After taking a few weeks off to ponder all things Elvis-related, and to try out a new smaller-but-more-frequent approach to posting, I am returning to the weekly round-up. Mainly in response to the surprising and flattering popular demand (a la EP…?). Regardless, it will probably end up being more of a bi-weekly round-up from here forward. Here goes:

1. Everyone’s favorite evangelical atheist, Christopher Hitchens, brings us another blast of what is becoming his trademark ‘insightful lack of insight’ in Vanity Fair this week, rewriting the 10 Commandments [Warning: considerable language and smugness]. It is truly astonishing – in the same way that his bemoaning the offensiveness of “vicarious redemption” (aka substitutionary atonement) in God Is Not Great ends up underlining exactly what is so powerful and shocking and good about Christianity – here he unintentionally brings out the true purpose of the Law. Hitchens has an uncanny knack for voicing the exact same stale objections that apologists have addressed for centuries (as if he was the first person to think of them – objections which I had always suspected Christians were unfairly charicaturing…), almost as if he were working from a script written by a straw man-happy evangelist, albeit a very witty one. Speaking about the 10th Commandment, he writes:

“This is the first but not the last introduction in the Bible of the totalitarian concept of “thought crime.” You are being told, in effect, not even to think about it. (Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament takes this a step further, announcing that those with lust in their heart have already committed the sin of adultery. In that case, you might as well be hung—or stoned—for a sheep as for a lamb…) Wise lawmakers know that it is a mistake to promulgate legislation that is impossible to obey. You said it, Chris!

On a Hitchens-related note, apparently this is for real… It would appear that these atheist groups have no compunction about sinking to the level of their opponents. Or perhaps they’re just playing catch-up? Either way it seems pretty self-defeating [ht JD].

2. On a more positive note, current Mockingbird hero Mark Galli (aka the reason we subscribe to Christianity Today) offers up another of what is becoming his trademark brilliance with “What To Do When You Find Yourself Praying To The Quid Pro Quo God”.

When we find ourselves explaining that God is “doing this for my own good,” or secretly striving “to do better,” or saying to ourselves that “I deserve my fate,” you can be sure we are in the presence of the quid pro quo god, the god of fear and just desserts. 

Let us be clear about this matter: The god who withholds a blessing for our own good is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has withheld nothing from us, not even his own Son, not even his own self. In spite of the fact that we have not been faithful in small or large things, he has gone to extraordinary lengths—dying an unjust death—to give us a blessing of unimaginable proportions. This is not a god who would then turn around and withhold a relatively miniscule blessing, or shower upon us some curse, because we listened to Travis Tritt or spent five minutes on the Playboy website. He is not a quid pro quo god but a God who is recklessly generous with his mercy—”For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10).

3. Have you seen the new OK Go video for their wonderfully titled new single “This Too Shall Pass”? Goonies + Double Dare + Mouse Trap + Flaming Lips = Fantastic clip. Never been that big of a fan of this band, but this is enough to change my mind [ht AZ]:

4. The write-up about Shaun White over Mardecortesbaja said it all. The man is an artist! He made the Winter Olympics as far as I’m concerned. While you’re there, be sure to read PZ’s recent entry on Jack Kerouac’s connection to the 1954 Hollywood epic The Egyptian. Then check out The Zahl File for more goodies, including the recent “Preacher From The Black Lagoon”.

5. A pop-culture things to look forward to: Ricky and Steven’s Cemetary Junction, Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, John Carpenter’s Elvis finally making it to DVD [yes - that John Carpenter], Elvis’ stunning 1969-70 Vegas live albums re-released later this month, and the Shins-Danger Mouse collaboration Broken Bells, which comes out next week and really is almost as good as one might hope, and finally, on the distant horizon, the next record from my non-Elvis musical obsession of the moment, Dawes. It may or may not include this wonderful song. Oh and rejoice rejoice for the Gentlemen Broncos DVD came out last week, giving those of us who missed it in the theaters (i.e. everyone) a chance to soak up more of the Hess genius!

6. TV: Based on all the Olympics ads, I was pretty skeptical about NBC’s Parenthood. But that was before I found out that the showrunner is Jason Katims, one of the head honchos on our beloved FNL. Is it any good? Then, the aforementioned Big Love finishes up another stellar season this Sunday, with Sissy Spacek’s turn as the season villain being an unexpected highlight. The most recent storyline about the prevalence of psychopharmaceuticals among devout Mormon women was news to me, but not necessarily a surprise. I did a little research and found out that Utah actually leads the country in depression. Go figure…

BONUS TRACK: I leave you with the (prophetic?) Elvis clip of the week, “Yoga Is As Yoga Does”: