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Being Human in an Age of Ultron

Being Human in an Age of Ultron

This review comes to us from Ian Olson – spoilers follow.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is a bafflingly different film from its cherished predecessor. It takes enormous risks which, when they succeed, succeed spectacularly, but at their worst only fail to spark. What The Godfather Part II is to The...

Now Available! Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

Now Available! Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

Mockingbird couldn’t be more excited to announce a new book, Law and Gospel. A collaboration between Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, and David Zahl, this theology for sinners (and saints) is a short primer on a subject near and dear to us, the distinction between–you guessed it–Law and Gospel. From the back cover:

There’s...

Disembodied Truth: Memory Verses and Anxiety

Disembodied Truth: Memory Verses and Anxiety

Check out the mostly-related part II here, or start fresh here.

The memory verse is not always a good idea. Often it can be a shortcut toward getting a crisp, clear, self-contained biblical truth – but the search for a certain type of clarity often reflects more on our time and...

2015 NYC Conference Recordings: Clean Slate – Absolution in Real Life

2015 NYC Conference Recordings: Clean Slate – Absolution in Real Life

An incredibly heartfelt thank-you to everyone who helped put on this year’s conference in NYC, especially our friends at Calvary St. George’s. We couldn’t be more grateful for how it all went. We are excited to announce that next year’s NY Conference will take place April 14-16, 2016!

Once again we...

Forgiving Don Draper

Forgiving Don Draper

A laudably contrarian view of Mad Men appeared in the recent issue of The New York Review of Books by Daniel Mendelsohn, “The Mad Men Account,” raising a number of important questions before making a remarkable and even rather touching conclusion, namely, that the real subtext of the show is...

Eight Must-See 30 for 30s: A Magazine List

Eight Must-See 30 for 30s: A Magazine List

Another list from Issue 4, this one covers all that the sports world could not leave behind:

It would seem that the reach of ESPN’s 30 for 30 project surprised even ESPN. One might have imagined that a selection of human-interest stories and documentaries from the nether regions of the sports world...

The Storyless Self: Thoughts on Greed, Consumerism, and Desire

The Storyless Self: Thoughts on Greed, Consumerism, and Desire

“What is greed?” It’s a good question, and it is one which was posed to me by Ted Scofield during his breakout at the Mockingbird Conference a month ago. (You can hear the audio recording here.) According to Ted, several statistics and polls reveal that we Americans collectively see greed...

Sick to Sick

Sick to Sick

An old article from Slate.com recently caught my attention. And by old, I mean OLD by interwebs standards. The article is dated November, 2013. But I’m just reading it now, which is common, as I’m not the most up-to-date person out there.

The article’s title is eye-catching: No one brings dinner...

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Another Week Ends: New Notes from Luther, Coach Chandler, Mr. Wind, and Dad Bod.

Another Week Ends: New Notes from Luther, Coach Chandler, Mr. Wind, and Dad Bod.

1. Stop the presses! Sit down if you’re standing! Pull over if you’re driving!  The BBC is reporting that a first edition of Martin Luther’s seminal essay On the Freedom of a Christian has been discovered in a library in France, with margin notes from the author himself on changes he intended to make for the second edition. Wild! What I wouldn’t give for access to that manuscript (and the requisite knowledge of late-medieval German)! Not only is this new potential insight into Martin Luther’s early Reformation mind, but the essay in question is one of Luther’s classics that drew many of…

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My House Is Clean (But I’m Still a Mess)

My House Is Clean (But I’m Still a Mess)

A few weeks ago, a close friend of mine told me about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing a book by a woman named Marie Kondo, a Japanese “cleaning consultant”. A mutual friend of both of ours had read it and had highly recommended it. I went home to look it up and was shocked to discover that it was THE number one bestseller in books on Amazon currently.

In her article for New York Magazine, “De-Cluttering Is the New Juice Cleanse (and Equally Annoying)”, Maureen O’Connor writes:

“Japanese lifestyle guru Marie Kondo is the author…

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Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015 (So Far)

Best Anti-Commencement Speeches of 2015 (So Far)

Each year I make a hobby during graduation season (May/June) of paying attention to college commencement speeches. We’ve covered quite a few here on Mbird over the years. It’s a rhetorical phenomenon that sheds light on philosophies of the world that are either long on law or lame optimism about human potential: Look inside yourself, follow your heart, failure is just a stepping stone to future success. Oh, the places you’ll go! These are some of the many cliches that are repeated year after year. They’re also often insufferably boring.

Yet, it seems each season a glimmer of hope breaks through the the cracks from…

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A Quick Quote from Richard Rohr

fallingupwardA quote by Richard Rohr recently struck me, from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Rohr admittedly sounds new-agey sometimes, and this is no exception, but he talks in the book about how things fall apart from the “first half” of life, characterized by identity-building and Law, and then the “second half” – analogous to what we might call life under the cross – happens. This second moment is marked by mystery, surrender, destitution, and spiritual maturity, traits which often go together, as Rohr’s monastic tradition remembers. How does this passage from worldliness to spirituality, identity-building to identity-surrender, life under law to life under grace, happen? At Mbird, we talk a lot about theology of the cross, the idea that suffering can expose the pride and futility behind our self-justification schemes and free us from their burden. (It’s not the healthy who need a doctor anyway, but the sick.) Rohr describes this transition in his own, to me fresh, way:

Today we might use a variety of metaphors: reversing engines, a change in game plan, a falling off the very wagon that we constructed. No one would choose such upheaval consciously; we must somehow ‘fall’ into it. Those who are too carefully engineering their own superiority systems will usually not allow it at all. It is much more done to you than anything you do yourself, and sometimes nonreligious folks are more open to this change in strategy than are religious folks who have their private salvation project all worked out. This is how I would interpret Jesus’ enigmatic words, ‘The children of this world are wiser in their ways than the children of light’ (Luke 16:8)…

The human ego prefers anything, just about anything, to falling or changing or dying. The ego is the part of you that loves the status quo, even when it is not working. It attaches to past and present, and fears the future.

The rest of Rohr’s book explores the mechanism of this transition, and I think he does well to remind us, that God’s work to change is often deconstructive, undesired, even violent. And it reminds me that whatever else people might say about the Bible, its books are some of the only ones written with sufficient originality to speak against the grain of any time or place or culture, since it speaks against the Adamic ego itself. And he does well to remind us that nonreligious people often do best with the message; early Christianity got the most traction among Gentiles, after all. Which means that, far from the prevalent American model of preaching the Gospel to unbelievers and (baptized) self-improvement to the ‘mature’, we religious people need the message just as deeply as anyone – though we’re more likely to resist it.

Absolved Parenthood

Absolved Parenthood

I read a post via the online magazine for parents, Brain, Child, titled, “Regret is Poison.” For a Law/Gospel theologian/parent who isn’t afraid of the darkness of human existence, I was a moth to a flame. Regret? I’m listening. Regret as it pertains to guilt and parenting? Hellooo. I’ve been there. Tell me more. So I read the article.

The author of the article describes her regret and guilt for how she parented her children in vivid, palpable, imagery:

Now, as my three eldest children round the corner out of adolescence and into adulthood and my youngest is just a few months…

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Water, Blood and Gasoline: The Full-Throttle Gospel of Mad Max: Fury Road

Water, Blood and Gasoline: The Full-Throttle Gospel of Mad Max: Fury Road

This one comes to us from Adam Morton, who tell us at the outset that, “While I do my best to minimize them, if you’re concerned about spoilers, rush out now and see the film.”

“My name is Max. My world is fire and blood.” The film’s opening words declare an existence that is already hell, life and death hardly distinguishable under universal wrath. Small pockets of humanity, if not civilization, persist within the wastelands, the scraps of the Before Time (an Edenic memory of our world) savagely contested among desert warlords and their gangs of deranged motorheads. Ordinary folk are…

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Law and Gospel on Kindle (and YouTube)

Good news! Our new book, Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints) is now available on Kindle. We’re also excited to debut a little promotional video we made for the project (thank you Mark Babikow!) and invite you to share it as you see fit. Oh, and let’s not forget: those Amazon reviews aren’t going to write themselves.

Grace in Admissions

Grace in Admissions

In the mid-day haze following a 4 AM After-Prom chaperoning experience at an arcade, I’ve been reflecting on the year before and the year ahead. Perhaps this is what four hours of go-carts, laser tag, and skee-ball encourage you to do. More likely, it just happens to be May. In the world of education, this is my New Year’s Eve, my time for reflection and resolutions.

As a college counselor at an independent school, late May is especially conducive to rumination. The seniors who once (rightfully) complained about the roller coaster ride of the college admissions process are…

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From The New Yorker

GiveUP

The Final Confession of Donald Draper

The Final Confession of Donald Draper

Spoilers, people, spoilers.

“I broke all my vows. I scandalized my child. I took another man’s name and made nothing of it.”

Thus goes the bottoming out we’ve been waiting for these past 7-8 years from Don Draper. His long dismantling, both self-instigated and otherwise, reached its endpoint in Mad Men‘s finale. Don’s marriage, his position, his children are gone–the various phone calls make that clear. Even his “niece” Stephanie refuses to let him be needed, going so far as to remove his last shred of agency, stranding him at the retreat center. Reduced to nothing, Don makes his confession to…

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Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Ten Verses Eleven Through Eighteen

Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Ten Verses Eleven Through Eighteen

A privilege this morning to share a reflection from The Rt. Rev. Jeff W. Fisher, Bishop Suffragan of Texas, adapted from a sermon given last month at Trinity Episcopal Church in The Woodlands, TX, “Not Your Grandma’s Good Shepherd”. You can read more of Bishop Fisher over at his blog.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it….

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Another Week Ends: Christian Decline, Gaffigan Pilot, Instagram Edicts, Lake Wobegon Effect, Paltrow Haters, and Inkling Endings

Another Week Ends: Christian Decline, Gaffigan Pilot, Instagram Edicts, Lake Wobegon Effect, Paltrow Haters, and Inkling Endings

“Pot-bellied pigs have been wildly unfashionable since 2005. Owning a pot-bellied pig is frowned upon almost as much as being a Christian.”

1. These are the words of Erlich Bachman in the most recent episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley, perhaps the funniest show on television at the moment (Veep being its main competition). They come after Erlich has heard a pitch from a tech start-up that he’s considering investing in, a Christian dog-sharing company(!). Before launching into the pot-bellied pigs riff, he tells the two would-be entrepreneurs, “Besides, I’m sure you know that Christianity is borderline illegal in Northern California”. It’s…

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