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Conferences


What Sort of World? Trivial Expressions of the Transcendent ~ Randy Randall & Mary McCleary

You thought we had posted all the videos from the Tyler conference? Wrong again! Here’s Randy Randall’s enthralling (and highly relevant) on-stage discussion with renowned artist Mary McCleary. As you’ll see, audio alone wouldn’t have made much sense:

What Sort of World? Trivial Expressions of the Transcendent ~ Randy Randall & Mary McCleary from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Exploring the Oddball World of Leftfield Christian Music 1973-87, Pt. 2: A Mockingbird Breakout Preview

At last year’s NY Conference we mined deep, but there’s a ton more to share. In this breakout, we will continue to explore the world of obscure Christian funk and electronic music from yesteryear. We will learn about why early Christian hip-hop floundered so after its inception (hint: the reason is theological). And we’ll remember how radical it is to introduce a Moog into your worship band, in 1974 (!!). Then there’s Mr. T’s song about the Ten Commandments. Are you wondering what happened to Jimmy Mamou when he read the Bible in Hawaii? What about the nu-wave album that Gary Numan’s favorite guitarist made about the Holy Ghost? Or what Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s poetry sounds like when read aloud over a funky, clavinet-heavy groove? (note: Germany will be making a strong showing this year).  I can’t wait to share it all with you… Praise the Lord!

Today is the last day to pre-register online!

Saving Paul from the Academy: A Conference Breakout Preview

Only three days away! This breakout will be led by Professor Todd Brewer.

“The Academy” is a term used by both insiders and outsiders to speak about the world of biblical scholarship. It is a term meant to ascribe prestige and importance to one’s profession and life work. To be a card-carrying member of “the guild” – to use another term of esteem – is to be part of an elite club of professionals trapped by the perpetual need to justify their significance. But to most people, “the academy” is a term of intimidation to create a feeling of inadequacy on the part of the so-called, non-specialist layperson, thus making the Bible and faith itself feel like something you’re not qualified to have an opinion about.

Along the same lines, the last 40+ years of Pauline scholarship – with its almost iconoclastic radicalism – has so thoroughly revised the traditional understanding of Paul that many, if not most, feel unable to understand the Bible at all.

This breakout session has three, related goals. I first hope to offer a pointed critique at recent interpreters of Paul and their overall practice of interpretation, particularly those within what are known as the “New Perspective on Paul,” and the “anti-imperial Paul.” By way of critical-historical inquiry, these scholars ironically offer an allegorical reading of Paul by constantly reconstructing what St. Paul really said and overlooking what he actually said. Secondly, I hope to outline a positive vision for how to read the Bible, one that views it not as a riddle to be solved by the specialist, but as a conversation partner that wants to be charitably heard on its own terms, without being overinterpreted. Finally, I will examine Galatians 3:24-25 to offer some critical self-reflection on how Paul has been understood by Luther (and, by extension, Mockingbird!).

The Reformation Today: A Conference Breakout Preview

This preview comes to us from the host of this coming weekend’s festivities in NYC, The Rev. Jacob Smith himself.

This breakout is entitled “The Reformation Today” because “Is the Reformation Over?” has already been taken by everyone writing at First Things or The Gospel Coalition. Also, because at Mockingbird we believe the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.”

In order to make my pitch, I believe the shake up at the burger chain Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s has a lot to to say. For seventeen years, Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s defined their business not by amazing fast food burgers (when it comes to fast-food burgers they are the best) but instead by sexy models eating the burgers. Interestingly enough, this actually led to a drop in sales over time. A new ad campaign is throwing all that to the wind, with Carl Sr. coming back to office and taking Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s back to its roots: really, really good burgers and amazing customer service. Is the Reformation Over? It is–if the Reformation has to do with smoke machines or sermons on sex and community development.

As in life, the present is never understood by looking to the future (Carl Jr.).  We understand the present by looking to and understanding the past (Carl Sr.). In this breakout, we will take a trip back to our roots as Reformational Christians, and look briefly at some of the overlap between the English and German Reformations, which all came together in the person of Dr. Robert Barnes. Then using “The Reformation Essays of Dr. Robert Barnes,” we will define and answer the big question at the heart of the Reformation: “How is a person justified before God?” That is the question.  That question will help the church get out of the realm of trying to be cool and get back to the “Carl Sr. of Christianity.” With this question answered, we will examine some important pastoral implication in the midst of real pastoral ministry because when this question of justification is not answered correctly the real power and strength of Christianity is lost. This breakout is for anyone, especially those who are interested in pastoral care and practicing it from a perspective of “by grace alone!”

NYC Conference: T-Minus Two Days and Counting!

This is the week, people! High time we announced the final talk titles:

Thurs PM
“Rock n Roll All Night, Party Every Day: The Secret of Mockingbird’s Success” – Aaron Zimmerman

Friday AM
“Jackwagon Junction: The Losing Battle of Being in Charge” – Sarah Condon
“Hiding in Plain Sight: The Lost Doctrine of Sin” – Simeon Zahl

Friday PM
“Sisyphus’s Inbox” – Oliver Burkeman
“Culture Against Culture” – William Deresiewicz
“The Raising of the Crucified One” – Fleming Rutledge

Sat AM
“ARCHITECT: Fellow & Failing” – Duo Dickinson
“Did It Have to be Jesus?” – Nicole Cliffe
“Another Decade Ends: The First 10 Years in Flight” – David Zahl

View the full, final schedule here. We’ve also adjusted the menu ever so slightly (and added cold brew coffee!), which you can check out here.

Again, while the meals themselves are sold out, the conference is not. The more, the merrier in fact. Online pre-registration ends on Tuesday, but last-minute walk-ins are always welcome.

Oh and probably goes without saying, but there’s no cover charge on Friday night for this:

P.S. Those who’ve signed up for the pre-conference art tour with PZ, which is currently at capacity, will be receiving an email with details on Monday.

The Dynamite of Salvation: A Conference Breakout Preview

The Dynamite of Salvation: A Conference Breakout Preview

This conference breakout will be led by the one and only Scott Keith. If you want to read a longer preview of Scott’s talk, go here. 

Dynamite does one thing well: it blows stuff up. Dynamite is no more than an absorbent material, such as sawdust, soaked in a highly combustible chemical called nitroglycerin. The absorbent material makes the nitroglycerin much more stable. Attached to the nitroglycerin infused sawdust is either a fuse of a blasting cap. Once lit, the fuse or cap creates a small explosion that triggers the larger explosion in the dynamite itself. Once ignited, the dynamite burns…

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Multiple Marriages to the Same Spouse: A Conference Breakout Preview

This breakout preview comes to us from Debbie and Ellis Brazeal.

Nietzsche said that he would only believe in a “God who dances.”

As Mockingbird devotees, and survivors of three marriages, Debbie and I have come to believe in a dancing God.  Yet, this view of God only came after years, many years, in which we didn’t.

A romantic courtship, with breathless excitement and anticipation of an American-dream marriage, quickly turned into a marriage of unmet expectations from both sides.  Indeed, each of us hurt the other (albeit unintentionally) in the very fashion that would cause the most pain. We unknowingly tread upon the past hurts and expectations that each of us brought into the marriage.

Our marriage devolved into separate lives with no hope of reconciliation–none.  We certainly didn’t believe in a dancing God–in one who could bring dance into our marriage.  We believed in a God who rewarded effort and wise decisions. We thought we had married the wrong person. In fact, we each wished that the other was dead or that we were dead.

But then, the dancing God, the God we talk about at Mockingbird, stepped in. By God’s limitless grace, we both began learning of a God who knew the depths of our dark hearts–the true extent of our sinful flaws–but loved us nonetheless with His limitless, eternal love. Over the years, as we became more convinced of God’s unfathomable, eternal love for us, we began to love each other.

My favorite parable is the one concerning the “treasure in the field.”  Virtually always, the “treasure in the field” is construed as the Kingdom of God.  Yet, when you review the parables surrounding it (the lost coin, the lost sheep), it becomes abundantly clear (as I first learned from CI Scofield) that we are the “treasure in the field,” that Christ sold everything (gave His life) to purchase. The character of a Kingdom is determined by the character of the King.

This King is the savior and redeemer of individuals, of marriages, and of all creation.  As Sally Loyd Jones writes in Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing: “God made everything in his world and in his universe and in his children’s hearts to center around him–in a wonderful Dance of Joy!  It’s the dance you were born for.”

Jesus and Therapy: A Conference Breakout Preview

The recent New Yorker cartoon (above) says it all. We’re living in an age of “subjective sovereignty,” where life is “all the feels” and emotional offense is king. It is a time less describable by policy discord and differences of opinion, but instead by vindictive joy and holy rage. Arguments are couched in first-person noise—disagreements have the sting of personal attacks—which means the arguments are, on the whole, harder to argue or critique. As we’ve become “touchier” about the things we care about, the logic behind those sensitivities has also faded.

This trend goes hand in hand with another trend that’s been provoked, namely, that America is only becoming more spiritually bankrupt/unmoored. David Brooks recently wrote along these lines, that

Religious frameworks no longer organize public debate. Secular philosophies that grew out of the Enlightenment have fallen apart. We have words and emotional instincts about what feels right and wrong, but no settled criteria to help us think, argue and decide.

You’d think this would lead to the age of great moral relativism, where all the objective strictures are let go and the only mantra remaining is “You Do You.” But this hasn’t happened. Instead, Brooks writes, “society has become a free-form demolition derby of moral confrontation.” It seems we feel so much, but we can’t seem to agree on why we feel it and who’s to blame.

So the answer, of course, is to get some Truth, right? Get to church! Fall on the Rock! God provides the mooring—the why behind your hurt—and the cross gives you your scapegoat. The Good News gives you your needed justification.

But what do you do with all that rage? Therapy? I don’t know about you, but the term “therapeutic” has always bristled—it sounds like the hippy-dippy opposite of “grounded” or “objective.” It sounds a lot more like “You Do You”—do what feels good to you. But this is largely a misunderstanding, mostly because of counseling that truly hasn’t helped. Just as God gives us the Good News, God also administers his healing in the gracious counsel of another.

With the help of some of our favorites, let’s look into the relationship between the objective News of the Gospel, and very subjective (though no-less-real) needs we carry around with us every day, and how those needs are addressed within the realm of pastoral care and counseling.

Science Is From Mars, Theology Is From Venus: A Conference Breakout Preview

This conference breakout preview comes from Bonnie Poon Zahl and Bethany Sollereder.

According to the Pew Research Center (see here and here), over half of American adults who were sampled (59%) believe that, in general, science is often in conflict with religion. But “conflict” is only one way of seeing how science and religion might relate. Other possibilities include “independent”, “competition”, “dialogue”, “discussion”, “engagement”, “partnership”, “collaboration”, among others. Some, like scientist and theologian Alister McGrath, take a more nuanced approach, and describe the relationship as complementary, while historian John Hedley Brooke (writing before Facebook was a thing) simply described the relationship as: “It’s complicated”. How about you? How do you view the relationship between science and religion?

We (Bonnie and Bethany) have spent a great deal of our professional and personal lives thinking about how science and religion might relate. We’ve heard people tell us that Christians can’t be scientists, on the one hand, and that theology is the queen of the sciences, on the other – and everything in between. One of us is a scientist (Bonnie) and one is a theologian (Bethany) and we’d like to invite you on a brief journey on the history of how we’ve gotten into this complicated relationship through our disciplines of psychology and theology– and more importantly, hear your thoughts on –the unanswered questions about how science and theology speak to the suffering in the world and in personal lives.

Greetings from the Upside Down: A Conference Breakout Preview

Kendall Jenner once said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Just kidding! It was Maya Angelou who said that. But now that I have your attention, do you agree? Because I’ve had to give this topic A LOT of thought lately.

My family was recently uprooted from Atlanta to Sydney, Australia because #grace, and the fallout has been…a bit of everything. No demogorgons have shown up, but that hasn’t squelched the similarities with Stranger Things because a) said comparison allows me to equate myself with Barb in our hair color and suffering; and b) this new life in the Down Under feels not totally unlike the Upside Down–absence of Winona Ryder notwithstanding–what with the disorientation, opposing seasons, and strange lighting patterns (aka Daylight Savings flipped).

Kendall Jenner, Winona Ryder, and Barb: is that click-baity enough for you? Well, allow me to further tease that I’ll be providing handy keys on how not to assimilate in a foreign country, embarrassing stories about my (lack of) driving skills and language difficulties, further details of my IKEA breakdown–all as a guide to managing depression: Aussie Edition. But the big kicker will be what home means for those of us torn between an upside-down world and the Upside Down Kingdom. Spoiler alert: tons of ambivalence, a Ron Burgundy reference, cities with oceans attached. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine.

Beneath the Pelagian Surface of Moana: A Conference Breakout Preview

Beneath the Pelagian Surface of Moana: A Conference Breakout Preview

Allow me to channel SNL’s Bennett Brauer (Chris Farley):

I don’t “read much” and I don’t
“look the part” I’m not
“seminary trained” or even
“theologically inclined.”

I don’t “know what ‘Pelagian’ means” and I
“don’t look comfortable in front of an audience” I
“sleep in my make-up” and
“also with stuffed animals” I guess I
“talk too much” and I
“sweat when I’m nervous” and I
“can’t remember names” because I’m
“too concerned with myself” even though I
“don’t bathe regularly” and I’ve
“let myself go.”

I haven’t “learned my lesson” my
“coffee hasn’t kicked in yet” I haven’t
“kept calm” or
“found my bliss” but I’m
“talking at this conference anyway.”

On the surface of things, Moana (Disney)…

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The Word of the Cross: A Conference Breakout Preview

The Word of the Cross: A Conference Breakout Preview

This one from conference magician, Jim McNeely. 

The time for the most wondrous conference – the Mockingbird NYC spring conference – has rolled around again, and the powers-that-be have condescended to let me come and do a breakout session! I’m going to talk about a book I’ve been writing for 3 years now called “The Word of the Cross.” I’m very excited about this material!

The Cross is our Solution?

The Corinthian church was a mess. There were divisions and theological quarrels and pride about obscure knowledge. Gross sexual sins were being tolerated. Church members were suing one another. There was idolatry, overeating…

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