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The Roundup 7.23.23
Pies, Farming, & Summer Retreats
Welcome to the Roundup, a monthly mixtape of all things embodiment.
This month, Steven plays in the dirt, Lara bakes a cherry pie, Jared schools teens in a biblical theology of the body, and more!
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Recovering the Meaning of the Body for the Next Generation
“I’ve never heard anything like this before.”
“I know that, like, my soul is made in the image of God, but I never realized that my body was part of being made in God’s image, too.”
These are just a couple of the countless responses I’ve received as I’ve shared a biblical theology of the body with a group of about 60 young adults. Since Thursday, I’ve been in Georgia at a youth retreat put on by a ministry run by some of my dear college friends. They invited me to come and talk about theology of embodiment.
Settings like these test just how accessible and valuable one’s work really is. To be honest: more often than not, I’m worried that I am just another guy who has a niche interest in some obscure topic that excites hardly anyone but me (with the exception of Lara and Steven, of course).
But this weekend, as I’ve worked hard to break down a biblical theology of embodiment to young adults in accessible terms, I’ve witnessed first hand how much this content resonates with the next generation. Moments like these make me all the more confident in the work we’re doing here at Perishable Goods.
It’s not enough to wage endless twitter “whack-a-mole” wars on all the bad takes about our bodies. The world and the next generation is waiting for us – for the Church – to offer a POSITIVE vision of what our bodies mean and were made for. Now more than ever we must articulate the beautiful frailty of our embodied lives and the God who has let them be. This means articulating not only the created goodness of the body or the hope of resurrection, but also the reality of our present mortal bodies – and the opportunities they provide us to depend on God.
Whatever stage of life we may be in, all of us have experienced the feeling of not being at home in the world and in our bodies. We must help each other boldly face the hard realities of shame and dysphoria and even death, and share the good news that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is the One who meets us in our brokenness and redeems us through it.
Perishable Goods is an effort to do just that.
Until Next Time,
Jared on behalf of the Perishable Goods Team
Recommendations & Reviews
Fleeing the Ephemeral and Pursuing the Eternal: A Review of Love What Lasts | Front Porch Republic
Does it matter whether or not we have good taste? In this piece, Tessa Carman (Steven’s sister!) reviews Love What Lasts, in which author Joshua Gibbs argues in the affirmative. His argument is simple: having good taste matters because loving worthy things matters. Mediocrity is not neutral, but deadening. Gibbs posits that in order to live good lives, we need to love good things: both the common things, like family dinners and folk songs, and the uncommon things, like Christmas feasts and Shakespeare’s sonnets. For the things with which we spend our time shape us, body and soul.
Forgetting the Art of Memory | First Things
In this piece, Esmé Partridge writes about the small, but gradual influence that ChatGPT is having in the workplace. It begins by becoming an option to cut corners on some projects. As long as we don’t use it too much, it won’t be harmful, right? No. Rather, Partridge warns that the “long-term consequences of outsourcing [menial tasks] to the external prostheses of AI—to the point where our own cognitive faculties are made virtually redundant—could prove sinister. Indeed, as ChatGPT and other AI technologies bleed into our workplaces and everyday lives, the more we “risk neglecting a tradition that was once considered essential to culture: namely, the art of memory.”
Partridge is right to assert that while AI is marketed as “liberating us from the menial tasks that distract us from creative and intellectual pursuits,” that there exists a mystical knowledge (in echoing Plato in Francies Yates’ The Art of Memory) that must begin in the “waxen imprints of memory, being realized through organic human processes that lead us to true wisdom.” Indeed, AI undermines our ability to hone the art of memory, and subsidizes our tilt towards forgetfulness.
Critic Alissa Wilkinson argues that Director Greta Girwig (Lady Bird and Little Women) wasn’t making a passing comment when she told Vogue that the story of Barbie is a modern remake of the story of Adam and Eve. But in this creation story, Eden is Barbieland, Barbie is made first, Ken is made second, and the fall is precipitated by the sin of patriarchy, not pride.
I’ve not seen the movie, so sharing this review is by no means an endorsement or praise of the movie. I’ve definitely heard from some trusted friends that it didn’t live up to the hype. (Ultimately, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether to watch.)
Nevertheless, I think watching Barbie as a modern remake of Genesis can help us understand the creation myth behind today’s culture and ask questions why the story occurs in Scripture as it does and why the differences between the two are significant.
Sermons & Podcasts
This past year I read Nancy Pearcey’s acclaimed book Love Thy Body, which gives a thorough account of the philosophy of personhood that underpins American law and culture today. Pearcey recently published a new book: The Toxic War on Masculinity: How Christianity Reconciles the Sexes. In this episode of Relatable, Pearcey discusses the book with cultural commentator Allie Beth Stuckey and explains how the concept of “toxic masculinity” has arisen in large part because modern Western society has forgotten the telos of masculinity. Across the globe, Pearcey asserts, you will find a common definition of what it means to be a good man: to provide, protect, and procreate. Once we lose sight of these responsibilities, however, all that’s left of masculinity is power. As she discusses in this episode, Pearcey hopes to demonstrate both that our common understanding of masculine responsibility is rooted in Judeo-Christian teaching and that it is good not only for every man, but also for every woman and child.
Note: This is a two-part episode. You can find Part Two here.
Ivan Illich, Gender
I recently had the privilege of attending a seminar on technology and politics. We were assigned over 1500 pages of reading and got the chance to study with scholars like John Askonas, Mary Harrington, Nathan Pinkoski, and Andy Crouch.
One of the readings assigned was a fascinating book on technology by Ivan Illich called Gender. In the book, Illich discusses how the Industrial Age obliterated traditional economies and cultures of gender. The book is an exploration of two contrary notions: which Illich identifies “vernacular gender” and “economic sex.” Vernacular gender refers to the (primarily pre-industrial) organic, local cultures of gender in which the asymmetry between men and women is embraced, understood, and instantiated in day to day activities and roles. In contrast, “economic sex” refers to the industrial and post-industrial understanding of male-female relations in which, in place of asymmetrical, complementary activities, responsibilities, and roles, men and women are seen as essentially the same and interchangeable cogs in machines. For Illich, the shift from “vernacular gender” to “economix sex” can in many ways be traced to the industrial era. The industrial era, especially its technology, precipitated a massive change in how men and women relate to each other, eroding any meaningful sense of difference and asymmetry.
Be forewarned, Illich has some heterodox takes. But his work in this book offers fresh insight by focusing on how technology and tools have played a key part in driving massive cultural shifts in our understanding of gender and sex. It’s definitely worth a read!
Events & Updates
If you’ve never been to Minnesota in the summer, I’d encourage you to do so. It is a beautiful time to visit the lake country that encompasses the heartland of the state, where there are also many other local farms that gather together in different towns to sell their produce, baked goods, or crafts. Our call to fame in July is our tomatoes, which are organically-raised at our farm. When one goes to the grocery store to pick up produce, little do we realize how revolutionary it is that we are able to do that. But there’s also a price we’re paying for the convenience. Namely, quality and community.
It’s one thing I enjoy about farming, especially at a small-scale, family farm like ours. There’s that personal connection you have with the person who buys your produce, but there’s also that personal connection you have with what you are selling. You’ve been with it since it was just a seed, and you witness the entire process, from seed, to seedling, to flowering, to fruit, to table, and finally, to people. If only more people knew how much thought, sweat, and labor goes into it all. But the reward at the end of the day is not so much the coin you receive as you hand a few heirloom tomatoes and a bunch of kale to a happy customer. It’s the joy of knowing that what you have on offer and what you have labored many hours over is of such a quality that another person can enjoy it.
Just a reminder to register for the “Toward A Protestant Theology of the Body” Conference. The conference will take place at Church of the Resurrection in Washington, DC, on Saturday, September 9, 2023. The conference is hosted by Greystone Theological Institute, Institute for Religion and Democracy, and Church of the Resurrection. So far, speakers include: Mark Garcia, Ephraim Radner, Matthew Lee Anderson, and Alastair Roberts. We’ve recently confirmed that Dani Treweek, a scholar on singleness in the Christian tradition, will also be presenting. Be sure to register for the conference on the webpage!
If you sign up, please let us know if you’re in town. The Perishable Goods team would love to see or meet you in person!
An excerpt from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
“Levin went between them. In this hottest time the mowing did not seem so hard to him. The sweat that drenched him cooled him off, and the sun, burning on his back, head and arm with its sleeve rolled to the elbow, gave him firmness and perseverance in his work; more and more often those moments of unconsciousness came, when it was possible for him not to think of what he was doing. The scythe cut by itself. These were happy moments. More joyful still were the moments when, coming to the river, where the swaths ended, the old man would wipe his scythe with thick, wet grass, rinse its steel in the cool water, dip his whetstone box and offer it to Levin.
‘Have a sip of my kvass! Good, eh?’ he said with a wink.
And, indeed, Levin had never before drunk such a drink as this warm water with green floating in it and tasting of the rusty tin box. And right after that came a blissfully slow walk with scythe in hand, during which he could wipe off the streaming sweat, fill his lungs with air, look at the whole stretched-out line of mowers and at what was going on around him in the woods and fields.
The longer Levin mowed, the more often he felt those moments of oblivion during which it was no longer his arms that swung the scythe, but the scythe itself that lent motion to his whole body, full of life and conscious of itself, and, as if by magic, without a thought of it, the work got rightly and neatly done on its own. These were the most blissful moments.”