On The Insanity Of Talking About Sex In Public

I met Sinéad O’Connor once. She came into the nerdy shop I worked in one drab Saturday morning. She was absolutely stunning. She looked around at the capacitors and resistors and usb hubs and was confused. “Toys?” she asked. “Next door,” I answered and nodded to the toy superstore attached to our humble cave for geeks with soldering irons.

She was a permanent fixture of my childhood. I loved her voice. When I got on the internet, in 1994, one of the first things I can remember doing was printing out photos of Aimee Mann and Sinéad O’Connor. The ink back then probably cost the same as a deposit on a house. The quality resembled the marbling art we did in primary school but they hung with pride among my posters of Marco Van Basten and R.E.M.

My older brother took me to see her live. The voice was breathtaking. I remember “This Is The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance” being a jaw-dropping exercise in making noise that made you feel things.

I had seen Aimee Mann live the year before in a library in RDS by the way; my first gig. I remember feeling the physical thump of the bass guitar at the start- such a surprise. I went to bed that night feeling for the first time that strange hum that I have since heard is the dying of cells in the eardrum. After Sinéad though, I developed a life-long love for gold Les Pauls.

All this is to say: I have a soft spot for Sinéad. I have followed her since before the Pope-photo-ripping, through the ordination into a schismatic Catholic priesthood, through the avowal of lesbianism, the denial of the Irish famine and the espousal of Rastafarianism.

Recently she wrote something very amusing on her website. (Her website is here but the posts can’t be linked to directly) It spoke about how she suffered from “the desperate horn“. Wonderfully upfront Dublin-isms abound in the various missives she has published over the last few weeks about how hard it has been to find a man. She has written about her hesitancy to use internet dating because well, she would be publicly mocked. Better to control the mocking, one supposes, by speaking directly via your own site.

Wife-Unit and I thought her initial post, about how her desperation led her to imagine yams for purposes not likely to be featured in a Jamie Oliver book anytime soon was very amusing. It seems we didn’t get the joke because Ireland has been quick to lay into Sinéad and generally conclude that she is mental. Ireland sometimes makes the mistake of thinking its more fun to laugh at than to laugh with.

I would have thought that in the long list of curious things Sinéad has done in public, this doesn’t even feature on the list. Is it not 2011? Are we not post-Tiger Ireland? Doesn’t everybody know that true liberation comes only in the sexual sphere?

It seems that the sexual mores of Ireland are as hypocritical as they were in the bad old days, just without the virtue of encouraging monogamy and marriage. Sinéad must be mental, it seems, to admit in public that she likes anal sex. That this shocks anyone who is over the age of 16 and under the age of 60 defies belief. Her response to this is genuinely witty:

I must say, my greatest amusement this week is that on this day last week I had 3 followers on twitter. since I mentioned anal sex I have almost 2000! The funniest question I was asked this week was ” arent you insane to talk about anal sex in public?” Answer? No! Rude? Yes. Bold? Yes. ” inappropriate? Arguable. But insane? Why THAT’S insane!

What Sinéad has written over the last few weeks is funny. And it is totally in line with the public morality of contemporary Ireland. That she is judged and considered insane for writing with brazen humour (surely a class of writing Irish people have always excelled at) demonstrates that the progression towards whatever it is we call the society we live in, post-Christendom/secular/troika-era, is fatuous. We’re as obsessed with the secret sin of others as we were when Archbishop Charles McQuaid stomped around with influence. Zizek defines that as fundamentalism. And the only thing worse than religious fundamentalism is secular fundamentalism.

Long live the witty writing of Joseph and Sinéad O’Connor. And may Sinéad find love.

Your Correspondent, If he ever goes crazy, you’ll be the ones he trusts to tell him the truth

Barth, theology

On The Role Of Theology In The University

… With all due respect to the classical tradition it [theology] makes a necessary protest against a general concept of science which is admittedly pagan. It cannot do any harm even to the most stalwart representatives of this concept, or indeed to the whole university, to be reminded by the presence of the theologian among them that the quasi-religious certainty of their interpretation of the term is not in fact undisputed, that the tradition which commences with the name of Aristotle is only one among others, and that the Christian Church does not number Aristotle among is ancestor.

I have always loved Barth’s insistence that theology as a discipline should be unapologetic among the younger, more virile children in the academy. Back in the day, here he is writing about how theology crafts space that limits and opposes any intellectual hegemony, whether that be the narrative of scientism or some other dominant school of thought at any given time. He speaks elsewhere of how the:

academic cosmos is an eddy of scattered leaves whirling over a bottomless pit. And a question mark is actually the ultimate fact of each of the sciences

Reading this section this morning I was struck by how recently radical politics have taken to theology and especially the Gospels as a source for new approaches. In a world utterly without any ideas to how it can respond to the tyranny of neo-liberalism, theological thought is a refuge for the most unlikely of people.

That socialists would find a friend in Barth would come as no surprise to Karl, the raging Leftie that he was. But it might come as a surprise to them.

In the same way, that the humanities might find solace in theology should come as no surprise to theologians, even if it astonishes the scholars from other disciplines.

Of course, in our house, Aristotle is numbered among the faithful for how can a man understand friendship so keenly and not in some way be touched by the ultimate friendship with God? We’re sentimental about that old Greek but we’re willing to fall back on Dante’s audacious claim that Aristotle, Plato and the rest of the Hellenistic Heroes live in a lovely castle, enjoying a measure of comfort and content, right on the edge of hell!

Your Correspondent, Can’t deny the existence of a good God when the OED states emphatically that the Beastie Boys coined the term “mullet”


Hermits Don’t Have Peer Pressure

I tried to give up blogging.

I used to blog every day. The goal was to learn how to write well. Or at least to write quickly. I mastered the typing really fast but it turns out that making the words appear is not actually the same thing as making them line up right. Over the course of seven years I became quite adept at marshalling little ideas and making them walk in a line clearly enough for someone of moderate intelligence with a fluency in English to follow them. You can see those efforts since the internet saved them for posterity, as a gift to me at

I thought I was finished with that.

It was time, I thought, to write theology. Or rather to write Theology.

The blog was a theology blog and after its fashion it was a success. I was famous among the dozens. I got to know some lovely people, which was a stunning surprise to a sceptic like myself. I always thought the idea that the internet brought people together was bollocks. After all, anything that delivers vast quantities of porn for free is unlikely to encourage anything except isolation.

But I am a credit-entry in the vast karmic books of the internet. The blog served me really well with regards to friendships. I stayed in touch with Dave Freeburn and his doodlings. I got to know and love Richie Cronin through his constant commenting. Declan Kelly is this stunningly brilliant theological mind building himself up like some superhero in the training montage at the beginning of the movie. I got to read things he was learning because we got talking on the blog. An old college friend, Geoff Lillis, who had failed to teach me how to punch someone before falling out of my life when we went on our graduated ways, popped back in with a bang which was a delight. It is outrageously joyous when you become even better friends than you were in an earlier chapter in life.

There were many other real life and real meaningful relationships that sprung up from the blog.

But on the negative side, there was the name of the blog. Zoomtard. A foolish decision at the age of 22, this easily misunderstood name was bound to follow me through my pastoral and academic career, mocking me by its apparent vulgarity. I promised to blog intermittently elsewhere but realised that would never happen. You can’t blog in general.

When my little brother Enda said I could have a slice of his domain all to myself I decided I’d return to the blogging sphere. It solved all the problems. I know the blogging isn’t the reason I am not writing capital T Theology. I am not writing capital T Theology because I am a second year undergraduate student. Time management skills will get me so far but I am not yet ready to debunk modern critiques of the Filioque clause. That can come later. And if that time comes, blogging here won’t get in the way.

In this new blog I also get something I really want- transparent responsibility to the words I publish. I can’t really hide when both “Hargaden” and “Kevin” are in the address of the blog. Anonymity is largely a bad thing in the act of theology. The only other Kevin Hargaden that I am aware of on planet Earth is a cousin of mine in Georgia who is a Catholic priest. Hopefully the world won’t confuse the ramblings of this blog for his fine words.

So here is my statement of intent: This will remain a theological sketchpad. I will write about faith and culture and church and theology in Ireland. I will review things I read and watch. I will comment more on Manchester City’s gloriousness. I will write everything quickly and publish it without revision.

But one thing that I felt the old blog lacked was mirth. And theology, regardless of your viewpoint on it, ought to be funny. If you harbour doubts about the validity of the whole theo-shindig you surely can find confident declaration to be amusing hubris. The prospect of a triune God seems inherently laughable from that perspective. If you suspect that God might not be a figment of our collective imagination, the triune God seems inherently funny as the source of endless surprising gift. So I will try to be less turgid and more funny. Well funny is not quite right. Mirth might mark it best.

Dangerous ambitious words, eh.

When I first began Zoomtard I sought to write 1000 word posts. That anyone read them at all was astounding. Then after a while I transitioned into writing daily posts and both of those movements bore fruit. In the first section, I learned how to construct paragraphs. In the second, I learned how to construct sentences. Now I am going to try and learn how to construct jokes. While still writing about theology.

I usually like it easier than that.

Your Correspondent, Offers immediate gratification both intellectual and hedonistic in nature