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    Climbing Ladders with Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-26)

    Climbing Ladders with Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-26)

    The following is an excerpt from Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis, available on Mockingbird and Amazon. The chapter below focuses on the story of Cain and Abel.

    Here we follow the second generation of humanity, and we continue to see the effects of the Fall radiating outward. The first result of the Fall, in human relationships, was covering up and the second blame-shifting; the third will be murder. Cain’s competition with Abel follows so closely upon the Fall, and his crime is so closely linked with earning God’s favor, that a vital connection point with the later stories…

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    Another Week Ends: The Problem with “Parenting”, Solipsistic Audiophiles, Más Havrilesky, Self-Defeating Happiness, and Dubious Decency

    Another Week Ends: The Problem with “Parenting”, Solipsistic Audiophiles, Más Havrilesky, Self-Defeating Happiness, and Dubious Decency

    1. Having a dog used to be easy, and were it 1995, I’d get one in a heartbeat. Fill up the gallon pail of food, a couple large buckets of water, and for the next three days the responsibilities were watching it run around (outside), fetch, the usual. Now I might be leaning cat-wards – dogsitters, crate-training, sticking to a strict routine… and the dog-hotel for vacationers business has been booming.

    First up, same with kids. A friend from college mentioned how much it annoyed him when, as a kid, his parents would use the phrase “underfoot” to describe him. For the record,…

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    Checking in with Game of Thrones (Season 6 Finale Edition)

    Checking in with Game of Thrones (Season 6 Finale Edition)

    Into the interregnum – spoilers abound. (Click here to listen to a special GoT episode of The Mockingcast, in which a few of us try to make sense of the religious elements of the show/books.)

    Cersei Lannister, first of her name: married to King Robert Baratheon in the wake of Robert’s Rebellion. Bereaved of Robert in a boar hunt gone awry, thwarted a power-grab traitor Eddard Stark in its wake, and consolidated the Kingdoms behind Joffrey I. Helped broker an alliance between Tyrell and Lannister, bedrock of security in the Seven Kingdoms during rebellions by the North, the Iron Islands, and Stannis Baratheon….

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    From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

    From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

    Well, we’re probably nearing our yearly limit for writing about anxiety, but great articles on the subject have been irrepressible. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that our increasing need to self-actualize, and increasing avenues for doing so, is a root behind the contemporary epidemic of nerves that had 1 in 5 American adults on anti-anxiety or antidepressant meds in 2011, numbers which have presumably risen since. An organization called the ADAA (anxiety and depression, etc) reported that almost one-third of the nation’s health bill is caused by anxiety disorders. You could reasonably ask to vet the numbers there, but even…

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    Nothing New: Notes on Game of Thrones, with an Eye on the Books

    Nothing New: Notes on Game of Thrones, with an Eye on the Books

    [Spoilers for s6e8 abound below:]

    “There is nothing new under the sun” -Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:9

    “To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.” -Quaithe of Asshai

    The most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “No One”, centered on return. For Brienne, Jaime, Daenerys, Sansa, Jon, and notably Arya, going forward means going back. Like the hobbits who set the Shire straight at the end of book six in Lord of the Rings, our characters must go forward, and then return to where they were, armed with new knowledge, new experience to either better “meet…

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    The Door and the Stories We Tell: Reviewing Game of Thrones

    The Door and the Stories We Tell: Reviewing Game of Thrones

    Spoiler Alert for those who have not yet seen this past week’s episode of Game of Thrones (Season 6, Episode 5).

    A drunk King Robert gallivants across a wooden stage, two conspicuous stagehands tracking his movements with a poorly-painted backdrop of woods behind him, setting the scene. Bawdiness, drinking jokes, and other low-comedy staples ensue, until dunderhead Ned Stark, idiot/villein Northern companion of the lecherous Robert, tries to grab the Throne for himself, until Joffrey, Cersei, and Littlefinger intervene to keep the pretender from taking power.

    Last night’s Game of Thrones episode was brilliant in lots of ways, but from a…

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    Kierkegaard on the (Lost) Offense of Christianity

    Kierkegaard on the (Lost) Offense of Christianity

    [T]ake away the possibility of offense, as they have done in Christendom, and the whole of Christianity is direct communication; and then Christianity is done away with, for it has become an easy thing, a superficial something which neither wounds nor heals profoundly enough; it is the false invention of human sympathy which forgets the infinite qualitative difference between God and man.

    -Søren Kierkegaard, “The Offence,” Training in Christianity

    Kierkegaard handles the problem of the “messianic secret” still, to me, better than almost anyone. That secret is the question of why Jesus, after healing people, often tells them to tell no one….

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    Good News at World’s End: Grace in Eschatology

    Good News at World’s End: Grace in Eschatology

    Welcome to another preview of a conference breakout session. Join us at Mockingbird NYC: Relief, now just three weeks away! April 14-16.

    We’ve noted before the phenomenon of the surging popularity of apocalyptic film and television (and video-games!), whether it’s zombies, nuclear war, epidemics, or whatever else that causes a breakdown in the fabric of normal society. The appeal certainly springs in part from our highly technological, highly intellectualized culture’s feeling of alienation from the physical, embodied world, where courage and sweat and muscle are the orders of the day. Certainly too they channel fears about threats to our safe, well-ordered…

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    From the Archives: Projecting Our Way Through Holy Week

    From the Archives: Projecting Our Way Through Holy Week

    The friendly overtures of a person whom we no longer love, overtures which strike us, in our indifference to her, as excessive, would perhaps have fallen a long way short of satisfying our love. Those tender speeches, that invitation or acceptance, we think only of the pleasure which they would have given us, and not of all those speeches and meetings by which we would have wished to see them immediately followed, which we should, as likely as not, simply by our avidity for them, have precluded from ever happening. So that we can never be certain that the good…

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    Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

    Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

    “If we had some bruallki, we could have bruallki and Menkooro—if we had some Menkooro.”

    That famous quip from the Star Wars expanded universe (Zahn) pretty much captures the church situation. The grass often looks greener in other traditions (Eastern Orthodoxy: Iconology! Aesthetics!), and sometimes it’s easy, standing within a tradition, to appreciate how it’s evolved, often to the point it would be almost unrecognizable to adherents past. Add to that that the best solution to today’s most pressing theological problem is likely tomorrow’s heresy, and you’ve got a complicated, no-win situation. But it’s worth looking back and checking in on,…

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    Die heilige Nacht (Triptychon). 1888/89

    From the Archives: Reflections on Memory and the First Christmas

    Memory and imagination work to give us experiences outside of the present moment, whether through recorded sensations (the low lights and taste of dinner yesterday), images of things past (the 2014 State of the Union on Youtube), or stringings-together of bare words: “at that time a decree went out…” We’re indisputably determined by our own pasts and our relation to them, and Christianity makes the distinct claim that we’re fundamentally determined by another’s past, a story we remember at this particular time of year. Though our past(s) – and our relations to the past, are opaque, I think one of…

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    Another Week Ends: More Thoughts on Charleston, Papal Sustainability, NPR Snobbery, Holy Metal, and Delinquent Ethicists

    Another Week Ends: More Thoughts on Charleston, Papal Sustainability, NPR Snobbery, Holy Metal, and Delinquent Ethicists

    1. As a follow-up to the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan points out the extraordinary character of the community’s response:

    [In the courtroom, victims’ family members] spoke of mercy. They offered forgiveness. They invited the suspect, who was linked in by video from jail, to please look for God.

    There was no rage, no accusation—just broken hearts undefended and presented for the world to see. They sobbed as they spoke.

    “I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, killed in the shooting. “You took something very precious…

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