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Talking With A Rabbi About My Conversion!

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan
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I loved doing this interview with Rabbi Ari Abramowitz at the Voice of Israel. Rabbi-like, he skipped past the shallow stuff and asked the big questions: about my feelings toward Israel, my conversion from Judaism to Christianity and about my conversion from leftism to liberalism, also known as conservatism. If you’re interested in real talk about real stuff, too rare in American media, it’s worth listening to. You can hear it here.

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Cross-posted From Klavan on the Culture, image illustration via shutterstock /  

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Where to Find Jesus in Oxford, England

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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Since starting my master’s at Oxford this fall, I’ve been looking for a church. A new life in a new country meant I needed a Christian community to remind me who I am. I found one just in time for Christmas. Here’s what I learned on the way.

There are a lot of churches in Oxford. Honestly, you can’t walk down the block without tripping over a church. They tend to be Anglican. But after visiting various services, I started noticing two general kinds of atmosphere — two distinct styles of worship. Now, I’m a layman to my core. I have no business evaluating doctrines or denominations. This is just what I saw. 

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Christians, Atheists, & Pagans Should Take a Sabbath Like Orthodox Jews Do

Sunday, December 21st, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

“Second, more than any other commandment, the Sabbath Day reminds people that they are meant to be free. As the second version of the Commandment — the one summarized by Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy — states, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.” In other words, remember that slaves cannot have a Sabbath. In light of this, I might add that in the Biblical view, unless necessary for survival, people who choose to work seven days a week are essentially slaves — slaves to work or perhaps to money, but slaves nonetheless. The millionaire who works seven days a week is simply a rich slave.” — Dennis Prager, from his fantastic 10 Commandments video series.

So given the success of last week’s discussion about the myriad of ways to interpret the meaning of Genesis 9, the story of Noah cursing Ham’s son Canaan, I’ve decided to start a regular weekly series on Sunday presenting and discussing a variety of Bible-based mysteries.

This week’s subject for debate and inter-faith dialogue: what is the best way to observe the fourth commandment, to set aside one day a week that is holy? Does one particular group or theological denomination have better ideas and interpretations on this subject than others?

While for many of these Bible mystery questions I’ll just pose the question or lean in one direction or another, on this subject I do have a position that I’ve come to embrace more over the past few years that I’ll offer forward today: the seemingly radical approach that Orthodox Jews take to the Sabbath — a whole day of the week, sundown to sundown, of not even driving a car or using electricity and devoted solely to family and one’s spiritual development as a community — is the ideal that everyone should pursue for a whole host of reasons.

I don’t think the American Protestant Christian standard of just going for an hour long church service each week and then treating Sunday like any other day really cuts it.

Next: considering some insights from a book that I’ve been reading, Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbathand posing some inter-faith questions based on it. 

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5 Ways to Avoid Christma-fying Your Hanukkah

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.

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The 5 Merriest Christmas Traditions from Ancient Greece

Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Spencer Klavan

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Well, it’s that time of the year: days getting shorter, nights getting colder, choirs singing and priests commemorating the virgin birth. I know what you’re thinking: it must be time for the rural Dionysia! Mmmm, chanting in ritualistic praise of the wine-god just gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling — like eggnog by the fire.

Okay for real though, obviously Christmas is the best holiday in the history of ever. But Christmas as it’s celebrated these days is a mash-up, a “greatest hits” of December festival practices from the ancient and modern world. A lot of our traditions go all the way back to ancient Greece. So to get in the spirit, here are five of my favorite yuletide rituals, along with their ancient Greek roots. They’ve been mathematically ranked and arranged in ascending order depending on how merry and/or bright they are. Happy ancient Greek Christmas, everyone! (And more importantly, happy real Christmas, too.)

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Should We Care When Our Political Leaders Fail?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first four parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” “Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power,” and “Should You Trust Your Gut or God?“ Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts hereWarning: some spoilers about season 3 discussed in this installment.

Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our culture has a seemingly natural distrust of people in power, but that wasn’t always the case. Before November 1963 we put great faith in our political and spiritual leaders. Those pre-’63 figureheads like JFK, Ike and FDR, Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham are still heralded as role models of moral society. Today’s faith is different. We look for hypocrisy and mock it intensely. All spiritual leaders are televangelists skilled in chicanery. Our politicians are now supposed to be our messiahs, and when they fail we as a nation fall into despair and chaos. When did we forget God, and why does it matter that we’ve left Him out of the equation?

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Should You Trust Your Gut or God?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first three parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” and “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The idea of Olivia Pope is one of a woman who trusts her gut instinct so implicitly that she bases her every decision on it. As a result she unwittingly justifies a range of crimes, puts her life and the lives of her employees and friends at risk, and helps terrorists escape the country. Sometimes listening to your gut just isn’t good enough. Which is probably why God provides a wise alternative in Torah: the prophet.

Biblical culture believes that God speaks to human beings. Sometimes this is done in a group setting, like when the Israelites entered into a covenant with God on Mount Sinai. Other times this is done on an individual level, as when God called out Abraham, spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and when God speaks to His prophets. Given that God spoke to His priests through the long-ago destroyed Temple, Rabbinic Judaism tends to view prophets as the stuff of biblical history, despite the prophecy of Joel:

And afterward [after the restoration of Israel], I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

The Spirit of God in prophecy, known in Rabbinic Judaism as the “bat kol,” is highly regulated by Rabbinic law and culture:

In any event, the consensus in Jewish thought is that no appeal to a heavenly voice can be made to decide matters of halakhah where human reasoning on the meaning of the Torah rules is alone determinative. In non-legal matters, however, a Bat Kol is to be heeded. …In modern Jewish thought, even among the Orthodox, claims to have heard a Bat Kol would be treated with extreme suspicion and dismissed as chicanery or hallucination.

But is it really wise to always trust your gut?

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How to Decode the Advent Wreath

Sunday, November 30th, 2014 - by Amelia Hamilton

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Today marks the first Sunday of Advent, the official beginning of the religious Christian season. This is a season rich in meaning and symbolism for Christians, much of which can be found in the Advent wreath.

Found in churches and many Christian homes, many focus on the candles, but the wreath itself is also an important symbol. Wreaths are a circle, with no beginning and end, just as we have been promised eternal life in Christ, an image that many wreaths also continue with the use of evergreens. Laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering. Pine, holly, and yew mean immortality. Cedar is for strength and healing. Even the decorate holly, with its sharp edges, reminds us of Christ, in the suffering of his crown of thorns. Some decorate an Advent wreath with pine cones, which symbolize resurrection.

Advent is about the light of the world coming to us. You may have noticed that the four Advent candles have different colors: three violet and one rose.  Each week represents one thousand years, symbolizing the 4,000 years of waiting from the Garden of Eden until Christ was born. On the first, second, and fourth Sundays of Lent, we light a violet candle. In the Christian tradition, violet means penance, sacrifice, and prayer. On the third Sunday, the rose candle symbolizes joy. However, each candle has a meaning beyond that.

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12 Steps for a Perfect Pop Culture Christmas

Friday, November 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice the confusion laced within a holiday message. When it comes to Christmas, the confusion is on overload. Somewhere along the way a religious message got smacked with a load of pop culture overtones to create a holiday lush with semiotic excess, too much for the brain or heart to process. So, allow me from my seat on the sidelines to create the How To guide so you can enjoy the perfect pop culture Christmas.

12. Shop early and shop often for things you’ll never need that are on sale at bargain basement prices.

Christmas really begins on Black Friday, or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, whichever you prefer. The holiday is about buying to your heart’s content and making sure everything you and your children have ever dreamed of is stacked up under that decorated tree. The bruises and broken limbs you get in pursuit of those awesome sale prices will be well worth it. Who needs teeth when they can have stuff?

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The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:

This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.

In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.

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The South’s Church Culture and Its Dangerous Problems

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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One of my favorite things about being on staff at a church is that I get to engage in discussions about faith and spiritual life with other men and women who are passionate not just about their relationship with God but also about helping others to deepen their relationship with Him.

Last week, I was brainstorming with our creative arts director and the student pastor at one of our campuses about improving one particular element of our services, when the student pastor remarked about how he knew people who thought of our church as light on doctrine and substance, largely because we don’t engage in activities like “altar calls.” Near the end of that part of the conversation, I remarked that Christianity in the South is more of a culture than a relationship with God.

In a now-famous quote, Flannery O’Connor once said, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.” She may have been more right that she realized, because the dominant Southern Christian culture concerns itself largely with seeing and being seen, with church attendance as an end to the spiritual journey rather than a beginning, and with safely sheltering families from an increasingly messy world.

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Louie Gohmert Blasts Obama for Cherry-Picking Bible Verses

Friday, November 21st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert joined Sean Hannity on Thursday to discuss President Obama’s speech announcing his executive action on immigration. Rep. Gohmert took issue with Obama’s use of a verse from Exodus to defend his actions:

“Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too,” Obama read in his prime time speech, quoting Exodus 22:21.

Gohmert said that people here illegally are not legally allowed to work. He said the president is flaunting the law, which is an offense to the Constitution and to African Americans and Hispanic Americans who have an enormously high unemployment rate. Gohmert said Obama is “going to leave five million people out in the cold” when their jobs are taken by illegal aliens who now have the ability to work here.

Gohmert then pulled out his own well-worn Bible. “But I also want to point out he quoted Exodus 22:1 here. But if you just go over to the next column,” Gohmert pointed to a page heavily highlighted in in yellow, “maybe he hasn’t seen these verses, Sean.”

You must not spread a false report. Do not join the wicked to be a malicious witness. You must not follow a crowd in wrongdoing. Do not testify in a lawsuit or go along with the crowd to pervert justice. Do not show favoritism to a poor person in his lawsuit. (Exodus 23:1-3)

“This man is showing favoritism and he is lying about Congress,” Gohmert said. “And I’ve seen this in another politician that I went up against who would call you everything in the book and would say, ‘Now we’re going to be gentlemen. We’re not going to talk bad about each other.’ Try to keep you from defending yourself. But we’re going to defend ourselves.”

Now, obviously Gohmert engaged in the same kind of cherry-picking that Obama did when he cited a verse that he liked from that same passage of Exodus. I suspect that Gohmert was trying to point out the absurdity of taking one verse out of context (though I wish he had taken a few seconds to explain that).

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Save ‘The Duggars’ from Transsexual Bullies

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

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The invaluable LifeSiteNews has launched a petition drive to counter yet another example of transsexual activist bullying:

In the past few days, liberal extremists have launched a full-scale attack on the Duggars, demanding that The Learning Channel cancel the Duggars’ popular reality TV show.

Their reason? Michelle Duggar openly opposed an extreme ‘transgender’ bill in Fayetteville. The bill would have given biological males who say they are women the right to use women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other female-only facilities!

As of this writing, that petition has over 80,000 signatures, and is growing fast, with media like the Huffington Post leading the charge! We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values.

Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family.

The real extremists are those who are demanding that a TV network penalize America’s beloved family because they support the truth about family, which they have always expressed in a loving, compassionate fashion.

I haven’t watched 19 Kids and Counting in years. It just fell out of my usual television viewing rotation. That doesn’t mean I want to see it become the next victim of toxic progressive pitchforking.

The next target may be your favorite show.

LifeSiteNews’ counter-petition has just under 20,000 signatures as I write this.

You can read it here and sign it if you agree.

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Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See Part 1 of Susan’s ongoing series analyzing the connections between ABC’s Scandal, current events, and Western values: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.

Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.

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5 Reasons You Should Leave Your Church

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Paul Cooper

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There are many really bad reasons to leave a church. Some common but silly excuses for leaving a church are the following: somebody hurt your feelings, the church is getting too big, and you aren’t getting your way on some issue. There are some reasons one should prayerfully consider leaving a church. But how does somebody know when he should definitely leave a church?

Church membership and attendance should not be taken lightly. We enter into a family relationship when we join a church. It is the body of Christ. We should take joining and leaving a church very seriously, but sometimes circumstances leave no doubt that it’s time to go.

As a regular church attendee my entire life, and as a pastor who has been in some form of ministry leadership for over 15 years, I have some experience with church-attendance issues. I offer 5 reasons that a church member most likely should exit his place of worship and find another one.

5. Members (especially leaders) in the church are in grave sin but no one is holding them accountable.

All of us sin; that includes leaders in the church. We all mess up. We all fall short. But the Bible makes it clear that the immediate response to sin is repentance.  And if we do not repent then we need discipline. So if church members are living in blatant sin, and especially if its leaders are involved (who are held to a higher standard), there needs to be quick repentance — or discipline if there isn’t.

Let me be clear: I’m not telling you to only attend perfect churches where no one sins. If you join that church then you will immediately mess it up. But the name of Jesus is destroyed by churches that refuse to deal with rampant sin. Simply read the news to hear about church after church that ignored or covered up sin and are now facing lawsuits. Church members and leaders should be quick to admit wrongdoing and quick to try to make things right.

The Bible is filled with teachings on holiness and repentance when we mess up.  And the Bible takes sin in the church seriously. It’s so serious that if people refuse to repent then the worst-case scenario is to remove them from the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-12). However, if your church is refusing to deal with sin in the camp, then you must leave the camp. You cannot associate with a church that refuses to repent and seek Christ.

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Who Is the World’s Most Persecuted Religious Minority?

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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The Lesson of All Saints’ Day

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis
Stripped, sent to a brothel, and then burned

Stripped, sent to a brothel, and then burned

A Catholic friend attended her church’s All Saints’ service on Saturday. She came over afterward to visit and help me with some stuff and told me about the lovely service. She mentioned something she still finds odd. The saints are often depicted with the instruments of their torture. St. Lawrence of “Turn me over, I’m done on this side” fame carries a grill, St. Catherine carries a wheel. Here are 10 of the more brutal martyrdoms.

We found this disconcerting for two reasons: one, the memory of what happened to those people. These were not quick deaths. Two, such tortures are still happening to Christians today. (Warning for graphic links, although the Daily Mail has pixelated them.) Beheadings and crucifixions still plague us. As does sexual slavery. According to the videos there, the blue and green eyed girls fetch a higher price.

When I went to church the next day (I’m Anglican and we do All Saints on the Sunday closest to November 1st) this is exactly what one of our reverends gave his sermon on. Our tormenters don’t let up. That’s what we are supposed to remember on All Saints’ Day, perseverance in the face of anything.

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Should Psychological Identity Trump Physical Identity for Transgender Persons?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, recently addressed the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on the subject of transgender.

Saying that the gay marriage battle is all but over, Burk believes “sexual revolutionaries are turning their attention to the ‘T’ in LGBT” which will lead to significant cultural changes.

Burk, author of What Is the Meaning of Sex?, said,

At the heart of the transgender revolution is the notion that psychological identity trumps bodily identity. In this way of thinking, a person is whatever they think themselves to be. If a girl perceives herself to be a boy, then she is one even if her biology says otherwise. If a boy perceives himself to be a girl, then he is one even if his biology says otherwise. Gender is self-determined, not determined by the sexual differences that the Creator has embedded into every cell in our bodies.

He doubts that most Americans have thought through the implications of accepting without question that psychological identity should trump biological identity when there is a conflict.

Burk gave the example of a man named John who was featured on Fox News a few years ago. He felt like he was a one-legged man trapped in the body of a man with two legs. “When I see an amputee — when I imagine the amputee — there is this inner pull that says ‘why can’t I be like that?’” the man asked. It wasn’t until after 42 years of marriage that he revealed this “secret” to his wife. He suffers from what psychiatrists call “body integrity identity disorder.” The only known cure is amputation of the offending body part.

“The primary ethical question is whether a man in John’s position would be right to amputate an otherwise healthy limb,” Burk said. “Would it be right for a doctor to remove his leg so that John can feel whole? If John feels himself to be a one-legged man inside a two-legged man’s body, why not encourage him to have his leg amputated? At a gut level, most people recoil at the suggestion. Nevertheless, this is the implication of the view that psychological identity trumps bodily identity,” he said.

Typically, individuals who suffer from such a disorder cannot find physicians to accommodate their requests for amputations, and they are not encouraged to amputate otherwise healthy limbs. Most people would say the individual’s thinking needs to be altered rather than taking drastic steps to alter the body.

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8 Reasons Why Jews & Christians Should Re-Think Celebrating Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.

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Halle Berry Says Women Should ‘Be Prepared’ with Fabulous Lingerie

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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According to Halle Berry, who is hawking a new lingerie line at Target, women need to be prepared “in that area” because you never know who’s going to see it.

Style.com reports that Berry told reporters at a preview of her new Scandale lingerie line,

I have some friends—who will remain nameless—that wear the same janky bras for, like, five years straight. As Americans, we can go there, but what I learned about the Frenchwomen is that they’re always updating their lingerie. … They’re not going to get caught in the emergency room not prepared. If they have to cut their clothes off, they’re going to be fabulous under there.

Lingerie marketing schemes aside, Halle (I can call her by her first name because we went to high school together and I put shaving cream in her hair during band camp hazing initiation) does have a really good point. While I wish that I could have the freedom that men enjoy — I guarantee you that my husband has spent zero time in the last decade thinking about how ER personnel might be judging him on his undergarment choices — the truth is that because of science (having something to do with the Y chromosome, I think) I am forced to think about what would happen if someone had to cut my clothes off in the emergency room. (In fact, that did happen to me when I broke my leg skiing in the 9th grade and it is every bit as mortifying as you might imagine.)

Last week I was telling a friend about my son’s wedding in September, sharing the events of the morning of The Big Day as we all got ready for the afternoon ceremony. I didn’t realize how early we were going to get our hair done in the morning and as a result, I didn’t end up getting a shower before we all headed out to the beauty shop. So I had to settle for schlepping together a sponge bath and shaving my legs in the bathroom sink before slipping into my formal gown, a memory which, as I’m sitting here more than a month later, still horrifies me.

And it’s no better when it’s not a formal occasion. Last night, my husband had a late meeting, so I decided to run out and grab some carry-out food. Before heading out, I changed my clothes, put on some eyeliner and put lipstick on –as if the fast food workers were going to notice!

Honestly, I wish I could be free from this vanity and narcissism. I have friends who don’t give a hoot about how they look when they leave the house and they own it. Beauty is on the inside, they say, daring people to reject them for the way they look. They seem happy.

The problem is, of course, that our culture screams at women constantly that we must look a certain way, dress a certain way, wear this makeup, weigh this much.

People judge us, we judge others, we judge ourselves. Are we doing it mostly for ourselves — because we’re narcissists — or to impress others? I wrestle with that sometimes.

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The Feminist Lesson in Mom’s Night Out

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Twenty-four percent of married couple families with children under 15 have a stay-at-home mom. Ninety-nine percent of stay-at-home moms in the movies get a really bad rap. Search “Best Movie Moms” and you’ll get lists that include Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Shelly Duvall in The Shining, and more than a few mentions of Psycho. The majority of movie mothers are either widowed or divorced, careerists or working class, alcoholics or impregnated by UFOs. The closest you’ll get to a stay-at-home mom in post-1940s cinema is Kathleen Turner playing the psychotic Serial Mom or Michael Keaton taking on the role so his wife can pursue her career in Mr. Mom.

In fact, outside of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side there hasn’t been a truly admirable middle-class, white, stay-at-home mother on the silver screen in over 50 years. Which is probably why Mom’s Night Out received such a negative critical reception when it premiered last spring. We have been acculturated out of believing in the power and purpose of stay-at-home moms. Yet, the criticisms leveled at Mom’s Night Out for its “depressingly regressive” spirit and “archaic notions of gender roles” were not applied to a similar film about a stay-at-home mom released only two years prior. This Is 40 received mixed reviews, but praise for yielding “…some of [Judd] Apatow’s most personal observations yet on the feelings for husbands, wives, parents, and children that we categorize as love.”

So, what made This Is 40 palatable in a way that Mom’s Night Out wasn’t? Is there, perhaps, a culturally acceptable way to be a stay-at-home mom?

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Is Medical Greed Leading to D.I.Y. Deaths?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

My PJ colleague Walter Hudson published a compelling argument regarding physician-assisted suicide in response to the ongoing dialogue surrounding terminal cancer patient Brittany Maynard. His is a well-reasoned argument regarding the intersection of theology and politics, written in response to Matt Walsh’s Blaze piece titled “There is Nothing Brave About Suicide.” Both pieces are a reminder that, in the ongoing debate over whether or not Maynard has the right to schedule her own death, little has been said regarding the role the medical profession plays in the battle to “Die with Dignity.” Walsh argues:

None of us get to die on our own terms, because if we did then I’m sure our terms would be a perfect, happy, and healthy life, where pain and death never enter into the picture at all.

It’s a simplistic comment that ignores a very real medical fact: Death can come on your own terms. And that doesn’t have to mean suicide.

My mother was a nurse for 20 years. During that time she worked in a variety of settings, from hospitals, to private practice, to nursing homes. Much like Jennifer Worth, the nurse and author of the Call the Midwife series, my mother practiced at the end of Victorian bedside nursing and the dawn of Medicare. As a result, the abuses she witnessed in the name of insurance claims were grotesque. For instance, if a patient required one teaspoon of medication, an entire bottle would be poured into the sink and charged to that patient’s insurance company. This was just the tip of the iceberg of unethical practices that would become priority in the name of the almighty “billing schedule.”

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Ross Douthat Loves Lena Dunham for All the Wrong Reasons

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has declared his love for Lena Dunham. It hardly comes as a surprise that a New York Times writer, even one who dwells to the right of the aisle, would find the Girls prodigy appealing. What makes Douthat’s devotion disturbing is that he has managed to transform a goddess chained to a slew of liberal causes into a sacrificial lamb for conservative culture. In his struggle to do so, his misses the mark in what could have been one of the most culturally relevant critiques of Girls to date.

The critic defends Dunham’s showpiece Girls, writing,

She’s making a show for liberals that, merely by being realistic, sharp-edge, complicated, almost gives cultural conservatism its due. 

It’s a seemingly ironic observation, based in the idea that Girls “often portrays young-liberal-urbanite life the way, well, many reactionaries see it…” That is, a subculture on the verge of self-destruction due to excessive amounts of what sociologist Robert Bellah dubbed, “the view that the key to the good life lies almost exclusively in self-discovery, self-actualization, the cultivation of the unique and holy You.”

In other words, as Gawker so simply put it:

He likes watching the show because it allows him to feel superior to Dunham and her fellow sluts.

By employing a rote, traditionalist perspective, Douthat argued himself into a hole, turning his love into judgement and burying his point in poorly-worded theory and equally bad theology.

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A Special Dispensation if You’re Thinking of Seeing the New Left Behind Movie

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

If you’re a Bible-believing Jesus-loving American like me, I hereby officially absolve you from the guilt of staying as far away from the theater as possible during the inevitably short run of the new adaptation of Left Behind.

I also grant a special dispensation, if you’ve already seen the movie, from any inner compulsion you feel to “say something nice” as a passive way of encouraging Hollywood to make more “Christian” or “Biblical” or “values-based” films, or for fear of being judged by those who thought it was “awesome and super-Biblical.”

I further grant you absolute forgiveness for your previous Facebook posts in which you gushed about your eagerness to see Nicolas Cage in Left Behind, and speculated about his spiritual condition.

How can I grant such merciful forgiveness? I have personally borne the burden for you, and by my $10.25, you are saved… from spending your $10.25.

Unlike you, Left Behind remains unforgiven.

While the movie purports to be about “the rapture” — the sudden vanishing of all Jesus-believers from the face of the earth (and the cabins of aircraft) — I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching another Zucker & Abrahams Airplane movie. I kept expecting Leslie Nielsen to pop into the flight deck to deadpan, “I just want to tell you both, good luck. We’re all counting on you.”

If I were more faithful to the doctrine of Frozen, I would merely let it go…let it go. But I feel mystically drawn to record my impressions here — drawn as a moth to the Mothra.

Here’s the problem: Left Behind is a bad movie.

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