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When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

A good starting place for reading the stories of George Saunders might not be Tenth of December, but The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a fable that is as appropriate for kids as it is for adults. The story centers around the seaside town of Frip, which consists of three families: The Ronsens, a husband and wife who look exactly alike, and have two daughters who stand very still; Bea Romo, a big, angry woman with two big, angry sons, all of whom are big, angry singers; and our heroine, Capable, and her father, who live in the red house closest…

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Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

In a particularly memorable chapter from his book, Falling Into Grace, John Newton (who’ll be speaking at our Fall Conference in Oklahoma City 10/28-29) opens with the story of “The Scorpion and the Frog.” You may already be familiar with the story, but I wasn’t, so I’ll run through it quickly:

The scorpion is looking for a way to cross the river, but, for obvious anatomical reasons, he’s having a hard time finding anyone willing to give him a ride. He asks the frog, who says, “No way, you’ll sting me!” The scorpion eventually cajoles the frog into giving him a lift across the…

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The Blessing of The Cursed Child

The Blessing of The Cursed Child

A quick disclaimer before reading: I will be giving a positive review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I will, in the words that follow, go so far as to recommend Harry Potter fans read it. So there. If you’ve already decided that the seven books will be the only books, that you will never touch the apocryphal supplements that come via screen or stage, I will not call you a pureblooder…that decision, to close eyes, ears and hands to some idea of magical purity–that’s entirely your decision. A rather pretentious one, I’ll grant, but your decision nonetheless. Everyone…

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The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, here is another essay from our new anthology of movie essays, Mockingbird at the Movies, available in print here and on Kindle here. 

Before anyone calls bluff on a Harry Potter essay found in a book about movies, let us first consider a fact about the Harry Potter movie franchise. As of July 2015, total movie sales for the eight Harry Potter films had almost surpassed total Harry Potter book sales, a ridiculous feat when you consider how much money that is (over $7 billion). And when you consider…

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Another Tribute to the Rev. Robert Capon

Another Tribute to the Rev. Robert Capon

Here is another fantastic reflection from Cody Gainous. 

I can’t remember where I first read the name Robert Farrar Capon — whether it was Mockingbird that led me to Capon or Capon that led me Mockingbird, I’m not sure. Classic chicken/egg scenario. But I can remember where I was when I heard that he had passed away. We are approaching the third anniversary of his death this September. That day, I was sitting on the couch in my tiny apartment, incidentally reading Between Noon and Three. When I put down the book and picked up my computer, the news came: Robert…

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A Button for the Unlovable: Corduroy as a Picture of the Gospel

A Button for the Unlovable: Corduroy as a Picture of the Gospel

This post comes to us from Blythe Hunt.

I would like to say that my reason for having hundreds of children’s books is that I have two small children; however, I owned most of these books pre-children, pre-marriage. I’ve always loved children’s books, and I am sure I’ll continue collecting even when my own children have moved on to Seamus Heaney and Mary Oliver (fingers crossed…).

In college, I wrote three senior theses (true confession!), and I continued my lit studies in grad school—I was hooked on finding deeper meaning in every piece of literature that came my way.

And then I had…

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Red Beard: Love Is Medicine

Red Beard: Love Is Medicine

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped put on last night’s screening of The Pawnbroker as part of our summer film series at the Avon Theater in Stamford, CT. What a wonderful night! We’ll be showing the third and final selection, Stars in My Crown, on Weds 8/24. On a related note, our recent book Mockingbird at the Movies, is now available on Kindle! To celebrate, we thought we’d post the first half of John Zahl’s closing essay on Red Beard, which many readers (ourselves included) have mentioned as a highlight.

 

Discussing Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (1965) in any detail is…

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How to Be a Person in a World of Divorce Delusions

How to Be a Person in a World of Divorce Delusions

I first ran across the name “Heather Havrilesky” back in 2011, when The New York Times Magazine published a column of hers comparing the tv shows Friday Night Lights and Glee. What she wrote knocked me flat, and formed the basis of one of our first posts to go (relatively) viral. Here was someone musing on our favorite themes in a national outlet, with a wit and compassion that we could only dream of mustering.

Since then, seldom a week has passed when I haven’t been on the lookout for her by-line. Because no matter what the topic, Havrilesky’s knack for…

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A Thousand Paper Cranes for the Vampire Queen: A Story About “The Meaning of Madness”

A Thousand Paper Cranes for the Vampire Queen: A Story About “The Meaning of Madness”

Since the Christian message is given through a narrative–a chronological, historical story–we have spent a lot of time on this site wrestling with the importance of the concept of ‘narrative’–both the pros and cons of it–and how it plays out in our lives. It seems clear that, though we gravitate naturally towards narratives and often define ourselves by them, these narratives can be limiting at best, and delusional at worst. Detachment from these narratives–what’s often called ‘mindfulness’–can be helpful in receiving a fuller picture of God’s love which breaks down our personal constructs. That said, we remain bound to our narratives and to our story-telling…

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Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

Returning to an Episcopal Church during college after some years worshiping in different traditions, I was surprised that the various creeds and dictums came back to me quickly. It was so assuring to hear the words that I had been so familiar with growing up, finding them still there in the recesses of memory. When the pastor said, “Hear these comfortable words” after the Confession and the Prayers of the People, the scripture then, and also the familiar liturgy throughout, really were that to me: comfortable words. Dwelling on them in content was important, no doubt, and a few teaching series I’d…

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Calling a Thing What It Is: Ruminations by Lemony Snicket, Pt 1

In anticipation for Netflix’s 2016 adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events (no release date as yet), we’ll be posting a wonderfully pessimistic Snicket quote every now and again–a consistent dose of reality (and compassion) for the suffering. The following comes from The Wide Window:

There is a way of looking at life called “keeping things in perspective.” This simply means “making yourself feel better by comparing the things that are happening to you right now against other things that have happened at a different time, or to different people.” For instance, if you were upset about an ugly pimple on the end of your nose, you might try to feel better by keeping your pimple in perspective. You might compare your pimple situation to that of someone who was being eaten by a bear, and when you looked in the mirror at your ugly pimple, you could say to yourself, “Well, at least I’m not being eaten by a bear.”

You can see at once why keeping things in perspective rarely works very well, because it is hard to concentrate on somebody else being eaten by a bear when you are staring at your own ugly pimple.

To Tide You Over: Capon Closes Down the Religion Shop

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Hopefully you’ve all heard the big news by now: Mockingbird has been given the wonderful privilege of bringing back to life 5 out-of-print books by our favorite salty lamb, Robert Farrar Capon, beginning with a previously unpublished manuscript to be released around Christmastime! To support this endeavor click here. Meanwhile, our greasy fingers are flipping through the texts as we speak.

To help tide you over, here’s an excerpt from Capon’s chef-d’œu·vre Kingdom, Grace, Judgment (still in print), a study on the parables of Jesus. The excerpt below responds to hypothetical objections to Capon’s emphasis on death and free grace: “Grace works only in those who accept their lostness,” he writes on page 204. “Jesus came to call sinners, not the pseudo-righteous; he came to raise the dead, not to buy drinks for the marginally alive.” In an interlude on pages 252-253, he continues:

“What ever happened,” you want to object, “to the positive idea of Christian living? If all we have to do to be saved is drop dead, why bother even trying to live–especially, why bother to be good, loving, or moral? Why not just go out and sin all we like? What role have you left for religion in the world, if everybody is going to get home free for nothing?” …

167935703_200acd7747_zWhat role have I left for religion? None. And I have left none because the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ leaves none. Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion. Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshiping, sacrificing) the human race has ever thought it had to do to get right with God. About those things, Christianity has only two comments to make. The first is that none of them ever had the least chance of doing the trick: the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sins (see the Epistle to the Hebrews) and no effort of ours to keep the law of God can ever succeed (see the Epistle to the Romans). The second is that everything religion tried (and failed) to do has been perfectly done, once and for all, by Jesus in his death and resurrection. For Christians, therefore, the entire religion shop has been closed, boarded up, and forgotten. The church is not in the religion business. It never has been and it never will be, in spite of all the ecclesiastical turkeys through two thousand years who have acted as if religion was their stock in trade. The church, instead, is in the Gospel-proclaiming business. It is not here to bring the world the bad news that God will think kindly about us only after we have gone through certain creedal, liturgical and ethical wickets; it is here to bring the world the Good News that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” It is here, in short, for no religious purpose at all, only to announce the Gospel of free grace.

The reason for not going out and sinning all you like is the same as the reason for not going out and putting your nose in a slicing machine: it’s dumb, stupid and no fun. Some individual sins may have pleasure still attached to them because of the residual goodness of the realities they are abusing: adultery can indeed be pleasant, and tying one on can amuse. But betrayal, jealously, love grown cold, and the gray dawn of the morning after are nobody’s idea of a good time.

On the other hand, there’s no use belaboring that point, because it never stopped anybody. And neither did religion. The notion that people won’t sin as long as you keep them well supplied with guilt and holy terror is a bit overblown. Giving the human race religious reasons for not sinning is about as useful as reading lectures to an elephant in rut. We have always, in the pinches, done what we damn pleased, and God has let us do it. His answer to sin is not to scream “Stop that!” but to shut up once and for all on the subject in Jesus’ death.