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

    February Playlist

    Another Week Ends: Parenthood Finale, Disinvitation Graphs, Snow Day Decline, Intinction Efficiency, Black Mirror, Dylan and We Are The World

    Another Week Ends: Parenthood Finale, Disinvitation Graphs, Snow Day Decline, Intinction Efficiency, Black Mirror, Dylan and We Are The World

    Pretty sure we’ve never issued a spoiler warning at the top of a weekender, but here goes. The biggest story of the week is the series finale to Parenthood, so if you haven’t seen it, skip to item 2. And may God bless and keep you always.

    1. One of the lectionary readings this past Sunday was a passage from 1 Corinthians in which the apostle Paul writes that “the present form of this world is passing away.” He may have been talking eschatology but the line kept coming to mind while watching the series finale of Parenthood last night (and while finally catching Boyhood a week…

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    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (Pt 41)


    “I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will express my riddle on the harp.”
    (Psalms 49:4)

    How Did We Get Back to 1991?

    How Did We Get Back to 1991?

    One of the themes we’ve been exploring these past few months in our weekend columns, as well as a few isolated posts, is the palpable rise in censoriousness that has been making itself felt on social media and in certain higher education settings. According to voices on all sides of the ideological equation, a resurgent devotion to “political correctness” is creating a situation where the institutions charged with promoting open dialogue in a liberal society–academia and journalism–are in fact squashing it.

    Chris Rock described the state of things memorably in his recent interview with New York Magazine, admitting that he refuses…

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    From The Onion: Law-Abiding Citizen Keeps Herself On Track With Weekly Cheat Day

    -3NEW YORK—Saying that sometimes she just needs a little break from her daily regimen, law-abiding citizen Karen Garver told reporters Tuesday that she keeps herself on track with a weekly cheat day in which she allows herself to commit any crime she wants. “I’m pretty strict Sunday through Friday, but come Saturday I tell myself it’s okay to bend the rules a little and improperly dispose of hazardous substances or rob a liquor store,” said Garver, explaining that by setting aside one day a week during which she can evade tax regulations, cause thousands of dollars in property damage, or assault a stranger, she’s able to resist temptation the rest of the week. “Being able to pause from living within the law now and then definitely helps keep me on the right path. Sometimes I’ll make a big day out of it with my girlfriends and we’ll all go out and set a forest fire, and then lead police on a high-speed chase through a crowded residential neighborhood.”… Read the rest here.

    A Mess of Help: Reviews, Recording, and Reddi-Whip

    An extremely heartfelt thank you to all who helped put on the launch party for A Mess of Help this past Saturday at The Olmsted Salon in NYC, especially Dusty Brown, Melina Smith, and William Brafford. It was a blast, from start to finish. If you weren’t able to make it (and/or are currently trapped by snow), the audio is available! You can listen below in fact:

    I was also gratified to see a couple of reviews crop up on outlets that I greatly respect. Perhaps it’s gauche for the author to publicly thank his critics, but who cares–it’s a rare thing to feel so deeply understood by anyone, let alone people you admire. First, there was John J Thompson’s flattering and supremely articulate write-up for ThinkChristian. The opening remark mirrors how I felt after reading his review:

    “I would say that books like David Zahl’s A Mess of Help make me feel less alone in the world, if there were any other books like David Zahl’s A Mess Of Help to be found. The fact is, there are not… With great humor, candor and spiritual insight – and an insanely passionate musical vocabulary – Zahl crafts rant after rant that would be equally at home in the film High Fidelity as in a Bible study. It’s like he’s having a long, funny, interesting and rambling conversation with all of the voices in his head. That some of those voices seem also to be the ones in my head is overwhelmingly comforting.”

    That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to keep writing. Prost, Herr Thompson! Second, Curator Magazine published a full-length treatment by William Brafford, who conducted the interview on Saturday. I always knew I liked him…! There are any number of paragraphs I could excerpt. Here’s one:

    IMG_6822“Humor and passion practically drip from the pages of A Mess of Help. Love of paradox is said to be Lutheran trait. You’ll find it here, especially in an amazing essay that rediscovers the bizarre Elvis movie Change of Habit in all its kitschy glory. Dave writes, “Elvis Presley was not ridiculous, then amazing. He was both at the same time.” Dave’s collection of bizarre Elvis anecdotes is rivaled only by his collection of bizarre Brian Wilson anecdotes, like the one where Wilson tells a reporter something amazing and profound about God’s love as the power behind the universe, and then totters off into the kitchen to squirt Reddi-Whip into his mouth.”

    Thanks again to everyone who came, don’t forget to stay tuned to the Olmsted page for future events, and please, for the love of God, keep on chooglin!

    Rick Moody on the Parable of the Hidden Treasure

    From the fascinating little volume Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited, in which a wide array of American writers offer decidedly non-academic, gut-level interpretations of NT passages. It was edited by Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm, Right Livelihoods, and most recently my personal fave, On Celestial Music) and Darcy Steinke (Jesus Saves, Suicide Blonde, Easter Everywhere), and published in 1997. This passage from Rick’s introduction stuck out:

    51GvNP+0GZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My own interpretation of the parable of the hidden treasure (Mark 13:44) is, somewhat ironically, rigidly allegorical…: the treasure at the heart of this story is the message of the kingdom itself, and the fact of grace offered therein — grace in spite of the way you have lived your life, grace in spite of your crimes or your peccadilloes, grace in spite of your religion, grace in spite of mean birth of lofty one, grace in spite of your sexuality or the color of your skin or your creed or anything else, grace simply because grace is what God gives. That’s the message buried in the New Testament, as treasure is buried in a field, the message often overpowered by the fire and brimstone of evangelists going all the way back to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, through two long millenia of Swaggarts and Robertsons. The Kingdom of Heaven, as opposed to the kingdom of PACs, multinationals, gun lobbyists, tax-exempt charitable organizations, et al., is a place of grace, and this is born out, moreover by the fact that the protagonist of the parable of the hidden treasure is a reprobate. The treasure, after all, is in somebody else’s field when he finds it. The treasure belongs to somebody else. So what kind of guy is this, who has hidden the veritable kingdom of heaven so that he can come back later and swipe it?

    He’s like all of us… This hit-and-run, morally dubious miscreant is myself.

    Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks – Jane Kenyon

    I am the blossom pressed in a book,
    found again after two hundred years. . . .

    I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper….

    When the young girl who starves
    sits down to a table
    she will sit beside me. . . .

    I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .

    I am water rushing to the wellhead,
    filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

    I am the patient gardener
    of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

    I am the stone step,
    the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

    I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .
    the longest hair, white
    before the rest. . . .

    I am there in the basket of fruit
    presented to the widow. . . .

    I am the musk rose opening
    unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

    I am the one whose love
    overcomes you, already with you
    when you think to call my name. . . .

    The Risk of Grace Pt 2 – Tullian Tchividjian

    Herr Tchividjian’s second talk from Houston, in which he comes clean about the Christian life in no uncertain terms:

    The Risk of Grace, part 2 – Tullian Tchividjian from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

    Speaking of our man Tullian, just found out that he’ll be with us in NYC in April to lead an on-stage conversation with his good friend Nadia Bolz Weber (on Saturday morning). Should be incredible. And don’t forget: the LIBERATE conference is only a month away!

    The Cost and Benefit of Forgiveness (Class)

    The Cost and Benefit of Forgiveness (Class)

    I remember a conversation some years ago where a friend was voicing her chief objection to Christianity. It had nothing to do with science, or politics, or even suffering (at least not explicitly). What she found offensive about the faith was the notion/assertion/accusation that one of our primary needs as human beings is for forgiveness. In her view, the Christian emphasis on forgiveness was part and parcel of a defeatist anthropology that undermined human dignity, perpetuating negative self-understandings that we would be better off without. Furthermore, it set people up as guilty by default, which, when it came to systemic…

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    Launch Party This Saturday (1/24) in NYC!


    Really excited about this – click on the image for more details. Would love to see you there! I’ll also be preaching the following day at all three services of Calvary St. George’s in Manhattan.

    On Playing Catch Up (In Case You Missed It)

    On Playing Catch Up (In Case You Missed It)

    God bless Portlandia. Their first season contained a skit that has proven to be more than a little prophetic. In case you missed it (ICYMI):

    On the surface, Fred and Carrie are emphasizing how people compete over being well informed, how prideful our relationship with information has become. They’re lampooning a world where ‘staying on top of things’ has become an increasingly treasured form of righteousness, where the mastery of information–for certain personality types–is as tantalizing as it is illusive.

    One expression of this pursuit is the barrage of links we receive and share with others over social media. Taken individually, such…

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