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About David Zahl

David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their three sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church (christchurchcville.org).

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    Another Week Ends: Saving MS-13, Church of Pod, Responsibilityland, Present Bias, Creative Hiatuses and Cheap Trick

    Another Week Ends: Saving MS-13, Church of Pod, Responsibilityland, Present Bias, Creative Hiatuses and Cheap Trick

    1. First up has got to be the video below, in which The Guardian(!) casts a light on some truly miraculous conversions happening in El Salvador at present. I forget who said that where sin remains theoretical, so does redemption, but whoever they were, this video illustrates the inverse truth beautifully. PTL:

    2. “Humans seem to be wired to seek salvation,” writes Molly Worthen in her new column for The NY Times, which profiles “The Podcast Bros Who Want to Optimize Your Life.” While I could do without the increasingly broad/acceptable (and mighty convenient) pejorative of “bro”, she does a great…

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    August Playlist

    Click here to listen (to most of it) on Spotify.

    The Trouble with Ladder Theology

    From Gerhard Forde’s Where God Meets Man, pp 7-11, ht MF:

    …what is wrong with our usual understanding of the Christian faith[?] We tend to think it has to do primarily with “going up” somewhere — either to heaven or to some kind of “religious perfection.” The Christian faith is often likened to climbing a ladder or, if you will, a staircase. Take, for example, the symbol of “Jacob’s ladder.” In the middle ages it was popular, especially among mystics, as a symbol of the struggle the Christian must undertake to reach perfection…

    The difficulty with the idea of the ladder, however, is that it tends to send us off into the wrong direction. It tends to make us concerned with works of pious sublimation; it involves us in the task of ascending to heaven when we should be seeking like our Lord to come down to earth, to learn what it means to be a Christian here on this earth…

    The troublesome question of the nature of law and gospel and the relationship between them…it is here, in the question of the law and the gospel, that our incurable tendency to go “up the down staircase” is most apparent… The main trouble is that this “ladder theology” inevitably distorts our understanding of the gospel. The gospel is taken captive by the system and turned into a new kind of law… The gospel comes to make up for the deficiencies of the law. The gospel does not come as anything really new. It is not the breaking in of a radically new age with an entirely new outlook. It is simply “a repair job.” …The net result is that the gospel itself simply becomes another kind of law. (pp. 7-11)

    Another Week Ends: Washed, Teshuvah, Soul Salons, Medieval Peasants, Cranach and Sammy Hagar

    Another Week Ends: Washed, Teshuvah, Soul Salons, Medieval Peasants, Cranach and Sammy Hagar

    1. This first one hit close to home. I’m referring to Zach Baron’s column in GQ, In Praise of Being Washed. Not washed out, or washed in the blood of the lamb, but simply “washed”. To be “washed,” he tells us, is to have arrived at the point in life where horizons have begun to recede, where your best is behind you but you’re still far from ready to throw in the towel–basically a fresh euphemism for what we used to call “over the hill.” But what sounds like a putdown at best, and a verdict to struggle against with…

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    July Playlist

    P.S. We’re in the midst of making the playlists available on Spotify, working our way backward from the present. Here’s the link to this month’s.

    Lex Semper Accusat

    Lex Semper Accusat

    The following is excerpted from Mockingbird’s Law & Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints). 

    If the law were simply a matter of doing or not doing, commission or omission, we might reasonably imagine we have a shot at keeping it. And sometimes the echoes of law we hear in society are strictly behavioral. Not so with the Law of God. It goes a step further. Christ himself applies the divine ordinance to motivation as well as action. In the Sermon on the Mount, instead of simply prohibiting acts of murder, he prohibits thoughts of murder. Later on he tells us…

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    Nine Rules From Chris Pratt, Generation Award Winner

    File this under unexpected! Some inspired misdirection from the soon-to-be-appointed Youth Minister General of the United States, Burt Macklin Starlord himself, ht HE:

    The Father's Day Conundrum

    The Father’s Day Conundrum

    It’s not much of a secret in church circles that Mother’s Day is one of the best attended Sundays of the year, Father’s Day one of the least. The third Sunday in June is what’s known as a “low Sunday,” when the regular preacher often gives up the pulpit to a subordinate. If you happened to be in the pews yesterday, you may have even heard it referenced or joked about. What gives?

    The dime store explanation goes something like this: moms want the family to be together on Mother’s Day and tend to value spiritual life more to begin with,…

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    Another Week Ends: Nigerian Babies, Pairing Alzheimer's, Lonely Affluence, Competitive Meditation and New Spiritualized

    Another Week Ends: Nigerian Babies, Pairing Alzheimer’s, Lonely Affluence, Competitive Meditation and New Spiritualized

    1. At the top of the docket, two beautiful and deeply encouraging examples of grace in practice, the first programmatic and the second person-to-person. Nigeria, as you may know, currently suffers from the highest rate of HIV-positive infants in the world. Apparently many of the transmission prevention methods that work elsewhere have had a hard time catching on there, partly because so many mothers aren’t aware they’re infected (and understandably reticent to get tested, partially out of fear, partially out of shame). Instead of sounding the alarm bells more loudly, a new program called Baby Shower–developed in the church(!)–has taken…

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    Six Times Seinfeld Illustrated Theological Dynamics

    Six Times Seinfeld Illustrated Theological Dynamics

    Another peek at our recent Humor Issue (which we’re starting to run low on — grab yours before it sells out…!):

    We all have a list of our favorite Seinfeld episodes. Mine are mainly clustered around seasons five and six (The Puffy Shirt, The Lip Reader, The Marine Biologist), with a special affection for season nine’s cartoonish absurdity (Festivus, Merv Griffin, etc). But with the exception of a couple from season one, there are virtually no episodes I’d switch off, so tight was the quality control on this show. Instead of a “best of” then, we’ve collected a few of the many…

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    Another Week Ends: Napalm Conversions, Technophile Faith, Kanye Gambino Jackson, Nomophobia, Camp Manna and Atlanta

    Another Week Ends: Napalm Conversions, Technophile Faith, Kanye Gambino Jackson, Nomophobia, Camp Manna and Atlanta

    1. First up, there’s the jaw-dropping testimony that appeared in Christianity Today last week, in which Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the subject of one of the 20th Century’s most iconic photographs (above), outrageously confesses that “These Bombs Led Me to Christ”. She describes the anguish of the day in question, as well as the bodily fallout of the napalm to which she was exposed – Kim was left unable to sweat and is still receiving treatment for the burns 40 years later. By her own account, however, the physical ailments paled in comparison to the spiritual and emotional torment she…

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    Are We Divided Because We're Lonely? Or Lonely Because We're Divided?

    Are We Divided Because We’re Lonely? Or Lonely Because We’re Divided?

    Han Zicheng was barking up the right tree.

    Last December, the 85-year old Chinese widower made headlines when he put himself up for adoption. Han was suffering from chronic loneliness but had passed the age where seeking out some kind of fresh give-and-take companionship made sense. He needed an arrangement that acknowledged his frailty and didn’t require him to contribute much if anything. In other words, he craved the sort of care that only a family, or something family-like, could provide–people that would care for him simply because. As the notice he posted at bus stops in his neighborhood explained:

    “My hope…

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