About Ethan Richardson

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.


Author Archive
    Another Week Ends: The Purity Witchhunt, March Madness, Punitive Gods, Better Call Saul, The TED Testament and Forgiving Racists

    Another Week Ends: The Purity Witchhunt, March Madness, Punitive Gods, Better Call Saul, The TED Testament and Forgiving Racists

    1) “Purity” talk is not just for the Evangelicals, it would seem. Despite the characterization of purity rings and abstinence devotionals and root beer pong, Richard Beck at Experimental Theology points to the moral fixation implicit in progressive Christians like himself, too. It’s not a difference in value, it’s merely a difference in where the self-justifying finger is pointed. Referring to an article written by Aurora Dagny, Beck argues that the fixation itself is complicit in making “everything problematic.”

    For progressive Christians moral purity will fixate on complicity in injustice. To be increasingly “pure” in progressive Christian circles is to become less and…

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    Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

    Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

    The widely loved writer and thinker Philip Yancey (who also happens to be coming to Mockingbirdtown this week) has come out with a new book, called Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? In it, he seems to have a lot to say about the falling state of American Christendom in its cultural conception, not as being lovers and welcomers and forgivers, but as being rigidly judgmental, self-oriented, and more or less “anti-” everything.

    I’m excited about the book, mainly because I’ve seen Yancey speak before, at St. George’s in Nashville, and the guy has a dispensary of stories about grace. He…

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    God in The Storm

    God in The Storm

    Like you, I’ve currently been trying to move through season three of House of Cards as slowly as possible, and not watch the whole thing in one sitting. It’s hard to do, even though this season is a lot less binge-friendly than the first two. And it’s hard to do predominantly because the Underwood’s ‘house of cards’ is nearly finished, and also never finished. While manipulative play after manipulative play proves time and again that control is only one move ahead of them, the thrill in watching the show comes from this precise tension–that one slip of the hand, or…

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    Winners and Losers Under Your Own Inner-Editor

    Winners and Losers Under Your Own Inner-Editor

    I have to admit, as a watcher of The Bachelor, that I participated in this phenomenon without ever thinking about it. Colson Whitehead, in the most recent NYT Magazine, talks about the “loser edit” in most competition-based reality television shows, the fact that, in winnowing 30 TV faces from total strangers into winners and losers, requires some narrative-building and, in the case of the losers, narrative-obliviating. As many of us (I hope?) can recall, there are the moments at the end of each of these shows where the ousted suitor, the ousted chef, the ousted whatever creates this reaction among…

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    The Secret – Christian Wiman

    From his new collection of poems, Once in the West.

    Creeping_Ivy_2_by_TudorxRoseDaily higher the ivy dies,
    Leaf by leaf subsiding white
    Like a secret that seems to rise
    Through vein and vine up to his eyes
    And the green of what remains.
    In spite of books and better light,
    In spite of air and what friends say,
    A rare arrested day, brief shoots,
    In spite of all he cuts away:
    From the ground up to the shelf,
    From the leaves into the roots,
    In spite of everything he tries,
    Utterly the ivy tells itself.

    The Ever-Blurring Line Between Workweek and Weekend

    The Ever-Blurring Line Between Workweek and Weekend

    As our fourth issue of The Mockingbird makes it way to you, here’s a glimpse at what’s headed your way, the Opener from yours truly.

    In an upcoming 2015 documentary called The Land, Vermont filmmaker Erin Davis is capturing the nature of play and risk-taking on an unusual playground in North Wales. The one-acre plot of vacant property, called “The Land,” is known as an “adventure playground,” which allows children of all ages the free space to roll down hills in old tires, to light fires in rusty oil drums, and build forts in trees with hammers and nails. As for…

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    Another Week Ends: Facelessness, Lent CEOs, Literacy Losers, Baseball Clocks, and North Korean Inspiration

    Another Week Ends: Facelessness, Lent CEOs, Literacy Losers, Baseball Clocks, and North Korean Inspiration

    1) Stephen Marche is certainly making a name for himself as the technological doomster, and in a supremely convincing way. He’s the one that wrote that piece we completely over-covered, called “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” and then there was that piece on our modern muse, Failure, and right in time for Ash Wednesday, we have “The Epidemic of Facelessness,” an op-ed piece which appeared in this Sunday’s Times. Marche talks in great detail about an age where, in most part, the majority of our social interaction takes place online and on screen. One of the consequences of this impersonal…

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    Not Ideas About Love But the Thing Itself: A Review of Birdman

    Not Ideas About Love But the Thing Itself: A Review of Birdman

    This is the epigraph that shows in the opening credits of Birdman, and it’s also the real-life epitaph on Raymond Carver’s tombstone. It serves as a good starting point for a movie that basically seconds as an adaptation for Carver’s famous short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” But it’s also a good starting point for Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), aka “Birdman,” ex-superhero-of-the-nineties, awash in irrelevance amidst a bigger, newer wave of Marvel stars.

    NOW AVAILABLE! Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue


    We’re happy to announce that Issue 4 is now available! Here’s our Table of Contents for the Work and Play Issue. Needless to say there’s lots to be excited for, so if you’re looking for a subscription, now’s the time, because this is also the last time we’ll be selling subscriptions for the price they’re at now ($42).

    This is what we’re looking into in this, the Work and Play Issue: We have interviews with best-selling time-researcher (and working mother), Brigid Schulte, as well as the Nigerian theologian of play, Nimi Wariboko. We’re covering a wide variety of topics, from freemium gamers and Fitbit philosophy, to happy jobs and Las Vegas tragedies. There’s an essay on the real meaning of sabbath, and a self-improvement sermon against self-improvement. We also have two new works from the matchless poet Mark Jarman—it’s all too much to name, really. In all of these, though, a common thread remains: one that marks out workweek from weekend, the world of demand from the world of freedom. Along this boundary lie much the world’s troubles, but also its hope, for a little bit of thought, and a lot bit of tomfoolery.



    Optimization Nation: Deprogramming the Cult of Productivity by David Zahl

    The ConfessionalIssue4Cover

    “In a Bookstore,” A Poem by Mark Jarman

    Sabbath Time: In a World of Work, an Invitation to Rest by Phillip Cary

    For the Record: Games for Non-Gamers by Jamin Warren

    The Overwhelm: A Conversation on a Modern Mandate with Brigid Schulte

    Happy: America’s Favorite Feeling Goes to Work by Ethan Richardson

    For the Record: Nine Comic Books for Your Inner-Child

    God So Loved the World of Warcraft: Role-Playing Games and the Labor of Spirituality by Will McDavid

    The Logic of Grace Is the Logic of Play: A Q&A with Nimi Wariboko

    “Confession,” A Poem by Mark Jarman

    Auden, Big Data, and the Accelerated Grimace of Modern America by Evan Brush

    For the Record: Eight Must-See ESPN 30 for 30s

    De Profundis: Our Past Is Prologue by Michael Nicholson

    The End of the Never-Ending Voice, A Sermon by Paul Walker

    Transfiguration – Mark Jarman

    This man will be our featured poet for Issue 4, with two new, unpublished works.

    414R4T6GDeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_They were talking to him about resurrection, about law,
    about the suffering ahead.
    They were talking as if to remind him who he was and
    who they were. He was not
    Like his three friends watching a little way off, not like
    the crowd
    At the foot of the hill. A gray-green thunderhead massed
    from the sea
    And God spoke from it and said he was his. They were
    About how the body, broken or burned, could live again,
    Only the fiery text of the thunderhead could explain it.
    And they were talking
    About pain and the need for judgement and how he would
    make himself
    A law of pain, both its spirit and its letter in his own flesh,
    and then break it,
    That is, transcend it. His clothes flared like magnesium,
    as they talked.

    The Chameleon’s Cult of Intensive Motherhood

    The Chameleon’s Cult of Intensive Motherhood

    I had the privilege to interview Brigid Schulte for our next issue of the magazine (out the doors in the next month!), The Work and Play Issue. Schulte, who is a columnist at the Washington Post and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, is also a mother, a busy mother, who found herself entwined a life that was bordering on madness. Her book is the story of coming to grips with this modern busyness–a busyness she found was more universal than just her, just mothers, or even just women. Instead, she found that,…

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    David Brooks and the Ever-Pinging Status Sonar

    A great way of talking about the continuous feedback loop of self-examination, this is a throwback quote from a favorite, The Social Animal, David Brooks’ investigation of the interior lives of people. The book follows the lives of two fictional lovers, Harold and Erica, from infancy to adulthood, and all the bumps along the way. We pick up as Harold and Erica have fallen in love. Mark, who is mentioned here, is Harold’s exotic, take-life-by-the-horns roommate.

    This “sonar” analogy is a pretty apt picture of little-l law in our lives. It may not be the law of God, but its effect often feels the same. It forces us to rate ourselves on the continuum of righteous living. (It is also interesting what falling in love does to Harold’s self-appraisal.)

    Doctor_jacobyA few weeks later, Harold sat alone in his apartment, feeling that his life was going tremendously well. All human beings go through life with a fully operational status sonar. We send out continuous waves of status measurements and receive a stream of positive or negative feedback signals that cumulatively define our place in society. Harold looked around at his loft. PING. A plus signal came back. He loved its open space and high ceilings. Hard contemplated his abs. PING. A negative signal came back. He really should go to the gym more. Harold looked at his face in the mirror. PING. A neutral signal came back. No sculpted cheekbones, but it could be worse.

    All day long the status sonar hums along–a stream of pluses, minuses and neutrals building in the mind, producing either happiness, anxiety, or doubt. The status sonar isn’t even a conscious process most of the time; it is just the hedonic tone of existence. Much of life, Mark had told Harold, consists of trying to maximize the number of pluses in the stream and minimize the number of minuses. Much of life is a series of adjustments to plus up the flow.

    The problem is, nobody’s status sonar is accurate. Some people are status exaggerators. They wildly inflate their spot in the pecking order. They are sixes they think they are eights and when they ask out women who are nines they are flummoxed when they get rejected. Other people are status minimizers. These people will never apply for jobs for which they are amply qualified because they assume they’ll be crushed by the competition.

    …Harold’s sonar sensor was like a finely crafted Swiss watch. It was balanced, sensitive, and appropriately forgiving. Like most happy people, Harold judged himself by his intentions, his friends by their deeds, and his rivals by their mistakes. The PINGs continued. The pluses flowed. And when Harold imagined himself with Erica, well, it was like a surging torrent of pluses…But there was also something deeper going on. All his life, Harold had lived at a certain level, but now he had discovered deeper compulsions. Coming to this realization was like living in a house all your life and suddenly falling through a trapdoor to find there had been a level underground all along, and then to find another level beneath that, and another level and another.