Last Week, Today

Last week: What the White House is doing for its pregnant staffers; how Hillary Clinton and evangelicals feel about each other; Alissa Wilkinson on David Foster Wallace; Eve Tushnet on accepting both sexuality and celibacy as a gay Catholic. 

1. Babies in the White House and Beyond

Half-dozen of President Barack Obama's top aides have had babies in the past year, and news is getting around about Obama's new leave policies - 12-weeks paid leave - and efforts to foster a family-oriented culture. If work-life balance, especially for new moms, can be found in the White House, a notoriously grueling workplace, then it certainly can be feasible for many other contexts.  

Obama's actions are not so much a generous as much as a necessary move. Rebecca Traister of The New Republic lays out a solid case for why the overlap in prime childbearing years with prime professional years is a huge penalty for women who want to have children. (It's an older article, but worth revisiting especially now.) 

2. Hillary Clinton & Evangelicals

Will Hillary Clinton try to court the evangelical vote in 2016? Will evangelicals trust a Democratic candidate? Are there religious reasons for voting for Hillary?

Sarah Posner of Al Jazeera interviews Michael Wear, Jonathan Merritt, and Robert Jones to suss out the faith-politics landscape of the 2016 election. 

3. "Everybody Worships" 

A moving essay by Alissa Wilkinson in Books & Culture on how David Foster Wallace, in essence, leads people back to a kind of faith:

"In dark times," David Foster Wallace told Larry McCaffrey, "the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what's human and magical that still live and glow despite the times' darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it'd find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it."

I guess you can't properly call David Foster Wallace a religious writer, at least not with the definitions of religion we usually employ. Then again, when I first read him, I sensed a presence beyond the words on the page, a writer who was desperate to connect with the reader but also said what needed to be said.

Wilkinson opens up in the essay about how Wallace's words helped her "return to the Word, made flesh." She is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College.

4. Accepting your sexuality as a gay, celibate Catholic

Jonathan Merritt interviews Eve Tushnet, author of Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community and Living my Faith on why it is important for her to self-identify as a lesbian and what the Catholic Church needs to change to better serve and minister to its LGBT congregants. 

Read that interview in pairing with Merritt's interview of Wesley Hill, another celibate, gay Christian leader whose recent book, Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian just came out (and was recently reviewed by none other than Tushnet herself in The American Conservative.) 

5. Mother's absence (in literature)

In The New York Times, Anne Enright provides a brief survey of mothers in literature, and questions their enigmatic treatment:

Fiction, like fairy tale, has always been populated by orphans and foundlings. It is as though, when it comes to a good story, parents can only get in the way. Are we all children when we write, children when we read? Perhaps, for an infant, fiction is what happens when the mother leaves the room.

Things are changing, however, as authors today seek to tell the stories of mothers, so that we might know them better.

Sarah Ngu (@sarahngu) is a freelance writer and an alumni of Trinity Forum Academy and Columbia University. Based in New York, she blogs on faith and culture, and produces thought leadership for businesses.