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Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Louis CK does a bit about marriage (it’s an old bit; he’s since gotten divorced, which makes the content both sad and prescient) in which he recounts his therapist’s recommendation that he take his wife on a date. “I went on a date with my wife, and you know what?...

Confessions of a Grace Bully

Confessions of a Grace Bully

This confession comes to us from Scott Brand.

Recently, I decided to move from Orlando to St. Louis for school. During the transition, I stopped for a week in Columbus, OH, to stay with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Most of my family still resides in...

Frank Lake on Praying Badly

Frank Lake on Praying Badly

From Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology, one of the original voices in clinical pastoral counseling, this passage talks about the purpose (and pitfalls) of prayer for the Christian wound up in his/her own neuroses.

One of the reasons why pastoral dialogue with men and women suffering from the common symptoms of psychoneurosis is...

The Extreme Selfie as an Art Form

The Extreme Selfie as an Art Form

I didn’t ask to become inane; it just happened one day while I was driving down the highway, trying to take a selfie while eating a burrito. (This was to stand in as a more interesting version of the “on my way” text.) Mercifully, the rice spilled on my dress,...

Waiting for the Full Revelation of Janelle Monae

Waiting for the Full Revelation of Janelle Monae

I realize that this post is at least two years late, maybe even five. But even though Janelle Monae is no longer ‘new’ to the music scene, nevertheless she does believe, and claims to have participated in, time travel. So this slowpoke post is already forgiven.

Monae is currently making headlines...

Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

I promise you, I had no intention of writing about this subject again. Not for a long while at least. I’m talking about the whole culture of offense/outrage/oversensitivity/correctness/humorlessness/what-have-you that seems to have overtaken our nation’s universities, and by extension vast swaths of media, social and otherwise. It may be one...

PZ’s Ten Ways to Grow Your Church

PZ’s Ten Ways to Grow Your Church

Mockingbird’s roving correspondent has been taking in a lot of church services this Summer, mostly in the Northeast. Some have been excruciating, two have been glorious. Here are ten short reflections on my trip, on how to grow a church in light of what I’ve seen. The most important is...

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

It turns out that Stephen Colbert has a sign on his computer that reads, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.” No joke. I tell you this by way of context for what comes next. GQ ran a profile of him this month entitled “The Late,...

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Three Responses to the Law, from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (And Saints)

Three Responses to the Law, from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (And Saints)

Check out the “Interlude” from Mockingbird’s latest resource, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints), available here!

The Law, on most every occasion, draws a line of distinction between the is of life and the ought. The Law is the demarcation of the life we should have—the life we long for—and our own obstructions preventing us from getting there. It is for this reason that our response to the Law is almost always counterproductive.[1]

Imagine you are twelve years old again, and you love baseball. All your heroes are baseball players, all your extracurricular time is spent either with a ballglove…

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The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

The Wild West of an Ashley Madison Internet

Up until a week ago, I would have told you that a website called Ashley Madison must be a name generator for preppy girls who like monograms. I know. Color me naïve. Suddenly, the website and its torrid details are everywhere.

People I have known for years are on the list. Lives are falling apart. Marriages feel like shams. The sins of the world are delivered up on your computer screen free of charge. And, based on the numerous opinions on social media, everyone wants a piece of the action.

It really is a fabulous opportunity for moral superiority. This is our…

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Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

Been a while since we checked in on the world of addiction. Back in January The Huffington Post ran an article with the transparently baiting title of “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think” that went viral. I think we mentioned it in a weekender. It was the work of Johann Hari, a controversial British journalist and author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. In June Hari gave a TED talk–embedded below–based on the same material, in which he stresses the social factors that…

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The Power of Love – Michel Quoist

A new find for me, but this will not be the last Michel Quoist post. Quoist was a French priest and activist who wrote prayer books in much the same way the psalmists did. That is to say, his prayers are short vignettes and poems about everyday life. They also are not complete prayers–they do not try to “see the whole picture”–which seems to me to be an authentic prayer. One thing seems clear in Quoist’s work: for him there is little distinction between church life and human life, religious and secular. God in Christ moves through suffering and love, and so Christ is everywhere. This one comes from a new collection, Keeping Hope: Favourite Prayers for Modern Living. 

quoist-prayers-480I was called recently to the bedside of a dying man. He was very old and his face was ravaged and distorted by illness and suffering. I watched his wife. She was leaning over him, caressing him and whispering to him such tender words: ‘How beautiful you are, my love, how fine you look!’ I was embarrassed and thought: ‘How can anyone be so blind? Love is blind!’

Then an extraordinary thing happened. As she caressed him, the old man half-opened his eyes and a hesitant smile appeared on his face. He look at his wife a long time and she looked at him. There was a mysterious communion between them. And his smile spread. It was like the sun after a storm. I saw it. I know that I saw what she saw! She was right–the old man, made ugly by suffering, was beautiful. Love is not blind–love lets us see what others do not see.

That woman was guided by love to go beyond the deep wrinkles of her husband’s suffering face and had joined someone who was beyond, far beyond, the body, someone who could not die even if his body were to crumble away in her sight and finally disappear.

Mockingbird: Bringing You The (Swedish Yacht-Funk) Gospel, Pt 43

Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

Atticus Finch Did Not Die for Your Sins

From our friend Jeff Dean, another Alabamian who knows a thing or two about procrastination. Zing!  

[Some spoilers below]

You probably shouldn’t read Harper Lee’s “new” novel, Go Set a Watchman.

If the book interests you as a “sequel” to her iconic To Kill a Mockingbird, you’re apt to be profoundly disappointed: the characters seem almost entirely disconnected from their past selves, and the narrative collapses by the end into little more than a recitation of bizarre and esoteric arguments concerning Civil Rights. But the text is short, the font is large, and the spacing is liberal; so the short story…

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PZ’s Eight Easy Ways To Shrink Your Church

The strangest thing happened. The other day, just after penning his “Ten Ways to Grow Your Church”, PZ was looking through an old box of letters and found a sealed envelope he’d never seen before. The return address read only “Screwtape”. He was so surprised and bedazzled by its contents (reprinted below) that he almost missed the subheading on the envelope, “Do not open until 2015″

Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church

Just in case you’re not yet part of the program, there is still time. Here is how:

server1) Preach to your congregation not as individuals but as a “worshiping community”. This way, no individual sufferer will get the idea that God has a word for him or her concretely.

2) Try to schedule a Public Baptism at every main Sunday service. This works well over time, because (a) the people who only came for the Public Baptism won’t come back anyway; and (b) the individual seeker whose personal need drew him to church that Sunday will feel completely out of things and also never come back. A major advantage of having Public Baptisms at the main Sunday service is that it prevents the preacher from giving a serious, sustained message. This is key.

3) Schedule as many possible Sunday morning awards ceremonies for your young people’s choirs. This way you can guarantee interminable rounds of applause for individuals whom a visitor has never met, in connection with an activity of which a newcomer can scarcely conceive. Schedule at least four of these per year, though six is better.

4) Get your congregation to stand as long as possible and as much as possible during the service. This helps make newcomers and seekers feel uncomfortable psychologically and physically. It has the excellent corollary of discouraging an attitude of repentance and remorse. Since newcomers and visitors often come with a burdened heart and brain, you want to deprive them, if you can, of relief from the very thing that drew them to church. Especially get your congregation to stand during the penitential parts of the service. Better yet, delete those parts.

7c249490529ac511ec31b95ff6bead0fad257dcb5) Emphasize and re-emphasize that the main reason people come to church is their “hunger for community”. See your listeners primarily as social animals who have constructed themselves as collective beings rather than troubled, anxious souls. This way you will miss the reason they come to church. Focus on community long enough as an end in itself, and you can probably drive away even the most loyal member of your parish. This method takes about four years to work completely.

6) Make sure your sermons have no compelling illustrations. This means that no one will remember a thing you said and they can go home without needing to think about what happened in church. Make religious assertions — orthodox assertions are fine, too — but don’t apply them to individual pain. Over about three years this method can thin your numbers nicely.

7) Constantly remind your congregation to do more in the way of social justice. This works especially well when you have 20 or so stalwarts left in the congregation and they’re not exhausted enough yet to stop coming on Sundays. Always “up the ante” of demand as your numbers go down. This speeds things up beautifully.

8) Make sure your organist or director of music always chooses the hymns for Sunday morning. This way no one will know any of them, especially visitors or newcomers. That’s an advantage in making sure they don’t come back.

Everyone Else’s Biggest Problem, Pt 4: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Everyone Else’s Biggest Problem, Pt 4: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Welcome to the fourth installment of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, you can find them beginning here. New installments will be posted every two weeks, on Tuesdays.

Ann is a single, 50 year old entrepreneur. She invented a cost-efficient, biodegradable car battery that will transform the energy industry and measurably slow global warming.

Tesla’s Elon Musk bought the patent from Ann; from the sale she netted $1 billion in cold, hard cash.

Ann promptly identified a group of respected, low-overhead charities that help starving children, cancer…

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Lay Down Your Weary Tune (in NYC) – David Zahl

The closing talk from our Spring NYC Conference – only loosely related to the talk of the same name given in Tyler:

Lay Down Your Weary Tune – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The “Trigger-Warning” Life

The “Trigger-Warning” Life

Universities have historically always been on the leading edge of American cultural change. The university has, or at least tries to be, the place where new ideas are tested, refined, and put into meaningful action. Today’s college students become tomorrow’s leaders, which is to say that the recent explosion of “trigger warning” policies are not an aberration or fad that can be ignored.

As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt so astutely outline in their cover story for The Atlantic (see DZ’s take here), the muting of “triggers” from pedagogy is an overt form of censorship of anything that might create unwelcome,…

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PZ’s Podcast Episode 200: Catatonia

PtL! PZ’s Podcast hits quite a milestone today, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to point newcomers to this guide to PZP world. It doubles as a fond look back. Oh and we’re aware of the difficulties listeners are having with a handful of older episodes. Hoping to have them re-uploaded in the next week or two. Thank you for your patience.

EPISODE 200

This is not the Who’s Final Tour. (They always come back.) So maybe it is the Who’s Final Tour.

Whatever it is, it’s Podcast 200, and that’s a benchmark. Somehow. So I decided to sum up the two core themes of the last… 100 or so casts, and also tell you something that’s blown my mind recently. It’s an instance of catatonia by way of Catalonia.

Seriously, the two core themes of PZ’s Podcast are the durability and necessity of romantic connection; and the presence of God when a person is at the end of his or her rope. ‘God meets us at our point of need.’

Gosh, I’ve seen that happen a lot. Not least of all, to me.

And I know, too, from Mary — ‘Along Comes Mary’ (The Association) — that the boy-girl side of things is paramount. Nothing above it.

Now, for 23 short minutes, Come Fly With Me.

Another Week Ends: Amabots, Dismaland, Resurrected Souls, Evangelical Wizards, more Brene, and the Death of the Internet

Another Week Ends: Amabots, Dismaland, Resurrected Souls, Evangelical Wizards, more Brene, and the Death of the Internet

1. By this point, you’ve probably gandered at The NY Times’ “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace”, which describes the retail baron’s notorious pattern of “burn and churn” when it comes to its employees. If the report is to be believed, the closest reference point to their company ethos is that of the Prussian military, i.e. “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.” While reports about the mega-retailer’s internal culture have been circulating for quite some time now, this is the article that will cement Bezos et al at the top of the performancist foodchain. One of the ways they’ve…

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