Thursday, August 29, 2013

End-of-Week Hodgepodge: On Defining Others, Bayard Rustin, Hate and Religion, Witches, and President-Elect of Conference of Catholic Superiors of Men

1. The video at the head of the posting: when I visited my YouTube page yesterday (where YouTube keeps giving me helpful suggestions about new videos I may want to see), I found this video in the suggestion list: Ryan Amador and Jo Lampert performing his song "Define Me." As I wrote recently,

The idea that the neat, binary arrangement of . . . everything . . . into complementary genders is perhaps the most important thing the Christian tradition has to say to the world has become a mantra of contemporary right-wing Christians, including many Catholics. The mantra is not merely an observation about how these believers imagine the world is made: it's a command. It's an order to . . . everyone . . . to submit to their idea of how the world is to be arranged. Or else.

2. For National Catholic Reporter, Jamie Manson writes movingly about the important role played by Bayard Rustin, a gay advisor of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the march on Washington, as she draws a lesson for American Catholics:

Anyone who believes that prejudice in our church is passing away is either unaware of or in denial about the hundreds of exceptional LGBT Catholics who, every year, are fired from jobs, uninvited from speaking in churches, or denied participation in church ministry because of their honesty about their sexual orientations or gender identities. 
Rustin's life reminds us that, not too long ago, most of our culture believed a person's sexual identity could somehow taint or discredit the knowledge, talent and gifts he or she brings to a community. His story invites us to recognize and challenge the ways in which this toxic and often subconscious belief is still playing out in our churches, communities and families.

3. In the Charlotte Observer yesterday, Stephen Shoemaker, theologian in residence at Queens University, notes that maps of hate speech in tweets on Twitter almost completely overlap with maps showing where Americans are most fervent in church membership and church attendance:

Recently, I saw a "hate map" of the U.S. based on Twitter communications. I almost shuddered when I saw it because it appeared almost identical to the “church attendance” maps I had seen over the years. So I looked up a recent U.S. church attendance map, and there it was. A terrible correspondence between hate-speech and religion. 

The "hate map" overlaps almost identically with maps of the bible belt part of the U.S., of the church-going Midwest, and other "hot spots of hate and religion" in the U.S., Shoemaker notes. And isn't this important finding worth thinking about, ask myself as I read Shoemaker's valuable analysis?

4. At Huffington Post, Katherine Brooks reports on a fascinating exhibit currently at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, called "Witches and Wicked Bodies." As Brooks notes, the exhibit documents the longstanding obsession of Western Christian cultures with "witches, witchcraft and general feminine maleficium"--the longstanding obsession of many Christians over the course of history with the notion that women are uniquely susceptible to evil, uniquely prone to channeling sin in the world. Brooks's article is accompanied by wonderful graphics from the exhibit.

5. At its annual assembly a few weeks ago, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which serves the leadership of more than 17,000 Catholic priests and brothers who belong to religious orders in the U.S., chose Fr. James J. Greenfield of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales as its president-elect. On behalf of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), David Clohessy responds:

A Delaware priest, who claims there’s a "war on the Roman Catholic priesthood" has just been elected head of America's Catholic religious orders. He also insists that two convicted child molesters are innocent and that prosecutors are "overzealous." We think he’s an extremist.

David Clohessy notes that Greenfield made his "incendiary remarks" about a purported "war" on priests as abuse cases are investigated and tried in court to Ralph Cipriano of the Big Trial blog in Philadelphia. Clohessy adds,

Fr. Greenfield’s election sends a depressing and chilling message to thousands of clergy sex abuse victims. Decades into the church’s horrific and on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis, Catholic officials are still elevating colleagues who deny and mischaracterize the scandal.

And I agree with David that this decision of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men deserves critical attention. If the goal of the Catholic hierarchy and of religious communities is to get to the bottom of abuse and to be transparent in account for it, electing people who speak about the investigation of the abuse crisis as a "war" on priests is hardly likely to help us achieve that goal.

(Thanks to my friend Ralph Lowrance, to whom I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for his generous support of this blog for several years now, for sending me the link to Stephen Shoemaker's article.)

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