Relationships

Another Week Ends: Abrahamic Evolution, More Cookie Monster, The Law of Higher Ed, G.K. Chesterton as Saint, and the Puritan Legacy

Another Week Ends: Abrahamic Evolution, More Cookie Monster, The Law of Higher Ed, G.K. Chesterton as Saint, and the Puritan Legacy

1. Over at aeon, Benjamin Grant Purzycki once again demonstrates the poverty of discourse about religion – the fact that little understanding of its required to make grand pronouncements. Anyway, he says some interesting things along the way, and it’s worth a read. First, we’re all biased toward thinking of God as a cosmic judge:

In a 2013 article in Cognition, I reported that Christian students from the University of Connecticut who claim that God knows everything will nonetheless rate His knowledge of moral information (Does God know that Sebastian robs grocery stores?) as better than His knowledge of non-moral information (Does God…

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Mining Netflix: Vulnerability on Notting Hill

Mining Netflix: Vulnerability on Notting Hill

There’s this girl. She’s someone who can’t be mine, and uh… it’s as if I’ve taken love heroin and I can’t ever have it again. I’ve opened Pandora’s Box and there’s trouble inside.

If Hugh Grant vowed to collaborate exclusively with writer Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually) for the rest of his career, the rom-com world would perhaps recover the stability it has sought for the better part of the past decade and a half. Curtis’ ability to present the humorous ills of love with allegorical excellence, marries splendidly with Hugh’s boyish but bold delivery of lines….

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To Practice Dying

To Practice Dying

Last week, yet another beautiful story about death came across my newsfeed. There are a lot of things I can avoid clicking on (kitten videos, I’m looking at you), but tell me a story about dying and I’m all ears. While the inclination might have something to do with my time spent working in hospital chaplaincy, I don’t think that’s all. We are all intrigued and moved by dying. Otherwise, these stories would not always find a place in our social media cycle. But this one was different. Paul Kalanithi was a doctor, new father, husband, and writer. He was…

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Nadia Bolz-Weber Pawns Off Narcissism as a Virtue

2015 NYC Conference speaker Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s book, Pastrix, is a curious beast: self-deprecating memoir, accidental handbook for church planters, compendium of dark comedy, and loads of inspiration, though not (remotely) the Hallmark variety. Among the many excerpt-worthy passages, one about darkness, light, and self-deception stood out to me. As backstory here, Candace was a fellow alcoholic, though less of a recovering one, whom Nadia tried to support for a while, before her sister accused her of  imprudently squandering her emotional energy just to maintain her idea of herself as a loyal friend:

RNS-FALSANI-COLUMN

Years later, after I had started House for All Sinners and Saints, I thought of Candace when I was writing a sermon about when Jesus goes on and on about how we really actually like darkness more than light because, let’s face it, the darkness hides our bullshit. (Revised Nadia Version.) I thought of all the time I spent trying to be good and all the time she spent trying to pretend she wasn’t high and how perfectly matched all our crap was. And all it took was my sister speaking the truth about it for light to come in and scatter the darkness. I thought about how, just like Candace, when I want desperately for something about myself to be hidden, for it to stay in the darkness, I am really good at lying. And if I can go an extra step and make it look like I’m actually being good – if I can pawn off narcissism as a virtue – then I win. Like when I am just sick of giving a shit about other people and want to be selfish so I call my two days of watching Netflix and getting mani-pedis ‘self-care.’ Or when I say I’m on ‘a cleanse’ so no one knows I’m really on a diet.

The list goes on, and the last thing I want is for any light to be cast on the darkness that I’ve spent so much energy curating, protecting, enjoying. But it’s not a cleanse. It’s a diet. It’s not about my health, it’s about my vanity.

There’s a popular misconception that religion, Christianity specifically, is about knowing the difference between good and evil so that we can choose the good. But being good has never set me free the way the truth has…

Very often I will avoid the truth until my face goes red like a toddler avoiding her nap; until limp limbed, she finally stops flailing and falls asleep and receives rest – the very thing she needs and the very thing she fights. When someone like me, who will go to superhero lengths to avoid the truth, runs out of options – when I am found out or too exhausted to pretend anymore or maybe just confronted by my sister – it feels like the truth might crush me. And that is right. The truth does crush us, but the instant it crushes us, it somehow puts us back together into something honest. It’s death and resurrection every time it happens.

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

(This essay was originally published in issue 3 of The Mockingbird. All issues and subscriptions, including issue 4 which ships tomorrow, are available available here).

“We can permit ourselves to be more romantic than the romanticists and more humanistic than the humanists. But we must be more precise.” —Karl Barth, “The Christian’s Place in Society”

image courtesy of Lutheran Satire

Every recess for eight years, I was picked last on the team for two-hand-touch football. The turning point came in the ninth grade, when recess was replaced by study hall.

But, before that, there was another turning point I had blundered right past: the opportunity…

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Girls Rule the World?

Girls Rule the World?

I saw the original Pitch Perfect on a spring afternoon, taking advantage of a day off work and a child in daycare to indulge in some solo popcorn-eating and foot-tapping in the darkness of a movie theater–one of this introvert’s favorite refuges. Now that this introvert is a mother of two, I watch movies in thirty-minute increments via On Demand from the “refuge” of my bed–a decidedly less interruption-free zone than that inviting theater. Perhaps this is why I so enjoy the movie trailers that I watch on my phone these days during nursing sessions or in stolen/guilt-ridden moments on…

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Farewell to Parks and Recreation

Farewell to Parks and Recreation

Earlier this week, Parks and Recreation concluded after a remarkable seven-season run. While other outlets have covered the show’s legacy in far greater detail than I can provide (check out Uproxx and Grantland for that), I wouldn’t feel right if I missed this opportunity to eulogize a show that has meant so much to me over the past several years. Parks and Rec might not have been as smart as Arrested Development or as laugh-out-loud funny as The Office, but it had an over-abundance of what many modern sitcoms lack—heart. In many ways, Parks and Rec might have had too…

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Fifty Shades of Something

Fifty Shades of Something

It’s a Fifty Shades world this week, and we just live in it. Not sure how close attention you’ve been paying to the ‘debate’ surrounding the film, but it’s a fascinating one, touching as it does on a number of our current hot potatoes, most notably sex and gender. Everyone seems to agree that the astronomical number of books (and tickets) sold indicates something larger going on, though no one seems to agree on what that is. Some say the success of the franchise reveals a deep faultline in 21st century bedrooms between Should and Is, between what’s acceptable to want and what is actually wanted, the ideal of egalitarian…

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Scientific Wedding Vows and the Biggest Lie (and Truth) of Them All

Scientific Wedding Vows and the Biggest Lie (and Truth) of Them All

Valentines Week is upon us and with it, a fresh crop of articles on how to love and be loved, never a dull subject. First up, an article in The NY Times posing the timely question “Can Scientific Relationship Advice Save Your Marriage?”, in which couples are profiled who have chosen to base their wedding vows on the scientific study of relationships. Before you venture an answer, let me say that I found the honesty refreshing–at least these couples take the occasion seriously enough to acknowledge their true object of worship. On other hand, the vows dictated by ‘science’ sound…

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The Cost and Benefit of Forgiveness (Class)

The Cost and Benefit of Forgiveness (Class)

I remember a conversation some years ago where a friend was voicing her chief objection to Christianity. It had nothing to do with science, or politics, or even suffering (at least not explicitly). What she found offensive about the faith was the notion/assertion/accusation that one of our primary needs as human beings is for forgiveness. In her view, the Christian emphasis on forgiveness was part and parcel of a defeatist anthropology that undermined human dignity, perpetuating negative self-understandings that we would be better off without. Furthermore, it set people up as guilty by default, which, when it came to systemic…

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How I Learned To Love Gravedigging in Marriage – Matt and Megan Magill

And…. we’re back! A handful more videos from the Fall Conference to share, the first of which captures, beautifully, what happens when vulnerability, truth, and amazing harmonies come together:

Cause This is Thriller: How I Learned to Love Grave Digging (in Marriage) – Matt and Megan Magill from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Conceiving Advent Differently

Conceiving Advent Differently

As I stumble through the door of the fourth baby shower or “sprinkle” I have attended in the last two months, wobbling atop a pair of rarely worn pumps, my eyes dart immediately to the buffet. I survey the landscape and breathe a sigh of relief: there are mimosas. And pimento cheese. Praise Jesus. Five minutes later, I am balancing a champagne flute in one hand, a blue paper plate in the other (It’s a boy, duh), and am trying to use my pinky finger to transfer a Ritz cracker to my mouth when the grandmother-of-the-honoree pauses her dialogue about…

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