New Directions for

I’m going to start taking this blog in a new and more focused direction. I will keep former posts in the archive, but it will start honing in on religion as it relates to gender and sexuality. So far you may have read intermittent posts about theology, philosophy of religion, or politics, but not much about what I have been studying. I also see some of the posts as not exceptionally good. I want to change that with a sharper focus.

Bruce Lincoln

Bruce Lincoln
Source: University of Chicago

Posts will now come twice weekly. On Wednesdays, I will post some links with tl:dr annotations, and substantial posts on Saturdays (today is an exception). I’m going to be including more media content. I used to think this was flashy or “low-brow,” but I’ve come to see that media is just a part of life. Blogs themselves are media. I guess this move reflects an evolution in how I see religion and learning. I used to see religion as how well a group conformed to a set of texts. However, religious life includes not only texts, but rituals, gestures, national history, cultural history, group history, tweets, blogs, news, politics, customs, group myths, Facebook, YouTube, audio lectures, photographs, paintings, architecture, clothing, body decoration, bodily alterations, and many other things that I had regarded as secondary to a category called “religion.” I reduced religion to theology.

Robert Orsi Source: Northwestern University

Robert Orsi
Source: Northwestern

If I do happen to comment on theology, I will indicate so with the tag “Personal Theology,” though I will do this less in upcoming posts. This change in direction emerged from a conversation about blogs in general and in response to a collaboration at The Religious Studies Project entitled “What Is the Future of Religious Studies?”. Rather than speak merely within the academy, I want to think about my research with the interest of a broader public in mind. One of the problems in religious studies academia is communicating dialogues going on within it to a public, in my case, the United States public.
Russell T. McCutcheon Source: Twitter

Russell T. McCutcheon
Source: Twitter

Posts will also range between 300-1000 words. I feel this is a good way to engage in discussion without bogging readers down. If I go over 1000 words, I will include a tl:dr at the top. If you have any suggestions for the blog, contact me at ilostmyprayerhanky AT gmail dot com with the subject line “Blog Suggestions.” Suggestions such as “Your blog sucks. Fix it.” will elicit one-mouth-corner smiles, and possibly a chuckle, from me.

Anne Fausto-Sterling Source: Brown University

Anne Fausto-Sterling
Source: Brown University

What’s fun about this for me is I’m trying to plot my approach in religious studies. The field of religious studies doesn’t really have its own unique methodology, but draws from such diverse fields as literary studies, history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, theology,and other fields. I have come to lean more toward the social sciences. I like a lot of what thinkers such as Bruce Lincoln and Russell McCutcheon have to say, for they critique the very categories of what people call “religion.” Their approach is called “critical” as it applies to religious phenomena. I also like the ethnographical approaches of scholars like Robert Orsi who show how religions behave in a particular time and place. I haven’t read a whole lot in gender studies, but I have enjoyed the provocations of Anne Fausto-Sterling so far. She challenges conceptions of biological sex with her research on intersex persons. My approach will be eclectic. Hopefully it will be fun for readers to see my thought emerge over time.

Summer Lovin’

I’m really stoked about reading this summer. Now that school is done, I want to focus a lot on developing my own approach to religious studies by using some fields of thought not superficially associated with religion: critical theory/Marxism, feminism/gender studies, critical race theory, post-colonialism, general social theory, and ideology/discourse.

If anyone is interested, I can let you know what I’m reading. I just started two books, one ostensibly not having to do with religion and one kind of: Ideology: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton (the edition I borrowed from the library has a cool cover image called “Industrialized Peasants” by Georg Sholz) and Studying Religion: An Introduction by Russell McCutcheon.

Why I’m focusing on these areas for the time being is that they are not boring. They approach ideas from the outskirts of norms, thus offering perspectives I don’t usually encounter. In fact, I’ll probably not use much of it, but it will at least spur me to think about why I think certain things.

I don’t know why, but I have been notoriously scared about reading what I term “the heavies” (what I call heavies are those authors everyone calls classic and authoritative but has never read) since I left undergrad. There are perhaps a few reasons.

  • I used to maintain that there was only one meaning a work could have and that one has to interpret the work according to that reading, or miss the point entirely. So there was fear because of not getting things correct.
  • There was also the possibility that these names that I have heard as respected authorities, or at least incredible thinkers—Kant, Marx, the Frankfurt School, Nietzsche, Dubois, Durkheim, Foucault, Haraway, Weber, Butler, Said, Bhaba, etc.—what if I read them and wasn’t impressed? I call that the fear of losing the mystery behind these people rather than dealing with what got them considered authoritative in the first place: novel ideas.
  • Then there is the possibility that I won’t be able to understand them and my own intellectual shortcomings will shine. Perhaps this is everyone, but I like to think better of myself than I maybe should. More often than not I like to run from my shortcomings rather than face them and grow.

After having the class “Theories of Religion” where I read a lot of “heavies,” I became less intimidated and more sorrowful: why had I avoided these exciting things for so long? I didn’t dwell on that feeling for long, though. I made a plan for this summer and now I’m starting it. We’ll see what happens. Perhaps I’ll become a radical. More probably, I’ll become a better thinker as I sharpen myself with already sharpened minds.