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In Praise of Chance

In Praise of Chance

An ode to the Rapper of good news, by Cody Gainous.

Someone alert the end-time prophets: Jesus is coming back a day early. And it’s all thanks to one of the many stars of the 2017 Grammys, and a somewhat unlikely hero — he’s only 23 years old, and he has...

Insanity, Marriage, and the Virgin Mary

Insanity, Marriage, and the Virgin Mary

I couldn’t let this day pass without posting my favorite passage from Alain de Botton’s The Course of Love, in which our favorite Swiss pop-philosopher/religious atheist hints at the appeal of ‘true religion’ under the guise of abreactive art and in the process gives us a crash, er, course on...

Alexa, Now!

Alexa, Now!

Whenever a new technology comes on the scene, there’s always a bridge that needs to be built. That bridge is a cognitive bridge and it takes some powerful envisioning (and marketing!) to communicate that vision to the public. It is a bridge between what before was only manageable by human...

The Joys of Agnostic Eating

The Joys of Agnostic Eating

Ethan has joked elsewhere about our recent Food & Drink Issue: we had selected a topic that was intentionally “lighter fare” to chase Mental Health and then watched as the stuff that came in delved into the heaviest possible corners of gastronomic experience (pun sort of intended). Addiction, mortality, moralism,...

Jesus Came to Save (Even) Leslie Charping

Jesus Came to Save (Even) Leslie Charping

Here’s something of a revised obituary, brought to us by Ben Maddison.

There is a train that goes past my house at 12:30 AM every night, which gives me a lot of opportunities to sleepily scroll through late-night Facebook: a weird and generally silent beast, driven by algorithms and insomnia. Tucked away...

Publish and Perish: Law in Academia

Publish and Perish: Law in Academia

A tonic for the anxious academic, written by our friend Matthew Milliner. 

Every community has its own law. But academia’s penchant for the oppressive ought, its tilt toward domineering expectations of accomplishment is, one could say, special. The undergraduate — once justified by acceptance into the right college — is freighted with the inadequacy...

Announcing! The Food and Drink Issue!

Announcing! The Food and Drink Issue!

Ladies and gentlemen, diners and tipplers, gather ’round! The ninth issue of The Mockingbird is officially available for order! Note, too, we have a deal for bulk orders. If you/your church/your favorite hole-in-the-wall needs a bundle of copies, email us: info@mbird.com. And, as always, we place before you the menu and...

Mbird Tyler 2017 (2/24-25): The Soul of the Gospel

Mbird Tyler 2017 (2/24-25): The Soul of the Gospel

Come join us next month (2/24-25) for our third annual event in downtown Tyler, TX! Our theme this year will be “The Soul of The Gospel”. Paul Zahl and Sarah Condon, along with a host of others, will guide us as we explore the question, “what remains when cultural attachments...
A Tribe Called Us: The Grace of Relationships in a World of Critics

A Tribe Called Us: The Grace of Relationships in a World of Critics

Few things are certain in this world, but there is this: however critics feel about a movie, I will almost certainly disagree. There have been rare exceptions; the triteness of He’s Just Not That Into You, for example, pissed a lot of us off. Usually, however, I can be counted on as...

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Orthorexia: The Fixation on Righteous Eating

Orthorexia: The Fixation on Righteous Eating

A first glimpse inside our Food & Drink Issue, by way of one Carrie Willard. The issues are flying off the shelf! Order up! 

When my parents were married in the 1960s, advice abounded about home entertaining. Etiquette books and magazine articles included tips on how to invite guests from any social station into one’s home, what to wear when they arrived, and how to set the table for the occasion.

With a few notable exceptions (Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking comes to mind), the focus seems to have been more on the etiquette of entertaining and all of…

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Living in Denial in Victory

Living in Denial in Victory

If you read enough popular Christian books, listen to enough Christian sermons, radio shows, or podcasts, you could reasonably get the idea that Christians are like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. With cries of, “I’m invincible!” the Knight continues to fight, even after King Arthur has relieved him of all of his limbs.

I hear versions of this all the time in Christian media, and in conversations with Christian brothers and sisters: something awful has happened to them, and with a strained look and a hard swallow, the mask goes on, and they say, “But everything’s great!”…

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Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Over the past eight years or so, Mockingbird contributors have said quite a lot about the works of Thornton Niven Wilder. His contributions to the idea of a theo-poetic approach to the Gospel, i.e., an approach that avoids didacticism by employing literary archetypes to illustrate gospel themes, are well documented on this site. For a couple of examples, read this from Wilder himself, or this from Paul Zahl. Wilder’s Angel that Troubled the Waters is a tour de force in such terms, and it illustrates what this site is usually trying to do: use an oblique approach to get in past the heart’s defenses, because a didactic frontal…

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Deconstructing the Christian Music Industry, or, “What’s in a Name?” by Robert Farrar Capon

Deconstructing the Christian Music Industry, or, “What’s in a Name?” by Robert Farrar Capon

The following is excerpted from the recently released collection of shorts, More Theology and Less Heavy Cream: The Domestic Life of Pietro & Madeleine, by the inimitable Robert Farrar Capon. Below, the protagonists (Robert and his wife’s alter-egos) go toe-to-toe about, among other things, the nature of “Christian” anything.

Madeleine zapped off the TV set with the remote control switch. “I refuse to look at that dumb name anymore.”

“What dumb name?” Pietro asked, looking up from his newspaper.

“Pacific Telesis,” she snapped. “It sounds more like a skin disease than a phone company.”

“Maybe it’s not a phone company. Maybe it’s just a Christian punk rock band hiding…

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The Eternal Solution of Vampirism or, “If I Were a Vampire”

The Eternal Solution of Vampirism or, “If I Were a Vampire”

Last weekend I made what I should publically refer to as a “shame-purchase.” When nobody was looking, I bought the entire movie collection of The Twilight Saga. Don’t make it a thing, but modern teen vampire stories are my kryptonite, and they almost always follow the same plot structure:

Awkward, fragile human (female) falls in love with strapping, obsessive vampire (male). Love between them is so sexy and intense that only way for the human to survive and thrive — to live — is for her to become vampire. Needs more blood.

This script hits really close to home. Mortality is so…

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The God Who Can’t Hate His Fingers

A passage from W.H. Auden’s posthumously published The Prolific and the Devourer, which comes to us via the inestimable Matthew Sitman:

Both in the substance and the parabolic method of his teaching about love, Jesus never asks anyone to accept anything except on the basis of their personal experience of human love. In using the terms Father and Son to express the relation of the divine and the human, rather than, say King and subject, he makes the relation a physical not an intellectual one, for it is precisely because in the relation of parent and child the physical material relation is so impossible to deny, that it is so difficult for a human parent not to love their children irrespective of moral judgment. They can do so, but it is very much more difficult for them than for those who have not such an obvious physical connection.

Jesus in fact is asserting what the psychologists have confirmed: that one does in fact always conceive of one’s relations with life in terms of one’s relations with one’s parents, and in proportion as these were bad, one’s attitude to life is distorted [ed. note: see video below]. But though parental love is often imperfect, it is good enough and often enough for us to have no doubt about what it should be like. We expect parents to love their children whether they act well or badly because it is our experience that they usually do: we expect a physical relation to override morals. In speaking of the fatherhood of God, Jesus is teaching that God does not love us because we are ‘good’ or because he is very ‘good’ and merciful but because he has to, because we are part of him, and he can no more hate us if we act badly than a man can hate one of its fingers when it aches: he can only want it to get well.

Seeing Upside Down, Pt 2: The Beauty of Failure in Movies (and Life) – Ethan Richardson

Talk number three from our “Grace on the Big Screen” event in Dallas is here! Click here to watch the first part (tho’ both stand alone).

Seeing Upside Down – Part Two: The Beauty of Failure in Movies (and Life) – Ethan Richardson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Another Week Ends: Rude Saviors, Happy Students, Married Valentines, Fifty Shades, Christo-Singularity and Crashing

Another Week Ends: Rude Saviors, Happy Students, Married Valentines, Fifty Shades, Christo-Singularity and Crashing

1. Writing in The NY Times Magazine this past weekend, Rachel Cusk pondered “The Age of Rudeness.” Her jumping off point likely goes without saying, and yet, I was refreshed by how much fresh ground the essay tilled. Namely, we laud honesty and authenticity but demonize rudeness, when the line between them is often a very thin and fluctuating one. What is the moral status of rudeness? Cusk asks–why might it have possibly cost Hillary the election (“basket of deplorables”) and won it for Trump? When does decorum cease to facilitate discourse (a vehicle of communication/connection) and begin to stifle…

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Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila) by Kaveh Akbar

Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila) by Kaveh Akbar

The following poem evokes AA’s fourth step (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”) and the gravity of apologies. This is from Kaveh Akbar’s chapbook/collection, Portrait of the Alcoholic.

Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila)

“I know scarcely one feature by which man can be distinguished from apes, if it be not that all the apes have a gap between their fangs and their other teeth.”
– Carolus Linnaeus

A gap, then,
a slot for fare.

I used my arms to learn two,
my fingers to learn ten.

My grandfather kept an atlas so old
there was a blank spot in the middle of Africa.

I knew a girl…

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David Brooks Addresses the (Ecclesial) Cubs

Last Sunday, David Brooks gave a remarkable sermon (or talk) at the National Cathedral in DC. There’s a lot of wonderful stuff in here, addressing both our “moment”–the attenuation, the loneliness, the over-politicization, the blandness of religion, the emotional avoidance–but more than that as well. If you stick with it til the end (and you can get past some of the agency language), you may even find he follows a bit of a familiar scheme, ht TB:

Alexa, Now!

Alexa, Now!

Whenever a new technology comes on the scene, there’s always a bridge that needs to be built. That bridge is a cognitive bridge and it takes some powerful envisioning (and marketing!) to communicate that vision to the public. It is a bridge between what before was only manageable by human intuition and hard work, and what can now (supposedly) be entrusted to another. In short, every new technology today is a bridge from human agency to automation, a bridge that will deliver us from the toil of Egypt into the Promised Land, from the land of servitude and strife into…

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The Joys of Agnostic Eating

The Joys of Agnostic Eating

Ethan has joked elsewhere about our recent Food & Drink Issue: we had selected a topic that was intentionally “lighter fare” to chase Mental Health and then watched as the stuff that came in delved into the heaviest possible corners of gastronomic experience (pun sort of intended). Addiction, mortality, moralism, Marduk… sheesh. Good thing we had plenty of Capon on the menu to balance the palate and steer us clear of potential (food) comas. From what we’ve heard back thus far, the fun still comes across, thank God.

The point here is not to issue some vague humblebrag about #depth. No,…

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