What I’m Reading, February 3, 2015

“I am No Man” Doesn’t Cut It: The Story of Eowyn, Mariah Huehner, The Mary Sue, January 27, 2015

It says something to me that a WWI vet from a devout Catholic background wrote about a warrior woman in a book published in 1954 that was more feminist than her modern interpretation ended up being.

I know what you’re thinking. “But Eowyn kicked ass! She swung a sword and she fought the Lord of the Nazgûl! She said “I am no man!”

Yeah, I know. And look, I’d really like to tell you that that’s enough for me. But it isn’t.


I guess what bugs me most is that they took a legitimately “strong” female character, and by that I mean a complex, flawed, brave, and ultimately a triumphant warrior woman who has her own major arc…and reduced her down to something less than that. To me, strength in a character is about more than their ability to hit or kill things, and while Eowyn’s big moment is certainly defeating The Lord of the Nazgûl, it’s her defiance in the face of insurmountable odds that truly makes her “strong”. I wish the film version had honored that more.

Because that would have been honoring the proto-feminist character Tolkien created.

10 reasons Christian heaven would actually be hell, Valerie Tarico, Salon, February 1, 2015

6. Ninety-eight percent of Heaven’s occupants are embryos and toddlers. Human reproduction is designed as a big funnel. Most fertilized eggs die before implanting, followed by embryos and fetuses that self-abort, followed by babies and then little kids. A serious but startling statistical analysis by researcher Greg S. Paul suggests that if we include the “unborn,” more than 98 percent of Heaven’s inhabitants, some 350 billion, would be those who died before maturing to the point that they could voluntarily “accept the gift of salvation.” The vast majority of the heavenly host would be moral automatons or robots, meaning they never had moral autonomy and never chose to be there. Christian believers, ironically, would be a 1 to 2 percent minority even if all 30,000-plus denominations of believers actually made it in.

The theological implications are huge. Christian theologians typically explain evil by arguing that this was the best of all possible worlds, the only way to create free will and to develop moral virtues (like courage, compassion, forgiveness and so forth), to make us more Christ-like and prepare us for Heaven. But if we run the numbers, it appears that God didn’t need the whole free will—sin—redemption thing to fill his paradise with perfect beings because no suffering, evil, or moral freedom is actually required as a prelude to glory.

The ratio of adults to embryos has social implications as well. Pastoral counselors sometimes tell a women she will get to apologize in Heaven to the fetus she aborted, which will be a fully developed person there. As a psychologist, I don’t know what this means, because the brain and mind, our individuality and identity—our personhood—develop only via experience. Imagine if 98 percent of the “people” around you had never made a decision or felt sorrow or experienced anything akin to an adult conversation.

Hallowed Be Thy Name Brand: The Religious Consumerism of Megachurch Pastor Joel Osteen, John Saward, Vice, January 30, 2015

Joel Osteen is equal parts Tony Robbins, palm reader, and late-night radio DJ. Osteen is Senior Pastor at the Lakewood megachurch in Houston, the largest Protestant church in the United States. He lives in a spectacularly generic $10.5 million mansion in one of Texas’s wealthiest suburbs. He is an advocate of prosperity theology, a nontraditional, frequently criticized interpretation of the Bible in which God wishes for us to prosper financially and donating to the church will help fulfill that wish.


His sermons include almost no religious parables. They are instead fueled by vaguely empowering solutions to human strife, inflated with the heft of God: Greatest Hits. He recites passages like, “We are masterpieces, fearfully and wonderfully made,” and says, “You are fully loaded and totally equipped to fulfill your dreams.” He wants you standing in front of the mirror beating your chest, calling her back, never giving up. He is selling limitless positivity with no strings attached, mirages for the hopeless in the form of fortune-cookie bromides. He is a man with perfect posture, perfect abs, big white teeth, a family that seems impenetrably happy.


Osteen is a maestro of American consumerism. His ministry—from the pastors on stage at the Compaq Center to women in call centers in Ohio—has achieved near-total homogeneity, from ideology to tone of voice. They speak in a way that is both calm and uplifting at the same time. Every word of conversation seems scripted, practiced. They are selling you this worldview in a way that is so patient and unflappable it is as if it’s a recording. They are nice to us. They listen. They are telling us we’re big and brave. We are masterpieces.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *