Ethan Richardson is a contributing staff member for Mockingbird. Born and raised in Lexington, KY, he graduated from the University of Virginia in 2009, majoring in Religious Studies and English. In June of 2011, he finished two years of teaching 5th grade in the inner city of New Orleans, and now lives in Charlottesville, VA and works for Mockingbird along with serving at Christ Episcopal Church.
From his take on the Parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8).
And there, if you will, is the ultimate dilemma of the church. The one thing it doesn’t dare try to sell–for fear of being laughed out of town–turns out to be the only thing it was sent to sell. But because it more often than not caves in to its fear of ridicule, it gives the world the perennial spectacle of an institution eager to peddle anything but its authentic merchandise. I can stand up in the pulpit and tell people that God is angry, mean, and nasty; I can tell them he is so good they couldn’t possibly come within a million miles of him; and I can lash them into a frenzy of trying to placate him with irrelevant remorse and bogus good behavior–with sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings, all of which are offered by the law (Heb 10:8); but I cannot stand there and tell them the truth that he no longer cares a fig for their sacred guilt or their precious lists of good deeds, responsible outlooks, and earnest intentions. I can never just say to them that God has abolished all those oppressive, godly requirements in order that he might grant them free acceptance by his death on the cross. Because when I do that, they can conclude only one of two things: either that I am crazy or that God is. But alas, God’s sanity is the ultimate article of their non-faith. Therefore, despite Scripture’s relentless piling up of proof that he is a certifiable nut–that he is the Crazy Eddie of eternity, whose prices are insane–it always means that I am the one who gets offered a ticket to the funny farm.
Which is all right, I guess. After the unjust steward, the unjust judge, and the God who hasn’t got the integrity to come down from the cross and zap the world into shape, it’s a nice, rough approximation of justification by grace alone, through faith.
The Paris Review’s (stunning) most recent issue features interviews with quite the coupling: Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and our favorite psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips. Both men talk about the art of writing, Phillips using a lot of the dialectic idioms you seem him using on paper all the time. Things like, “Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge.” Or, “Analysis should be the need not to know yourself.”
That being said, Phillips covers a lot of ground, including his own childhood, the books that formed him, the initial interests that brought him to the analysands’ chair. But mainly the conversation covers the breadth…
In reading the gospels, it is difficult to separate the person Jesus from the images and stories that have been built up in our own memories and readings. It is hard to shell, to un-husk, the historical account from the gloss that our re-readings and re-tellings have rendered. It is impossible not to heroize with story the death and resurrection of a man who is also God’s son. To make His crucifixion the Crucifixion.
But to do so, as (our conference speaker!) Francis Spufford says here, is to miss the point of Christianity’s unique position on the everyday tragedies of life,…
How hard it is for me, who live
in the excitement of women
and have the desire for them
in my mouth like salt. Yet
you have taken me and quieted me.
You have been such light to me
that other women have been
your shadows. You come near me
with the nearness of sleep.
And yet I am not quiet.
It is to be broken. It is to be
torn open. It is not to be
reached and come to rest in
ever. I turn against you,
I break from you, I turn to you.
We hurt, and are hurt,
and have each other for healing.
It is healing. It is never whole.
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own. –Jonathan Swift
He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mk 4.11-12)
In a Google Talk in 2012, Stephen Colbert spoke (without his character) on the nature of satire, specifically his kind of satire, and the intended “clanging against the world”…
From Lewis’ Screwtape Letters (ht LB)
“Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured, and as a result, ill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend’s talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tete-a-tete with the friend), that threw him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feel that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.”
Another Week Ends: Lenten Anthropology Meets Carl Rogers, New Community, Charlie Kaufman, Oscars Morality, Auden (Again), and Katims on Crying
1) A particularly Lenten roundup this week, starting with this very beautiful, concise reflection from Will Willimon over at OnFaith, called “Good News! You’re a Sinner and Lent Is Here,” which deals primarily with the deep relief that comes in knowing yourself as a sinner. (Reminds us a little of someone we get to meet in NYC this spring, who has spoken quite frankly about the “cruel optimism” of our contemporary world.) The truth is, more often than not, the scandal of the Christian faith is not merely the nature or existence of God, but the sin of humankind—and the…
Man, was I wrong about Juan Pablo. And even wronger about Andi.
At the beginning of this season, I had illusions about the concepts of masculinity that Juan Pablo had been complicating in this season. I talked about the man of listening over the man of talking, the rave-wave hair do over Marlboro machismo, the spontaneity over the rigid focus. And I think it was because that was what we saw in first few episodes–we found JP sidling the stall of the helpless, drunk girl; we found him championing honesty; we watched him placate the worries of his niñas. Ay, mis niñas.
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself
And falls on th’other… –Macbeth
“For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted. Welcome back.” This is the end of the first soliloquy of the second season. You have to wait for it until the very end of the first episode, so long that you actually forgot it was a part of what had mesmerized you about the show to begin with. When Francis finally does look at…
This comes from an essay Fanny Howe wrote, called “Keepers of the Image,” about her mentor, Ilona Karmel, and a short essay she wrote, also called “Keepers of the Image.” Howe describes Karmel, a Jew who survived the WWII Polish labor camps, as a woman of Dostoevskian realism, someone who sought to write about her experiences not for sentimental purposes, but for an exact depiction of abject human darkness. She wrote of the conflict in each person, between the self they know everyday, and the self they long to be, the “secret self.”
Like Dostoyevsky, Ilona Karmel pursued truth (without quotes)…
Perhaps this would fit under PZ’s “Religions that Aren’t Called Religions,” as an Ideology. Or perhaps this is simply its own religion, the religion of Health, the religions of Fitness and Nutrition, of Kale Chips. But it could be easily replaced with almost anything–Sound Investments, Good Hair, Child-Rearing–anything that promises we will never die, and thus leaves us missing out on what’s enjoyable about actually, really living. This comes from Capon’s amazing Health, Money and Love (and Why We Don’t Enjoy Them)
“Isn’t it true that the eating habits of most Americans are killing them?” My answer is no. People die…
At the church I attend, it is not uncommon to hear the ministers–either from the pulpit or in counsel–talk about how they don’t believe in giving advice. I remember feeling confused the first time I heard that. Isn’t that part of the pastoral ticket, to point your flock to the promised land? To sit amongst suffering people and provide words of wisdom to help them move on? To indicate the blind spots along the “road of life”? To say you’re against giving advice–even unsolicited advice–is like saying you don’t know how to do your job, or that you don’t care.
From Gravity and Grace.
“Christ healing the sick, raising the dead, etc–that is the humble, human, almost low part of his mission. The supernatural part is the sweat of blood, the unsatisfied longing for human consolation, the supplication that he might be spared, the sense of being abandoned by God. The abandonment at the supreme moment of the crucifixion, what an abyss of love on both sides!
“The cross. The tree of sin was a real tree, the tree of life was a wooden beam. Something which does not give fruit, but only vertical movement. “The Son of Man must be lift up and he will draw all men unto himself.” We can kill the vital energy in ourselves while keeping only the vertical movement. Leaves and fruit are a waste of energy if our only wish is to rise. Adam and Eve sought for divinity in vital energy–a tree, fruit. But it is prepared for us on dead wood, geometrically squared, where a corpse is hanging. We must look for the secret of our kinship to God in our mortality.
“We have to cross the infinite thickness of time and space–and God has to do it first, because he comes to us first. Of the links between God and man, love is the greatest…God crosses through the thickness of the world to come to us.”
So I’ve just cracked the spine on Adam Phillips’ Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, and I’m baffled it’s taken me so long to get started. (Let’s just say, it’s no wonder we open the first issue of our magazine with a quote from him.) The psychologist-philosopher has an adept handle on the interior human life–on the hidden, subterranean you and me–but he can also describe it for non-philosophers like you and me.
Missing Out is about classic, fork-in-the-road questions of identity. When Robert Frost took “the road less traveled” and Jesus called us through the “narrow gate,” Phillips…