Confident Charity

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Acting as if there is plenitude and no death, even in scarcity.

Mercy: Dave Matthews

Don’t give up I know you can see All the world and the mess that were making Can’t give up And hope God will intercede Come on back Imagine that we could get it together Stand up for what we need to be Cause crime won’t save our feet or hungry child Can’t lay down and hope no miracles change things So lift up your eyes Lift up your heart

Singing mercy will we overcome this Oh one by one could we turn it around Maybe carry on just a little bit longer And I try to give you what you need

Me and you and you and you Just want to be free yeah But you see all the world is just as we’ve made it And until we got a new world Got to say that love is not a whisper or a weakness No love is strong So we got to get together yeah Gotta get gotta get gotta get Til there is no reason To fight

Mercy what will become of us Oh one by one could we turn it around Maybe carry on just a little bit longer And I try to give you what you need

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Keep Your Courage – Archbishop Rowan Williams

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‘Genuine humility is a gift from God which has nothing to do with down-cast eyes, misty voices, and noble stories of sacrifice on behalf of God, country and other people, always ‘instead of myself’.

Humility is, rather, living courageously in a Spirit of radical connectedness with others, which enables us to see ourselves as God sees us: We are sisters and brothers, each as valuable and worthy of respect as the other.

A truly humble man does not deny his self-interest but rather strives to realize how his interests are connected with the wellbeing of others, all others, not just those most like him.’

Quoted from: Carter Heyward (2010) Keep Your Courage: A Radical Christian Feminist Speaks. p165.

On Archbishop Rowan Williams visit to Lampeter, he lectured, preached then spent hours with the Chapel’s students. He sat eating cold sandwiches with students in a circle while we flung questions at him about his celebrity, his relationship with Christ and spiritual practice, his thoughts on other religions and paths to God etc. I found him to indeed be humble with a warm wit and self-deprecating humour.  He even gave me a few ideas for my Righteousness essay (which was graded A!).

Mothering Sunday

God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Charter for Compassion

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I am a regular listener to the TED Talks and was inspired in my compassion journey by ‘Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy’.  ‘Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.’

Today, I found the CHARTER FOR COMPASSION websiteKaren Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun, on February 28, 2008 won the TED Prize and made a wish: for help creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion.

‘The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.’

I have read the Charter and watched the video.  On the website there are various resources such as talks, documents, presentations, and stories to help us all learn and practice compassion.  I will be learning more about the Charter and of compassionate actions around the world from the website.  Really looking forward to it.

You may not agree with every thing in the Charter but I do believe you will find something to ignite your compassion, for self and others.

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Third Sunday of Lent and A Feminist Festival

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I missed the third Lenten Sunday mass as I was at the Women of the World – WOW Festival in London. It was quite an interesting and informative mix of speakers and topics.  My first feminist event.

The first session I attended was on Global Feminism: ‘Women and men are fighting for gender equality all over the world, but all too often, non western feminists are left out of the dialogue. But what mistakes does western feminism make in a global context, and what can it learn from its non western sisters?’  The panelists were, the chair of gender studies at SOAS Dr. Nadje Al-Ali, blogger Ms Afropolitan and writer and commentator Nisreen Malik discuss, chaired by author and journalist Hannah Pool. You can read a blog report on this session here.

Having developed an awareness of feminism through my theological studies I was quite surprise at the absence of religion from the various festival’s sessions.  There was a brief mention of religion in the Global Feminism session in relation to contraception education and distribution in different religious and cultural contexts.  Would have loved to hear more.

I have been learning of the influence of feminist theory on biblical studies and have been using feminist criticism as a tool of biblical analysis.  Hope to post a bit more on this in the future.

Well, I did try to catch an evening song and buzzed around several chapels but ended up at one with security guards with earpieces and another which was Church of Scotland and had no evening service (St. Saviour and St. Columba), then at St. Mary’s but I was too late for the Latin evening mass.

Almighty God,
whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Power Plays: ‘Mut-em-enet’ Potiphar’s Wife III

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I have posted on ‘Fame’, Jealous Potiphar’s  Sister-In-Law and on three paintings from my essay on Women in Genesis in Potiphar’s Wife II.  Here is the continuation of the discussion on three other paintings.

The next three Potiphar’s wife paintings I wish to mention are those of Orazio Gentileschi 1626 – 1630, Master of the Joseph Legend (active c.1500) undated, and ‘Joseph Accused by Potiphar’s Wife’ by Rembrandt Harmenszoon Rijn 1655.

These three works are interesting, not only for the expressiveness of the hands and faces but also for the elements of position, power and status which are at play.  Not just the power or status of potiphar’s wife but of Joseph.  In Gentileschi, like the early three paintings mentioned, there is just Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.  Yet here her face has regret and some reproach as she extends her hand with his coat.  There is an obvious power play and battle at work between both.  Joseph walks away confidently with an air of authority.  More than lust seems to be at play.

In Master of the Joseph Legend and Rembrandt, again there is power but also relationship.  Potiphar and perhaps servants or jailers are present in Master of the Joseph Legend.  The woman grasps at Joseph.  Joseph thinks of his master.  The wife who is now finely clothed tells her story to Potiphar while pointing to Joseph’s coat and Potiphar clasps at his chest with perhaps pain and puzzlement that his trusted and favoured manager has betrayed him.  There are others in the background who may be servants or jailers taking Joseph off to prison.

In Rembrandt again the woman’s hands are central as they point to the bed and Joseph’s coat.  Joseph looks on silently as she engages Potiphar who along with the woman is on one side of the bed and leans in to hear her.  Potiphar appears to side with his wife.  However Joseph the Hebrew slave is on the other side.  He holds the symbols of power and status at his waist, the keys to the household which he soon looses.

The centrality of the hand and face motif in the paintings conveys the impression of a woman who is not without power.   This does add to Bach’s recovery of the woman’s voice.  With her hands, the woman entreats with tenderness but also grasps.  She has power over people’s lives and perhaps expects to be obeyed.   Though an elevated manager, Joseph is also a slave in Potiphar’s house which is the woman’s domain.  Her relation to power and status is somewhat different to his.  Perhaps Joseph had conscientiously fulfilled her other demands in the context of management of the household yet his loyalty and trust are Potiphar’s.

We also see a woman who in the particular situation of attempted seduction then rejection calls every skill at hand to preserve her position and status as she appeals to her husband, and holds out the coat as evidence.   The power over the final outcome of her own actions however is not hers, she must and does successfully appeal to male power and position.

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Potiphar’s Wife II

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I have finally submitted my Genesis essay so I thought I would share some of it with you.  I looked at the women of Genesis in contemporary scholarship with reference to art.  I focused more on feminist narrative criticism then appealed to some other post biblical literature to recover the woman’s voice drawing mainly on the analyses of feminist theologian Alice Bach (1993,1997).  I then supported her inter-texual work with references to six seventeenth century paintings of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.  So here are a few.

Further searching for her story in art – ‘hands and face’

'Joseph and Potiphar's Wife'

I would like to further explore Bach’s mission of uncovering the woman’s story in Joseph’s story.  How have artists expanded, contracted or flattened the woman and her story?  Questions can be asked such as: have they reinscribed or challenged the gender, cultural and political ideology of the text; how has the work appropriated elements from their own culture such as clothing and hairstyles, the use of colour, manner and location?  All interesting and meaningful, however I simply wish to briefly look for the voice of the woman –  a reconstruction or expansion of the woman’s story within the man’s story.

The works that capture my attention are those which highlight the hands and the face of Potiphar’s wife.   Firstly, the works of Ludovico Cardi called Cigoli 1610, and Cignani Carlo, 1678-80.  These two works are similar in that they portray an entreating, tender and affectionate hand reaching for Joseph’s face and likewise the youthful beautiful face of Potiphar’s wife.  Her expression and tenderness of gesture counteracts the textual texts impression of a crafty, lustful woman seeking only to fulfil her desire without any genuine affection for Joseph.  Yet the tension is present in the painting as one hand is tender and entreats, whereas the other hand grasps Joseph’s coat.  In Ludovico Joseph looks almost playful and not at all repulsed by Potiphar’s wife.  In Barbiera the tension is stronger.  Joseph’s strong, muscled arms, which hint at work and masculine appeal, grabs at the tender arm of the beautiful dazzling red-haired wife.  He appears to have recognized that he must without further hesitation conclusively reject the woman.

Secondly, the exquisite work of Cignani Carlo, 1678-80.  The hands of the youthful, fresh, hopeful, beautiful woman embrace the youthful, boyishly full-haired Joseph.  This is no older, unattractive woman.  Joseph’s raised hands on the other hand seems to signal that he would not even touch what is his master’s property however how beguiling.

These three paintings pull the eyes to the woman’s beauty, youth, tenderness and unapologetic sensuality displayed by her nude breasts.  Joseph, in all three paintings, looks away from the enchanting seductress and the pleasures her body offers.    However, the artist’s invites the viewer to feast on the voluptuous sensuality of the woman’s body and the rich colours of the paintings.  The biblical sex object is very much focalized visually so that what is taboo for Joseph is a feast for us.

The paintings challenge the text’s framing of an unattractive aggressive female.   The dual characters are very central and immediate.  Focus is on the psychology of the action and opposing actors. There are no supporting actors included.  Both the woman and man are located in a bed without reference to other relationships such as the husband-wife/wife-servants/Joseph-servants-Potiphar/ Joseph-God-Potiphar or any such inclusions which would contextualize the scene and embrace the entire narrative.  The entire narrative is thus flattened to that of a youthful enticing seductress and the resisting young man.  The artists appear to interpret the story in purely human terms with little or rather, no obvious allusion to the hand of God at work.

Religion and Society

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After a tutorial which ended in a talking to about exam boards, deadlines, graduation …, I am now being chased by a Monday deadline.  The topic is simple enough ‘What might be meant by ‘public theology’, and how (if at all) should it be done’.  Well a quick search for definitions resulted in below (by Monday, should actually come up with one and 1250wrds about it).

Public theology is concerned with how the Christian faith addresses
matters in society at large.  It is concerned with the “public relevance”
of Christian beliefs and doctrines.’

‘Public Theology seeks to engage with the social, political and spiritual issues of the day, bringing a coherent Christian perspective to bear upon public policy and cultural discourse.’

Hope to have something interesting to say about public theology next week.

Archbishop Rowan Williams Lecture and Sermon 2011, Lampeter


Jealous Potiphar’s Sister-in-Law

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Today I am working on The Women of Genesis in Contemporary Scholarship with particular references to art and text.  So of course I am addressing feminist concerns with particular reference to art from the 1970s-. While researching Potiphar’s wife I came across John Keats’ poem, “On Fame”. Keats calls Fame “Sister-in-law to jealous Potiphar”.

FAME, like a wayward girl, will still be coy
To those who woo her with too slavish knees,
But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy,
And dotes the more upon a heart at ease;
She is a Gipsey, – will not speak to those
Who have not learnt to be content without her;
A Jilt, whose ear was never whisper’d close,
Who thinks they scandal her who talk about her;
A very Gipsey is she, Nilus-born,
Sister-in-law to jealous Potiphar;
Ye love-sick Bards! repay her scorn for scorn;
Ye Artists lovelorn! madmen that ye are!
Make your best bow to her and bid adieu,
Then, if she likes it, she will follow you.

John Keats ‘On Fame’