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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: 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

    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, our will, or our doings. For anything we do is something about which we can ask, “Am I doing it well enough?” And for Luther the answer is always “not well enough to save you from damnation.” No act of our free will, and hence no decision of ours, is an exception to this rule…

    How we have always been justified by faith alone is best seen in light of Luther’s distinction between law and Gospel. Both the law of God and the Gospel of Christ are God’s word, but the former only gives us instructions while the latter gives us Christ. For the law tells us what to do, but the Gospel tells us what Christ does. The distinction grows out of Augustine’s insistence, in his great treatise On the Spirit and the Letter, that telling us to obey the law of love does not help us do it from the depths of our hearts; only the grace of Christ can give us such a heart. Luther merely adds: The place to find the grace of Christ is in the Gospel of Christ.

    A great many preachers, Protestant as well as Catholic, overlook the distinction between law and Gospel, thinking they can change people’s lives by giving them practical advice—as if telling them how to be inwardly transformed could help them do it. Augustine already knew better. Luther’s addition to Augustine’s insight is merely the glad recognition that there is indeed something preachers can do to help us be transformed: Instead of advice, they can give us Christ.

    Catch more of this gospel-centered good news with Mocking-friends from all over on October 27-29 in Washington, DC. You can register for the conference here—hope to see you soon!

    All Alone in a Disenchanted Universe

    All Alone in a Disenchanted Universe

    Did anyone actually see Miss Sloane in theaters? I remember seeing a trailer for it some moon cycles ago, but never did hear much buzz about it. That is, until last weekend, when, after some coaxing from my sister, I watched it on Amazon.

    In any case, you don’t have to see the movie to know, essentially, who Miss Sloane is. You’ve likely encountered her “type” before, whether in movies or daily life. She’s a ruthless fast-talker, wicked-smart, but terribly lonely. The kind of person some would call a strong, independent woman and others would call an obsessive-compulsive conniver. A notorious…

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    Another Week Ends: Stories of Forgiveness, Electric Jesus, Selfish Marriages, Bad Vicars, Exhausted Chefs, and Discount Books

    Another Week Ends: Stories of Forgiveness, Electric Jesus, Selfish Marriages, Bad Vicars, Exhausted Chefs, and Discount Books

    1. Let’s start this round-up with a beautiful story from an unlikely source. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an incredible exposition on forgiveness, “The Challenge of Jewish Repentance,” by Jonathan Sacks. Beginning with the Old Testament, with Genesis, Sacks describes how Jewish history has always revolved around the general wheel of transgression and forgiveness, disobedience and mercy.

    With Rosh Hashanah having begun Wednesday evening, Sacks explains how, during the Ten Days of Repentance, Jews are put “on trial for [their] lives.” Focused on the confession of sins, it marks a time to marvel at the God “whose property is always…

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    Two Poems by Brandon Courtney

    The following poems were originally published in Tin House’s recent “Rehab” issue and are written by US Navy veteran Brandon Courtney (with featured art by Guy Catling):

    Lazaretto

    Without a shipboard morgue,

    we kept the dead Iraqi

    in the dairy box—his corpse

    supine beside the eggs (more…)

    “It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

    “It’s a Nice Day for a Run” and Other Strange Things to Say: Some Thoughts on Our Pursuit of Pain

    It was the closest thing to hell I’ve ever experienced: my whole body hurt. A dull buzz with epicenters at the soles of my feet, knees, and head: a red-hot pain emanating outward, into my neck, arms, down my back, through those muscles that I don’t know the name of that run from my shoulder blades to my bum…whatever those are, they hurt. I sat down. I stood up. I walked in aimless circles, drank water. Nothing helped. After running along the James River that day, 26.2 throbbing miles along that winding golden ribbon, the only thing I remember about…

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    Another Week Ends: The End of the World, the Illusion of Sigmund Freud, the Anthropology of Jerry Lewis, Clean Eating, Tech Panic, and the Hangovers of Young Behavioral Scientists

    Another Week Ends: The End of the World, the Illusion of Sigmund Freud, the Anthropology of Jerry Lewis, Clean Eating, Tech Panic, and the Hangovers of Young Behavioral Scientists

    1. This morning, I found myself engrossed in The Guardian’s latest “long read,” an essay by Dina Nayeri, “Yearning for the End of the World.” Nayeri writes about growing up in Iran during the revolution, attending an underground church that ached for the Rapture. Her family fled to America in 1989, only to find a similar eschatology there. Her story traces a somewhat obvious trajectory from one extreme to the other—from Revelation to Christopher Hitchens—but not without making some perceptive observations first:

    In my intimate hilltop church [in Oklahoma], discussions took on a frantic, impatient new tone. “We live in end times!” our congregation…

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    Malfunctioning Lovers (and Christ in a Ciabatta Roll)

    A scathing narrator lowers her anthropology in this compelling passage from White Teeth by Zadie Smith:

    What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll—then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greetings cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.

    Millat didn’t love Irie, and Irie was sure there must be somebody she could blame for that.

    Sometimes We Do Dance: The Light in London Grammar

    Sometimes We Do Dance: The Light in London Grammar

    In the past, I’ve sneakily slipped London Grammar music videos into various posts on this site for little reason other than that I just really enjoy them, and I’ve written about their music once before, several years ago. Much of it is slow—a lot of silence accompanied by sparse, echoey thrums from Dan Rothman (guitar) and Dot Major (drums/keys), woven together by Hannah Reid’s almost operatic voice. (Starting off here by setting your expectations low; then you can be pleasantly surprised.)

    Truth is a Beautiful Thing is the name of their second album, which was released on June 9. Needless to…

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    Another Week Ends: Humane Prisons, Stranger Things 2, U.F.O.s, Venmo FOMO, Heretical Statistics, and Always Being Wrong

    Another Week Ends: Humane Prisons, Stranger Things 2, U.F.O.s, Venmo FOMO, Heretical Statistics, and Always Being Wrong

    1. Another week, another opportunity to get jealous of Norway. In Mother Jones’ July/August Issue, Dashka Slater reports that North Dakota is experimenting with Norway’s “humane” prison system (which has been mentioned on our site before, here and here. Also, don’t forget the interview Ethan did with Norwegian prison warden Arne Nilsen for The Forgiveness Issue. Amazing stuff.)

    Needless to say, humane prison procedures are beautiful examples of grace in practice and “left-handed power,” which Robert Farrar Capon defines as “precisely paradoxical power: power that looks for all the world like weakness, intervention that seems indistinguishable from nonintervention” (Kingdom, Grace, Judgment).

    In North Dakota, “left-handed power” seems…

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    Another Week Ends: Accountability Adventures, Word Violence, Linkin Park, Religious Activism, Dealing with Our S*%!, and Doing Yoga with the Rishi

    Another Week Ends: Accountability Adventures, Word Violence, Linkin Park, Religious Activism, Dealing with Our S*%!, and Doing Yoga with the Rishi

    1. First up, an insightful opinion piece from Mary Laura Philpott in the NYT: “My Adventures with Accountability” (ht MM). Philpott explains how, as a driven writer, healthy-eater, and generally savvy twenty-first century woman, she uses accountability groups to aid her in achieving her goals. Hey, I’ve heard of that before. But I first learned of accountability partners, not from slick businesspeople or competitive entrepreneurs, but from Christians, of all people, with whom I shared an interest in living my best life now. Since we considered ourselves good people, on Jesus’ team, we needed friends who would help us achieve our goals of…

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    Yet Another "New Start": Karl Holl on Luther's Vigorous Reinterpretation of the Christian Life

    Yet Another “New Start”: Karl Holl on Luther’s Vigorous Reinterpretation of the Christian Life

    The following is an excerpt from Karl Holl’s booklength essay, “What Did Luther Understand by Religion?” (trans. Meuser & Wietzke) in which Holl draws out Luther’s theology beginning with his history. As you’ll see, Holl maintains a refreshing emphasis on everyday heart-level matters, compared to other scholars of his caliber. Still, you might want to put on your academic spectacles for this one—but it’s worth it. I started transcribing the first paragraph and just couldn’t stop there. Enjoy!

    Like Jesus, [Luther] tried to show his contemporaries that their apparently intense piety, the piety of good works, devotions, and mortifications, was actually…

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