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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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Author Archive
    
    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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    A (Prose) Poem for Good Friday: “Decency” by Czeslaw Milosz

    “When I was, as they say, in harmony with God and the world, I felt I was false, pretending to be somebody else. I recovered my identity when I found myself again in the skin of a sinner and nonbeliever. This repeated itself in my life several times. For, undoubtedly, I liked the image of myself as a decent man, but, immediately after I put that mask on, my conscience whispered that I was deceiving others and myself.

    “The notion of sacrum is necessary but impossible without experiencing sin. I am dirty, I am a sinner, I am unworthy, and not even because of my behavior but because of the evil sitting in me. And only when I conceded that it was not for me to reach so high have I felt that I was genuine.”

    Maundy Thursday Miscellany: Mr Rogers, Stinky Feet, Memes, Cartoons, and Jams, plus Love & Friendship!

    Maundy Thursday Miscellany: Mr Rogers, Stinky Feet, Memes, Cartoons, and Jams, plus Love & Friendship!

    First, if you didn’t get around to the Mr. Rogers’ story a few weeks ago, TODAY is the day!

    Second, no one tells a better foot-washing story than Sally Lloyd-Jones in The Jesus Storybook Bible, for which an animated version exists. God loves stinky feet, people:

    Third, the Last Supper Meme of the Year is definitely:

    Fourth, Six Maundy Thursday Jams That Aren’t “Sweet Cherry Wine”

    The Last Supper – Johnny Cash
    Sister I Need Wine – Guided by Voices
    Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread – Bob Dylan
    (Gotta Get) A Meal Ticket – Elton John
    Pass Me Down the Wine – Oasis
    Hollywood – Tobias Jesso…

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    Jesus Fulfilled None of W.H. Auden’s Dreams

    Writing for The Chimera in the summer of 1943, W.H. Auden let fly this zinger, appropriate for Holy Week:

    www2_664561_400x400If a man who is in love is asked what gives his beloved such unique value for him over all other persons, he can only answer: “She is the fulfillment of all my dreams.” If the questioner has undergone any similar experience, the subjectivity of this answer causes no offense because the lover makes no claim that others should feel the same. He not only admits that “she is beautiful” means “she is beautiful for me but not necessarily for you” but glories in this admission.

    If a man who professes himself a Christian is asked why he believes Jesus to be the Christ, his position is much more difficult, since he cannot believe this without meaning that all who believe otherwise are in error, yet at the same time he can give a no more objective answer than the lover: “I believe because He fulfills none of my dreams, because He is in every respect the opposite of what He would be if I could have made Him in my own image.”

    Thus, if a Christian is asked: “Why Jesus and not Socrates or Buddha or Confucious or Mahomet?” perhaps all he can say is: “None of the others arouse all sides of my being to cry ‘Crucify Him’.”