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    The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

    The Beautiful Truth of Collateral Beauty

    In the Gospel reading appointed for Good Friday, Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” He seems to really want to know. He seems to be searching for an answer to explain this bruised and beaten Jew standing before him and the chaotic scene outside in his courtyard. And the truth is what we come to church seeking each Good Friday. With Pilate we ask, “What is truth?” We show up before God on the day commemorating Christ’s death for us, asking such questions as, Why was this necessary? Why did God have to die for us? Why would God die for…

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    Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

    Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

    Over the past eight years or so, Mockingbird contributors have said quite a lot about the works of Thornton Niven Wilder. His contributions to the idea of a theo-poetic approach to the Gospel, i.e., an approach that avoids didacticism by employing literary archetypes to illustrate gospel themes, are well documented on this site. For a couple of examples, read this from Wilder himself, or this from Paul Zahl. Wilder’s Angel that Troubled the Waters is a tour de force in such terms, and it illustrates what this site is usually trying to do: use an oblique approach to get in past the heart’s defenses, because a didactic frontal…

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    Passengers and the One Thing We Can't Live Without...

    Passengers and the One Thing We Can’t Live Without…

    This week I finally caught the movie Passengers.  I know, I know, the critics panned it, audiences largely hated it, but I loved it!  I think the interpretive problem for most viewers was a matter of viewpoint.  If one views Passengers from the standpoint of sci-fi or romance, I agree that it falls short, but that’s not the genius of the film, which is its social commentary.  The underlying theme of the film is that the one thing humankind cannot survive without, beyond the obvious necessities of food, water, or medicine, is our deep-seated, vital need for relationship, for companionship, for interaction with…

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    The Irresistible Father: Grace in The Water Diviner

    The Irresistible Father: Grace in The Water Diviner

    I know it may not have received very good reviews, but Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner may be one of the greatest movies I have ever seen.

    In my opinion, it’s better than The Mission. It’s better than Of Gods and Men. It may even be better than Red Beard.

    Why? It’s because you don’t see it coming. You have no idea of the irresistible grace that is headed your way as you watch the movie unfold.  And it hits you, again, and again (and again).

    Russell Crowe portrays an Australian farmer, Joshua Connor, who allows his three sons to enlist with the ANZAC troops in World War I….

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    With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    With Humanity Comes Flaws: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    Everything you’ve heard about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is true. The movie is visually stunning, it’s exciting from start to finish, the special effects are some of the best I have ever seen, and…the movie is an amazing commentary on the flaws of humanity.

    According to a recent article over at the New York Express Tribune blog, this may well be the whole point of the movie:

    Director Matt Reeves specifically chose to focus on the evolution of the apes and the irony that while the simian virus may have helped to set them free, by making them more human, it also…

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    Spiritual but Not Religious (and Constantly Navel-Gazing)…

    Wow! This Huffington Post editorial from a couple years ago by Lillian Daniel pretty well hits the whole “spiritual but not religious” thing in the mouth. Hard not to relate to her exasperation:

    Religious, noBeing privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.

    Thank you for sharing, spiritual-but-not-religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating. Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community? Because when this flight gets choppy, that’s who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church.

    According to a 2013 Gallup survey, as many as 1 in 3 Americans identifies as “spiritual but not religious,” and in 2010 a USA Today survey claimed that more than 70% of Generation Y identify as “more spiritual than religious.”  So the question becomes, why?  Why are so many Americans clinging to spirituality but divorcing it from organized religion? Is this a legitimate outgrowth of American self-determinism, or is it simply postmodern navel gazing?

    "Hey, We See Dead People:" Will Willimon on Easter and ABC's Resurrection

    “Hey, We See Dead People:” Will Willimon on Easter and ABC’s Resurrection

    ABC’s mid-season offering, Resurrection, arrived to mixed reviews, sporting a 59 out of 100 on Metacritic and a 53% rating with a 5.7 out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes.  What’s been interesting, though, has been the content of the critical reviews.  Critics appear to have panned the show largely because the premise is unoriginal.  In paging through the Metacritic reviews, one critic concludes, “Hey, we see dead people.”  Another says, “…Resurrection feels awfully ordinary.”  The A.V. Club flatly declares, “It’s hard to look at Resurrection and not see all the nerve that broadcast networks have lost.”  Ouch!

    Of course, the show is…

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    Darren Aronofsky's Noah Asks the Question, "What Makes You Savable?"

    Darren Aronofsky’s Noah Asks the Question, “What Makes You Savable?”

    A telling interview over at Complex with director Darren Aronofsky and Logan Lerman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Ray Winstone from the cast of Noah.

    To kick off the interview, Complex asks the question, “I’m Noah, and you guys are up to your necks in water.  What would you say to me to convince me to let you on the ark?”  And the answers given are rather bizarre but very human.  Lerman says he would “offer up life’s debt, maybe sexual debt?”  Winstone says, “I’m gonna buy you a drink.”  Hopkins simply says, “Please.”  Aronofsky says he would offer to bring his camera…

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    Bringing You the (Hippie) Gospel: "Oh, And That's Right...He Dug It."

    Bringing You the (Hippie) Gospel: “Oh, And That’s Right…He Dug It.”

    I was recently introduced to this rare bit of hipness by my friend and fellow seminarian, Susan Sevier.

    An early attempt at cultural relevance, Pastor John Rydgren’s circa-1967 Silhouette radio shows are so much fun.  Rydgren was serving as the head of the TV, Radio and Film Department for the American Lutheran Church at the time he produced this series.  With his hip, rhythmic baritone jive, Rydgren was seeking to connect people with the Gospel message in fresh and down-to-earth ways, and he was doing so in the midst of the cultural upheavals that characterized the Summer of Love.

    Talk about dramatic parables!  Can…

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    "He loved them all..."  James Rebhorn and the Unanxious Life

    “He loved them all…” James Rebhorn and the Unanxious Life

    It appears that, before he died on Friday, actor James Rebhorn (Homeland, The Game, Seinfeld) wrote his own obituary. Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Jersey City, New Jersey has posted a letter entitled “His Life, According to Jim” which is dated March 2014 and signed by the actor.

    This is a rare opportunity for a person who is dying: to have enough notice of one’s impending death in order to make final arrangements, including in this case the crafting of one’s own obituary. Most obituaries, in my honest opinion, are just dreadful–they’re usually written for the distraught family by a close friend, and…

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    Frederick Buechner on the Annunciation

    For today, the Feast of the Annunciation, from his 1966 Classic, The Magnificent Defeat:

    rembrandt167[1]Here at the end let me tell a story which seems to me to be a kind of parable of the lives of all of us. It is a peculiarly twentieth-century story, and it is almost too awful to tell: about a boy of twelve or thirteen who, in a fit of crazy anger and depression, got hold of a gun somewhere and fired it at his father, who died not right away but soon afterward. When the authorities asked the boy why he had done it, he said that it was because he could not stand his father, because his father demanded too much of him, because he hated his father. And then later on, after he had been placed in a house of detention somewhere, a guard was walking down the corridor late one night when he heard sounds from the boy’s room, and he stopped to listen. The words that he heard from the boy sobbing out in the darkness were, “I want my father, I want my father.”

    Our father. We have killed him, and we will kill him again, and our world will kill him. And yet he is there. It is he who listens at the door. It is he who is coming. It is our father who is about to be born. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Killing Time: The Law of Facebook Obsession

    Killing Time: The Law of Facebook Obsession

    We’ve certainly said a lot about Facebook already. See here, here, and here for some fine examples. In the past week, though, some of you will have no doubt encountered Time Magazine’s new “Facebook-time-wasted calculator” (they didn’t give it a sexy name, and that’s the best I could do). This app analyzes the activity on your Facebook account and returns an estimate as to how many days, weeks or, in some cases, months you have been “wasting” on Facebook. All of which, of course, assumes that we would all be doing something more productive with our time.

    I know people who are leaving Facebook because of…

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