Showing posts from December, 2014

Another Theology of the Body, Part X--Avoiding the Trap of the Fertility Cult

The word in Hebrew is "qedesha."  It comes from the root "q-d-sh," which has to do with things that are "holy" or "set apart," both in Hebrew and in Hebrew's cousin languages from around the Middle East.  Despite the positive connotations of the word, the Torah makes clear that one should not be a "qedesha," or its male form a "qedesh."  Indeed, Deuteronomy specifically forbids it.

Modern English Biblical translations render "qedesha" as "temple prostitute."  See Deuteronomy 23:17.  Such people were "set apart" for religious rituals by the cultures that surrounded the People of Israel, rituals which involved some form of sexual activity.  It appears that there is scholarly debate as to the nature of these rituals, and surely they varied from place to place within the ancient Near East and beyond.  As an example, the Greek historian Herodotus, in his Histories, describes at least one example …

Why I Love Christmas More Than Any Other Holiday

When I was a kid, every year we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, and I always identified with Charlie Brown, which should have been a dead give-away that depression would be a feature of my life in the future.  Anyway, A Charlie Brown Christmas is about Charlie Brown trying to find the Christmas spirit.  To do this, he tries to put on a Christmas play, which of course goes spectacularly wrong.

In frustration, he yells out "isn't there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"  At which point, Linus appears, and recites the Nativity story from the Gospel of Luke (King James version):
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Another Theology of the Body, Part IX--Sexuality, Purity, and Mary

The Gospel reading for this Sunday on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (assuming you attended a church that uses the Common Lectionary or one of its predecessors or derivatives--basically Catholics and most Mainline Protestants) is one of the most famous in the entirety of the Gospels--the Annunciation.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob fo…

Enterprise, Season One, Part 3--The Problem With Time-Travel Plots

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One of the go-to plot points in Star Trek is time travel.  Of the twelve (12!) Star Trek movies, three of them featured time travel as a core plot point (if you are scoring at home--Star Trek IV [where Kirk et al. go to modern San Francisco to pick up a whale], Star Trek: First Contact [where Picard et al. go to about 100 years before Enterprise to fight the Borg and watch the meeting with the Vulcans], and the Abrams Star Trek reboot [where the bad guy, and Spock, go back in time to destroy/save Vulcan].

Despite the fact that those three movies are pretty good, I don't really like time travel plots very much.  I understand it is a trope of Star Trek, but like other Star Trek tropes (i.e., "the Holodeck episode"), it has big problems that are baked-into the concept of time travel as a storytelling device.  It's hard to care about the outcome, since any particular resolution is either ambiguo…

A Status Report

I decided to take a year--a Church year, from Pentecost to Pentecost--to figure out where I stood with Catholicism.  Or, to be more accurate, to figure out if this Episcopalian thing was going to be a thing.  Other events have provided additional impetus for the project.  I have been attending my local Episcopal Church almost exclusively.

I have noticed, over the last couple of weeks, a very strange and interesting experience.  During the week, doubts begin to creep in about what I am doing.  It would be much, much easier just to be Catholic.  Everyone understands--they know that most Catholics don't really believe in the crazy stuff like Humanae Vitae and kicking out elderly gay couples.  No one would hold it against me.

All of that goes until about 10:15 a.m., when I walk into the Episcopal Church.  Up to that point, including on the ride over, I am tempted to make a turn and go back to the old, familiar Catholic Church.  I walk in to a sparse crowd in an big old church, I sit …

Another Theology of the Body, Part VIII--Making Peace With Sexual Desire

Update:  After posting this article, I found a great article from Richard Beck that is well worth reading.

The most erotic part of the Bible, and it is not really close, is the Song of Songs.  Let's start from the beginning, where the woman says (Song of Songs 1:6):

My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!

It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to figure out what "my own vineyard" refers to (hint: it has nothing to do with grapes).  Keeping with the theme of the nether-regions, the woman goes on to say (1:12):

While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance.

Once again, you have to work really hard to come up an interpretation of "my nard" which "gave forth its fragrance" that doesn't involve a vagina.  Song of Songs continues on and on in this fashion, describing two people who are really, really attracted to one another having sex in a variety of loca…

Enterprise, Season One, Part 2--The Vulcan Are Dicks

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Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Star Trek knows about Spock, the Vulcan (OK, to be pedantic, the half-Vulcan).  Spock, like all Vulcans, is all about logic, making him a little dense to certain kinds of normal human interactions.  Still, Spock is definitely a good guy and a relateable character.
Enterprise, at least so far, has really tried to deconstruct that idea, and explore the notion that a species based completely on logic would be kind of obnoxious, even dickish.  The best example of this so far is the episode "The Andorian Incident."  In the episode, Archer decides to pay a visit to a Vulcan monastery, in the hopes of doing some cultural diplomacy.  When he gets there, he, T'Pol, and Trip are taken prisoner by the Andorians, who have occupied the monastery.  If you're curious, the Andorians look like this:
The Andorian commander is convinced the Vulcans are using the monastery to spy on …

Big Changes Are Possible in a Short Time

This story caught my eye.  It's a story about Ferguson and the Eric Garner story (for those not from the US--both are incidents involving the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of the police), and it has Russell Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, calling for solidarity between white (and, really, people of all races) Christians and African-Americans.  “It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another,” Moore said.

I think Dr. Moore's statements are extremely positive, in two different ways.  First, they are positive on their own terms--he's right about the continuing need for serious reflection and change in the US with regard to race.  White, conservative churches, as those Dr. Moore speaks for, can play an incredibly…