There’s No Sex in Your Violence

The pleasure that satisfies lust, qua lust, is not the enjoyment, physical or otherwise, of the awesome beauty of another person as the creation of God, because lust is based on pride, and pleasure in someone else’s being as God’s gift to them is rather pleasure in humility.

I have been thinking a great deal about Augustine’s theology of sex in light of all the various scandals involving powerful men and their abuse and intimidation of women. I worry that we may be focusing on all the bad apples to the neglect of the bigger problem of how we think about human sexuality as a society.

Augustine basically said that sex is sinful. Actually, it is more complicated and nuanced than that (check it). The problem, he said, is not sex itself but the way sexual pleasure “activates” pride. The Augustine scholar John Cavadini put it well when he wrote:

To fault Augustine in this context for not realizing that “sexual pleasure” can enrich a couple’s relationship, or to assess Augustine’s views against our own more “positive” view, may be, with all due respect, to beg the question. For Augustine, the question would not be whether sexual pleasure can enrich a couple’s relationship, but whether there is any sexual pleasure possible without a taint of violence or complacency (“self-pleasing”) in it. The question would be, what are we taking pleasure from? Pleasure, as Augustine is at pains to point out, is an affair of the soul, not the body. The pleasure that satisfies lust, qua lust, is not the enjoyment, physical or otherwise, of the awesome beauty of another person as the creation of God, because lust is based on pride, and pleasure in someone else’s being as God’s gift to them is rather pleasure in humility. For example, can we say that any act of sexual delight is completely free from smugness, from self-admiration, from the slightest hint of “self-pleasing” in the mastery of the “skill sets” of popular magazines, in the thought that one is an accomplished, or at least halfway decent, lover? Violence includes the admiration of power or ability as power or ability. [Emphasis mine.]

Continue reading “There’s No Sex in Your Violence”

Liberals Should Stop Mocking Martyrdom

Far be it from me not to point out when “my people” do or say something stupid or evil. But just as irritating are liberals who would rather make fun of conservative Christians than try to understand them. 

In the wake of the Texas mass shooting, RawStory posted an article with the subtle, and not-at-all mocking title, “Conservative writer: God was ‘answering prayers’ of Texas victims by letting them get shot.” Yes, “Step right up folks! And witness another ridiculous Christian saying something ridiculous!”

Of course, the original column was pretty ridiculous. It was naive and insensitive. Far be it from me not to point out when “my people” do or say something stupid or evil. But just as irritating are liberals who would rather make fun of conservative Christians than try to understand them.  Continue reading “Liberals Should Stop Mocking Martyrdom”

Why Write About Gay Marriage

A few days ago, George Demacopoulos, co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham and co-editor of the Public Orthodoxy blog tweeted the following:

 

 

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Inclusive Language in the Liturgy

Public Orthodoxy is making waves again, this time by daring to talk about…women.

Actually they aren’t even talking about women. They’re talking about Greek. The GOA (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) made it about women when they opted to approve a revision of the creed from “for us and for our salvation” to “for us men and for our salvation.” The problem with this revision, the authors (Aristotle Papanikolaou and John Fotopoulos) is that it makes gender exclusive language that was originally gender inclusive. Greek, like many other languages, has gendered nouns. Anthropos is a masculine noun. But that does not mean that anthropos is male anymore than German a German girl is an “it” (das Mädchen is a neuter noun). Anthropos refers to humanity in general. Anér means “man.” Continue reading “Inclusive Language in the Liturgy”

Public Theology in the Post-Secular?

Martin Marty in full regalia.
Martin Marty in full regalia.

I recently read/pillaged an article by Linell Cady which calls for a re-evaluation of the role and methods of public theology in light of our post-secular context (brill.com/ijpt).

The term “public theology” appears to have been coined by Martin Marty. It was a liberal Christian response to a growing religio-political fundamentalism. Of course, religio-political fundamentalism (i.e. the religious right) was itself responding to secularization. So, in a way, public theology attempted to be a better, more “right” kind of response. Think of it as the “B” side of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, but with a smaller PR budget. Continue reading “Public Theology in the Post-Secular?”

Rumors of my Excommunication

Screenshot 2014-12-08 04.48.30Rumors of my excommunication have been greatly exaggerated. The other morning I received a message from a Facebook friend saying that some folks over on the “TradOx” Facebook group were saying I had been excommunicated. When I found the conversation he was referring to, I realized he was not quite right. It was more like they were celebrating my excommunication. (Seriously! Who “Likes” someone being excommunicated?) The TradOx criticisms were more hurtful than the usual trolling I get from time to time, in part because the rumor apparently started with one of my fellow parishioners. It also brought back memories of the time when I really thought I was going to be excommunicated. Continue reading “Rumors of my Excommunication”

Rev. Tillotson’s Ridiculous Defense of GTS

Rev. Ellen Tillotson weighed in yesterday on the mess going on at General Theological Seminary in New York. Her article and the faculty’s response need to be read, but the short version is that the eight protesting professors were not fired. They resigned. Rev. Tillotson makes her case by talking about some of the things the faculty wrote to the Board of Trustees (of which she is a member).

In it [their letter], they said, twice, that they were unable and unwilling to work with Dean and President Kurt Dunkle and that unless certain changes were made, they would be “no longer able to serve in our positions at General” [sic]…

They stated again, at the end of the letter, that “If Dean Dunkle continues in his present position, we will be unable to continue in ours.”…

In [a] second letter, the eight members also stated that “the damage has been done,” “no working relationship is possible,” “we can no longer work with President Dunkle.”

Tillotson also challenges the narrative that the faculty had only one demand: to bring their grievances to the board. In fact, she says, the faculty laid out a series of conditions for the board to meet in order to have a discussion.

I feel like Rev. Tillotson has insulted my intelligence. I am in a bit of a leadership position. If someone presented similar complaints to me, I would see it as the start of a conversation. If the complaints came from several staff at once, in the form of a letter, I would interpret it as the opening gambit in a negotiating process (hence the conditions for meeting). I suppose if I were drunk or recovering from some kind of brain injury, I might ask, “So…are you resigning?” Basically, it is hard not to read Rev. Tillotson’s account and infer either that she and the entire board of GTS are lying, or they are extremely incompetent.

I am not an Episcopalian. I don’t have anything personally at stake in this issue except for the fact that one of my friends (whom I have known since 2004) is among those who have been fired. He has a wife with two kids, student loans, and a PhD in a market where jobs are few and far between. It is hard for me to see him, or anyone in his position, seeing a work stoppage as anything but a last resort. I am outraged for Josh, but I am also outraged by the obvious injustice (and possible illegality?) of firing protesting workers, particularly when it is a religious institution doing the firing. Is this how the Episcopalians respond to collective bargaining? They fire the people on strike and then lie about it?

Rev. Tillotson seems to be saying that what is going on at GTS is sad, but it is not her fault or the fault of the Board of Trustees. They are not responsible.

No matter what else you might think about this situation, that is just bad leadership.