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Death

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

It turns out that Stephen Colbert has a sign on his computer that reads, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.” No joke. I tell you this by way of context for what comes next. GQ ran a profile of him this month entitled “The Late, Great Stephen Colbert”, checking in with the comedian (and, according to the article, “one of the country’s few public moral intellectuals”!) before he kicks off his much-anticipated stint as host of The Late Show in September. The article is jaw-dropping. What starts out with a story about Colbert needling Eminem on…

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NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 31:  A man rides in a canoe in high water after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area August 31, 2005 in New Orleans.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Remembering Katrina 10 Years Later

I can hardly believe that it’s been a decade since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. For better or worse, I always think of the storm as a kind of before/after moment in my life. Before I realized that my personal diatribes are mostly useless. Before I understood that my judgment never matters. Before I knew how deeply God loves his creation.

I was standing in my apartment at the University of Mississippi the day after the storm made land. Public radio opened their lines up for people to call in and talk about what was happening as it was happening;…

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Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

Sex and Death: The Existentialism of King Solomon and Ernest Hemingway

We live our lives bounded by those two mysteries, birth and death—our beginning and our end—and in between we stumble about in the dark, looking for the light, or at least for a good pair of existential shoes so we will not cut our feet quite so much on the sharp edges of Reality as we head for the Exit. What most of us find is ordinary life. The accidents of history have for now enclosed a space in which a wide swath of humanity—though not all of us, to be sure—experience ordinariness in the prosperity and pleasures of an…

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Of Death & Southern Comfort: The Making of an Everyday Priest

Of Death & Southern Comfort: The Making of an Everyday Priest

Walking through an abandoned rent house and seeing the ruins of former tenants is an exercise in human connection—archaeology of life, or the privation of it. In nearly twenty years, I haven’t often found deep meaning in getting a house “rent ready,” but I find myself being taken in by the nihilistic futility of Rust Cohle as I traverse from one scene of archaeological ruin to the next. Nothing draws these connections as powerfully, though, as when the ruins are left in a tenant’s wake even though their earthly body still blocks the house’s front entrance. This just happened a…

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ORG XMIT: VTBUR101 In this Tuesday, April 19, 2011 photo, Ashley Koetsier, 21, of Woodstock, Vt., reads about a college student who died by suicide from a small laminated plaque attached to a backpack on the green outside Davis Center at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.  Active Minds, a student group dedicated to promoting increased dialogue about mental health and incidents and impacts of sucide, placed 1,100 backpacks representing victims, dozens with personal stories of student suicide. (AP Photo/The Burlington Free Press,  Ryan Mercer) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT TV OUT

Penn Faces and Campus Tragedies: More Notes on an Epidemic

Here’s why I didn’t want to write about Julie Scelfo’s recent article “Campus Suicide and the Pressure of Perfection” in The NY Times:

It is not because we’ve written about the phenomenon too many times already–though we have. It is because writing about it again only serves to underline how futile-seeming these kinds of reflections are. Who wants to spend an afternoon basking in despair? Or mitigating the despair by placing oneself above it all? It is deeply unpleasant.

This past year Charlottesville witnessed four undergraduate suicides, and I’m not sure I can muster the energy to cartwheel yet again over the…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Forty Six

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Forty Six

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Jady Koch.

…“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, ESV)

In this cry of Jesus from the cross, it seems paradoxical that these despairing words have given people such comfort. In Cross-Shattered Christ, theologian Stanley Hauerwas explains that those who have suffered, who live in the aftermath of Auschwitz or 9/11, are those who seem to quickly identify with this verse: “We do so because we think we have some idea about what it means to be forsaken…” But he continues:

That we can even begin to entertain such thoughts is but…

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Death in a Penthouse Apartment

Death in a Penthouse Apartment

About two months ago, my five housemates and I began to notice a strange, persistent odor emanating from the left bathroom of our “penthouse” (read: dingy attic) apartment. For close to a week no one said anything, all suspecting each other of some unmentionable mishap we couldn’t prove. Of course, we ourselves couldn’t be the culprit, but surely someone had to be responsible for the funk. It was a tense time we spent giving each other the sidelong through squinted eyes.

Days passed and we began to give up on each other’s good will and ability to do right, so we…

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We’re All Gonna Die: Sufjan Stevens and the Unavoidable Reality

We’re All Gonna Die: Sufjan Stevens and the Unavoidable Reality

This one comes to us from Connor Gwin:

It was perhaps one of the most interesting gatherings of people that I have ever seen. Bearded, flannel-clad hipsters crowding into a concert venue next to political operatives in dark suits wrinkled by the days ordeals. Teenagers with their parents, young and old couples, friends and strangers – the whole muddled mess of humanity gathered in DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. to see Sufjan Stevens.

While not up-to-date with his current work, I still had a place in my heart for his warbling falsetto when a friend of mine offered me a ticket…

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Eight Must-See 30 for 30s: A Magazine List

Eight Must-See 30 for 30s: A Magazine List

Another list from Issue 4, this one covers all that the sports world could not leave behind:

It would seem that the reach of ESPN’s 30 for 30 project surprised even ESPN. One might have imagined that a selection of human-interest stories and documentaries from the nether regions of the sports world could have some cult potential for the multitude of fans out there, but people are almost always surprised to know that there are more than just 30 of these documentaries under the franchise’s belt. They are also not 30 minutes long, another misconception. No, the reason for the name 30…

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Imagining Death: New Hope from the Anatomy Lab

Imagining Death: New Hope from the Anatomy Lab

This comes from Mockingfriend Lex Booth. 

A. On your whole brain specimens, cut horizontal sections to dissect the dorsal cerebrum bilaterally down to the level of the corpus callosum using ~1cm thick slices. Please keep the blade wet throughout this lab.

I’m nearing the end of my first year in medical school, and the other day I dissected a brain. For those of you who might be wondering, I’d say the consistency lands somewhere between tofu and Jello, but apparently the formaldehyde makes everything look and feel different. Either way, that stuff smells nasty.

After a semester of hurrying in the anatomy lab…

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Cold Dead Hands: The Everything and Nothing of a Clean Slate (A Conference Preview)

This morning’s conference preview comes from Sarah Condon. Oh, and may we refer you to the (ridiculous!) menu we’re offering at the conference? Goodness.

After an especially long days at Casa Condon, when the kids are demanding, the husband is cranky, and I am starting to treat my family like there’s a camera crew from Bravo about to capture my own personal breakthrough/breakdown, one thought often comes into my mind: Someday, I get to be dead. Gosh, that’s going to be nice. Everything will be quiet.

shutterstock_201599033But the news of a Clean Slate rolls in and tells me I already am dead. Or, at least I am in the process of dying. I have been given a Clean Slate in Christ and in the immortal words of Mbird favorite Robert Farrar Capon:

The whole slop-closet full of mildewed performances (which is all you have to offer) is simply your death; it is Jesus who is your life. If he refused to condemn you because your works were rotten, he certainly isn’t going to flunk you because your faith isn’t so hot. You can fail utterly, therefore, and still live the life of grace. You can fold up spiritually, morally, or intellectually and still be safe. Because at the very worst, all you can be is dead – and for him who is the Resurrection and the Life, that just makes you his cup of tea.

I also want to talk about what we mean when we trot out the much beloved Romans 6, “Dead to sin, alive in Christ.” What do we mean by this death? What do we lose by dying? And are we really the ones who choose to give it up?

If you’re thinking this sounds dark, you are right on the money. But if you’re sick of acting like Starbucks platitudes are life-giving, then join us for this talk. We’ve got a club and a handshake. And the only requirement is inevitable death.

The world tells us we can control our behavioral destinies. We can make choices to improve ourselves and our nasty, hidden habits. Well, bullhockey. I don’t think we do anything, except that we start dying. And God, in all of His mercy, pries our #bestlifenow from our cold dead hands. And offers us the sweet relief of a Clean Slate. Clean of our heartbreak. Clean of our grudges. Clean of our sin.

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…

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