Author: Beth Haile

Beyond Noticing: Learning to See

In her book titled Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters (Free Press, 2007), Courtney Martin distinguishes between “being noticed” and “being seen.” Martin writes that adolescent girls and women are caught up in this desire to be noticed, especially by men, and so they spend countless hours trying to make themselves pretty. Being noticed is an affirmation of a woman’s beauty and desirability. The stare of a man from across the room, or the turn of his head as a woman walks by, or passing honk from a male driver all serve to affirm a woman’s value. As Martin puts it, “A man I have never met can instantly put a little swing in my step.” But being noticed is fleeting, never penetrating the surface of hair and skin and nails, and ultimately, powerless to affirm a woman’s true value. By contrast, being seen is personal, intimate, transformative. To see someone is to understand who someone really is, to see her dignity. Being seen is also linked to action; seeing demands an ethical response. Martin says that “Being seen is a hand on the small of your back as you walk through a doorway, a glass of water when you are coughing in the middle of the night, his making a passing reference to something you said so long ago you barely remember it.” Our readings for the fourth Sunday of...

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Celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation

Today, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation. Falling on the calendar exactly nine months before Christmas Day and the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the annunciation celebrates the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit when the Word became flesh and first began to dwell among us. Today’s feast, however, often gets overlooked, despite the importance of what it celebrates–the Incarnation. The Incarnation is what makes Christianity distinct among other religious traditions. The Christian God is not one who is remote or indifferent, but a God who so loved the world and the humans he created that God became flesh, sharing completely in our humanity. The Incarnation bears significantly on the ways Christians do ethics, that is, the way Christians reflect on how to live and act well in the world. The Incarnation is an antidote to flesh and world-denying tendencies we sometimes call “gnostic,” tendencies which deny the goodness of the body and advocate for a radical spiritualization of religion. It would be naive to claim that Christians have always done a great job affirming the goodness of the body, but the Incarnation serves to reground whatever gnostic tendencies we may have in the understanding of God who took on flesh. In light of an incarnate God, flesh-denying tendencies are always identified as heretical and antithetical to basic principles of Christian theology. The Incarnation also grounds Christian...

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Is Nebraska’s Fetal Pain Bill Cruel?

After teaching the principle of double effect last week, I had a student approach me this Thursday questioning whether inducing labor in Danielle Deaver’s case would qualify.  My student said he was “really disturbed that doctors wouldn’t induce labor for a woman when both her and her unborn child were experiencing such severe suffering. It seems cruel.” Until my student brought it to my attention, I had not heard of Danielle Deaver, the woman who the Nebraska State Paper reports was forced, due to the state’s new abortion law, to “live through ten excruciating days, waiting to give birth to a baby that she and her doctors knew would die minutes later, fighting for breath that would not come.” Nebraska recently enacted legislation that made abortion illegal at 20 weeks after gestation, citing evidence that at 20 weeks, the fetus can feel pain.  According to the Deaver’s interview with Planned Parenthood, Danielle was 22 weeks along when her water broke.  Danielle reports that doctors told her that even if it were possible to carry the baby to term, she would likely be born without functioning lungs and with contractures due to the fact that the uterus, without amniotic fluid, was pushing on the baby.  Her physician, Dr. Todd Pankcatz, confirmed with the Des Moines Register that the Deaver’s did in fact request an abortion, but that due to the...

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