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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 (


Author Archive

    One of the Cruel Betrayals of Sexual Liberation

    Merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fascinating observations about inverted “little l law” in n+1 co-founder Mark Greif’s masterful collection, Against Everything:

    Liberation implies freedom to do what you have already been doing or meant to do… But a test of liberation, as distinct from liberalization, must be whether you have also been freed to be free from sex, too–to ignore it, or to be asexual, without consequent social opprobrium or imputation of deficiency… One of the cruel betrayals of sexual liberation, in liberalization, was the illusion that the person can be free only if he holds sex as all-important and exposes it endlessly to others–providing it, proving it, enjoying it.

    This was a new kind of unfreedom… sinfulness redefined as the unconditioned, unexercised and unaroused body, and a new shamefulness for anyone who manifests a nonsexuality or, worst of all, willful sexlessness. (pg 26-27)

    Another Week Ends: Lonely Campuses, Unvisited Tombs, Cajun Navies, Misguided Minds, Big Ideas, and Low High Schools

    Another Week Ends: Lonely Campuses, Unvisited Tombs, Cajun Navies, Misguided Minds, Big Ideas, and Low High Schools

    1. With Labor Day behind us and Fall semester officially begun, it’s no wonder that higher education is back in the national spotlight. If only the news were a bit lighter… Alas, the atmosphere out there is one of concern bordering on alarm, and while the explanations vary, there seems to be widespread agreement that we’re experiencing something of breakdown in our nation’s universities, not just along ideological lines (predominantly left vs far left) but generational ones as well (students vs faculty, faculty vs administrators).

    Writing in The NY Times, however, Frank Bruni claims the “real campus scourge” is not censoriousness…

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    An Impossible Position (and a Minor Aspect)

    Here’s one from Stephen Marche’s (fantastic) recent book, The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth About Men and Women in the 21st Century:

    To be a mammal and to be a human being is an impossible position, it should be pointed out. No gender politics, no politics of any kind, is going to solve the problem of being a body that wants to be more. No mere philosophy will ever solve the confusion of biology and aspiration and desire that is the massive human mess. Maybe at some point, though I don’t see how, we’ll reconcile being animals with the desire to be something more.

    We pretend that family life is achievement and negotiation, a logic puzzle from an aptitude test. We fantasize that life is something built by the person living it, so that we may pretend that our fate is in our hands and that others are to blame for their failures. Control is, at best, a minor aspect of the human condition. Love is something into which we fall. The problem of work-life balance divides life into negotiable responsibilities, but there is no real balance, or rather the balance is a pose that is hard to hold. There is only falling down and getting up. There is loss and gift. (pg 50-51)

    September Playlist

    I didn’t know Jakob Dylan (and co) had been writing songs like that either…

    Why I Invited Daryl Davis to Speak in DC

    Why I Invited Daryl Davis to Speak in DC

    There’s a scene about fifteen minutes into Accidental Courtesy, the 2016 documentary about musician Daryl Davis, that so blew my hair back that I immediately looked up his contact info for the purposes of begging him to join us at our upcoming event in Washington, DC.

    The scene begins with a clip from Geraldo Rivera’s old daytime talk show, Geraldo, where the titular host is interviewing various families involved in Neo-Nazism and the Ku Klux Klan, the focus being on those who are “too young to hate”. Daryl is also on the show that day, presumably as a resident expert, albeit…

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    Another Tragic Irony

    Following on from the section of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age that we posted a couple weeks ago:

    We fight against injustices which cry out to heaven for vengeance. We are moved by a flaming indignation against these: racism, oppression, sexism, or leftist attacks on the family or Christian faith. This indignation comes to be fueled by hatred for those who support and connive with these injustices; and this in turn is fed by our sense of superiority that we are not like these instruments and accomplices of evil. Soon we are blinded to the havoc we wreak around us. Our picture of the world has safely located all evil outside of us. The very energy and hatred with which we combat evil proves its exteriority to us…

    Another tragic irony nests here. The stronger the sense of (often correctly identified) injustice, the more powerfully this pattern can become entrenched. We become centres of hatred, generators of new modes of injustice on a greater scale, but we started with the most exquisite sense of wrong, the greatest passion for justice and equality and peace. (pg 698)

    A Consolation You Could Believe In

    Via the introduction to Francis Spufford’s wonderful Unapologetic, pg 13-14:

    A consolation you could believe in would be one that didn’t have to be kept apart from awkward areas of reality. One that didn’t depend on some more or less tacky fantasy about ourselves, and therefore one that wasn’t in danger of popping like a soap bubble upon contact with the ordinary truths about us, whatever they turned out to be, good and bad and indifferent. A consolation you could trust would be one that acknowledged the difficult stuff rather than being in flight from it, and then found you grounds for hope in spite of it, or even because of it, with your fingers firmly out of your ears, and all the sounds of the complicated world rushing in, undenied.

    Hated For Loving: The World According to Morrissey

    Hated For Loving: The World According to Morrissey

    There was a a lot of music that sustained and soundtracked my recent sabbatical, but none more effervescent than that of the man in question. Which seems fortuitous, as his is a particularly comforting voice at moments when the veil is pulled back on the human condition, as it was here last week. What follows is a slightly revised version of the Moz chapter in A Mess of Help, a personal favorite which I was pleasantly surprised had never found its way onto the site (in its entirety). So, if you have five seconds to spare…:

    You cannot write about Steven…

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    A Reminder from Fleming Rutledge

    From page 345 of The Crucifixion:

    “…distinctions between the “innocent” and the “guilty,” while provisionally necessary in this fallen world, lose their power when seen from the perspective of the end-time. Categories of more and less guilt, and declarations of amnesty, so inadequate in this age of Sin and Death, become meaningless in the light of God’s new day as we come to understand that in the sight of the Lord “there is not one righteous” (Ps. 14:3; Rom. 3:10). This is the heart of biblical understanding concerning the entire human race. In the light of what was permitted to be done to the Son of God by the machinations, duplicity, and collaboration of all the “best people,” we come to see ourselves in bondage to forces far stronger than we are.”

    Another Week Ends (in Charlottesville)

    Another Week Ends (in Charlottesville)

    I’ll be honest with you. It would’ve been nice to return from sabbatical some other week.

    As you might imagine, a front row seat gives the viewer a different perspective. But you’d think it would loosen the tongue, not tie it up. Why haven’t I been able to write about what took place here last weekend?

    Well, for starters, I am (we are) still very much dealing with the local fallout. I’m referring to the incredibly kind teaching aide at my son’s elementary school who was jumped and beaten because of his skin color, and wondering if he’s going to be able…

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    The Janus Face of Lofty Humanism

    The Janus Face of Lofty Humanism

    Taken from page 687 of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age:

    In replacing the low and demeaning picture of human beings as depraved, inveterate sinners, in articulating the potential of human beings for goodness and greatness, humanism has not only given us the courage to act for reform, but also explains why this philanthropic action is so immensely worthwhile. The higher the human potential, the greater the enterprise of realizing it, and the more the carriers of this potential are worthy of our help in achieving it.

    But philanthropy and solidarity driven by a lofty humanism, just as that which was driven often…

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    (Belated) August Playlist

    First order of post-sabbatical business–other than resisting the (alarmingly strong) temptation to fend off the full range of human emotions re: Saturday–is to thank our amazing team for all their hard work these past three months. The Love and Death issue turned out so top-notch that I’m not sure whether I should be proud or embarrassed… Same with The Very Persistent Pirate! Sheesh. (That book is now available on Amazon, btw – those who’ve experienced its charms are warmly invited to contribute a review over there, as it aids the book’s visibility). If it’s a mercy to be reminded of one’s dispensability, I’ve been mightily blessed.

    That said, when it comes to crafting monthly playlists, my colleagues may still have something to learn. To wit:

    P.S. Check out the reduced prices for the DC Conference! (Yours truly could not be more pumped).