Literature
Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Babe Ruth taught me one thing: “Remember, kid,” he said, “there’s heroes, and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.” All right, sure… maybe that was the not-so-historical Great Bambino from The Sandlot talking, but still, his advice has stuck with me since I was a wee lad. I believe it was my freshman year of high school that I heard Chad Kroeger of Nickelback opine, “They say that a hero can save us, I’m not gonna stand here and wait.” And I’ll never be able to expunge from…

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Gerhard Forde Doesn’t Shore Up the Old Adam, But Kills Him

Here is a drastic parting of the ways with a theology of glory. The Christ of the Cross takes away the possibility of doing something. The theologian of glory might be able to follow to the point of accepting the truth that Christ has fulfilled all things, but then that will have to be used as a motivational tool to make sure the law gets its due. The point is precisely that the power to do good comes only out of this wild claim that everything has already been done. The language has to break out into preaching. Never mind that when we look to ourselves we find no sign of good works. Never mind our fears and our anxieties. We are looking in the wrong place. Look to Christ! He has done it all. Nothing will be gained by trying to shore up the Old Adam. Christ leaves nothing for the Old Adam and Eve to do. The old can only be killed by the law, not given artificial respiration by recourse to it… To the theologian of the cross the language of grace and faith must be pushed absolutely to this length – until it kills the old and raises the new.

-Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross

Summer Vacay: Where is Mom’s Coffin?

Summer Vacay: Where is Mom’s Coffin?

Officially speaking, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying tells the story of Bundren family traveling to bury their mother, Addie. Quickly in the narrative she dies. Children and husband must fulfill last request to take Mom’s body on a 40-mile trek in a wagon to be buried in Jefferson, Mississippi. Written in 1930, it dances the line between modern and post-modern literature. Different characters’ voices take over each chapter, and as the book progresses, the reader is given a complex, dark, and intimate narrative.

Unofficially, I believe it is a book written about a mother who simply wanted her family to…

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I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

To many students like myself, mid-July feels like this: “I can’t believe school starts in only a month—I haven’t done enough summery things yet.” There’s a nagging sense of regret even in the present that maybe we could do more to optimize our time. Maybe it’s FOMO, the fear of missing out, or, perhaps, the fear of wasting time. Summer is a long-anticipated golden calf in my head, carved deep with endless vacations and immediate suntans and condensating glasses of Kool-Aid. Not a moment of this empyrean season should go to waste.

And so waste becomes the object of frenzied anxiety….

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Introducing Eden and Afterward – Will McDavid

Another gem from our conference from Will McDavid, discussing his new book, Eden and Afterward.

Eden and Afterward: Introducing a Mockingbird Guide to Genesis ~ Will McDavid from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, pt 1 (“Was”)

Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, pt 1 (“Was”)

One advantage of the Internet is providing a certain type of community for people in places where there’s little of it, and in that spirit we’re starting a Mockingbird reading group (no law!), which will really just be planned serial blog posts with commentary encouraged. The book will be Go Down, Moses, a favorite among Faulkner’s works, and one with a fair amount of thematic consonance with what’s going on at Mbird. The novel itself is a series of interweaving and cumulative short stories, with a novella about a bear taking up most of its second half. The critical approach will be…

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J. D. Salinger, Sugarcoated Melancholy and the Conspiracy of the Human Voice

J. D. Salinger, Sugarcoated Melancholy and the Conspiracy of the Human Voice

Given that our most recent issue of The Mockingbird magazine opens with a quote from J. D. Salinger’s novel Franny and Zooey, I figured I would share something from one of his lesser-known pieces in print, the novella Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.

In the novella, Salinger has a way of playfully getting at the darkest of human truths. The plot encapsulates this style; it is light-heartedly sad. The narrator, Buddy, goes to his brother Seymour’s wedding and knows no one else there. Seymour doesn’t show up, and Buddy spends the rest of the afternoon with the bride’s family,…

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Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

1. Aquinas followed Aristotle in claiming the end (telos, purpose) of biology is medicine. Science has long been a technical discipline designed primarily to promote human flourishing / well-being. Of course, it was always contemplative to a degree, satisfying curiosity or even, as Aquinas also notes, teaching us about God. The study of creation reflects upon the Creator. One wonders what the role of science is today, what a panel of researchers would say if asked. My best guess would be something along the lines of increasing knowledge for knowledge’s sake; if pressed further, one might say that pure knowledge works to bolster happiness and/or…

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Love Endures Fecklessness: Marilynne Robinson on The Sound and the Fury

Love Endures Fecklessness: Marilynne Robinson on The Sound and the Fury

Among Marilynne Robinson’s many brilliant essays, a 2012 Foreword to the Modern Library’s latest edition of The Sound and the Fury particularly struck a chord, the edition a must-buy despite its paint-chipped wood (new south!) cover. Maybe it’s her easy command of language, her gently probing (rather than assertively polemical) style of argument, maybe that it’s one of the few pieces I’ve read on Faulkner’s opus that seems like it takes the novel’s now less-than-in-vogue religious sensibilities seriously. At any rate, the publishers got it right with asking her to do it (see too the JJ Sullivan intro to Absalom, Absalom!). A couple of highlights below:

The…

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Is It My Fault? Shedding Light in the Darkness of Domestic Violence

Is It My Fault? Shedding Light in the Darkness of Domestic Violence

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have done it again. As with their earlier work on sexual assault, Rid of My Disgrace, their most recent book Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence, goes where most Christian authors can’t or won’t go. Justin and Lindsey have the unique pastoral ability–and the theology to back it–to shine a light in the darkest of human experiences: abuse from the hands of another human. Truly, the Holcombs are lights in the darkness.

The book is broken into three sections, four if you count the substantial appendices. The Holcomb’s first move is…

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The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

As you’ll see in our summer issue of The Mockingbird, Michael Malone’s Handling Sin is belatedly perched upon the book shelf here at HQ. It’s a shame the 1983 novel (even taking place in the Piedmont, for crying out loud!), took this long to find us, because not since Wilder’s Theophilus North, or Cobb’s Old Judge Priest, have I had a copy so dogeared and underlined I’ve stopped doing so halfway through. And, much like the other two, it’s incredibly summer-friendly–my pages now smell like some mixture of coastal seaweed and SPF 30–and the 700-page journey ends faster than your…

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Terry Teachout on Pop Culture and the Need for a Balance Between High and Low

Terry Teachout on Pop Culture and the Need for a Balance Between High and Low

This one comes to us from the fascinating mind of Jeremiah Lawson, aka Wenatchee the Hatchet:

The Library of America recently rolled out the first installment in a set of Elmore Leonard novels that are now part of their line-up. To mark the occasion, critic and columnist Terry Teachout has revisited his skepticism about Elmore Leonard being regarded as a member of a literary pantheon. This isn’t to suggest that Teachout isn’t a fan of Leonard’s work. This is the same man who published a fine biography on Duke Ellington last year. Instead, he is concerned that our efforts to exegete…

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Introducing Mockingbird’s Guide to Genesis

Introducing Mockingbird’s Guide to Genesis

This piece originally appears as the Introduction chapter of Eden and Afterward, Mbird’s latest publication, which looks at Genesis through the lenses of literary commentary, theology, and everyday life. Contents include Adam, Abel, Noah, Babel, Abram, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Leah, Tamar, and Joseph.

There’s an old story of a Jewish rabbi who once attempted to heal a blind man. After rubbing saliva in the man’s eyes and laying hands on him, the rabbi asked if the cure had worked. “I can see people,” the man ventured, “but they look like trees, walking.” Then, as the account of this healing in the book of…

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Myths of Progress and Hopeful Defeatism

Myths of Progress and Hopeful Defeatism

For those interested in human folly and hard truths, look no further than John Gray, a political philosopher whose work On Progress and Other Modern Myths (The Silence of the Animals) debunks many of our species’ self-flattering stories about where we came from and where we’re going. An agnostic himself, Gray realizes the decline of Christianity won’t issue in quite the same unproblematic post-religious paradise that some of his contemporaries might think:

For humanists, denying that humanity can live without myths can only be a type of pessimism. They take for granted that if human beings came to be more like the rational…

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PZ’s Podcast: Farewell to the First Golden Era

EPISODE 170: Farewell to the First Golden Era

ACH000801895.1307708911.580x580Here is some recommended Summer reading, and listening; a few words of “Good Counsel”, as in Our Lady of Good Counsel; and a brief musical offering, at the end, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

You’ll note an animadversion to Aversion, a Hymn to Him (My Fair Lady), and an invitation to Him to Take the Wheel. All three are solid in me now, and all three I commend. Then there’s the Bach, and the happy birth-trauma pictured in the Offering.

By the way, a “Noye’s Fludde” of new reviews has appeared on Amazon for the updated new edition of PZ’s Panopticon. I find them to be short and shrewd, and some a little heart-rending. Here are some highlights:

“Arresting, Difficult, Funny, Brilliant, and Ultimately Hopeful! I loved PZ’s Panopticon. I started it in December, but I had to put it down after 40 pages because I found it too emotionally difficult. It was too close to something. I picked it back up in late January and finished it in one sitting. Then I wept. I pray it touches you in the way it did me.”

“The stultifying stupidity of defensive prejudice in the spiritual mud-wrestling ring that is organized religion is ripped apart by Zahl in a breathless romp to reanimate politically correct soullessness into a place where we live and long to be connected to what we know, but cannot prove: that God is with us every minute of every heartbeat…”

“Resurrection and mercy—that’s the diamond thread of hope that can withstand the testing-by-fire that is the question of death.”

“It is the only book I’ve ever read through from cover to cover, then immediately turned around and read it cover to cover again.”

Take my breath away (Berlin). Hugs always, and see you in September, –PZ