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Sin Boldly? Really? – Mark Braaten

Next breakout from Tyler is here! This one arrives courtesy of our friend Pastor Mark Braaten of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church down there, who gives a terrific primer on the anniversary at hand. Apologies for the audio, which comes in and out a bit:

Sin Boldly? Really? ~ Mark Braaten from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Six Highlights from Bob Dylan’s New Interview

Six Highlights from Bob Dylan’s New Interview

Late last week, in anticipation of his upcoming triple album Triplicate, Bob Dylan’s website published a rare, lengthy Q&A with the man himself, and while the whole thing’s very much worth reading, a few of his answers were simply too remarkable not to reproduce here. No, not as remarkable as these but nevertheless. Talk about an independent soul:

1. Interviewer: No one can hear “As Time Goes By” and not think of Casablanca. What are some movies that have inspired your own songs?

Dylan: The Robe, King of Kings, Samson and Delilah, some others too. Maybe, like, Picnic…

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NYC Conference Countdown and Update: Final Plenary Speaker!

Believe it or not, this time next month (Thursday, 4/27), we’ll be setting the tables for the opening feast in NYC–the enchiladas will be roasting, the ceviche nearly prepped, the churro bites ready to fry, with the sangria on ice. Needless to say, conference-related posts will be coming chock-a-block these next few weeks. We’ll be publishing the full slate of breakout sessions later this week (brace yourself) but first, I am beyond thrilled to announce that our final plenary speaker will be someone whose byline you may recognize from major articles in The NY Times, The Atlantic, Harper’s, or The Nation. Lord knows we haven’t been shy about highlighting his work over the years. I’m talking about none other than noted author and critic William Deresiewicz (Excellent Sheep, A Jane Austen Education).

Not ringing a bell? Take, for example, his pot-stirring 2014 editorial in The New Republic, “Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League”:

So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.

Or his 2012 column for The NY Times, “A Matter of Taste?”:

“Eat, Pray, Love,” the title goes, but a lot of people never make it past the first. Nor do they have to. Food now expresses the symbolic values and absorbs the spiritual energies of the educated class. It has become invested with the meaning of life. It is seen as the path to salvation, for the self and humanity both… A good risotto is a fine thing, but it isn’t going to give you insight into other people, allow you to see the world in a new way, or force you to take an inventory of your soul.

And let us not forget his recent essay for The American Scholar,  “On Political Correctness: Power, Class, and the New Campus Religion”:

The assumption on selective campuses is not only that we are in full possession of the truth, but that we are in full possession of virtue. We don’t just know the good with perfect wisdom, we embody it with perfect innocence. But regimes of virtue tend to eat their children. Think of Salem. They tend to turn upon themselves, since everybody wants to be the holiest. Think of the French Revolution. The ante is forever being upped.

Suffice it to say, no one has a more finely tuned radar for the mechanics of righteousness (and performancism!) in contemporary culture, the ways that religious impulses find ‘secular’ expression–a la DFW’s classic “everybody worships” line–than William Deresiewicz. He not only sees “the thing beneath the thing”, but articulates it time and again with boldness, precision, and compassion. I consider it an immense honor that he’s agreed to join us on Friday afternoon, April 28th.

Click here to pre-register today!

P.S. There is still some limited scholarship funds available. Email us at info@mbird.com for more info.

April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

As faithless as it is calculating, college admission becomes a decade of denial for most.

The first of April becomes the focus of lifetimes. Many parents and their issue have connived, planned, even negotiated for this date: college admission — April First. This April Fool’s Day, millions of households will have their 17-year-old collegiate lay locked and loaded, kinder-glued to their laptops. No, it’s not porn, binge-watching, or even OD-ing on FB. It’s all about admission to college. That’s Decision Day.

It used to be so simple: you got a fat envelope and were IN, thin envelope OUT, middle envelope MAYBE. We…

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Another Week Ends: Chuck Berry, Preachy Ads, Yik Yak Help, Optimist Empathy, Missing Richard Simmons, and the Relentless Gig Economy

Another Week Ends: Chuck Berry, Preachy Ads, Yik Yak Help, Optimist Empathy, Missing Richard Simmons, and the Relentless Gig Economy

1. If you, too, have wondered where all the moral messaging has been coming from in advertisements—whether it’s Amazon, Barbie, Budweiser, or 84 Lumber—why all those Super Bowl ads were so heavily imbued with political and philosophical truisms, well, you’re not alone. This week, Megan Garber of The Atlantic wrote an article called “Selling What They Preach,” which is an observation of the kind of morality flag-bearing happening during a lot of primetime TV commercials. She’s extremely aware of the irony of this endeavor—that so many of these enormous, consumer-focused businesses are spinning messages of “empathy” or “togetherness” or “love,”…

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Fear Models and Clean Antennae: Pete Holmes on Fresh Air

Fear Models and Clean Antennae: Pete Holmes on Fresh Air

Another TV season, another bid for our wallets. HBO is making its case this season with comic Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow’s latest, Crashing. Holmes is famous for his standup comedy and “You Made It Weird” podcast (see our writeup), and his biography of “almost-youth-minister-turned-comic” is one for the annals of Christendom. Fewer ex(?) Evangelicals have articulated so well what a law-saturated theology can do to a person. For those of us who can’t afford HBO-to-go yet, here’s a few lines from Pete Holmes interview on NPR’s Fresh Air that make it hard to say no. Hold on to your wallets!

On the relationship between…

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You Complete Me? Grace, Loneliness and the Religion of Romance – David Zahl

Carrying on with the videos from Tyler, here’s the first of the breakouts, courtesy of DZ:

You Complete Me?: Grace, Loneliness and the Religion of Romance ~ David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Sin + Grace + Sin + Grace = Holiness?

Sin + Grace + Sin + Grace = Holiness?

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts, recently published this article about her conviction to give up wine cold turkey. When I read it, I immediately experienced two conflicting emotions:

Glad it’s her who gave up the hooch and not me.
It is possible I should give this article a second read.

Bessey reveals in So I Quit Drinking that she had been a lover and consumer of wine throughout adulthood, and it “never bothered [her] in the least,” until it did.

…when it comes to conviction, I have found the Spirit to be gentle but relentless.

Change and transformation is an ongoing…

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Another Week Ends: Anti-Self-Help Self-Help, The Disease of More, God in a Machine, Fake Nice People, Born-Again Paganism, Religious Politics, and the Mystery of Matter

Another Week Ends: Anti-Self-Help Self-Help, The Disease of More, God in a Machine, Fake Nice People, Born-Again Paganism, Religious Politics, and the Mystery of Matter

1. This week, The New York Times’ Henry Alford tackled the world of anti-self-help self-help in his piece, “I’m Not O.K. Neither Are You. Who Cares?” In it, he unpacks not only the rising tide of “anti-self-help books” but also their eye-catching common denominator: the F word. Given that word’s increasing popularity, I guess it’s no surprise that we like a good hardcover lesson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, or The Life Changing Magic of Not [doing the same]. But, as Alford makes clear, these books are not as contrarian as they’d hope to appear. If self-help is the popular religion of the day,…

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Mama Holy Spotted At SeaWorld

Mama Holy Spotted At SeaWorld

This week, along with millions of other blue blooded, medium-hard-working Americans, my family went on Spring Break. And it was all pretty hard. This is a travel log of sorts. Loads of complaining. Some bright spots. And some dark spots when Jesus showed up.

Our kids are 2 and 6 years old. So we began every morning by ripping them away from the clutches of Disney Jr. so we could all head for the great tourist sites of San Antonio, Texas. 

We stood in line for tickets for the Tower of the Americas. Twice. The first time they…

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The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils

The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils

They say you can trace the exact moment the Great British Public fell out of love with Morrissey to the release of his 1996 album, Southpaw Grammar. It sounds like just the sort of brazen pronouncement rock critics love to make, more of a conversation-starter than a statement of fact. And yet, you can’t really argue that opening a ‘pop’ record with a 12-minute glam-rock dirge heavily sampling Shostakovich was the safest strategy for holding onto the affections of a wide audience. Which is precisely what Morrissey did with his “The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils”, an epic that…

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March Madness Preview

March Madness Preview

The NCAA tournament, that glorious spectacle that only comes but once a year, is finally upon us. Sportswriter Bob Ryan said that if the field of 68 duked it out six times, we’d have six different winners. Sounds like brackets will be busted early and often, which, in my view, makes for the most enjoyable viewing experience. Sure, Michigan State was my pick last year (sorry Hoos), but I was stoked to see Middle Tennessee State do the unthinkable and knock off Sparty in the first round. Once my dreams of a perfect bracket are shattered, usually in the first…

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