They say you can trace the exact moment the Great British Public fell out of love with Morrissey to the release of his 1996 album, Southpaw Grammar. It sounds like just the sort of brazen pronouncement rock critics love to make, more of a conversation-starter than a statement of fact....
This op-ed was written by Peter Wehner in the Sunday Review of the NYT. In it he talks about those suffering in the wake of “great pain,” not just for the deaths that have stirred their lives, but also for the seeming absence of God in those moments. His description of what Christianity offers–consolation–is so much better–so much realer–than the answers we’re often given (admittedly, also in Christian circles).
I’m no theologian. My professional life has been focused on politics and the ideas that inform politics. Yet I’m also a Christian trying to wrestle honestly with the complexities…
Late last week, in anticipation of his upcoming triple album Triplicate, Bob Dylan’s website published a rare, lengthy Q&A with the man himself, and while the whole thing’s very much worth reading, a few of his answers were simply too remarkable not to reproduce here. No, not as remarkable as these but nevertheless. Talk about an independent soul:
1. Interviewer: No one can hear “As Time Goes By” and not think of Casablanca. What are some movies that have inspired your own songs?
Dylan: The Robe, King of Kings, Samson and Delilah, some others too. Maybe, like, Picnic…
Believe it or not, this time next month (Thursday, 4/27), we’ll be setting the tables for the opening feast in NYC–the enchiladas will be roasting, the ceviche nearly prepped, the churro bites ready to fry, with the sangria on ice. Needless to say, conference-related posts will be coming chock-a-block these next few weeks. We’ll be publishing the full slate of breakout sessions later this week (brace yourself) but first, I am beyond thrilled to announce that our final plenary speaker will be someone whose byline you may recognize from major articles in The NY Times, The Atlantic, Harper’s, or The Nation. Lord knows we haven’t been shy about highlighting his work over the years. I’m talking about none other than noted author and critic William Deresiewicz (Excellent Sheep, A Jane Austen Education).
Not ringing a bell? Take, for example, his pot-stirring 2014 editorial in The New Republic, “Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League”:
So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.
Or his 2012 column for The NY Times, “A Matter of Taste?”:
“Eat, Pray, Love,” the title goes, but a lot of people never make it past the first. Nor do they have to. Food now expresses the symbolic values and absorbs the spiritual energies of the educated class. It has become invested with the meaning of life. It is seen as the path to salvation, for the self and humanity both… A good risotto is a fine thing, but it isn’t going to give you insight into other people, allow you to see the world in a new way, or force you to take an inventory of your soul.
And let us not forget his recent essay for The American Scholar, “On Political Correctness: Power, Class, and the New Campus Religion”:
The assumption on selective campuses is not only that we are in full possession of the truth, but that we are in full possession of virtue. We don’t just know the good with perfect wisdom, we embody it with perfect innocence. But regimes of virtue tend to eat their children. Think of Salem. They tend to turn upon themselves, since everybody wants to be the holiest. Think of the French Revolution. The ante is forever being upped.
Suffice it to say, no one has a more finely tuned radar for the mechanics of righteousness (and performancism!) in contemporary culture, the ways that religious impulses find ‘secular’ expression–a la DFW’s classic “everybody worships” line–than William Deresiewicz. He not only sees “the thing beneath the thing”, but articulates it time and again with boldness, precision, and compassion. I consider it an immense honor that he’s agreed to join us on Friday afternoon, April 28th.
P.S. There is still some limited scholarship funds available. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
As faithless as it is calculating, college admission becomes a decade of denial for most.
The first of April becomes the focus of lifetimes. Many parents and their issue have connived, planned, even negotiated for this date: college admission — April First. This April Fool’s Day, millions of households will have their 17-year-old collegiate lay locked and loaded, kinder-glued to their laptops. No, it’s not porn, binge-watching, or even OD-ing on FB. It’s all about admission to college. That’s Decision Day.
It used to be so simple: you got a fat envelope and were IN, thin envelope OUT, middle envelope MAYBE. We…
Another Week Ends: Chuck Berry, Preachy Ads, Yik Yak Help, Optimist Empathy, Missing Richard Simmons, and the Relentless Gig Economy
1. If you, too, have wondered where all the moral messaging has been coming from in advertisements—whether it’s Amazon, Barbie, Budweiser, or 84 Lumber—why all those Super Bowl ads were so heavily imbued with political and philosophical truisms, well, you’re not alone. This week, Megan Garber of The Atlantic wrote an article called “Selling What They Preach,” which is an observation of the kind of morality flag-bearing happening during a lot of primetime TV commercials. She’s extremely aware of the irony of this endeavor—that so many of these enormous, consumer-focused businesses are spinning messages of “empathy” or “togetherness” or “love,”…
Well, Disney, you did it again. You brought yet another animated classic to life with stunning costumes and incredible effects, transporting every audience member back to her childhood.
I am referring, of course, to Beauty and the Beast. Although a more seasoned film critic might find fault with aspects of the movie—yes, parts are slightly hokey and some of the acting is off—I would advise against arguing about the quality of the movie with a 90s kid who grew up on this story and was thrilled at the idea of enjoying it again. I loved every minute of it. I laughed. I…
This is a serious honor. We’ve received permission from filmmaker Kurt Neale to post his incredible new documentary, Ask: Can Love Survive Addiction and Co-Dependency?, here on Mockingbird. As you’ll see, he and his crew have given us an enormous gift, not just to those of us who’ve experienced the fearful realities of addiction and co-dependency, but to anyone who has drawn breath in the world described in Romans 7. Not to mention anyone who’s come into contact with what Andrew Sullivan calls “this generation’s AIDS crisis”. You could almost call it Grace in Addiction: The Movie. That is, the whole thing brims with honesty and humanity and compassion and, yes, real hope–the Polyphonic Spree is just icing on the cake.
Naturally, the film contains mature subject matter and language. Viewer discretion is advised.
P.S. As you’ll see, this is a work of art ideally suited for discussion. If you’re interested, I know Kurt and co are open to arranging screenings around the country. You can contact him via his website.
P.P.S. If it all sounds a tad on the heavy-side, fast forward to minute 1:19 for a hilarious Easter egg.
Another TV season, another bid for our wallets. HBO is making its case this season with comic Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow’s latest, Crashing. Holmes is famous for his standup comedy and “You Made It Weird” podcast (see our writeup), and his biography of “almost-youth-minister-turned-comic” is one for the annals of Christendom. Fewer ex(?) Evangelicals have articulated so well what a law-saturated theology can do to a person. For those of us who can’t afford HBO-to-go yet, here’s a few lines from Pete Holmes interview on NPR’s Fresh Air that make it hard to say no. Hold on to your wallets!
On the relationship between…
After I became a Christian during my junior year of college, I found myself attending a church where I heard the gospel of grace at Church every Sunday morning, at small group gatherings every Sunday night, and while sitting around kitchen tables and coffee tables with my new Christian friends as our conversations about Jesus lingered into the late hours of many nights. I soaked up the solid teaching and theology that was handed to me every time I turned around. At first I wondered why everyone kept talking about the gospel and how we all needed to “remind each…
This gem popped up on social media yesterday:
I’m standing in IKEA, and I am shattered.
It’s not often one has an existential crisis in the checkout lane of a Swedish furniture store in the suburbs of Sydney–I think–but it happened to me, and very recently. In the twenty minutes (that felt like an eternity) that I spent behind the cart holding my two young children and a mountain of decorative crap, I came to question every #blessed gift and decision that got me to this exact point in the universe: to this store, to this country, to these children, to this marriage, to this God.
How’s that for a…