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About CJ Green

CJ Green studied English and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Virginia. He currently works at Mockingbird as a staff editor for print publications (mbird.com/publications) and as a moderator for the website. His favorite books are for ages 7-12.

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Author Archive
    
    Another Week Ends: Pyeongchang and Pardons, Parrothead Existentialism, Monopoly for Cheaters, Solitude vs. Loneliness, Aunt Lucy's Love, and More Recovery

    Another Week Ends: Pyeongchang and Pardons, Parrothead Existentialism, Monopoly for Cheaters, Solitude vs. Loneliness, Aunt Lucy’s Love, and More Recovery

    1. With the Olympics now underway in Pyeongchang, let’s begin with a powerful piece that looks back at the 1988 Games in Seoul and the deadly attempt, by the Kim Il Sung regime, to prevent them. 115 people were killed at the hands of elite agent, Kim Hyon-hui, a young woman who been “groomed” as a North Korean “warrior.”

    Yet thirty years later, after her arrest and subsequent pardoning, she now lives a quite different life:

    Kim’s life speaks to the disorienting contrasts on the Korean Peninsula, where the Olympics can be peaceful or deadly, unifying or dividing, and where a terrorist can…

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    Something Major Has Gone Wrong Here: Why Alain de Botton Loves the Concept of Original Sin

    A quick excerpt from a recent interview with School of Life founder Alain de Botton in the current Believer. Here, de Botton defends the concept of original sin as the starting point for functional relationships:

    BLVR: Did you grow up atheist?

    ADB: I grew up totally atheist… Christians were a naive lot who had sort of fallen for Jesus. They were sentimental, they were too emotional… It was all very tribal and just ridiculous in a way. But that was the ideology I grew up with. And now I’m very interested in Christian vulnerability, the taboo. So I spend quite a lot of time discussing that, you know… I love the concept of original sin, the idea that we’re all fundamentally broken and fundamentally incomplete. 

    BLVR: Why do you love that idea?

    ADB: Because it seems to be such a useful starting point. You know, if you imagine a relationship in which two people think they’re great—you know, perfect—that’s going to lead to intolerance and terrible disappointment when they realize that they’re not great, they’re not perfect. Whereas imagine a relationship that begins under the idea that two people are quite broken and therefore they need forgiveness from the other and they need to apply charity to the other and they need to forgive the other, and so that seems a much better starting point. I like these descriptions of human beings as being really quite flawed and crazy and out of control and you find that in Buddhism and Judaism and Christianity. The human being is presented as a very fragile, sort of broken creature. And I like that. It’s a good starting point and also it feels true to my experience.

    BLVR: How are you defining broken?

    ADB: By broken I mean “not quite right.” And that could mean so many different things but it could mean “with a great tendency to anxiety,” say, or “with a great tendency toward despair,” say, or “with a tendency to panic.” Any of these fundamental dispositions toward low self-esteem or whatever it is; many of us have a background of ways in which we’re not quite right.

    BLVR: That’s all of us.

    ADB: Yes, all of us. So that’s why the concept of original sin seems so plausible and applicable and also kind, because it basically says, Look, when you meet someone new, don’t just look for the positives; just assume that something major has gone wrong here. Treat everybody you meet as though they were laboring under some really big problem, basically. That’s the starting point of any encounter. Rather than how great are they, it’s more like, OK, where’s the broken bit of them? That’s a much kinder and more interesting way of getting to know someone. And also to say, That’s the bit of you I’m actually interested in. Like, I don’t really want to hear—that’s fantastic that you’ve been promoted, and you know that’s great, but, like, I don’t think that’s where your real self is.

    Kinda reminds me of a line from Grace in Practice“Once the grievous nuance and unplumbable depth of the psyche were named, the power of the absolution could rise to the occasion. Once the total depravity of original sin was out of the closet, then the magnificent response latent within the grace of God in the cross of Christ could be portrayed. It could be displayed for people to see.”

    Step Back From That Ledge? Outdoor Activity, 'the Progression Mindset,' and the Pressure of Experience

    Step Back From That Ledge? Outdoor Activity, ‘the Progression Mindset,’ and the Pressure of Experience

    Imagine you’re on a hike. (Where I live, everyone loves to hike.) Imagine you’re out in the woods, and you’ve been on the trail for hours, going steadily uphill, stepping carefully over rocks and slippery wet roots. By the time you reach the summit, you’ve eaten all your snacks, drunk most of your water, and rolled your ankle once or twice. But you’re there! You’ve made it. And you’re enjoying the view when suddenly you notice, in the distance, another peak, just slightly higher than the one you’re on.

    It turns out you haven’t reached the summit. That’s another mile along….

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    Another Week Ends: The Loneliness Minister,  Divine Retribution, Sexual Misery, Lighthearted Poetry, Smart Pills, Astrology in the App Age, and David Bentley Hart's Grocery List

    Another Week Ends: The Loneliness Minister, Divine Retribution, Sexual Misery, Lighthearted Poetry, Smart Pills, Astrology in the App Age, and David Bentley Hart’s Grocery List

    1. This week brought some good news from the Old Country… In response to the increasingly acknowledged correlation between loneliness and physical deterioration/illness, the UK has appointed a minister for loneliness. I don’t know about you guys but, having grown up with a deep-seated appreciation for self-reliance, I couldn’t help getting a little smirky at this headline. But then, you can’t deny the humility in play here. Publicly admitting that not only is loneliness a legitimate problem but also that an entire nation is dangerously affected by it? That’s a pretty powerful admission of human need—which is in no way specifically…

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    But Now Let's Have a Surprise

    But Now Let’s Have a Surprise

    I love church mishaps. Once, at a Baptist service, I spilled my little cup of communion Welch’s on a neighbor’s new white pants. He was so kind about it but also probably mad, and I was so embarrassed. There was a soft piano playing in the background while the preacher, up front, invited the congregation to commune with the Lord and, when we were ready, to go ahead and drink. I tried mopping up the spill with my sleeve, until parishioners from all sides descended upon me and told me to stop: “It’s okay,” they said, “it’s okay.” It didn’t…

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    Another Week Ends: Burial Road, Rethinking Infidelity, Batman Smells, Curationism, the Anti-App, and the Absurdity of Hope

    Another Week Ends: Burial Road, Rethinking Infidelity, Batman Smells, Curationism, the Anti-App, and the Absurdity of Hope

    New episode of The Mockingcast (“Tis Better to Receive Than to Give”) now up on iTunes! Click here to subscribe.

    1. Let’s begin with “The End,” The Times’ heartwrenching but incredibly moving series on death. This week’s entry, “The Heroes of Burial Road” by Catherine Porter, chronicles how, in response to unaffordable funeral costs and an unfathomable death rate, a shocking number of deceased Haitians have been left unburied. It’s a gut-punch of a story, terribly affecting, but, as with so many things of this weight, a swift flume for grace in practice.

    Porter details the way a patchwork of various workers…

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    When Joan Didion Cries into a Food Fair Bag

    When Joan Didion Cries into a Food Fair Bag

    I suppose it was only a matter of time before I found myself infatuated with the likes of Joan Didion (whose chain-smoking charms I put off for so long). She’s at last become inevitable. Along with her recent Netflix documentary and her brief epigraph in Lady Bird, her recently resurfaced essay “On Self-Respect” was nothing short of a pleasant surprise (ht JR). Originally commissioned as a last minute addition to a 1961 issue of Vogue, its parameters (legend goes) were not an exact word count but an exact character count. As you’ll see, the lasting emotional heft of this short essay…

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    Recommended Music: "Songs for Christmas Time" by Lowland Hum

    Recommended Music: “Songs for Christmas Time” by Lowland Hum

    Last Christmas my wife and I had a revelation that it seems everyone has, sooner or later. We actually started listening to Christmas music. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire?!” We’re millennials. We barely know how to start a fire, much less roast chestnuts on an open one. Forget keeping Christ in Christmas; it sometimes seems like Christmas isn’t even in Christmas. And yet here I am this year, eagerly watching as city workers string up cedar garlands downtown, checking my weather app for LED snowflakes, caught up in the internal tug-of-war that this season always brings: the longing for,…

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    Another Week Ends: A Heaven-Sent Car Crash, the Anti-Aging Taboo, Fearful but Trendy Parents, the Legacy of Flannery O'Connor, and Sending Books to Kids in Houston

    Another Week Ends: A Heaven-Sent Car Crash, the Anti-Aging Taboo, Fearful but Trendy Parents, the Legacy of Flannery O’Connor, and Sending Books to Kids in Houston

    1. An amazing story of reconciliation in the latest episode of Jonathan Goldstein’s Heavyweight, the podcast DZ recommended in last week’s AWE. Every episode turns back the clock, diving into the past of a different person with unique resentments or grievances to air out.

    The most recent episode is the story of Jesse, a man who at age twenty-one was t-boned by a car going 45mph. For a time he was legally dead, and seventeen days after the accident, he awoke from a coma half-paralyzed, expecting never again to walk, never again to drive. The life he once lived, his dreams, his…

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    Secret Demodogs and (Spiritual) Black Holes: Stranger Things 2 Loses Its Innocence

    Secret Demodogs and (Spiritual) Black Holes: Stranger Things 2 Loses Its Innocence

    Spoilers galore in the following look at the latest season of the Netflix series.

    A Christian take on the new season of Stranger Things begins and ends with Eleven and her relationship to Hopper. That relationship—its ups, its downs, and its upside downs—becomes the beating heart of this season.

    When we last saw El, she’d proven herself a worthy Jesus figure. She was mysterious, a charismatic mediator between the known and the unknown. What’s more, in the first season finale, she sacrificed herself to the Demogorgon before a well-placed box of Eggos hinted that the tomb was empty. But, at the risk…

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    Another Week Ends: Bootleg Bob Dylan, Converted Morticians, Your True Self, Anxious Teens, and Earning Points in The Good Place

    Another Week Ends: Bootleg Bob Dylan, Converted Morticians, Your True Self, Anxious Teens, and Earning Points in The Good Place

    1. This week brought some fantastic revelations, not the least of which was Bob Dylan’s bootleg (gospel-infused) song, “Making A Liar Out of Me”:

    Needless to say, we’re eagerly awaiting this collection’s release. From Andy Greene at Rolling Stone:

    Bob Dylan began writing gospel songs at such a furious rate in late 1978 that there was no way his record company could put them all out, even if they let him release two albums of Christian music just 10 months apart. Many of the songs that never made it on record were played live on the gospel tours of 1979 to 1981 and…

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    Pobody's Nerfect: On Performance Anxiety and (Not) Giving Advice from the Pulpit

    Pobody’s Nerfect: On Performance Anxiety and (Not) Giving Advice from the Pulpit

    With both the Reformation’s quincentennial kickoff and our DC conference mere weeks away, we’ve put our feelers out for all things smacking of the reason for the season, that “harsh doctor,” Martin Luther. Today we were pleased to find just that from our friend Phillip Cary, who is featured in the latest issue of First Things. Below I’ve re-posted a handful of memorable excerpts from his piece “Luther at 500” (ht RS):

    The great pastoral aim of Luther’s doctrine of justification is to free us from the kind of performance anxiety that arises whenever our salvation depends in any way on us, our hearts,…

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