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The Devil Went Down to Georgia

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

It’s not every day that my hometown is trending on Facebook, but my wife assured me that it was. Yes, Lilburn, Georgia, was trending because of what Slate has dubbed—in a year that has already seen Kim Kardashian publish a book of selfies—“The Year’s Most Perplexing News Event.”

Last week, Lilburn’s TNT Academy hosted an explosive graduation ceremony in which the principal, Nancy Gordeuk, concluded a lengthy rant about the rudeness of the guests with “Look who’s leaving: all the black people.” The rant was, of course, caught on video, from several angles, and was followed by an on-camera semi-apology and, later,…

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Take Me to Church

Take Me to Church

I wore jeans on Easter Sunday.

I don’t remember the last time I missed church on Easter—or if there ever even has been a time. The Lord’s triumphant return from the grave, spring’s return to our calendars, and lapsed parishioners’ return to pews amalgamate into an unmissable Super-Bowl-Sunday among the observant. It’s like the newest club that has everything: fashion. Crowded sanctuaries. Clogged parking lots. Boisterous hymns.

And we missed it all. My family—husband, boys aged three years and six months, and I—have unintentionally participated in a sabbatical from church since our youngest was born last fall. We knew we would take…

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Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Often, when I try to explain what Mockingbird is I am faced with the daunting task of articulating a “low anthropology”. That is, an unflattering view of humanity. People accuse me of being negative or of losing sight of the fact that human beings are “mostly good.” So I pause and consider their opinions. And then I start to judge them for having those opinions. “How naïve” I say to myself. Then I realize I’m sinning in the middle of a theological discussion. Which brings me back to square one: low anthropology it is.

Recently, I met a lovely person who…

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Bridging Church and Culture: A Conference Breakout Preview

Bridging Church and Culture: A Conference Breakout Preview

Seven years ago, Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA renovated a small, single-car garage into a downtown art space and then guess what we named it? We named it The Garage. Since then we’ve hosted monthly art openings, potluck dinners, letter-writing days, some amateur film screenings and literally hundreds of concerts (five years ago, The Lumineers played in front of eight people on a rainy Sunday, long before they were writing songs for The Hunger Games, #neverforget). The space opens out onto a street and, during concerts, passers-by either gather at the entrance or in a park on the other…

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Grace and Mercy in Chicken Fingers: Matt Redmond’s God of the Mundane

Grace and Mercy in Chicken Fingers: Matt Redmond’s God of the Mundane

I recently came across a book that really spoke to me called The God Of The Mundane: Reflections on Ordinary Life for Ordinary People (2012) by Matthew B. Redmond. The thing I like most about the book is it’s pastoral—it really ministered to me as I read it. It’s main thrust is that God is at work in the ordinariness of our mostly mundane lives. This is actually the opposite of what one often hears in Christian circles (across the ideological spectrum) that urge us to do radical things and find God in mountain-top experiences.

Here is the description on the back of the book:

This…

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PZ’s Guide to Turner Classic Movies’ “In The Ministry” Night

PZ’s Guide to Turner Classic Movies’ “In The Ministry” Night

Today, Maundy Thursday 2015, is “In the Ministry” night on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). It’s an incredible opportunity for us all. What TCM has scheduled is a feast of Hollywood fare that show Protestant ministers in a positive light. These are some of my favorite films ever, and they tend these days to get the short end.

Here are a few thoughts concerning Turner’s offerings tonight, by way of description, and I hope you’ll be able to watch them, or Tivo them. I realize it’s “Tenebrae” night, and Foot-Washing Night; but the service is usually over by 9, which will get…

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Devastating and Hopeful: Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent

Devastating and Hopeful: Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent

Looking through our archives the other day, I was surprised to discover that we’ve never posted an excerpt from The Collects of Thomas Cranmer by Paul Zahl and Fred Barbee. It’s a wonderful little book, really more of a devotional, and not just for those who are interested in Cranmer’s prayers or the Anglican tradition. Take for instance the meditation on the collect for the Second Sunday in Lent (this past Sunday):

The Collect: Almighty God, which doest see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; keep thou us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls;…

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PZ’s Podcast: Dr. Syn and Hysteria

PZ’s Podcast: Dr. Syn and Hysteria

Episode 183: Dr. Syn

Oh, to encounter an integrated minister! We all want to be integrated — to be ourselves in the pulpit and also out of it. But it’s tricky to pull off. Pharisaical elements in the church — usually one or two individuals in the parish, who are present — unconsciously — in order to hide out themselves in some way or another — can’t long abide a minister who is himself or herself.

Most of your listeners love it. But there are one or two who, well, have an allergy. (They are the ones that can get you every…

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The Hope For Some Kind of Sinners Anonymous

The Hope For Some Kind of Sinners Anonymous

Better late than never: This past week I came across a remarkable (and remarkably witty) article by Helen Rittelmeyer Andrews, published last January, on the subject of “AA Envy” that seems almost ripped from the pages of Grace in Addiction. Andrews explores why Alcoholics Anonymous gets a free pass in contemporary society when pretty much every other organization/movement that talks openly about “moral failure” and abstention from traditional vices inspires ridicule, contempt or indifference–at least in elite metropolitan circles. Indeed, if NY Times articles like this one are to be trusted, then the inventories and amend-making and low-as-you-can-go anthropology (and monergistic…

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The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

The Mercy of Heaven: A Reflection on Jürgen Moltmann’s Death-Row Penpal

Here at Mbird we spend a good deal of time hemming and hawing against the myth of humanism – that we are free to shape our own destinies, unconstrained, or mostly unconstrained, by our past, circumstances, and vices – unbound, that is, to our deeply distorted wills. The facts dismantle this myth quickly: the fact that the worst human atrocities have been committed in our most advanced century, that New Year’s resolutions quickly dwindle into February guilt, that the decades in our lives when we’re advancing and progressing tend to be the most unhappy ones. When people actually do change for the better, it…

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Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

1. Where to start with a hierarchy of most severe ‘little-l law’ in ‘secular’ society? We could start with body image, health, having cool experiences, and the like, but prosperity honestly takes the cake. And among the people who have already checked that box, it’s fast becoming political correctness. Political correctness is important, but its ascendant, uncompromising severity and occasional use as a class-code leads to a totalization which is, to say the least, in tension with the traditional (L/l)iberal ideal of discourse. Cue Camille Paglia, who had some fantastic things to say in America Magazine (Jesuits) about the backslide of feminism and…

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Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

Muted Lights of the World: The Problem of Christian Assurance

I recently got an invitation via email for a new social network for businesspeople, GoBuyside.com. While I know far too little about the finance world to receive an invitation, let alone reflect on it, I think buy side means the people who buy securities for investment, which seems like the more prestigious/lucrative: you can make a windfall if you do it right. The network’s title is clear, expressing a movement toward higher positions, bigger money, more potential for advancement.

Why in the world would you name a business networking site that? Well, it’s an identity marker in a way that LinkedIn…

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