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The Essence of Christianity (Plus)

A couple of brand-new bonus recordings to which to draw your attention on this Tuesday afternoon:

  • Scott Jones and Bill Borrer interviewing Paul Zahl about “The Essence of Christianity” for their stellar New Persuasive Words podcast (which you can subscribe to here). You might think of it as a preview of the in-person conversation they’re going to have in April:

Sometimes these things don’t turn out as well as you’d hope. But sometimes they do, which seems to have been the case here. Or so we’ve been told, thank God.

Good News From Doctor Who: On Being a Baby Christian

Good News From Doctor Who: On Being a Baby Christian

Growing up in the Deep South, I heard my fair share of churchy catchphrases. One of them is making a comeback (or it’s been here for years?), and I’m calling horse manure. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, stop calling people “Baby Christians.”

The first time I heard this phrase I was in high school. One of my closest and most faithful girlfriends was telling me all about this new guy she was dating. He was undeniably handsome, somewhat debonair, and, as she put it, a “Baby Christian.” I asked her immediately what this insider religious…

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Critical Thoughts on the Evangelical Embrace of Thomas Kinkade’s Art

Critical Thoughts on the Evangelical Embrace of Thomas Kinkade’s Art

A year and a half ago I wrote a post on Mockingbird about Thomas Kinkade, the prosperous “Painter of Light,” mostly responding to a then recent article highlighting his death due to a drug and alcohol overdose. I attempted to offer a thoughtful interpretation of Kinkade, his art, his unfortunate demise, and the Evangelical embrace of his work—how I see all of these things as interrelated. Some people disagreed, and others even regarded me as being arrogant about art and taste.

Admittedly, what I wrote was tongue-in-cheek at points. I’ve never respected Kinkade’s art, so I poked some fun at his expense, which in retrospect may have been…

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The Strange Kingship of Epiphany

The Strange Kingship of Epiphany

How better to mark the first day of Epiphany than with a contribution from the esteemed Wesley Hill, who was kind enough to send us the text of the homily he is preaching today on Matthew 2:1-12.

One of the reassuring things about the new Star Wars movie—which I confess I’ve only seen twice—is how predictable it is. Some of my friends have complained that it’s ridiculously derivative, virtually a remake of the first Star Wars from 1977, but most of us, I think, are very happy with how comforting the sameness feels. We have some of the same beloved characters…

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Heading Back to Church: The Prodigal Son and His New Year’s Resolution

Heading Back to Church: The Prodigal Son and His New Year’s Resolution

Like you, I adore and admire the New Years’ resolutions that fill my social media newsfeed every January. Please, tell me more about the Whole30 diet you are doing. Yes, I want to see your feet photos from the treadmill. Smart friends, what books you will be reading while I watch the latest incarnation of the Housewives franchise?

I kid, of course. Resolutions do have their place. There’s something hopeful about them, even when done with tongue in cheek. Something unavoidable. And Lord knows we can use all the cheerleaders we can get, virtual or no.

Just please, keep our churches out…

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Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

“If we had some bruallki, we could have bruallki and Menkooro—if we had some Menkooro.”

That famous quip from the Star Wars expanded universe (Zahn) pretty much captures the church situation. The grass often looks greener in other traditions (Eastern Orthodoxy: Iconology! Aesthetics!), and sometimes it’s easy, standing within a tradition, to appreciate how it’s evolved, often to the point it would be almost unrecognizable to adherents past. Add to that that the best solution to today’s most pressing theological problem is likely tomorrow’s heresy, and you’ve got a complicated, no-win situation. But it’s worth looking back and checking in on,…

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Never Tell Me the Odds: Growing Up with Star Wars and The Force Awakens (NO SPOILERS)

Never Tell Me the Odds: Growing Up with Star Wars and The Force Awakens (NO SPOILERS)

The new Star Wars movie hits tonight. It’s giving me the shakes.

Two years ago, I shared this post with Mockingbird readers as Disney announced the J.J. Abrams helmed Star Wars VII. Can you believe it? Some have been waiting for this movie release for 30+ years and the countdown is almost over. Tonight, at 7pm, we’ll know whether or not to have a “new hope” in this latest franchise reboot.

I won’t speak for you, but it’s been a hard two years for me, and not because of the long wait. We’ve all suffered the endless think pieces and hot takes about how…

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Exploring Our Options

Exploring Our Options

Before the year ends, I wanted to comment on a topic that’s been thrown our way quite a bit in recent months: what has come to be known as “The Benedict Option”. The term, coined by prolific conservative writer/thinker Rod Dreher and since proliferated by any number of commentators, refers to a strategy for professing Christians to interact with a culture that seems to be growing more and more hostile to its primary tenets. In light of resounding culture war defeat, Rod takes St. Benedict of Nursia as a model for how Christians might live in modern America. Speaking to World…

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From the Magazine: Mixed Messages

From the Magazine: Mixed Messages

As a short glimpse into the Technology Issue, here’s The Sermon, which came to us this time from the Rev. Aaron Zimmerman. 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day (Jn 6:35, 44)

Do you ever feel like you’re getting mixed messages? The classic ones are around gender roles: men are supposed to be tough…yet tender. Women should wear makeup…but…

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Dear Reader, I Have No Advice: Grace in Parenting

Dear Reader, I Have No Advice: Grace in Parenting

Dear Adviceless,

Our son is 16 months old and a true delight—curious, outgoing, and eager to explore the world around him. Our faith is important to both my wife and me and we want him to be raised in the church, especially since my wife is the rector of the church we attend. On Sunday mornings, she goes off to church—and my heart sinks in dread.

For some time—and definitely since our son started walking—church has been a nightmarish experience for me. It’s a small congregation and the children’s play area (for those too young for Sunday school) is in the rear…

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Hairshirts and the Priestly Fellowship: Reading J.F. Powers’ Wheat That Springeth Green

Hairshirts and the Priestly Fellowship: Reading J.F. Powers’ Wheat That Springeth Green

In a review of J.F. Powers’ book of letters, Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker refers to the mid-century writer as a Catholic cross between Chekhov and Garrison Keillor. Says Gopnik, “His tales had a Trollopean sensibility: he accepted the necessity of the divine institution, without unduly sanctifying its officials. Small rivalries (I recall one good story in which a priest with a valet engenders the envy of his colleagues) and little epiphanies (as in the beautiful ending of the story “Lions, Harts, Leaping Does,” in which a dying friar loses his pet canary in a snowstorm ) were his…

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Costumes Required: When Church is a Halloween Party

Costumes Required: When Church is a Halloween Party

A scary-good reflection from our friend, Scott Brand!

The fall is wonderful. I spent the last five years living in the perpetual summer of Florida weather, so being back in the Midwest for the leaves changing has been a wonderful recovery of the wonder of Autumn. I can wear sweaters and jeans without losing a few pounds of sweat. It makes sense to eat hot soup. Football season is matched by football weather. However, in the midst of apple picking and frolicking in the leaves, a sneaky thief comes to destroy the goodness of October–Halloween.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am…

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