New Here?
     
"I hate you Dad! Oh, I mean Reverend!"

“I hate you Dad! Oh, I mean Reverend!”

An old girlfriend of mine—let’s call her the Girl from Ipanema…no, on second thought, we better not—had a type when it came to men: blond hair and blue eyes. That worked out well for me—for awhile. Then a ghost showed up—taking the form of an ill-fated previous relationship with a...

The Foolish and the Weak are Confounding the Wise and the Strong...Yet Again

The Foolish and the Weak are Confounding the Wise and the Strong…Yet Again

If you haven’t watched any of Austin Rogers’ first 12 Jeopardy wins (running currently), you’ve missed seeing the most money amassed over a 12 day period (over $400k) in Jeopardy history. Rogers is a bartender from Manhattan. Do yourself a favor, and start setting your TiVos and DVRs, and treat...

Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

Is There Any Comfort? Remembering the Reformation 500 Years Later

We are now less than a month out from our upcoming conference in D.C.! Come celebrate 500 years of grace with us, October 27-29—you can register here.

With the Reformation on the brain, here is a fantastic piece written by our friend, Jonathan A. Linebaugh.

In 1519, Thomas Bilney sat in a small Cambridge...

Dog Is My Copilot

Dog Is My Copilot

’Tis the season for pet blessings! Churches everywhere are celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4), that famed lover of animals, by blessing their congregants’ furry friends. Our family are dog people, and we always bring a dog or two to the pet blessing at our church....

The Losing Economy of Forgiveness

The Losing Economy of Forgiveness

Originally published in The Forgiveness Issue of The Mockingbird magazine.

Somewhere in North Minneapolis in February of 1993, Mary Johnson received a visit from the police informing her that her only son, 20-year-old Laramiun Byrd, was dead. He had been shot and killed by a sixteen-year-old boy named Oshea Israel after...

Idealistic Hackers and My Personal "Change the World" Project

Idealistic Hackers and My Personal “Change the World” Project

In preparation for Mr. Robot’s third season (premiering tonight), here’s a fantastic piece by Rebecca Florence Miller.

I’ve always wanted to change the world. As a child and young woman, I longed to serve as a missionary, perhaps translating the Bible for those who had never heard of Jesus. I dreamed...

In the Event of a Cosmic Horror, Pt 1

In the Event of a Cosmic Horror, Pt 1

This one comes to us from new contributor Blake Collier:

I am, currently, on the cusp of finishing thirty-one straight days of watching slasher films for my annual October horror film marathon. I decided to do a chronological cross-section of the slasher sub-genre from Psycho (1960), the film that most influenced...

Pre-Register Today!

Pre-Register Today!

We're overjoyed to announce that, over Reformation Weekend (Oct 27-28), we'll be celebrating in Washington, DC, with a 24-hour mini-conference. Hosted by our friends at All Saints Chevy Chase, we would love for you to join us. Talks will be (of course) Reformation-themed, and as always, we'll...

Latest entries

Little Sister: Good News for the Goth Family

Little Sister: Good News for the Goth Family

This spooky little treat comes to us from Caleb Stallings.

“Fail to see the tragic,
Turn it into magic!”

– Marilyn Manson

“Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago, which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.”

– Psalm 74:2, NRSV

Halloween came strangely early for me this year. By the time September was settling in, I was already halfway through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with The Cramps’ Off the Bone constantly buzzing in the background. And as soon as October arrived, the un-carved pumpkins were placed, the paper skeletons were hung, and the ghoulish festivities were well under way. Horror was on my…

Read More > > >

No, Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts (A DC Conference Preview)

I don’t have any acquired tastes. I don’t drink coffee, or smoke a pipe, or do anything else that I didn’t like the first time. And no, actually, I don’t work out, either. I used to think that I was just weak…but now I’ve realized that while I am weak, I’m not just weak. I am also human.

Thomas Cranmer, the English Reformer and first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, knew a lot about this connection between weakness and humanity. When he was formulating the theological expressions of the post-Reformational church in England, he realized that the old way—which, of course, remains the predominant way—of thinking about the human person was completely backward and insufficient to explain the struggles of real life.

So, as a good reformer might, he reformed it.

I’m so looking forward to Mockingbird’s Washington DC conference at the end of this month (Oct 27-28), celebrating 500 years of grace, the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. My talk is entitled “No Actually, I Don’t Work Out: Good News for Unwilling Hearts” and in it, I’ll attempt to translate the Reformation insight about the human person—that we are way more bound and twisted than we ever thought we were—into Good News for sinful people 500 years later. To do it, I’ll talk about a couple of episodes from the life of the Apostle Peter, discuss the (very real) Crotchety Associate Rector Syndrome, lament the fact that gyms have mirrored walls, fix WWJD bracelets, and confess weakness in the face of Oreos and General Tso’s Chicken. Through all that—and the Reformational lens—a portrait will appear: a savior God who came to Earth, not waiting for the weak to become strong or for the sinners to become saints…a Christ who came to set the captives free.

Click here to register for our Fall Conference in DC on October 27-28—you won’t want to miss it!

Jennifer Lawrence, the Irony of Normalcy, and the Righteousness of Faith

Jennifer Lawrence, the Irony of Normalcy, and the Righteousness of Faith

This piece was written by our friend Brad J. Gray.

She caught our eye in 2007 on a short-lived network comedy. Then, she broke through with an independent drama in 2010 that earned her national acclaim and attention. She flew into the stratosphere and became the mega-star we know and love with a summer blockbuster in 2012, the success of which she’s likely still riding the coattails. If you didn’t already catch it, I’m referring to Jennifer Lawrence. “J-Law,” as she’s lovingly known on the “Interwebz,” made a name for herself on The Bill Engvall Show during its brief run on…

Read More > > >

Kicking the Dog: The Not-So-Subtle Art of Displacement

Kicking the Dog: The Not-So-Subtle Art of Displacement

This begins a short mini-series on the wide world of defense mechanisms—how you and I do our very best to cope with the realities of pain.

We all have our defense mechanisms. In psychodynamic terms, these are the ways our egos fend off stressors—situations or circumstances or, you know, very very rarely, people that conjure realities we just can’t handle. Sometimes these stressors waylay us with personal condemnation, sometimes they demolish a sacred belief we hold dear, sometimes they are random, traumatic events. Other times, the stressors aren’t bad: there’s an exciting new career opportunity or it’s a busy time of…

Read More > > >

#MeToo, and You

#MeToo, and You

My fingers hovered over the keys, wondering whether this was the right or wrong thing to do. Forty years’ practice keep me coming back to this default: not the nuanced, winding halls of grace but the black-and-white certainty of law. I considered and weighed, and I posted.

There are three memories right off the top of my head, and who knows if more lurk beneath? Time continues to march on, though I gave it no such permit to do so, and it’s been around twenty years since the last one: a “friend” who wouldn’t hear no and proceeded to force me…

Read More > > >

Some Other Power At Work in Russell Brand’s Life (Inadvertently)

Great little passage from the comedian’s far from (merely) comic new book Recovery:

These are secular times. I just went to see a priest with my girlfriend to discuss getting married in his church and God wasn’t mentioned, as if doing so might cause embarrassment and I feel some of the same tension when writing. It’s not like the atheists have all the best tunes, though some people who I really admire are devout atheists, but it is the time we live in, the mechanical dome that umbrellas us from the eternal that causes me consternation. The unwillingness to open our hearts to the mystery. Even a sentence like ‘open our hearts to mystery’ makes me feel a bit queasy with its sincerity but nothing has given me a stronger sense of the great unknowable than listening to scientists, some spiritual, others not, confessing to the limitations of understanding being through material analysis.

I (like the saints and sages and prophets on my earlier list of heavyweights [Augustine, Shakespeare, MLK, Ghandi, etc] that this time I’m too shy to repeat in case it seems that I’m trying to edge myself onto the inventory of greats, which I am) feel there is some other power at work here. I feel too that in my journey to freedom from active addiction, undertaken basically for selfish reasons, I have inadvertently been connected to this power. I also believe that anyone can do it. That is what is at the heart of this book, that addiction, however severe or mild, is a sincere attempt to address a real problem, the lack of fulfillment to which the material world cannot cater. Therefore the solution to this problem is a spiritual connection. This is not my idea. (pg 231)

Richard Wilbur – Ecclesiastes 11:1

R.I.P. to the man Alan Jacobs said is “the best American poet since WW2.” Stay tuned for a fuller in memoriam…

We must cast our bread
Upon the waters, as the
Ancient preacher said,

Trusting that it may
Amply be restored to us
After many a day.

That old metaphor,
Drawn from rice farming on the
River’s flooded shore,

Helps us to believe
That it’s no great sin to give,
Hoping to receive.

Therefore I shall throw
Broken bread, this sullen day,
Out across the snow,

Betting crust and crumb
That birds will gather, and that
One more spring will come.

PZ's Podcast: Psychosis & One Monkey

PZ’s Podcast: Psychosis & One Monkey

EPISODE 236: Psychosis

“Psychosis” is a very strong word for a cultural phenomenon. But it allows us to speak of a fissure over against reality, when groups of people see things around them in a way that is divorced from the facts.

You can apply the phenomenon of group fissure from reality, to anything you like. I can see it in the way a very specific historical reality, the Anglican Church as the English expression of legal and official Protestantism, has been so completely buried by a different “narrative” that it is as if the reality never was and never existed.

So completely,…

Read More > > >

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

When I was a kid attending Sunday School in a very traditional Baptist church in the Midwest, we learned Bible stories… I became familiar with the regular cast of characters like Adam and Eve, Noah, David, Moses, etc. I could tell you that Moses parted the Red Sea; Adam and Eve ate an apple; David slew a giant (thanks to a relative who gifted me one Christmas with 12-inch David and Goliath action figures!). As a teen, I would learn that the book of Leviticus was all about how family members in the same house should not undress in the…

Read More > > >

Another Week Ends: Bootleg Bob Dylan, Converted Morticians, Your True Self, Anxious Teens, and Earning Points in The Good Place

Another Week Ends: Bootleg Bob Dylan, Converted Morticians, Your True Self, Anxious Teens, and Earning Points in The Good Place

1. This week brought some fantastic revelations, not the least of which was Bob Dylan’s bootleg (gospel-infused) song, “Making A Liar Out of Me”:

Needless to say, we’re eagerly awaiting this collection’s release. From Andy Greene at Rolling Stone:

Bob Dylan began writing gospel songs at such a furious rate in late 1978 that there was no way his record company could put them all out, even if they let him release two albums of Christian music just 10 months apart. Many of the songs that never made it on record were played live on the gospel tours of 1979 to 1981 and…

Read More > > >

The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

The Art of Memoir and a Divine Glimpse of Stefani in Gaga: Five Foot Two

I spent the better part of my 20s working with teenagers in one form or another. Whether as a youth minister, a creative writing teacher, or a photography TA, one dazzling thread remained the same: Gaga. I spent time with kids who didn’t just adore her music, they worshiped her. They felt freed in some way by who she allowed them to be; she allowed them to be themselves (or whatever version of themselves they wanted to be) in all their average weirdness. In Gaga: Five Foot Two (a documentary released last month on Netflix), one of Lady Gaga’s fans…

Read More > > >

Pobody’s Nerfect: On Performance Anxiety and (Not) Giving Advice from the Pulpit

With both the Reformation’s quincentennial kickoff and our DC conference mere weeks away, we’ve put our feelers out for all things smacking of the reason for the season, that “harsh doctor,” Martin Luther. Today we were pleased to find just that from our friend Phillip Cary, who is featured in the latest issue of First Things. Below I’ve re-posted a handful of memorable excerpts from his piece “Luther at 500” (ht RS):

The great pastoral aim of Luther’s doctrine of justification is to free us from the kind of performance anxiety that arises whenever our salvation depends in any way on us, our hearts, our will, or our doings. For anything we do is something about which we can ask, “Am I doing it well enough?” And for Luther the answer is always “not well enough to save you from damnation.” No act of our free will, and hence no decision of ours, is an exception to this rule…

How we have always been justified by faith alone is best seen in light of Luther’s distinction between law and Gospel. Both the law of God and the Gospel of Christ are God’s word, but the former only gives us instructions while the latter gives us Christ. For the law tells us what to do, but the Gospel tells us what Christ does. The distinction grows out of Augustine’s insistence, in his great treatise On the Spirit and the Letter, that telling us to obey the law of love does not help us do it from the depths of our hearts; only the grace of Christ can give us such a heart. Luther merely adds: The place to find the grace of Christ is in the Gospel of Christ.

A great many preachers, Protestant as well as Catholic, overlook the distinction between law and Gospel, thinking they can change people’s lives by giving them practical advice—as if telling them how to be inwardly transformed could help them do it. Augustine already knew better. Luther’s addition to Augustine’s insight is merely the glad recognition that there is indeed something preachers can do to help us be transformed: Instead of advice, they can give us Christ.

Catch more of this gospel-centered good news with Mocking-friends from all over on October 27-29 in Washington, DC. You can register for the conference here—hope to see you soon!