Social Science
The Power of Negative Thinking

The Power of Negative Thinking

The 8am service on the Sunday before Labor Day was not well attended, and the rain didn’t help. Honestly, I was only there because I am paid to be. Then came the first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah:

“I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation.Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.”

Great. Thanks Jerry. That’s super-helpful. Just what I need for a little…

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Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

There I was, reclining in the waiting room while my son met with his speech therapist, as I do every week. Computer on my lap—heaven forbid I sit there unoccupied—I was reading A.O. Scott’s new treatise for The Times on “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” I like Scott’s writing, so I ignored the instinct to roll my eyes at the prospect of yet another think-piece about stunted millennials; I had time to kill, after all. It opens with some bold claims:

Something profound has been happening in our television over the past decade, some end-stage reckoning. It is the…

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Another Week Ends: Commodified Experience, Counterproductive Shaming, Fake Asia Trips, Net Addiction, and Star Wars Minus Williams

Another Week Ends: Commodified Experience, Counterproductive Shaming, Fake Asia Trips, Net Addiction, and Star Wars Minus Williams

1. The New Yorker weighs in on “bucket lists“, ht DH:

Whence the appeal of the bucket list? To stop and think about the things one hopes to do, the person one hopes to be, is a useful and worthwhile exercise; to do so with a consciousness of one’s own unpredictable mortality can be a sobering reckoning, as theologians and philosophers recognized long before Workman Publishing got in on the act…

As popularly conceived, however, the bucket list is far from being a reckoning with the weight of love in extremis, or an ethical or moral accounting. More often, it partakes of a…

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Left Hooks in Elevators: Acting on the Anger in Our Hearts

Left Hooks in Elevators: Acting on the Anger in Our Hearts

It’s tough to admit this publicly. I’ve kicked the dog a time or two – not recently, but I have struck another living thing out of anger. I think back on that and I cringe, because it feels really dark. It can be terrifying to reflect on a time when I haven’t been able to control my anger. If I were to prioritize the sin tendencies I have in the order of how quickly I want them rooted out of me, vindictive, reactionary anger would be number one. I can’t imagine what it would be like for one of my…

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Over-Confident Men and Underestimating Women: Some Thoughts on Shame and Leadership

Over-Confident Men and Underestimating Women: Some Thoughts on Shame and Leadership

Back in May I read an article in the Atlantic Monthly that rocked me. “The Confidence Gap” addressed the gaping hole of women in top leadership positions. I read it expecting the usual issues: poor math scores, smaller salaries, always feeling behind everyone else. And certainly, this article provided plenty of those sad and disappointing assessments.

As a woman, some of the information was also incredibly helpful. We do not take chances the way men do. We underestimate ourselves. Culture’s need to shape us into “good girls” does permanent damage when it comes to necessary risk taking. But the thing that bothered…

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Ideology and Its Discontents (an Apology for Eutyches)

Ideology and Its Discontents (an Apology for Eutyches)

Maybe you’ve noticed this trend too: Lena Dunham’s Girls, despite critical acclaim, has suffered from reviewers saying it’s not racially diverse enough. Game of Thrones has been lambasted for its sexism and weak female characters. The Cosmopolitans has been written off for lacking socioeconomic variety.

Such things can be painful and troubling to watch, and sometimes it’s best not to view them, perhaps not even to screen them. But such criticisms, for me, are also strangely reminiscent of the one-dimensional cultural lenses prevalent in the Christian world. Drugs are bad, so watching media which contains drug use should be avoided. Affairs are bad, so Madame Bovary was listed…

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Motivation that Works: Colbert Introduces the Pavlovian Fitness Band

Sadly, this actually exists (ht BFG).

Rob Karlsson Will Not Make Your Life a Misery (Or Will He?)

Rob Karlsson Will Not Make Your Life a Misery (Or Will He?)

I have a love/hate relationship with The New Yorker. Each week, the magazine arrives. First: I admire it’s glossy cover. Then, the cartoons (“Hey, honey, look at this one. We’re not like that at all.”) Next: the always funny “Shouts and Murmurs.” Then a survey of the table of contents. Another food essay. Pass. (I will never eat there anyway.) In depth political journalism? Maaaaayyybee. The obligatory high-brow look at low-brow culture? Yes, please. (Recent examples: a super-aggressive female MMA fighter and a luchador in drag.)

But then there’s the fiction piece. And I’m torn. I know it will be good….

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Love in Creature Form

Love in Creature Form

This week, I had the privilege to interview the man responsible for one of our favorite sources of grace in practice, the Editor of the Modern Love column in the New York Times, Daniel Jones. In a ninety-minute conversation we talked about some of the favorite Modern Love columns, about the reasons couples fall in love and the reasons couples cheat, as well as some of his thoughts on online dating and the new delusions of control offered us in the tech-savvy and convenience-seeking age. (We will be publishing the interview in the next issue of The Mockingbird, which is…

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Joan Rivers Fought the Law…

Joan Rivers Fought the Law…

If you’re like me (and I hope you’re not), then the name Joan Rivers meant little more to you than “that horribly plastic old woman who can’t think of anything better to do than provide red carpet snark for E!”. Which is why, as news of her passing spread last week (having occurred during a “minor elective procedure”) it seemed at best trivial and at worst ironic, especially in light of other recent celebrity comic deaths.

And then I saw this video, from April 1967…

… and I had the following thoughts:

1. Joan Rivers used to look like a human being!

2. Wow. She’s really…

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PZ’s Podcast: Does The Name Grimsby Mean Anything To You? and Everything Is Tuesday

PZ’s Podcast: Does The Name Grimsby Mean Anything To You? and Everything Is Tuesday

Episode 175: Does the Name Grimsby Do Anything to You?

Ever since 2007 I related to Eliot’s succinct line, “Old men ought to be explorers”. Not that I was exactly an old man, but the line gave me hope. Notwithstanding the end of something, there was something hopeful I could still do. I could try to understand.

Could I become the first man on the moon, like ‘Major Franklin Grimsby’ in Rod Serling’s short story? If I were, would anyone care? (“Does Anyone Know What Time It Is?” – Chicago) Well, at least I’ve tried to try. Lo, a polyptoton.

In this cast,…

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Another Week Ends: Biblical Counseling, Jennifer Lawrence, God Help the Girl, Volunteer Pallbearers, Sly Stone and The Nobodies

Another Week Ends: Biblical Counseling, Jennifer Lawrence, God Help the Girl, Volunteer Pallbearers, Sly Stone and The Nobodies

1. Over at The Pacific Standard, Kathryn Joyce provides a remarkably thorough look at “The Rise of Biblical Counseling”. It’s a crash course in both the history of conflicted Christian attitudes toward psychotherapy, and, unintentionally perhaps, how those attitudes are perceived by secular elites (i.e. with disdain and/or condescension). She surveys a field which runs the gamut from hardliners who would chalk nearly all mental illness up to sinful behavior (and do untold damage in the process) and more moderate, medication-endorsing voices who have the gall to insist that there may be a spiritual and–gasp!–moral component to certain afflictions, or at least, that we ignore such…

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We’re All Creatives Now?

We’re All Creatives Now?

I can’t remember the first time I heard someone refer to another person as “a creative” but I’m pretty sure it was within the past five years. Since then, the noun has broadened considerably. It used to be only fashion designers, novelists and musicians who were “creatives”. Now advertising executives refer to themselves this way. It’s clearly an elastic term, the connotations of which are almost all flattering. The adjective itself is everywhere you look, too (I’ve certainly used it in relation to ministry). And I’d wager this is largely a good thing. Creativity is often the fruit of grace,…

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Searching Our ‘Spirits’ In The Boss

Searching Our ‘Spirits’ In The Boss

This wonderful reflection on desire and Bruce Springsteen comes to us from Ben Self:

“It’s… that rush moment that you live for. It never lasts, but that’s what you live for.”

– Bruce Springsteen, Time Magazine, 1975

I’ve always loved the use of the term “spirits” as a synonym for hard liquors. It speaks to what is most alluring in booze and any number of other mind-altering substances and pleasures—that feeling of being transported to another higher, perhaps lighter, warmer, state of consciousness by forces within us that are beyond our control. It’s a kind of ravishing and unhinging of the mind and…

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From The Onion: This Just The 30th Wake-Up Call Woman Needed

Ooof, JD:

sweetdeeLOUISVILLE, KY—According to reports, local woman Janelle Tompkins’ arrival to work an hour late and severely hungover Tuesday morning was precisely the 30th wake-up call she needed to turn her life around. “Wow, my habit of staying out and drinking all night has clearly gotten out of control. I’ve got to make some major changes ASAP,” said Tompkins, using the exact phrasing she uttered during her five previous wake-up calls this year, which have included two shattered relationships and blacking out at a friend’s bridal shower. “I suppose something had to give eventually, and now I’ve gotten the message: It’s time to make a fresh start and think about my future for once.” At press time, Tompkins had invited several close friends to celebrate her new lease on life by meeting at their local bar’s Oktoberfest celebration.