New Here?
     
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.

Contact

Author Archive
    

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    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…

    Read More > > >

    Judgment and Love in Baby Driver

    Judgment and Love in Baby Driver

    His name’s Baby. He’s a driver. And this summer, he’s in way over his head.

    With a promising spread of blockbusters rolling out before us (Spiderman, Planet of the Apes, The Big Sick), do yourself a favor and make room for Edgar Wright’s smash-hit heist flick, Baby Driver, which is shaping up to be one of the best movies—if not the best movie—on the list. Two action-packed hours roll by like a music video, backed by a perfect soundtrack where every quip, every gunshot, every squeal of the tires plays wonderfully off the beat of the music.

    Spoilers ahead: Baby drives getaway…

    Read More > > >

    Twenty Years Later, What Does Harry Potter Mean to You?

    Twenty Years Later, What Does Harry Potter Mean to You?

    Last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the first Harry Potter book, which was released on June 26, 1997. The Internet went ablaze with tributes and toasts to this series which changed the imagination and the vernacular—and, some argue, the entire worldview—of a generation.

    I like the Harry Potter books as much as the next person, which is to say, a lot. So I need not go into too much detail about the wonderful wizarding world therein.

    Political columnist Ross Douthat, however, recently stirred the pot over at The New York Times, drawing out a lively debate about what the Potter books mean for us…

    Read More > > >

    Another Week Ends: Vanishing Adults, Mysterious Loss, "Spiritual" Mental Health, A Tragi-Comic Religion, Humanities vs. Engineering, and the Power of Groupthink

    Another Week Ends: Vanishing Adults, Mysterious Loss, “Spiritual” Mental Health, A Tragi-Comic Religion, Humanities vs. Engineering, and the Power of Groupthink

    1. I recently had a conversation with an elderly woman who became supremely concerned over whether or not I would work on the 4th of July. “Surely you’ll take off a federal holiday,” she intoned. I admitted that I probably would but hadn’t made any plans yet. That wasn’t enough to defuse the tizzy that followed, an agonized cascade of complaints about workaholism, how young people these days are married to their jobs. “I get it,” she lamented; “there are ladders to climb, there’s money to save. But is work all there is?”

    This week, B.D. McClay asked a similar question…

    Read More > > >

    Couldn’t Never Figure Out How to Love: When a Rebel Breaks the Chain

    Couldn’t Never Figure Out How to Love: When a Rebel Breaks the Chain

    In the town where I live, I’ve noticed the word “LOVE” cropping up in sneaky places, spray-painted on highway signs and under bridges. Under one particular bridge, it’s repeated over and over, almost urgently: LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE, as if it were—and I think it is—the key to life.

    What makes Jesus one of the great moral teachers, right up there with Gandhi and MLK, even to atheists and agnostics, is that love was of utmost importance to him. On the night of his betrayal, he spoke to a small group of his most trusted followers: “A new commandment I…

    Read More > > >

    The "Centre Point" of Paradox

    The “Centre Point” of Paradox

    I suffer from what psychologytoday.com calls ‘polarized thinking’ (self-diagnosed). This is a way of seeing the world in ‘either/or’ terms. When I judge something — which happens, let’s face it, all the time — it’s either this or that, good or bad, right or wrong. It’s not some of this and some of that — and certainly not all of both. Though it often means being hard on myself and others, thinking in a polarized way helps me simplify the more complex aspects of the world, while staying comfortably seated in my judge’s chambers.

    For example: if I hit a green…

    Read More > > >

    Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

    Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

    This is an incredible excerpt, albeit completely unorthodox. It comes from a short section entitled, “Saying Goodbye to Satan,” in Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s book, Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry.

    As you read, note the utter left-handedness in Mehl-Madrona’s approach: he allows the patient to tell her story and enters that story with her, totally devoid of judgment or correction. This example of narrative psychiatry in real-life shows, first of all, that the stories we tell ourselves can be damning; second, that denying those stories won’t restore us to sanity. Instead, acceptance (and more importantly:…

    Read More > > >

    Another Week Ends: Rote Religion, Prison Basketball, Google Search Data, Repentant Economists, Arrogant Philosophers, Space Music from Sufjan, and Water Slide Wonders

    Another Week Ends: Rote Religion, Prison Basketball, Google Search Data, Repentant Economists, Arrogant Philosophers, Space Music from Sufjan, and Water Slide Wonders

    1. First up this week, we have an amazing piece by screenwriter Dorothy Fortenberry, who is currently working on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. In “Half-Full of Grace,” for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Fortenberry explains why she still goes to Mass, every Sunday, despite all her expectations to the contrary as a child. In a world of performance, that gracious yet monotonous hour provides a break from the wheel:

    I do not impress anyone at church. I do not say anything surprising or charming, because the things I say are rote responses that someone else decided on centuries ago. I am not special at church, and…

    Read More > > >

    A Clockwork Theology and the Un-Free Will

    A Clockwork Theology and the Un-Free Will

    A friend recently noted that TV, post-Breaking Bad, seems to be getting more violent. Typically I’d discard this as your run-of-the-mill cantankerous “kids these days” complaint…but somewhere between grimace-inducing episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix’s The Keepers, I realized, well, maybe he had a point. Game of Thrones fits the bill. So does HBO’s adaptation of Big Little Lies, which was much darker than its airport-thriller source material. The list goes on.

    Considering all this, I was reminded of the landmark violence of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, which I read way back in high school, for a project about banned books. For the (lucky?) uninitiated, it tells the story of a violent young…

    Read More > > >