Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad

Written by Nathan Harden

(Thomas Dunne Books, 2012)

Reviewed by Amy MacInnis

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Nathan Harden’s Sex and God at Yale: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad is a captivating exposé of ‘Sex Week’ at the Ivy League college, accompanied by compelling social commentary on Yale’s moral and intellectual decay, which easily extends to all secularized Western culture. Well-written and thought-provoking, this book manages to caution without pessimism and criticize with charity.

Harden devotes much of the book to detailing what he witnessed during ‘Sex Week At Yale’ (SWAY) in 2008 and 2010. Under the eye of administrators and with their permission to host events on campus, SWAY is a biannual student-organized celebration of hedonism disguised as sex education. Sponsored by corporations that peddle pornography and other related paraphernalia (and use the occasion for marketing, Harden doesn’t fail to point out), SWAY has featured lectures from porn stars and producers, and tutorials on sex replete with visuals, demonstrations and giveaways. The theme of these events is that anything pleasurable goes (as long as it’s “safe” and consented to, of course). Harden is generally adept at revealing the depravity of SWAY without going into excessive detail, although I personally found some of the content too much for my sensibilities. In fact, some of what he shares is graphic and disturbing, so I strongly caution impressionable readers. Continue reading

The Humanity of Christ: Contributions to a Psychology of Jesus

By Romano Guardini

(Pantheon Books, 1964)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr 

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This is a very pray-able book. Theology books are not always able to straddle the barrier of intellect and spirit – although most of their authors believe their’s do! It’s Advent. This book can definitely fit into your Advent.

Guardini belongs to the short list of great Catholic theologians of the previous generation, references to whom can still be found in the writings of our Pope Emeritus, for instance. He is not as well known today as some of the other significant theologians of that generation, writers like Rahner, De Lubac and von Balthasar. This is perhaps principally on account of the fact that he died just as the Post-Concilliar Era was beginning. As the Council closed, the age of the ‘celebrity-theologian’ began, which included both stalwarts of Orthodoxy like De Lubac and Congar, but more often the brights stars were on the other side: including the likes of Hans Küng, Charles Curran and Edward Schillebeeckx.

Guardini wrote in what might aptly be described as a simpler and more dignified period, a time when – whether for good or ill – theology was the reserve of few clergy and still fewer laymen. In those times one could not make vast sums of money defying the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, whether in print or in speaking events. Thus, in those days, one had hardly to question the motives of theologians. Of course, the submersion of theology into the university has had its consequences for theology too: the pressure to publish (anything), the pressure to write ecumenically and according to a conception of reason that excludes faith.

Those who have heard of Guardini have likely heard of his Spirit of the Liturgy and The Lord – two works that were immensely influential, again, on our Pope Emeritus, who, for instance, refers to Guardini twice in the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth. Likewise, his Spirit of the Liturgy acknowledges a fundamental debt to Guardini’s work of the same name.  He also wrote in his Memoirs (Ignatius Press, 1997), “In the domain of theology and philosophy, the voices that moved us most directly [while in the seminary] were those of Romano Guardini, Josef Pieper, Theodore Häcker and Peter Wust.”

Yet the field of Christology seems to be a more specialized field than even the liturgy, one in which it is easy to have an opinion, of course, but one in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to possess an educated opinion. Thus, in order to appreciate the historical significance of Guardini’s contribution in his Humanity of Christ, a great deal of background work is first required. Those for whom this constitutes an impossibility, this book, as I’ve suggested, can yet be appreciated in its own right as a spectacular bit of edification. It can be read casually or even taken to prayer. It is accessible partly because it is a ‘modern’ work, if we take this to mean that it is one that attempts to grapple with the mystery of Christ in light of recent advances in the fields of psychology and philosophy. Like Guardini’s The Spirit of the Liturgy, it is a ‘seminal’ work, for, having been written over fifty years ago now, it cannot be taken as having said the last word on the subject but as having supplied contemporary Catholic theologians with some important insights which they cannot afford to ignore. Thus is it true to the subtitle: it makes ‘contributions to a psychology of Jesus.’ I would add the word ‘important’ to that descriptor.

In sum, a spiritually profound book, approachable to many, and a clarion-call to theologians not to translate the real humanity of Christ into an ordinary humanity. No doubt I’ll talk more about this vicious theological tendency in reviews to come.

Herman Melville

By Elizabeth Hardwick

(Viking, 2000)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

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The Penguin Life series includes over twenty middle-length biographies of some very interesting people, ranging from authors to political figures. They are concisely and expertly written and appear in attractive, affordable hardbacks. They are an ideal entry-way for the ‘newly interested.’ They stand halfway between a Wikipedia entry and a full-length biography. At 158 pages, Herman Melville is a quick read which never demands too much and never loses one’s attention.

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