New Here?
     
Theology/Religion

You Do You, Genghis

You Do You, Genghis

I was a little worried when The NY Times Magazine changed its format in February and did away with “Riff”, a column we’ve mined over the years almost more than any other. Lo and behold, my concern was misfounded. What they’ve done is clever, funneling those observations into a handful of thematically-defined columns, the language-oriented “First Words” being the prime example. For the second time in as many months, writer Colson Whitehead has utilized that new umbrella to deliver a tour de force of cultural commentary. Last time he explored the appeal of the ‘loser edit’, this time he goes…

Read More > > >

The Shelflife of Judgment

The Shelflife of Judgment

What do Twinkies and judgment have in common? Nearly nothing; except for their exceptionally long shelf-lives. If I had to wager which has the longer shelf-life, my money would be on judgment every single time. Surely I’m not the only one who can vividly recall moments in the past that are characterized by judgment; indelible comments, offhand criticisms, permanent words. Ask me about all those good things people have said, those encouraging and affirming words and Err…well…there was that one time…I think… I know historically that I’ve been encouraged and affirmed and loved, but those seem sketched in pencil, easily…

Read More > > >

New Music: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

New Music: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

Inside the liner notes of Kendrick Lamar’s new album, To Pimp A Butterfly, is a picture of Lamar (shown above) sitting in a room with assorted dollar bills scattered around him on the floor.  Pictures like this are a common and maybe tired rap trope, typically appearing in magazine spreads and liner notes, rife with allegories of success and the spoils of excess that come with it.  Lamar’s picture strikes a different chord though.  He sits solitary on a crate in sweatpants with untied Reebok sneakers and a bottle of liquor in one hand, his tranquil eyes looking right at…

Read More > > >

The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

The Traitor King: A Palm Sunday Reflection

We encounter the world, perhaps more explicitly now than ever, as a field of useful objects. We don’t even think twice about the most everyday of them: the remote control for the TV, the doorframe of the door we walk through each morning, the stove or refrigerator. Gestures, too, are often unthinking, whether it be brushing back a stray piece of hair, pulling on a shirt, or brushing one’s teeth. The strange thing is, though, that tons of things in the (natural) world are use-less: flowers and, indeed, most kinds of plants and animals, the ocean, most rocks or mountains,…

Read More > > >

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty One Verses Four and Five

A Holy Week-appropriate reflection from Paul Zahl, via The Mockingbird Devotional.

This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass.’” (RSV)

Palm Sunday is a day in the Christian Calendar, and a day in history, that could define the word “irony.”

It depicts the advance on Jerusalem of the city’s “King,” but in the form of a man seated on a donkey. It begins a week of ‘triumphal entry’ that only ends in…

Read More > > >

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…

Read More > > >

Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

This month’s edition of Christianity Today features a cover story, “The Return of Shame,” that draws a clear, causative link between the prevalence of social media and its corollary stripping of privacy with the emergence of a shame-fame culture. I couldn’t help but relate this to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (and Billy Idol’s “Eyes without a Face”).

In contrast to a guilt culture wherein morality is evaluated on the basis on individual conscience, a shame culture’s efficacy rests on community’s conception of your behavior. According to Crouch, “you know you are
good or bad by what your community says about you.”…

Read More > > >

Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

Zen and the Art of Law and Gospel: A Conference Breakout with Jim McNeely

I am very excited about the upcoming Mockingbird Conference! First, and possibly most importantly, I have been asked to do a few magic tricks at the conference. If you come, you will be one of the few humans ever to witness a one-time demonstration of the power of the amazing Cords of Shastri, which have been lost for over 600 years, but which have recently come into my possession. I will bring these to New York City for this one event. I repeat, this is a feat of legerdemain which has not been performed for over 600 years! I swear its…

Read More > > >

James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

James, an “Epistle of Straw”? Not So Fast!

Whenever I read the letters of Paul and his great doctrine of justification by faith, there is always lurking in the background the problem posed by the Epistle of James and its not-so-apparent direct refutation of Paul. And in any discussion of justification by faith there always lurks the specter of James, always calling into question whether Paul was really correct in his understanding. Admittedly, for the longest time I never quite knew what to make of James 2, and its contradiction of Paul’s thesis that Abraham the ungodly was justified by faith, without works (Romans 4). It was Martin…

Read More > > >

Ode on Renoir’s A Girl with a Watering Can:  Seeing the Eternal in the Ephemeral

Ode on Renoir’s A Girl with a Watering Can: Seeing the Eternal in the Ephemeral

I first looked at a reproduction of Auguste Renoir’s A Girl with a Watering Can as a poster tacked on the wall of one of the dorm rooms in Baltimore Hall at the University of Maryland, when I was an undergraduate there in the 1970s. I was not especially impressed. The fact that it was even displayed, and prominently, in a guy’s room in an all-male dormitory, now that was a bit surprising. The most popular female hanging on young men’s walls at the time was that famous smiling, swimsuit pose of Farrah Fawcett. If I recall correctly, this was…

Read More > > >

Attagirl Mo’ne!

2o14’s Little League World Series heroine Mo’ne Davis, Monday, on forgiving the derogatory tweet (directed toward her) that got a high school baseball player kicked off his team:

The Theology of Everything: Jane and Stephen Hawking Head to the Cross

The Theology of Everything: Jane and Stephen Hawking Head to the Cross

The title of the Oscar-nominated movie The Theory of Everything might seem a little ambitious, maybe even ironic in its grandiose magnitude, and, in some ways, it is. The title pokes at real-life physicist Stephen Hawking’s initial desire to find a theory of everything, a single equation to explain the creation of the universe. Having never settled on such an equation, Stephen’s ambition ensures an ironic sort of surrender even in the title, which unexpectedly exudes earnestness, too, given that the film’s themes are endless: Everything’s here. The Theory of Everything investigates the very beginning of the universe as well…

Read More > > >