Forgiveness
Eminem Writes the Textbook on Reconciliation… Sort Of

Eminem Writes the Textbook on Reconciliation… Sort Of

When I teach students about reconciliation, I start with an unexpected source: Eminem. Believe it or not, his new track, “Headlights,” serves not only as a musical olive branch to his mother but as a beautiful example of human reconciliation. At the same time, the rapper demonstrates an interesting deviation from this approach when he considers divine reconciliation.

Eminem describes his tense, explosive arguments with his mother as “atomic bombs” and the climate of his house growing up as “Vietnam.” He suggests that his mother struggled with alcoholism to such a degree that the state ultimately seized his younger brother, Nate,…

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Robert Farrar Capon and the Anti-Heroic Church

From his take on the Parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8).

And there, if you will, is the ultimate dilemma of the church. The one thing it doesn’t dare try to sell–for fear of being laughed out of town–turns out to be the only thing it was sent to sell. But because it more often than not caves in to its fear of ridicule, it gives the world the perennial spectacle of an institution eager to peddle anything but its authentic merchandise. I can stand up in the pulpit and tell people that God is angry, mean, and nasty; I can tell them he is so good they couldn’t possibly come within a million miles of him; and I can lash them into a frenzy of trying to placate him with irrelevant remorse and bogus good behavior–with sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings, all of which are offered by the law (Heb 10:8); but I cannot stand there and tell them the truth that he no longer cares a fig for their sacred guilt or their precious lists of good deeds, responsible outlooks, and earnest intentions. I can never just say to them that God has abolished all those oppressive, godly requirements in order that he might grant them free acceptance by his death on the cross. Because when I do that, they can conclude only one of two things: either that I am crazy or that God is. But alas, God’s sanity is the ultimate article of their non-faith. Therefore, despite Scripture’s relentless piling up of proof that he is a certifiable nut–that he is the Crazy Eddie of eternity, whose prices are insane–it always means that I am the one who gets offered a ticket to the funny farm.

Which is all right, I guess. After the unjust steward, the unjust judge, and the God who hasn’t got the integrity to come down from the cross and zap the world into shape, it’s a nice, rough approximation of justification by grace alone, through faith.

NYC Preview: Ye Who Are Heavy Laden: Anxiety, Suffering and the Gospel

NYC Preview: Ye Who Are Heavy Laden: Anxiety, Suffering and the Gospel

We all, at one point or another, have experienced anxiety or suffering to some degree, and many of us have experienced both. The way our world addresses anxiety is to offer temporal solutions that may (to some extent) ease the physical side-effects of anxiety. But, in the grand scheme of anxiety itself, these temporal solutions do nothing for the root problem: I’m actually anxious, I’m actually stressed. The same can be said for the way our world addresses suffering; often the solutions offered to the sufferer do nothing for the greater problem: I’m actually suffering, I’m actually hurting.  We’d tell…

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A Memo to Hall of Famers

A Memo to Hall of Famers

This comes from Howie Espenshied.

Emmitt Smith, NFL all-time rushing leader–fired!  Shannon Sharpe, an NFL hall of famer who finished his career atop all of the tight end categories–fired! (last week). Dan Marino, retired with the most broken records of any quarterback in history–fired! (also last week). Joe Montana, the greatest NFL QB of all-time, was encouraged to quit before he was fired. What do these four have in common?  They were all dismissed from the jobs they took immediately after their storybook NFL careers ended. “Network NFL Studio Analyst” was the career of choice.

What happened?  Certainly they are all subject…

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Does Raising Awareness Work?

Does Raising Awareness Work?

Sometimes, but maybe not as well as we’d like to think. I work in a downtown pedestrian area, and on any given walk to a coffeeshop or lunch spot, if the weather’s nice there will be environmentalists, Global Medical Brigades reps, pro-Tibetans, and other generally worthy and important causes. ‘Did you know…”. I can say, personally, that I do know, most of the time, what’s going on – I just tend not to act on it. I know the environment’s deteriorating but am often too lazy to recycle, etc. The assumption behind raising awareness is that if more people know…

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Lecturing the Prodigal Son(s) in The NY Times

Lecturing the Prodigal Son(s) in The NY Times

A few thoughts on some recent Internet Prodigal Son banter, from David Zahl and Will McDavid:

As much as I admire The NY Times, it’s not where I go to read about grace. You? And yet, David Brooks was back at it again this week, talking about the parable of the prodigal son(s) and endorsing grace as an essential factor in crafting social policy for those who’ve squandered their inheritance/potential/goodwill. Check it out:

We live in a divided society in which many of us in the middle- and upper-middle classes are like the older brother and many of the people who drop…

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Jeff Orr, Helmet Sundaes, and the Anatomy of the Heckler

Jeff Orr, Helmet Sundaes, and the Anatomy of the Heckler

This morning’s sports column comes from our new sports writer Howie Espenshied.

I have the dubious privilege of being a high school basketball official.  We’re the ones in stripes out there, only noticed when a mistake is made.  Coming up through the ranks, some of the most pronounced heckling I have experienced have come from the parents during 12-year-old rec games.  I have waved off my share of baskets because a sixth grader took several steps on his way to the hoop, but man, does that call ever incur the wrath of mom and dad.  I don’t mind having my ancestry…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Chapter Six Verses Fifteen through Twenty Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Chapter Six Verses Fifteen through Twenty Five

This morning’s Hopelessly comes from the one and only Bryan Jarrell.

Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. (Joshua 6:15-25, NIV)

Joshua 6 tells the story of the fall of Jericho, one of the most spectacular and disturbing stories in the Old Testament. You know…

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On TV: Sherlock, “His Last Vow”

On TV: Sherlock, “His Last Vow”

Without a doubt, the finale was masterful, the best of the series, partly because Sherlock wasn’t in control. Indeed, Charles Augustus Magnussen feeds off of control, licking, in the opening scene, an MP leading the investigation against him, merely to prove that he can. He refers to his game not as blackmail but as ownership; his ability to reveal the darker spots of public figures’ pasts places them all within his power.

At the level of public politics, this control is frightening but (mostly) impersonal. Where “His Last Vow” succeeds is in bringing Magnussen down to the level of everyday people,…

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A View to a Death: Paul Zahl’s Christianity for the Dying

A View to a Death: Paul Zahl’s Christianity for the Dying

This quote comes from our inimitable purveyor of one-way love (and world religion!), Paul F.M. Zahl, in his latest work, PZ’s Panopticon:

“This guide to world religion is written through the lens of a near-death panopticon. It takes the position of a person who finds himself floating up the wall, on the ceiling, looking down helplessly as the surgeons try to save his body on the operating table…

Religion is not about the superiority of one concept in comparison to another concept.

Rather, religion is about salvation in the most imminent sense of the word. Religion is…

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Another Week Ends: The Geel System, Secular Happiness, GMOs, the Faith of Malcolm Gladwell, and Bobby Petrino (Again)

Another Week Ends: The Geel System, Secular Happiness, GMOs, the Faith of Malcolm Gladwell, and Bobby Petrino (Again)

1) Aeon covers the small, “half-crazy” Belgian town of Geel, where the mentally ill have taken refuge and been given a family for over seven centuries. Given its reputation in the 1300s after the martyr Dymphna was killed by her mentally ill father, the town has become well-known by Belgians as a place of respite for the mentally handicapped, where they are brought into a family and treated as such. The tradition continues today, and people wonder where the lines have been drawn between “therapy,” whatever that means, and “belonging.” The people of Geel even built a hospital on the…

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The Dangers of Transformation and the Hope of Mercy in a Suicidal Church (and World)

The Dangers of Transformation and the Hope of Mercy in a Suicidal Church (and World)

The other day I was chatting with someone about why they got out of teaching (grade school), and I was surprised by their answer. It wasn’t the long hours or the short pay or even the endless red tape and administrative dysfunction. They hadn’t lost their love for the kids or their dreams about making a difference. Nor had they been (overly) discouraged by cycles of poverty. Their beef was with what they called the “pathology of transformation” in their particular school system. The way this guy saw it, the emphasis, however well-meaning, on getting the kids to where they…

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You Can Never Have Enough (Copies of Tomb of Ligeia): A PZ’s Panopticon Teaser

You Can Never Have Enough (Copies of Tomb of Ligeia): A PZ’s Panopticon Teaser

As we approach the holiday season, in which I look forward to Paradox Interactive’s Europa Universalis IV and a new sweater for the frigid mid-Atlantic, I was recently reminded of the floater, a (non-) fictional man on the ceiling lovingly created by Paul F.M. Zahl, an out-of-body person watching the doctors operate on his body. What could each religion mean to him, when he needs it most? Specifically, things – a new historic simulation video game or a Tauntaun sleeping bag?

Zahl, in his newest book, PZ’s Panopticon, examines the religion of Things in a remarkably fresh way, using his ‘panopticon’ (‘all-seeing’) of…

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The Idiot Forgiveness of Nelson Mandela

The Idiot Forgiveness of Nelson Mandela

I spent a semester during my Junior year of high school at a boarding school in the countryside of South Africa. It is a beautiful country with a vibrant cultural heritage. Yesterday, God called one of South Africa’s proudest sons home, Nelson Mandela, and I thought it would be apropos to celebrate the ways in which his life illustrated God’s idiot forgiveness.

Mandela was a political activist in South Africa under the brutal and repressive Apartheid system. Apartheid was a system of government largely run by the Afrikaners (descendants of the German and Dutch colonists of the area) which functioned by…

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Robert Farrar Capon on Self-Knowledge and Atonement

Robert Farrar Capon on Self-Knowledge and Atonement

Our pride drives us to establish our own righteousness. We strive all our life to see ourselves as keepers of rules we cannot keep, as loyal subjects of laws under which we can only be judged outlaws. Yet so deep is our need to derive our identity from our own self-respect – so profound our conviction that unless we watch our step, the watchbird will take away our name – that we will spend a lifetime trying to do the impossible rather than, for even one carefree minute, consent to having it done for us by someone else.

Really, no one…

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