By Jessica Valenti, Religion Dispatches….
As I watched Virgin Tales, a Swiss documentary about purity balls—dances where young girls pledge their virginities to their dads—I thought of my father often. Because the most compelling focus of the film wasn’t the events themselves, but the way in which one family’s dynamic can reveal so much about American culture and politics.
Filmmaker Mirjam von Arx follows the Colorado Springs-based Wilson family whose patriarch, Randy, invented purity balls. Von Arx focuses on one daughter in particular, Jordyn. (The Wilsons have five daughter and two sons.) Jordyn is college-aged but not in college. “I want to be a wife and a mother,” she says, “I would hate to go off and spend thousands of dollars on an education that I wouldn’t use.”
By Joseph Rosenthal, Georgia State University…..
“Man shall not live by bread alone,” responds Jesus defiantly in the Gospel of Matthew (4:4) to Satan’s entreaty to break his forty-day fast. This phrase has been used variously by Christians throughout history as a tribute to the virtues of moderation and as a justification for some of the most extreme forms of asceticism. Dietary practice is the second most popular domain of religiously motivated self-denial, surpassed only by matters of sex and human intimacy. The diversity of rituals, laws, and red tape surrounding the consumption of food ranges from prohibitions of basic food types (e.g. shellfish, pork, alcohol, etc.) to extended periods of fasting. The religious preoccupation with what goes into the body goes well beyond hatred of gluttony, sometimes verging on total caloric restriction.
By Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr…..
On the day after Osama bin Laden’s unexpected death was announced by the US President, a fascinating new exhibition was previewed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Entitled “Savage Beauty,” it bore more than a casual relevance to the city’s attempt to grasp the right tone in the twinned face of this assassination and the upcoming decennial commemoration of the September 11th attacks. Naturally, that strange-sounding juxtaposition needs some explanation. It has something to do with the sacred. That is to say, it has something to do with an important aesthetic and religious category very popular among the Romantics: the Sublime.