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    Just My (Christian) Imagination Running Away With Me

    Just My (Christian) Imagination Running Away With Me

    This article was originally posted by the John Jay Institute, as part of an online symposium it held on Christian Imagination a couple years back. It’s been lightly edited.

    It’s embarrassingly difficult to find oneself largely without answers but with questions, especially in the context of beautiful reflections on art, liturgy, the imago dei, and other affectively-charged elements of the Christian imagination. For example, the question of the imagination’s being ‘fully redeemed’ is one that a stubbornly literal-minded person cannot quite wrap his head around. Awash in thoughts of family farms sold, inheritances forfeited, and next-of-kin pawning them back, such etymologically-constrained…

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    Another (Conference) Week Ends: Paranormativity, Dream Deprivation, Millennial Morticians, Martin Luther, Christian Book Titles for the Age of the 'Net, and More Russell Brand

    Another (Conference) Week Ends: Paranormativity, Dream Deprivation, Millennial Morticians, Martin Luther, Christian Book Titles for the Age of the ‘Net, and More Russell Brand

    1. I think it was PZ who said that belief in the paranormal is almost a precondition of Christianity. It’s easy to think that science – which is properly concerned with empirically testing and proving/disproving those things which are subject to empirical testing – has vanquished the paranormal. Back in the old days, supernatural forces pressed on human existence from all sides. Beyond the village perimeter, the brooding night contained many things, and they were all threatening. Across Europe, peasants reported sightings of the Wild Hunt, a ghostly cavalcade of riders spreading terror and heralding catastrophe. In a world where…

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    Another Week Ends: Apple's Future; the Problem with Present-ism; Rick, Morty, Jim Carrey, and JAZ; Denis Johnson's Darkness; Bergman's Light; and HGTV-Fights

    Another Week Ends: Apple’s Future; the Problem with Present-ism; Rick, Morty, Jim Carrey, and JAZ; Denis Johnson’s Darkness; Bergman’s Light; and HGTV-Fights

    1. At Apple’s Keynote on Tuesday, Tim Cook – in classic Jobs style – gave a short history of television. The first stage was black and white, and the second was color. A third was HD. Now, he assured his audience, we’re at another “inflection point” in television history: Apple TV 4K.

    In hindsight, the original iPhone really did present such an inflection point: it dramatically changed the way we live our lives. People that attended that original keynote were, in a sense, present for the making of history. I’m not sure how well that holds up, actually–if one of my…

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    Another Week Ends: Self-Citation, GoT Fatigue, Pros and Cons of Moral Lit, Wonder in Children's Books (and Movies), Millennial GENESI$, and Funeral Etiquette

    Another Week Ends: Self-Citation, GoT Fatigue, Pros and Cons of Moral Lit, Wonder in Children’s Books (and Movies), Millennial GENESI$, and Funeral Etiquette

    1. In the academic world this week, a new study looks at self-citations among academics. One had 7,000 citations, which is pretty good–but more than 1400 of those came from his own (later) work. There’s some ‘bootstrapping’ for you. The study also found that men over the last couple hundred years have cited to themselves 56% more than women, with 70% more from 1991 to 2011.

    In a footnote, the paper’s authors — three women and two men — dryly note that the pattern holds among themselves as well: “The men authors of this paper cite themselves at nearly three times the average…

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    Another Week Ends: Wellness Epidemics, Praying with Kesha, Novelizing The Kingdom, and Confirmation Naivety

    Another Week Ends: Wellness Epidemics, Praying with Kesha, Novelizing The Kingdom, and Confirmation Naivety

    1. First up, Amy Larocca over at The Cut delves into “The Wellness Epidemic,” ht CB:

    Paltrow began to describe in detail her exercise regimen with her trainer Tracy Anderson, who believes one should work out two hours a day, six days a week. Then she began providing information on a cleanse she does each January. The mission became less about revealing the trappings of the good life and more about the notion that the really good life is internal. Rich and beautiful people don’t just go to nicer places, their organs work better. They even know how to breathe better, with more…

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    Another Week Ends: Cultural Morality, Internet Extremism, Pastoring Suburbanites, Theologies as Medicine, More Lutheranism at 500, and Pixar on Parenting

    Another Week Ends: Cultural Morality, Internet Extremism, Pastoring Suburbanites, Theologies as Medicine, More Lutheranism at 500, and Pixar on Parenting

    Jam-packed AWE this week. We’ll start with some articles examining our cultural (‘little-l’) laws, then look in on theology, and then turn to culture. Oh, and Sarah Condon went on Steve Brown’s show this past week – I hear it’s incredible, and you can check it out here.

    1. The divine moral law and our own cultural imperatives intersect (and diverge) in interesting ways. God’s unchanging Law dwells in our hearts, but our cultural mores are mercurial, ever-changing. You could think of God’s law and each of our cultural norm-sets du jour as Venn diagrams: our cultural morality is (1) a partial recognition of true…

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    The God of Seven Buses

    The God of Seven Buses

    I recently started reading Gregory Boyle’s excellent Tattoos on the Heart, a memoir of his powerful ministry in Pico-Aliso, a low-income area in L.A. dominated by gangs. So far, it’s full of incredible stories about the action of grace upon those who had spent years cultivating facades of toughness and independence, almost as a matter of survival. Boyle, a Jesuit, and the grace-brimming adults (predominantly women) of his community find, through the love they show, an inside look at the hearts of the ‘homies’ they befriend. My favorite vignette from the first chapter is below:

    At Camp Paige, a county detention facility near Glendora, I was getting…

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    Another Week Ends: Questing for Cultural Innocence, Narrating Luther, Inverting Transhumanism and Reforming One's Pets

    Another Week Ends: Questing for Cultural Innocence, Narrating Luther, Inverting Transhumanism and Reforming One’s Pets

    Lots of love – commingled with envy – for everyone at the Tenth Annual Mockingbird Conference in NYC! “For the rest of us” (G. Costanza), some links for the weekend:

    1. First up, The Hedgehog Review here in c-ville posted a wonderful article on “The Persistence of Guilt.” Who knew that the great Sigmund Freud once quipped, “the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt”? The author argues that Freud helped “demoralize” guilt, to suggest that our guilty emotions were the product of the superego and could be…

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    Suffering, Love, and the Sounds of Silence

    Suffering, Love, and the Sounds of Silence

    The camera hovers over a swelling sea, looking down, and a boat glides from the bottom of the frame, up through the middle, and passes, steady, up the frame and out through the top. The camera pans out slowly, the boat slowly being swallowed by the scale of the world it inhabits. Just as the stern goes out of view and the ocean dominates the screen, the camera cuts away.

    This is the world of Scorsese’s Silence, a place beautiful and alluring, but dark, chaotic, and threatening. The sea holds danger, chaos, and the boat’s stately but frail procession across the…

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    Valorized Intelligence and Less Profitable Truths of the Heart

    Valorized Intelligence and Less Profitable Truths of the Heart

    In recent news, CBS doubles down on eccentric male geniuses for its fall television lineup. One show, Pure Genius, treats us to an inside view of a Silicon Valley billionaire’s game-changing medical innovation; another, Bull, features the “brilliant, brash, and charming” titular consultant. And the MacGyver reboot, in addition to featuring an actor ten years younger than did the former series (!), snazzes up the clever factor, viz.,

    electronics! What differentiates this slate from earlier hit shows (e.g., NCIS, Bluebloods) is its emphasis on intellect as the protagonist’s defining trait. Sure, our hero may commit the occasional social gaffe, exhibit some…

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    From the Archives: Modern Origins of Anxiety - Scientific Christianity and Epistemic Optimism

    From the Archives: Modern Origins of Anxiety – Scientific Christianity and Epistemic Optimism

    The question of what causes anxiety is one to which we’ve given an embarrassing amount of attention, especially within the context of Christianity. The Onion was good to remind us that “Anxiety [Isn’t] Resolved By Thinking About It Really Hard”, but the relationship between religion and anxiety is a fascinating and potent one; i.e., the decline of religion and rise of anxiety may not be completely independent phenomena… but by “decline of religion” we don’t just mean secularization, but also certain shifts within religion itself. As a Church called to look for the plank in our own eyes, I think our complicity in the rise of anxiety is as…

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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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