Not too long ago, SC&A were fortunate enough to have found The Anchoress, a blogger we like, a lot. She is articulate, smart, thoughtful and almost edgy- just enough so as to keep you from remaining too comfortable. Like other bloggers we like (on both sides of the political spectrum), The Anchoress is obviously well read and erudite, without being stuffy or predicatable.
In a blogosphere that is no more than a monument to spectacular mediocrity and inertia, The Anchoress will make you think- and perhaps, even more importantly, she will keep you thinking long after you leave her site.
You write from a religious/moral standpoint. You are also at times, irreverent and biting. Is there a balance? Is there a connection?
Biting, I like that, but I do worry, sometimes, that I bite too quickly or too hard.
Just as there are fine lines between love and hate, laughter or tears, I think there is a fine line between reverence and irreverence, and they seem to continually overlap, or meld into each other. I am half Scots-Irish and half Italian, and I do believe that might have something to do with it, at least for me. When I was little and sharing a room with my grandmother, I would watch her say her prayers at night. She was a convert from Lutheranism, and every night she'd kneel by her bed, say her prayers, bless herself with holy water and give me a kiss. Then she'd reach under her pillow for the racing forms for the next days runs at Belmont. I learned at an early age that the sacred and the secular intersected on a daily basis. Sometimes on an hourly basis. We're not angels but humans, and we serve both our higher and baser natures with some regularity.
I don't know that I would say I write from a "moral" standpoint. If I do, I don't intend to. I have been writing all my life, and it has only been in the last few years I realized what was clear to so many others - that I am a completely "Catholic" writer. 85% of what I write will, sooner or later, turn to God or scripture or something - and I never plan that. It's completely destroyed one novel I was in the middle of - suddenly things started going all Catholic, and I said, "No! NO, dammit, STOP THAT! That's NOT what I want! Can't I just enjoy the freakin' story?"
Sadly, I could not, and the thing is in the bottom drawer of my desk. And it had been such a FUN story up 'til then. Sigh. Now, I'll probably never finish it because I'm so pissed that it misbehaved and went Catholic.
Terri Schiavo is at the fore right now. Can her case be made equally well from a moral as well as a religious standpoint? We see images depicting her supporters as being religious zealots- is it fair to say that the religious right is at the fore of that fight? Is it right that they have assumed that position?
Good questions. I have to admit that, while I knew of Terri for years, I had simply considered the issue a family squabble. It was only when the issue heated up over the last few months, when I began reading different and troubling accounts and imagined her, imprisoned in her body, but still able to process information on some level, starving...that I found myself writing and writing about her. The blog has almost become All-Terri-All-the-Time, which again - I did not plan to happen. I think it's pretty obvious that her case may be made from a moral as well as a religious standpoint, and I'll cite as an example Rachel Lucas at Blue Eyed Infidel - a proud atheist who is nevertheless furious about what is happening to Terri. She makes it clear that if there was proof that Terri wished to die, and if some other, more humane way could be found to accomplish that, she would support it, but she finds this current situation unspeakable. Same with Megan over at lesbiencestmoi. She is not classically a "pro-lifer" and yet she, too, feels the sense of injustice and outrage.
I think for many people - both religious and secular - the great sense that Terri has been short-changed is what is driving them. I think it's true for myself. If she'd had therapy for the last few years, if she'd had an MRI that confirmed PVS, if she'd been treated like a human being - allowed to receive the sacraments, have a tv in her room or at least a radio, if she'd been re-evaluated every few years...it would be much easier to put down the fight. What is missing here, is a sense of justice and fair play.
When my brother was dying a few months ago, we would have done anything - anything - to keep him with us because even having him in terrible condition, incapacitated, was still better than NOT having him. Until his final few days, we'd managed, still to talk, to convey our love for each other, and every day of that was incredibly precious. It seems to me that Terri - from what I have read and seen on the tapes - has the capacity to understand that someone LOVES her...and has a minimal capacity to express that love in return. As long as that exists, why steal from her family the opportunity to express that love. Why steal from Terri the chance to have her dignity and worth affirmed? When my brother couldn't live anymore, he died. And we were crushed and remain crushed. But I wouldn't trade the time in hospice for anything, and if you told me we'd have had that for the next 30 years, we'd have taken it. I believe my brother would have, too. The love, the humor, the terrible sadness...it was all LIFE. It was a celebration of the life he, at that point, still had.
As to the rest of your question, it's clear that the press is portraying this as another "pro-life-Christian-fanatic" situation, but I think that's unfair. As I said, many secularists and pro-choicers are disturbed by this issue - Lanny Davis said last night that he thought Michael Schiavo should let his wife life, and let her parents care for her. The press simply has a story it wants to frame a certain way. That said, the so-called "religious right" IS at the forefront of the fight. Terri's parents are devout Catholics, so it's not surprising that they would have some helpful priests around them, and the evangelicals have been very vocal in support of Terri. Should they be at the forefront? I don't know. I confess to being a little concerned that so many of the talking heads I am seeing lately are publicity hogs like Randall Terry and Pat Robertson. They may be sincere as all get out, but they're also ambitious political animals that I would rather not see all over the place. Clearly, the ideal situation would have been for these two families to settle this matter privately...since that hasn't happened, both sides will now demonize each other, which is all very sad and tiring. For me, speaking for myself alone...all I see in Terri is her humanity, and I will always say 'err on the side of life."
We hear much about the divide between religious and moral America. Are they mutually exclusive?
Religious and moral America? People of faith on one side and people of reason on the other? Is that what you're saying? Because I don't think "moral" America is just one side. Clearly folks on both sides of the political spectrum have their "morals" and are continually trying to ram them down the other side's throat. I think the 'divide' is given more import that it deserves. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive, and I would point to John Paul II (who wrote an encyclical called "Faith and Reason" that I have never been able to get through because it is very dense, but in a good way, and so am I, but in a thick-headed way.) as a living example. He is a man of great faith, but also of great reason. There are plenty of people on the right who are not religious but who display excellent morals and reasoning skills...Jonah Goldberg comes to mind, although I am in no way putting him in the same class as the pope!
Clearly, there have been liberal patriots and moral beacons in the past. Certainly, many liberal ideas have served our country well. Are there any liberals today that you respect, if do not agree with?
I'm not a life-long conservative. Like Ronald Reagan, I feel the Democrat party left me, rather than my leaving them. When Reagan was president, btw, I hated him, because I read headlines and heard sound bites and thought I was informed. My appreciation of him came very late. I still am uncomfortable calling myself a conservative because much of what is "conservative" today was classic liberalism when I was a kid, and Hubert Humphrey was my hero. I like Harold Ford a lot, and I respect Howard Fineman, even when I disagree with him, I think he's eminently fair. I would like Barak Obama more if I didn't feel he was just a littttle too slick. I loved Daniel Patrick Moynahan, even though by the time he died I was veering to the right. Joe Lieberman I have always liked, although he DID piss me off about the military ballots in 2000. There are liberals I admire and respect...it's just a pitifully short list. I used to like my county executive - a democrat I voted for twice, until he spoke at a commencement and made stupid and bigoted jokes about "people down south." I like Tim Russert.
Can moral values can be taught without the framework of religion?
Sure. It's nice if they can compliment each other, but often religion and morality end up a strange, oppressive and anxiety-producing mixture. But that goes both for the formal, recognised religions of the world AND the informal, unacknowledged religion of "political correctness" and for secular humanism as well. When you mix a stern and narrow morality with either theology or ideology, you can create precisely the same unhealthy, combustible force. Witness the stupid crap going on at Harvard, where Jada Pinkett Smith was castigated as "insensitive and alarmingly heteronormitive" for daring to speak only from her perspective as a married hetero woman, without including every special interest group attending her speech. Many of our college campuses are places where dissent is dangerous.
In the end zealotry of any sort is dangerous and destructive. I never trust a zealot. (I know, some would call me one, but really...if you read my blog thoroughly, I'm not such a one-note...as I said, Terri's situation wasn't supposed to take over my blog as it has!) I know plenty of non-religious people whose well-developed sense of justice and right and wrong is inspiring and instructive.
Should the teaching of science be outside the sphere of religious influence?
Why? Gregor Mendl was a monk. Why must they be mutually exclusive? Some scientists are now saying that they have become believers THRU science - that our growing ability to look deeply inside every portion of our being has revealed pumps and pulleys and engines suggesting some sort of intelligent design. Are we talking Darwinism and his theory of evolution? It's never been more than a theory, and yet it is taught as fact. No one has yet found the ape who could play the cello or compose opera. If his theory is correct, why has evolution apparently STOPPED not just for man, but for all the other species as well. I think religion has interesting questions, both intellectual and ethical, to bring to bear upon science, and science has much to offer religion in terms of exposing how we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." On Saturday night, at the Easter vigil, we'll hear the story of Creation again, and once again, I will think of how the big bang theory has its place in it...I think the two - science and religion are (like secularism and the sacred) things that intersect and sometimes overlap, and that they can and should work together, and not be caught up in the endless breaking off, splintering and polarization between everything and everything and everyone and everyone which is going on, all over the world. When religion and science stop talking...well then...here be monsters.
Where does faith end and opinion begin? Can one be equally Christian (or Jewish or Hindu or Muslim) and have disparate political opinions?
Of course. Peter and Paul often disagreed. Sometimes the disparate political opinions can exist in the same person as they are evolving. For example the pro-life question wasn't completely ultimately and in all-ways settled for me until my brother's illness and death. He taught me so very much from his bed. So, my husband was "very" pro-life, and I was "still thinking about every case" but we were one in our faith. But the first part of your question is the most difficult to answer. Where does faith end and opinion begin? I don't know if that is answerable. My faith informs my opinion, just as my reason does. My pro-life opinion has been formed by both, given what it has taught and what I have learned on my own even - as I said - as recently as a few months ago I was still reasoning and learning. That is a VERY big question. I don't know if I can answer it, except to say I don't know everything, I KNOW how woefully inadequate my understanding is, and that I bring a lot of issues to prayer and leave them at the foot of my God.
If your readers were to walk away from your blog with one idea or thought, what would you want that to be?
She's a decent person with some worthwhile insights, not a total waste of time to read. I sure hope so! As I said, this Schiavo case is all-consuming in ways that I simply never anticipated and which are - quite frankly - a little out of character for me. I DO have other interests, as anyone who goes into my archives will see. I love baseball. I love working in a flower garden. I love the free exchange of political ideas, I love my kids when they are goofy and weird, and I love to make fun of pop culture and whack-job women who embarrass me and I love to write about all of those things. I like writing about things like this: http://theanchoress.blogspot.com/2004/12/anchoress-crashes -and-burns-film-at.html and this: http://theanchoress.blogspot.com/2004/12/my-vagina-and-me-politically-incorrect.html and this: http://theanchoress.blogspot.com/2004/11/bookworms-dilemma.html and I want to get back to it. Just not possible to be flippant and silly right now. But I want to be, again.
You have written on fashion and cooking. Those posts really were engaging, funny and entertaining. Will we see more of that side of you?