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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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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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Election Year Wisdom from W.H. Auden

If we were never alone or always too busy,
Perhaps we might even believe what we know is not true:
But no one is taken in, at least not all of the time;
In our bath, or the subway, or in the middle of the night,
We know very well we are not unlucky but evil,
That the dream of a Perfect State or No State at all,
To which we fly for refuge, is a part of our punishment.
Let us therefore be contrite but without anxiety,
For Powers and Times are not gods but mortal gifts from God;
Let us acknowledge our defeats but without despair,
For all societies and epochs are transient details,
Transmitting an everlasting opportunity
That the Kingdom of Heaven may come, not in our present
And not in our future, but in the Fullness of Time.
Let us pray.

For The Time Being; A Christmas Oratorio

Five Golden…Themes! What We Loved Writing about in 2015

Five Golden…Themes! What We Loved Writing about in 2015

As we blanket our house with nic-nacs and expensive toys, it’s the perfect time to look back at the things that matter—or the things that mattered—or the things that at least we thought mattered at the time—to us this year. Here are Five Golden Themes for 2015—repeated stories and obsessions that didn’t just creep into the collective cultural psyche, but seemed to define it, for better or worse.

Performancism and Suicide. I had to check and make sure this hadn’t been on one of our previous year-end roundups. I thought surely, with all the times we’ve written about “the epidemic,” this…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem, Pt 7: Let’s Blame the Other Guy!

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem, Pt 7: Let’s Blame the Other Guy!

Don’t miss this seventh installment of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, you can find them here. New installments will be posted every two weeks, on Tuesdays.

We’re searching for a collectively applicable definition of greed and, to help us do so, we’re investigating nine commonly cited concepts associated with the condition.

Last time we looked at relativity and learned that economically we compare ourselves to people just ahead of us in wealth and, comforting for our consciences, somebody always has more than we do, allowing us…

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Listening to Pope Francis

Listening to Pope Francis

Yesterday’s address to Congress by Pope Francis may have been an historic first, but the analysis of his speech followed an all-too-predictable pattern. I listened on NPR during my morning commute and was saddened that such a gentle and generous speech was immediately torn to pieces before the applause had even died down. The headline for that analysis on npr.org reflects the frustration felt by reporters: “For Pope at Congress, A Historic Speech That’s Hard to Pigeonhole”.  The Huffpo headline is even more revealing: “Pope Francis’ Speech To Congress Didn’t Mention Abortion, Gay Marriage By Name.” It’s almost as though…

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Why Harper Lee Is a Prophet

Why Harper Lee Is a Prophet

The overall response to Harper Lee’s newly published novel of sketchy origins, Go Set a Watchman, has been nothing short of hysterical. This review contains spoilers, but if you’ve Googled Watchman at all in the past week, then there’s really nothing left for me to spoil: Atticus is a racist, and that’s the main cause of nationwide collywobbles.

I was surprised to find that this isn’t just a dilemma of literary proportions: The turn of events has real-life implications, as when, only a month ago, bombshell Jennifer Love Hewitt named her newborn son Atticus, thereby suffering an actual bombshell when she…

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The Civil War, Memorial Day, and the Politics of Embodiment

The Civil War, Memorial Day, and the Politics of Embodiment

Americans just observed Memorial Day, a day most spend watching parades and cooking out, enjoying a day off of work and anticipating the return of summer. You’ll see flags undulating in the breeze on porches and automobiles and hear bands blasting patriotic songs to honor the servicemen and women who lost their lives throughout our history. But if you’re anything like me you don’t know the grisly historical background that provoked the holiday in the first place. Until this past Monday, I had no idea it began as a national grieving for the cataclysmic loss of life and humanity the nation had endured…

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The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

Here at Mbird we spend a good deal of time hemming and hawing against the myth of humanism – that we are free to shape our own destinies, unconstrained, or mostly unconstrained, by our past, circumstances, and vices – unbound, that is, to our deeply distorted wills. The facts dismantle this myth quickly: the fact that the worst human atrocities have been committed in our most advanced century, that New Year’s resolutions quickly dwindle into February guilt, that the decades in our lives when we’re advancing and progressing tend to be the most unhappy ones. When people actually do change for the better, it…

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Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

1. Where to start with a hierarchy of most severe ‘little-l law’ in ‘secular’ society? We could start with body image, health, having cool experiences, and the like, but prosperity honestly takes the cake. And among the people who have already checked that box, it’s fast becoming political correctness. Political correctness is important, but its ascendant, uncompromising severity and occasional use as a class-code leads to a totalization which is, to say the least, in tension with the traditional (L/l)iberal ideal of discourse. Cue Camille Paglia, who had some fantastic things to say in America Magazine (Jesuits) about the backslide of feminism and…

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How Did We Get Back to 1991?

How Did We Get Back to 1991?

One of the themes we’ve been exploring these past few months in our weekend columns, as well as a few isolated posts, is the palpable rise in censoriousness that has been making itself felt on social media and in certain higher education settings. According to voices on all sides of the ideological equation, a resurgent devotion to “political correctness” is creating a situation where the institutions charged with promoting open dialogue in a liberal society–academia and journalism–are in fact squashing it.

Chris Rock described the state of things memorably in his recent interview with New York Magazine, admitting that he refuses…

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