CJ Green studied English and Middle Eastern Studies at UVa. His favorite books are for ages 7-12. The Holy Spirit led him to Mockingbird, and he is eternally grateful.
This an excerpt from the conclusion to MLK’s 1959 sermon, “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.”
I am thankful that we worship a God who is both tough minded and tenderhearted. If God were only tough minded, he would be a cold, passionless despot sitting in some far-off Heaven “contemplating all,” as Tennyson puts it in “The Palace of Art.” He would be Aristotle’s “unmoved mover,” self-knowing but not other-loving. But if God were only tenderhearted, he would be too soft and sentimental to function when things go wrong and incapable of controlling what he has made. He would be like H. G. Well’s loveable God in God, the Invisible King, who is strongly desirous of making a good world but finds himself helpless before the surging powers of evil. God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded. He is tough minded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.
At times we need to know that the Lord is a God of justice. When slumbering giants of injustice emerge in the Earth, we need to know that there is a God of power who can cut them down like the grass and leave them withering like the Greek herb. When our most tireless efforts fail to stop the surging sweep of oppression, we need to know that in this universe is a God whose matchless strength is a fit contrast to the sordid weakness of man. But there are also times when we need to know that God possesses love and mercy. When we are staggered by the chilly winds of adversity and battered by the raging storms of disappointment and when through our folly and sin we stray into some destructive far country and are frustrated because of a strange feeling of homesickness, we need to know that there is Someone who loves us, cares for us, understands us, and will give us another chance. When days grow dark and nights grow dreary, we can be thankful that our God combines in his nature a creative synthesis of love and justice that will lead us through life’s dark valleys and into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfillment.
Another Week Ends: Andrew Garfield Falls in Love with Jesus, Internet Trolls Enter the Confessional, Ninety-Percent Forgiveness, Bootstraps Parenting, Kirk Franklin Loses His Religion, and Labour-In-Vain Road
1. Happy Friday, everyone! First up, America Magazine’s interview with Andrew Garfield, who plays Rodrigues in Scorsese’s adaption of Silence, which is wide-releasing today. Apparently Garfield prepared extensively for his role as a Jesuit priest, practicing Ignation Exercises for several months before shooting. To get the scoop, Jesuit Brendan Busse went on a “religious blind date” with Garfield. It started off pretty awkward…the actor was tired, the Jesuit was excited [about Ignatius Loyola]. And then Garfield explained his weariness: “…the grief of living in a time and a place where a life of joy and love is f–ing impossible.”
He goes on to identify the law: that, even…
I’ve been enjoying Michael Lewis’s new book, The Undoing Project, which picks up where Moneyball left off: When it comes to sports recruitment, if the numbers are more reliable than human judgment, the next question is why? What’s going on in the human mind that makes even the experts’ top picks hit-or-miss?
One answer is the inevitable confirmation bias. The following definition comes to us from our magazine’s recent Mental Health issue: “The tendency to experience the world through the lens of your already held beliefs. If you think, before you’ve eaten there, that La Frontera is a terrible restaurant…the odds are in favor of you hating it…
I think we owe ourselves a congratulations. We got through the holidays! The holiday-less S.A.D.-inducing winter spans before us and the countdown to new TV shows and MLK day begins.
Amid all of my complaining about 2016 and the politics of gift-giving, I had forgotten to expect one thing that can actually make the holidays challenging: just spending time with family…occupying the same dinner table, digging into the same refrigerator, watching the same movies with a group of people we never chose our relation to. It was only a matter of time before our great Uncle Fabio–we all have one–staggered through the doorway with all sorts of opinions…
Oh no. Another Snicket quote. This, from The Slippery Slope:
Deciding on the right thing to do in a situation is a bit like deciding on the right thing to wear to a party. It is easy to decide on what is wrong to wear to a party, such as deep-sea diving equipment or a pair of large pillows, but deciding what is right is much trickier. It might seem right to wear a navy blue suit, for instance, but when you arrive there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being hand-cuffed due to a case of mistaken identity. It might seem right to wear your favorite pair of shoes, but there could be a sudden flood at the party, and your shoes would be ruined. And it might seem right to wear a suit of armor to the party, but there could be several other people wearing the same thing, and you could end up being caught in a flood due to a case of mistaken identity, and find yourself drifting out to sea wishing that you were wearing deep-sea diving equipment after all. The truth is that you can never be sure if you have decided on the right thing until the party is over, and by then it is too late to go back and change your mind, which is why the world is filled with people doing terrible things and wearing ugly clothing, and so few volunteers who are able to stop them.
If you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for the release of Silence, Martin Scorsese’s adaption of the classic novel by Shūsaku Endō, check out the foreword to the 2016 edition, excerpted below. Written by the movie magician himself, Scorsese reveals how the novel has been intensely personal for him, and why it is this story–one of persecution, doubt, and betrayal–that best illustrates Christian faith.
How do you tell the story of Christian faith? The difficulty, the crisis, of believing? How do you describe the struggle? There have been many great twentieth-century novelists drawn to the subject–Graham Greene, of course, and François Mauriac, Georges Bernanos and,…
Another Week Ends: Security Blankets, Shoulder Angels, Irresistible Cookies, Human Machines, Pharisaic Elves, Mismanaged Empathy, and the World’s Largest Rube Goldberg Machine
1. Let’s start off with some seasonal cheer from A Charlie Brown Christmas. This week, the internet reminded us to take a closer look at Linus, who, during a Christmas pageant recital of Luke 2:8-14, does something incredible. I’ll let writer/discoverer Jason Soroski take it from here:
Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.
In the first chapter of Fleming Rutledge’s impressive book, The Crucifixion, she explains that modern Christianity shares the same widespread rival as early Christianity: gnosticism. She doesn’t mince words bringing the dusty historical term back down to the ground: “All the various forms of gnosticism are grounded in the belief that privileged spiritual knowledge is the way of salvation.” With one swoop of the vested arm, Rutledge knocks down the pawns of self-help, educated elitism, not to mention a massive percentage of the modern-day Christian church—in short, “religion”. To cherry-pick some of her key remarks on this subject:
Defining this philosophy is no…
Another Week Ends: More Meritocracy, Hakuna Matata Election, Dating Apocalypse, Loving Psychos, The Ambush of Grief, and Irresponsible Gender Equity
Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with Zac Hicks, author of the brand new book The Worship Pastor.
1. In a great piece called “Meritocracy Is Exhausting,” from The Atlantic (ht DT), Victor Tan Chen explains how a society built on reward can be not only tiresome but also inescapable. Chen says that the cogs of America rely increasingly on “performance reviews,” synthesized by “data-gathering technologies.” He cites behavior tracking apps, marketing algorithms, and online review forums as just a few examples. Such technologies, or “models,” have obvious flaws: namely reinforcing a sense of supremacy among certain groups.
Another Week Ends: Online Scammers, Difficult Dating, Playborhoods, Art History Riddles, George H.W. Bush, Spirit-Breathed Emails, and More Serious Vacations
1. Wow, if there was a subcategory for stories like this first one, I’d have to call it, “Weird Stories of Forgiveness.” Weird and weirdly beautiful. It starts with a 62-year-old woman named Maria Grette who, after a nasty divorce and some prodding from her friends, created an online dating profile. She made contact with a romantic 58-year-old Danish man who was in fact a 24-year-old Nigerian “scammer,” who, in time, tricked her into wiring him money. A few thousand Euros later, she realized something was amiss.
Three weeks after her silence, he called her and confessed. He told her that he…
Children’s book author Adam Gidwitz rang in the most wonderful time of the year (October, what else?) with an article in The New Yorker about the world-renowned series, Goosebumps. Marveling at the franchise’s unparalleled success, Gidwitz posed an unexpectedly contentious question: Should good children’s books teach a lesson?
The conundrum of the “good” children’s book is best embodied by the apparently immortal—or maybe just undead—series “Goosebumps,” by R. L. Stine. “Goosebumps” is a series of horror novellas, the kid’s-lit equivalent of B-horror movies. It’s also one of the most successful franchises in the business, selling over three hundred and fifty million copies…
Here are a few quick quotes from Fleming Rutledge’s introduction to her much-talked-about recent release, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ. (Rutledge was featured on an episode of The Mockingcast–“The Gospel is for Sinners”–a few months back…don’t miss it!)
There have been many famous deaths in world history; we might think of John F. Kennedy, or Marie Antoinette, or Cleopatra, but we do not refer to “the assassination,” “the guillotining,” or “the poisoning.” Such references would be incomprehensible. The use of the term “the crucifixion” for the execution of Jesus shows that it still retains a privileged status. When we speak of “the crucifixion,” even in this secular age, many people will know what is meant. There is something in the strange death of the man identified as Son of God that continues to command special attention. This death, this execution, above and beyond all others, continues to have universal reverberations. Of no other death in human history can this be said. The cross of Jesus stands alone in this regard; it is sui generis…
There has been ceaseless flow of print and talk about the unreliability of the New Testament witness concerning Jesus…Few outside academia would know that the incongruities so frequently cited today as proof of the Bible’s unreliability were noted many centuries ago by such as Origen and Calvin. It seems more than a little disingenuous for skeptical scholars of today to act as though they were the originators of newly minted insights made possible only by their supposed discoveries and intellectual fearlessness. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that those writers who seek to reduce and diminish the figure of Jesus are creating a Jesus to suit their own preferences just as surely as Thomas Jefferson did when he took scissors and paste to the Gospels.
The key to Jesus is now, as it has always been, his crucifixion and resurrection. Nothing whatever is known from first-century extrabiblical sources about Jesus as a historical figure…Any modern reconstruction of the historical Jesus,” therefore, is certain to be a product of the cultural environment that produced it, whereas the Jesus proclaimed as Lord in the New Testament comes closer than any other figure known to human history to being universal, transcending time and historical location, belonging to all cultures and all people everywhere and forever. That is a big claim, but Christians need not be ashamed to stand by it. This proclamation of Jesus as Lord…arose not out of Jesus’ ministry, which after all can be compared to the ministry of other holy men, but out of the unique apostolic kerygma (proclamation) of the crucified and risen One.