Showing posts from August, 2016

A Girardian Thought Experiment, Part I--What Is It To Be Human?

The law school I attended had (as still has) a professor of criminal law named Paul Robinson.  I didn't have him for first year criminal law, but a number of my close friends did.  One of his big areas of research in criminal law involved the idea of moral intuitions.  Criminal law, and other areas of law for that matter, have often taken on a rationalistic and technical character, in which you attempted to come to the "correct" legal regime through the application of pure reason.  Professor Robinson believed that this approach tends to de-emphasize and de-legitimize our basic moral sense of what is just--a basic intuition that is often a more reliable vehicle to achieving justice than our hyper-rational structures, especially when that intuition is "crowd sourced" and incorporates our collective wisdom.

I was thinking about Professor Robinson's ideas while reading this essay by Rachel Held Evans.  Evans writes about the dilemma that pro-life Christians fac…

Living Through A Divorce

Professor David Gushee, who I have mentioned before in this space, wrote a column recently entitled "On LGBT Equality, Middle Ground is Disappearing."  Yesterday, he penned a follow-up column, in which he attempted (apparently unsuccessfully, though not from lack of trying) to clarify what he was getting at in the first column.  These columns, the reactions to them, and especially the reaction from Rod Dreher, bring into focus what I think is the state of play for Christianity in 2016 in North America.  We would do well to acknowledge where we are and where we are probably going in the near term.

To begin, Gushee asserts in the second column that his first column was an attempt to provide a descriptive framework for the state of the United States in 2016 with regard to LGBT issues.  In other words, let us put aside for now whether you think this state is good or bad, and let's talk about what is.  Gushee's picture of what is has four primary components.  First, essen…

Who's Ready for Some Catholic Sex Education?

I have, on a couple of occasions, told war stories about sex ed in a Catholic high school in the South in the middle 90s.  What is interesting to me about that program, looking back with the benefit of adulthood and hindsight, is the way in which it balanced (or, really, attempted to balance) two entirely different sets of objectives.  On the one hand, you had what you might call the "Catholic objectives"--don't have pre-marital sex, don't use birth control, abortion is the worst thing ever, maybe if we don't talk about gay people they will just go away, etc.  But, at the same time, it was also trying to communicate what you might call "ambitious middle class objectives," which focused on the message "if you have to raise a child before you are financially secure/fully educated, your life will be over."

To that end, the big senior year religion project was that you partnered up with a classmate (of the opposite gender, natch) and had to take c…

Jesus Doesn't Care if You Masturbate, and Other Provocations

1.  A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon this post on the Patheos Catholic channel.  In it, a young woman named Marina S. Olsen began what she promised is a series of posts discussing sexual sins, and she begins with masturbation.  To call the post alarmist would not do it justice--even in the heyday of the drug scares in the 80s, an anti-drug ad that adopted this tone would be seen as over-the-top.  
But something struck me in reading her post--Ms. Olsen believes, with an apparently unshakable conviction, that what the Catholic Church has to say about masturbation is true.  Actually, that's not quite right--she takes as a given that what the Church says about masturbation is true.  It is noticeable that at no point does she try to do the Dr. Greg trick, which is to justify her opposition to masturbation on the basis of ostensibly neutral or scientific grounds.  No, her thesis is that people despair about masturbation because masturbation is going to result in those folks going…

New Project

I've been trying in various ways since starting this blog to broaden the focus, away from simply talking about religion.  It's not that I don't enjoy writing on the topic--my post count proves that--but it is not the only thing I want to write about.

In that spirit, I've decided to branch out a bit and write about games--primarily tabletop RPGs, but also video games and board games on occasion.  My idea is to write pieces that are somewhere in between a review and an essay, each covering a different game or some news in the world of games.

Because this is a pretty radically different topic from the material covered in this space, I've decided to create a separate blog with a separate URL for this game-related material--that way, if you have no interest in this topic whatsoever, you can easily avoid it (and, visa versa).  For now, the new blog is called "Play to See What Happens" and it will be located at  There is only…

Batman and Girard, Part 3--Hope to Poison Their Souls

I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope. So, as I terrorize Gotham, I will feed its people hope to poison their souls. I will let them believe they can survive so that you can watch them clamoring over each other to "stay in the sun." You can watch me torture an entire city and when you have truly understood the depth of your failure, we will fulfill Ra's al Ghul's destiny... We will destroy Gotham and then, when it is done and Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die.


We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you... the people. Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please. Start by storming Blackgate, and freeing the oppressed! Step forward those who would serve. For an army will be raised. The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests, and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Co…

Some Thoughts on the Women Deacon's Commission

[T]he whole body of the Church hath power to alter, with general consent and upon necessary occasions, even the positive laws of the apostles, if there be no command to the contrary, and it manifestly appears to her, that change of times have clearly taken away the very reasons of God's first institution. 

--Richard Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, BookVII, v, 8 (1594).
Last week, the Vatican announced that it would be following through on one of Pope Francis's promises to the world's religious sisters--to appoint a commission to study the issue of women deacons.  The panel is half men and half women, which is surely a first for the Vatican.  It also includes Phyllis Zagano, who is a well known expert on the issue.  All of that seems positive.
Nevertheless, I am skeptical that this commission will produce any useful fruit.  The focus of the commission will be the status of the female diaconate in "the earliest times in the Church."  It is of course not comp…