Thursday, May 31, 2012

Theologian Thursday: Elizabeth Johnson

This is the first Theologian Thursday I've done in which the theologian is still living. I've had this weird anxiety that if I profile someone who's still around, they'll somehow find my blog (everyone Googles themselves, you know. Don't pretend you don't.) and think I've grossly misrepresented their life or work and hate me forever. But I've been on a feminist theology kick lately, and I figure Elizabeth Johnson is one of the least likely people to hate me forever. Or at least I hope so. Anyway.

 (image from here)
Elizabeth Johnson is one of my favorite Catholics! And she's basically one of the reasons I'm a feminist, too. I read her Consider Jesus in undergrad, and She Who Is earlier this year, and she's pretty rad.

Johnson received her BA from Brentwood College, her MA from Manhattan College, and her PhD from Catholic University of America. She currently teaches theology at Fordham University. She's also a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She started studying theology right before Vatican II, and the council's focus on dialog with the modern world has shaped her work.

One of the most important things Johnson advocates for is the use of feminine imagery when talking about God. She says it's no coincidence that the Church has been oppressive to women while using male-gendered pronouns and metaphors to talk about God. But she points out that the Bible is rich with images of God taking feminine form--a hen gathering chicks, a laboring or nursing mother, a washerwoman, a seamstress, etc.--and therefore we are free and encouraged to do so in our worship and our personal spiritual life. This is so empowering for women who have their whole lives been forced to envision God as a male ruler or similar oppressor, with whom they could not identify.

(If you want a list of biblical references to female imagery, check out this blog post from Mike Morrell. It's a great resource!) 

What you should read:
  • She Who Is. No brainer. Just do it.
  • She has tons of published articles and they're all good. (OK, I haven't read ALL of them to know that, but I mean, I imagine they have to be.)
(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality:
I mean, this is obvious right? I'd give her six stars if I could.
Environmental Sensibility:
Most feminist theologians agree that as we see the value of women as an important part of God's story, the same becomes true for all God's creatures, including the environment. Oh! And this reminds me of another of her books--Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit. Check it out.
Heretical Tendencies:
Having new(ish) unpopular ideas is never easy, especially if you are a feminist in a Church that doesn't allow ordination of women and has hundreds of years of engrained patriarchy. But I love that Johnson is committed to the Catholic Church and working for its betterment rather than running away from it.
General Badassery:
Again, I wish I could give her six stars! Like I said, I do not envy her position as a feminist in the Catholic Church, but she is so awesome for studying what she's passionate about and speaking truth to power (consequently, she's been blasted by lots of bishops and other Catholic officials). She's written tons of great stuff, won awards, and been in important leadership positions, and is generally just rad.

And a quote (I had to just pick one since there are so many good and important ones!)
"What is at stake is simultaneously the freeing of both women and men from debilitating reality models and social roles, the birthing of new forms of saving relationship to all of creation, and indeed the very viability of the Christian tradition for present and coming generations. Are the religions of the Book up to the challenge?"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wardrobe Wednesday: Colored Skinny Jeans

The colored pants trend is hardly news, but I wanted to talk about it because it's summer and I have such a hard time getting dressed in the morning since the library is so slow and I can go virtually a whole day without talking to a single person but at the same time it's unacceptable to wear pajamas.

So. Colored skinny jeans are the best because they are just as easy to wear as regular jeans, but a little more exciting. Plus all you need to wear them with is a chambray shirt or a plain white button-up and somehow it's leaps and bounds better than just blue jeans and a t-shirt.

It's practically magic.

So here are some fun colors I've been looking at.

one // two // three // four // five

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekend Photos

It was a really great three day weekend. And YES! the weather was nice enough for a barbecue/pool party. Fun times.

In other news, this is the last week of the quarter! I am so excited for summer break, I can't even tell you. Planning a year wrap-up post for later this week. Now, back to this Tuesday that feels like a Monday. Ugh.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


It's a three-day weekend in these parts, and I'm hoping it will be warm enough to do a little barbequing/sitting by the pool! Maybe even eating some summery watermelon like this cute cat.

Happy Caturday!

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Tattoo

I mentioned in this post that I was scheming a tattoo idea based on Emily Dickinson's poem "XXXII" or "Hope is the Thing with Feathers."

And after hemming and hawing about it for weeks (internally, it was months) Curtis finally was like "OK, let's go. We're going to the tattoo shop right now and making an appointment." So we got up off the couch and walked over to Remington Tattoo (which, I will add, has THE coolest decor of any place ever) and made an appointment for the very next day.

I showed Sarah this photo, from an Etsy greeting card, and told her to do her thing.

And the next evening, I had a beautiful new tattoo.

It is so so pretty, and I couldn't be happier about it. Seriously, people. In love.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

[Guest Post] Theologian Thursday: Leo Tolstoy

I'm so excited for this week's Theologian Thursday, because it was put together by none other than my dear boyfriend, Curtis! As I've mentioned before, he just completed his Master's in Religion with an emphasis in Theology, so he's probably more qualified to write these posts than I am! He wrote his thesis about nonviolence and pacifism in the Wesleyan tradition, and is on a mission to make the Church of the Nazarene (and probably the whole church, I suppose) a peace church. Now, on to the good stuff!

 (image from here)
The path that led Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) towards his Christian pacifism and anarchism is certainly fascinating considering the life of pleasure afforded to him in his youth. He came from a family of nobility, but sadly his parents died while Tolstoy was young. He was raised by other members of his family, and attended Kazan University beginning in 1844. But Tolstoy did not seem cut out for the academic life and left school and returned to his hometown. Eventually, Tolstoy, along with his brother, joined the Russian army.

It was during his time of military service that Tolstoy took up writing, and the travels required of his army career exposed him to new experiences that would begin to influence his thinking. One of the more notable experiences is his witness to a public execution in Paris carried out by the state. Tolstoy later met exiled French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, which further shaped Tolstoy’s outlook on politics.

Tolstoy is, perhaps, most recognized for his novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but I find him most fascinating for his theological and philosophical works. Although married with children, Tolstoy was increasingly drawn to ascetic moral writings. The ascetic spiritual path proclaims that holiness is achieved through self-denial. Many later pictures of Tolstoy show him wearing the clothing of peasants as a sign of opposing the lavish lifestyles of the wealthy. Biblically, Tolstoy focused on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. His views on nonviolence were founded upon Jesus’s encouragement of his disciples to turn the other cheek. Therefore, a true Christian would denounce violence and embody a pacifist lifestyle. This belief was also backed by Jesus’s Great Commandment to love God and neighbor. The state, as a body committed to the use of violence, therefore must also be renounced. Tolstoy was strongly anarchist, but made sure to separate himself from those anarchists who sought to advance their agenda through means of violence. Tolstoy’s views were definitely contrary to those of the Church in Russia, and continually faced censorship and opposition. The Church experienced great power and wealth from its close ties to the Russian government, which Tolstoy greatly opposed. For this reason he opposed the idea of the Church along with the state.

What you should read:
(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality:
I am not familiar enough with all of Tolstoy’s writings to make a sound judgment on his view of gender equality, but his views on nonviolence are applicable to all people regardless of gender. However, I assume that at the root of asceticism its support of chastity might have created negative outlook towards women or any expression of sexuality, but since he was married it seems safe to assume that there was tension in that relationship.
Environmental Sensibility:
Tolstoy extended the Christian command to not kill to all living creatures. As a result, he abstained from eating meat and likened slaughtering houses to battlefields. This universal care for all of God’s creation leads me to believe that Tolstoy would value and care for the world and all that is in it.
Heretical Tendencies:
According to the Church Tolstoy was exposed to in Russia during the late 19th and early 20th century, he was certainly a heretic. The Church continuously sought to censor him, and the Church’s more preferable method of exiling opposition was only abandoned due to his large number of followers.
General Badassery:
Tolstoy witnessed violence during his travels and his time in the military, which caused him to grow wary of the oppression caused by the state and he was disappointed in the Church’s silence regarding the abuse. Tolstoy took it upon himself to write and educate himself on Christian nonviolence and anarchism despite the dangerous threats and consequences of this decision. Not only was Tolstoy at odds with the Church, he distinguished himself from the anarchists that espoused violence. Clearly, Tolstoy was not compelled by seeking a large number of friends, but instead held fast to his convictions regardless of his beliefs’s popularity.

"Christianity in its true sense puts an end to government. So it was understood at its very commencement; it was for that cause that Christ was crucified, So it has always been understood by people who were not under the necessity of justifying a Christian government. Only from the time that the heads of government assumed an external and nominal Christianity, men began to invent all the impossible, cunningly devised theories by means of which Christianity can be reconciled with government. But no honest and serious-minded man of our day can help seeing the incompatibility of true Christianity—the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness of injuries, and love—with government, with its pomp, acts of violence, executions, and wars. The profession of true Christianity not only excludes the possibility of recognizing government, but even destroys its very foundations."

 Thanks, Curtis! You're the bomb and I love you.  Please leave a comment and let us know what you think. Have you read anything by Tolstoy? If this post gets some positive feedback, maybe I can convince Curtis to write guest posts more often! :) 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Theologian Thursday: Walter Wink (1935-2012)

Doing a little different Theologian Thursday this week, as I found out that Walter Wink passed away last Thursday.

I haven't personally read very much by Wink, except a couple articles and excerpts here and there, but he was pretty influential in Curtis's thesis, and many of his ideas made appearances therein. I'm familiar with his redemptive activism for pacifism and homosexuality in the church, and his CV is extensive and impressive.

I think one of his most important ideas regarding nonviolence is that of "Jesus's Third Way" which is that when faced with conflict, you do not fight or merely surrender, but "take control of the power dynamic" and find "creative alternatives to violence." It also means being willing to suffer violence rather than retaliate.

You can read an excerpt about the Third Way from one of his books--The Powers that Be--HERE.

His booklet Homosexuality and the Bible is available HERE.

Probably his best-known work is the Powers trilogy, which includes Naming the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, and Engaging the Powers.  I'll be looking into picking these up soon, and I encourage you to check them out as well.

It's sad to think he will no longer be with us, contributing so much wisdom to the dialog of the church, but we can be grateful for the work he has done and the impact he has made.

I'll leave you with this great quote of his from Engaging the Powers:
"In the struggle against oppression, every new increment of violence simply extends the life of the Domination system and deepens faith in violence as redemptive."

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Georgia State e-Reserves Case: A Self-Centered Analysis

I was pretty excited to hear about the ruling in the Georgia State University e-Reserves copyright case over the weekend, A) because we'd read about it in class, and it's nice to see that class discussion has real-world importance, and B) because it might actually directly affect my job (I'm in charge of e-Reserves at my university).

Basically, GSU put a ton of copyrighted material online, unprotected by passwords, for multiple terms, and publishers were pissed. The suit was filed in 2008.

Judge Orinda Evans ruled that only 5 of the 99 alleged infringements were indeed valid--the other 94 were considered fair use. Generally, fair use is determined by the following factors:
  1. The purpose of the use (commercial/educational)
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount of the material used (the greater the amount copied, the less likely it is fair use)
  4. The effect of use on the potential market for or value of the work 
The Judge all but officially instated the one chapter/ten percent rule (which is already my official policy): No more than one chapter or ten percent (whichever is less) shall be copied and made available.

She also--and this part I found interesting--practically jettisoned the no-subsequent-semester rule, which GSU had supposedly been violating. Many schools (mine included) say that material can be made available for one term, but after that permission must be acquired. However, the Judge declared this policy unnecessary. I think this might have something to do with her finding that some of the alleged infringing material was never actually accessed. I'll have to consider what this means for my policy--though I don't believe any professor has ever asked for anything to be on e-reserve longer than one term.

Overall, I'm not really surprised by the ruling. Everything I've read (because, let's get real, I'm not going to read the actual 350-page document) places  the decision squarely within everything I understand fair use to be--it's perhaps even a bit more lenient.

And I'm sure the publishers are still going to be pissed, but this is definitely a W for libraries. I am all for making educational material available to the masses, and honestly I'm pretty skeptical about the benefits of copyright anyway.

If you want to read more, I recommend THIS article in the Chronicle of Higher Education and THIS blog post from Kevin Smith at Duke.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Search Terms

In the past week, people have found my blog by searching the following terms on Google:
+ hazelnut julian of norwich

+ wardrobe with tights

+ can leopard print be a neutral

+ is leopard print considered a neutral?

+ paper on st. gregory of nyssa

+ pirate libraries

+ saints of the catholic church
I'm pretty pleased with this (though perhaps wary of the "paper on st. gregory of nyssa" one--you'd better not have plagiarized my blogpost!) because it means people were looking for information, and I somehow helped them find it! Although I'm not sure exactly what their needs or purposes are, and a random blog post is generally not a reputable source for anything serious, I like to think that somehow my being here either answered their question or at least acted as a stepping stone. And that's kind of fun.
Also, YES! Leopard print is a neutral! I will always stand by that. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Theologian Thursday: Macrina the Younger (327-379)

This week's post concludes my series on the Cappadocians. Even though she's certainly not a "Father," Macrina had a significant influence on the education and edification of her brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, and their partner in crime heresy-fighting Gregory of Nazianzus.

Not only that, but there is a bakery in Seattle from which I'd LOVE a t-shirt/mug/something. I really need to go. Maybe when I'm [hopefully] up there for the meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society next year (fingers crossed/that's a blog post for later).

Anyway. On to the good stuff.

(image from here)
Macrina was educated in the Bible and the ways of the Church by her mother Emily, and, after the man to whom she was betrothed died before they were married (and before she even knew she was betrothed to him, interestingly enough), she decided to remain a virgin and commit herself to a life of service. She helped her mother raise and teach her nine younger siblings, as well as found two monasteries on their estate in Pontus, and was a constant source of stability and comfort through various deaths in the family. When her mother died, she gave all the money of the family estates to the poor, and lived with the nuns, teaching and working in the community.

After Basil died, she also fell ill, and her brother Gregory came to visit her. Despite her sickness, she comforted Gregory and pointed him to God even to her final breath.

Macrina's life is an example of humility. Though she was born to a wealthy family, she considered herself equal to the nuns with whom she lived, and endeavored to educate all those around her, regardless of rank. Indeed, her death bed was not even a bed at all--it was a board covered with a sack. This sense of equality leads many to assume she believed in and taught universal salvation.

What you should read:
(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
Gender Equality:
She was a woman (obviously) but did just as much (and just as important) work for the Church and for her community as her brothers. Indeed, as I've mentioned before, her brothers owe much of their education and upbringing to her.
Environmental Sensibility
Environmental Sensibility
I'm a bit split on this rating. On one hand, she was an acetic, and had platonic/almost gnostic ideas about the body and the physical world (i.e. they're not important--the spiritual is what matters). On the other hand, her theology of the universal love of God leads me to believe that she would agree with care for creation, just as God cares for creation. I guess I'll leave it at a two.
Heretical Tendencies:
Macrina is together with her brothers and the rest of her family with influence from Origen, and now that I think of it, a lot of her acetic/mystic practices were discarded by the western church, and might be considered unorthodox. But certainly her humility and her love and care for people are and should be normative practice.
General Badassery:
I don't think she is really bad-ass in the usual sense, but the fact that she helped raise 9 kids, founded and worked in monasteries, and generally held her family together is pretty admirable. Plus, she died praying while lying on a wooden board. Dang.

And a quote:
"When the evil has been exterminated in the long cycles of the ├Žons nothing shall be left outside the boundaries of good, but even from them shall be unanimously uttered the confession of the Lordship of Christ."