Identity
Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

1) “The Vicar of Baghdad” is a three-part series over at Vice, and it’s difficult to put into words the (foolish? amazing?) courage of Vicar Andrew White, an English-born Anglican priest who walks with a cane, and who has now served in Baghdad’s central districts for fourteen years, running St. George’s Episcopal Anglican Church, as well as running a clinic for locals and, most interestingly, working as a intermediary between Sunni and Shia leaders for peace and dialogue. It’s a real-life parable (ht JZ).

2) There were several au contraires to the presumption that we “live by looks” this week. Or,…

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Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

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Stephen Colbert and the Ancient Pulpit of Satire – Ethan Richardson

Another installment of our NYC Conference recordings, which ironically came the week before Stephen Colbert made the move to late night. Ethan talks about the weakness that is power in the ancient practice of satire.

Stephen Colbert and the Ancient Pulpit of Satire ~ Ethan Richardson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

As you’ll see in our summer issue of The Mockingbird, Michael Malone’s Handling Sin is belatedly perched upon the book shelf here at HQ. It’s a shame the 1983 novel (even taking place in the Piedmont, for crying out loud!), took this long to find us, because not since Wilder’s Theophilus North, or Cobb’s Old Judge Priest, have I had a copy so dogeared and underlined I’ve stopped doing so halfway through. And, much like the other two, it’s incredibly summer-friendly–my pages now smell like some mixture of coastal seaweed and SPF 30–and the 700-page journey ends faster than your…

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New Music: Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence

New Music: Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence

Matthew Linder (who gave Mbird a delightful treatise on Willy Wonka) and I, for well over a week and counting, have been infatuated with the newest Lana Del Rey album, and conversations over Facebook and email ensued. Below are some of the highlights of our discussion of what we both consider a tremendously beautiful and heart-wrenching album.

 

Blake:

So from the first listen, I felt an aural tie to the gothic americana genre, but without the usual folk/bluegrass instrumentation. Gothic americana is notorious for using religious allusion and imagery for often non-religious reasons. It is all tied into this idea of Flannery…

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“Lest Ye Be Judged” – Dean Esskew and his Umpire Church

“Lest Ye Be Judged” – Dean Esskew and his Umpire Church

What if you made your living passing judgement? What if you, on the rarest of occasions (and without the intention of doing so) passed judgement incorrectly? (Maybe one time in 100). What if, for each “one” time, you were mercilessly berated and held responsible for ruining the “day” of tens of thousands? Keep in mind, you were absolutely stellar and were cheered (albeit unwittingly) the other 99 times. It doesn’t matter though. That one time? It can’t possibly be made up for by the other 99 cheers you heard because, honestly?, those cheers were for someone else. That one miscue?…

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Which Game of Thrones Character Are You? No, Really.

Which Game of Thrones Character Are You? No, Really.

Night and day for months now, one single question has nagged at the back and front recesses of my troubled mind. I go to sleep thinking about it, mull over it while sipping my morning coffee, and try not to let it get in the way of my day-to-day business of being a semi-attentive stay-at-home mom. The Question: If I were a character on HBO’s Game of Thrones, who would I be?

This question is essential because right now I am sitting on the couch while my ten-month old son takes his afternoon nap. I spent the first half an hour…

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Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Back in 1988, a bunch of social psychologists met in a sunny Canadian province to run through new experiments, theories, and approaches in social psych research. The theme was self-inference processes, or the ways we make judgments – accurate or inaccurate, constructive or merely descriptive – about, you know, who we are. The result is a mostly mundane, dry, and technical body of psych literature, littered with revolutionary insights into who we are (which, nonetheless, Luther had arguably discovered or personally reified centuries before), leavened with some real, concrete, original insight.

We’ve covered less psychology of late on the site, partly because it feels the field…

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The Adventures of the Holy Ghost: “Clarity”

Yet another delightful internet find, this time via former Conference Speaker, Francis Spufford. It’s the comic strip, “The Adventures of the Holy Ghost”, humorously featuring the third-person of the trinity personified in ghostly form. There are a number of highlights, but I found the below, “Clarity”, to be pretty spot on take on Luke 18:

HG comic

Bonus: check out this gem as well! The rest of John hendrix’s work looks pretty amazing too.

Deserts, Shovels, and Miracles

Deserts, Shovels, and Miracles

July 26, 2013

DESERT. You are in a taxi. The heavy air presses down on your skin, which threatens to melt down in pools on the smoke-seared seats. The driver, Mahmoud, loves Shakira, and he asks, Do you love Shakira? You have no opinion on Shakira, so he takes that as a yes and “hips don’t lie” rips from the speakers by your head; you are sitting in the back. Your friend Michael sits up front and makes small talk. He speaks Arabic better than you. He’s better at speaking generally, even in English.

You put the window down and Mahmoud looks…

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OUT NOW – THE MOCKINGBIRD, No 2: THE IDENTITY ISSUE!

OUT NOW – THE MOCKINGBIRD, No 2: THE IDENTITY ISSUE!

To say this second issue of The Mockingbird is more visually stunning than the first is an understatement. With lists throughout the magazine, laid out by Oxford American art director Tom Martin; with spot illustrations throughout from Masha Shabaeva-Krasnova, who does artwork for Rolling Stone, Elle and GQ; a painting from artist and children’s illustrator Oliver Jeffers’ new publication, Neither Here Nor There; not to mention poems from Mary Karr and Scott Cairns; the bar is now set in a new dimension! Suffice it to say, we are pouring everything we’ve got into this magazine, and we think you’ll be…

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Forgetting the Right to Be Forgotten

Forgetting the Right to Be Forgotten

There’s likely no such thing as the right to be forgotten. So why are we talking about it?

In the sixth grade, I opportunistically backstabbed one of my friends; the story reads like an appendix to a middle-school The Prince. I’d had a crush on a girl for three long weeks (give or take), and one of my two best friends, we’ll call him Phil, started ‘going out’ with her almost at random, I think after one of those weekend field trips which always seemed to break apart cliques, form new ones, and breathe fresh life into the daily math-science-history routine. The…

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Notes from the Panopticon: A Solution Outside the Field of Battle

Paul F.M. Zahl speaks, from years of theological accomplishment and pastoral experience, on religion that works, from PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion. Readers should note that we’ve just released an updated version of PZP which includes a few minor revisions, tighter formatting, no typos, etc. Be sure to check out the reviews on Amazon–they’re flattering to say the least!

“Whatever is true about my apparent self, which could be called my “ego”, it is highly resistant, or better, obdurate. It doesn’t like to be told what it should want or what it should do. It doesn’t like to go along with anyone else’s bright ideas.

theater-of-blood-still-444x250

Religions that are about subduing that particular driver—“They call me Baby Driver”—fail. Or at least they fail to do what they have set themselves up to do. No matter how noble they sound in maxim and aphorism, no matter how lofty their goals in terms of personal and social improvement, and high-mindedness, they don’t work. Their problem is that they are trying to revive a patient, as we now see him, who is struggling against the inevitable, which is death, down in the operating theater. The “drowning pool” of failed efforts to re-animate the dead cannot be allowed to become the prime theater of life. If you think it is the scene of life’s real action—and resolution—then it will turn into Vincent Price’s Theatre of Blood (1973).

A religion that works needs to be a religion that is not having to work “over-time” to conquer the unconquerable. You could say that a religion which works has to have different raw material than the human “self” who is involved in a life-long action to deny and postpone the inevitable. Religion that works, in other words, is a question of “if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” I am talking about religion as flight, not fight.

At first hearing, this sounds like cowardice, the opposite of religion as good works, social improvement, and engaged optimism. But religion with those outstanding positive themes, when it is not anchored to the fact of death, and the near-death which permeates life, fails to deliver, by which I mean, “deliver us from evil” and help us face death. Practical religion takes the measure of the ego’s impossible situation, and locates the solution to it outside the field of battle. As Gerald Heard put it, “The verb to escape is clear enough—it means to leave a position which has become impossible.”

True Detective 1x08 - Form and Void - Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson)

The panopticon of life cannot be in the hands of the struggler down in ICU. He or she is losing the fight. There is no way under the sun by which the ego-life on that flat surface will be able to carry on forever, no matter what. It is too late for the extinguishing self to understand what is going on with it. All he and she can do is “keep on dancing (dancin’ and a prancin’, doing the jerk)” (The Gentrys, 1965), until they just collapse upon the ground.

The man on the ceiling [who is near death, out-of-body in the operating room] is the one with the panopticon, not the man below. It is always too late for the man below. The raw material of him can’t respond to treatment. It is the man on the ceiling to whom the religions of the world have got to have something to say. He is the man on the moon.”

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A (Quick) Journey to the End of Taste

A (Quick) Journey to the End of Taste

One of my all-time favorite posts from our “early years” is the NY Times Magazine article from 2009 about a man who was horrified to learn that he liked Celine Dion. The realization came during an email exchange with an official at Pandora, the free internet music service that creates custom playlists based on your personal taste. Apparently the man in question was upset by the Canadian diva’s conspicuous appearance on his curated Sarah McLachlan station—there must be some mistake! He was assured by their staff that the algorithm was functioning well. The Pandora official explains: “’I wrote back and…

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Resolving the Discrepancies of the Self

Resolving the Discrepancies of the Self

A few decades before Alexander’s conquest, the Macedonians were considered barbarous and uncivilized by the other Greeks. Many of their nobles felt they should be proper Greeks, and one young king in particular – Alexander the Great’s father, Philip – seems to have been very bothered by the discrepancies between the Macedonians’ actual status as outsiders and their desired identity as insiders. Philip addressed this discrepancy by transforming, in a few short decades, his backward country into a military powerhouse and conquering the snobbish Greeks. Near the end of his life, he held a Pan-Hellenic festival to celebrate the new order of Macedonian…

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