What Will Save You

The idea that our love can be bad makes us uncomfortable. Sure, we'll enjoy a leering ode to "bad romance" or a woeful "addiction to love," but these songs aren't bold confessions of love's ambiguity -- they're justifications of our own inability to keep our pants on. Their basic theme is one of erotic determinism: "I know you are bad for me" but I "just can't stop," I was "born this way," I "can't help myself," for this love has "taken control of me."The last thing we want to hear about love … [Read more...]

Onward, Affectionate Scientist!

Whenever I have the grace and good fortune to call a woman beautiful, she derails the whole thing by calling me biased: “You think I’m beautiful,” she’ll say. This means, of course, “Thanks, you’re nice, and I’m tickled by your attention, but don’t forget, there’s a whole world out there, one that ain’t so familiar with my flat nose and vacant expression. While you might find my giraffe-shaped mole endearing (riddled with affection as you are) they might find it (and me) quite otherwise.”“Wel … [Read more...]

How to Speak About Hell

The logic of the Inferno has always seemed simple enough. It arrives without drama, by way of a boring syllogism. I am made to be with God in an eminently personal relationship. As with all loving relationships, I must freely enter into it. Being-coerced or being unable to do anything but love God contradicts the nature of love. I can no more be "forced to love" then draw a square circle or rip out the hair of a bald man. The possibility of a loving relationship with God necessarily includes the … [Read more...]

Who Said It About Sexuality, Slavoj Žižek or Your Catholic Mom

You might think your Catholic mother has nothing in common with the Marxist intellectual and legendary interpreter of Jacques Lacan's psychoanalysis -- Slavoj Žižek. But give the latter a microphone and the former a third glass of wine and the two start to sound fantastically similar on issues of human sexuality. So without further ado, and in the spirit of celebrating the developing illicit love-relation between postmodern philosophy and the Church, I give you the quiz: Who said it, Žižek or you … [Read more...]

Erotic Atheism

"The desire for God is written in the human heart" (CCC 27) but knowledge of God isn't written in the human head. There are "converging and convincing arguments" (CCC 28) for the existence of God, but the Church roots their efficacy in a prior desire for the divine. She says, with Augustine, "I loved thee before I knew thee."  As infants, we do not know the mother we are born to. She is food, drink, shelter, warmth, safety, affection, comfort, touch. She is the fulfillment of our needs. She i … [Read more...]

Ayn Rand, Fairy Godmother of Sexual Orientation

When I first purchased Atlas Shrugged with money I begged from a street corner, it was with no other intention than to delight in a world where every problem is the fault of poor people, Communists, and poor Communists. But Ayn Rand gave me so much more than the economic ideology one expects of motorcycle-riding men in Viagra commercials, thinly disguised as John Grisham novel from hell -- though, sweet baby Moses, did she give me that. She also gave me an explanation of human sexuality to rival … [Read more...]

Eucharistic Eyes

Protestants puzzle over how Catholics can see the person of Christ in a piece of bread. But the greater mystery seems to be how Catholics see the person in the face of the Protestant. Both parties live in a world in which the gaze sees, not people, but tools, objects, social classes, races -- a media world full of media types. The idea of seeing a particular person rather than this or that thing, really seeing her as an unrepeatable life, an unfathomable mystery and an infinite value -- it's ab … [Read more...]

Sexuality and the Land

The following is a selection of an essay written for the recent Winter issue of the Slovenian cultural journal Razpotja, which focused on topics in sustainability. If you want the whole essay, you have to learn Slovenian. The essay owes a sizable debt to the author and environmentalist Wendell Berry and his marvelous pieces Feminism, the Body, and the Machine, and The Body and the Earth.Sexuality and the land both have a life of their own. The land has its soil, weather, insects, and idiosyn … [Read more...]

Beyond Compare

I received a message asking, amongst other things:What if Islam is true? What if Buddhism is true? Atheism? How can you be so sure of your Catholicism when there are thousands of religions and world-views you have not even encountered?I am thankful in the extreme that the question seeks the source of my surety and certainty in the Church, and not my factual reasons for being a Catholic. If the latter was emphasized, I would have to give up from the onset, the answer too big for the … [Read more...]

Why Name-calling is Exactly What It Sounds Like

If I could offer a single corrective to our culture, a solitary word to collar-yank us safe from the semi-truck of The Intolerably Boring that daily bears on me and my generation, it would be -- "describe." (Maybe with a "dammit" thrown in for good measure. (Describe, dammit. (There we go.))) Description gives us insight, allowing us to see in, to move through the exterior life to an encounter with a person's’ interior life. Great works of literature achieve this.He was a man over fifty, b … [Read more...]