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The (Beginning and) End of Scorekeeping

The (Beginning and) End of Scorekeeping

Here's my presentation at last month's Liberate Conference, which is much indebted to Paul Walker's talk on the same subject back in 2011. Those who came to the Fall conference in Houston (or have read the new issue of The Mockingbird) may be tempted to subtract points for the...
Mining Netflix: Vulnerability on Notting Hill

Mining Netflix: Vulnerability on Notting Hill

There’s this girl. She’s someone who can’t be mine, and uh… it’s as if I’ve taken love heroin and I can’t ever have it again. I’ve opened Pandora’s Box and there’s trouble inside.

If Hugh Grant vowed to collaborate exclusively with writer Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually)...

James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

Whenever I read the letters of Paul and his great doctrine of justification by faith, there is always lurking in the background the problem posed by the Epistle of James and its not-so-apparent direct refutation of Paul. And in any discussion of justification by faith there always lurks the specter...

No Hands Are Clean But Christ’s: Phil Klay’s Redeployment

No Hands Are Clean But Christ’s: Phil Klay’s Redeployment

“Twenty centuries of Christianity,” I said. “You’d think we’d learn.” I fingered the small cross. “In this world, He only promises we don’t suffer alone.”

-Phil Klay, Redeployment

2014’s National Book Award winner is an unusual one in several ways. First, it is not a novel but a collection of short stories....

SPRING CONFERENCE IN NYC (4/16-18) – FULL SCHEDULE!

SPRING CONFERENCE IN NYC (4/16-18) – FULL SCHEDULE!

Very excited to announce the preliminary schedule for our upcoming conference in NYC! For more info on the various speakers, click here. In addition to the sessions below, we can confirm that we’ll have a magician in tow to perform tricks between talks (seriously!). Some details subject to change. To...

The Theology of Everything: Jane and Stephen Hawking Head to the Cross

The Theology of Everything: Jane and Stephen Hawking Head to the Cross

The title of the Oscar-nominated movie The Theory of Everything might seem a little ambitious, maybe even ironic in its grandiose magnitude, and, in some ways, it is. The title pokes at real-life physicist Stephen Hawking’s initial desire to find a theory of everything, a single equation to explain the...

NOW AVAILABLE! Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue

NOW AVAILABLE! Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue

We’re happy to announce that Issue 4 is now available! Here’s our Table of Contents for the Work and Play Issue. Needless to say there’s lots to be excited for, so if you’re looking for a subscription, now’s the time, because this is also the last time we’ll be selling...

W.H. Auden Was There on Good Friday

W.H. Auden Was There on Good Friday

This one has been making the rounds a bit recently, but fortunately no amount of familiarity can detract from its power. From Wystan’s long out of print ‘commonplace book’ A Certain World:

Just as we are all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on...

Latest entries

You Do You, Genghis

You Do You, Genghis

I was a little worried when The NY Times Magazine changed its format in February and did away with “Riff”, a column we’ve mined over the years almost more than any other. Lo and behold, my concern was misfounded. What they’ve done is clever, funneling those observations into a handful of thematically-defined columns, the language-oriented “First Words” being the prime example. For the second time in as many months, writer Colson Whitehead has utilized that new umbrella to deliver a tour de force of cultural commentary. Last time he explored the appeal of the ‘loser edit’, this time he goes…

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April Playlist

(Face-)Liftoff!

eye_of_beholderNo April’s Fools, people – welcome to the decluttered, reorganized, made-over, tuned-up Mbird! We’re really excited about this facelift. What’s new besides the look? The dropdown menus above, larger font for the posts, vertical social media buttons, to name a few features — we’ve also added a long-awaited “I’m New Here” page, which compiles some of our ‘greatest hits’, as well as recommended reading and listening. There are a ton of other little touches here and there that you’ll likely notice over time, a handful of things taken away. But don’t worry – it’s still the same site, with all the same content and the same basic flow/form. The hope is that the many new tweaks and twists add up to a more welcoming and easier-to-navigate site.

Thank you for your patience while we’ve been working on it (and continue to fine tune), and thank you, as always, for reading! Don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have trouble finding anything (info@mbird.com).

The Shelflife of Judgment

The Shelflife of Judgment

What do Twinkies and judgment have in common? Nearly nothing; except for their exceptionally long shelf-lives. If I had to wager which has the longer shelf-life, my money would be on judgment every single time. Surely I’m not the only one who can vividly recall moments in the past that are characterized by judgment; indelible comments, offhand criticisms, permanent words. Ask me about all those good things people have said, those encouraging and affirming words and Err…well…there was that one time…I think… I know historically that I’ve been encouraged and affirmed and loved, but those seem sketched in pencil, easily…

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Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

Filling the Void with Fitness: A Conference Breakout Preview

This one comes to us from Mockingtern Evan Brush:

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote last fall about the decline in the number of cults capturing America’s attention. He recalled the 1980s when cults worried the parents of estranged children and often caught headlines for all the wrong reasons. However, Douthat actually saw the decline in cults as indicative of a lack of vitality in American religious life: less people seeking to go outside the mainstream in search of the answers to the big questions. He thinks that the lack of a somewhat radical fringe is indicative of stagnation within…

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New Music: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

New Music: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

Inside the liner notes of Kendrick Lamar’s new album, To Pimp A Butterfly, is a picture of Lamar (shown above) sitting in a room with assorted dollar bills scattered around him on the floor.  Pictures like this are a common and maybe tired rap trope, typically appearing in magazine spreads and liner notes, rife with allegories of success and the spoils of excess that come with it.  Lamar’s picture strikes a different chord though.  He sits solitary on a crate in sweatpants with untied Reebok sneakers and a bottle of liquor in one hand, his tranquil eyes looking right at…

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The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

We encounter the world, perhaps more explicitly now than ever, as a field of useful objects. We don’t even think twice about the most everyday of them: the remote control for the TV, the doorframe of the door we walk through each morning, the stove or refrigerator. Gestures, too, are often unthinking, whether it be brushing back a stray piece of hair, pulling on a shirt, or brushing one’s teeth. The strange thing is, though, that tons of things in the (natural) world are use-less: flowers and, indeed, most kinds of plants and animals, the ocean, most rocks or mountains,…

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The Donkey – G.K. Chesterton

9780394842325When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

A Holy Week-appropriate reflection from Paul Zahl, via The Mockingbird Devotional.

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.’” (RSV)

Palm Sunday is a day in the Christian Calendar, and a day in history, that could define the word “irony.”

It depicts the advance on Jerusalem of the city’s “King,” but in the form of a man seated on a donkey. It begins a week of ‘triumphal entry’ that only ends in…

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Another Week Ends: Abrahamic Evolution, More Cookie Monster, The Law of Higher Ed, G.K. Chesterton as Saint, and the Puritan Legacy

Another Week Ends: Abrahamic Evolution, More Cookie Monster, The Law of Higher Ed, G.K. Chesterton as Saint, and the Puritan Legacy

1. Over at aeon, Benjamin Grant Purzycki once again demonstrates the poverty of discourse about religion – the fact that little understanding of its required to make grand pronouncements. Anyway, he says some interesting things along the way, and it’s worth a read. First, we’re all biased toward thinking of God as a cosmic judge:

In a 2013 article in Cognition, I reported that Christian students from the University of Connecticut who claim that God knows everything will nonetheless rate His knowledge of moral information (Does God know that Sebastian robs grocery stores?) as better than His knowledge of non-moral information (Does God…

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Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

This month’s edition of Christianity Today features a cover story, “The Return of Shame,” that draws a clear, causative link between the prevalence of social media and its corollary stripping of privacy with the emergence of a shame-fame culture. I couldn’t help but relate this to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (and Billy Idol’s “Eyes without a Face”).

In contrast to a guilt culture wherein morality is evaluated on the basis on individual conscience, a shame culture’s efficacy rests on community’s conception of your behavior. According to Crouch, “you know you are
good or bad by what your community says about you.”…

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Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

I am very excited about the upcoming Mockingbird Conference! First, and possibly most importantly, I have been asked to do a few magic tricks at the conference. If you come, you will be one of the few humans ever to witness a one-time demonstration of the power of the amazing Cords of Shastri, which have been lost for over 600 years, but which have recently come into my possession. I will bring these to New York City for this one event. I repeat, this is a feat of legerdemain which has not been performed for over 600 years! I swear its…

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