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Social Science

The Legalism of Swimsuit Season

The Legalism of Swimsuit Season

For 6 months of my life I looked really great in a swimsuit. I was 18, eating mostly fat free jello and running like there was a fat monster chasing me. After that season of inexplicable joy, I began to loathe wearing swimsuits as much as the next American woman.

Two things have happened to change my disdain for the pool. First, we moved to Texas where swimsuits are the yoga pants of suburbia. Which is to say, everyone wears them. And then I had a daughter and kept reading pieces that told me that the way to keep her from being…

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Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

If you already have a list of podcasts you pretend to listen to, put Reply All at the top. It’s a show I had avoided for a while because it’s exclusively “a show about the internet,” a medium I surrender so much of my time to already. But I quickly found that, like most of the public radio offerings these days, it’s just another wide avenue for good human-interest stories. I mean, where else do you see human nature writ large than in your Instagram feed or in some nefarious Reddit comment chain? Besides, each episode is short—some are fifteen…

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Take Me to Church

Take Me to Church

I wore jeans on Easter Sunday.

I don’t remember the last time I missed church on Easter—or if there ever even has been a time. The Lord’s triumphant return from the grave, spring’s return to our calendars, and lapsed parishioners’ return to pews amalgamate into an unmissable Super-Bowl-Sunday among the observant. It’s like the newest club that has everything: fashion. Crowded sanctuaries. Clogged parking lots. Boisterous hymns.

And we missed it all. My family—husband, boys aged three years and six months, and I—have unintentionally participated in a sabbatical from church since our youngest was born last fall. We knew we would take…

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Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Often, when I try to explain what Mockingbird is I am faced with the daunting task of articulating a “low anthropology”. That is, an unflattering view of humanity. People accuse me of being negative or of losing sight of the fact that human beings are “mostly good.” So I pause and consider their opinions. And then I start to judge them for having those opinions. “How naïve” I say to myself. Then I realize I’m sinning in the middle of a theological discussion. Which brings me back to square one: low anthropology it is.

Recently, I met a lovely person who…

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Mining Netflix: Frasier and Niles Try to Magically Change Everything

Mining Netflix: Frasier and Niles Try to Magically Change Everything

A bit of a nostalgic, I’ve been finding myself vegging out lately to old episodes of Frasier. (Thank goodness for Netflix!). Perhaps you remember the premise. Always trying hard to be people who are well-recognized in society, Frasier and Niles are a restless duo: members of gentlemen’s clubs, wine-tasting societies, country clubs… the elite of the elite. Naturally this leads to sibling rivalry as they try to outdo each other and fail miserably every time. They are portrayals of all of us living under… well, the law. As with all scenarios in which the self remains front and center, the…

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Imagining Death: New Hope from the Anatomy Lab

Imagining Death: New Hope from the Anatomy Lab

This comes from Mockingfriend Lex Booth. 

A. On your whole brain specimens, cut horizontal sections to dissect the dorsal cerebrum bilaterally down to the level of the corpus callosum using ~1cm thick slices. Please keep the blade wet throughout this lab.

I’m nearing the end of my first year in medical school, and the other day I dissected a brain. For those of you who might be wondering, I’d say the consistency lands somewhere between tofu and Jello, but apparently the formaldehyde makes everything look and feel different. Either way, that stuff smells nasty.

After a semester of hurrying in the anatomy lab…

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Youth Travel Baseball & Running from the Rules to the Communion Table

Youth Travel Baseball & Running from the Rules to the Communion Table

The Youth Travel Baseball season can be pretty grueling. One Spring seven years ago, I coached our son’s 13u (13 year old and under) travel team. We played an 83 game season! There were tournaments with 3 to 5 games every weekend, and countless games during the week. Somehow our son got all his homework done that season.

It was my first season coaching travel ball, and I was putting together a brand new team. Metro-Atlanta is one of the epicenters for travel baseball, so, with all the competition around, a first year team tends to take its lumps until it…

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Judas’ Charitable Enterprise for the Poor

This passage in Georges Bernanos’ The Diary of a Country Priest comes from our hero’s mentor, the Priest of Torcy, who, if a little harsh, stands as a clear-eyed check on our young cleric’s idealism. This is his monologue on Christ’s love for the poor. But for the priest, and for Bernanos, the love for the poor is not some systematic ethic for justice—it is romance. Referring to the story of the widow’s costly perfume “wasted” on Jesus’ feet, the priest speaks (as Christ) to Judas, against his kind of cautionary, penny-wise methods for selling off a poor woman’s nard.

The poor you will always have with you, but me you have not always with you, answered Our Lord. Which amounts to this: don’t let the hour of mercy strike in vain. You’d do far better to cough up that money you stole, at once, instead of trying to get My apostles worked up over your imaginary financial deals in toilet waters, and your charitable enterprises. Moreover you think you’re flattering My notorious weakness for down-and-outs, but you’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick. I’m not attached to My paupers like an English old maid to lost cats, or to the poor bulls in the Spanish bull-ring. I love Diary_of_a_Country_Priestpoverty with a deep, reasoned, lucid love—as equal loves equal. I love her as a wife who is faithful and fruitful. If the poor man’s right was derived only from strict necessity, your piddling selfishness would soon reduce him to a bare minimum, paid for by unending gratitude and servility. You’ve been holding forth against this woman to-day who has just bathed My feet with very expensive nard, as though My poor people had no right to best scent…The poor you have always with you, just because there will always be the rich, that is to say there will always be hard and grasping men out for power more than possession. These men exist as much among the poor as among the rich, and the scallywag vomiting up his drink in the gutter is perhaps drunk with the very same dreams as Caesar asleep under his purple canopy. Rich and poor alike, you’d do better to look at yourselves in the mirror of want, for poverty is the image of your own fundamental illusion. Poverty is the emptiness in your hearts and in your hands. It is only because your malice is known to Me that I have placed poverty so high, crowned her and taken her as My bride.

Thesis 10 of The Humility Code (and the Scales of the Universe)

Thesis 10 of The Humility Code (and the Scales of the Universe)

As Bryan alluded to in the most recent weekender, David Brooks’ new book The Road to Character hit shelves last week and has been lighting up our social media feeds, as the NY Times columnist tends to do whenever he gets into less topical territory. While the volume itself makes its way to our mailbox, a couple of reviews and write-ups are too tasty not to mention. Brooks has gone on record to state that, “my book is not a religious book. It uses religious categories … and I do that because I think the public square needs to have…

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Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

I want to think for a second about the ways we tend to process language in different places. At our conference last weekend, Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke eloquently about how a sermon is a local event, preached to a specific people at a specific time in the contexts of the larger worship service, the community’s makeup, the identity of the pastor, and so on.

To use just one of these vectors, community makeup, a sermon on the prodigal son parable could differ by audience. To an audience of religious burnouts who have committed the obvious sins over and over, a focus on…

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Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

Simultaneously Frazzled and Fragile: Surviving a Culture of Overachievement

It’s getting to the point where I’d almost rather not draw attention to articles like Frank Bruni’s “Best, Brightest–and Saddest?”. Not just because I wish their subject matter wasn’t as urgent as it is, or that their claims were more groundless, but because the whole thing has become so excruciatingly obvious. As performancism escalates, so too does its fallout, and the affected demographics only seem to be getting younger. Reading about each new upping of the ante feels like watching a massive collision unfold in slow motion, one where we’ve all had our turn at the wheel.

Bruni’s article focuses on the teenage…

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Even With the Smallest of Us

Even With the Smallest of Us

I have two sons. The older one is your quintessential responsible, law-following, parent-pleasing oldest child—a budding Adam Braverman, if you will. The younger son is, well, the opposite; he’s a total scofflaw. My oldest is ready to leave the house ten minutes before it’s time to go; the younger we have to practically pin to the floor and put his shoes on for him. When I call for the boys, the oldest comes over to me quickly, the younger doesn’t, and claims he didn’t hear… Apparently my voice is of the same frequency and tone as Legos clicking together. My…

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