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...

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

(This essay was originally published in issue 3 of The Mockingbird. All issues and subscriptions, including issue 4 which ships tomorrow, are available available here).

“We can permit ourselves to be more romantic than the romanticists and more humanistic than the humanists. But we must be more precise.” —Karl Barth, “The Christian’s Place...

Mindful of Our Busyness: Notes on Another Epidemic (and Its Relief)

Mindful of Our Busyness: Notes on Another Epidemic (and Its Relief)

A pair of (somewhat) related articles came across my desk yesterday that seem especially relevant with the new ‘Work and Play’ issue of The Mockingbird shipping today. The first is the latest dispatch on that cultural flashpoint known as Busyness. In a pithy blogpost for The Huffington Post, Scott Dannemiller contends...

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...

Silencing the Messy Conscience

Silencing the Messy Conscience

This post originally appeared on LaurenRELarkin.com.

Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave...

To Practice Dying

To Practice Dying

Last week, yet another beautiful story about death came across my newsfeed. There are a lot of things I can avoid clicking on (kitten videos, I’m looking at you), but tell me a story about dying and I’m all ears. While the inclination might have something to do with my...

Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

The widely loved writer and thinker Philip Yancey (who also happens to be coming to Mockingbirdtown this week) has come out with a new book, called Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? In it, he seems to have a lot to say about the falling state of American Christendom...

We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

Warning: some spoilers ahead, but no major plot developments, I don’t think. It’s hard to tell with sitcoms, especially one in the 30 Rock vein.

Netflix’s newest “original” show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, very quickly won me over with its blend of goofy characters and cultural commentary. From the mind of Tina...

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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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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 of James, always calling into question whether Paul was really correct in his understanding. Admittedly, for the longest time I never quite knew what to make of James 2, and its contradiction of Paul’s thesis that Abraham the ungodly was justified by faith, without works (Romans 4). It was Martin…

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Ode on Renoir’s A Girl with a Watering Can:  Seeing the Eternal in the Ephemeral

Ode on Renoir’s A Girl with a Watering Can: Seeing the Eternal in the Ephemeral

I first looked at a reproduction of Auguste Renoir’s A Girl with a Watering Can as a poster tacked on the wall of one of the dorm rooms in Baltimore Hall at the University of Maryland, when I was an undergraduate there in the 1970s. I was not especially impressed. The fact that it was even displayed, and prominently, in a guy’s room in an all-male dormitory, now that was a bit surprising. The most popular female hanging on young men’s walls at the time was that famous smiling, swimsuit pose of Farrah Fawcett. If I recall correctly, this was…

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Attagirl Mo’ne!

2o14’s Little League World Series heroine Mo’ne Davis, Monday, on forgiving the derogatory tweet (directed toward her) that got a high school baseball player kicked off his team:

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 creation of the universe. Having never settled on such an equation, Stephen’s ambition ensures an ironic sort of surrender even in the title, which unexpectedly exudes earnestness, too, given that the film’s themes are endless: Everything’s here. The Theory of Everything investigates the very beginning of the universe as well…

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“On Earth As It Is In Heaven”: Stories of Grace (A Conference Breakout with John Zahl)

Continuing our NYC Conference breakout previews, this one comes to us from the Rev. John Zahl:

No single word better describes the heart of the Christian message than “grace”. Grace defines our relationship with God, and describes the shape of our response to it. But it is also the case that life and people are not always gracious; sometimes our day-to-day experience seems devoid of charity. And so grace typically breaks into our midst like a wonderful surprise.

RedBeardw_originalWith that in mind, I wonder, are you familiar with that wonderful feeling when a film moves you to cry tears of joy? This breakout presupposes that we do well to draw attention to such moments, for they remind us of the things in life that are most important, and point us back toward their point of origin. This breakout is an attempt to ground those experiences within the context of Christian spirituality.

Not only that, Gospel illustrations help our hearts to connect with the good news that we hold so dear. In “Stories of Grace,” with the help of film clips, newspaper articles, and excerpts from literature, we will reflect upon some of these special instances. If you don’t cry tears of joy in this break-out, then you need a (second) heart transplant.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” (1 Cor 16:23).

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. Its author is part of a new generation of writers who served in the War on Terror. And finally it goes beyond a simple celebration of the ‘other 1%,’ Americans who serve in the armed forces, and looks deeply and with a tone both tragic and colloquial into the moral…

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The Danger of Rolling Suffering Into Evil (According to Gerhard Forde)

A helpful and ever-timely distinction from pages 84-85 of On Being a Theologian of the Cross:

luther-preaching

“Contemporary theologians talk much about the problem of evil. Some think it is the most difficult problem for theology today and one of the most persistent causes of unbelief. … Since suffering is itself classified as evil, it is of course simply lumped together with disaster, crime, misfortune of every sort, abuse, holocaust, and all manner of notorious wrong as one and the same problem. So it is almost universally the case that theologians and philosophers include suffering without further qualification among those things they call evil. … Evil does cause suffering — but not always. Indeed, the usual complaint is that the evil don’t seem to suffer. However, the causes of suffering may not always be evil — perhaps not even most of the time. Love can cause suffering. Beauty can be the occasion for suffering. Children with their demands and impetuous cries can cause suffering. Just the toil and trouble of daily life can cause suffering, and so on. Yet these are surely not to be termed evil. The problem of suffering should not just be rolled up with the problem of evil…”

“Identification of suffering with evil has the further result that God must be absolved from all blame. Thus, the theologian of glory adds to the perfidy of false speech by trying to assure us that God, of course, has nothing to do with suffering and evil. God is “good,” the rewarder of all our “good” works, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of merit. …Meanwhile, suffering goes on unabated. If God has nothing to do with suffering, what is he involved with? Whoever does not know God hidden in suffering, Luther asserts in his proof, does not know God at all.”

And speaking of God hidden in suffering, today’s bonus track would have to be JAZ’s new mix, “For the Heads and the Heart”, which was selected as Dream Chimney’s current mix of the week:

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) for the rest of his career, the rom-com world would perhaps recover the stability it has sought for the better part of the past decade and a half. Curtis’ ability to present the humorous ills of love with allegorical excellence, marries splendidly with Hugh’s boyish but bold delivery of lines….

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Birthdays and Broken Cisterns: What Exercise, Adultery, and Suicide Have in Common

Birthdays and Broken Cisterns: What Exercise, Adultery, and Suicide Have in Common

This reflection on aging comes to us from Ryan Sanders:

A recent study conducted by two professors at New York University revealed that people are more likely to make big decisions or create big regrets just before milestone birthdays. The study divined that “people audit the meaningfulness of their lives as they approach a new decade in chronological age, further suggesting that people across dozens of countries and cultures are prone to making significant decisions as they approach each new decade.”

This study tells us what we already know: as people face milestone events, they often review their lives and make adjustments. And often,…

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