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With the release last week of Lady Gaga’s controversial new video “Alejandro,” USA Today called upon BH’s editor-in-chief Bill McGarvey to offer his opinion on whether the video’s treatment of Catholicism was offensive. Read his response here.
But where’s the line between them? What exactly is a virtue? Can it be taught? Are good, and bad, behavior hard-wired in us?
Loyal Busted Halo readers know me as the author of the Pure Sex, Pure Love dating and relationships column. And while researching trends in mate preferences and marriage is still a big focus of me, I’ve always had another academic love: self-improvement, character and the quest for a virtuous, fulfilled life.
And would you believe… there’s a big, venerable foundation devoted to the study of just those things? The John Templeton Foundation is devoted to studying “big questions” of human purpose and ultimate reality. Founded by Sir John Templeton in 1987, the Foundation’s motto is “how little we know, how eager to learn.”
A few years ago, the foundation started a magazine called In Character: A Journal of Everyday Virtues — and I was an instant fan. The concept was simple: Each issue was devoted to a single virtue — like honesty, humility, wisdom, courage, grit, thrift and modesty — and prominent thinkers would comment on its importance in our day-to-day lives. When the magazine went online, I became their daily blogger on vice, virtue and issues of character in the news.
Living a life of faith means living a life of integrity and character (and having a sense of humor when you trip and fall into the vice camp with a loud thud) so I’m thrilled to bring these blog posts and thoughts to Busted Halo in a new series called Virtue/Vice.
What are virtues?
Philosophers, social commentators, economists and psychologists have written eloquently on the modern definitions and applications of virtues, and most of this gets above my pay grade pretty fast. We know good character and virtue when we see it. It’s behavior that helps us achieve our true, honorable goals. It’s action that brings us closer to God.
If we all agree that there are some good traits — or even
The overnight implosion of her sixty-year career is a metaphor for the changing media landscape.
Reporter Helen Thomas had been a fixture of the White House Press Corps since the Eisenhower administration, making the diminutive 89-year-old journalist a feminist pioneer.
In recent years, however, Thomas was also derided by her colleagues as a hostile and distracting presence in the briefing room; “They think I’m intrusive and they think that I shouldn’t have my opinions and so forth,” she acknowledged in a 2008 interview. “Well, that’s their problem.”
Fellow reporters resented the fact that Thomas was the only correspondent with her very own designated seat (in the front row, no less) even though she was an opinion columnist and not, as Time‘s Joe Klein put it, “a working reporter.”
Others were irritated by her abrasive personality
Thomas’ vitriolic expression of hatred toward the Jewish state touched a nerve… At the end of the day, Helen Thomas couldn’t escape the chorus of outrage from her colleagues in the media, and from ordinary TV news viewers, blog readers and talk radio callers.
and obvious bias. In a 2006 New Republic piece, Jonathan Chait accused Thomas of delivering “unhinged rants,” while CBS correspondent Mark Knoller acknowledged that “sometimes her questions were embarrassing to other reporters.”
Indeed, “colleagues sometimes rolled their eyes at her obvious biases,” said Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. But, unlike the outspoken Helen, her colleagues mostly kept their feelings about her to themselves, out of deference to her seniority.
Longstanding resentments finally broke the surface this month, when a few seconds of video, captured on a tiny flip camera, sped around the Internet and ultimately cost Thomas her job.
No one was more surprised than the man who shot the film. Rabbi David Nesenoff of Long Island had visited the White House on May 27 to celebrate “American Jewish Heritage Celebration Day” with his teenage son and the boy’s friend. In the
There is an island in the East River, within view of the glittering Manhattan skyline, where the homeless and indigent are buried: an island of the dead. There, amid tall grasses and the calls of seagulls, the poorest New Yorkers — those who had families that couldn’t afford to bury them or who had no family, those who died anonymous and homeless on city streets, and those whose bodies were never claimed from the city morgue — find their final repose.
While some of the people buried on Hart Island are nameless, they are not forgotten. Every second month a knot of people gathers on a windy pier on City Island in the Bronx and boards a ferry to the island. There they say prayers for the dead and stand in silence before the limestone grave markers.
Most of the visitors don’t know anyone on the island, but they say they don’t want anyone to be unmourned, to be returned to God without a prayer said on their behalf.
“Even if we didn’t know them, it’s important. Their lives mattered and we remember their lives,” said Drew Hendrickson, a student at Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan who visited the island in March.
For Owen Rogers, who has been part of the memorial services for three years, the mile-long island is a sacred place.
As he led prayers on a recent trip, Rogers asked God to grant the dead eternal rest, but for the living he prayed for a bit of agitation. “Perhaps it is best God, that our peace be a little disturbed,” so the living are reminded of their duty to the poor and outcast.
“It is a place where people return to the God who made us all,” said Rogers, a member of Picture the Homeless, an activist group run by people who are homeless or were in the past. “There is a peace there, but it is an uneasy peace, because these were people who were forgotten in life, who were disrespected, abused and
There is not enough silence in the world. More than ever before, daily life consists of a near-constant bombardment of noise and messaging.
When I am introducing people to Centering Prayer meditation, the first challenge for many is the simple weirdness for them of being silent and in silence, “alone” with their thoughts, for more than a few minutes. Between cell phones, iPods, the radio on at work or in the car, and the TV flipped on the moment they walk in their door, they manage to keep background noise going all day.
The paradox with meditation and other forms of silent prayer, and especially with silent retreats, is that even though they are formless and goalless, they achieve something wonderful — something potentially transformative: they create space, physical and mental space, to become more open.
That space, made most apparent by silence, can be an uncomfortable place to be. Why is this? Why is the weirdness threatening for some? One answer is that offered by Fr. Jim Martin in his latest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything:
We may fear silence because we fear what we might hear from the deepest parts of ourselves. We may be afraid to hear that ‘still small’ voice. What might it say?
Might it ask us to change?
This is the great power and the great challenge of silence: it can reveal truth. Or more accurately, it takes away our ability to run from Truth.
When Sex and the City 2 arrived in theaters last Friday, women across the country were eagerly anticipating its release with all the excitement of a Harry Potter-phile awaiting a Daniel Radcliffe appearance. So why does the Sex and the City franchise continue to appeal to people (mostly women), six television seasons and two movies later? The answer may, ironically, have nothing to do with the sex or the city, and more to do with its very real representation of the feelings, conversations and experiences women have, juxtaposed with the exaggerated characters and lives that don’t reflect most women’s reality at all.
In this “Thinking Out Loud,” Dr. Christine Whelan and I compare thoughts on SATC and how it relates to our own adventures in dating, friendship, married life and even our faith lives.
In this video, Giselle reunites with her husband, Roberto, and interviews him about growing up in Mexico and how and why he came to live in the United States.
In video one, Giselle discusses the incident that forced her to look at the immigration issue.
In video two, Giselle prepares for her departure to Mexico where she will reunite with her husband and continue to video blog about their life together and strive to break down stereotypes about illegal immigrants and their families.
Today, the median age of marriage is 26 for women and 28 for men. Is that too old?
An increasingly vocal group of social commentators are concerned that by delaying marriage until our mid-to-late-20s or early 30s, we’re encouraging behaviors like premarital sex and cohabitation that are undermining the success of our unions. In a provocative piece in the September issue of U.S. Catholic, John Van Epp, PhD, president of LoveThinks, LLC, and author of How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk, argues that young adults should stop delaying — and start searching for a spouse sooner rather than later.
In principle, I agree. Being proactive about the search for a spouse is a good thing. I’m thrilled to celebrate the marriages of those who find their true love in college. And yes, there is something to be said for “growing up together” and sharing many of those formative memories from your early 20s. Cohabitation and premarital sex aren’t great for stable unions. But I still take issue with Dr. Van Epp’s argument that we as a society need to encourage early marriage. And I think you might have some strong opinions, too.
Check out both pieces (mine below and Dr. Van Epp’s here) and then fill out the questionnaire below his piece on U.S. Catholic. I’ll share your responses in a future column.
Dr. Van Epp says later marriage is a problem — and wants us to get married younger. Here’s why I disagree:
More Americans are going to college and graduate school than ever before — and that’s a good thing — but education also delays marriage by a few years.Research shows that college graduates are more likely to marry — and more likely to have stable unions — than less educated Americans. According to economist Betsey Stevenson, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, college educated women are less likely to divorce and more likely to describe their marriage as “happy,” regardless of their income.Said Prof. Stevenson in an interview …
In this video, Giselle prepares for her departure to Mexico where she will reunite with her husband and continue to video blog about their life together and strive to break down stereotypes about illegal immigrants and their families.
In video one, Giselle discusses the incident that forced her to look at the immigration issue.
Recently the Associated Church Press (ACP), the oldest interdenominational religious press association in North America, held their Best in the Christian Press annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Busted Halo® walked away with top awards in all three of the ACP’s online divisions. BustedHalo.com was named Best In Class for Independent Website and E-Zine, Best in Class Blog and Best Re-Design for a Website.
The judges described BustedHalo.com as:
“Visual dynamite and generally informative”
“It is just plain fun as well as inspiring”
“The content is in the right categories for the target audience: young adults / spiritual seekers”
“A Catholic-sponsored site yet it is designed for all spiritual seekers and it delivers on that mission.”
Many thanks to everyone at ACP and all our loyal readers.
Interested in learning about the Vatican secret archives? Want to know a little bit more about Catholic superheroes? Never knew what “Diet of Worms” really referred to? Then you won’t want to miss Busted Halo’s latest addition to its podcast lineup — Facts of Faith.
Facts of Faith episodes are short (five to ten minute) discussions between Fr. Dave Dwyer and Fr. Larry Rice about everything and anything Church-related: historical Catholic trivia, little-known pop culture facts, Church traditions, rituals, rules, orders, saints, history, stories and tales. Upcoming episodes include such varied topics as: famous Catholics; the Catholic connection to coffee; J.R.R. Tolkien; creationism versus evolution; Trappist ales; and the Chronovisor (if you haven’t heard of this you better Wikipedia it soon, and stay tuned for the podcast.)
As a not-that-old, not-that-out-of-touch college professor who teaches classes on the sociology of marriage, family and gender, this is one of my favorite questions to ask a class of undergraduates for three reasons: It wakes ‘em up; everyone is interested in the answer; and it stirs up quite a debate.
But in the three years I’ve been asking this question, there’s never been a class consensus. Some students tell me it’s sexual intercourse, with a zero-to-sex pick-up speed, within hours (and many beers) of a first meeting. Others tell me hooking up means making out or kissing, and might not happen until two people have hung out together in a group of friends for a while.
So a few months back, I put it to you: How do you define a hook up?
Defining the hook up: Survey results
As always, Busted Halo readers were more than willing to share thoughts and responses. More than 250 of you filled out the online survey, and the results are fascinating.
Amanda, 26: “If a friend or sibling used this phrase… I always asked for clarification. You never know what it means!”
Who took this survey? The average age of respondents is 26. Of those who took the survey online, 57% are single, 25% are in a relationship or engaged, and 16% are married. Two-thirds of the respondents are female, and half are college students.
What does a hook up mean? More than a third of respondents said a hook up means sex. Here’s a chart with the breakdown of possible definitions.
But… when you run the numbers on college students, the definitions change a bit: Only 28% of college students (compared with 34% of all respondents) said that if a friend told them they’d hooked up the night before, they’d assume that meant sex. Among college students, the most popular answer — for 30% of respondents — was that hooking up meant kissing and touching with clothes on.
On April 14, Comedy Central’s “South Park” celebrated its 200th episode of “take no prisoners” animated comedy by dressing up the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit. (It’s a long story…)
Unlike most of their show business rivals, when South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone say everyone is fair game for ridicule, they mean it. The religiously themed episode targeted Moses, Jesus, Mormon patriarch Joseph Smith and the Buddha.
Then, parodying the disputed Islamic dictum that forbids the depiction of its holiest prophet, Stone and Parker showed Muhammad dressed in a bear costume. (Perhaps this was a nod to the British teacher working abroad who was sentenced to death for naming the classroom teddy bear “Muhammad” — at the behest of her (Muslim) students.
The next day, a seemingly tiny group with the grandiose name “Revolution Muslim” (and led by a young convert from Judaism, no less) announced on its web site:
“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”
(Theo van Gogh is the iconoclastic Dutch filmmaker who was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam in broad daylight by an Islamic militant, after making a film depicting the abuse of women in Muslim countries.)
Stone and Parker then told the media that Comedy Central had censored the show. That episode was supposed to end with a speech challenging “intimidation and fear,” but the speech was cut, presumably on account of fear and intimidation.
I’m not inclined to defend South Park. On the whole, the show is tasteless, offensive and not something I would ever allow my children to watch.
However, I do defend Parker and Stone’s right to free speech, even if — especially if — I don’t like what they are saying. (Without that coda, as Voltaire recognized, the very principle has no meaning.)
There’s a great scene from The Simpsons that sums up my childhood view of church perfectly. Bart, Lisa and Homer all run out of church triumphantly on a Sunday after services have finished, shouting — and I paraphrase — Hurray! It’s the time of the week that is the longest time before we have to go to church again!
And that’s how I felt when I was younger. Once Mass was over on Sunday, that was it. I was done. I was no longer a prisoner of the Liturgy and Eucharist, tradition and ritual, dressing up and sitting up. For an entire week I had nothing to look forward to but no church.
And then a Holy Day of Obligation would roll around in the middle of the week, ruining everything.
As a kid, not only was I enrolled in Catholic school grades K-8, but I was cosmically enrolled into a very devout Catholic family. And it seemed back then that everywhere I turned there was a Holy Day of Obligation lurking around the corner, a chance for my parents to force me to GO TO CHURCH again for an hour on a weekday, in addition to having already attended the weekend before with my family and during the week with classmates for the school-wide Mass that all the grades had to attend.
Back then it seemed like the Holy Days of Obligation numbered somewhere in the hundreds if not thousands of days a year, where all Catholics just had to GO TO CHURCH outside of the regular weekly obligation. Suffice it to say, these holy days dealt a critical blow to my endless video game matches with Punch-Out’s Bald Bull or watching yet another syndicated rerun of The Simpsons that I had seen at least ten times before. Having to GO TO CHURCH again in the middle of the week felt forced and unnatural.
From my teens to my late 20s, practicing my faith didn’t really mean a lot. The symbolism and meanings were lost on me; the words seemed empty; the buildings
When I met David Spotanski at a conference on leadership in the Catholic Church in 2007, my first impression of the Belleville, Ill., native was that he was like so many of the Midwesterners whom I’ve known and worked with over the years: friendly, approachable, and not in the habit of taking himself too seriously. The fact that, as a layman, Spotanski also happened to be the chancellor for the Belleville diocese — just outside of St. Louis — for all matters except canonical issues requiring a priest seemed a little unusual. But after a number of conversations over the course of the gathering it became clear to me that if this married father of three was indicative of the sort of leadership in the Catholic Church’s future, the Church was in very capable hands.
I wasn’t prepared, however, for the information Spotanski decided to share with me at the end of our meeting. Before returning home, he left me with a 10-page photocopied document that contained what was easily the most personal, honest and moving commentary I had yet to read on the sex abuse scandal. It was blunt, unsparing and deeply challenging language from someone who worked for the Church, clearly loved his Catholic faith and was deeply concerned that the Church’s leadership wasn’t able to comprehend how badly its credibility had been damaged.
An excerpt of the 2002 letter from Spotanski to Bishop Wilton Gregory:
Every evening when I arrive home from the chancery, my kids race to the door vying to be the first to declare, “I missed you most!” Once we’ve established which of the three has taken the day’s honors, I try to always stop for a moment to consider whether I’ve left our Church better for them than I found it that day or worse. For over fifteen years I’ve been able to answer that question honestly, confidently, and with the satisfaction of knowing I’d played some small part in building the Church in which my children will one day raise my grandchildren.