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    The Ever-Present According to George Eliot

    A fantastic quote from her novel Middlemarch concerning, interestingly enough, a devoutly Christian man. She wrote like no one else, ht PW:

    The terror of being judged sharpens the memory: it sends an inevitable glare over that long-unvisited past which has been habitually recalled only in general phrases. Even without memory, the life is bound into one by a zone of dependence in growth and decay; but intense memory forces a man to own his blameworthy past. With memory set smarting like a reopened wound, a man’s past is not simply a dead history, an outworn preparation of the present: it is not a repented error shaken loose from the life: it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavors and the tinglings of a merited shame.

    The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

    The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

    Here at Mbird we spend a good deal of time hemming and hawing against the myth of humanism – that we are free to shape our own destinies, unconstrained, or mostly unconstrained, by our past, circumstances, and vices – unbound, that is, to our deeply distorted wills. The facts dismantle this myth quickly: the fact that the worst human atrocities have been committed in our most advanced century, that New Year’s resolutions quickly dwindle into February guilt, that the decades in our lives when we’re advancing and progressing tend to be the most unhappy ones. When people actually do change for the better, it…

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    Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

    Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

    1. Where to start with a hierarchy of most severe ‘little-l law’ in ‘secular’ society? We could start with body image, health, having cool experiences, and the like, but prosperity honestly takes the cake. And among the people who have already checked that box, it’s fast becoming political correctness. Political correctness is important, but its ascendant, uncompromising severity and occasional use as a class-code leads to a totalization which is, to say the least, in tension with the traditional (L/l)iberal ideal of discourse. Cue Camille Paglia, who had some fantastic things to say in America Magazine (Jesuits) about the backslide of feminism and…

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    Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

    Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

    I recently got an invitation via email for a new social network for businesspeople, GoBuyside.com. While I know far too little about the finance world to receive an invitation, let alone reflect on it, I think buy side means the people who buy securities for investment, which seems like the more prestigious/lucrative: you can make a windfall if you do it right. The network’s title is clear, expressing a movement toward higher positions, bigger money, more potential for advancement.

    Why in the world would you name a business networking site that? Well, it’s an identity marker in a way that LinkedIn…

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    The Gift (Certificate) Which Never Expires: A Sermon by John Zahl

    The Gift (Certificate) Which Never Expires: A Sermon by John Zahl

    This selection of a sermon comes from John Zahl’s collection, Sermons of Grace, available here. For those who made it to Liberate this year, the moving illustration towards the end should sound familiar:

    My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.

    -John 14:27

    Unlike the peace of the world, the peace of God lasts. The forgiveness of God is not a bait-and-switch trap. It does not expire. When Jesus uttered those fateful words on the cross, “It is finished,” he meant what he said. The heavenly parking meter is not ticking.

    Imagine, if you will, a cup of…

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    Parsing America’s Professional Prophets: Thoughts on Recent Commercials

    Parsing America’s Professional Prophets: Thoughts on Recent Commercials

    A teacher of mine in college used to say that the Old Testament prophets didn’t quite get supernatural revelation, but they read the future just like everyone else. But while other prophets would read the signs of the times in the stars, or in a peculiar palm-line, or in hallucinogenic-induced visions, the Hebrew prophets read the future from a close examination of Israel’s heart. Because the heart of a culture – often something few are aware of until decades later, if ever – determines its future, directs its role in the complex drama between humanity and God, traces the plight…

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    Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (Pt 42) (#Ashtag)

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    “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mt 6:3-4).

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    “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22).

    Another Week Ends: More PC, Orthorexia, Perfect Ripostes, Grace in Addiction in Asheville, SBTB Redivivus, and Implausible Pop-Country Songs

    Another Week Ends: More PC, Orthorexia, Perfect Ripostes, Grace in Addiction in Asheville, SBTB Redivivus, and Implausible Pop-Country Songs

    1. One subject that’s been on our minds lately is political correctness, the orthodoxy of speech by which the progressives are divided from the bigots. It’s a division almost as absolute as that between righteous and sinners, and the press and universities – places supposed to be bastions of the liberal ideal of open speech – have instead been on the forefront of the new censorship. Fredrick deBoer, a leftist activist and grad student at Purdue, weighs in:

    I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19 year old white woman — smart, well-meaning, passionate — literally run crying from a classroom…

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    A Long-Winded Thursday Devotional: Too Religious Not to Be Ashamed

    A Long-Winded Thursday Devotional: Too Religious Not to Be Ashamed

    From today’s lectionary reading, Mark 8.27-9.1:

    Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

    Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief…

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    On Symbols, Dutiful Wives, and Religious Recessions

    On Symbols, Dutiful Wives, and Religious Recessions

    (Spoilers for George Eliot’s Middlemarch ahead.) Dorothea was a devout and idealistic girl whose greatest desires were to help other people and to serve some high purpose for God. When she met Mr. Casaubon, a scholarly middle-aged man in the midst of writing his opus, a “Key to All Mythologies”, she saw a chance to serve him dutifully as a wife (it was 1830 or so) and was thrilled to be a part of this higher purpose. Yet Casaubon is vain, self-important, and deeply insecure. Dorothea has overestimated both her capacity to sacrifice all for him and has overestimated Casaubon’s value…

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    Another Week Ends: Health As Wealth, A New(ish) Take on Addiction, More DFW, Cellular Dependence, and Francis I

    Another Week Ends: Health As Wealth, A New(ish) Take on Addiction, More DFW, Cellular Dependence, and Francis I

    1. Whatever form the Law takes, dictated by fickle zeitgeist, it leaves behind a few years later. Forms can be remarkably inconsistent among different demographics, and after we finally escape one form of (little-l) law, we look back and scorn it, wondering how we (or anyone else) ever could’ve gotten so attached to it. For example, masculinity: the more and more we escape the pressure for men to be super macho, the more contemptible we find its earnest expression, as if embarrassed by our previous adherence. Even commercials which target the lowest common denominator of the masculine – such as Axe –…

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    The Impossibility of Knowing I’m Good

    Hannah Arendt, a non-Christian thinker with a strangely more accurate perception of Christianity than almost anyone, offers some thoughts on the problems with being good:

    The one activity taught by Jesus in word and deed is the action of goodness, and goodness obviously harbors a tendency to hide from being seen or heard. Christian hostility toward the public realm, the tendency of at least the early Christians to lead a life as far removed from the public realm as possible, can also be understood as a self-evident consequence of devotion to good works independent of all beliefs and expectations. For it is manifest that the moment a good work becomes known and public, it loses its specific character of goodness, being done for nothing but goodness’ sake. When goodness appears openly, it is no longer goodness, though it may still be useful as organized charity or an act of solidarity. Therefore: ‘Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.’ Goodness can exist only when it is not perceived, not even by its author; whoever sees himself performing a good work is no longer good, but at best a useful member of society or a dutiful member of a church. Therefore: ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’

    It may be this curious negative quality of goodness, the lack of outward phenomenal manifestation, that makes Jesus of Nazareth’s appearance in history such a profoundly paradoxical event; and it certainly seems to be the reason that he thought and taught that no man could be good: ‘Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.’ The same conviction finds its expression in the talmudic story of the thirty-six righteous men, for the sake of whom God saves the world and who also are known to nobody, least of all to themselves. We are reminded of Socrates’ great insight that no man can be wise, out of which love for wisdom, or philo-sophy, was born; the whole life story of Jesus seems to testify how love for goodness arises out of the insight that no man can be good.

    (The Human Condition, pp 74-75)