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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
    
    The Secret History of William Axl Rose [Super Deluxe Edition]

    The Secret History of William Axl Rose [Super Deluxe Edition]

    Well, the unthinkable has happened. Axl and Slash have buried the hatchet and are confirmed to be playing a headlining set (with Duff, possibly others) at Coachella this year. True to my word, to celebrate the momentous news, I’m posting the full Guns n Roses chapter of A Mess of Help. Portions of it appeared years ago in various forms on this site, but what you’ll find below was completely rewritten and is about three times longer – thus the Super Deluxe descriptor. Hope you have a fraction of the fun reading it that I had writing it. 

    Intrigued, excited, and…

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    The Exact Middle Ground Between Lying to Yourself and Lying to Other People

    Apologies in advance for harping on resolutions–low hanging fruit and all that–but I figure we only have another couple days until we hit the sell-by date. Plus, Oliver’s rant was too rich to pass up, esp given the passage from Law and Gospel that follows it (not to mention this post from a few years ago):

    “We tend to lower the bar of God’s righteous Law, in the hopes that fulfilling one or a small set of them will be enough to gain the Almighty’s ear. Of course, it’s impossible to keep all of the Bible’s various moral teachings before us at any one time. Selectivity is a foregone conclusion, and the criteria for such selection will always be pride-driven, at least in part. But it is also a defense mechanism, dividing up righteousness into manageable, seemingly do-able parts. Like the Rich Young Ruler who walks away from Jesus in great sadness, we’d certainly like to parse and snip our way into an achievable spirituality—one that doesn’t drive us to the grave every day of our lives.”

    January Playlist

    Election Year Wisdom from W.H. Auden

    If we were never alone or always too busy,
    Perhaps we might even believe what we know is not true:
    But no one is taken in, at least not all of the time;
    In our bath, or the subway, or in the middle of the night,
    We know very well we are not unlucky but evil,
    That the dream of a Perfect State or No State at all,
    To which we fly for refuge, is a part of our punishment.
    Let us therefore be contrite but without anxiety,
    For Powers and Times are not gods but mortal gifts from God;
    Let us acknowledge our defeats but without despair,
    For all societies and epochs are transient details,
    Transmitting an everlasting opportunity
    That the Kingdom of Heaven may come, not in our present
    And not in our future, but in the Fullness of Time.
    Let us pray.

    For The Time Being; A Christmas Oratorio

    Pope Francis shakes hands with an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, September 27, 2015.    REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

    Consuming 2015: Favorite Music, Media, Books and Humor

    Alrighty, culture vultures, time for our annual round up of favorites. Every pundit on the planet seems to be in agreement about how hard a year it’s been, geo-politically and otherwise, so thank God the opposite appears to be true aesthetically. Lots of wonderful stuff appeared. These are predominantly personal picks, albeit ones with an eye, as always, toward Mocking-resonance (click here for TV):

    Music

    Favorite Discoveries

    Sing Slowly Sisters by Robin Gibb. The term “lost classic” gets thrown around so often that when one actually surfaces, it often gets re-lost. Such is the case with Robin Gibb’s second solo record, the one…

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    The Best of the Year in Television 2015

    The Best of the Year in Television 2015

    Goodness gracious it was a wonderful year for television, the past six months especially. A bunch of beloved series came to a close (Justified, Mad Men, Parenthood, Hannibal), a couple of promising newer ones blasted into the stratosphere (Fargo, The Leftovers), and there was no dearth of quality debuts (Mr. Robot, Better Call Saul). So much good stuff that we had to declare a tie for the top spot.

    Seasons that have gotten raves that we’re waiting for the holidays to binge on are You’re the Worst, The Americans, Bojack Horseman, and Jane the Virgin, so they weren’t included below. But…

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    Another Week Ends: Reputation Economies, Yes Digressions, Eulogizing Girard, Displacing Flannery and Defending Proselytizers

    Another Week Ends: Reputation Economies, Yes Digressions, Eulogizing Girard, Displacing Flannery and Defending Proselytizers

    Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast.

    1. As the major outlets begin to run their year-end reflections, doom n’ gloom seems to be descending even more heavily over the Internet than usual. I’m sure it doesn’t help that we’re entering an election year, but sheesh. Time to crank up the Christmas music a little louder. That said, a couple of the columns are pretty good, for example, author Bret Easton Ellis sounding off on “Living in the Cult of Likability” over at The NY Times. While he may extend the trolls out there a bit more rope than I…

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    Exploring Our Options

    Exploring Our Options

    Before the year ends, I wanted to comment on a topic that’s been thrown our way quite a bit in recent months: what has come to be known as “The Benedict Option”. The term, coined by prolific conservative writer/thinker Rod Dreher and since proliferated by any number of commentators, refers to a strategy for professing Christians to interact with a culture that seems to be growing more and more hostile to its primary tenets. In light of resounding culture war defeat, Rod takes St. Benedict of Nursia as a model for how Christians might live in modern America. Speaking to World…

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    Instagram Husband

    Another Week Ends: Prayer Shaming, Gracious Sermons, Magical Libraries, St. Bill of Murray, and Orson Welles

    Another Week Ends: Prayer Shaming, Gracious Sermons, Magical Libraries, St. Bill of Murray, and Orson Welles

    Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast.

    1. A few weeks ago The NY Times Magazine published a column questioning if, in the wake of a public tragedy such as a mass shooting, politicians’ “thoughts and prayers” mean anything. Ethan mentioned it in one of our round-ups, quoting an expert who observed, ‘‘When uttered by civilians, [that pair of words is] mechanical enough. When uttered by elected officials, it has all the emotional resonance of a Miranda warning’’.

    He’s right. Overuse hollowed out the phrase long before the advent of social media. Instead, it tends to be “something to say” when words fail, often…

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    From the Archives: Be Not Afraid, O Ye Stone Temple Pilots

    From the Archives: Be Not Afraid, O Ye Stone Temple Pilots

    In light of this morning’s terrible news about Scott Weiland’s death.

    I don’t think anyone ever expected Stone Temple Pilots to be more than a 90s punchline. But here we are, a few years after the 20th anniversary of Core, and as derivative as the band may have initially appeared, their music has dated infinitely better than that of their humorless post-grunge peers. They’re no nostalgia act. In writing about their 2003 singles collection Thank You, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide put it well:

    “[Other bands] certainly had more indie credibility, but great pop music isn’t about credibility; it’s how the…

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    Fishing for Secular Napkins (with Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and Elaine Benes)

    Fishing for Secular Napkins (with Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and Elaine Benes)

    A scene from Seinfeld has been replaying in my mind this past week. One from the final season, when things got a bit cartoonish, in which Elaine finds out something surprising about her on-again-off-again mechanic boyfriend, David Puddy:

    George’s suggestible appetite is a priceless touch. The key lines, though, are:

    Jerry: So you prefer dumb and lazy to religious?
    Elaine: Dumb and lazy, I understand.

    As was their practice in all things, the writers didn’t let Elaine off the hook. They weren’t looking to exonerate her discomfort or Puddy’s piggishness so much as play the situation for laughs. The two of them are shown…

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