1. This week, The New York Times ran an article all about forgiveness: “Forgive me for stating the obvious, but forgiveness is in the air these days. Every week, our newsfeeds fill with someone or other asking for forgiveness.” Everyone from the Pope to Hulk Hogan (to Mockingbird!) is talking about forgiveness. I’d like to think that the Holy Spirit is the reason for this, but maybe, as the article suggests, it’s just the vanity of man:

Are these public figures modeling the type of forgiveness we all should adopt? Frederic Luskin, a psychologist and the head of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, believes not.

“The celebrity stuff you’re talking about is not really the hard work of forgiveness,” he said. “It’s the narcissistic work of forgiveness. It’s just asking for forgiveness.”

The real work, he explained, is when you’ve been harmed by someone you’re close to and you work through all the conflicting feelings to get to a place of dignity and peace.

In some ways, Luskin’s take on forgiveness is the height of the law, especially if it’s the inspiration for this particular article which does a great job reminding us of the difficulty (impossibility?) of true forgiveness but is also comprised of prescriptions only. By the end, the extensive demands for giving and receiving forgiveness will exhaust you, and you will certainly realize the futility of your own efforts: be vulnerable, be genuine, practice, practice, practice. The New York Times understands that forgiveness is hard, but this is where Christians luck out: God can forgive when we cannot, and it wasn’t easy for him to do so. How to Forgive, in Four Steps: 1. Die on a cross. 2. Rise from the dead. 3. Sounds like that should be enough for now.

2. As a real-life and very sobering testimony to the difficulty of forgiveness, Kelly Gissendaner was executed by the state of GA early in the morning on Wednesday, September 30. Witnesses said that as the execution began, she sang “Amazing Grace,” and she “sang it all the way through.” Kelly’s case provoked a lot of discussion about capital punishment (our favorite Stephanie Philips weighs in here) but also the transformative power of the Gospel. Kelly was convicted for contributing to the murder of her husband in 1997 and had since become a graduate of theology and a crucial voice of encouragement to her fellow inmates. Her children and the Vatican made pleas for clemency. Some of Kelly’s last words were transcribed:

I just want my kids to know that love still beats out hate. And I want the Gissendaner family to know that I’m sorry and because of me a good man lost his life. And I want to tell my kids I love them so much and I am so proud of them.

3. Last Friday, PBS Newshour spoke with David Brooks and Mark Shields about the Pope’s visit to America and his address to Congress. They had some pretty spot-on reflections. Mark Shields commented:

The thing about the man that just strikes me is that history is written by winners, and it’s written about winners, about victorious generals and princes and powerful presidents, and this man is an outsider. He looks at the world from the bottom up and from the outside in. And after the speech, instead of accepting the lunch where all the power brokers come to lionize you on Capitol Hill and give you all the toasts, he went down with 300 homeless people, and he fed them and ate with them, and he pointed out that Jesus was born homeless.

David Brooks said:

pope_winds_funny-460781It’s so clear how counter-cultural he is. We have ideological fights, but he’s anti-ideological: he’s personalist…. He represents an ethos of community and uplift, which is just different from our horizontal politics. It’s a vertical axis he’s on. And so whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, I think everyone felt uplifted, both uplifted by his example and his humility, but also humbled by, you know, he believes that the Church is a hospital for the souls. And so he offered that as well. And I’d say in general, we can have scorecards about how political he was, and I thought the political speeches were fine, the UN was fine. But some of the religious statements he made, the homily up at the Catholic Basilica here in Washington, were beautiful…. I’d hate to see him get drowned out by the political stuff….

We emphasize the man so much, but what he’s saying is the product of 2000 years of teaching, of thought, of prayer, and he’s the current exemplar. We overemphasized the individual and underemphasized the institution throughout this visit, but for some large number of people, this will be a turning point in their lives, and that’s worth celebrating…. For some people, this will be the moment where something very fundamental shifts in their lives, and politics rarely achieves that.

4. If you find yourself wondering whether or not God really has a plan for your life, you need only read The Onion. This week, Kathleen Dillon posted a hysterical article entitled, “God Has Kind Of A Loose Outline For Us All”:

It’s easy to find yourself adrift in a sea of doubt, feeling rudderless or, even worse, struggling just to stay afloat. Well, whether you realize it or not, God has given a brief amount of thought to your life, and there’s an okay chance He knows where He’ll be taking you next. That’s because, somewhere in the back of His head, He’s already figured out the basic gist of what He has in store for you.

Ultimately, we may not always understand God’s ways, but we can learn to accept that He has a handful of things jotted down ahead of time for us.

Not in a whole lot of detail or anything, but rest assured there are a couple key events in your life He’s pretty definite on, as well as some other stuff He still needs to flesh out….

You see, God has at least brainstormed a few possibilities for each of us, though He’s not really married to any ideas, you know? It’s really an open-ended process, and He’s definitely not afraid to make some changes along the way if He feels as though His original concept isn’t working out.

So just remember: We all feel directionless now and then. At those moments when we’re unsure where life is taking us, the best we can do is take comfort in the knowledge that God is probably feeling the exact same way.

5. Contra Pelagians (ht WM): For anyone who’s ever wondered whether or not babies are born with Original Sin, The Toast has something to say to you. This week, they published a list of “Things My Newborn Has Done That Remind Me of the Existential Horror of the Human Experience”:

  • Writhed against his confinement whether he was swaddled or not, as though trying to free himself from bonds that were interior to his psyche.
  • Reached out new hands for something firm to grab onto; found nothing but emptiness.
  • Screamed for hours without stopping. […]
  • Screamed while wallowing in his own poop, unable to escape the gross needs of his body.
  • Screamed while wallowing in his own pee. See previous. […]
  • Took no interest in Deadwood, Season 1, even the part where Jack McCall killed Wild Bill Hickok; was already inured to the pointless entertainments we use to distract ourselves from the imminence of death.
  • Screamed until he passed out from exhaustion.

It’s worth reading through the whole list!

6. On behalf of a Syrian refugee named Noujain, John Oliver resurrected EJ from Days of Our Lives, who was previously thought to have died-by-gunshot in the woods. “Coming back from the dead,” EJ says, “that’s not hard. You know what’s hard? Getting from Syria to Germany.” Regardless of what you think about the politics, you can’t help but laugh and think there’s something redemptive here. “If we can raise EJ Dimera from the dead, surely anything is possible!”

7. Happy October–here’s something scary for you: The Peeple App, yet unreleased, will supposedly to work like a “Yelp for people,” reviewing human beings instead of businesses. Anyone will be able to review anyone, even an unwilling or unknowing participant, on a five-star scale. The smiley broads who created this thing have said that they don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to “showcase your character” online. I can think of several reasons.

Luckily the negative reviews will be filtered more rigorously than the positive ones, ideally giving priority to a more rose-colored rating overall.

Unfortunately for the millions of people who could soon find themselves the unwilling subjects — make that objects — of Cordray’s app, [the founder’s] thoughts do not appear to have shed light on certain very critical issues, such as consent and bias and accuracy and the fundamental wrongness of assigning a number value to a person….

Peeple suggests a model in which everyone is justified in publicly evaluating everyone they encounter, regardless of their exact relationship.

The Washington Post does the fantastic and necessary work of revealing this app to be the horror show that it is, and The Onion gave us a lot to think about as well. I’d like to think, however, that Peeple won’t make it very far because we all know, if we’re honest, that if we were to be judged truthfully and objectively, we’d be lucky to make a two-star rating.


  • DZ is speaking at the Engage Conference in November!
  • From our friends at Key Life, a great article about grace and rest.
  • The insistent loneliness of MacGyver.
  • An article from The Atlantic about how empathy can lead to violence: “Everyone appreciates that fear and hate can motivate ugly choices; we should be mindful that our most tender sentiments can do the same.” Just pointing to low anthropology.
  • Re: Fitbits: