Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Flesh, Blood and Soul

There is a raging new interest in vampires this weekend, at least for those inclined to go see the new movie, Twilight, Stephenie Meyer's story that in book form sold 1.3 million. These 'paranormal romances' or 'urban fantasies' spin around human females falling in love with supernatural beings (vampires, gods, fairies, werewolves) .

I have not seen the movie, but I'd like to point out that a common theme exists in these vampire romances. The heroine is captivated by the perfect man: lovely body, rich, well-dressed and someone better than her, a man both strong and consuming. This is a formula the Bronte sisters introduced in the characters of Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights) and Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre). Men who were passionate, gifted in lifting their beloved into irrational, but sumptuous heights of erotic love. Men who were powerful, rich, darkly handsome, mysterious, even controlling sometimes cruel, but so dang sexy. They were irrisistible....

Deep down I believe most women struggle with a desire to be exalted by a man mysterious and otherworldly (be it Lydia's Wickham, Jasmine's Alladin or Bella's Edward in Twilight), a man worthy of joining, uniting to, a man stronger, better than us. The female captivation with men who are "out of our league" tells me more about the state of women's souls, than the reality of the number of good men on planet earth. It tells me that we're more in love with our version of romance, than we're in love with a real man of flesh and blood and soul.

My concern, here, is that these longings are not worthy of the image-bearers of God that we are. We cannot dream of a romance between "unequals", and then expect a marriage of mutual love and respect, of partnership, unity, sexual satisfaction and enduring warmth. If we expect that a man with the prowess of a Mr. Rochester or a vampire-powered Edward will appear in our lives, we can safely assume that 20 years into our marriage we will find ourselves much more like Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice than Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy.
[via Jonalyn Grace Fincher]

Saturday, November 22, 2008

“Heaven is where love is no longer linked to loss.”
[via VanderMeander]

Really Passionate?

So... I finally read an e-book of Twilight last night, and... I kind of love it like cake. With rainbow sparkles sprinkles. Carried in by ponies. Pink ponies. If I had a hard copy, I would snuggle it. I'm going to read the other two, but they'll have to wait until I reread the first one again. Note: I also own and have seen Van Helsing about fifteen times, so... my loving something is not necessarily the most ringing endorsement in the world. I'm just saying.

So, in a nutshell, here's what the book is about: Bella's an angsty teen girl in a new town, and Edward's a sparkly vampire. No, really....

A lot of people are really passionate about these books. Some of them love and defend them passionately; others... well. I'm not going to defend them any more than I'm going to defend Twinkies--you go and get yourself a Twinkie when you have a very specific kind of craving SUGARRRRR!. If you want gourmet pastry, or even a homemade cake, you know where to get that. If you're eating a Twinkie, you clearly know what you want and why you're eating it, and you know that it's not good to eat very many of them, but... you know... sometimes you just want one. And then when you're done you read it all over again. Apparently there are people who think that Twinkies count as fine dining, but... well, live and let live, I guess.

But I do have three theories as to why the books are so popular, and they all complement each other--that is to say, I think they're all working simultaneously {whole post}
[via Occupation Girl]

OVERSOLD: Pastor David Cowan, Hosea and Gomer, and the Story of Crissy Moran
[via Grace and Truth to You]

Monday, November 17, 2008

Autonomy and Alienation

Editor's note: Thirty years ago this month, a minister who had affiliated his congregation with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) led his flock into a remote foreign jungle to escape nuclear conflagration, and then systematically murdered nearly 1,000 of them in what he chose to term “revolutionary suicide” — a deed for which he expected to be admired. Disciples minister Katherine Willis Pershey raises the key question, with a particular focus on her own denomination: “Could it happen again?”

Ask a dozen Disciples about any given theological or social issue, and you will receive a dozen different answers. For the most part, Disciples of Christ like it that way. They value their freedom. Church members do not want to be scolded by their pastors for what they believe. Disciples churches do not want their regional ministers to act as hierarchical bishops, interfering with call processes or showing up uninvited at board meetings to arbitrate congregational conflicts. No, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) proudly stands by its historical commitment to unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and in all things charity.

Yet the freedom this denomination holds dear in part enabled Jim Jones to lead the Peoples Temple Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation, into unfathomable tragedy in Guyana on November 18, 1978. {continue...}
[via DisciplesWorld, HT: Ponderings on a Faith Journey]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chance To Prove, If Not Secure

I sat on an ottoman wedged in the corner of the wine bar. It was after hours and I was providing support to one of our directors as he shot a focus group for a local ad agency. The shoot pretty much ran itself so my support ended up being more of the moral variety. It was a multi-night job and I spent most of the time surfing the internet and writing on my laptop. The groups, which consisted of African-American women of different age ranges were interesting to listen to…at first. The uncomfortable ottoman mixed with my own natural predisposition for boredom set me off in search of websites that featured shiny new gadgets of the plug-in variety.

When the moderator asked the women what an Obama victory would mean to them, I looked up from my screen. I was curious to hear the opinion of the election from the perspective of a Southern middle-class African-American woman. Many of the answers I anticipated. Words like, “empowerment”, “hope”, and “affirmation” were said. One unexpected word I heard was “anxiety”. The moderator asked the woman to clarify her statement, she continued to say, “Barack Obama is our chance to prove ourselves. If he is elected and fails, it will be devastating for African-Americans and who knows when we will get another shot?”

I knew what I was getting into with this blog. I fully intended to be an example of someone who was living as an active member of the church, but I have a very uncomfortable, shifting-my-chair feeling when people look to me as a “poster boy” for gay Mormons. Because, quite simply:

What if I fail? {continue...}
[via Soy Made Me Gay]

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Old-guard, New-guard

In the wake of the presidential election, who now speaks for American evangelicals? Will the generation of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Chuck Colson be replaced with a new cohort? Does the Democratic victory signal the end of the Religious Right as we know it? Will the Obama presidency give credence to left-leaning evangelical leaders such as Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, and megachurch pastors such as Joel Hunter, both of whom personally know the president-elect?

....Is the Obama presidency the final nail in the coffin for the Religious Right? Don’t count on it. For one thing, political movements like the Religious Right don’t need a “god” to succeed, but they do need a devil. Nothing builds allegiances among a coalition like a common enemy....

Whatever happens in the months ahead, three things are certain. A new cohort of public figures will emerge, each claiming to represent American evangelicals. President-elect Obama will appoint a few of them to his administration, but none to high office. Second, the public disdain for the evangelical “brand” will subside a good bit as Bush-era religious conservatives fade from attention. Finally, by next fall, the Religious Right will solidify its support behind two or three newer figures as they seek to remake the movement’s public image.
[via The Immanent Frame, HT: Notes From Off-Center]

Barack Obama and the Empire: Where Do We Go From Here?
[via Reclaiming the Mission, HT: Faith Dance]

Friday, November 07, 2008

Means and Ends in Politics

McCain's confusion about the meaning of mavericity is resurfacing now in mirror-image form in the coalescing conventional wisdom that President-elect Barack Obama "must," above all, seek to govern in a "bipartisan" fashion.

McCain seemed to think that being a maverick was a virtue in itself and thus elevated the refusal to compromise above the substance of the principles about which one ought to refuse to compromise. In doing so, he confused the ends and the means. That same confusion underlies this talk of the paramount importance of bipartisanship. Bipartisanship and the willingness to compromise for the greater good may be necessary means, but they are not, in themselves, the ends or the ultimate principles or goals at stake. Elevating bipartisanship for its own sake above those ultimate principles and goals is the obverse of McCain's error in elevating contrariness above them.

I don't want a leader who thinks being a maverick is, in itself, the cardinal virtue. Nor do I want a leader who thinks that bipartisanship is, in itself, the highest good. I want a leader who doesn't confuse means and ends.

The good news is that I think maybe I have such a leader.
[via Slactivist]

Liberty Easy, Equality Harder

As a white American, who has never tasted discrimination, it is hard to imagine what it must have been like for African Americans to grow up assuming that to reach highest office, one must be white. Remember that at this time Barack Obama is the only African American in the U.S. Senate. Last night's celebrations weren't just for Barack. They were celebrations of a milestone that spoke loudly to every person of color.

My friend and fellow Disciple historian, Mark Toulouse, has written an insightful piece for PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly entitled "The Economy of Equality," which explores the difference between liberty and equality. Liberty can be achieved much more easily through legislation than equality. The Voting Rights Act was enacted 43 years ago. It took that long to elect an African American President. For women, it shall be even longer. But someday, they will also see one of their own reach this pinnacle. {whole post}
[via Ponderings on a Faith Journey]

Thursday, November 06, 2008

HOW He Lost

We would have spent the past months listening to McCain and Obama debate policy. Talking about things that matter. Discussing how to fix the problems that America faces, and how to avoid more problems like them in the future. Maybe even our own "Santos/Vinick" debate. Instead, we got innuendo about William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, an aunt in the country illegally, and Obama's middle name. We got shouts of "terrorist!" and "kill him!" at Republican rallies when Obama's name was mentioned.

John McCain could have raised the bar for political discourse in this campaign, and in so doing, he could have changed politics forever. He could have been remembered as the man who went toe-to-toe with Barack Obama, always respectful and thoughtful, debating ideas and not personalities, and went down swinging. He could have run a clean campaign, free of the innuendo and half-truths that we in the west have come to just accept as an inevitability of the political process. And if anyone on his campaign, from his VP pick to local poll captains, had done or said anything to contradict McCain's message of inclusion and respectful discourse, he could have sent them packing. He could have done all that, and restored America's faith, indeed all of Western Civilization's faith, in the capacity of politics to be about something other than the avaricious pursuit of power for power's sake, by any means necessary. He could have done it.

But John McCain surrendered. He gave up the moral high ground, and control of his own brand, in an effort to win power, and failed spectacularly.

John McCain let us all down not by losing, but in HOW he lost.
[via The Enlightened Savage, HT: Abandoned Stuff]