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Week In Review

Another Week Ends: Humility, Hypocrisy, Kendrick Lamar, the Museum of Failure, the Bard of Suck, Late-Night Comedy, and “Slipping the Ideological Leash”

Another Week Ends: Humility, Hypocrisy, Kendrick Lamar, the Museum of Failure, the Bard of Suck, Late-Night Comedy, and “Slipping the Ideological Leash”

1. Popular depictions of Christianity, especially political ones, often prioritize joy, love, kindness, and — almost always — resolution. “The firm foundation.” But as Peter Wehner says this week in his surprisingly sympathetic NY Times op-ed, humility is often missing. Strange, considering this might be one of the few indisputable characteristics of the otherwise enigmatic Christ. Talk of spiritual fruit, though, gets tricky and usually spins off into a tirade of ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ without addressing what is. Wehner aptly navigates these snares:

At the core of Christian doctrine is the belief that we have all fallen short, that our loves are disordered and our…

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Another Week Ends: Anger Rooms, Egyptian Widows, Cookie Monster Confessions, Mr Warmth & The Last Jedi

Another Week Ends: Anger Rooms, Egyptian Widows, Cookie Monster Confessions, Mr Warmth & The Last Jedi

1. Good Friday, here we go! First up, courtesy of Duke Divinity, is Wesley Hill’s devastating “Anger Room”. After reflecting on the loss of a childhood friend–and the inclination to whitewash negativity–he recounts an anecdote about W.H. Auden that cuts straight to the heart of what today means:

Martin Luther famously distinguished between a “theology of glory” and a “theology of the cross.” In the former you find yourself substituting a crown of thorns and a body of nailed flesh for a more palatable scene. But with a “theologia crucis,” you can call a spade a spade. You can look grief…

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Another Week Ends: The Voice in Your Head, Campus Religion, Non-Western Christianity, S-Town, and Nihilist SoulCycle Instructors

Another Week Ends: The Voice in Your Head, Campus Religion, Non-Western Christianity, S-Town, and Nihilist SoulCycle Instructors

1. One of the many brilliant moments in the Harry Potter franchise arrived in Book 5, when Voldemort began manipulating Harry’s mind. The arch villain was no longer out there somewhere but inside Harry’s head. It was intrusive and frightening and completely true to life: on some level or another, we all have a noseless villain nosing about our heads, judging, manipulating, and condemning us.

This week’s first link investigates that voice — where does it come from, and what is it? — in a beautiful piece from Fr. Stephen Freeman, over on his Ancient Faith blog, entitled “Look Who’s Talking” (ht RS):

I was particularly struck…

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Another Week Ends: Leaders, Video Games, FJM, Malick, Aimee Mann, and the Jesus Slingshot

Another Week Ends: Leaders, Video Games, FJM, Malick, Aimee Mann, and the Jesus Slingshot

1. Toward the end of Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress one of the characters makes a comment that’s proven more than a little prescient. Lily observes, “There’s all this propaganda in favor of uniqueness, eccentricity, independence, etc, but does the world really want or need more of such traits? Aren’t such people usually terrible pains in the neck? What the world needs to work properly is a large mass of normal people — I’d like to be one of those.” The irony is thick, of course, as the characters, by saying something so overtly counter-cultural, reveal themselves to be independent…

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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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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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Another Week Ends: Buffy Summers, Joan Didion, Progressive Comfort Zones, Petrified Wood, Hapless Patriots, and Silent Faith

Another Week Ends: Buffy Summers, Joan Didion, Progressive Comfort Zones, Petrified Wood, Hapless Patriots, and Silent Faith

1. Believe it or not, today marks the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No small thing for those who grew up in the 90s and/or appreciate good television. The AV Club has been mining the series all week for great articles, but the single best thing I’ve read is Sophie Gilbert’s piece in The Atlantic about “The Radical Empathy of Buffy‘s Best Episode”, AKA season 5’s “The Body”, which Gilbert calls “one of the most sophisticated analyses of the impact of death ever produced on television”. Amen to that. As for our own celebration, I invite you to…

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CF_03042_R
(l to r) Annalise Basso stars as Vespyr, Viggo Mortensen as Ben and Shree Crooks as Zaja in CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, a Bleecker Street release.
Credit: Erik Simkins / Bleecker Street

Another Week Ends: More Outrage, More Zoltan, More Tebow, More Busyness, Plus A Whole Lot of Death

1. A really surprising-but-not-so-surprising study from Reason about moral outrage, and its psychological background. Not necessarily new territory for us here, but nonetheless, the findings are not what our culture at-large would say is behind the anger du jour we know so well on our Facebook feeds. Generally speaking, psychologists have always thought that anger pointed at injustice is “prosocial emotion,” emotion that says more about our care for others than anything about us. Instead, this article makes the point that guilt within is the real culprit. When our own moral understandings of ourselves are thrown into question—when we feel…

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Another Week Ends: The Shortcomings of Reason, La La Land Parodies, Technological Glitches, Militant Veganization, Performance Art, Existential Billionaires, Extreme Church Makeovers, and a “Hostage Situation”

Another Week Ends: The Shortcomings of Reason, La La Land Parodies, Technological Glitches, Militant Veganization, Performance Art, Existential Billionaires, Extreme Church Makeovers, and a “Hostage Situation”

1. Lots of interesting links this week! First up, The New Yorker published “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds,” a fascinating piece by Elizabeth Kolbert. Discussing at length the phenomenon of ‘confirmation bias’ — which suggests that we believe those facts that support our beliefs and reject those that challenge our beliefs — Kolbert ultimately confirms (bada bing!) much of what our own pop psych. archives have been saying for quite some time. Drawing from the work of cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, and their upcoming book The Enigma of Reason, Kolbert argues that “reason” is a tool we have developed to help ourselves convincingly navigate our biases without giving away our…

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Another Week Ends: Rude Saviors, Happy Students, Married Valentines, Fifty Shades, Christo-Singularity and Crashing

Another Week Ends: Rude Saviors, Happy Students, Married Valentines, Fifty Shades, Christo-Singularity and Crashing

1. Writing in The NY Times Magazine this past weekend, Rachel Cusk pondered “The Age of Rudeness.” Her jumping off point likely goes without saying, and yet, I was refreshed by how much fresh ground the essay tilled. Namely, we laud honesty and authenticity but demonize rudeness, when the line between them is often a very thin and fluctuating one. What is the moral status of rudeness? Cusk asks–why might it have possibly cost Hillary the election (“basket of deplorables”) and won it for Trump? When does decorum cease to facilitate discourse (a vehicle of communication/connection) and begin to stifle…

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Another Week Ends: Immortality, Elixirs of Life, False Prophets, Fear of Death, Sensitive Readers and Humble Corporations, and Stranger Things

Another Week Ends: Immortality, Elixirs of Life, False Prophets, Fear of Death, Sensitive Readers and Humble Corporations, and Stranger Things

1. Lots of people talking about immortality this week! Wonder why that’s happening! First off, in a pretty blatant promotion of our Food & Drink Issue, The Atlantic published a lengthy piece on the denial of death in the world of nutrition and diet. I mean, the article gets pretty close to a lot of what we’re saying throughout the issue—that food is not only a culturally and morally stratifying part of our everyday lives, it is a way for human beings to fend themselves (read: justify themselves) against the inevitable d-word. The article references the philosophy of Ernest Becker (writer…

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Another Week Ends: Food, Drink, Sermons, Apologies, Snackadiums, Haters, Finders and Keepers

Another Week Ends: Food, Drink, Sermons, Apologies, Snackadiums, Haters, Finders and Keepers

Here in the office we’re drowning in Food & Drink! The issue, that is, which arrived today and is already out the door to subscribers. To quote Seinfeld’s Poppy, it turned out “more succulent than even we hadda hoped”! Click here to check out the Table of Contents and whatnot. #humbled

Why not kick things off then with a couple of food-related items from the world of social science? First, The Telegraph reported on a new study out of UPenn on the effects of fat shaming. Surprise surprise, it tends to have the opposite effect than what’s intended:

Professor Rebecca Pearl, of…

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