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About Todd Brewer

Assistant Professor of New Testament @GeneralSeminary in NYC. Phd from Durham University, England. I have a love for all things alt-rock, Pixar, football (American style), hockey (on ice), poetry, and good, short literature. On Twitter @toddhbrew


Author Archive
    Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

    Ray Rice and the Perils of Relative Righteousness

    This Ray Rice saga doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and it just keeps getting more interesting. Just yesterday (Friday September 19th) ESPN’s Outside the Lines released a report of the long, detailed timeline of events from the original incident right up until Roger Goodell’s press conference yesterday. It’s a fascinating account of the NFL’s behind-the-scenes PR spin machine, complete with new revelations (Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh wanted to release Ray Rice back in the spring?) and some of the thought process behind the original 2 game suspension.

    It’s this last aspect of the story that I find to be most…

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    The Adventures of the Holy Ghost: “Clarity”

    Yet another delightful internet find, this time via former Conference Speaker, Francis Spufford. It’s the comic strip, “The Adventures of the Holy Ghost”, humorously featuring the third-person of the trinity personified in ghostly form. There are a number of highlights, but I found the below, “Clarity”, to be pretty spot on take on Luke 18:

    HG comic

    Bonus: check out this gem as well! The rest of John hendrix’s work looks pretty amazing too.

    Excursions & Arrivals, by Brett Foster


    Excursions & Arrivals

    The sign at the corner of the property
    at the foot of the driveway—”No
    eighteen wheelers allowed in the church
    parking lot”—may be exactly the confirmation
    I needed that I am currently passing
    by a Baptist church a little to the south
    of Chattanooga. Was it a recurring problem
    that led to its posting? Did the congregation
    rebel or reach the proverbial tipping point?
    Even so, I’d like to think they would make
    an exception, that every once in a great
    while they might wave the driver toward them
    with his truckload of passengers battered
    bruiseful by all of the loveless difficulties
    that make up so very much of this life,
    not pallets of freight they’d come to expect
    but many blemished ones hungry to the point
    of being famished, urgent for the Son
    rising with his big paper-carrier’s bag
    of good news and promises or even simple
    reassurances like, You are not going
    to perish now, or You are mightily
    welcomed here, even though you’re fully
    known here
    , and so on. Against hope, I hope
    sometimes that those Baptists are smiling
    as they direct the eighteen-wheeler’s driver
    forward, forward with the bird’s-wing flutters
    of their sweet, inviting hands, as if saying
    Pull yourself on in here now, buddy.
    You take up as many spaces as you need
    while already his long trailer is being
    unlatched and its metal door rolled up
    so as to let that Tennessee light pour in,
    clarifying its darkened conveyances,
    especially brightened on Sunday morning
    as I imagine it now, while driving slowly
    on Spring Creek Road south of Chattanooga.

    The above appears in the Mar/Apr issue of Books and Culture (and online here). For more from B&C, see here.

    Ferrari Buyers in Search of Love: from The Philosopher's Mail

    Ferrari Buyers in Search of Love: from The Philosopher’s Mail

    If you haven’t yet found it, I highly recommend the new UK site The Philosopher’s Mail. It’s a news site, much like the tabloid-heave Daily Mail, but it’s written entirely by philosophers. Think celebrity gossip and pop culture news with a reflective and entertaining twist, with stories like: “Love shortage drives Shia LaBeouf nuts” or “Larry Page, Google CEO, tortures us with his jeans“. Brilliant, but funny stuff right?

    Today’s article, “200mph Ferrari California launched. Buyers not greedy show offs, just vulnerable fragile big infants in need of affection” struck me as particularly Mockingbird worthy.

    We know, because we hear it so…

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    Buying Bathmats for the Traumatized

    Buying Bathmats for the Traumatized

    Many pastors, especially of the mainline and Catholic varieties, are required as part of their training to do a brief internship at a hospital serving as a chaplain to the sick and dying. Oh how I wish I had read the blog post by Catherine Woodiwess and the accompanying op-ed by David Brooks that appeared in The NY Times before I stumbled through my own hospital rotation a few years back! It would have saved me (and more importantly the patients I visited) a good deal of unnecessary grief.

    Woodiwess offers a few bullet-point reflections on her own trauma and the…

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    The Top Theology Books of 2013

    The Top Theology Books of 2013

    In keeping with our year-end tradition, here is a list of the top Mockingbird theology books of 2013 – and I must say it’s been quite the year! For fun, I’ve categorized them according to the most fitting high school stereotypes.

    The Jocks (Books by Superstar Scholars)

    Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking A Pauline Theme by Stephen Westerholm – A great introduction to the recent debate on the doctrine of Justification (specifically the New Perspective on Paul). Westerholm looks at several prominent figures in the field (Stendahl, Dunn, Wright, Campbell) and provides a stirring defense of a “Lutheran” Paul.

    Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the…

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    Grace in Practice in "It's a Wonderful Life"

    Grace in Practice in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

    It’s that time of year again! The time when you break out those old classic Christmas movies and watch them by the fireside while drinking hot cocoa and basking in the nostalgia of the season. And there’s perhaps no more quintessential Christmas movie than Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” – a must see.

    Before seeing it recently (on the big screen, no less), I had always remembered it as a movie that gives you that warm assurance that life is worth living. George is a man at the end of his rope when he’s given a divine vision of…

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    Mondays with Mandelstam: "Rough Draft" (1937)

    Mondays with Mandelstam: “Rough Draft” (1937)

    Here, in the final installment of “Mandelstam”, we end roughly where we began, with the poem echoed by Christian Wiman in his outstanding book “My Bright Abyss”. Wiman was my gateway into Mandelstam and his translation has proved to be both thoughtful and moving. This poem also serves as a excellent summary of Mandelstam and his quest to find light amid the darkness.

    “Rough Draft” (1937)

    Provisionally, then, and secretive,
    I speak a truth whose time is not:

    It lives in love and the pain of love,
    In sweat, and the sky’s playful vacancy.

    A whisper, then, a purgatorial prayer,
    A testament of one man,…

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    Mondays with Mandelstam: “Steppes” (1937)

    “Steppes” (1937)800px-Steppe_of_western_Kazakhstan_in_the_early_spring

    Openness or emptiness, I’m sick of it
    Horizon everywhere,
    Infinity forced down the gullet:
    Eat your god, child, and love it!
    To be blinded would be a mercy here.

    Better to live alluvial,
    Better to live layered downward,
    To me a man of sand, of hollows, shallows,
    To cling to the sleeves of water
    And to let them go–

    An eon’s tune, an instant’s.
    I might have rained the rapids back.
    I might have learned to hear
    In any random rotting log
    A tree release its rings year by slow year.

    [note: a steppe is a prairie with wide open, flat, terrain that is too dry to any trees to grow. By contrast an alluvial plain is rain soaked and full of sedimentary rock]

    Mondays with Mandelstam: Mount Elbrus (1937)

    6106628926-583c358362-z[note: Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe]

    Spiderlight, sticky expectant dread:
    I turn and turn, only more entangled
    In today…

    We need bread, and we need plain air,
    But we need, too, some distant unbreathable peak,
    Some eye-annihilating glare…

    If the ache is nameless, how do I ask for ease?
    If the I itself is exile, can the soul survive
    Such private ice?

    Old touchstone, to touch a stone, but in all that I have known,
    Never, not once, such clear
    Dreamweeping distillations of atmosphere…

    We need poetry to wake the dark we are,
    To find us and bind us beyond us
    To an age of wakefulness

    In the one day’s unentangling sun,
    Our breathing easy, ancient, like the pulse and peace
    of iambs counting down to silence.

    Mondays with Mandelstam: “Sorrowdrawl” (1937)

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Sorrowdrawl” (1937)

    Shut up: to be alone is to be alive,
    To be alive to be a man –
    Even hazied, even queasied by this madsmash hinterland,
    Lost and locked in the sky’s asylum eye.

    This is my prayer to the air
    To which I turn and turn expecting news or ease,
    Nerves minnowing from shadowhands
    Toward shadowlands inside of me. This is my prayer

    To be of an under a human-scale sky,
    To suffer a human-scale why, to leave
    This blunt sun, these eternal furrows,
    For the one country that comes when I close my eyes.

    Mondays with Mandelstam: Tristia (1918)

    Mondays with Mandelstam: Tristia (1918)

    There is, I know, a science of separation
    In night’s disheveled elegies, stifled laments,
    The clockwork oxen jaws, the tense anticipation
    As the city’s vigil nears its sun and end.
    I honor the natural ritual of the rooster’s cry,
    The moment when, red-eyed from weeping, sleepless
    Once again, someone hoists the journey’s burden,
    And to weep and to sing become the same quicksilver verb.

    But who can prophesy in the word good-bye
    The abyss of loss into which we fall;
    Or what, when the dawn fires burn in the Acropolis,
    The rooster’s rusty clamor means for us;
    Or why, when some new life floods the cut sky,
    And the barn-warm oxen slowly…

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