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The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

Must have been almost fifteen years ago. I was sitting down with the chaplain of a prestigious New England prep school, and although he was being incredibly polite about it, he was sussing me out. You see, I was a stranger on campus, brought there on behalf of the para-church...

So I Thought I Could Dance

So I Thought I Could Dance

I remember picking up the book I Don’t Know How She Does It a couple of months into my first pregnancy. The title sounded like a present-tense version of my desired epitaph, and the plot made it feel a timely read, featuring as it did a busy working mom struggling...

Mockingbird at the Movies: Intro (and Final Edition)

Mockingbird at the Movies: Intro (and Final Edition)

As this year’s Oscar buzz revs up, be sure to take a look at our latest publication, Mockingbird at the Movies, an anthology of film essays collected from many of Mockingbird’s contributing writers. Last week, we quietly released the fully-polished final edition, which consists of a few less typos but all of the same...

A Sermon for Ash Wednesday

A Sermon for Ash Wednesday

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).

Today, we gather together for a unique purpose. Unlike any other service in the course...

Forgive Yourself, or Die Trying

Forgive Yourself, or Die Trying

Unless it has been replaced, the men’s room mirror at Manning’s Cafe in Minneapolis is a little worse for wear. Not broken, but scratched and pitted, and midway across the bottom the words are indelibly scrawled, “Forgive Yourself.” No telling who wrote it or how long ago, even less what they meant. Was it...

The Cursed Tree and the High Priest: The Christ Imagery of The Revenant

The Cursed Tree and the High Priest: The Christ Imagery of The Revenant

A brilliant look at The Revenant, from our friend Caleb Stallings.

Being a native of Georgia, I’ve always been oddly proud of our pine trees. Up until the recent film industry boom in Atlanta, I felt like the Peach State had few cultural icons to offer, the pine tree being a...

2016 NYC Conference: Breakouts and Theme

2016 NYC Conference: Breakouts and Theme

At long last, some details about our upcoming 9th Annual New York conference (4/14-16). Thank you for your patience! We’re excited to announce that the theme this year will be “Relief! The Boldness of Grace in a World of Expectation”, and we can confirm that the slate of breakout sessions...

American Horror Story Taught Me That Jesus Was a Human Voodoo Doll

American Horror Story Taught Me That Jesus Was a Human Voodoo Doll

The math behind the cross is a little confusing. As a kid, I went to church every Sunday and recited: “In dying you destroyed our death, in rising you restored our life.” I’d known since day one that Jesus had died for my sins, but the equation itself—how the death...

Latest entries

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Livin’ the Dream

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Livin’ the Dream

Welcome to the third installment of act two 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 here.

In Act One of this greed epic, we determined that as a culture we cannot define the term and, although we’re quick to see greed in others, we refuse to see it in ourselves.

In Act Two we’re examining why we cannot define and admit to greed. Last time we discovered that, right or wrong, in our society money is a proxy for intelligence, so accumulating lots of it can’t…

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Mockingbird at the Movies: Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa

Mockingbird at the Movies: Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa

Charlie Kaufman’s newest film, Anomalisa, is not for everyone. I don’t mean that in an exclusive, some “get” it and others don’t, kind of way. I mean that the the film is a very real (ironic considering it consists entirely of stop-motion animation) depiction of the dislocation and alienation that pervades modern existence, and I predict that even the most optimistic among us will leave the the theater with his 32 oz. cup of Cherry Coke half empty. But wait! Kaufman’s bleak and banal picture of reality may be difficult to watch, but for those willing to endure the dark…

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From the Archives: Partisan Narratives and Cruel Choirmasters in an Election Season

From the Archives: Partisan Narratives and Cruel Choirmasters in an Election Season

Slightly updated for context:

Living in a “swing battleground state” (VA), I get the privilege of witnessing the escalation of hostilities from a front row seat every election season. And escalate they do! From the ads on TV to the volunteers at the door, the signs on the street to the telemarketers on the phone, it’ll be hard to hide come November. Last time around, apparently even Walking Dead viewers were on the fence (Arrow viewers, not so much).

There’s obviously an important place in a presidential race for indignation and culpability, anger and blame, etc. The permanence of the logs in…

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Bruddah Iz, the Rainbow, and the Rainbow Warriors: Looking Back at Facing Future

Bruddah Iz, the Rainbow, and the Rainbow Warriors: Looking Back at Facing Future

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (“Iz”) unwittingly provided future listeners a clue to something deeper at the beginning of his signature song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.” Soon after he arrived at the studio–at 4 a.m., possibly high–he sat on a steel chair and said “This one’s for Gabby” before strumming and gifting future generations with his sweet, somewhat haunting “Oooo” intonations.

Gabby here refers to Gabby Pahinui, a childhood friend of Iz and one of the fathers (both as a solo artist and as a founding member of the Sons of Hawai’i) of the Hawaiian Renaissance. The latter movement was most…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Nine Verse Two

In light of this past Sunday’s reading, this morning’s devotion is a poem by Mark Jarman, entitled “Transfiguration.” These are the last three parts of the poem.

And there appeared to them Elijah and Moses and they were talking to Jesus.

…They were talking to him about law and how lawgiving should be
Like rainfall, a light rain falling all morning and mixing with dew–
A rain that passes through the spiderweb and penetrates the dirt clod
Without melting it, a persistent, suffusing shower, soaking clothes,
Making sweatshirts heavier, wool stink, and finding every hair’s root on the scalp.
And that is when you hurled judgment into the crowd and watched them
Spook like cattle, reached in and stirred the turmoil faster, scarier.
And they were saying that; to save the best, many must be punished,
Including the best. And no one was exempt, as they explained it,
Not themselves, not him, or anyone he loved, anyone who loved him.

Take anyone and plant a change inside them that they feel
And send them to an authority to assess that feeling. When they are told
That for them alone these waits a suffering in accordance with the laws
Of their condition, from which they may recover or may not,
Then they know the vortex on the mountaintop, the inside of the unspeakable,
The speechlessness before the voices begin talking to them,
Talking to prepare them, arm them and disarm them, until the end.
And if anybody’s looking, they will seem transfigured.

I want to believe that he talked back to them, his radiant companions,
And I want to believe he said too much was being asked and too much promised.
I want to believe that that was why he shone in the eyes of his friends,
The witnesses looking on, because he spoke for them, because he loved them
And was embarrassed to learn how he and they were going to suffer.
I want to believe he resisted at that moment, when he appeared glorified,
Because he could not reconcile the contradictions and suspected
That love had a finite span and was merely the comfort of the lost.
I know he must have acceded to his duty, but I want to believe
He was transfigured by resistance, as he listened, and they talked.

Location images of Love & Friendship, a Jane Austen film adaptation starring Kate Bekinsdale and Chloe Sevigny, directed by Whit Stillman. CHURCHILL PRODUCTIONS LIMITED. Producers Katie Holly, Whit Stillman, Lauranne Bourrachot. Co-Producer Raymond Van Der Kaaij. Also Starring: Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell & Morfydd Clark

Another Week Ends: Ambitious Critics, Saving Beauty, Love & Friendship, Infinite Jest, Mother Theresa, Suede and The Whitney Plantation

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast, featuring Stephanie Phillips.

1. Funny how some weeks a single theme comes to dominate this column. This week that theme appears to be beauty and our relationship to it. First up, NY Times film critic A.O. Scott has a tome coming out next week entitled Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth, which attempts to make sense of his field in a time when social media appears to have devalued or trivialized it. This past weekend his employers ran a precis of the book,…

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Super Bowl 50 Prediction “Creed-Bomb”-Style: Can Cam “Take Me Higher”?…or Will Peyton Ride Into the Sunset “With Arms Wide Open”?

Super Bowl 50 Prediction “Creed-Bomb”-Style: Can Cam “Take Me Higher”?…or Will Peyton Ride Into the Sunset “With Arms Wide Open”?

’86 Chicago Bear “Super Bowl Shuffle”, meet the “Carolina Creed-Bomb”. Think photo bomb, except that the “bomber” in this case comes out of nowhere, gets right in your face, and goes full throttle Creed in all their cringe-worthy lyric glory. Panther’s linebacker Ben Jacobs is credited with birthing the creedbomb. He will magically appear in front of players and coaches and do a spot on, full rasp, Scott Stapp impression. Rolling Stone, perhaps unfairly, named Creed the worst band of the 90’s (after all, Nickelback was around back then). Nonetheless, an effective creedbomb must include Eye of the Tiger-level cheesy…

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Confession as Profession: Love and the Hope of Forgiveness

Confession as Profession: Love and the Hope of Forgiveness

“Somewhere else in The Elder Statesman, Lord Claverton observes that no one confesses where there is no hope of forgiveness.” – Capon

It was one of those mornings. You know, the one with three kids, two of whom are dragging their feet to get ready for the walk to school. My begging and pleading was getting old and so was their concurrent whining. As I watched my seven-year-old struggle to tie his shoe and listened to my eldest whimper about his itchy scarf, the damn broke: “Damn it!”

I squatted down, grabbed the shoelaces and the foot attached to them and growled, “You’re…

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The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

Must have been almost fifteen years ago. I was sitting down with the chaplain of a prestigious New England prep school, and although he was being incredibly polite about it, he was sussing me out. You see, I was a stranger on campus, brought there on behalf of the para-church organization for which I worked, at the invitation of the school’s Christian fellowship group. He had every right to know where I was coming from before signing off on my presence/involvement, a responsibility to parents and administrators to ensure that students would be spared any high-pressure proselytizing while away from…

Read More > > >

American Horror Story Taught Me That Jesus Was a Human Voodoo Doll

American Horror Story Taught Me That Jesus Was a Human Voodoo Doll

The math behind the cross is a little confusing. As a kid, I went to church every Sunday and recited: “In dying you destroyed our death, in rising you restored our life.” I’d known since day one that Jesus had died for my sins, but the equation itself—how the death of a man two thousand years ago could be related to me drinking the last ounce of milk and getting in a fistfight with my brother about it—has always been just a little beyond my reach.

Until American Horror Story, that is. For those struggling with the idea of substitutionary atonement,…

Read More > > >

So I Thought I Could Dance

So I Thought I Could Dance

I remember picking up the book I Don’t Know How She Does It a couple of months into my first pregnancy. The title sounded like a present-tense version of my desired epitaph, and the plot made it feel a timely read, featuring as it did a busy working mom struggling to be everything to everyone, often to “hilarious” consequence (witness Sarah Jessica Parker, in the film adaptation, endure lice in the conference room! HAHAHA!). I had set myself on the path to working motherhood over a decade before, when I chose in college to pursue a career that would combine prestige, profit,…

Read More > > >

The Essence of Christianity (Plus)

A couple of brand-new bonus recordings to which to draw your attention on this Tuesday afternoon:

  • Scott Jones and Bill Borrer interviewing Paul Zahl about “The Essence of Christianity” for their stellar New Persuasive Words podcast (which you can subscribe to here). You might think of it as a preview of the in-person conversation they’re going to have in April:

Sometimes these things don’t turn out as well as you’d hope. But sometimes they do, which seems to have been the case here. Or so we’ve been told, thank God.