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Theology/Religion

"I Roll to Punch the Shark": The Strangely Familiar World of Dungeons and Dragons

“I Roll to Punch the Shark”: The Strangely Familiar World of Dungeons and Dragons

My first encounter with Dungeons and Dragons (DnD), the archetypal tabletop roleplaying game (rpg), took place in the winter of my freshman year of high school. I had just left the dark, lonely, Mordor-esque bleakness of my middle school years, and in joining the marching band, I made some good friends who shared my affinity for elf culture and all of the other geeky things that fill up the time of teenagers who exist on the outskirts of the high school social strata. As Christmas was approaching, this group of friends invited me to play a DnD campaign with them…

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Mining Netflix: Lion (2016)

Mining Netflix: Lion (2016)

In the Mining Netflix series, we usually post the best of the internet’s films that didn’t get a wide release, or didn’t have a big marketing budget. Not the hipster obscure films, but the good stuff that falls through the cracks, movies most folks might not have had a chance to see. To feature 2016’s Lion in this column is a bit disingenuous. The film garnered six Oscar nominations, though it failed to nab any, and made waves on the film festival circuit too. Still, it’s now on Netflix, and worth a watch for a good cathartic cry. Mild spoilers…

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Yet Another "New Start": Karl Holl on Luther's Vigorous Reinterpretation of the Christian Life

Yet Another “New Start”: Karl Holl on Luther’s Vigorous Reinterpretation of the Christian Life

The following is an excerpt from Karl Holl’s booklength essay, “What Did Luther Understand by Religion?” (trans. Meuser & Wietzke) in which Holl draws out Luther’s theology beginning with his history. As you’ll see, Holl maintains a refreshing emphasis on everyday heart-level matters, compared to other scholars of his caliber. Still, you might want to put on your academic spectacles for this one—but it’s worth it. I started transcribing the first paragraph and just couldn’t stop there. Enjoy!

Like Jesus, [Luther] tried to show his contemporaries that their apparently intense piety, the piety of good works, devotions, and mortifications, was actually…

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Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part Two

Seeking Freedom from Dieting and Body Shame: Part Two

I’m sitting at Barnes and Noble at The Summit shopping center in Birmingham while my daughter is watching Wonder Woman with a friend at the movie theater here. I thought about going home and coming back later to pick her up when the movie is over, but I chose alone time with my computer and a cup of mediocre decaf instead. The traffic on Highway 280 is especially bad this time of day. And time by myself is always a good option.

There are three (maybe) college students—a young woman and two young men—at the table across from me talking about…

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An Extravagant Inversion of Values

An Extravagant Inversion of Values

As we’ve highlighted before, Emmanuel Carrère’s new book (novel? memoir? biography?) on St. Paul and the early Christians often reads like a diary fused with historical fiction. Carrère, well-known in France for his unique non-fiction storytelling, believes that the only way he can really communicate a subject is by looking as honestly as possible at himself. In this book, then, that means capturing the New Testament through his own relationship with and (un-)belief in its God. A powerfully honest and captivating reimagining of both the nature of belief and the radical message Paul carried, this passage gives a glimpse of…

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Laughing at Our Trophies

Laughing at Our Trophies

Another amazing one from Chad Bird, author of Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul. 

A few years ago I ran my first half-marathon. And won. By accident.

The northern panhandle city of Amarillo, Texas, boasts scant trees, passels of cowboys, and a handful of runners who—taking Bob Seger literally—are always “running against the wind.”

It was no exception on September 1, 2009, when I lined up with hundreds of them to run 13.1 miles in the ever-predictable 25-30 mph gusts. I was a relative newbie to the sport. Running had morphed into my healthiest anti-depressant. So with a few 5ks and 10ks under…

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The Prayers of the Phoenix

Another fantastic excerpt from Eerdmans’ forthcoming reprint of the 16th century Four Birds of Noah’s Ark. This is the introduction to the fourth and final bird, the Phoenix, a collection of prayers relating to death and resurrection. 

The fourth bird is now flying out toward you; spread, therefore, your arms wide open to welcome it, and this Phoenix will carry you up and on to a second life that shall be ever, everlasting.

Among all birds, the Phoenix lives the longest–so must our prayers fly up in bright flames all the days of our lives. We must be petitioners even to the last hour and last minute of our breath. The Phoenix has the most beautiful feathers in the world, and prayers are the most beautiful wings by which we may mount into heaven. There is but one Phoenix upon earth, and it has but one tune in which God delights, and that is the prayer of a sinner. 

When the Phoenix knows she must die, she builds a nest of all the sweetest spices, and there, looking steadfastly at the sun, she beats her wings in its hottest beams and between them kindles a fire among those sweet spices and so burns herself to death. So, when we desire to die in the vanities of the world, we must build up a nest and fill it with faithful sighs, groans, tears, fasting and prayer, sackcloth and ashes–all of which are sweet spices in the nostrils of the Lord–and then, fixing our eyes upon the cross where the glorious Son of God paid the ransom of our sins, we must not cease till, with the wings of faith and repentance, we have kindled his mercy and in that sweet flame have all our fleshly corruptions consumed and purified. Out of those dead ashes of the Phoenix does a new Phoenix rise. And even so, out of the ashes of that one repentance shall we be regenerate and born anew.

Out of the purest flames of love, Christ kindled a fire that drank up the wrath of his Father, a fire in which all people should have been drowned for their sins, and in that fire did he die to redeem us who were lost. Yet he did not leave it there. To have died for us would have been worth nothing if he hadn’t also, like a true Phoenix, been raised up again. As a grain of wheat is cast into the earth and there first rots and then comes to life again and after yields itself in a tenfold measure, so was our Savior cast into his sepulcher, where his dead body lay for a time and then came to life again and then was raised up. And in that rising did he multiply those benefits that before he sowed among us, when he was torn in pieces and scattered on the cross.

When he died, he died alone, but when he did rise, he did not rise alone, for in his resurrection do we all ascend…

Living and Dying With Rich Mullins: I Believe What I Believe…

Living and Dying With Rich Mullins: I Believe What I Believe…

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Rich Mullins’ death in a car accident at age 41. To commemorate this occasion, I am writing my memories of his music—not so much music criticism as memoir-via-music.

I didn’t know the signs.

Rich Mullins sang “Creed” as I and the rest of the retreat’s super-secret Prayer Team revealed ourselves first in a passion play and then in a sign-language performance. I flubbed my way through the signs, and I told myself—I remember this, though I admit it might be a little too on-the-nose to be true—that it was fine that I didn’t get the…

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Beneath the Pelagian Surface of Moana ~ Charlotte Getz

This next talk from the recent Mockingbird conference in NYC features our own Charlotte Getz, unpacking the theology of 2016’s Disney hit Moana. Enjoy!

Beneath the Pelagian Surface of Moana ~ Charlotte Getz from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verse Thirty-One Through Chapter Nine Verse One

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verse Thirty-One Through Chapter Nine Verse One

This morning’s devotion was written by Sam Bush.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Mark 8:31-9:1, NRSV)

I was in the store the other day and…

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Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

The training wheels came off at the cemetery.

That sounds incredibly macabre,  like a snippet from an Edward Gorey book, but the reality is much more prosaic. With the cemetery a couple houses down from where I grew up on a busy state route, it was the safest place to learn to ride.

My great-grandfather, grandfather, most of my great-uncles, as well as my father and his siblings all helped take care of the cemetery at some point in their lives. One of my first summer jobs was helping my great uncle mow around the gravestones. The cemetery wasn’t a scary place to…

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Eat Your Fancy Sandwich

Eat Your Fancy Sandwich

It’s obvious that David Brooks really struck a nerve with his most recent op-ed regarding sandwiches. I mean, as a huge fan of sandwiches, I understand. There’s nothing better than a great sandwich—I’m eating a chicken salad sandwich right now. And while I wouldn’t fight for much, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a nice chipotle mayo or garlic aioli.

Brooks’ sandwich illustration, if you haven’t read it, is a picture of a wider problem, though. He’s talking about classism, the widening gap in the middle class between those who can afford the best for their progeny and those who get…

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