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From the Archives: Partisan Narratives and Cruel Choirmasters in an Election Season

From the Archives: Partisan Narratives and Cruel Choirmasters in an Election Season

Slightly updated for context:

Living in a “swing battleground state” (VA), I get the privilege of witnessing the escalation of hostilities from a front row seat every election season. And escalate they do! From the ads on TV to the volunteers at the door, the signs on the street to the telemarketers on the phone, it’ll be hard to hide come November. Last time around, apparently even Walking Dead viewers were on the fence (Arrow viewers, not so much).

There’s obviously an important place in a presidential race for indignation and culpability, anger and blame, etc. The permanence of the logs in…

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Bruddah Iz, the Rainbow, and the Rainbow Warriors: Looking Back at Facing Future

Bruddah Iz, the Rainbow, and the Rainbow Warriors: Looking Back at Facing Future

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (“Iz”) unwittingly provided future listeners a clue to something deeper at the beginning of his signature song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.” Soon after he arrived at the studio–at 4 a.m., possibly high–he sat on a steel chair and said “This one’s for Gabby” before strumming and gifting future generations with his sweet, somewhat haunting “Oooo” intonations.

Gabby here refers to Gabby Pahinui, a childhood friend of Iz and one of the fathers (both as a solo artist and as a founding member of the Sons of Hawai’i) of the Hawaiian Renaissance. The latter movement was most…

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Location images of Love & Friendship, a Jane Austen film adaptation starring Kate Bekinsdale and Chloe Sevigny, directed by Whit Stillman. CHURCHILL PRODUCTIONS LIMITED. Producers Katie Holly, Whit Stillman, Lauranne Bourrachot. Co-Producer Raymond Van Der Kaaij. Also Starring: Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell & Morfydd Clark

Another Week Ends: Ambitious Critics, Saving Beauty, Love & Friendship, Infinite Jest, Mother Theresa, Suede and The Whitney Plantation

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast, featuring Stephanie Phillips.

1. Funny how some weeks a single theme comes to dominate this column. This week that theme appears to be beauty and our relationship to it. First up, NY Times film critic A.O. Scott has a tome coming out next week entitled Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth, which attempts to make sense of his field in a time when social media appears to have devalued or trivialized it. This past weekend his employers ran a precis of the book,…

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Super Bowl 50 Prediction “Creed-Bomb”-Style: Can Cam “Take Me Higher”?…or Will Peyton Ride Into the Sunset “With Arms Wide Open”?

Super Bowl 50 Prediction “Creed-Bomb”-Style: Can Cam “Take Me Higher”?…or Will Peyton Ride Into the Sunset “With Arms Wide Open”?

’86 Chicago Bear “Super Bowl Shuffle”, meet the “Carolina Creed-Bomb”. Think photo bomb, except that the “bomber” in this case comes out of nowhere, gets right in your face, and goes full throttle Creed in all their cringe-worthy lyric glory. Panther’s linebacker Ben Jacobs is credited with birthing the creedbomb. He will magically appear in front of players and coaches and do a spot on, full rasp, Scott Stapp impression. Rolling Stone, perhaps unfairly, named Creed the worst band of the 90’s (after all, Nickelback was around back then). Nonetheless, an effective creedbomb must include Eye of the Tiger-level cheesy…

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The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

The Outsider Gets Radical: Notes on Blaming the Victim and Loving the Alien

Must have been almost fifteen years ago. I was sitting down with the chaplain of a prestigious New England prep school, and although he was being incredibly polite about it, he was sussing me out. You see, I was a stranger on campus, brought there on behalf of the para-church organization for which I worked, at the invitation of the school’s Christian fellowship group. He had every right to know where I was coming from before signing off on my presence/involvement, a responsibility to parents and administrators to ensure that students would be spared any high-pressure proselytizing while away from…

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The Essence of Christianity (Plus)

A couple of brand-new bonus recordings to which to draw your attention on this Tuesday afternoon:

  • Scott Jones and Bill Borrer interviewing Paul Zahl about “The Essence of Christianity” for their stellar New Persuasive Words podcast (which you can subscribe to here). You might think of it as a preview of the in-person conversation they’re going to have in April:

Sometimes these things don’t turn out as well as you’d hope. But sometimes they do, which seems to have been the case here. Or so we’ve been told, thank God.

Hockey Rocky: Imputation and All-Star John Scott

Hockey Rocky: Imputation and All-Star John Scott

A doozie of a story from the wild world of sports last Sunday as John Scott took the ice in NHL hockey’s 2016 All-Star game. To bring you up to speed, the trixy hobbits of the internet got involved with the sport’s All-Star voting this year, where top voted hockey players would be sent to the annual best-of-the-best event. Like the NFL’s pro-bowl, it’s more of an honor to be invited than to play, or more of a PR exhibition than a competition. Taking advantage of the online voting, a legion of hockey fans and internet trolls found the remarkably…

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Forgive Yourself, or Die Trying

Forgive Yourself, or Die Trying

Unless it has been replaced, the men’s room mirror at Manning’s Cafe in Minneapolis is a little worse for wear. Not broken, but scratched and pitted, and midway across the bottom the words are indelibly scrawled, “Forgive Yourself.” No telling who wrote it or how long ago, even less what they meant. Was it a pep talk from a weary (and likely inebriated) soul to his own downtrodden self? An encouragement to others? I know a former seminarian (no few have closed down Mannings at 2 am) who was observed, on occasion, to absolve half the room–did someone take offense? Whatever the intent, the message…

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Another Week Ends: Identity Politics, Applied Rationality, Hipster Nostalgia, Self-Recrimination, and Belle & Sebastian Emails

Another Week Ends: Identity Politics, Applied Rationality, Hipster Nostalgia, Self-Recrimination, and Belle & Sebastian Emails

Click here to listen to the accompanying episode of The Mockingcast!

1. Another incredible op-ed from Molly Worthen this past week about obstructions placed on campus ministries by more and more secular universities. I actually had the opportunity to interview Molly Worthen yesterday for the upcoming Church Issue, and we talked a little bit about this article. In it, she claims that, concomitant with the ideology of nondiscrimination in today’s academia–the ideology that frames much of today’s academic discourse–is the assertion that truth claims are identity-exclusive, and therefore detrimental to student life.

She writes about the InterVarsity chapter at Vanderbilt University, which was recently forced to relocate and was…

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2016 NYC Conference: Breakouts and Theme

Will Eisner - New York - Expo CBBD

At long last, some details about our upcoming 9th Annual New York conference (4/14-16). Thank you for your patience! We’re excited to announce that the theme this year will be “Relief! The Boldness of Grace in a World of Expectation”, and we can confirm that the slate of breakout sessions will include:

  1. I’m New Here! What’s Going On? – Melina Smith and Bryan Jarrell
  2. Performancism 101: Achievement Culture and the Golden Calf of College – CJ Green
  3. Good Enough? Where Positive Psychology and the Gospel Meet – Sasha Heinz and Jacob Smith
  4. Grace Stinks: When the Healer Carries a Sword – Stephanie Phillips
  5. An Episco-Disco Primer: Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music (1975-1985) – John Zahl
  6. Good News at World’s End: Grace in Eschatology – Will McDavid
  7. Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: The Relief of Grief – Lauren Larkin
  8. Cheap Grace? A Fresh Look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Javier Garcia
  9. A Just Relief: How the Gospel Inspires Justice and Mercy – Raleigh Sadler
  10. The Most Foolish Job in the World: Planting a Grace-Centered Church – Jonathan Adams and Curt Benham
  11. Impossible is Nothing… and Everything – Nick Lannon
  12. Grace-based Healing Prayer – Laurel Marr and Ben DeHart
  13. The Future’s Past: Time Travel and Justification in Fiction, the Bible and You – Adam Morton

1cf32dc0b32ac7254af47125729237cbOther Special Events include: A Mockingbird at the Movies panel, the first-ever Friday night Episco-Disco (courtesy of DJ JAZ), and a live taping of The Mockingcast in which Scott Jones sits down with Paul Zahl to talk about the 10th anniversary of Grace in Practice, among other things.

We’re still waiting to hear from a couple of potential speakers (sorry!), but we can tell you that the line-up for the “main stage” already includes theologian Ted Peters, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, musician Derek Webb, comedienne-priest Sarah Condon, wannabe gentleman farmer Ethan Richardson, and blizzard enthusiast David Zahl. Our chaplains this year will be The Rev. Dave Johnson and The Rev. Nancy Hanna. Watch this space, and conference.mbird.com, for more details as they emerge.

Earlybird discounts expire this coming Monday, Feb 1st, at which point all other price options will be available. Again, thanks for your patience. We are really, really excited about this event. I mean, who doesn’t need a little relief?!

How Do You Preach to the Donald? (Or, Thoughts on the Afflicted and the Comfortable)

How Do You Preach to the Donald? (Or, Thoughts on the Afflicted and the Comfortable)

Donald Trump went to church last Sunday. Lots of people did. My guess is he doesn’t do that on the regular. Nor do most people who at one time or another have been religiously observant but for some some reason have been on a kind of hiatus. But you run for president and go back to church and people take notice.

I suppose it’s the job of the press to take note of such things. I don’t begrudge them. There is a curious bi-product of this kind of reporting though. It poses a kind of religiously voyeuristic Twilight Zone question: what…

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Serial Season 2 and the Second Prodigal Son

Serial Season 2 and the Second Prodigal Son

While ancient near east history lessons may add layers to the text, the basic story of the Prodigal Son– a father’s love for his two wayward sons- is easily accessible across millennia. The heartwarming first half of the parable, with the angry runaway’s return to his unexpectedly gentle father, transcends time. Who has ever lived and not longed for a paternal love like that?

And yet, the beloved first half of the parable is a setup for the second half’s word of judgment. The father’s grace divides the family, and as the party for the returned runaway kicks into high gear,…

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