Posts Tagged ‘cruisin’ for a bruisin’’

Oh, goodness! Being “good” as being “same”?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Having recently listened to the Joe Jackson song referenced in class, I have been on a “kick,” if you will, about sameness. As our readings, particularly the Wilkins piece, exemplified, sameness offers solace and comfort, as well as social reaffirmation that one is on the “right path.” For example, we witnessed the University Unity kids assert repeatedly that they do pursue and hold friendships outside the confines of Unity and Christianity as a whole. However, and most notably, they find it hard to know “where they stand” with these secular friends or friends of other faiths. This cuts Unity/non-Unity friendships short, or only allows them to reach a certain point before one or both of the members feels disconnected from the other person on moral grounds. And in terms of Unity lifestyle, there are many areas that are apt to prompt disagreement with non-Unity friends.

The idea of being a part of a group that Wilkins originally categorizes as “just good people” is intriguing, because it brings up the necessary and essential idea of goodness. What—and who—can be considered “good?” In terms of Unity alone, it seems that if one is dutiful in praying and reading the Bible, setting aside time for God, and abstaining from sex, drug usage, and immodesty, then that individual fits the criteria for “goodness.” But in effect, adherence to these rules leaves very little room for individuality and potential to think for oneself outside of an academic context, so no wonder it limits their more secular relationships.

My question here is, does goodness imply sameness—sameness of “thought, word, and deed,” as outlined in the Nicene Creed itself?

This is a disturbing thought, because the last thing we want to believe is that we, as humans with functional minds and control over our actions, could subscribe to a set of prescribed actions and thoughts to such an extent that we become, as we mentioned earlier in the semester, “holy spirit zombies.” That we would be unable to identify any personal characteristic or marking qualities aside from surface-level hobbies, such as Lucas’ swing-dancing pastime, is frightening to a modern, liberal, 21st-century mind. And yet, on the surface, they seem so normal—college hoodies and movie nights with friends, going out to diners and for ice cream, and the like, seem to suggest that we as non-Unity members are not so different from them after all.

However, it is also important to note that while the Unity kids seem not to stand out in their choice of dress and lack of partying—Wilkins describes them explicitly as “vanilla” at one point—this is precisely what sets them apart from the norm. Though understated and subtle, Unity kids maintain the appearance of social “norms” in the way that Christian Rock does—they take the semblances of the mainstream and then “clean it up,” therefore making the action more palatable for those who subscribe to the Unity lifestyle. For example, some of the Unity girls like to go out and dance with their friends, but instead of contour skirts and pumps, they can be seen in T-shirts and jeans.

“Unity Style”

versus

This chick

This is the tricky part: T-shirts and jeans seem so normal, but in this case, their wearers are actually embodying a quiet form of resistance to social (i.e., secular) norms. By going against the expected code of dress, Unity girls maintain the modesty expected of them, and are able to participate in activities outside Unity, all the while upholding Unity values.

This resistance is fascinating, because it is often gender-dependent, can have many layers, and can be done in a variety of ways. In my Language and Gender class, we have talked a lot about gender and how individuals and groups will often subvert gender in ways that are unexpected and often surprising. If you have the time, I would recommend you read the following article about “Nerd Girls” that we had to read for class. Just the idea that the category of “Nerd” does not already include females is noteworthy, but that aside, it is a good read and exemplifies yet another way that groups subvert, undercut, and otherwise resist social norms and gender expectations. Furthermore, this is another example of how important sameness is in terms of connection and group cohesiveness, and how social situations can become potentially problematic or confusing if not all participants in the conversation approach the subject the same way.

[Incidentally, another gender-bending article we read for Language and Gender may be of interest to some of you. It is a culturally-based a commentary on Japan’s “Kogals”who routinely defy and redefine young Japanese women’s sexuality through sexual availability, deliberate linguistic change, and distinctive images that offer yet another form of resistance against traditional femininity.]

Whew, sorry for the longest blog post ever! See you all in class!

The Body of Christ?/Marriage: The Eternal Love Triangle

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Okay, not to say that our other readings weren’t interesting and all– they were– but I was fascinated by Paula Jean Miller’s “The Theology of the Body.” One point of interest has a lot to do with Kristen’s earlier post, in defining the role of marriage and both (or roughly speaking, all three) parties contained within it: “…John Paul focuses on the true goal of human sexuality: the union of man and woman, body and spirit” (502). Although Miller proceeds to say that John Paul perceives this institution to be “the basis for a fully human, sexual-personal relationship,” (502), I wanted to push this a little further and argue that it is actually the basis for, scripturally-speaking, a sexual-personal-metaphysical/spiritual interrelationship. How’s THAT for complicating things??

I mean, New Order says it best when they beg the beloved addressee of the song below to pay attention and work on the relationship: “Every time I see you falling/I get down on my knees and pray/I’m prayin’ for that final moment/to say the words that I can’t say.”

Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

The delightful throwback moment of classic New Wave Brit Pop Electronica circa 1982 aside, I’m serious when I say that God/the Holy Spirit is the third “partner” in marriage, and that this, instead of increasing the sin in carnal feeling, actually alleviates some of it (within the confines/context of traditional, legal Christian marriage, of course). Rather than being ashamed of the body (Eve/Fall from Eden, anyone?), “…the Holy Father teaches that the body is the very oldest sacrament, instituted by God at the dawn of creation: He calls it the ‘primordial sacrament'” (502). This seems to suggest a certain growing tolerance on the part of the Catholic church towards sex for pleasure (no birth control though!), and that our bodies are, indeed, a blessing, an instrument, and a constant source of temptation.

This is a frightening, weird, and tantalizing contradiction, when we think about it. Our bodies can be used for either evil or good, and we can neither become too appreciative of them (lest we fall prey to vanity), nor too harsh about them (lest we begin to covet aspects of our neighbor’s physique).Gosh, the seven deadly sins are everywhere, aren’t they?! Reminds me of Cyndi Lauper’s album “12 Deadly Cyns (And Then Some).” 🙂

12 Deadly Cyns And Then Some

What complicates this seemingly-impossible avoidance of body-related sin even FURTHER is that Miller outlines how our bodies are indistinct from our essential “selves.” In fact, she claims, we are all physical manifestations of God’s “body,” so that in order to be embodied, we must carry on with God’s perfect plan, or else we are not our actual selves, if that makes sense…or that our physical skin, muscles, bones and brain are somehow wasted, since we are not the “incarnate spirits” we are supposed to be. I think Miller puts it best in the following passage: “As embodied persons, there is no way for us to come to know one another except through glances, words, gestures, idiosyncrasies, hugs, and withdrawals, all of which we experience through the personal body” (502).

And then, of course, there’s the sexual-spiritual element we discussed in class last week when we talked about spiritualists/spirituality/spiritualism– after all, this class is about Sex AND Religion! But just for kicks and giggles (and good music), here’s John Mayer to teach you the good news: 😉

Haha 😉

 

Here Comes the Ghost, doo doo doo doo :)

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

In Ghosts of Futures Past, Molly McGarry touches on several things that “struck my fancy,” so to speak. A brief list of these may include the following:

-Mediums channeling those of other sexes/genders, and the complications thereof

-“Free love” and how it upset the “moral hierarchical order” of man-woman marriage—who knew the turn of the century marked the first hippie era?! (Just kidding—I know it’s not parallel, but the terminology made me laugh.

-The “science” behind the “hysterical” woman—and the sexualization thereof

-Phrenology (I’ve just always thought it was cool), and

-Walt Whitman!

 

Of all of these subjects of interest, however, I found the section concerning Walt Whitman to be the most compelling. It is no surprise to me that one of America’s earliest poetic geniuses, who arguably created all-new forms of dealing with language, was also interested in the occult and wished to channel other’s souls. In fact, as the general public became more comfortable with and receptive to spiritualism, such instruments of spiritualistic “tinkering,” such as Ouija Boards, landed on the market. Spiritualism had officially become marketable, and the American public readily consumed.

Ouija Board and “Spirit”

*Side note: I still think it is really weird that Ouija boards are sold at Toys R Us, right next to Apples to Apples and Monopoly…as if they try to serve the same purposes in terms of entertainment…

This fascination with otherworldly or spiritual means of communication became somewhat of a motif throughout the 1900s, actually; some other major artists who exhibit similar interest and dedication in spiritual efforts include Madonna, who dabbled in Kabbalah (much to the fury and/or excitement of Jews worldwide), and my beloved Beatle, George Harrison.

George Harrison <3

Both Whitman and Harrison made spiritual beings integral to their lives and their art; however, Whitman’s efforts in the matter were, of course, complicated by the fact that he was gay. This is where phrenology sailed in to “save the day,” by justifying Whitman’s love for and commitment/connection to other men as biologically-based; it was literally “all in his head.” As we talked about last class, biology served to “prove” (read: assuage) certain aspects of American society that were “undesirable”; in doing so, it provided evidence for racism, sexism, etc. As we can see from the image below, sometimes we still see vestigial signs of this phenomenon:

“You’re just a woman with a tiny brain, a brain 1/3 the size of a man’s. It’s science.” -Ron Burgundy

So basically, “Anchor Man” aside, I have a lot to talk about in class today…

For real, though…

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I’m sorry to be that complaining student, but it is a grey, grey Tuesday, and it is time to be blunt: does anyone feel like this book could DEFINITELY be more interesting?

I just feel like walloping Ms. Joiner upside the head and hollering, “Hey! You’re talking about class warfare and politics when you could be focusing more on the plights of individual prostitutes/converts! What about minstrelsy? What about carnivale-esque clashes? I need some ACTION!”

I thought things started getting pretty interesting with the gospel wagons, but they were only a brief snippet of what could have (in my opinion) made a really intriguing chapter or two regarding the convergence of religious and secular society. Sigh…

Cruise Control? Not so much.

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Okay, so feel free to disagree with me, but a lot of this text seems to focus around miscommunications and confusion of goals at the YMCA. And a lot of these have to do with false assumptions. These include but are not limited to:

1.    Christians are wholesome.

False: Christians TRY to be wholesome. But hey, Christians are people, and people are whole, not wholesome (which, if you think about it, is an oxymoronic word in itself).

2.    Providing sex education will make young men MORE restrained and less likely to engage in sexual acts with other men.

False: Maybe this would have been true if the Y had been less demanding of the men who held positions within the organization, particularly the secretaries. Maybe if they’d gotten to spend more time with their wives, too, they wouldn’t feel such strong homoerotic bonds.

3.    However, in contrast to that previous observation, another assumption the Y held was that homosociality was just as “dangerous” to society as homosexuality…

False: From a 21st-century standpoint, neither is particularly “dangerous. But going along with that…

4.    Similarly, there was the assumption that the “scare” of rampant homoeroticism and homosexual desires being acted upon in the early 20th century were equivalent to homosocial bonds.

False: It is simply that the centuries had different ways of defining what was considered to be “erotic” and what was “good clean fun” in terms of men being around each other/craving each other’s company/expressing longing for being in close proximity to other men’s bodies…

…Sorry this is so scattered; there’s just a lot to say about this piece. Anybody else get a kick out of that one chauvinist who claimed that men were at the Y to get “real work” done, whereas at the YWCA, women do domestic things, such as “make food”? Or for the studies of gay pornography that trace their roots back to these early fitness manuals? That was extremely interesting to me, and I will tell you all why tomorrow…

I do think Gustav-Wrathall could have woven more of a religious context into this, but considering his background as an ex-Mormon may not have proven especially applicable to this scholarship, I do not count the absence of his religious input as a devastating drawback in terms of the work overall.

Cruise Control? Not So Much.

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Okay, so feel free to disagree with me, but a lot of this text seems to focus around miscommunications and confusion of goals at the YMCA. And a lot of these have to do with false assumptions. These include but are not limited to:

1. Christians are wholesome.

False: Christians TRY to be wholesome. But hey, Christians are people, and people are whole, not wholesome (which, if you think about it, is an oxymoronic word in itself).

2. Providing sex education will make young men MORE restrained and less likely to engage in sexual acts with other men.

False: Maybe this would have been true if the Y had been less demanding of the men who held positions within the organization, particularly the secretaries. Maybe if they’d gotten to spend more time with their wives, too, they wouldn’t feel such strong homoerotic bonds.

3. However, in contrast to that previous observation, another assumption the Y held was that homosociality was just as “dangerous” to society as homosexuality…

False: From a 21st-century standpoint, neither is particularly “dangerous. But going along with that…

4. Similarly, there was the assumption that the “scare” of rampant homoeroticism and homosexual desires being acted upon in the early 20th century were equivalent to homosocial bonds.

False: It is simply that the centuries had different ways of defining what was considered to be “erotic” and what was “good clean fun” in terms of men being around each other/craving each other’s company/expressing longing for being in close proximity to other men’s bodies…

…Sorry this is so scattered; there’s just a lot to say about this piece. Anybody else get a kick out of that one chauvinist who claimed that men were at the Y to get “real work” done, whereas at the YWCA, women do domestic things, such as “make food”? Or for the studies of gay pornography that trace their roots back to these early fitness manuals? That was extremely interesting to me, and I will tell you all why tomorrow…

I do think Gustav-Wrathall could have woven more of a religious context into this, but considering his background as an ex-Mormon may not have proven especially applicable to this scholarship, I do not count the absence of his religious input as a devastating drawback in terms of the work overall.