7 Quick Takes (5/31/13)

— 1 —

This evening, at 6pm ET, I’ll be on Relevant Radio for “A Closer Look with Sheila Liaugminas.”  A whole mess of the Catholic Patheos bloggers are going to turn up to talk about purity culture and the problems with most abstinence sex-ed programs.  (A bunch of them got a head start last week, and I’m joining in for round two).  You can tune in online, or stream it after the fact.

— 2 —

And, elsewhere on the internet, Eve Tushnet wrote an interesting reflection for the Atlantic titled, “I’m Gay, but I’m Not Switching to a Church That Supports Gay Marriage.”  Eve and I came out of the same college debate group, but we have pretty different experiences of conversion and continuing faith, so I love reading her writing.  Here’s an excerpt, and it’s worth checking out the whole thing:

The biggest reason I don’t just de-pope myself is that I fell in love with the Catholic Church. Very few people just “believe in God” in an abstract way; we convert, or stay Christian, within a particular church and tradition. I didn’t switch from atheistic post-Judaism to “belief in God,” but to Catholicism: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion, Michelangelo and Wilde, St. Francis and Dorothy Day. I loved the Church’s beauty and sensual glamour. I loved her insistence that seemingly irreconcilable needs could both be met in God’s overwhelming love: justice and mercy, reason and mystery, a savior who is fully God and also fully human. I even loved her tabloid, gutter-punching side, the way Catholics tend to mix ourselves up in politics and art and pop culture. (I love that side a little less now, but it’s necessary.)

I didn’t expect to understand every element of the faith. It is a lot bigger than I am. I’m sure there are psychological reasons for my desire to find a God and a Church I could trust entirely: I don’t think I have a particularly steady moral compass, for example. I’m better at falling in love than finding my way, more attuned to eros than to ethics. Faith is no escape from the need for personal moral judgment; the Church is meant to form your conscience, not supersede it. There are many things which, if the Catholic Church commanded them, I think would have prevented me from becoming Catholic. (More on this below.) But I do think it was okay to enter the Church without being able to justify all of her teachings on my own.

— 3 —

Eve also remains an invaluable clipping service, and I found an interesting article about a New York drug needle exchange programs chez elle.

Besides discrimination from medical workers, there’s the police to worry about. Although state law says anyone with a Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) card can legally carry syringes—even, as of 2010, syringes with “drug residue” on them—the laws are often not known or ignored. Mata says that sometimes police even throw away the SEP cards and arrest participants anyway. WHCP works to strengthen its relationship with the police; staff attend morning roll call at the precinct, to show SEP cards to cops and explain how they work. “We’re not telling them how to do their job,” says Frost. “We’re just saying, ‘Don’t tack on a syringe charge to an arrest.'”

WHCP doesn’t only supply clean syringes to heroin and crack users. There’s a big need in the transgender community: “Some people use needles for hormones, or for silicone injections,” Frost says. Syringes are also delivered to several gyms, because “men are injecting steroids there.” These deliveries are made by bike, though Frost says she’d love to have the money for a truck. While most participants are local, plenty come in from New Jersey; drug users from across the river report that needle exchange spots there are always out of syringes.

If the federal funding ban were lifted, programs like WHCP would have far more potential for expansion, such as the ability to stay open 24 hours. Ideally, Frost says, US drug policy would also allow supervised injection facilities, like Insite in Vancouver. “People are overdosing and dying because they don’t have a safe place to use,” she says. “People need to not be in a rush when they inject drugs, and they need appropriate oversight.”

— 4 —

But, back to Eve’s first link, my other favorite writer on friendship is Wesley Hill, and, in this First Things post, he recounts an interesting question he was posed:

Several students approached me afterward with comments and questions, but one question in particular stood out. A student recounted to me a conversation he’d had in which his friend questioned whether Christianity really has room for friendship, since the Christian ideal seems to be an unconditional love that perseveres in loving even when the beloved becomes (or remains) unlovely. How is that really friendship rather than simply blind goodwill? How does that kind of love actually respond to the particularity and unique dignity and value of the friend him- or herself? If Christian friendship is unmerited, then it’s not really friendship.

You’ll need to read his post to learn his answer.

— 5 —

A different, unusual relationship is featured in a NYT story titled “Iowa Town Named for Muslim Hero Extols Tolerance.”

Amid an expanse of undulating farmland, deep in the steep valley carved by the Turkey River, the town of Elkader sits most of the year in remote obscurity. Population 1,200 and gradually shrinking, it is the seat of a county without a single traffic light.

Improbably enough, this community settled by Germans and Scandinavians, its religious life built around Catholic and Lutheran churches, bears the name of a Muslim hero. Abd el-Kader was renowned in the 19th century for leading Algeria’s fight for independence and protecting non-Muslims from persecution. Even Abraham Lincoln extolled him.

— 6 —

The only bridge between that last take and this one is that both are links to NYT articles.  And, I suppose, also the word ‘bridge.’  This week, there was a story about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which is apparently so stressful to drive on, that there’s a service that will let you switch to the passenger seat and have a driver take you and your car across for $25.  How bad is the bridge?  This bad:

Construction workers have been known to ride in the back seat of their pickup trucks, hats pulled over their eyes and their ears plugged. A woman once rode with a blanket over her head. A man asked to be put in his trunk, an offer that was refused.


— 7 —

Guess what I was up to last night?  My first ever trip to the reopened Exploratorium!  I’ve tried to go every time I was in San Francisco, so imagine my distress to have moved to the Bay Area while the whole museum was migrating to a new location.  My friends and I spent about three hours there, which wasn’t anywhere near enough, and I was so glad to welcome the hands-on exhibits back:

The Science of Snuggling

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  • jen

    If I ever get another chance to visit San Francisco by myself, I’m going to spend the entire day at the Exploratorium playing!

  • Niemand

    Bridges all throughout the US are failing. The Republicans haven’t yet got the government small enough to drown in a bath tub, but they are drowning it-and its citizens-in a number of lakes and rivers as bridges fail for lack of maintenance.

  • Alexander S Anderson

    The Elkader article seems too much like gawking at what was supposed to be mouth-breathing Midwesterners. Or at least the reactions of some seemed a little *too* surprised. I love the story, though.

    • grok87

      Here’s a picture of Abd-el-Kader


      “Abdelkader saving Christians during the Druze/Christian strife of 1860”

      Looks like he had an interesting faith journey. Apparently he ended up becoming a Mason. I had a mistaken idea that Free-masonry was predominantly associated with protestant christianity (founding fathers etc.) but apparently that is not so (at least if wikipedia is to be believed):


      “Consequently, Freemasonry accepts men from a range of faiths, including (but not limited to) Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism.”

      And speaking of [free]-masonry, this passage from today’s evening prayer comes to mind…


      “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor…”

      • Alexander S Anderson

        Oh yeah, most forms of Freemasonry require only the belief in a Supreme Being. I heard that some lodges have relaxed even this, but if so it is a recent development. So Islam is indeed compatible with freemasonry… I’m not sure how much freemasonry would be considered by Muslims to be compatible with Islam, however.

  • tedseeber

    I love Eve- the last paragraph in #2 is going to find its way onto my blog this weekend. But #3- I guess I just have a problem when acceptance becomes endorsement.

    And I needed #6 this week after driving across the shifted Sellwood Bridge, which is finally being replaced, and has a federal sufficiency rating of 2 (out of 100).

  • Fr.Sean

    With respect to post # 2. I know a woman who is a lesbian, and lived with her lesbian lover. she converted to Catholicism, became more involved in her faith and in her prayer life. Eventually she became part of a parish function (trying to protect her identity) and was very involved for a couple of years, while living with her lover. she eventually went home one day and told her she could not continue to live the life style she was living because it was incompatible with her faith, and her relationship with God. so the split up but remained friends. that event gave me a lot of reflection for how to deal with people struggling with that difficulty. i know how often they are judged and seen as being “sexual perverts” or “sexually weird” and are frowned upon so i wasn’t quite sure what the best tactic to take with them was (knowing some of my parishioners were gay). this woman taught me you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. even though she wasn’t in my parish i would imagine if she had been in a more conservative parish with people who didn’t understand the faith, or if people simply would have been mean to her she wouldn’t have discovered the Love of God and most likely would have left. but because she wasn’t judged and was able to get a taste of the honey she realized God was what she was truly striving for. Don’t get me wrong, if someone approaches me with a question in the confessional i encourage them to pray and to ask Jesus for help, but outside the confessional i’m sure we all struggle with various sins that we wouldn’t want everyone else to know about.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I used that link to Eve’s article in the Atlantic in my blog. When researching it, I found this old link from a few years back, from Doug Mainwaring saying the same thing but without reference to a specific religion:


  • alexander stanislaw


    Are you still going to review “What is Marriage” someday?

  • Alex

    Are you still planning on reviewing What is Marriage?

    • LeahLibresco

      Yup! Just moved into my permanent apt this weekend, and still haven’t unpacked yet

  • emd04

    The Bay Bridge thing is TOTALLY true. My mom and one of my aunts totally freaked when we drove across it in ’96 for our huge family reunion in Delaware. I was only 14 so I loved it…but not sure how I’d feel now!