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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...

On Christian Friendship

On Christian Friendship

I remember the high school Bible studies of my Deep South upbringing would often remind students to be wary of whom they befriended. They told students that they should keep a good distance from people who chose to smoke behind the gym (me) or make out in the teacher’s lounge (also...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Ten Notes on Religious Decline (plus A.W.E.)

Ten Notes on Religious Decline (plus A.W.E.)

“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...

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Chants of Paradise: Progress, Christianity, and The Soul of the Marionette

Chants of Paradise: Progress, Christianity, and The Soul of the Marionette

In the can’t-make-this-up department, someone commented on The Guardian’s review of John Gray’s Soul of the Marionette:

While science is the only game in town in deepening our understanding reality, obviously, philosophers and experts in history are also pretty handy to have around.

Here is a distorted picture of John Gray’s ideal of the graceful (because un-self-conscious) marionette: someone likely careening this way and that through life, with no semblance of where he’s going or what it all means. This blindness is typical of triumphalism, and we live in triumphalistic times, times when our default assumption is that our structures and, more…

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God As Heather Kopp Doesn’t Understand Him

God As Heather Kopp Doesn’t Understand Him

Happy to report that we’re in the midst of putting the final touches on the Forgiveness issue of The Mockingbird magazine (should be out at the end of June). One of the last elements to be added is “On Our Bookshelf”, which is exactly what it sounds like, a short list of what’s been making the rounds internally. Anyway, one of my selections this time around is Heather Kopp’s Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk, which I’ve been greatly enjoying. The subtitle kind of says it all. It’s a superbly written account of what happens when…

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Why Am I Dead? Revisiting The Black Parade

Why Am I Dead? Revisiting The Black Parade

This one comes to us from Caleb Stallings:

Recently, I found myself listening to a favorite band from my adolescence: My Chemical Romance. I know, I know… The certifiable kings of emo rock! I should be embarrassed by this, right? Some people certainly think so. When I mentioned my appreciation for them recently on Facebook, I was met with an immediate and sarcastic reply, “So are you gonna start painting your nails black now?” The response got me thinking about why I used to (and still do) find MCR compelling. I can hardly think of a more vilified band from my…

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Anders Breivik and the Commandment We See in the Faces of Others

Anders Breivik and the Commandment We See in the Faces of Others

By way of follow-up to yesterday’s post on the problems facing boys, if you haven’t bookmarked Karl Ove Knausgaard’s essay about mass murderer Anders Breivik in last week’s New Yorker, run don’t walk. It may not be beach reading exactly, but nothing’s more edifying than when a great writer tackles a subject that’s worthy of him/her, of which this represents a prime example. The depth of reflection is truly impressive, as is how strenuously Knausgaard works to avoid the word “evil”. But for our purposes, the Norwegian master explores at some length the ‘distancing from self’–or disembodiment–that modern life makes…

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From The Onion: Parents Clinging To Lone Religious Element Of Daughter’s Wedding Ceremony

How do they keep this up? That’s what I’d like to know. Just in time for wedding season:

ROCHESTER, NY—After sitting through an outdoor ceremony officiated by the groom’s best friend, local parents Scott and Linda McNeil were clinging to the lone religious element of their daughter’s wedding, sources confirmed Saturday. “The vows they wrote for each other were nice, but the passage from Corinthians they used on the back of the wedding program was just beautiful,” said Linda McNeil, adding that she and her husband were both deeply touched by the inclusion of the biblical quote “Love still stands when all else has fallen,” which appeared beneath a verse from a Sarah McLachlan song. “I’ve always loved that passage, and it’s a part of the Scripture that really captures who they are.” McNeil then added that she knew the small image of a dove above the quote would have made her late mother very happy.

Read the original here.

Feministic Fallout? More on Underachieving Boys and Gracious G.A.W.F.s

Feministic Fallout? More on Underachieving Boys and Gracious G.A.W.F.s

There’s a telling scene at the end of Whit Stillman’s film Barcelona (above). One of the characters remarks about how wonderful it is to marry someone from another country. Alienating traits, instead of being taken personally, can be chalked up to national differences. As in, “must be a Spanish thing”, or “in Japanese culture, that’s just how they operate”. The scene has been playing in my head these past couple of weeks as various articles about the state of gender relations in America have crossed my desk. One wonders if, in leaving behind certain gender expectations and roles, we have…

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Folding (Dirty) Laundry with the Duggars

Folding (Dirty) Laundry with the Duggars

I have seen most episodes of the Duggar family’s 21 Kids and Counting. It is one of those odd reality TV shows that offers very little in the way of drama. And when something compelling happens, it is usually happy news like the birth of a child or a visit to the Today Show. Unlike my beloved Housewives franchise, 21 Kids and Counting doesn’t have any yelling or table flipping. It has been an easy show to watch while folding laundry.

But there’s something deeper than just its relative tranquility. I have always admired the Duggar family’s structure for righteousness. In…

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Hiding in the Bathroom: Why Inspired Parenting Will Kill You – Sarah Condon

Happy Memorial Day! While those of us in Cville catch our breath, we thought we’d share the second video from our recent conference in Tyler, TX, Sarah’s fabulous (and hilarious) session on parenting:

Hiding in the Bathroom: Why Inspired Parenting Will Kill You – Sarah Condon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

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.