I am a writer and a scholar, who studies religious and philosophical ideas. I come at this work from an irreverent position. This means that I don’t identify with, or defend, any particular religious viewpoint. But I also recognize that as an American, religious traditions (especially Christianity) are at work in our cultures, our politics, and the way we understand who and what we are in subtle and often subterranean ways. These are relics of a deep past that have been buried in habit and convention. They have become part of a social and cultural underworld, you might say. And this underworld is at work in the biggest stories we tell about ourselves, our bodies, our sexuality, our relationships, our dreams, and the worlds we live in: our biomythologies.
I think there’s a lot of power in recognizing, and understanding, what’s at work in these underworlds. This kind of understanding can give us the power to critique, or disconnect from, their influence. But I also believe that the contents and inhabitants of underworlds are often unjustifiably demonized. While there is certainly much that’s coercive and oppressive in religious traditions such as Christianity, there’s also a wealth of poetry and spiritual empowerment left behind by the countless human imaginations that have produced it. Rather than simplistic arguments that force us to choose sides (either religion or science, for instance), I believe we deserve forms of thinking that are as complex, ambiguous, mysterious, and uncertain as we are.
My writing marks the struggle to see, understand, and critique the impact that religious ideas can have, while also struggling to appreciate their poetry and imagination. My first book Sister Death: Political Theologies for Living and Dying is a reflection on how a dominant strain of Christian political theology has convinced many that life and death are enemies. Against this view, I adapt the figure of Sister Death from Francis of Assisi to suggest that life and death might, instead, be more like family. I am currently working on my second book, on underworlds as afterlives.
About This Newsletter
This is a space where I want to start a conversation, with myself and with you. I want to practice writing differently, and thinking differently, outside the formal spaces of publication that I’ve grown accustomed to writing for. For the time being, I plan to post a short weekly essay on topics related to my current research (and, from time to time, my tarot card deck). I don’t intend to charge for subscriptions at this point, as I am here primarily to build community. But you are always welcome to contribute to my writing and research, if you should ever feel moved to do so!
Maybe you are, like me, a bit disillusioned by or cynical about religion, but still find yourself drawn to certain ideas, figures, or spiritual problems that seem to throw you back up against it again, anyhow.
Or maybe you, like me, are compelled to think about things that emerge out of that unsettling nexus where beauty and horror collide (and sometimes collude). Maybe you resent the way that capitalism serves up beauty in an airbrushed and shrink-wrapped package, and you know there’s much more there below the surface but you’re not sure what.
Or maybe you, like me, are just trying to figure out how to tell new stories about this body and this world that you live in. You want new biomythologies.
Whatever the case may be, I invite you to join me for this unfolding conversation about the unsettling and inspiring things that we find buried in these underworlds. I want this to be a journey, and I want you to travel with me. Please post comments, and send me messages. Let me know what resonates with you, what you want to see more of, and what you’d love to see me writing about.