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Theology/Religion

'S' Is For 'Swaddle': On Baby Anxiety and New Parents

‘S’ Is For ‘Swaddle’: On Baby Anxiety and New Parents

There we were, him holding his newborn son and me with my 1.5-year-old clinging to my legs. We were talking, as men do these days, about baby books, and I was trying to remember the last two of the “Five S’s”. I had “Swing,” “Swaddle” and “Shush,” but couldn’t for the life of me remember the others. (Note: “Side” and “Suck”).

It’s not as though I lacked experience. My wife and I are currently cruising through month 90 of uninterrupted “diaper life”; babies have been our M.O. for what feels like forever. I should’ve had the lingo down cold. My friend…

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Peace/Love/Elvis: The Death of Ambition, and Also of Denis Johnson

Peace/Love/Elvis: The Death of Ambition, and Also of Denis Johnson

It’s hard to say exactly when the plummet of Elvis Presley began. Some say in the late 60s, some say the early 70s. Some might say as early as 1958, when he was drafted into the Army. In any case, there’s no denying the devilish phase of physical and mental deterioration which carried him to his death, at age 42, in 1977. The last thing the King saw in this world was the cold tile, probably, of his bathroom wall.

During the height of his career, Elvis seemed a different man, if even a man he was. I need not say…

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Jorts Be Gone! Queer Eye and the Power of Imputation

Jorts Be Gone! Queer Eye and the Power of Imputation

This one was written by Ben Maddison.

I wear roughly the same outfit combination every day. Tight-ish jeans, brown leather shoes, button up shirt with a smart print, blue blazer and accompanying accessories. I have enough of these outfits to work a Monday-Sunday schedule, then wash (sometimes) and repeat. I’m certainly no style expert; I know what I like, and I have a general sense of what’s currently fashionable, but they don’t make cost-friendly stylish clothes for people my size. The hell that is trying to find non-pleated pastel-colored shorts is too real.

It’s not that I don’t want to dress well….

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The Gift of Fork and Knife Earrings (from Ruth and Billy Graham, RIP)

Sad but also not-sad to hear of Billy Graham’s death this morning – if ever there was someone who had “the sting” in perspective… Feels like the right time to post this wonderful anecdote from his grandson Tullian Tchividjian’s One Way Love:

One-way love is often what distinguishes a warm household from a cold one. Children often move across the country to get away from a toxic home life where two-way conditionality has come to rule the roost via the judgments of parents and other siblings. A house full of conditions feels like a prison. Rules are one thing—take out the trash; don’t hit your brother. They govern the day-to-day and protect us from one another. Conditions are different and more emotional in nature. “If you really loved us, then you wouldn’t spend so much time with those people.” “We will approve of whatever career choice you make, provided it’s between medicine, law, and business.” “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” Even small differences between family members can be the source of tremendous friction. Yet grace has the power to bind generations together.

I am fortunate to have experienced the power of one-way love not just from my parents but my grandparents as well. In fact, whenever people learn that I was kicked out of the house at sixteen, they invariably ask how my grandparents responded. What they usually mean is “How did Billy and Ruth Graham respond to actual sin in their midst?” People looked up to them, not just as spiritual leaders, but as role models for how to raise godly children and grandchildren. “Weren’t you shaming the family name?” The truth is, my grandparents never said a single word to me about getting my act together. They never pulled me aside at a family gathering and told me about how I needed to submit myself to Jesus, etc. Never. Only God knows what they were thinking or feeling, but I never picked up on a shred of judgment from them. They treated me exactly the opposite as how I deserved to be treated.

For example, I wore earrings back in those days. One in the left, and one in the right. It used to drive my parents nuts. Every time my grandmother—Ruth Graham—came down to visit, she would bring me a fresh set of earrings to wear! They were always funny. At Christmastime, she would bring me ornament earrings and make me put them in and take a picture. At Thanksgiving, she brought fork and knife earrings, and she took a picture. She made light of it. She wasn’t making fun of me. She was saying, “This isn’t that big of a deal. He’s going to grow out of it.” It may sound pretty trivial, but it meant the world to me. Everyone else was on my case, and instead of giving me one more thing to rebel against, my grandparents drew me in closer. (pg 151-52)

See also: Carrie’s post about The Crown from last week. And this momentous meeting of the minds in 1968. And bubblegum maestro Tommy James’ jaw-dropping testimony about the man’s influence on his hit “Sweet Cherry Wine.”

Closing Q&A from Mockingbird in DC

We closed out this Fall’s DC conference with this insightful question-and-answer session featuring speakers Nick Lannon, Sarah Condon, Jacob Smith, and David Zahl. This “unfiltered” session discusses a sweep of themes including freedom, rest, control, mercy, and the intentions behind this celebration of the Reformation on its 500th anniversary. If you missed the other talks, you can find them here.

Closing Q & A with Nick Lannon, Sarah Condon, Jacob Smith, and David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

This is (Almost) 40

This is (Almost) 40

Until recently, if you had asked me the question: “If you had to re-live one time in your life, what would it be?” my answer would have been almost always: “My junior year of college.” With apologies to my husband and kids, who are lovely and the best things that ever happened to me, I really felt like I was hitting my stride that third year at a big university, and I will admit to missing the metabolism and sleep schedule of my 19-year-old self.

Now, though, I have a new answer to the question of whether I’d like to relive…

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In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

In Defense of Thoughts and Prayers

Tragic school shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida this week are becoming an all-too-common occurrence in our culture. Ubiquitous screens and news outlets surround us as we encounter these tragedies, in a second-handed fashion, in a strange collective way (only those directly affected can experience them). As with any repeated and communal form of storytelling, the presentation of the events in the media take on a familiar, almost ritualistic form. As different as the various tragedies are, their presentation to us can seem more and more the same. Familiar breaking news graphics, talking heads, pundits and policy advocates are…

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The Immensely Disconcerting Truth About Our Adversaries

I honestly cannot say enough good things about Alan Jacobs’ How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds. And that’s not just cause he’s speaking for us in NYC this year (though that doesn’t hurt). He’s put together something that’s both simple and hopeful, gently prescriptive in a way that’s more matter-of-fact than guilt-inducing, grounded in humility and refreshingly non-rationalistic (despite what the title may imply). Indeed, this short book–really a guide to uncovering the ideological blindspots and biases that’ve allowed us to turn our neighbor into an “other”–oozes compassion for our fractured culture and selves. It has helped me immensely, and continues to do so. If I had to pick a favorite chapter, it would probably be the one on “Repulsions,” from which the following paragraphs are taken. Quick note is that Jacobs is riffing here on Roger Scruton’s understanding of “unscrupulous optimism” AKA the core belief, either stated or un-, that “the difficulties and disorders of humankind can be overcome by some large-scale adjustment”:

When you believe that the brokenness of this world can be not just ameliorated but fixed, once and for all, then people who don’t share your optimism, or who do share it but invest it in a different system, are adversaries of Utopia. (An “adversary” is literally one who has turned against you, one who blocks your path.) Whole classes of people can by this logic become expendable–indeed, it can become the optimist’s perceived duty to eliminate adversaries. As a nineteenth-century pope notoriously commented, “Error has not rights.” Caught up by the momentum of his or her cause, the Optimist can easily forget the vital addendum to the papal statement made by Orestes Brownson: “Error has no rights, but the man who errs has equal rights with him who errs not.”

Over the years, I’ve had to acknowledge that some of the people whose views on education appall me are more devoted to their students than I am to mine; and that some of the people whose theological positions strike me as immensely damaging to the health of the church are nevertheless more prayerful and charitable, more Christlike, than I will ever be. This is immensely disconcerting, even when it doesn’t mean that those people are right about those matters we disagree on. Being around those people forces me to confront certain truths about myself that I would rather avoid; and that alone is reason to seek every means possible to constrain the energies of animus.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: A Pantheon of Suffering

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: A Pantheon of Suffering

This fascinating movie review was written by Caleb Ackley:

While I don’t typically correlate film-induced anxiety with a shopping mall on a banal Wednesday afternoon in Southern California, Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest offering succeeded in my conflation of the two.

Upon entering the theatre and settling in, I, alongside the scant audience of polite 60-something’s, am greeted with an unnerving close-up of a naked, beating heart. Slowly, the camera pans out, Schubert playing mournfully in the background, the cold glare of the fluorescent lights now showing not only beating heart but the brushed grey metal of a surgeon’s slab. Cut to black. Fantastic….

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Befriending Our Nightmares: How to Move When We Feel Stuck

Befriending Our Nightmares: How to Move When We Feel Stuck

At some point in your life whether as an adult or a kid, you’ve probably had someone tell you that the monsters and scary things in your nightmares aren’t real. But considering that roughly one third of your life is spent in the dreamscape (and if you daydream like me then two thirds), they are actually very real.

In my child and adolescent therapy class last week, we learned how to help kids who are stuck in the same dream night after night make a “nightmare book.” The idea behind this approach is that if you give a child a sense…

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Is Jesus Really God?

Is Jesus Really God?

This one was written by Charis Hamiltonius.

I’ve waded through the arguments and read the commentaries, and most scholars agree. When it comes to the question of the divinity of Jesus, it seems there is one, inescapable conclusion: Jesus isn’t God. Whoever you imagine God to be, Jesus isn’t him (or, if you prefer, her). The standard, unsatisfactory, argument goes something like this. The God of the universe created all things: the universe, stars, planets, all creatures great and small, humanity, and this fragile earth, our island home. God is infinitely powerful, infinitely present in all things, infinitely knowing of all…

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The Crown, Season 2: Reconciliation and Her Majesty

The Crown, Season 2: Reconciliation and Her Majesty

This piece contains possible spoilers from the Netflix Original Series The Crown, Season 2, Episode 6. 

The second season of The Crown is just as beautiful as the first, and more complex. As we watch the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip ever-so-slightly unravel at the seams and Princess Margaret’s love life take dizzying turns, the Queen still has to hold down her day job, which is to rule over the British Empire.

Peter Morgan, the creator of The Crown, was recently interviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” NPR summarized their conversation:

He says, “Let’s just stop thinking about them as a…

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