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 two sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church.
The first two pregnancies, my wife and I opted not to find out the baby’s sex. There weren’t any strong convictions behind the decision–more a sense of enjoying the anticipation. On both occasions we left the delivery room with a healthy baby boy in tow, grateful as could possibly be.
The third time around, however, as much as we cherish those two little rascals, we were hoping for a change-up. We wanted a girl, pure and simple, and so we went about collecting every theory we could find that promised to ensure such an outcome, no matter how ridiculous. That was…
Another Week Ends: Free Will(y), Pervert Park, Starbucks Snowflakes, Robert Frost and Chance the Rapper
Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, featuring an interview with theologian and preacher Fleming Rutledge.
1. Never know whether to be heartened or dismayed when a fresh article about free will hits the webs and is immediately forwarded to us from all corners. I read once that debates on the subject were formally outlawed in Elizabethan England, such was the explosive response it could generate. Well, no one seems to have told The Atlantic Monthly, who ran an lengthy bit of journalism titled “There No Such Thing As Free Will” in their most recent print issue. (Then again, they probably knew exactly what…
A bit tardy perhaps, but hold on to your hats cause this week Scott and co produced a special, plus-sized episode of The Mockingcast, all about the recent Church Issue of The Mockingbird. The episode features a fresh interview with author (and NY Times columnist) Molly Worthen, a discussion with editor-in-chief Ethan Richardson about the publication itself, as well as a recording of the ecclesiologically-themed panel Scott moderated at the Missio conference last month in Philadelphia. Click here to listen, and if you haven’t ordered a copy of the issue yet, just think: today could be the day you rectify that oversight.
I can’t pass up the opportunity to post a nugget from one of the essays in the issue that’s garnered a particularly enthusiastic response, Paul Walker’s survey of the art and task of preaching, “A Splendid Failure” (worth the price of admission alone!):
There is not a single person who has come through the red doors of a church who is not hoping beyond hope for a salve to be applied to his bleeding wound. This hope is often buried below bravado, barely recognizable, but it beats in the heart of every human, because everybody hurts…
For anyone to have half a chance to walk out of those red church doors and into his actual life, he must know that he is forgiven, not just for what he’s done, but for who he is. It is the preacher’s job to let him know. She must talk about what has been done for him, rather than what he must do. It’s her most important job, the job that looms so much larger than all her other ministerial concerns. It is this message alone that makes her feet beautiful.
In other words, every sermon must be a huge, honking guilt trip. Um, what? I don’t mean the tired claptrap dished (often unwittingly) out by sermonizing guilt-invokers. Things like, “You know, you are the only hands and feet that Jesus has in the world. You know, you are the only Bible some people will ever read.”… I’m not talking about those kinds of guilt trips.
The “guilt trip” that every sermon must be is the transfer of guilt, from the rightly condemned sin junkie onto the wrongly condemned Christ Jesus. The sermon must be a beast of burden, carrying the hearer’s red-handed guilt straight into the speared side of Christ on the cross, plunged into the fountain of water and blood, which bleaches away all evidence of our criminality.
Half a century is pretty “outta sight” if you ask me. To celebrate, here’s the two main Pet Sounds portions of The Beach Boys essay in Mess of Help. We’ve posted portions before but never all of it. Catch a wave:
Brian Wilson was the original heart-on-your-sleeve auteur. Young men had been vulnerable on record before, but usually in the service of garnering swoons rather than expressing actual warts-and-all weakness. Brian’s was not the attractive kind of vulnerability; it was the awkward kind. In the song, his girl’s devotion even makes him “want to cry”. The Beach Boys sang about teenage male tears more than…
Another Week Ends: Stone Roses, Avatars, Tinder Humanitarians, (Un)Funny Sermons, Self-Compassion, Good Christian Films and a Bunch of Marbles
Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with Howard professor of Homiletics Kenyatta Gilbert.
1. What a glorious day it is when you wake up to a new single by The Stone Roses! I’m going to withhold judgment til I’ve had a bit more time to sit with it, but woah that guitar solo:
2. Next, writing for The NY Times magazine, Amanda Hess asks, What Do Our Online Avatars Reveal About Us? A lot, as it turns out. The stakes are theologically richer than meets the eye too:
The word “avatar” originates in Hinduism,…
From the, er, esteemed psychologist’s Psychology, A Briefer Course:
“With no attempt there can be no failure; with no failure no humiliation. So our self-feeling in this world depends entirely on what we back ourselves to be and do. It is determined by the ratio of our actualities to our supposed potentialities; a fraction of which our pretensions are the denominator and the numerator our success: Thus:
Such a fraction may be increased as well by diminishing the denominator as by increasing the numerator. To give up pretensions is as blessed a relief as to get them gratified; and where disappointment is incessant and the struggle unending, this is what men will always do. The history of evangelical theology, with its conviction of sin, its self-despair, and its abandonment of salvation by works, is the deepest of possible examples, but we meet others in every walk of life. There is a strange lightness in the heart when one’s nothingness in a particular area is accepted in good faith… How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young or slender. ‘Thank God!” we say, ‘those illusions are gone.’ Everything added to the Self is a burden as well as a pride.” (pg 168)
Another excerpt of David Dark‘s wonderful Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, this time the portions of the introduction that formed the basis of what I tried to say in NYC:
“Because religion can radically name the specific ways we’ve put our lives together and, perhaps more urgently, the ways we’ve allowed other people to put our lives together for us. To be clear, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to begin self-identifying as religious. That’s as futile and redundant a move as calling yourself political or cultural. But I am arguing that we should cease and desist from…
Another Week Ends: Crooked Cops, Rueful Rates, Toasted Prayers, Humanized Preppies, Katims’ Path, GNR Haters, and 15 Year Old Prince
Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with musician Derek Webb, among other things. Conference recordings coming early next week!
1. Given the grim findings reported in the next item, I thought we’d kick off with a beautiful story of grace that aired on CBS this week. Pretty much the reverse of every prison movie ever made, thank God:
2. This past Friday, the National Institute for Health Statistics published updated findings on national rates of suicide, and the news is not good. Bluntly put, between 1999 and 2014, the US suicide rate has risen by…