Monday, June 28, 2010

Class, Culture, Libido, & Gender - A Reponse To Camille Paglia

I should have known better than to read this piece by Camille Paglia. In fact, I should have known better than to read anything by Camille Paglia. Alas, I did so, and received my just desserts - an eyeful of painfully stupid stuff.

Her thesis, if I read it correctly, is that the upper middle-class is far too busy to be interested in sex; the striving of the lower echelons of the bourgeoisie leave little room for the more sublime pleasures of intimacy. Even as the FDA begins to consider a medicinal approach to the failing libidos of middle age women, the same target population seems to be offering, via popular culture, a collective shrug at the prospect.

It was this last that made me cringe. The thought that our popular culture - television, film, popular music - is desexualized is ludicrous. Even if this were true, how do we determine if this is a gauge less of the strivings of the petite bourgeoisie and the demands of the bourgeoisie? It would seem to me that stripping popular culture of the fine lineaments of sexuality would be more along the lines of the demands of the ruling class, insisting on more work and less fun. Since this isn't happening, an alternative, semi-Marxist interpretation of the on-going presence of sexualized popular culture could be that, in tough economic times, it is as fine a distraction as any from the possibility of class solidarity. After all, if working class men and women are competing for sexual favors, there is little emotional room left for organizing, true?

The conversion of the collapse of libido from a psychological to a medical condition in both genders, and the attempt at a medical remedy, would seem as much a part of the ruling class to impose sexual distraction upon the shrinking ranks of the upper middle class as the long-term conversion of most of the things in human life in to problems in need of a medical cure. While there has been, since the discovery of Viagra, an ongoing complaint over its acceptance (and probably over-prescription) by insurance plans, including Medicare even as conception control for women is not covered equally, one can easily imagine a scenario in which a libido enhancer for middle class and upper middle class women becomes acceptable.

Yet, while the cross-currents of class and gender discrimination certainly converge on this question, beginning with the assumption, as Paglia most clearly does, that the upper middle class is not interested in sex is just not born out by any analysis. In particular, the attempt to read in to pop culture anything resembling a lack of sexuality is ludicrous, even ignorant.

Whether or not a medicinal response to a decline in libido among upper middle class, middle-aged women is necessary begs the question of whether or not such a thing exists (a question still not asked concerning Viagra for men). The only benefit Paglia's article offers is a chance to respond far more intelligently to these questions than she has.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

An Open Letter

To the people of Poplar Grove United Methodist Church,

Six years ago, my family and I arrived so that my wife could assume the servant leadership role of senior pastor of your congregation. In the intervening years, you have become far more than a congregation of which I have been a member. All of you, even those I have not come to know, have become my church family. With the final days of our time together upon us, you all need to know that I shall hold this time of my life, and all of you, close to my heart.

I have been a member of four United Methodist Churches in my lifetime. First UMC, Sayre, PA, which no longer exists; Centenary UMC, Jarratt, VA; Community UMC, LaMoille, IL; and you. The first, even as it has ceased to minister to the people of Sayre, will always be my home church. At Centenary, along with the beginnings of Lisa's life as a minister under appointment, we started our family. In LaMoille, our family grew and we began our lives as midwesterners. Yet here at PGUMC, our children have spent almost half and two-thirds, respectively, of their lives. Lisa has grown as a pastor. I, for what it's worth, have learned so much from all of you, and will always hold our time together as central to my development and growth as a Christian. In your collective worship, in your service to community and world, in your faithfulness to the best of the Wesleyan tradition of movement toward perfection in love in this life, in your commitment to the central message of the Gospel, you embody what is best about our denomination and its commitment to what Thomas Langford has called "practical divinity".

We move on now to a new life in a new place, among fellow United Methodists. As all partings do, this has that mixture of sorrow and joyful anticipation that make it bittersweet. My most fervent wish, my deepest prayer, is that Paul and his wife Lisa will discover and celebrate with you new growth, not just in members, but in faith; not just in resources, but in commitment to service; not just in programs, but in prayerful reflection upon the possibilities of the life together in faith. I, for one, do not leave with a heavy heart, because I believe that, as we all have been so richly blessed by our life together, so, too, will Paul and Lisa.

The life of a family of an itinerant clergy person is not easy. We must always be ready, in the name of a commitment to the call of the Spirit and the Discipline of the Church, to say goodbye to those who have taken up a space in our hearts. Yet, it is precisely the freedom granted in love for one another, care for one another, that we all can be so bold as to love deeply without fear of the pain of the inevitable parting. I refuse to deny the pain; I also refuse to grant it any power. It is precisely because I have come to know, through my immersion in our life together since July, 2004, just how much freedom there is in living together as a blessed community, that I welcome the opportunity, starting on Wednesday, to begin the whole thing all over again with the people of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Elgin. Do not think, however, that any of you will be far from my thoughts. All of you have taught me how to be a better Christian, a better human being, a better parent and husband, a better man. With the faith that comes from God the Father, I part from you now believing that we will always be united in the Spirit. While we have all had occasion for tears as we prepared for this moment, my own are tears of joy that I have been privileged enough to be a member of Poplar Grove United Methodist Church.

Go with the blessings of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and know that I will always be grateful for you.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More