Friday, July 30, 2010

Time's Cover

Lot's of discussion out there about Time magazine's cover this issue. As I look at it my heart just breaks and I struggle all over again with how to stand with the woman in the picture, the victim of Taliban violence.

I go back and forth with my inner Niebuhr and Yoder on this. Should I be "realistic" and understand that the only way to protect this women is to keep the US military involved in the war in Afghanistan? Or do I "go with the grain of the universe" and stand with the pacifists?

I find the responsibility of being a Christian in the world to be confusing, frustrating, and heart-breaking.

DIY Cut out shoulder denim shirt by Fashion Zen

Posted a while ago here about how much I loved the DIY potential of Hanelli's cut out shoulder denim shirt. Iris from Fashion Zen has done just that and as usual looks gorgeous!
Image: Fashion Zen

DIY Mickey Mouse Ear Headband

Still love them.... Use whatever you can to make them - black pipe cleaners and a black headband are a good start.
Image: Tobacco and leather / Me wearing hat by Ascot Hats

DIY I'd love to do.... Sheer Maxi Skirt

Love the sheer layers. Need some sheer black fabric to DIY this myself.
Image: Mr Newton

DIY Harem Belt

This gorgeous outfit has been put together by wearing a long sleeved jumpsuit as pants, and then wrapping the top of the jumpsuit like a belt. So cool!
Image: Anywho

DIY Ribbon Suspenders

Wrap some ribbon around your waist like a belt and either tie in a bow at the back or stitch in place. Then measure and cut two pieces of ribbon to sit like suspenders. Sew onto the belt at the front and the back.
Image: Tobacco and Leather

DIY Patchwork Denim Cut offs

Remove the pockets from a thrifted pair of denim cut offs, trace them onto some floral/leopard/striped fabric, cut out the fabric and then stitch/glue onto the shorts.
Image: Tobacco and Leather

DIY Floral Midriff Top

Scissors + thrifted floral top = perfect summer wear!
Image: Tobacco and

DIY Elastic Bralette

Love the elastic bralette/corset worn over a nude dress, and the double thick straps. I think I might have linked it before but Monoxious provides a great tutorial (here) for how to make an elastic harness. All you need is some black elastic, some pins, needle and thread - and a willing friend/dress form to pin it on.
Images: Tobacco and Leather

DIY Skirt Layering

'nuf said...
Image: Mr Newton

DIY Bird Hair Piece

Such a cute and novel idea for a party or festival! Love it. These cute little birds can be bought at craft stores or pound stores, wack in your hair and go! The second photo down is the super stylish sister of one of my best friends, she's a budding clothes designer for a brand called Ziesemer, and she makes the most beautiful things (including the dress she's wearing in the photo)! Her blog is here. If that wasn't enough - their mum makes the most AMAZING hats for Ascot Hats.What a creative family!
Image: Studded Hearts

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Psychology of Christianity: Part 10, "Was Crucified."

We continue to work through, psychologically and theologically, the Christological sections of the Apostles' Creed. We've considered two of the four doctrines I set out to review: The Imitation of Christ (Jesus as "Lord" and "Judge") and the Incarnation ("born of the Virgin Mary"). In this post we take up the doctrine of the atonement: "Was crucified."

There is little doubt that the early Christians viewed the death of Jesus in sacrificial terms, mainly through the Hebrew Day of Atonement. According to Leviticus 16 the High Priest would slaughter a goat as a "sin offering" and then sprinkle the blood on the Mercy Seat, the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. The word for "Mercy Seat" comes from the Hebrew kapporeth which means "cover." The notion of "cover" is twofold, being both a literal cover and also the place where the sins of Israel were "covered" over.

The Hebrew kapporeth comes down to us as hilasterion in the New Testament Greek. Hilasterion is the word that is translated as "atonement." Hilasterion has many shades of meaning. Two of the most common meanings are propitiation and expiation. Propitiation refers to making something propitious: something that was an object of wrath or judgment is now considered in a favorable light. Often this is accomplished via appeasement. Expiation refers to making amends or the compensation for a wrong done.

All in all then, hilasterion has two shades of meaning: Appeasement to make something favorable (propitiation) and making amends for a wrong done (expiation). No single word in English captures both of these meanings. "Reconciliation" comes close, but William Tyndale coined the word "atonement" to create a theological term in English that could capture the shades of meaning inherent in hilasterion and kapporeth. Some scholars have contended that "atonement" may be the only significant theological term that is of English origin.

As many of you know, there is great debate about the doctrine of atonement. Again, it seems clear in the New Testament that the early church did view Jesus' death sacrificially. The modern debate swirls around the theology one believes is sitting behind the New Testament metaphor of sacrifice. How, exactly, does Jesus' death function as "atonement"? For example, one need not posit a wrathful God requiring blood sacrifice to be "appeased." In fact, for the first thousand years of the church the sacrifice of Jesus was seen as appeasing the forces of evil rather than God. Further, in the New Testament era the word hilasterion also had liberative connotations. Consider the close parallels between Maccabees 4 17.20-22 and Romans 3.24-26
Romans 3.23-26
...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement [hilasterion], through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Maccabees 4 17.20-22

These, then, who have been consecrated for the sake of God, are honored not only with this honor, but also by the fact that because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation, the tyrant was punished and the homeland purified--they having become, as it were, a ransom for the sin of our nation. And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an atoning sacrifice [hilasterion], divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated.
The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebels who were successful in freeing parts of occupied Israel. Many were martyrs. In short, the Maccabees were liberating freedom fighters, many dying as heroic martyrs. These martyrs were a "sacrifice" that purified Israel, but there is no wrathful God demanding these sacrifices to be "appeased." Jesus' death can be seen in a similar light, a martyr's death that purifies humanity via a liberation from the forces of evil. No vengeful God is needed.

Regardless, many people do, evangelicals in particular, believe in what is called penal substitutionary atonement. This is the view that humans, due to their sinfulness, stand under a "death sentence" before a holy God of justice. Jesus takes on this penalty, dying in our place. This "substitution" (Jesus' life traded for my own) makes atonement, bringing peace between God and the person.

In the chapter I wrote I noted the curious psychology involved with penal substitutionary atonement. Specifically, its a potent mix of guilt and gratitude. Which, I think, is why penal substitutionary atonement has such broad appeal. You swing from deep guilt ("I am personally responsible for the death of Jesus.") to deep gratitude ("But Jesus died for me."). It's this whiplash swing of emotions that sets up some of the sadomasochistic indulgences surrounding the cross of Jesus. That is, the more pain Jesus suffers due to my sinfulness the greater the subsequent catharsis of gratitude. The more pain Jesus suffers is all the more pain I've been spared. And if Jesus suffered enormously my relief at avoiding this fate is so much the greater. This is the psychological engine behind a movie like The Passion of the Christ, the emotional escalation of guilt and gratitude which grows more and more intense the more that Jesus suffers.

It's kind of like a theological narcotic. The greater the dose the more intense your high which makes you want more and more.

Shucks!

Have been mentioned on Outsapop Trashion's website. So chuffed, given that I've checked her blog every day for going on two years now!

DIY Studded Wedges

Stud your wedges like this with gold thumb tacks...
Image: ...love Maegan

DIY Folded Waistband

The folded down waistband has obviously crossed over from 'only after a massive meal' into the mainsteam. Perhaps you could get out all those shorts you can no longer button up?
Image: tfs

DIY Suspender Skirt

Have been doing some webslacking on Asos (where else?) and found this super cute suspender skirt. How easy would it be to take a bodycon skirt, and add some suspenders like this? I saw something similar on Am-lul's blog a while ago but it only just clicked how easy it would be!
Images: Asos / Am - Lul

DIY Shearling / Sheepskin Jacket

The sheepskin bomber jackets are going to be hitting the designer stores and highstreets in force this coming A/W (and you were thinking its summer???). Inspired by these, I am going to add a wide sheepskin collar over the top of my black leather bomber jacket and take it from there! The sheepskin collar I will make by buying some sheepskin fabric, cutting a rectangle and then angling the edges so it looks like a collar when thrown around my neck. I know it sounds cliche but honestly, why buy when you can DIY?
Images: Net-a-porter

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Having a wardrobe cleanout...

Visit my ebay store here!

DIY Cape Jacket

Arrrgh such a cool idea! A zip off cape, does it get any better than this? There are sooo many ways you could copy this, you could make your own waterproof one using using some cut out shower curtain (the cute ones they have at the pound store with pictures of rubber duckies on them would be good for festival wear!) or you could attached some jersey/wool fabric in this way to a grey marl sweater or cardigan. So many ideas! I can imagine how cosy it would be in winter if you made this using a load of thick soft wool fabric. I would even think about using buttons instead of a zip.
Image: Jak and Jil

DIY Detachable Collar

Really like the look of a detachable collar, whether it fastens to the top you are wearing or just sits over the top like a necklace. Since the Miu Miu collar came out, there have been quite a few DIYs around showing you how to make a similar one, see my post here.It it is indeed such an easy DIY, just cut the collar off an olds mens shirt, making sure to keep the button on so it can be attached to your neck. You can even layer a few collars on top of each other, like a white one and a blue one, and wear it over a singlet or tee. A denim collar off a jacket or shirt would look great with a plain white tee and leather skirt.
Image: Park and Cube / Tfs

DIY Denim and Mesh Jacket

Outsapop Trashion highlighted this potential DIY ages ago, and its only just clicked with me! Add some mesh to a thrifted denim jacket - you can be super lazy and just use glue! Or mix it up and add some floral fabric.
Image: Weekday

DIY Denim Bolero

Grab yourself a thrifted denim jacket and hack it into a bolero.
Image: Rush magazine via SRC783

DIY Inside out and back to front

Just sayin...
Image: Studded Hearts

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Farewell party!

Mixed feelings. Great night. Amazing Kiwiana costumes! I won't post compromising photos, but there was a jar of Marmite, Levi from the Mitre 10 ads, a sexy sheep, a Buzzy Bee, a kiwi bird, Miss New Zealand, fish and chips and a Pineapple Lump, among other things.



LOML was David Bain, a now-acquitted murder suspect who has become a Kiwi pop culture icon, and I was a pavlova (a Kiwi meringue dessert. Although there is some debate between Kiwis and Aussies over who can actually lay claim to it!). I borrowed the vintage hat from Vanessa at Tete a Tete Vintage - it really does look like a meringue.



My sister came as a stereotypical Kiwi bloke, complete with gumboots and beer. She looked frighteningly like her dad with the painted moustache, actually.



Cake! ('Oh, stink' is a Kiwi expression meaning 'oh no.' Or something like that.)

Now I am sitting in my pyjamas with Nurofen, coffee and water, because that is what you do the morning after a party.

Weep

I've been thinking since my last post about the virtue contrasts between the early Christians and the Greeks, the Stoics in particular. I'd mentioned that the Greeks privileged self-control while the Christians gave love pride of place.

I'm not sure where I read this, but that discussion reminded me of the contrast some have made between the deaths of Socrates and Jesus. Socrates died the ideal Greek death. Self-composed, stoical, and philosophical. While his students grieved and wept, Socrates calmly drank the hemlock that would kill him.

Jesus, by contrast, sweats blood in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus resists death and is in agony as he faces it. A far cry from Socrates.

In short, the Christian ideal isn't to be stoical. The goal isn't emotional resignation, apathy, or detachment. The Christian ideal is to weep. We see this not only in the garden of Gethsemane, but also in the gospel of John when Jesus confronted the death of his friend. There it says succinctly, "Jesus wept." And, following the Man of Sorrows, Christians are commanded to "weep with those who weep."

To be a Christian is to weep. A lot.

Why?

Because, it seems to me, weeping is the only way to see the suffering and pain in the world as objectively bad. The goal isn't to stoically accept the pain, suffering, and death. We aren't supposed to be reconciled to the suffering. We are supposed to emotionally resist. We are supposed to weep. To lament. To cry out. Life isn't okay and I'm not supposed to act like it is. To weep is to object, to protest.

And to be clear, I admire the Stoics. Socrates remains a hero of mine. But in the end, my sensibilities are Christian. I weep.

Like my Lord, I weep.

Leopard Print Clutch

Definitely going to glue some leopard print fabric onto an oversized leather clutch (thrifted ofcourse!)
Image: Jak and Jil

DIY Bow Headpiece

This rough oversized bow would be sooo easy to do yourself and would be a fantastic addition to your festival wardrobe. Take some creme sheer chiffon fabric and fold it into a rectangle (the more layers of folded fabric the thicker the bow will be) and then create the bow by tying the middle with a strip of ribbon or pink chiffon. SEcure to your head with bobby pins or a glued on comb.
Image: Studded Hearts

Monday, July 26, 2010

The crazy continues

Tonight is our farewell party. How odd does that sound? Farewell. Fare thee well. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. Of course, it isn't actually goodbye quite yet because we don't know exactly when we are leaving, but it is the last time we will see several of our friends for a while. It feels weird. We went with a Kiwiana theme for the party, and guests are arriving in costume - as a sort of last Kiwi hurrah before we move to another culture.

I'm sorry to have fallen so behind on replying to comments and other bloggy things - I am going to try to catch up today. Thank you for being so understanding while I'm in this transition - I really appreciate it!

DIY Nail Studded Heels

Vintage shoes providing great DIY inspiration - grab a pair of loose black pumps, bang nails through the shoe from the inside out, then glue some leather or use some electrical tape over the top of the nail heads so they don't rub on your feet.
Image: Thrift and Thread

DIY Pyrite Ring

 I am addicted to large stone rings but they are always pretty pretty pricey. Found this simple and cool DIY on Thrift and Thread. Attach your own gorgeous pyrite stone (you can get some good ones on ebay for cheap) to a flat topped ring (can be found online or in any craft store) using super glue and away you go.
Image: Thrift and Thread

DIY Turban Action

Just wrap it like a towel and tuck it under at the back... easy! (Best worn with a cute outfit at a festival or similarly fun event... may look strange if you're just heading down to tescos)
Image: My Newton

DIY Mens Shirt as Dress

A girl after my own heart! Rocking a men's shirt as a dress, by cutting off the sleeves and crossing over the fabric at the front using a belt to cinch in the waist. Perfect!
Image: Mr Newton

DIY Denim Shorts with added floral fabric

Love the floral fabric on these shorts - add some over the waistband and hems of your denim cut offs for instant summer style update.
Image: TFS

DIY Pearl Straps

Using a string of pearls as straps for a halter dress like this is lovely!
Image: Studded hearts

DIY Carolines Mode Cut Shoulders

Love this Acne shirt on Stockholm Streetstyle's Caroline, the cut shoulders are such a lovely detail and a very very simple DIY.
Image: Carolines Mode

DIY Headscarf

So chic! The only way to DIY your headscarf...
Image: Mr Newton

DIY Fringed Yellow Shorts

Delicious fringed detail, and soooo easy to add to a thrifted pair of coloured shorts! Attaching the fringing so that it hangs just down over the hem of the shorts is the best bet (but must say still dont like tails attached to handbags...)
Images: Mr Newton

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Psychology of Christianity: Part 9, The Imitatio Christi, Virtue and Positive Psychology

One of the implications of Jesus being confessed as "Lord" in the Apostles' Creed is the Imitatio Christi, the "Imitation of Christ." That is, Christians seek to model, follow and "imitate" the life of Jesus.

But what does this look like? To answer this question many of the New Testament writers deployed virtue lists to articulate the essence of a "Christ follower." The two most influential lists are the theological virtues of faith, hope and love and the "fruits of the spirit": love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Virtue lists such as these were common among the ancients. The Greeks, following Aristotle's seminal treatment, focused heavily on virtue. For the Greeks, virtue was pursued to create or maximize eudaimonia. Coming from the two roots eu for "good" or "well-being" and daim┼Źn for "spirit," eudaimonia is often translated "happiness, "joy," or "flourishing" (eu-daimonia = a "happy spirit").

In contrast to the Greek tradition, the telos of Christian virtue wasn't eudaimonia but the Imitatio Christi. The goal was to be conformed into the image of Jesus. No doubt, Christians believe that eudaimonia would be a by-product of the Imitatio Christi, but eudaimonia wasn't pursued as an end in itself.

Other differences can be seen when we compare the Greek and Christian virtue lists. The Greeks tended to privilege self-control as the supreme virtue (particularly the Stoics). The Christian writers recognized the value of self-control, but tended to place it at the end of their virtue lists (as seen in the fruits of the spirit). Christians, in contrast to the Greeks, tended to privilege love over self-control, often placing it first in their virtue lists. A final contrast is that some Christian virtues, such as humility, are wholly absent from the Greek virtue tradition.

Psychology has recently rediscovered these ancient virtue traditions. This happened with the rise of the Positive Psychology movement. The reason it is called "Positive" Psychology is that, for most of its history, psychology has tended to focus on psychopathology and its treatment. This was a focus on the "negative": psychological distress and dysfunction. The historical goal of psychology was to take someone in psychological distress and get him back to some form of normal functioning.

Positive Psychology began to focus less on getting people out of psychological holes than taking them to the mountaintops of well-being and happiness. What could we do to add happiness and zest to a ho-hum life? This is the interest of Positive Psychology. It's less about mental illness than helping "normal" people become happier and happier. If you regularly browse the psychology section of your local bookstore you'll have seen a flood of books in recent years about happiness and how to attain it. Many of these books are popular accounts of the Positive Psychology research.

In this quest for happiness Positive Psychology quickly realized that the ancients had already thought a great deal about finding the "good life." And, as we've noted, virtue was considered to be foundational to finding eudaimonia. Consequently, Positive Psychology has also become deeply interested in virtue and virtue acquisition.

The most influential analysis of virtue in the Positive Psychology literature is Martin Seligman (of learned helplessness fame) and Christopher Peterson's Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. Reviewing cross-cultural data and the wisdom traditions (ancient and modern) Seligman and Peterson created a list of six Core Virtues, with associated "Character Strengths" for each:
Wisdom and Knowledge
Creativity, Curiosity, Open-mindedness, Love of Learning, Perspective/Wisdom

Courage
Bravery/Valor, Persistence/Perseverance, Integrity/Honesty, Vitality/Enthusiasm

Humanity
Love, Kindness, Social intelligence

Justice
Citizenship/Loyalty, Fairness, Leadership

Temperance
Forgiveness/Mercy, Humility/Modesty, Prudence, Self-regulation/Self-control

Transcendence
Appreciation of Beauty/Excellence, Gratitude, Hope/Optimism, Humor, Spirituality/Faith
You can go to Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness website and take (after registering with the site) the VIA Character Strengths survey to see which of the Core Virtues best describe you.

Much of the research involved in using the work of Seligman and Peterson has been focused on identifying which of the core virtues (or character strengths) are most predictive of eudaimonia. What virtues describe the happiest top 1% of the world population? Interestingly, there is an answer to that question.*

Given this recent interest in virtue within psychology, a lot of Christian psychologists have been excited about research opportunities that fuse empirical psychology with the Christian virtue tradition. But in my article, while recognizing the clear overlap between Christianity and Positive Psychology, I noted some differences in the way Positive Psychology and Christianity were approaching the virtues.

Specifically, the Positive Psychology approach to virtue has been heavily influenced by the theory and assessment of individual difference (i.e., personality). For example, if you take Seligman and Peterson's virtue test what you notice is that virtue is being treated as a personality trait. That is, the goal is to find out what virtue you are "good at" or one that comes "naturally" to you. You are trying to identify your "character strengths." And, once you identify your "strengths," you are to think of ways in which you can used these traits in daily living, seeking to find eudaimonia through the exercise of these virtues.

This approach is foreign to the Christian virtue tradition. Although Christians recognize different spiritual gifts, these are largely skill sets and interests. When it comes to virtue Christians aren't asked to pick and choose which ones they are "best at." Informed by the Imitatio Christi, Christians are asked to practice all the virtues. More, love is the privileged virtue, no matter if you are good at it or not.

This is, in my opinion, one of the weaknesses of Positive Psychology. Lacking a theological foundation the virtues reduce to personality traits. Consequently, once these traits are identified I'm asked to "live through" these traits, seeking to orient my identity around them. The trouble with this process is that it has no moral telos, no goal beyond self-understanding and self-analysis. And to be clear, this is a fine goal. Self-assessment is important from time to time. But where is the engine of self-transformation? Where am I asked to acquire virtues that are hard for me? That demand self-sacrifice? And what helps me select which virtue I should strive after? How do I prioritize among the virtues? In short, the atheological nature of Positive Psychology makes it an extraordinarily thin, self-indulgent, and morally random enterprise.

A few years back, I was at the APA conference where Seligman and Peterson previewed the soon to be published Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. I was (an remain) impressed by their work. During the Q&A I asked Seligman about the metaphysics behind the Core Virtues they had identified. Where did these virtues come from? Why do these virtues lead to eudaimonia rather than a list of Social Darwinian, Machiavellian or Nietzschian traits? Seligman's answer was that he didn't know. The virtues, apparently, just dropped out of thin air, ex nihilo.

*Answer: Gratitude, Hope, Enthusiasm, Love, Curiosity
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