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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 two sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church.

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    Don’t Look Now But Your Concept Is Creeping

    Don’t Look Now But Your Concept Is Creeping

    It’s a pretty common conversation among parents of young children. Clichéd even. Usually starts with a reminiscence about what things were like when we were kids:

    “Can’t believe I was allowed to ride my bike to the library by myself when I was 7.”
    “In summer I’d leave the house after breakfast and not come back home ’til it was dark”.
    “A classmate of mine and I walked to school every day of first grade, no chaperone.”
    “When I was a kid, parents weren’t allowed to stay to watch T-Ball practice–and they didn’t want to.”

    The next part of the conversation involves indignation about how such actions would…

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    Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Soaking in Religion

    Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Soaking in Religion

    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…

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    Another Week Ends: Crooked Cops, Rueful Rates, Toasted Prayers, Humanized Preppies, Katims’ Path, GNR Haters, and 15 Year Old Prince

    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…

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    Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

    Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

    Deeply saddened by the news of Prince’s death today at age 57. Since it’s borderline impossible to find his music online, those looking for some immediate catharsis would do well to tune into Minnesota public radio The Current, which is streaming his records non-stop.

    Like everyone else who was alive in the 80s, Purple Rain and its many singles were my entry point into the music of Prince Rogers Nelson: the bassless “When Doves Cry”, the euphoric “Let’s Go Crazy”, the Journey-cribbing title track (no joke). Yet while I treasured my “Batdance” cassette single, I’d be lying if I didn’t say…

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    A Prodigal – Elizabeth Bishop

    slippin_jimmy_tshirtThe brown enormous odor he lived by
    was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
    for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
    was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
    Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
    the pigs’ eyes followed him, a cheerful stare–
    even to the sow that always ate her young–
    till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
    But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
    (he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
    the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
    the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
    And then he thought he almost might endure
    his exile yet another year or more.

    But evenings the first star came to warn.
    The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
    to shut the cows and horses in the barn
    beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
    with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
    safe and companionable as in the Ark.
    The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
    The lantern–like the sun, going away–
    laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
    Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
    he felt the bats’ uncertain staggering flight,
    his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
    touching him. But it took him a long time
    finally to make up his mind to go home.

    The Archbishop’s Identity Never Changes

    The Archbishop’s Identity Never Changes

    Welby and his biological father, Anthony Montague Browne.

    Not sure if you’ve been following the story unfolding around Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby this past week, but it is truly extraordinary, both in its details and in what it reveals about the Archbishop himself. In a nutshell, at the age of 60, it has been discovered via a DNA test that Welby’s parentage is quite different than he had always been told/assumed. It turns out that his father was not Gavin Welby (a first generation Jewish immigrant to the UK, described by The Telegraph as an “alcoholic trickster”) after all…

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    From The New Yorker: Or Will They?

    NewYorkerLions

    Another Week Ends: Doubtful Substitutions, American Psychos, Anxious Superheroes, Angry Texts, and Throwback Specials

    Another Week Ends: Doubtful Substitutions, American Psychos, Anxious Superheroes, Angry Texts, and Throwback Specials

    Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast.

    1. I hope everyone had a nice Easter week. Hard to believe we’re less than two weeks away from NYC! Which means that those of us in liturgical churches will be reading about “doubting” Thomas this Sunday. A perfect opening for the recent installment of The NY Times’ Stone column, this time from philosopher William Irwin, “God Is a Question, Not an Answer”. Before you roll your eyes at the title (#gimmeabreak), a big part of Irwin’s argument has to do with dismantling any understanding of faith that doesn’t allow…

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    2017 NYC Breakout Sessions

    We’ve never done this before, but in an effort to stoke anticipation for our upcoming conference, we thought we’d announce the initial slate of next year’s breakouts:

    • CeU6N_jUkAA646j-1Luther Goes Helium? Law and Gospel in the Chipmunks’ Trilogy
    • Grace-Based Tiger Parenting
    • The Death of Death: Dying to be Dead (When You’re Not Alive)
    • Roundhouse Kicks and Nervous Ticks: ‘The Wilberforce Option’ and Patrick Swayze’s Road House
    • Leggo My Legos: Exploring the Ministry of Toys in the 21st Century
    • AA Envy: Bottoming Out on Life Without a Chemical Dependency
    • Sanctifying Sleep: 10 Steps to Glorifying God in Your Non-Waking Hours
    • How Low Can You Go? Bathroom Church 101
    • Songs You’ve Never Heard With An Extremely Loose Relation to Christianity
    • Wright Was Right: Embracing the New Perspective on Paul (Once Again, For the First Time)
    • The Fourth Use of the Law: Mimetic Desire and Sacramental Yearning in Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses
    • Liturgical Leaping: A Gospel-Infused Approach to the Spirituality of Jumping in Congregational Worship

    Say a prayer, but we’re also hoping to have our new publication ready by that point, The Anxious White Christian’s Guide to Rationalizing Culture.

    Any other ideas for us?

    Why Do We Work So Hard?

    Why Do We Work So Hard?

    “Why do we work so hard?” asks one of the lead articles in 1843, the new bimonthly journal from the people responsible for The Economist. The tagline only upped the ante, bait-wise, promising to trace how “our jobs have become prisons from which we don’t want to escape.” Writer Ryan Avent looks under quite a few stones in search of his answer, some flattering and some less so.

    He opens with the observation that we work more than ever today, not just because our employers or the economy demand it of us, but because work has become that much more enjoyable….

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    The Difference Between Christmas and Easter

    The Difference Between Christmas and Easter

    A few paragraphs from James Martin’s remarkable article in this past Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, “The Challenge of Easter”:

    The Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

    By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one…

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    How the Webb Was Woven: April Playlist

    How the Webb Was Woven: April Playlist

    “You really should listen to this guy”, he said. “A couple of the songs on his new record remind me of what you were saying tonight.”

    “I don’t really listen to Christian music”, I responded, half seriously.

    “Yeah, um, well, your loss. There’s a strong Yankee Hotel Foxtrot vibe on his new one.”

    I’m not proud of the exchange, which took place back in 2005. I had just given a talk to some high school students, and one of the older boys had wanted to engage afterward by telling me about musician Derek Webb. I’d given him…

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