Chalices, Queer Theory, and More: So Much Internet

John Corvino argues that a little knowledge of queer theory is a dangerous thing, in Thinking Straight?
Where Social Conservatives Go Wrong on Sexuality
. His essay includes nice clear discussions of how sexuality can be socially constructed without, therefore, being deliberately changeable. Very well worth reading, no matter where you stand on the morality of same-sex marriage, acts, or inclinations.

Did you know Regina Jonas was the world’s first woman rabbi? Born in 1902, she completed seminary in 1935 in Germany. She served as a rabbi in a concentration camp for more than a year before being transported to Auschwitz and killed. Read more about her work and her rediscovery in Obscure no more, world’s first woman rabbi receives recognition.

When supper was over, he took the… cup, or chalice? Rita Ferrone presents a variety of arguments against one of the most controversial words in the new missal translation in Take This Chalice — Please.

Richard Beck blogs William Stringfellow’s book on Conscience and Obedience, which grapples productively with the apparent contradiction between Romans 13 “obey the civil authorities” and Revelations 13 “resist the civil authorities.” Great stuff, with a connection to the Catonsville Nine antiwar activists.

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The Encyclical Crisis Then (and Now)

Commonweal Magazine selects various stories from past issues to post on its website, and this month they’ve included theologian Fr. Bernard Häring‘s response to Humanae Vitae, the 1968 papal encyclical that banned artificial contraception.

In many ways, as I’ve written before, this encyclical looms over all discussions about authority and conscience in the Roman Catholic church today. I’ve included some choice quotes with bits of my own commentary below, but it is definitely worth reading the whole thing, whether you’re interested in church authority and teaching generally, or the development of this teaching in particular.

If [Pope Paul] deserves admiration for the courage to follow his conscience and to do the most unpopular thing, all responsible men and women must show forth similar honesty and courage of conscience. I am convinced that the subjective and conscious motive of the Pope was love for the Church. Those who contradict him must do it also out of love for the whole Church, out of love for those whose faith is endangered. This also can and must be a service of love for the successor of St. Peter.

Amen.
Continue reading

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Debts or Trespasses? And Other Riffs on the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Those are the words I learned as a child, and still most frequently use when I pray. But sometimes I riff on it.

At some point in young adulthood, I encountered a translation that used “debts” and “debtors” instead of “trespasses”, and a commentary asserting that when Jesus talked about forgiveness, he was typically preaching to the people at the top of the wealth/power hierarchy. It was the people in positions of wealth and privilege who were called to forgive the debts of those who owed them money: not the other way around. This made sense to me in a “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable” kind of way.

The economic metaphor also helped me understand more concretely what forgiveness meant. I knew what it meant to forgive a monetary debt: it meant tearing up the IOU, wiping out the debt entirely, declaring “you don’t owe me that money anymore.” And, at least if you’re not an asshole, Continue reading

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Summer Slushbrain: So Much Internet

Interesting things I’ve surfed across recently while my brain is on summer vacation:

A graphic showing the relationships between, and relative sizes of, the various branches and movements of Islam.

A serious look at the sexually abusive actions of John Howard Yoder, an influential Christian ethicist, and how we should construe his writings in light of his actions. (I’ve written about this before, although in less depth.)

A mimetic analysis of the recent Hobby Lobby decision on religious exemptions for corporations.

A couple of good book reviews, Know the Creeds & Councils and Know the Heretics, by Gay Christian Geek.

The good folks over at Daily Theology are running a Vacation Bible School series this summer — what a great idea!

Stay cool…

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Friday Night Potpourri: So Much Internet, June New Moon edition

Pope Francis had some nice things to say in his address to the Vatican Observatory Summer School on Galaxies. Here’s an excerpt, but it’s worth reading the whole brief address:

Here too we see a further reason for the Church’s commitment to dialogue with the sciences on the basis of the light provided by faith: it is her conviction that faith is capable of both expanding and enriching the horizons of reason (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 238). In this dialogue, the Church rejoices in the marvelous progress of science, seeing it as a sign of the enormous God-given potential of the human mind (cf. ibid, 243), even as a mother rejoices and is rightly proud as her children grow “in wisdom, and age and grace” (Lk 2:52).

Sonja at Women In Theology points out that the recently released working document for the Synod on the Family curiously omits a number of gospel teachings on the family, and helpfully provides them.

Speaking of marriage and the family, there’s been quite a lot of conversation around marriage over at BLT: Suzanne McCarthy takes on N. T. Wright, I Ching, and Complementarianism, Theophrastus points out that Metaphors are Not Equations, J. K. Gayle inquires whether the Wife of the Lamb must be a Ewe, and I reflect on Meaning, Marriage, and Allah.

Finally, a couple of good substantive book reviews: Phillip Long reviews Dinkler’s Silent Statements, on the uses of speech and silence in the gospel of Luke. And Elesha Coffman engages with The Deconstructed Church: Understanding Emergent Christianity by Marti and Ganiel, reflecting on parallels between the contemporary Emergent movement and the Stone-Campbell Restorationist movement that emerged a couple centuries ago.

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I am a Master of Theology!

On May 15, 2014, after eight years of part-time study, I received my MA in Theology, with a concentration in systematics.

Huzzah!!

Huzzah!!


Our graduation was held in the beautiful central chapel chapel_view of St. Mary’s Seminary and University, into which we (and the seminarians also graduating) were led by a piper playing music arranged for bagpipe and organ.
led_in_by_piper

Because the Ecumenical Institute of Theology is part of St. Mary’s, my classmates and I received our diplomas from, and were congratulated by, the Archbishop of Baltimore and the President-Rector of the university, with the dean of the EI reading out our names and the assistant dean wrangling the diplomas.
dignitaries

Two honorary degrees were also bestowed; one of them was given to Rabbi Joel Zaiman, and the commencement address/sermon was given by Rev. Christopher Leighton. I was delighted by this, because I learned about the EI from an alumna I met at one of the wonderful programs offered by the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies at a time when both men were active participants. Rabbi Zaiman presented at several of the ICJS programs I attended, and had a significant influence on my understanding of Judaism. So that nicely rounded out the completion of my theological journey.

Since my graduation ceremony was on a Thursday evening, I had a graduation party on the following Saturday afternoon. I had a lot of fun decorating the space and setting up a table showing off my accomplishments.
table_display
That open looseleaf binder holds my master’s thesis — all 120 pages of it — which was accepted and signed by my advisor and dean, Dr. Brent Laytham, and my second reader, Dr. James Buckley, earlier that week on Monday, May 12, prior to my non-defense. (I didn’t have to defend my thesis, but was given the opportunity to present and discuss it with both of them and some interested friends: all the good parts of a defense without the stress!) Also on display are my diploma and my award for outstanding theological achievement.

The first EI catalog I received didn’t have a picture of the school on the cover — instead, it featured a stack of theology books that clearly showed the ecumenical and academic nature of the program. I loved that picture, and I decided to show off a similar stack featuring some of the most significant books from my graduate studies:
stack_of_books

Finally, I had a lot of fun making this visual representation of my journey, showing all the courses I took over the eight years. And since my thesis was in ecclesiology, what could be more appropriate than a path that led to a model church adorned with a diploma and mortarboard!

path_to_church

OK, yes, actually it is a birdhouse shaped like a church. Consider it a visual pun on a pneumatological ecclesiology – the church inhabited by the Holy Spirit. :)

It has been a fabulous journey, and I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it. The experience of studying theology with faculty and classmates of varying Christian traditions has been tremendously rewarding.

For the past two and a half years, I’ve shared much of that journey with you, my blog readers, and I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have! Your comments and questions have been helpful, encouraging, inspiring, challenging, and amusing, and I thank you for your good company and support.

Alleluia! Amen!

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“When Taken Unreflectively” ?

You may have heard that the most recent round of dialogue between the LCWR and the CDF included a particular condemnation of “conscious evolution” as a recurring theme in the sisters’ workshops and newsletters. Conscious evolution is something I’d never heard of, but based on a quick internet search, it seemed not too dissimilar from Teilhard de Chardin. The Progressive Catholic Voice comes to a similar conclusion in their discussion, but what caught my eye in their blog post was the bit I’ve bolded here:

“I apologize if this seems blunt, but what I must say is too important to dress up in flowery language,” Müller declared. “The fundamental theses of conscious evolution are opposed to Christian revelation and, when taken unreflectively, lead almost necessarily to fundamental errors regarding the omnipotence of God, the incarnation of Christ, the reality of original sin” and other matters of church dogma.

“When taken unreflectively”? Is that the standard? Why is that the standard?

Does the archbishop assume that the sisters of the LCWR are taking their presentations and newsletter material unreflectively? Why does he think that? These women appear to me to be among the most reflective, thoughtful, discerning Catholics human beings I have ever heard about.

It just seems very odd to me. Maybe I’m biased by hanging around with theological types, but Continue reading

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“Each one in his own native language!” So much internet, Pentecost edition

The miracle of Pentecost as told by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles was a miracle of an outpouring of an abundance: tongues of flame, tongues as in languages, telling of the abundance of God’s mighty deeds, hearing in an abundance of languages. This post collects just a little of the abundance of the internet, with an emphasis towards language:
What language did Jesus speak? It turns out this is a really interesting question, as well as having interesting answers. Seth Sanders writes about it over at Religion Dispatches, and J. K. Gayle adds some information about the social and linguistic perspective of various contributors to the discussion.

Was there an Arabic translation of the Bible before Islam? Clare Wilde explores this question, and its theological and polemical implications, in a review of Sidney H. Griffith’s book.

If you’re Catholic, you’ve probably used a holy card as a bookmark at least once. The library at the University of St. Thomas, MN, has been collecting such cards that have been left in returned library books over the years, and has made the collection available online through the Catholic Research Portal.

Cristina Traina, a respected Roman Catholic ethicist who also happens to be lesbian, was interviewed by her local paper, which published an excerpt discussing sainthood and marriage equality, as well as a link to the full recorded interview.

Finally, Daily Theology is running a Pentecost-themed Theological Shark Week: theological reflections on the Holy Spirit that you won’t want to miss.

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I went to a wedding today!

I didn’t know I was going to a wedding: I left the house today to attend the noon mass, as usual. But when I got there, I found that the church was awash in wedding preparation: not that the noon mass had been replaced by a wedding, as I first apprehensively surmised; but that the bride and groom had chosen to celebrate their wedding as part of the noon mass on the sixth sunday of Easter!

I have never seen or heard of such a thing before, but the celebration of marriage was completely and thoroughly and beautifully incorporated into our parish mass, just in the same way that our celebrations of infant baptism and first eucharist often are.

The bride and groom, best man and maid of honor, and ringbearers were part of the entrance procession, behind the crucifix and before the lector and presider, as we all sang the opening hymn. There were several rows in the front-center portion of the church that were reserved for their family and friends; the bride and groom sat together near the altar, symmetrically to the left as the presider’s chair was to the right. The presider (our pastor) took a moment after the greeting to explain that we would be celebrating their marriage after the homily, and to reassure us all that mass wouldn’t take any longer than it usually does when he preaches. ;)

He preached a very nice homily, which not only drew out the nuptial imagery of Christ and the Church (that is, all of us) as symbolized in the joyful and loving presence of the bride and groom, but also reminded us that each time we come to celebrate the eucharist, we come with just such joy and love to renew our promises to Christ. He also spoke beautifully about the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, Advocate, Counselor, Consoler, the one who rushes in to help us; and about the three commands that Jesus gave us: to serve humbly, to love our neighbor, and to keep faith.
Continue reading

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Vocations, Vocations, Vocations: A Plea for Precision

David Cruz-Uribe over at Vox Nova recently posted Some Thoughts on Promoting Vocations, which sounds like it is intended to be the first of a series.

But there is a terminology problem here – and almost everywhere, honestly. “Vocation” is used as if it means exclusively “vocation to the priesthood” or, occasionally, “vocation to the priesthood or religious life”.

As a Catholic child, I was taught that we all have a vocation, a calling, from God: either a vocation to the priesthood or religious life; or a vocation to married life; or a vocation to single life. And that we should all pray to discern which vocation we have, which state God is calling us towards.

I believe very strongly that the single best way to increase the discernment, awareness, and acceptance of priestly vocations would be to return to this practice of teaching, describing, and discerning all three of these state-of-life vocations.

I believe this would also do more to strengthen marriage and reduce the divorce rate than anything else: Continue reading

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