O'Donnell of 60 Minutes, which was shown last Sunday.  Never say never (after all, there are people who don't like ice cream), but it seems impossible to me that you could come away from that interview with a negative opinion of "Cardinal Sean" (as he prefers to be called).  He came across as funny, charming, kind, and very, very candid.  He admitted that he was "terrified" being sent to the toxic waste dump that was the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003, despite having already served two tours as the clean-up guy in dioceses decimated by sex abuse scandals (Fall River, Massachusetts and Palm Beach, Florida).  He was unabashed in his enthusiasm for his friend Pope Francis.  He more or less said that Bishop Finn of Kansas City, who has been convicted of failing to report/covering up for an abusive priest, needs…

Another Theology of the Body, Part VI--A Theological Exploration of the Clitoris

I was introduced to The Body's Grace by Frank from Letters to the Catholic Right in this post, where he quotes Williams saying:

It puts the question which is also raised for some kinds of moralist by the existence of the clitoris in women; something whose function is joy. If the creator were quite so instrumentalist in ‘his’ attitude to sexuality, these hints of prodigality and redundancy in the way the whole thing works might cause us to worry about whether he was, after all, in full rational control of it. But if God made us for joy…?

I want to talk about the first part of that quote here, regarding the clitoris.  I am not aware of any theology that has been done on the clitoris, but there should be.  As Williams alludes to, the existence and nature of the clitoris is a theological "problem," especially if you want to hold on to traditional Christian sexual morality.  It is especially problematic if you want to hold that sexuality needs to be understood through the lens…

Another Theology of the Body, Part V--Equality as a Theological Precondition to Sexual Morality

At the heart of traditional Christian sexual morality is a fundamental disconnect.  On the one hand, you see St. Paul saying things like this:

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  (1 Cor. 7:3-4).

This passage, one of the few that deals directly with the morality of sexual relationships between husband and wife, point to a fundamental, even radical, equality between men and women.  A woman has the same amount and type of authority over her husband as her husband has over her.  As a practical matter, since sex requires the participation of both parties, this means that a married couple has equal "bargaining power" as they negotiate their sexual lives.  Or, more accurately, they should have equal bargaining power in the relationship.

On the other hand, it appears…

A Quick Comment on Douthat

Again, I continue to give Ross Douthat enormous credit for his honesty, particularly in this post from last week.  In it, he basically cops to the notion that he is a Catholic because of the Politics of Certainty.  As a former devotee of that school of thought, I understand very well the attraction of that view, and I will never throw stones at someone else for it.

Instead, I would like to focus on the extended quote from Richard John Neuhaus.  The short version of the quote is that if you "go soft" on the social issues of the day, then it is essentially inevitable that you will give up on traditional liturgical and sacramental practices.  In other words, the Politics of Certainty is the only bulwark against the devolution of Christianity into an undifferentiated mass of feel-good pablum.  And the example of this phenomenon is the so-called Mainline Protestant churches, who don't really believe in anything.

I used to believe this as well . . . until I started going to a …

Another Theology of the Body, Part IV--What Sexual Morality is Not

I've been struggling with this post for a while now, having a hard time making the pieces of what I want to say fit together in a cohesive manner.  I was thinking of abandoning the project.  But then, I got bailed out, because I read a post that showed me a critical pre-requisite to talking about sexual morality--first, drop the "sexual" part.

This post, by Fred Clark on his Slacktivist blog, makes a point that should be obvious but seems to me to be completely lost--sexual morality simply means "morality applied to situations involving sex."  It is not some wholly distinct sphere of moral inquiry that is untethered from other kinds of situations.  As such, you should be able to apply the same basic moral principles that are used to evaluate, say, non-sexual relationships, to sexual relationships.  To use Clark's example, if "do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God" (Micah 6:8) is the touchstone for all of your other relationships, then that s…