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.
Another Week Ends: Humility, Hypocrisy, Kendrick Lamar, the Museum of Failure, the Bard of Suck, Late-Night Comedy, and “Slipping the Ideological Leash”
1. Popular depictions of Christianity, especially political ones, often prioritize joy, love, kindness, and — almost always — resolution. “The firm foundation.” But as Peter Wehner says this week in his surprisingly sympathetic NY Times op-ed, humility is often missing. Strange, considering this might be one of the few indisputable characteristics of the otherwise enigmatic Christ. Talk of spiritual fruit, though, gets tricky and usually spins off into a tirade of ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ without addressing what is. Wehner aptly navigates these snares:
At the core of Christian doctrine is the belief that we have all fallen short, that our loves are disordered and our…
I come from a pretty competitive family, so it should have been no surprise to find them enjoying the latest season of Shark Tank. Of this show’s many seductions — the edge-of-your-seat deliberations, the outlandish pitches (looking at you, Pinot Meow) — the biggest hook may be the sense of judgment hovering throughout each episode: a trembling entrepreneur stands up and pitches his or her idea before a squad of potential investors — the sharks! — who decide whether or not the business is worth their money.
The show’s producer, Mark Burnett, made an appearance at Unpolished 2015, an entrepreneurship conference described by Mya Frazier in her recent Bloomberg article, “What Would Jesus Disrupt?”…
Another Week Ends: The Voice in Your Head, Campus Religion, Non-Western Christianity, S-Town, and Nihilist SoulCycle Instructors
1. One of the many brilliant moments in the Harry Potter franchise arrived in Book 5, when Voldemort began manipulating Harry’s mind. The arch villain was no longer out there somewhere but inside Harry’s head. It was intrusive and frightening and completely true to life: on some level or another, we all have a noseless villain nosing about our heads, judging, manipulating, and condemning us.
This week’s first link investigates that voice — where does it come from, and what is it? — in a beautiful piece from Fr. Stephen Freeman, over on his Ancient Faith blog, entitled “Look Who’s Talking” (ht RS):
I was particularly struck…
Here begins our conference breakout previews–sneak peeks of the various topics we’ll talk about in NYC this April! Check out the conference site for more details.
Most people will recognize Stephen King’s It as the one about the killer clown. Which it is. But at 1100 pages, it has to be more than that, you know? In his dedication King writes: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie”—which, I’ll admit, I still don’t fully get—but that’s nevertheless a good place to begin investigating one of It’s running themes: extracting the truth from the lies, particularly the ones we tell ourselves. Centered around a group of raggle-taggle tweens, It is a story about growing up and facing fears, about selectively remembering (and discarding) our early painful memories. What the characters develop, as their first line of defense against the killer clown in question, is an elaborate but ultimately fragile method of narrative construction that carries them into adulthood: Mike Hanlon, one of the story’s protagonists, explains, “We lie best when we lie to ourselves.”
It’s true for all of us. With the recent deluge of social studies concerning #confirmationbias, and with the self-righteousness of American politics cropping up wherever we look—not to mention moral dispatches from Starbucks cups—there’s never been a better time to take a second glance at the stories we tell ourselves. If spun right, “taking control of your narrative” can sound just as liberating as “taking a trip to Aruba”; but the late David Carr, in his memoir, The Night of the Gun, illustrates the exhausting side of this self-embossed coin: “You spread versions of yourself around, giving each person the truth he or she needs—you need, actually—to keep them at one remove.”
So let’s get all our narratives in one place and talk about them, Friday, April 28, 3:30PM, at the 10th Annual Mockingbird Conference. We’ll discuss some of the best stories told by liars and madmen, including some by me and some by you. And—of course—we’ll talk about the great, final page-turner that illuminates the truth about us and pulls us into it, not as tragic heroes but as pardoned villains.
Another Week Ends: Anti-Self-Help Self-Help, The Disease of More, God in a Machine, Fake Nice People, Born-Again Paganism, Religious Politics, and the Mystery of Matter
1. This week, The New York Times’ Henry Alford tackled the world of anti-self-help self-help in his piece, “I’m Not O.K. Neither Are You. Who Cares?” In it, he unpacks not only the rising tide of “anti-self-help books” but also their eye-catching common denominator: the F word. Given that word’s increasing popularity, I guess it’s no surprise that we like a good hardcover lesson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, or The Life Changing Magic of Not [doing the same]. But, as Alford makes clear, these books are not as contrarian as they’d hope to appear. If self-help is the popular religion of the day,…
At this point, Love is a show that can do no wrong in my eyes. I love that it moves slowly. I love that the characters have jobs, and that they seem to spend a decent amount of time there. Mostly, though, I love that no matter how low it goes—no matter how awkward it gets, no matter how many bad decisions the characters make—I know that some shade of redemption is close at hand. It is, after all, called Love.
I remember watching the first episode last year. My wife and I were looking for lighter fare, something charming. The promos…
Another taste of our recent issue on Food & Drink! Order your copy here!
The soup kitchen at my church is currently in the midst of a cold war among its volunteers. On one side we have the pro-oil-and-vinegar contingency, armed with organic produce and health concerns; on the other side, the crusaders of ranch dressing are stuck in their ways. You’ll find me standing unapologetically behind oil-and-vinegar lines, and I don’t mean to brag, but, as one of the soup kitchen’s head cooks, I make a bitchin’ salad. Fresh greens (often from a local garden), walnuts, cukes, strawberries if they’re in…
Acclaimed writer Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and the forthcoming Abandon Me, graced us as a guest on the most recent episode of The Mockingcast. During their fantastic interview — would have reposted the whole thing if I could have — Scott read this beautiful excerpt from Abandon Me:
Jonah, whose name means “dove,” is not brave. He simply exhausts all his other choices. The only thing left to choose is God’s will, and even then, after proclaiming his prophecy, Jonah shakes his fist at the Lord. His destiny does not give him peace; it enrages him. It’s not what he wants. He begs God to kill him. But God doesn’t kill Jonah. God’s mercy often doesn’t come in the form of erasure. And the story of Jonah seems a parable of what I have often suspected, that life is a great “choose your own adventure story.” Every choice leads the hero to the same princes, the same cliff. There are alternative routes, but there is only one ending, if you make it there…every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.
Another Week Ends: The Shortcomings of Reason, La La Land Parodies, Technological Glitches, Militant Veganization, Performance Art, Existential Billionaires, Extreme Church Makeovers, and a “Hostage Situation”
1. Lots of interesting links this week! First up, The New Yorker published “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” a fascinating piece by Elizabeth Kolbert. Discussing at length the phenomenon of ‘confirmation bias’ — which suggests that we believe those facts that support our beliefs and reject those that challenge our beliefs — Kolbert ultimately confirms (bada bing!) much of what our own pop psych. archives have been saying for quite some time. Drawing from the work of cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, and their upcoming book The Enigma of Reason, Kolbert argues that “reason” is a tool we have developed to help ourselves convincingly navigate our biases without giving away our…
The following poem evokes AA’s fourth step (“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”) and the gravity of apologies. This is from Kaveh Akbar’s chapbook/collection, Portrait of the Alcoholic.
Personal Inventory: Fearless (Temporis Fila)
“I know scarcely one feature by which man can be distinguished from apes, if it be not that all the apes have a gap between their fangs and their other teeth.”
– Carolus Linnaeus
A gap, then,
a slot for fare.
I used my arms to learn two,
my fingers to learn ten.
My grandfather kept an atlas so old
there was a blank spot in the middle of Africa.
I knew a girl…
Lowland Hum’s third studio album, Thin, is out today. Its 11 tracks wrap their way in and around several different heart-level themes, but one that maintains precedence throughout is the freedom to be small. Their previous self-titled album aimed for, and executed, a bigger sound with a fuller production; by contrast, Thin relies on the musical capacity of the husband-and-wife duo, Daniel and Lauren Goans, alone.
This is a fragile place to be. As always, the music is greatly informed by the Goans’ marriage — a favorite lyric: “Andrew Wyeth, you always move my wife” — and as their sound becomes more intimate, its investigation of their relationship grows deeper. As Lauren says, the music…
“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin” (Gal 1:11).
Lady Gaga began her halftime show from a perch high above everyone else: Above the stadium, underneath a drone-filled night sky, she was dressed in what Variety called “an MTV exec’s idea of what Y2K was going to look like” — in other words, a glittery silver spacewoman outfit; her eyes were bedazzled with a silvery mask.
Everyone I spoke to beforehand was eager to see what Gaga would do but anxious about whether or not she would get political. In that sense, it was…