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Stephen Lewis Defends Himself (But What About Those Witches?)

Posted: 18 Jan 2019 09:47 PM PST

Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Stephen Lewis, recently removed as chair of the English Department at Steubenville for assigning a "pornographic" and "blasphemous" book in an upper-level seminar, has just published a defense of his actions on the First Things site.

Notably, the book in question - The Kingdom by the atheist French author Emmanuel Carrère - had recently been given a fairly positive review by First Things, a fact that Lewis made sure to point out.

Lewis's defense is well-written if somewhat predictable. 

He affirms that he is a faithful Catholic, makes the uncontroversial point that we don't have to agree with everything we read, argues that The Kingdom was a relevant inclusion on the syllabus - the course was about how modern French writers have looked at the bible - and claims that those in the class viewed their experience with the book positively, with one even saying it made her a better Christian: 
The testimonies of the students bear out my assessment. Each has claimed to have grown in faith by reading the work, despite its ugly aspects. None has wished that it had not been assigned. One has even stated that she feels her current work as a missionary has been made more effective because she frequently encounters people who display features of Carrère's mindset.
Implicitly conceding that some passages in the novel were in fact blasphemous, Lewis also hit back at his critics:
Certain websites have taken a handful of obscene passages from the book and presented them to the public in a manner intended to shock and scandalize. While affecting piety, they spread blasphemies against Our Lady far and wide. In the name of modesty, they printed lewd words stripped of context. It is the same kind of tabloid hypocrisy one finds in scandal-sheet editors who print revealing shots of women—then dare to condemn their lack of modesty.  
I encourage those interested in the controversy to read Lewis's entire piece. There's also a lively back and forth in the Comments section.

Interestingly, in another article published today, this time at Crisis, Austin Ruse argues that it's unlikely that Lewis was demoted merely for assigning The Kingdom. Rather, according to Ruse, it may have been a last straw or even merely a sort of pretext covering other lapses in judgment including his championing of instructor Rebecca Bratten Weiss, who Steubenville let go a year ago.

Weiss is currently an "organic farmer" and freelance writer. Among other writing and editing gigs, she manages Patheos Catholic. She also seems to be at the center of a witches' coven.

Yes, you read those last two sentences correctly. And, yes, they are both true. But if you're familiar with Patheos Catholic, it's probably no surprise.

Do I really believe Rebecca Bratten Weiss is at the center of a witches' coven?

Well, let's put it this way: she wants you to believe it, or at least sort of believe it, or wants you to contemplate the many possible meanings of it, ironically or unironically or whatever.

In a recent essay, an essay which has already attained a sort of minor infamy, Weiss tells us that she is "contemplating witchcraft" while musing about making sacrifices of "Nazi testicles" to pagan goddesses and sympathizing with the Serpent in the Garden, all the while throwing around swear words.

If Weiss is a witch, she appears to be a witch who thinks too much, or at least thinks too much about herself. Here is how she begins:
Driving home with a load of hay, listening to Johnny Cash, wondering what I could burn as a sacrifice to Hecate, I start thinking that probably not many women on this road, driving truckloads of hay, and listening to Cash, are also contemplating witchcraft. Does this make me necessarily more interesting?
And here is how she ends:
Hecate deserves better than Nazi testicles, anyway. It's November and most of the fruit has been picked already, but maybe I could find her one apple, one perfect apple, like the kind princesses ask for in story-books. Like the kind you eat when you think "fuck it, that snake had a point, I'd like to have knowledge like a God, for a change." 
Johnny Cash is singing about walking a line, but I think I stepped over mine long ago.
Stephen Lewis had lobbied to make Weiss a full professor in the Steubenville English department. 

Perhaps her presence there would have created better missionaries.

While Weiss may have merely "contemplated" witchcraft, Marie Kopp, a recent Steubenville graduate and friend and colleague of Weiss, literally just came out as a witch in a piece titled, appropriately enough, "We are Witches":
Now we call ourselves witches. Not sorceresses, not enchantresses. Not syrens. But witches. And despite our culture's attempts to sexualize witches, it has failed. Yes, even I dressed as the ¨sexy witch¨ last year. But this year I realized how ridiculous such a concept is. The title Witch maintains the idea of ugliness. Of the warts on our noses. Not of sexiness, not of youth. But of womanhood, in all it's bloody pain and power. As it is. 
As we are.
And, yes, this was posted in Patheos Catholic.

Kopp even took a selfie of herself made-up as a witch to I guess prove the point.


Marie Kopp
I was aware of Weiss, Kopp and their recent writings. But Ruse also mentions a recent blog post (yet again in Patheos Catholic!) by Kopp, Jessica Mesman Griffith and Joanna Penn Cooper. It was called "Women Watch the Witch While Kavenaugh is Confirmed." And, no, I'm not making that up. (The Witch is a recent horror film.)

If while doing so, the trio tried to put a hex on Kavenaugh, they obviously failed. I'm told that beer is a protection.

Ruse humorously mentions a recent conference organized by Stephen Lewis's wife Suzanne that prominently featured all of the above mentioned writers and even included a panel on crones.

But Suzanne Lewis's links with the coven are actually much greater. Lewis co-founded and co-manages the Convivium and Revolution of Tenderness sites, along with Rebecca Bratten Weiss, both of which, among other things, bring together writers, artists and others for a yearly festival and conference in Pittsburgh. Marie Kopp is also closely involved.

As we've previously noted, the Revolution of Tenderness site, which Lewis and Weiss had for many years gone out of their way to advertise and promote, has just been made "private". But here are three cached shots making up the entirety of the "Highlights" from 2017:





If you can't read the print in the above screenshot, the text is clearer in the link.

All the witches are here - Rebecca Bratten Weiss, Marie Kopp, Jessica Mesman Griffith, Joanna Penn Cooper.

John Farrell who penned the summary - "Delightful" - is a science writer for Forbes, of all things.

Maybe he's a warlock.

The man in the center of the first photograph and on the left in the second photograph is Stephen Lewis.

Of course I like Charles Williams and Flannery O'Conner.

So, apparently, do the witches.

A few days ago I met Kopp on Twitter. We had a brief exchange: 



To which Farrell added:


Delightful.

But let's stop here.

Look, isn't this all just "guilt by association", and silly guilt by association at that?

Witches aren't real, even if they think they are. And warlocks are sexist. Or even if witches and warlocks are real, shouldn't Stephen Lewis and Suzanne Lewis be allowed to, so to speak, hobnob with them in a spirit of charity or dialogue or whatever? Right?

And neither Stephen nor Suzanne Lewis is responsible for the increasingly bizarre actions or words of Rebecca Bratten Weiss. Right? Right?
Fuck it, that snake had a point, I'd like to have knowledge like a God, for a change.
I mean it's not like he lobbied to give her tenure or anything.