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Identity

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

Fathers, Sons, Law, and Grace in August Wilson’s Fences

My mother and father always attempted to instill into me and my brothers an appreciation for culture. Mom was and remains extremely well-read in classic literature, hailing Steinbeck as her favorite; she enjoyed foreign cinema and took me (while in the womb) to an Ingmar Bergman film festival; she could reference renowned plays and decided to middle-name me after Neil Simon; and her record collection lined the living room perimeter containing everything from Funkadelic to Simon & Garfunkel, Temptations, Barbara Streisand, The Police, Rick James, etc…

But I think the most significant (though at the time not fully appreciated) exposure came…

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The Immigration of Our Hearts

The Immigration of Our Hearts

A few weeks ago I was on a plane bound for a church retreat, when the guy next to me struck up a conversation with me about what I do for living.

Immediately he wanted to tell me about his own walk of faith. He had been raised in India as a Hindu and his family moved to England when he was a small boy. He had lost the religion of his childhood and expressed to me that he was now “very into” Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

“It is interesting,” he went on to explain to me, “how people are…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Psalm Twenty Three (and The Tyranny of “The Ought”)

Hopelessly Devoted: Psalm Twenty Three (and The Tyranny of “The Ought”)

Terry Cooper defines the idealized self as “an image of what we should be, must be or ought to be, in order to be acceptable.” He goes on, “[It] is born out of the imagination and is quite impossible to actualize. It is a romanticized portrait built on exaggerated self-expectations.”

In a recent chapel message at Wheaton College, Dr. Anthony Bradley – Associate Professor of Theology at my alma mater, The King’s College in New York City – distills this idea and explains how the pressure of “the idealized self” crushes college students. Anxiety, perfectionism, and an overwhelming sense of inadequacy…

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PZ’s Podcast: Do the Bus Stop

PZ’s Podcast: Do the Bus Stop

Episode 227: Do the Bus Stop

The animus expressed in connection with the Inauguration has made me think about events that happened almost 47 years ago. The catalyst was the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, and then Kent State. Everyone went wild.

A few of us were conservatives then. (Don’t blame me, please. It’s just a statement “du fait”.) And did we get clobbered!

One night five or six of us were having lunch in Adams House. That particular residence hall was “crawling” with SDS (i.e., Students for a Democratic Society). We had somehow forgotten about that. All of a sudden, our table in the refectory was surrounded by yelling SDS’ers….

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“The Only Thing You’ve Got Is What You Can Sell”: Making Peace with the Stories We Tell Ourselves

“The Only Thing You’ve Got Is What You Can Sell”: Making Peace with the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Death of a Salesman is one of my favorite stories, not because it is a piece of great “litracha,” but because it is about a man to whom I can profoundly relate. For anyone who wasn’t subjected to Arthur Miller’s masterpiece in high school, here are the basics: Willy Loman is a salesman harboring great expectations for his son, Biff. When grown-up Biff returns for a visit (“I’m mixed up very bad,” he says), Willy’s delusions about who Biff should be collide with who Biff really is. Willy nevertheless maintains a blind sort of optimism: “Certain men just don’t get started…

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A Series Of Unfortunate Events

On Being an Imposter: “Fake It Till Ya Make It” in a World of Expectations

This one comes to us from pastry-making imposter, Madeline D’Elia. 

The social science concept of imposter syndrome, or imposter phenomenon (IP) as it should properly be called, has been in the spotlight for a few years now. It was the topic of Facebook CEO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s 2011 book Lean In, social psychologist’s Amy Cuddy’s 2012 Ted Talk, and Carl Richards’ piece in the New York Times. We’ve all heard the hackneyed expression, “fake it till you make it,” and IP can best be thought of as the deep seated anxiety that you will always be on the former end versus the…

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The Academic Terror Dream

The Academic Terror Dream

This one comes to us from our terrified academic friend, Duo Dickinson.

I am 61 years old. The last time I took a meaningful test was when I took, and passed, the last 2 (of 5) days of licensing exams to become an architect in 1982, 35 years ago.

But 20 years of testing from grammar school through licensing exams infected me with a disease so deep it’s unseen, unfelt and without consequence. Unless I am asleep.

By any objective estimate, I have lived a blessed life. I may have worked hard, but I have been given every advantage by circumstances I did…

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How to Lose an Argument: Biased Assimilation in Rational Thinking

How to Lose an Argument: Biased Assimilation in Rational Thinking

I think we owe ourselves a congratulations. We got through the holidays! The holiday-less S.A.D.-inducing winter spans before us and the countdown to new TV shows and MLK day begins.

Amid all of my complaining about 2016 and the politics of gift-giving, I had forgotten to expect one thing that can actually make the holidays challenging: just spending time with family…occupying the same dinner table, digging into the same refrigerator, watching the same movies with a group of people we never chose our relation to. It was only a matter of time before our great Uncle Fabio–we all have one–staggered through the doorway with all sorts of opinions…

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Scrolling Through Career Options: Choice Overload and the Fear of Commitment

Scrolling Through Career Options: Choice Overload and the Fear of Commitment

This one comes to us from Madeline D’Elia. 

While most people think about commitment anxiety in terms of relationships, it can perhaps be better thought of in terms of Netflix. Imagine logging into your Netflix account (or your friend, mother-in-law’s, or old college roommate’s account) and scrolling through the thousands of options under the dozens of genres. You finally choose to watch Jane the Virgin. After five or six minutes, you begin to discover the reason that most people love Netflix: If they realize they don’t want to know what happens to a young woman who gets accidentally artificially inseminated, they can…

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“Invasion of the Cream Snatchers” by Robert Farrar Capon

“Invasion of the Cream Snatchers” by Robert Farrar Capon

Here is an excerpt from the second essay in Mockingbird’s latest publication, More Theology & Less Heavy Cream, by Robert Farrar Capon–available now in our online store and on Amazon! 

More Theology & Less Heavy Cream is a never-before-published collection of Robert’s essays featuring his and his wife’s alter-egos, Pietro and Madeleine. Join them in this charming episode as they ruminate on cooking, shame, and a law by the name of Irving.

“What went wrong last night?” Madeleine asked in disbelief. “You’ve made that heavy cream sauce a thousand times. How come, at the one dinner party I rave about it in advance, you make it…

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The Sad Optimism of La La Land

The Sad Optimism of La La Land

In the end of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone get what they’ve always wanted. Once it’s theirs, though, they realize it’s not what they were expecting. Stone’s imagination steers us through the final scene, a montage of what could have been. It’s funny and heartbreaking, in turns. Her quirky, unsuccessful play premiers to a sold out auditorium, and Gosling’s depressing gig playing mood music at a lousy restaurant wins impossible acclaim. It’s not what actually happened, and it’s not the way things ever happen.

Happy endings are the stuff of fairytales. And though it feels like…

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What Women’s Ministries Lack

What Women’s Ministries Lack

This post comes to us from Kelsi Klembara.

The lights in the large auditorium dim as quiet worship music plays in the background and a hushed buzz spreads throughout the room full of women. I look hesitantly at the two women sitting next to me. The speaker has just told us since Christian sisterhood is all about authenticity, it’s time to spill our guts to a neighbor we’ve never met. I’ve been through this before: share your story, make sure to emphasize the sin that used to be in your life and the growing holiness that is taking it’s place. That’s…

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