Friday, December 10, 2010

Alice Oleson, prof of eng, univ of dubuque; responds to real talk bible posting - advent Week 1, Day 3

I was thinking about what you said on your blog about Romans 13,
about hedonism, where you define hedonism as rendering oneself
answerable to sometimes no other god than the body. And I really liked
the way you came around to discuss temperance (almost Templeance?),
really, so that the body is open to, ready for, receptive to miracles,
and as you say, “for the coming of the god in us.” I see this “god
in us” as a recurring theme in your writing on the blog which I really
Your interpretation in the recent hedonism blog helped me begin to
resolve something that’s always bothered me in my experience of
nearing Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth. For many
years now, I go to midnight mass at a Catholic church (my ex-husband and
family were Catholic and my father reclaimed his Catholicism after all
of us kids grew up (Mom wanted to raise us Protestant—Presbyterian of
all austere things).
At every midnight mass, tired and emotional, I always cry so hard
at the song Ave Maria. I have carried babies in my belly and cried atop
the bump to Ave Maria at midnight mass. I have mourned my
mother-in-law’s death crying to Ave Maria at midnight mass (in the
church she so loved to decorate for the occasion with wreaths and
ribbons while she lived). Now, either Cece or Estella, one or the other,
lies with her head on my lap as I sit by my dad and cry to Ave Maria at
Christmas. Even outside of Christmas, I literally cling to the beautiful
imagery of Mary, docile, bent-head Mary, especially every time I enter a
Catholic church and am so happy to see a woman vaunted, vaulted,
worshipped—plus, the decadent, Florentine blue of Mary in her robes
was winning any day over the barren, false-grained wood cross which hung
sterilely at the front of my Presbyterian home church.
Yet, from a feminist perspective, my tears and my Mary-love always
perplex me. Though I love my girls to no end, I find the self-sacrifice
associated with motherhood in Christian-Euro culture to be repressive as
well as the insistence on the virgin birth of Christ—well, I find it
downright damaging—to take the sexuality out of motherhood (turning
the ideal woman into the virgin and creating that awful Madonna/whore
split)—to erase the man from sex all together (turning him into some
sort of animalistic sexuality—taking, too, his godliness from the sex
act)—basically taking the sanctity out of human sex. And singing Ave
Maria sometimes seems like I’m on the side of taking the sanctity out
of the sex that humans have as what I think is our greatest gift, our
greatest access really, to seeing the face of God, capital G.
Roger, have you ever read Alice Walker’s book By The Light of My
Father’s Smile? To me that book is a Bible. It is about sexuality as a
source of light and healing. It is not about hedonism. But it sure loves
sex. And maybe that’s the point. To sure love sex truly would make sex
sacred and hedonism doesn’t make sex sacred, it makes it
powerful—dominant maybe? But powerful and sacred are so different.
And of course, so is sex, when it is sacred or not sacred in relation to
one’s partner, in relation to one’s self? I am sure you can think of
the times when sex/lust felt sacred vs. when sex felt or was honest to
the directives of hedonism alone?
So, just to get back to where I started…cause I know this is
getting to be too long (but that's what happens when you mention sex,
people wake up I guess)… When I read your blog posting today, Roger, and
when you wrote, “The provision is for something beyond that
[fulfilling lusts]; it is for taking care of the body as temple
(Jerusalem), the temple as body, so that the way for the entrance of the
Holy Ghost comes clearer, and the universe needs our bodies for its
miracles the Book keeps telling us. It needs our bodies to replenish
consistently for the coming of the god in us.”
Well, for the first time, I thought then about the Virgin Mary not
as a symbol of a non-sexual, self-sacrificing woman, but as a HUMAN
symbol of someone who is open to, receptive of, the coming of light, by
way of the body, of the god that can be/is in all of us humans.
Christmas Mary, then, as a symbol of just how very sacred sex can be,
and of course, regenerative not just of bodies, but of the HOPE that
must be in all of us, women and men, if we are to truly treat one
another and ourselves as temples of gods, as gods in the here and now
with bodies that like to move and to sweat.
And I thank you, Roger, for inspiring me to think about all of
this. I thank you for even the very little I know about the work and the
thoughts you carry on each day. I will still cry, but I will love Ave
Maria even more so this Christmas.



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