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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.


Author Archive

    Original Sin on the Sussex Coast – John Betjeman

    sonoframbowNow on this out of season afternoon
    Day schools which cater for the sort of boy
    Whose parents go by Pullman once a month
    To do a show in town, pour out their young
    Into the sharply red October light.
    Here where The Drive and Buckhurst Road converge
    I watch the rival gangs and am myself
    A schoolboy once again in shivering shorts.
    I see the dust of sherbet on the chin
    Of Andrew Knox well-dress’d, well-born, well-fed,
    Even at nine a perfect gentleman,
    Willie Buchanan waiting at his side {—}
    Another Scot, eruptions on his skin.
    I hear Jack Drayton whistling from the fence
    Which hides the copper domes of {“} Cooch Behar {“}.
    That was the signal. So there’s no escape.
    A race for Willow Way and jump the hedge
    Behind the Granville Bowling Club? Too late.
    They’ll catch me coming out in Seapink Lane.
    Across the Garden of Remembrance? No,
    That would be blasphemy and bring bad luck.
    Well then, I’m for it. Andrew’s at me first,
    He pinions me in that especial grip
    His brother learned in Kob‰ from a Jap
    {(}No chance for me against the Japanese{)}.
    Willie arrives and winds me with a punch
    Plum in the tummy, grips the other arm.

    11-22-63-16{“} You’re to be booted. Hold him steady, chaps! {“}
    A wait for taking aim. Oh trees and sky!
    Then crack against the column of my spine,
    Blackness and breathlessness and sick with pain
    I stumble on the asphalt. Off they go
    Away, away, thank God, and out of sight
    So that I lie quite still and climb to sense
    Too out of breath and strength to make a sound.
    Now over Polegate vastly sets the sun;
    Dark rise the Downs from darker looking elms,
    And out of Southern railway trains to tea
    Run happy boys down various Station Roads,
    Satchels of homework jogging on their backs,
    So trivial and so healthy in the shade
    Of these enormous Downs. And when they’re home,
    When the Post-Toasties mixed with Golden Shred
    Make for the kiddies such a scrumptious feast,
    Does Mum, the Persil-user, still believe
    That there’s no Devil and that youth is bliss?
    As certain as the sun behind the Downs
    And quite as plain to see, the Devil walks.

    Shaped By What You Love: Scottish Stories, Sexy Sailboats, Soulful Cycles & Lemonade Cleanses


    A hearty thank you to all who helped put on the event last weekend in Orange County, especially Nick Bogardus and the good people at Cross of Christ Church in Costa Mesa. What an amazing and hilarious time. The rundown of the evening was:

    • An Introduction from Nick Bogardus
    • Mike Cosper telling Stories of Scottish Corpses
    • Jeff Mallinson Surfing the Tao (on a Sexy Sailboat)
    • Yours truly on Foodie Cults and Fitness Fads

    Here’s a taste, pun intended:

    The audio files can be downloaded via the Recordings page and we’ll have the other videos for you on Friday.

    From the Archives: Don’t Look Now But Your Soul Toupee Is Showing

    From the Archives: Don’t Look Now But Your Soul Toupee Is Showing

    Ah, the difference between who we’d like to be and who we actually are. Such a perennial theme these days (and source of anxiety), what with the advent of social media and its carefully constructed/curated presentations of self. The discrepancy between the real and the ideal has become so prevalent a part of our everyday lives, in fact, that it may be worth reminding ourselves just how much this phenomenon pre-dates the Internet.

    Take for instance the following passage from Mbird fave Tim Kreider’s masterful essay, “The Czar’s Daughter”, collected in We Learn Nothing. The essay is a rumination on, and…

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    The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago

    From the Archives: The Saddest Epidemic of All

    From the Archives: The Saddest Epidemic of All

    Had every intention of re-running this last week, in observance of national Mental Health Awareness month. Apologies!

    I was shocked by something a couple of years ago. At our Fall conference in Charlottesville (Sept 2012), RJ Heijmen showed a clip of a father telling the story of his son’s suicide and the emotional and spiritual agony it caused. The man’s words could not have possibly been heavier, and I almost questioned whether we had crossed a line. But that wasn’t what shocked me. What shocked me was the number of people who approached me afterward to share a similar story. Nearly…

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    From The New Yorker


    When You Marry the Wrong Person

    When You Marry the Wrong Person

    A few months after my wife and I got engaged, an older friend of hers pulled me aside and tried to do me a favor. He told me that if there was anything he wished he could have told his premarital self, it was that, no matter who you marry, they will be coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, culturally speaking. If he had known that up front, it might have spared him and his significant other considerable heartache.

    Like much of what people tell you before you get married (or have kids), his words were both 100% true…

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    June Playlist

    New feature: See if you can spot the JAZ pick.

    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel, Pt 44

    Are You Man Enough? When Virile Was a Compliment

    Are You Man Enough? When Virile Was a Compliment

    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…

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    Another Week Ends: Free Will(y), Pervert Park, Starbucks Snowflakes, Robert Frost and Chance the Rapper

    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…

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    In Praise of Huge, Honking Guilt Trips

    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!):

    preachingThere 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.

    P.S. A reminder that all monthly supporters of Mockingbird ($5 or more) automatically receive a complimentary subscription to the journal. Click here to sign up. We can’t do this without you!