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Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking Matters!’ Category

Fifty Shades: One Good Deed

"Fifty Shades of Grey" buttons, some misspelled.

Image via Flickr.

It’s badly-written, especially considering all the hype. The sex isn’t very sexy. It idealizes virginity in a really unhealthy way. It stereotypes BDSM role-players as depraved and broken people. The characters are flat and wooden. The dialogue sucks.

There’s a lot I find wrong with Fifty Shades of Grey (some of which I covered in a prior post, if you’re interested).

But I spent some time the other day thinking about whether Fifty Shades of Grey got anything right. I mean, nothing that poorly-written deserved to be published, much less become the summer’s blockbuster read and get a movie deal, but isn’t there anything that makes its popularity more significant than just a tragic waste of ink and e-book memory?

And I found it: the one good thing about Fifty Shades.

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Why Pride?

in honour of Toronto Pride Week 2012

Sticker: "It's okay to be gay."

Image via Yujean Stickers.

I’ve had people ask me before, “Why do gay people get their own parade? Straight people don’t. Why do they have to make such a big thing of it?”

The answer is twofold: because it’s harder to discriminate against somebody you know, and because spirit in the face of oppression needs to be celebrated.

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Five Thoughts on Fifty Shades

I won’t tell you not to read Fifty Shades of Grey and its accompanying sequels, all written by E.L. James. It’s against every grain of my librarian instinct to try to prevent reading, or to shame people over their reading choices. But I can’t keep silent either.

I’m partway through the book – reading it together with a friend – and I feel like there are a few things I have to put out there that have really troubled me as I’ve worked my way through the story. I’m not looking to turn people off the books, but I do hope that anyone who chooses to read them will do so with a bit more critical thought for having heard what I’ve got to say.

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Catholic Students and Gay-Straight Alliances

Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins

Image via National Post.

Today’s episode of Ontario Today on CBC radio featured an interview with Catholic Archbishop Thomas Collins, who argues that anti-bullying legislation giving students the right to form gay-straight alliances infringes on freedom of religion. It’s less than fifteen minutes long and well worth listening to, primarily because of the way Collins deals with the question of Catholic doctrinal objections to homosexuality and whether those are at the root of his objection to GSAs.

Because he doesn’t.

It’s a bit of amusing to listen to him straining so hard to avoid the very blatant question, “Is this really about Catholic teachings on sexuality?” It really obviously is. You can’t complain that gay-straight alliances infringe on Catholic religious freedom without calling attention to the fact that Catholicism is very much against homosexuality. But gosh darn it, he sure does try.

In order to skirt the issue of church teaching on homosexuality, Collins essentially invents a made-up world in which the government forces GSAs on schools that don’t want any, while non-LGBT victims of bullying get ignored in favour of the glamorous gay kids. Then he describes what he finds objectionable about that scenario. He’s right. That’s a horrible way to combat bullying . . . but it’s got nothing to do with what is actually being proposed.

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“Graphic Sex for Twelve-Year-Olds”?

Teresa Tomeo

Image via Endow Groups.

This morning I was listening to Catholic Answers Live, a thing I sometimes do because I like to see how the religion of my youth is motoring along these days. And a recent episode, called “Parents’ Role in Chastity Education”, gave me real food for thought with these remarks:

Basic cable network MTV’s head of programming David Janollari has stated that his network’s goal is to reach out to twelve-to-thirty-four year olds. And what kind of content does Mr. Janollari think is appropriate for the twelve-year-olds he’s targeting? A graphic sex program, of course. In April MTV recruited Dan Savage, author of the tabloid sex column ‘Savage Love’, to lead the network’s new program Savage U. So I’ll just leave it there. Now you can imagine the content on this show.

Guest host Teresa Tomeo was, in part, quoting an article she’d read somewhere, adding her own commentary along the way. I won’t venture to guess which parts she was reading aloud and which were her comments, because that wouldn’t be fair.  But the language, whoever wrote it, says it all – “graphic sex program”, “tabloid sex column”, and that rather sarcastic “what does Mr. Janorelli think is appropriate?” It’s clearly calling on parents to get really worried about pornographic programming for preteens being broadcast all over the filthy airwaves.

It’s time for a little perspective.

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Savage Attacks

Dan Savage

Photograph by 4Salcia, taken at the University of Western Ontario’s “It Gets Better” presentation.

The media is all in a frenzy about Dan Savage’s recent comments at a journalism conference, where he was speaking about his anti-bullying initiative, The “It Gets Better” Project, and his work as a spokesperson for the LGBT community. The story, in a nutshell: Dan Savage remarked on the parts of Leviticus most Christians ignore (like prohibitions on shellfish and menstrual intercourse), he used some profanity in referencing them, and a bunch of Christians in the audience staged a protest and walked out. Now the right-leaning, anti-gay community is lamenting that Savage is totally fine with bullying, as long as it’s Christians being bullied instead of gays.

“It’s amazing that we go to an anti-bullying speech and one group of students is picked on in particular, with harsh, profane language,” said high-school teacher Rick Tuttle, quoted on socially conservative LifeSite News. Commenters from the same site describe Savage as irrational, aberrant, depraved, fake, mentally ill, morally degenerate, pathetic, psychopathic, and blasphemous.

Now that’s a point that I feel like I need to challenge.

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The O Word

Saul confronts Samuel about his disobedient behaviour.

Image via the Augustin Sundar blog.

The inspiration to write about this came from an article I read on Answers in Genesis, a Christian fundamentalist creationist website. The author, Don Landis, explains why Christians need to live under God’s authority and teach others to do likewise: “The New Testament writer James makes it clear that God wants more than lip service. God wants obedience.” He then tells the story of Saul, who lost his kingdom because he didn’t do as God commanded:

In the end, Samuel informs Saul that this sin will cost him his kingdom. “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” Our actions—or non-actions—have consequences. […] Samuel turns to Saul and says that, just as Saul has torn his coat, God will tear Saul’s kingdom from him.

What a consequence! What a clear illustration for all of us! Obedience to the Word of the Lord, not just in general terms but in every detail, is very important to our God.

Obedience! Up until around the fifties and early sixties, parents surveyed said that this was one of the top five most important traits they wanted to instill in their children. It was widely believed that good parents produced an obedient child, respectful to his elders and accepting of parental authority. Upon reaching adulthood, that respect for authority would translate to obedience in the workplace for men, and obedience to a husband for women.

Ah, the good old days.

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