Modern-day pilgrimage?

Tipped off by an article in today's Boston Globe, I thought I would share with you the story of Winter, a young-ish man fulfilling his strange, crazy, corporate fetishistic dream. As you can see by visiting his website, starbuckseverywhere.net, Winter is attempting to drink a full cup of coffee in every Starbucks on the planet. With the single-minded devotion of a pilgrim attempting to see as many elevations of the host as possible, combined with modern tech, Winter is recording all of his visits, although, understandably, he doesn't seem to have time to comment on all of them. There's a documentary beginning to appear at film festivals, Starbucking, recording Winter's travels.

So is this a form of popular religiosity? Devotion to a corporate Other in whose gaze one always finds oneself? The film's director comments, ''as I've looked at all this footage of Starbucks, I often wonder where the hell I am. They're all the same. It's like a universal living room. There's a living room in cities across the world, and they're all the same." Can Starbucks, like airports, function as a Victor-Turner-esque liminal space conveniently located in your own neighborhood due to their omnipresence and lack of distinction? (What someone who wasn't afraid of getting cut off from his own local Starbucks might call "banality"? Note that I am not that someone...) If God is dead and the nation-state is too frail to hold our loyalties, might not corporate fascism, with all of the associated popular epiphenomena like Mr. Winter, be already gaining ground? I say this as someone who just went 50 miles out of his way while traveling home for Thanksgiving to hit the new IKEA (having a swedish meatball in every IKEA...now that hasn't been tried yet...), so I know a bit about internalizing branding. Mr. Winter might be the canary in the mine, warning of how closely attached to our corporations, the all-wise, the merciful, we've become. I need to go back and re-read my Postman.


Fun blog titles

You just have to love the title: "This Week in Gay Church Schisms"

I just got back from T-Giving with the folks, more on the Vatican document on homosexuals (sorry, those with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies") in the priesthood to follow.


American Academy of Religion

Your favorite BaptizedPagan will be heading down to Philadelphia next week for the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature, a.k.a. the Carnival. If you're going to be in Philly, let me know and perhaps we can chat about life, the universe, and everything while battling concupiscence at the book exhibit...

ADDENDUM 11/10/5
There's a great list on Sushiesque on "Some Papers to Be Presented at the AAR Whose Titles End With Question Marks. Thanks to Sanksritboy, and my bf, a regular reader thereof, for the link.

IKEA and St. John Lateran

Today is the feast of the dedication of St. John Lateran in Rome, the cathedral church of the diocese of Rome. It's also opening day for the first IKEA in Massachusetts, in Stoughton, just south of Boston. Coincidence?

I have mixed feelings about IKEA; at one level, I love (and I mean _love_) the design; they treat their workers very well; and, for the graduate student wanting cheap furniture without it looking like grandma's house, it's a sweet deal. My own home and my office are full of IKEA stuff. But it does, or could, lead to overconsumption; this is not furniture designed to be placed in a monastery in order to last forever, but designed to hold a place until your taste or your budget changes. (Also...fun Marxist critique of the way in which the illusion of equality at the purchasing end ignores the inequalities at the production end available here.)

But mostly I'm just happy not to have to schlep to New Haven anymore in order to buy søfas, väses, and cute little låmps. We had thought about driving down there today for opening day, but decided it might be a little too crazy. As of 12 noon, there's a one-mile backup on the highway, which I can imagine will only get worse. Avoid route 24 this weekend!


Catholic Higher Education

According to a recent "Inside Higher Education" article, questions about the Catholic identity are back in play again, or are likely to be back in play again, soon.

Now, as an aspiring theologian, I'm rather suspicious of attempts to regulate Catholic identity by the use of canon law; I've commented before on how in the American context the use of law in insttitutions sets up the conditions for a conflictual relationship. At the same time, though, I think one has to be careful of one's knee-jerk reaction that any suggestion from the Vatican that Catholic colleges and universities maintain their Catholic identity is a veiled grab for power...e.g., the kind of reaction that might be suggested by the headline "'Evangelical Pruning' Ahead?". Yes, these are institutional human relationships and it would be naïve to suggest that power is not deeply involved in these discussions; but as Newman suggested in The Idea of a University, "though it had ever so many theological Chairs, that would not suffice to make it a Catholic University." To take the demand of the Vatican seriously means sustaining continued reflection on what it does mean to be a Catholic university, even, perhaps, at the risk of challenging some secular ideas of what a university should be.

Now, and here's where the rub comes in: one can easily find through a quick google search a number of Catholic traditionalist sites suggesting that this sort of conversation has not happened. But it's my impression that the experience of arguing about the implications of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, as well as the particularly problematic situation of the sexual abuse scandal in the American church, have contributed to a lively discussion about the Catholic identity of colleges and universities. Projects like the Church in the 21st Century at Boston College demonstrate a great deal of concern among Catholic educators that the best that their research has to offer, both in the theological sciences and in many other fields, be brought together to make the doctores vital contributors to the wider life of the Catholic church. One fears that, in attempting to evaluate Catholic universities, outside observers might not have enough respect for the particular inculturation of Catholic life in the U.S., and judge that, because a particular kind of Catholic identity (Tridentine piety, strong vocational numbers, strong connections with a local ordinary) is not present at American Catholic universities, that any Catholic identity is missing. It's that fear that might motivate headlines like that above; one can hope and pray (and, I think with some cautious optimism, expect) that a Ratzinger papacy is too intelligent to fall into that trap.

(In a previous incarnation, your correspondent wrote a senior thesis for his B.A. on the implications of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the life of the church. He noted, with some amusement, that the first discussions of Catholic identity began while he was a wee grammar school student at the Cranston-Johnston Catholic Regional School in the early 1980s. One notes with continued amusement, and respect for the different temporality of affairs ecclesial, that over six years have passed since that thesis was written, and the matter remains at hand...)


I Don't Have a Problem....Really

I could quit checking my email whenever I want to...

Hope in Baltimore

An auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, Mitchell Rozanski, celebrated Mass at a parish in Severn, Maryland, on behalf of the Archdiocese, in ministry to lesbian and gay Catholics and their families.

From an attendee: "It gives me hope," said Ed Smith, 53, of Glen Burnie. "It says to me that we can be who and what we are intended to be and that people will accept it. That our religion will accept it and let us be Christians. It tells me that someone has been reading the Bible and learning that Jesus loves everybody."


56% Catholic...a Round-Up on the Court

''The Catholic community is not going out dancing in the streets of Boston tonight because of this nomination,'' said James Davidson, a Purdue University sociologist who researches religion and Supreme Court justices. ''But it still represents a significant development in American religious history.'' This from an AP article on Judge Alito.

Plus a fun pun from Prof. Barbara Perry: "This would add a whole new meaning to the Catholic rite of confirmation," said Barbara A. Perry, a Supreme Court expert at Sweet Briar College in Virginia." In today's Times.

And, to round it off, some extended discussions of, among other things, Alito, anti-Catholicism, and a supposed revival of the Knights Templar as "an elite group of soldiers" by the Vatican, on the Volokh Conspiracy.