Open Mic Thread 7


The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Earlier open mic threads: 12345, 6

Things continue to be fairly busy here, so my involvement in the comments will probably be minimal, if there is any at all.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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86 Responses to Open Mic Thread 7

  1. whitefrozen says:

    Does anyone enjoy H.P Lovecraft? I’ve been reading through his works again and find myself delighted by them.

    Along those lines: what are any thoughts on dark/violent imagery in film/art/books? I had a two or three hour conversation with my wife comparing the violence in Scripture, Tolkien, GRRM, and Cormac McCarthy – when does violence become pure shock/sensual gratification, when can it serve a legitmate purpose, should it be avoided, etc?

    • whitefrozen says:

      As a follow-up: what distinguishes the violence/use of violence in all the abovementioned authors?

    • I’ve never read Lovecraft, although I did once knit a Cthulhu balaclava:

      It is hard to answer such a question in the abstract. It is easier to say when a particular work has crossed a line as such determinations will often be highly dependent upon context. It might also be interesting to compare and contrast the screen adaptation of something such as Game of Thrones and the original novels. Representing events in print is rather different from doing so on the screen, the latter being far more inviting of inappropriate appetites and interests (not to mention the fact that these elements of a work may be glorified and exaggerated, precisely in order to appeal to the viewership’s desire for sex and violence.

      • whitefrozen says:

        I recommend you read yourself some Lovecraft – while knitting the appropriately themed garments.

        My question (hastily written – family over and all that jazz) was prompted when a buddy I work with told me about a particularly gorey moment in GoT. I’ve not read the books myself – too much sex/gore for me. But I started thinking about other writers – McCarthy in particular. Give me a minute to ramble about some of the books I enjoy here.

        I don’t know if you’ve read any of his works – they are astoundingly powerful. Two in particular are pertinent here: Child of God and Blood Meridian. Child of God (recently made into a film) is about a hillbilly accused of murder/rape, who gets chased out of town and becomes a murderer/rapist/necrophiliac. The theme of the book is summed up in the first page: He’s a child of God, much like you and I. The point of the novel (McCarthy takes a point as far as it can be taken and beats you senseless with it) is this: exactly how seriously do we take a statement like, ‘whatever you unto the least of these’. A necrophilac/murderer/rapist is pretty high up on the list of ‘the least of these’, IMO. The book is gruesome – but in a very cold way. Think Faulkner/Hemingway. The details are actually quite horrific – a GoT junkie I know said that McCarthy makes GRRM look like Mr. Rogers.

        The second work, Blood Meridian, is an equally horrificly violent deconstruction of the myth of the Wild West, which focuses on the extent to which violence is interwoven with human nature – in the book, one of the main characters, a murdering/torturing/pedophile/albino/600 pound guy named Judge Holden argues that war and violence is the highest form of being a man can achieve – he goes so far as to argue that its divination. I personally think the book is a look into how much we love/need/crave violence – the climax is utterly jaw-dropping. He desenitizes you to the violence – none of the characters are phased in the least by the various sickening acts performed, except for the climactic final scene – and then you realize reading it that you’ve been desensitized to a level that these horrible people haven’t even been.

        All his works focus on themes like this – the depravity (not in the calvinistic sense) of humanity. So how far can such imagerey in literature be taken before you say, ‘all right, that’s just not necessary’. When does a ‘moral of the story’ stop justifying gruesome acts? Other things like various films come to mind (The Boondock Saints, American History X, which all have profound, powerful moral/ethical questions made by explicit and at times horrifying displays of violence, dealing with racism, good/evil, etc).

      • I really think that this demands judgment upon particular works. For instance, I watched The Wolf of Wall Street a couple of months back and was quite disgusted with it. Even with its presentation of consequences, its excessive attention to its characters’ wallowing in the mud of their depravity was pretty much devoid of moral quality. This (supposed) realistic depiction of sin is seldom healthy. By contrast, a series like Breaking Bad is, I believe, profoundly moral. Although there are several gruesome and extremely violent scenes, the moral force of the grand arc of the narrative is more than sufficient to bear these without rendering them excessive or ‘pornographic’ in their depiction of violence.

        Cormac McCarthy’s work both provokes and sustains moral reflection to a degree that, say, George R.R. Martin’s does not. Taking a leaf from Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism, I think that our determination of the merits of a work has a lot to do with the sorts of readings that it can sustain from good readers. Where the line falls regarding excessive violence varies from work to work, I suspect. However, this would generally be the way that I would go about determining it.

  2. Some of you might be interested in the following two comments of mine from the past week. The first is on Galatians 3:28 and Genesis 2:18:

    Galatians 3:28. While so often taken out of context, the verse really should be read carefully within its original surroundings. The point that it makes is that all the groups mentioned are unified in Christ and in him equally full heirs of Abraham and the promise. The inheritance point is crucial, as Abrahamic inheritance would typically have been regarded as something belonging particularly to the free Jewish male. However, in Christ we all possess his inheritance.

    This inheritance shouldn’t be perceived of as something that we all possess as detached individuals, but as an undivided inheritance that we share as an undivided Church—which is why being one is so emphasized. The point here is indivisibility in participation in the one Christ (cf. Colossians 3:10-11): in this one body, we are all heirs together in the common inheritance.

    It is a rather modern assumption that such indivisibility must entail interchangeability, or a flattening out of all distinctions. The inheritance in view in Galatians seems to be the gift of the Spirit (cf. 3:14; 4:6). As we see in such places as 1 Corinthians 12, the one Gift of the Spirit is the common life and inheritance of the one body of Christ. The inheritance itself is indivisible, as must be the body that receives it. However, the one Gift of the Spirit is ministered—re-presented—through the differences of the body, in their exercise of the diversity of the many gifts of the Spirit. Sadly, the tendency seems to be to occlude Paul’s point about the indivisibility of one inheriting body, focusing upon the interchangeability of many inheriting individuals instead, which is not the same point at all.

    Genesis 2:18. The woman is created to address a particular problem: the man’s aloneness. The man was created in part as an answer to the problem of the lack of any man to serve the earth (Genesis 2:5—like Eve in her relation to Adam, Adam was created to serve the earth, not to be subservient to it or to be exhaustively defined by his relationship to it). The creation of the man doesn’t adequately solve the problem, however. One man is hardly capable of serving the whole earth and performing all of the work of the priestly Garden-sanctuary. Exodus 18:17-18, where it was ‘not good’ that Moses had to judge Israel ‘alone’ (the same words are used), is an illuminating parallel.

    Eve addressed Adam’s aloneness, first by assisting him in his particular task, but, more importantly, as she performed her own task of giving rise to new life and communion, providing the possibility of humanity being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth. Unsurprisingly, it is in the bearing of children that her vocation finds its principal, but no means exclusive, expression (hence, the particular character of the judgment upon the woman in Genesis 3).

    The ‘aloneness’ of Adam in Genesis 2, therefore, is less a need for human companionship as such as it is a need for a counterpart to enable him to perform his challenging vocation and to bring what he starts to completion. While companionship is definitely part of the picture, the companionship envisaged is inseparable from its fundamental orientation to serve ends and a good greater than the immediate psychological and sexual needs of the couple themselves. This inseparability is more than a mere holding together of two distinct ends—companionship and service of the wider world. Rather it is the integration and co-inherence of these. The life that the man and woman forge together is a life for the sake of the world. The deepest intimacy of their sexual union is an act that holds its own potential for the outflowing of the gift of life beyond them.

    As with Galatians 3:28, we should beware of our instinctive individualization of such texts. Marriage may be integral to the vocation of humanity, but that doesn’t mean that it is integral to my vocation. Nor need it mean that the unmarried are without a stake and a part to play within that common human vocation. Those of us who are unmarried and/or childless are still full participants in this project. Even though we may not personally marry and have children, in many and various ways we not only support those who do, but immediately serve in the tasks of extending and improving humanity’s stewardship of the creation, the raising of the next generation, and the worship and enjoyment of God, serving and serving alongside persons of the other sex in their own service. In our sexual continence we honour the marriage bed. In our various social, religious, personal, and economic vocations we also advance and realize the common human vocation and blessing. This is especially the case in the kingdom of God, where the task of being fruitful and multiplying comes to focus less narrowly upon procreation and is more about the spreading of the rule of Christ through our exercising of spiritual gifts in his body.

    The second is from a response to a well-intentioned attempt to define marriage through collecting answers from married couples to the question of what marriage is for them.

    I think that there is a serious problem with the way that the question is posed, however, as I believe that there are a number of implicit but mistaken assumptions within it. I am referring to the assumption that marriage is to be defined by the perspectives of the people within it. Indeed, I believe that to define marriage this way is to surrender the most important point before we have even started discussion. The problem is that, to the extent that it is genuinely an institution, marriage exists to serve ends that transcend the ends of the persons within it.

    Defining marriage this way is perhaps akin to trying to define the institution of the army around the answers given to the question ‘what does the army mean to you?’ by persons in the military. Some might say that it is a way that they can earn a living, others that they want to ‘be their best’ and believe that the training of the military helps them to achieve this. Others might draw attention to the camaraderie they enjoy in the military. Others want the honour of serving their country. Some are in the military for the adventure. The problem is that the question of what the military means for those serving within it doesn’t really answer the question of what the military itself is for, because the military doesn’t exist primarily for the sake of the persons within it and their personal ends.

    Any ‘institution’ that could adequately be defined in such a manner would probably exist purely as a mutually beneficial arrangement voluntaristically contracted between individuals, a decidedly ‘liberal’ sort of institution (in the more technical sense of the term). Seeking to define marriage in such a manner is therefore, I believe, unwittingly to rule out more traditional understandings of marriage at the outset.

    It seems to me that this approach to definition also places too much emphasis upon the ends realized by individual marriages, rather than upon the ends served by marriage as an institution in society. The tendency then is to depreciate the significance of any marital ends that can’t be realized within a given particular marriage, most typically procreation. The argument that, if there are infertile couples, then bearing children can’t be integral to marriage’s purpose, is not too dissimilar in its logic from the claim that, since some soccer games conclude in thrilling goalless draws, goal-scoring can’t be a central purpose of the sport.

    If I were to pose a different question—as just one example among many of questions that are lost through the current framing of the enquiry—it might serve to highlight dimensions of the purpose of marriage that will easily be forgotten if we focus narrowly upon married couples. That question is: What does my parents’ marriage mean to me?

    My parents’ marriage means a lot for me. I find my origin in the union of the bodies that they pledged to each other in their marriage. I am a concrete expression of their ‘one flesh’ union and am implicated in their commitment to each other. Their rock solid commitment to their marriage is a commitment to the bond from which I arise and which I express, a commitment that has given me a sense of existential security from my earliest years. I knew that I never need look beyond their loving union to discover my origins. My origins were forged in something deeper than any arrangement of law, politics, technology, contract and market, in the free union of bodies, making clear that I was begotten, rather than made. My origins are entirely in a private and intimate bodily union of my mother and father. There is no other parent or party beyond this that would place any of my origins in a realm beyond one of deep love and personal commitment.

    Through their marriage vows, their life together was held open to my existence from even before I was conceived, affording a secure place of welcome. As I was begotten out of the promised union of bodies they shared, my place in their lives arose naturally from their place in the lives of each other and was profoundly personalizing. I was not a secondary project of their marriage, a child that must justify its existence by being ‘wanted’. Rather than it being their ‘right’ or ‘choice’ to have me, by submitting so fully to the institution of marriage, they were committing to the claim of my interests upon their lives as integral to their honouring of the life they shared together.

    Their commitment to each other upholds the unity of my connection with the legacy of my family. It is a commitment to the social and relational capital of our family (not just its financial capital), ensuring that it won’t be sundered or damaged in divorce. Their union maintains the social force of the bonds of blood between me and my brothers and between me and my extended family. It has served to pass on a cultural, spiritual, and moral legacy to me and my brothers, preparing us to pass it on ourselves as we make our existential turn from the concerns of our generation to those of the next as we marry too and have children too.

    Their relationship models a healthy relationship between the sexes in society more generally, one of permanent loving commitment, a sharing of life and its goods, and mutual belonging in a responsible cooperation in the service and realization of the good of society. Their relationship stands against the idea of the sexes being indifferent to each other, antagonistic, mutually objectifying, competitive, or merely united in temporary and occasional sexual relations. Both as father and mother and as a married couple, they honour the place and responsibility that both men and women have in the procreation and raising of the next generation and their union together in something greater than the realization of their private and individual interests.

    Much, much more could be said about my parents’ marriage and its significance for me. I am just one of several interested parties who have a stake in it (God, the Church, their immediate Christian and social communities, society more generally, the state, their parents, our wider family, future generations of our family, other married couples, and even single persons are all others).

    Marriage exists for so much more than the immediate couple. It also places claims upon people beyond the immediate couple. As an unmarried person, I seek to honour the marriage bed by refraining from sexual activity. I am called to honour my father and mother in their union, being a child who brings them and our family even closer together, rather than playing them off against each other for my own ends. I must act in a way that honours and passes on the legacy of their commitment to each other. I must honour the marriage of my neighbour by not coveting his wife or doing anything that would sow discord or intrude within their union. I must honour marriage within society as a whole by upholding its dignity and authority through my speech, both privately and publicly, in which I refuse to make humour of divorce, infidelity, or marital discord. Etc.

    It seems to me that, until we recover something of the broader vision of marriage as an institution, we will struggle to articulate its rationale within current debates.

  3. Alex says:

    1) Is alcoholism a disease?
    2) Are the 12 steps biblically valid?

    • I really don’t believe that I have the necessary expertise or background to answer your first question. I believe that this is a question for doctors and psychiatrists.

      I think that there is a lot of wisdom to the 12 steps—and I think that ‘wisdom’ is the way to frame this, rather than in terms of being biblically prescribed—although their vagueness concerning the identity of the higher power may imply a problematically utilitarian approach to religion and faith. That said, employed in distinctively Christian context, where the program is situated within the wider framework of orthodox Christian worship, community, and practice, I believe that it could do much good.

  4. thrasymachus33308 says:

    >>A necrophilac/murderer/rapist is pretty high up on the list of ‘the least of these’, IMO.<<

    A necrophiliac/murderer/rapist is the exact opposite of the least of these, IMO.

    • Yes, I really don’t think that they were the people that Jesus had in mind when speaking of the ‘least of these’.

      • whitefrozen says:

        Jesus seems to be referring to the lower parts of society – people in prison, strangers, the sick, the poor – and as far as lower parts of society go, Lester Ballard is fairly low.

  5. Thank you Alastair, for giving us the chance to post here.
    Here are some free-floating thoughts from me about the ‘gay debate’
    Sometimes I wonder what ‘the gay debate’ has to do with me anyway, and why I have such misgivings about the redefinition of the word ‘marriage’ in secular law, and the possibility of it also being redefined by church leaders – after all, a Christian marriage is a Christian marriage, no matter what it’s called.So why am I concerned about the redefinition of a word?
    Then I think of the sexualisation of the words ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ and remember how, as a young(ish) teacher of German, I got into a bit of hot water professionally because these words still had their original meaning for me.- I just wasn’t very ‘street-wise’.
    The word ‘faggot’, apart from being something some of us might enjoy eating with mushy peas, also sounds like the German word for ‘bassoon’ – ‘der Faggott’. A routine revision lesson for a German speaking test quickly turned into a riot when a child asked me the German for ‘bassoon’. It ended on a light note when the child asked, ‘Miss, can I just say I play the clarinet?’
    Then there’s the word ‘gay’. Most German past participles begin with the prefix ‘ge-‘, which sounds like ‘gay’ …well, near enough. I came unstuck when teaching the past participles of separable verbs and told the children that the ‘ge-‘ goes in the middle. For example:ich mache auf- I open; ich have aufgemacht – I’ve opened. From my point of view, it was an innocuous explanation but I don’t think I ever lived it down in that school.I was the one who told the kids that ‘the gay has to go in the middle.’!
    I get bone weary of so-called ‘traditionalists’ being described as ‘bigoted’, ‘intolerant’, ‘unloving’ and what-have-you. We’re all affected by ‘the gay debate’. No man is an island. Sometimes, I wish some so-called ‘liberals’ would bear this in mind.

    • Thanks for the comment. I think that discussing issues related to LGBT identities can be very important. There are many persons who fall within these categories within our society and acquainting ourselves with their situation and self-understandings can be a necessary part of the process of loving our LGBT neighbours.

      It is indeed frustrating when moral objections to same-sex relations and the redefinition of marriage is presumed to arise from fear, hatred, or personal animus towards LGBT persons. Sadly, however, such homophobia does fairly widely exist.

      We should also be aware of the fact that the issues under discussion are of deep personal significance and cost to some persons and, while remaining faithful in our witness, do our best to do justice to represent them fairly and accurately and to articulate our positions in ways that ensure that they are not abused.

      The redefinition of marriage is indeed far-reaching in its consequences. Many people have a sense that something is wrong about it, but don’t feel able to express what exactly the cause of their unease is. This vague discomfort is easy to characterize as unenlightened prejudice or bigotry. However, I believe that in many cases it is possible to identify a strong and reasonable basis for such discomfort.

      • What do you think of Leon Kass’ notion of the ‘wisdom of repugnance’? When I’ve discussed it in the past with people they were put off by the language used. Discomfort might be softer language but it would seem to be along the same lines.

        It might also be helpful to distinguish between this repugnance/discomfort and prejudice in the Burkean sense. Where the former is something closer to a ‘natural’ reaction and the latter a reaction arising from social capital.

        Non-deliberation is common to both. This, in part, is what makes them objectionable; at least, formally. For many of those who do object do so without much deliberation themselves. They take positions because they are fashionable &c.

      • I think that there is a lot of merit to the concept, used carefully. It would be interesting to bring his claims into dialogue with Jonathan Haidt’s arguments about the broader bases of conservative morality.

        Categorical resistance to repugnance is often associated with resistance to the reality of human nature. People mistakenly think of natural law as a theoretical account of reality, when natural law is the orderedness of the reality itself. Repugnance is one way in which this natural moral order asserts itself within us, functioning as a sense of moral equilibrium.

        There is, I believe, benefit to non-deliberation in many cases. The presence of a natural and/or deeply instilled cultural aversion to certain actions facilitates the fuller enjoyment of particular forms of relationship than otherwise. For instance, the fact that incest is never even on the table enables us to enjoy a degree of intimacy with our family that might not be possible if incest were only ruled out at a later stage.

  6. Thank you for your reply. Yes, ‘acquainting ourselves with their self-understandings can be a necessary part of loving our LGBT neighbours.’ I was especially moved by Tom Daley’s video and got a better understanding of how it felt to be Tom.
    ‘….such homophobia does fairly widely exist.’ That pupil who didn’t want to say the word ‘Faggott’ was afraid of being heard saying it because there was so much homophobia in that school. The mother of my gay (former) neighbour confided in me about her daughter but asked me not to tell the other neighbours because she feared repercussions.
    As for me, I can cope with the ‘gay’ part of ‘Gay Pride’ but not with the ‘pride’ part, but then I find hubris pretty indigestible in all contexts, not just this one!
    Yes , we need to ‘articulate our positions in ways that ensure that they (LGBT people) are not abused.’ There is so much pain in the world and I certainly try to avoid adding to that pain wittingly or willingly.
    Your last paragraph resonates with me. A redefinition of marriage affects everyone, not just the legislators, and I hope all concerns about it will be given consideration by church leaders.Regarding your final sentence, my own life experience is such that I cannot disconnect giving birth from sexuality and mortality but I cannot articulate that in theological terms – though I think you have articulated it very well!
    I have one final thought about the use of language in a different context. A ‘westernised’ Muslim colleague once picked me up for describing a pupil as ‘half-caste’ in a school with a high percentage of Asian pupils. I asked him to give me a more appropriate descriptor and he replied ‘mixed race’. I learnt a lot from him!

    • Recognizing how certain expressions can be heard and actions can be perceived is important, as you observe. No matter how well-meaning we are, we can easily hurt others unwittingly with ill-chosen words, for instance.

      On the issue of gay ‘pride’, I think that it is important to recognize the context within which it finds its origin. Gay ‘pride’ was a response to the social stigma, shame, and guilt that surrounded LGBT persons, to their being treated like lepers in society. While things have obviously improved on this front, these issues clearly still haven’t disappeared. In gay pride, LGBT persons enjoy solidarity in resisting this representation of themselves and collectively celebrating who they understand themselves to be instead. While many of us as Christians will see much that is problematic with this, I think that we should also be able to see something of the rationale for it and recognize that it is far from an unalloyed negative.

      • True. I have checked out the history of ‘Gay Pride’ and the choice of words seems to have been a secular one, not a Christian one. The more I think about this …. well…. the more I think about it! For instance, one of my favourite colleagues, who really encouraged me with my work, was openly gay. He was not a Christian but he had a humility about him that certainly appealed to me. Can’t judge any book by it’s cover, can we? 🙂

  7. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Progressive Evangelicalism seems to be dead. As I’ve remarked before, the collapse has been remarkably swift, and it has been pressure from gay affirming folks outside Evangelicalism that did it.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      Scot McKnight just reposted that. Should have checked the date.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        Nonetheless, the response, if Wallis or someone like him did anything like that today, would be even swifter and more severe. Positions have hardened.

      • As it has often largely been held together by its opposition to conservative evangelicals, it is unsurprising that it should prove incoherent and deeply fractious when attempting to advance a positive stance of its own. I think that one could argue that the old evangelical left was better on this front.

  8. Alex says:

    I need wisdom on where to send my son to school next year. I appreciate prayer.

  9. Rick W. says:

    Alastair…what do you think of all this Charismatic stuff?

    • Alex says:

      Is this Rick Warren?

    • That is a very broad question. You’d need to narrow it down considerably before I could really give an answer. What in particular are you wanting to hear my thoughts on?

      • Rick W. says:

        Sorry, I was just trying to be funny. 🙂
        I am honestly really trying to understand this extreme push from the Charismatic movement that is coming out of places like Bethel Church in Redding California, and others like IHOP. This stuff once seemed like run-of-the-mill charismaticism, but now it is sweeping through non-denominationalism and the more it grows the more it seems to be bringing in really crazy “New Age,” or “New Spirituality/Contemplative” beliefs. To the point where Christians who were brought out of the darkness of new age practices are starting to say, “wait a minute, I used to do this stuff and now they are doing it with Jesus stamped on top.”

        I, myself, would be a bit of what is labeled now as a reformed charismatic…probably very close to Andrew Wilson. I just don’t know what to do with this stuff and it is really affecting churches and people I know. People gobble it up with out really thinking about what is being done or said.

        Do you have any experience or knowledge in regard to some of these things?

        Thanks, and I love the podcast by the way. I have enjoyed every episode but the NT Wright one was particularly helpful. Can’t wait for the second one!

      • Pleased to hear that you like the podcast! I expect that the second N.T. Wright podcast should be posted in the next few hours.

        My experience with such forms of charismaticism are limited. I am not myself a charismatic, just a non-cessationist Reformed Christian. However, from the little that I have experienced in various contexts, I really share your concerns. One crucial thing that people seem to lack is an appreciation of the importance of interpreting experience and a recognition that it doesn’t validate or interpret itself.

        Have you read this post? If you haven’t, you might find it interesting.

  10. Matt Petersen says:

    What do you think of Derrida/Levinas’ discussion of hospitality, particularly, of being guests in the world and in our bodies?

  11. Peter B says:

    Here’s a question for anyone who wants to jump in. I find myself a co-belligerent on certain issues that feminists rail against (say, a proposition like “violence against women is primarily a men’s issue”. I’d agree.). But on others, I can’t follow them to their conclusions (obv. example is the sacrosanct ‘right to choose’). I can’t tell apart “first principles” of feminism (as widely conceived of as possible), from its conclusions. I just find myself wading deep into a given issue and agreeing with bits and rejecting bits. I wanna try to fix that. Here’s the Q: what have people here read to get acquainted with feminism of today? (The feminism of Slate/Jezebel/HuffPo etc. …the kind I most often meet at school). Is it just learned by familiarity after multiple culture war skirmishes?

    Also, I find that the concept is ballooning immensely in my circles, like in the ‘if you think women are people, you’re a feminist’ assertion. I know that’s just rhetoric, but this is the shape of the feminism I rub up against. And it’s hard to be helped by some of my go-to Christian authors/bloggers on this b/c they tend to come out guns blazing against it*, which though sometimes makes for a good read, doesn’t help my understanding. I feel more like I got a lesson in toeing in the party line, for when my turn comes. So yeah. I’d like to hear some thoughts =]
    (Only thing on my ‘to read’ list is ‘The Feminine Mystique’, cuz I heard it was seminal)

    *it*, w/e it is, is often coloured by the specific issue/skirmish at hand.

    • Hi Peter,
      I’m not a ‘new feminist’ and not at all au fait with its ‘first principles’ , so I can’t offer much by way of response.
      Anyway, here’s my small offering:
      In 1977 ( Yes, I am of ‘mature years’!) my favourite feminist writer was Marilyn French (The Womens’ Room) That was in the days when we thought some men were ‘Male Chauvinist Pigs’ who treated women like ‘sex objects’! A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.
      Now, my favourite feminist writer is Linda Schierse Leonard (Meeting the Madwoman, Empowering the Feminine Spirit.) ‘Mad’ here, by the way, means ‘angry’, not ‘insane’!
      I like Linda because she actually likes men and wants men to be empowered, too. She wants us all to be the people God created us to be, and is not in competition with men – no ‘battle of the sexes’.
      She is a Jungian psychotherapist .I don’t know much about her faith, but she does believe in God.
      All the best with the ‘shape of feminism’ you ‘rub up against.’

      • Peter B says:

        Thanks for your thoughts, C! Linda Leonard seems like a good–and from the Amazon page, difficult–read. I’ll probably have to work up to reading her =]
        Regarding your last sentence, my quoted words seem far more ambiguous now than I intended when I wrote them lol. So let me clarify that the quoted phrases were supposed to convey that I only vaguely grasp the feminism I meet in school, and when I meet it, there’s often friction. I hope my choice of words didn’t get me into trouble there lol

    • I would avoid referring to a feminist work as ‘seminal’… 😉

      Feminism is far from a uniform movement, as I am sure that you have gathered by now. Also, the popular forms that you seem to be encountering often can’t sustain critical cross-examination. However, I believe that it is important to listen charitably to the concerns being voiced and try to understand where they are arising from, even when you know that you could criticize the position quite effectively on several points. It is also important to learn about the genealogy of the ideas of feminism in both their more theoretical and popular forms, recognizing the underlying commitments and implications, many of which are rather problematic.

      Always try to get your feminism from feminist sources, rather than second hand. I would advise following a few popular feminist sources (things like Jezebel), following some feminists on Twitter, reading some popularizing blogs (Dianna Anderson writes extensively on the subject), and get a sense of the broader history and character of the movement with some introductory works that will unpack the various ‘waves’ and the like (there are plenty of books that will do this for you—this is just one easy read as an example). When you have a better sense of the wider shape of the conversation, start focusing on some particular authors.

      Try to read a variety of feminist voices. Like Christians, feminists can be a fractious lot and are often quick to excommunicate others for supposed or actual crimes against ideology. Don’t pay attention to this and ensure that you have a fairly good first hand knowledge of the voices of the various schools. Read some popular feminists, like Caitlin Moran or Jessica Valenti. Read some queer feminists like Judith Butler. Read some second wavers like Germaine Greer. Read some works by women of colour like bell hooks. Try to situate feminism in relation to broader conversations around Marxism, race, liberalism, LGBT issues, etc. Read some feminist theologians from various points on the theological spectrum.

      After you have done this, you should have a better idea of the lay of the land and you will have learnt much of value, not just about feminism, but also from it (I say this as someone who remains quite strongly critical of feminism, but who believes it is a very important interlocutor).

      • Peter B says:

        Thanks man! And I appreciate the name drops. Very helpful for a starting point.

        Btw, I LOL’d so hard at the ‘seminal’ point. I only realized the biological sense of the word recently (in ‘seminal vesicles’) and didn’t even consider that this might be controversial anywhere. This could actually function as an example of what I was trying to describe in my encounters with feminism. Like so:

        Person writes popular column against the use of ‘seminal’.
        Feminist-identifying friends populate my timeline with retweets and conversations spurred by it.
        Some bring it up in class; passion is evident.
        I (in this case) am unconvinced, and wonder how representative this is of the movement. Doug Wilson (for example) satirizes the column.
        I am entertained, but am quietly confused by the arguments so I just remember the assertions that have been lobbed from all sides.
        (Rinse and repeat at the next kerfuffle: ‘birth rape’). Le sigh.

        Like I said, thanks for pointing me a place to start!

      • Hi Alastair, in response to your comment that you remain ‘quite strongly critical of feminism’ – I’m also unhappy about some genres of feminism.As an example, back in the ’70s, Germaine Greer was not someone I favoured as a role model.However, Linda Schierse Leonard is conciliatory and creative and considers the historical and sociological impact of feminism and some of the ways in which it has been damaging to men.When I first came on Twitter, I wondered how long I’d last, given my more moderate attitude – but I’m still here 🙂

  12. A new train of thought from me – this time about changes in the meanings of symbols, and specifically, the symbol of the rainbow.
    I have a lapel pin with a picture of a rainbow and a dove. This was given to me by a Christian member of my family as a symbol of God’s promise:
    “And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said to Noah,’This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.’ ”
    Now we frequently see the image of the rainbow as a symbol for LGBT people. As far as I know, it is a celebration of diversity and hope and may have been inspired by Judy Garland’s song, ‘Over the Rainbow.’ It is a lovely image and a lovely sentiment, yet I have mixed feelings about it and some cognitive dissonance.
    I am searching for some overlap between what the rainbow means to me and what it means to LGBT people -searching for a mandala, a way of transcending my mixed feelings.
    I continue to pray about it.

  13. Hi Peter,
    Thank you for your reply and all the best with reading what Alastair has recommended. With all these opinions whizzing around you at school and on your Twitter timeline, you seem to have kept a lovely sense of humor and I’m sure that is a strength which will help you steer your way through :=)

  14. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Zizek is a plagiarist.

    BTW, everyone should read Deogolwulf’s aphorisms.

    • This doesn’t entirely surprise me. Sometimes it feels as though over 50% of his work is self-plagiarizing, which has always made me suspect that it is written in a rather unorthodox manner, with heavy reliance upon research assistants and the like.

      • Sheila says:

        When we were living in Croatia during the war, one less-terrible bit of news to hit the press in the latter, calmer part of those years (when we were living very near the border with Slovenia), was that some Slovenian men had done some massive amounts of counterfeitting of the new Slovenian paper money of the time. This was when color photocopy machines had just become available, and that it what they used! No kidding. Clearly, from the fact that it showed up in the news, they were not very sophisticated copies, and the men were caught. Maybe Zizek didn’t hear about that….

      • Žižek has responded to the charges here.

      • Sheila says:

        Well, wow. That was timely.

      • The Man Who Was . . . says:

        So, he didn’t plagiarize American Renaissance, he just plagiarized his friend.

  15. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Don’t know if you got my email. I will be in Cambridge for most of next week, but I assume you will still be busy with dissertation stuff . . . and not anywhere near Cambridge.

    Also, Malcolm Guite will be a visiting fellow at St. John’s College Durham for most of October and November upcoming. Though perhaps you will then no longer be in Durham.

    • I don’t think so. When did you send it? I received one on June 17th and sent a reply, if that is the one to which you are referring. Unfortunately, I won’t be near Cambridge next week. There is, however, a possibility that I will still be in Durham in October and November.

  16. Given assisted dying is in the news again I’d be interested in your thoughts.I don’t have a firm position but I’m open to the possibility.

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