Social Issues

stuff I’ve been into: summer edition

As y’all know, I took the summer off from seminary in order to try to better manage my time and prepare for the fall. I was able to wrap up one big project I’ve been working on since February, and my other responsibilities have settled down some so they’re not as overwhelming. I was even able to officiate a wedding for the first time (and shoutout to Emmy Kegler and Nicholas Tangen for helping me prepare for that). Seminary starts back up in September, and I’m taking a class I’m especially excited about: “Interpretation as Resistance: Womanist, Feminist and Queer Approaches to the Bible.” Doesn’t that sound just gob-smacking amazing?

I’m going to be incredibly busy from now until the end of the year, though. I’ll be traveling once or twice a month from now until December, which is daunting although it’s mostly for fun things like weddings. I’ll also be giving a workshop at The Courage Conference on how to appropriately respond to abuse occurring in homeschooling environments, which I’m over-the-moon about. I’d encourage anyone who attends a traditional church to ask their pastors to come, since I believe it provides a necessary corrective for the lack of training pastors typically receive on how to respond to trauma and abuse.

Politics

As one can imagine, a lot of my reading this summer has been about politics. I’m sure the same is true for most of you, so I’m going to do my best to only share pieces I think didn’t get widespread attention.

First, something at least somewhat positive: “A Conservative Christian College Protest of Mike Pence” by Molly Wicker. Being an alumni of Liberty University is absolutely humiliating right now, but at least support for this administration isn’t ubiquitous at similar colleges.

One of the most frustrating things about the last eight months has been the fact that my disabilities prevent me from getting involved the way I want. The fact that some activist orgs almost actively bar my participation … it’s a little more that just frustrating. “On Disability and Emotional Labor” by S.E. Smith captures a lot of my feelings.

This one is older, but it’s stuck with me ever since I read it. “Fairytale Prisoner by Choice: The Photographic Eye of Melania Trump” by Kate Imbach was unsettling, but offered such an interesting perspective.

Another excellent resource: “By Any Other Name: The Power of Loaded Language in Christofascism” by Kieryn Darkwater gives amazing clarity to things that are obvious to anyone who grew up in Christian fundamentalism but might seem innocuous to those not “in the know.”

Race

The Struggles of Writing About Chines Food as a Chinese Person” by Clarissa Wei offers a lot of insight to an area that I don’t think white people consider all that often. I think a lot of progressives understand things like police brutality or other failures of our justice and immigration systems as problems, but there’s so many other insidious things happening that we need to learn to pay attention to.

Feminism

I don’t know how to sum up “Hysteria, Witches, and the Wandering Uterus: A Brief History” by Terri Kapsalis, but it was fascinating and oh-so-incredibly-relevant.

Biology is one of my great loves, so I’ve read this article multiple times and haven’t been able to shut up about it. “War in the Womb” by Suzanne Sadedin was an excellent presentation of a biological reality – fetus and pregnant person are at odds– and I think a wider awareness of this could be critically important in helping adjust our views of pregnancy and reproductive justice.

I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men” by Bailey Bergmann took the “I think better of men” argument against modesty culture and made it better.

Theology

Many of us grew up with the assumption that there is only one way to understand Christ’s work on the Cross. Sometime in or around graduate school I found out that Penal Substitutionary Atonement is only one theory among several. “A Thoroughly Biblical Argument Against Penal Substitutionary Atonement” by Emma Higgs is a good introduction and resource in case you wanted one.

The Defenders of Slavery Taught Us How to Bible” is one of many articles by Fred Clark that explains the link – and by link I mean “foundation of the whole damn thing” – between white supremacy and American evangelicalism.

Film & TV

I’m very happily re-watching Stargate SG-1 with Handsome at the moment and it’s just as delightful as it ever was. The overarching theme of the show is “we never leave a man behind!” and that is a message I think we should all hear more consistently.

We cancelled our Netflix subscription in exchange for Hulu so we could watch SG-1, but we’ll be going back to Netflix this month in order to bingewatch The Defenders, and when we do I’ll be back on my House of Cards marathon. Netflix has been telling me to watch it for months and each time I was all eehhhhhh but then I watched it and holy smokes I’m hooked. Frank Underwood is Eli Gold from The Good Wife, only … a lot more ruthless, and it’s amazing to watch. I’m mystified by why I’m getting such a kick out of watching Frank and Claire Underwood, but I am. I’m still in season two, so no spoilers. I know nothing about what happens, somehow, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Who else is excited about The Defenders and Stark Trek: Discovery? A lot of the build-up to Discovery has left me underwhelmed, but the most recent trailer finally started getting me excited. I just really, really want them not to blow it.

Watched Arrival a few weeks ago and that was incredible. It captured an element that’s been missing from any other “first encounter” movie I’ve seen—a sense of realism, a tension between pessimism and hope. It was a sci-fi movie that made me feel things, and I loved it.

I’ve been looking forward to Love & Friendship, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, and it was brilliant. Kate Beckinsale absolutely nailed it, and I think it’s one of the best Austen adaptations around.

Assasin’s Creed is one of my favorite video game franchises, so I gave the movie a shot. It was about what I was expecting. Fun, but wow the plot holes. I was also disappointed by John Wick: Chapter 2. I adored the first John Wick movie, but the sequel really did not stand up. By the end I was just incredibly bored—and it didn’t have what I liked so much about the original, which was the fact that John Wick was basically perfect. He didn’t make mistakes. The fact that Chapter 2 ends with a colossal mistake that ruins his life and it was completely and totally avoidable… ugh. I felt cheated.

Books

I’ve been playing more Elder Scrolls Online than I’ve been reading books, but since it’s essentially just playing through an epic fantasy novel I think it counts.

I re-read A Wrinkle in Time this summer, and if you haven’t read it at all or in a while, I recommend that you read it now. It’s short—I read it in two hours—but so beautiful and uplifting and encouraging and can we talk about the film adaptation because I cried tears of joy when the trailer released.

I didn’t expect to like The Queen’s Fool by Phillipa Gregory, but it surprised me. It’s about a young Jewish woman who flees the Spanish Inquisition with her father and then ends up serving in the courts of Mary and Elizabeth—and it was a satisfying reading experience. If you like historical fiction, this one is a solid choice. I liked it enough to get Lady of the Rivers, which was also enjoyable.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray is better than a lot of the YA fantasy that’s out there. Victorian England is not usually my cup of tea as far as setting goes, but it’s got a lot to offer and the queer romantic tension flying around in the midst of literally Patriarchal conspiracies speaks to me.

Handsome and I are reading Mort by Terry Pratchett together, and if you’ve never had the chance to read a Pratchett story out loud to someone, you should. They are meant to be read aloud.

I just finished Kristen Britain’s Green Rider and … it is perhaps a particularly frustrating example of the clichés and tropes in fantasy writing. The ending did not feel earned, and seemed to just slog on forever. It’s ostensibly a Hero’s Journey, except the main character doesn’t seem to be transformed by her experiences at all and she overcomes every trial with a patently obvious deus ex machina. Not the best book I’ve ever read, but I finished it—which says something.

I picked up the first two volumes of The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold at the library book sale, and the whole quartet was a lot of fun to read. The pacing of the first novel is a little slow, but it’s worth it. The books are an in-depth exploration of possible ways to overcome prejudiced based in ignorance, and I appreciated how invested I became as a reader in that journey.

***

Now, what have you all been up to? This curious mind wants to know!

Photo by Silvia Viñuales
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  • Gloria

    I’ve been planning my vacation.

    And reading: I read the Children of the Red King series (had started in childhood, never previously finished). I read both Jesus Feminist and God and the Gay Christian and some Johnny Cash, biography and the book about Paul that he wrote. I re-read the Acorna series and enjoyed the “Long way from Chicago” adventures.

    • Oo where are you going? Handsome and I are going to California for my birthday in a month.

    • Timothy Swanson

      My kids love Richard Peck’s books, and the Long Way From Chicago ones in particular. 🙂

  • Green Rider had moments of good world building, but ultimately that was my chief complaint – it does many things well enough, but nothing spectacular. There’s nothing that really makes it stand out in the wide world of fantasy.
    I’m soooooo ready for the Defenders.
    Otherwise I’ve been reading dark fantasy manga (‘Tokyo Ghoul’ and ‘Attack on Titan’, specifically), because they excel at unique worlds and characters while probing the deeper, unsettling aspects of life and human nature.

    • The scene with the moonstone toward the end? That was a gigantic gaping plot hole on top of being deus ex machina. Supposedly that moonbeam thingy was one of the primary weapons of The Long War, but then she goes and uses it against the Shadow Man with no knowledge, training, or real ability and wins. If that weapon was *that powerful* against their enemy, it wouldn’t have been a very long war now would it?

      • My first thoughts were to wonder if the moonstone was only discovered towards the end of the long war…I started making nuclear analogies in my head, but it didn’t quite fit with the rest of the connotations surrounding the moonstone. 😛
        At any rate, I was not really motivated enough to read further in the series and discover what it really was/if there was any sense behind it.

  • Madeline Costa

    I always look forward to your recommendations, I’m always adding books to my “to read” list on Goodreads. I’ve been largely reading comics and graphic novels lately, once you step away from Marvel and DC there are whole worlds out there that are pretty incredible.

    Also…SG-1 recently celebrated 20 years! My husband introduced the show to me shortly after we got married and I ate it up. We’ll probably watch it all again, once we finish DS9.

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    I read Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, and it was amazing. It is told as a fairytale, (Snow White and Rose Red to be specific) but it is about rape and the aftermath of rape. I’ve heard people cautioning about it, but I found it empowering to see the story of what sexual violence does to a person told in this universal way. It really told me that other people have experienced what I experienced, or there wouldn’t be books out there like this, and they wouldn’t be so popular.
    On the heels of that I reread The Brides of Rollrock Island by the same author, and appreciated more on this second read her skillful use of language, and her ingenious ways of describing the mundane. The plot involves the selkie legends, stories about seals who can become humans and marry humans, but who long to return to the sea. I definitely got the ‘women trapped in controlling marriages’ vibe here. Again, its an all too common event told in a fairytale format.

    • Maan Di

      Putting a few Lanagan books on hold at the library. Thanks!

    • Those sound really good.

  • Maan Di

    I was surprised by the article “I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men” by Bailey Bergmann, I guess because her inclusion of the gross “she’s trying too hard,” on the part of her husband as a healthy (???) reaction to looking at a woman really angered me. I read a few more of her posts, & she seems to center men a lot in her narrative, as in the the article where she articles that on-demand sex won’t actually please a woman’s husband…it center’s the needs (this time emotional/spiritual) of men over women’s rights to bodily autonomy. Overall, I felt like I wanted to have 1,000 different conversations with her about autonomy, worth, consent, rape…so many things. I made a comment in one article about asexual erasure, but other than that it just felt so overwhelmingly heteronormative, & there were even several implications that a marriage is something it’s not really ok to leave, so I ended up just booking it right on out of her site lol. Anyways, I know we’re all on our own journeys, I was just really bothered by some of the tones she took, especially when another woman opened up to her about experiencing sexual coercion in her marriage, to the point of a recent hospitalization, & her husband still wasn’t willing to, you know, stop raping her. Bergmann’s response was pretty much “hope there are some wise peeps near you who can help, cuz that sucks.” I commented with a few hotlines the woman in question could call & told her it’s ok to leave, but I also didn’t feel at all sure that my comment would survive moderation. Anyways, that’s just my long-winded experience…because I don’t know what else I should have done in that situation.

    Meanwhile, I’m reading a pretty cool fanfic right now, “In which Mary Bennet becomes a companion to Anne de Bourgh and neither of them gets quite what they were bargaining for.” & I’ve been drawn right into it!

    http://archiveofourown.org/works/4230141/chapters/9567663

    • Bergmann is a lot more conservative than I am, that’s for sure. Most of her writing is “meh” but I appreciated the argument in that particular post. I hadn’t seen it articulated that clearly before.

      • Maan Di

        Honestly, her site just made me angry. I have to remind myself to stop, breathe, & remember how I was once, at least in my public life, pretty much where she is now. It took a lot of courage for me to be who I am now, & I still sometimes feel like I’ve betrayed my parents/failed in some way to be who they raised me to be. So I get it…I’m just so glad that I don’t fall into that category anymore. But I like some of the things she’s reaching toward & I hope for her future. I just want all women & non-cis-male persons to be fully able to give ourselves permission to not rotate our lives around the cis men we know/love/fuck etc.

  • Beroli

    I’ve been studying computer programming, and playing Dungeons and Dragons (online, with some people I met at Love Joy Feminism).

    I would have been very surprised if you didn’t like Bujold. Have fun in California! (I was born there.)

  • Timothy Swanson

    Welcome back, and thanks for the tips! Re: Pratchett, totally agree. We have experienced him mostly in the form of audiobooks, and the best are read by Stephen Briggs (who was a personal friend and collaborator with Pratchett.) Honestly, it is hard to think of a better introduction to ethics for children than Pratchett – the Tiffany Aching series is particularly delightful in that sense. Also, if you haven’t read it, Good Omens (by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) is, hands down, the best book on the End Times I have ever read. Just a brilliant send-up of the Evangelical hogwash on the end of the world.

  • I don’t play Overwatch, but I sure love to read the fanfic that one of my friends writes about it. She’s Nagaina over on Archive Of Our Own and she’s been writing this EPIC McHanzo story called “Ghost Stories on Route 66” and it’s an Alternate Universe take mixing Overwatch with Lovecraftian elements in a futuristic Four Corners area of the Continental US and it’s just BEAUTIFUL!!!

    I’m serious, it is amazing and awesome and Nagaina’s snark has to be seen to be believed and I want to be like HER when I grow up!

    http://archiveofourown.org/works/10205831/chapters/22652498

    I just have to share the wondrous bounty that is the brilliance of my friends.

    And in other areas of the internet, another of my friends has an ongoing series that I highly recommend because he’s a really *good* writer and I’m incredibly proud of him.

    http://runningwithratsblog.wordpress.com/

    And I might actually be getting back to writing, too, but we’ll have to see whether or not I can make it stick. Cancer treatment has knocked me for a loop and while my *body* is kicking Cancer’s rump from one end to another, my brain isn’t handling things quite so effectively. Especially since I was without any form of caffeine for so many months and that was the only thing keeping the ADHD at bay.

  • 12anon

    Omg I HATED Green Rider. Well,ok. The first one was…eh, but I finished it. the second one? HORRIBLE. SOO bad. I almost always finish books. Not that one. Disconnected, spacey, and the “Elts” become more and more clearly a very badly done ripoff of Tolkien’s elves. Also so many weird distracting word choices – “sentience”? “Avian”? Good grief.

  • With the Grove City article, I am giving a shout-out to Mercer County, PA. My hometown of Sharon is in the same county. (Sadly, the county went Trump, as did the Ohio county in which I currently live.)

    I will also give a shout-out to the Sharon Herald, whose opinion page prints both liberal and conservative articles, and was helpful in broadening my viewpoint beyond the Fundamentalist bubble I was raised in. Also, the Religion section used to print articles from liberal Christians, which broadened my view of Christianity as well. (The local pastors printed in “From the Pulpit” tended to be more conservative [including a KJ-only post], but they printed articles from the local rabbi as well.)