David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate currently reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their two sons, Charlie and Cabell, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church.
- Cruel to Be Kind – Nick Lowe
- One Way Love – Agnetha Faltskog
- Goodbye Eddie Goodbye – The Juicy Fruits
- A Day Without Jesus – Bobby Whitlock
- Bayou Country – Gritz
- What Becomes of the Brokenhearted – Joan Osborne and the Funk Brothers
- Suicide – The Raveonettes
- Racine – Duvall
- Another School Day – Hello
- Head Over Heels – ABBA
- So Now What – The Shins
- Truly Julie’s Blues – Bob Lind
- Like a Rocket Man – David Bowie
- No Show – Bishop Allen
- The New You – Jenny Lewis
- God and Suicide – Blizten Trapper
- Have Mercy – The Gaslight Anthem
- The Healing Day – Bill Fay
Another Week Ends: American Immortals, Henry James, U2charists, Authentic Nerdists, AWK Prays, and Reclusive Deities
1. Part and parcel of the juvenilization we touched on earlier this week is the phenomenon UPenn bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel (best name ever?!) describes as “the American immortal”, that not-so-peculiar species that devotes so much of its time/energy to prolonging life that it kills them (often before they die). Surprise surprise–underneath the aversion to growing up may lurk a denial of human limitation which is ultimately a denial of death. In the latest bit of watercooler bait from The Atlantic, “Why I Hope To Die at 75″, Emanuel challenges the notion of “compression of morbidity”, the widespread presumption that the…
I guess it’s impossible to write about God Help the Girl, the new musical film written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, without weighing in on the larger aesthetic it embodies, what some have even called a movement: Twee. But I’m going to try, as we’ve tread that ground a number of times already. Suffice it to say, if ice cream cones (with pirouette cookies), Left Banke singles, and coonskin caps turn your stomach, you probably won’t be able to get beyond the window-dressing on this one. As the opening line of The Vulture review put it,…
The sage’s brilliantly titled new record, Popular Problems, comes out on Tuesday, but NPR is streaming the whole thing this week. Of particular note, thus far, is the Exodus-leaning “Born in Chains”, to say nothing of lead “single” “Almost Like the Blues”, the words of which were printed in verse form in The New Yorker a few weeks ago. The final verse stopped me in my tracks:
There is no G-d in heaven
And there is no Hell below
So says the great professor
Of all there is to know
But I’ve had the invitation
That a sinner can’t refuse
And it’s almost like salvation
It’s almost like the blues
There I was, reclining in the waiting room while my son met with his speech therapist, as I do every week. Computer on my lap—heaven forbid I sit there unoccupied—I was reading A.O. Scott’s new treatise for The Times on “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” I like Scott’s writing, so I ignored the instinct to roll my eyes at the prospect of yet another think-piece about stunted millennials; I had time to kill, after all. It opens with some bold claims:
Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the…
Good news! Yesterday saw the release of Christian Wiman’s new book of poetry, Once in the West. While my copy is still in mail, I couldn’t resist sharing the opening portion of what Dwight Garner in the NY Times has already called a “major performance” and “near-masterpiece”, one that Wiman was kind enough to preview for us when he was here in 2013, “The Preacher Addresses the Seminarians”. It’s biting and uncomfortable but also extremely funny, a veritable catalog of churchy tropes, both inane and indicting. Given its tone, the ending, which you’ll have to buy the book to read, may surprise you.
don’t have to hitch up those gluefutured nags Hope and Help
and whip the sorry chariot of yourself
toward whatever Hell your Heaven is on days like these.
I tell you it takes some hunger heaven itself won’t slake
to be so twitchingly intent on the pretty organist’s pedaling,
so lizardly alert to the curvelessness of her choir robe.
Here it comes, brothers and sisters, the confession of sins,
hominy hominy, dipstick doxology, one more churchcurdled hymn
we don’t so much sing as haunt: grounded altos, gear-grinding tenors,
three score and ten gently bewildered men lip-synching along.
You’re up, Pastor. Bring on the unthunder. Some trickle-piss tangent
to reality. Some bit of the Gospel grueling out of you.
I tell you sometimes mercy means nothing
but release from this homiletic hologram, a little fleshstep
sideways, as it were, setting passion on autopilot (as if it weren’t!)
to gaze out in peace at your peaceless parishioners:
boozeglazes and facelifts, bad mortgages, bored marriages,
making a kind of masonry in faces at once specific and generic,
and here and there that rapt famished look that leaps
from person to person, year to year, like a holy flu.
Anyone interested in Wiman would do well to read Matthew Sitman’s excellent new essay for The Deep Dish, “Finding the Words for Faith”, in which he dubs CW “America’s most important Christian writer.”
Another Week Ends: Biblical Counseling, Jennifer Lawrence, God Help the Girl, Volunteer Pallbearers, Sly Stone and The Nobodies
1. Over at The Pacific Standard, Kathryn Joyce provides a remarkably thorough look at “The Rise of Biblical Counseling”. It’s a crash course in both the history of conflicted Christian attitudes toward psychotherapy, and, unintentionally perhaps, how those attitudes are perceived by secular elites (i.e. with disdain and/or condescension). She surveys a field which runs the gamut from hardliners who would chalk nearly all mental illness up to sinful behavior (and do untold damage in the process) and more moderate, medication-endorsing voices who have the gall to insist that there may be a spiritual and–gasp!–moral component to certain afflictions, or at least, that we ignore such…
LOUISVILLE, KY—According to reports, local woman Janelle Tompkins’ arrival to work an hour late and severely hungover Tuesday morning was precisely the 30th wake-up call she needed to turn her life around. “Wow, my habit of staying out and drinking all night has clearly gotten out of control. I’ve got to make some major changes ASAP,” said Tompkins, using the exact phrasing she uttered during her five previous wake-up calls this year, which have included two shattered relationships and blacking out at a friend’s bridal shower. “I suppose something had to give eventually, and now I’ve gotten the message: It’s time to make a fresh start and think about my future for once.” At press time, Tompkins had invited several close friends to celebrate her new lease on life by meeting at their local bar’s Oktoberfest celebration.
BONUS TRACK: ABBA does Romans 7…
The day has finally arrived. The pilot of Whit Stillman’s first ever TV series The Cosmopolitans is now available to be watched on Amazon Prime! But here’s the deal. The series itself won’t get picked up unless it receives enough votes. In other words, it’s time to rally the troops. Why should you run and not walk to cast your vote? Why should you either sign up for Amazon Prime yourself, or canvass your friends to find someone who has it and hijack their computer? Five reasons:
1. It’s phenomenal. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon immediately after watching:
As a music fan, every once and a while you have one of those “there-is-a-god moments” that makes all the digging worthwhile. You find something, usually by accident, that seems tailormade for YOU, a piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly, that you didn’t know you were missing. It sounds far-fetched, but the sensation is a spiritual one. In an instant, the impersonal universe evaporates and the existence of God seems like a foregone conclusion. And not just any God but a God that cares about, well, you. It happened when I stumbled across Elvis Presley’s “Let Us Pray”. Same thing when I heard the story behind The Monkees’ “St. Matthew”. But this one may take the cake: the lead off track on Agnetha Faltskog’s second solo album (you know, the girl who put the ‘A’ in ABBA). Written by none other than ELO maestro Jeff Lynne–especially for her!–and produced by 10cc’s Eric Stewart, I’m sure you’ll agree that the circle is now complete:
To quote Elaine Benes, I have no speech. I mean, a Wilbury-written OWL, sung by ‘the girl with the golden hair’, the one who was by all accounts the most damaged by her former group’s astronomical success?! It’s too much. You’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to repost Paul Zahl’s classic formulation (which Fall Conference speaker Tullian Tchividjian has run with so convincingly and enthusiastically). While PZ clearly takes the phrase in a different direction than Agnetha, by no means does his usage rule out the ‘unrequited’ aspect–it just switches the roles, i.e. Agnetha sings from the God’s-eye point of view, ‘natch:
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. It is being loved when you are the opposite of lovable. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. It sounds a little 1970s (as in “Have a Nice Day!”). Yet the words are apt.
Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.”
A touching installment of Modern Love appeared in this past Sunday’s NY Times, entitled “We Pledge Allegiance…”, in which Debby Greene traces how the “no divorce” pact she made with her husband has played out in her marriage, thirty years down the line. Clearly the survival of any relationship is seldom a matter simply of resolve. Still, in a society biased toward self-determination and individual ‘freedom’, their pact seems downright radical. I should let her tell it:
Our first summer together, we read the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to each other below high cliffs on a beach in Southern California….
“Addiction” might be the best word to explain the lostness that so deeply permeates contemporary society. Our addictions make us cling to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink, and sexual gratification without distinguishing between lust and love. These addictions create expectations that cannot but fail to satisfy our deepest needs. As long as we live within the world’s delusions, our addictions condemn us to futile quests in “the distant country,” leaving us to face an endless series of disillusionments while our sense of self remains unfulfilled. In these days of increasing addictions, we have wandered far away from our Father’s home. The addicted life can aptly be designated a life lived in “a distant country.” It is from there that our cry for deliverance rises up.