Theology/Religion

A Snob By Any Other Name

A Snob By Any Other Name

The first time I suspected there might really be something between me and the woman who would become my wife was when she made an off-hand reference to one of my favorite movies. It was a relatively obscure film, and not one that usually came up in conversation. Huh, I thought, that’s interesting. My confidence was shaken a few days later when she mentioned having recently attended a certain music festival, which will remain nameless. Let’s just say my appreciation for The Grateful Dead and their ilk had yet to blossom.

I’m embarrassed to admit this. Not just that I had…

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Failure in a Society that Celebrates Triumphalism

HONY

If you don’t know Humans of New York, it’s one of the few creative things worth following on Facebook. It is curated by a guy named Brandon who simply collects quotes and photos of the people he meets (mostly in New York City), posting them on his blog and social media. He has a huge following. I was struck by a recent post. It’s a down-to-earth presentation of a theology of the Cross versus one of glory:

“I’ve written so many stories and novellas that nobody will look at, plays that I can’t get produced, screenplays that will never be made. Everything is so branded these days in the art world, it’s so hard for an outsider to get work.”

“In what way would you consider yourself an ‘outsider?’”

I’m interested in failure, so those are the themes that I like to explore. But we live in a society that celebrates triumphalism. A society wants art that reaffirms itself. We want to read about characters that win.

“What was your lowest moment as an artist?”

“I worked on a screenplay for two years, and it had just been turned down by the fifth theater in a month, and I remember walking down 5th avenue in the middle of winter, tossing the pages one by one into the slush, vowing never to do it again. It was just a few blocks from here, actually.”

Couple Dies of Confusion

In line with this weekend’s FOMO breakout session, here’s one of the illustrations we looked to, from the most recent season of Portlandia. We looked at the “fear of missing out” as a reaction based primarily in resentment, resentment pointed either at the past or at the future. The fruit of FOMO, then: regret about the lives we never lived, and anxiety about the ones ahead/not ahead. This video certainly falls in the anxiety category, as Kirsten Dunst finds herself haunted by confusion–befuddled at every corner by the distinction between right from wrong.

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

“Strange Fascination, Fascinating Me”: John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

The third installment for Blake & Ian’s four-part series is Ian’s second selection, the 1982 classic creature flick The Thing, directed by John Carpenter andstarring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley & T. K. Carter.

Ian:

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of cosmic/body horror which viscerally manifests the alien abjection of sin. Through masterful use of freezing, tension-fraught atmosphere and brilliant (i.e. horrifyingly gory) special effects, Carpenter meditates on embodiment, identity, and paranoia with breathtaking results. The story, set in hostile Antarctica, follows a shape-shifting alien which can replicate the physiology and even the memories of everything (and everyone) it assimilates. Its arrival triggers an…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Hopelessly Devoted: Second Corinthians Chapter One Verse Nineteen and Twenty

Back from Texas, here’s yesterday morning’s devotion, just a day late. It comes from Paul Walker.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. (2 Corinthians 1:19-20, ESV)

“Yes” is a gracious word. Yes, please come in. Yes, please stay for dinner. Yes, I would love to go with you. Yes, of course, take all the time you need.

“No” is a forbidding word. No, you may not come. No, there isn’t room for you. No, I’m too busy. No, it was due yesterday.

Human beings are both Yes and No. Most children learn to nod “yes” and shake their…

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A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

A Conference Week Ends: Lila, Marshmallows, the Human Condition, and Epistomological Courage

1. Lots of interesting news on the how-can-we-be-sure-God-exists front. We’ve had our own part of that conversation, highlighting our own favorite Atheists and the hip trend of flogging Dawkins (dibs on Flogging Dawkins as a band name!). If the patterns are to be believed, it seems that the trajectory is toward a more humble, less aggressive atheism that acknowledges its own non-rational presuppositions. And humility is good for everybody, theist and atheist alike. Gary Gutting over at the New York Times sums up his series of interviews with religious philosophers, and while the ending seems disjointed (I’m an agnostic Catholic?), the middle is helpful:

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Thomas Nagel

These Are a Few of My Favorite Atheists: Thomas Nagel

More Dr. Michael Nicholson goodness on his favorite atheists series! Check out last week’s pre-Camus for an introduction to the series.

Thomas Nagel (1937 – )

Thomas Nagel had me at, “I confess to an ungrounded assumption of my own, in not finding it possible to regard the design alternative as a real option. I lack the sensus divinitatis that enables—indeed compels—so many people to see in the world the expression of divine purpose as naturally as they see in a smiling face the expression of human feeling” (Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,…

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Salvation by Sweat Alone

Salvation by Sweat Alone

An uncannily resonant follow-up to Evan’s recent post about the Church of CrossFit appeared in the NY Times Magazine this past weekend, courtesy of Mbird fave Heather Havrilesky. “Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness?” she asks, and her answers are nearly identical to our own, i.e. we are all deeply religious, and a religion of law plays to our controlling inclinations. The line about the similarities with the faith of our pilgrim forebears is particularly telling; the roots of asceticism, regardless of the form it takes, can often be traced to the same place. Say what you will…

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“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

“Just The Two Of Us”: Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher (1986)

The second film selection for Blake & Ian’s four-part series comes from Blake’s selection of favorite horror films, the 1986 version of The Hitcher, starring Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Blake:

Jim Halsey: Why are you doing this to me?
John Ryder: You’re a smart kid…figure it out.

Whether it’s the rise of urban legends or the rise of actual incidents, hitchhiking is all but extinct nowadays. It seems to be another victim slain in the slow and continuous death of the old neighborly courtesies.

Hitchhiking is just one aspect of a wider American artistic landscape full of the open road–from…

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PZ’s Podcast: Whipped Cream

EPISODE 177

There is a current meltdown in more than one venerable institution within the Christian Church nationally. It’s like the explosions at the beginning of Cloverfield. They seem a little far away at first, but, turns out, they’re headed right for you.

I try to interpret these escalations of conflict within the Church as an expression of incompatibility — the incompatibility of institutions and institutional process with the improvisation and inspiration that mark genuine spiritual religion. (The phrase “improvisation and inspiration” to describe what ought to be, comes from Lloyd Fonvielle.) I have to say, institutions and property and hierarchy are in general incompatible with the teachings of the Founder. Emil Brunner stated this unarguably in 1951 in his book The Misunderstanding of the Church.

“Karma” comes into this, too, tho’ it’s a word I’m a little uncomfortable using, as it sounds awfully Eastern in this context. Meanwhile, Christianity has the same idea! Not to mention Eric Clapton and the Band, who electrified the world once in their performance of “Further on up the Road”. It’s striking how one’s persecutors yesterday become the persecuted themselves, today. As Marshall Schomberg at the Boyne cried to his Huguenot troops, pointing at the French soldiers across the river, “Voici vos persecuteurs!” You never have to worry that someone’s going to get his or her comeuppance. It always happens. You’re not going to have to lift a finger.

Finally, there’s the hope of the Contraption. God is actually with us. He’s neither against us nor indifferent. He is pro nobis, and that’s nothing new. Here, tho’, we can also look to Jane Austen. She’s going to have the last word today.

This podcast is dedicated to Jacob and Melina Smith.

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Another Week Ends: Startup Cities, Dangerous Perfectionism, Marilynne Robinson, Self-Satisfied Commissars, Subconscious Songwriting, and Cosmopolitan Hope

Before we get going, the Houston Conference is almost here!! While we never turn anyone away–last minute walk-ins more than welcome–we need to know by Monday morning (10/13) if you are planning/hoping to dine with us. You can either pre-register on the site (through Tuesday at midnight), or send us an email at info@mbird.com so we can reserve you a plate. The food is going to be delicious!

1. First off, this is both incredibly fascinating and incredibly sad. Perhaps you’ve heard of The Downtown Project, a “start-up city” in Las Vegas founded and pioneered by Tony Hsieh, the guy behind…

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Fideism, H.R. Niebuhr, and More ‘Cultural Engagement’

Fideism, H.R. Niebuhr, and More ‘Cultural Engagement’

I was encouraged last week to see an article on cultural engagement get some commentary. At Christianity Today, Alissa Wilkinson’s article on “Lazy Cultural Engagement” was dead-on, providing a more personal/vocational take and bringing in the helpful and germane framework of content and form. At ThinkChristian, Josh Larson’s commentary was also helpful, if a little divergent from our take:

In a broad sense, I agree with what both of these folks have to say. Certainly, as McDavid suggests, Christians are needed as critics outside of our Christian subculture. (I’m grateful to have other outlets where I can do that.) And Wilkinson’s call to…

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