Pleasantly surprised by how well this came together and greatly encouraged by the response it received. Filmed at the Liberate Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/22:
Recently a friend asked me to recommend something that a young man considering a call to ordination might profitably read. I went through “the usual suspects” (i.e., Bishop Lightfoot, John Stott, W.H. Griffith-Thomas), but actually came up with a novel, or rather a novella, to help him spell out the issues.
It is sometimes true that a work of art — a song or painting or short story or movie — gets through to me in a way that propositional non-fiction, say Bishop Lightfoot’s treatise on the ministry, does not, or maybe even cannot. I believe this is because music or…
Another Week Ends: Secret Auden, Eagleton Deicide, Remembering Wes, Method Acting, True Detective, and Russian Tourist Tips
1. Holy smokes! Have you read Edward Mendelson’s “The Secret Auden” in the NY Review of Books?! If not, run don’t walk. It’s a jaw-dropping, incredibly inspiring catalog of the clandestine episodes of grace initiated by our all-time favorite Wystan–about as honest a Matthew 6:5 vibe as I’ve come across in ages. Lest these remarkable stories be dismissed as mere hagiography, Mendelson (author of the indispensable Later Auden) doesn’t lionize the great poet, instead tracing the ‘good works’ back to their root–which is not a sense of earning or credit (clearly) but of genuine humility brought on by piercing self-knowledge….
Perhaps it’s just because I’m 30 weeks pregnant, but there seem to be articles about choosing the right baby name everywhere. Wait But Why’s exhaustive “How to Name a Baby” made the rounds recently, for example, inspiring anxiety in people who named their daughter Sophia and/or hitting all the wrong buttons for those whose parents had made the unknown mistep of naming them Jennifer in the 1970s. And then there was this gem, which, as the title suggests, is a personal account of “How Not to Name Your Baby.” The author, Tania Lombrozo, offers her story of using crowd-sourcing (no,…
Excursions & Arrivals
The sign at the corner of the property
at the foot of the driveway—”No
eighteen wheelers allowed in the church
parking lot”—may be exactly the confirmation
I needed that I am currently passing
by a Baptist church a little to the south
of Chattanooga. Was it a recurring problem
that led to its posting? Did the congregation
rebel or reach the proverbial tipping point?
Even so, I’d like to think they would make
an exception, that every once in a great
while they might wave the driver toward them
with his truckload of passengers battered
bruiseful by all of the loveless difficulties
that make up so very much of this life,
not pallets of freight they’d come to expect
but many blemished ones hungry to the point
of being famished, urgent for the Son
rising with his big paper-carrier’s bag
of good news and promises or even simple
reassurances like, You are not going
to perish now, or You are mightily
welcomed here, even though you’re fully
known here, and so on. Against hope, I hope
sometimes that those Baptists are smiling
as they direct the eighteen-wheeler’s driver
forward, forward with the bird’s-wing flutters
of their sweet, inviting hands, as if saying
Pull yourself on in here now, buddy.
You take up as many spaces as you need,
while already his long trailer is being
unlatched and its metal door rolled up
so as to let that Tennessee light pour in,
clarifying its darkened conveyances,
especially brightened on Sunday morning
as I imagine it now, while driving slowly
on Spring Creek Road south of Chattanooga.
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…
Another Week Ends: Self-Making Atheists, Structural Dating, Indiscriminate Addiction, Christian Metal, Guilty Pleasures, and Failed Figure Skaters
1. In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik took the release of two new books about the history of atheism to issue one of his periodic ‘state of modern belief” pieces. Most of the word count is devoted to the question of when the burden of proof definitively shifted from atheists to believers (The Onion weighs in here), and while there are certainly some interesting tidbits, one can’t help but be distracted by: first, wasn’t the exact opposite thing was being said five years ago?, and second, the dichotomy he embraces from one of the books is downright weird, at least…
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,…
Like many reviewers out there (and a number of my fellow Mbirds), I’ve found this season of NBC’s Parenthood to be profoundly underwhelming. But I continue to watch because I love the characters, chief among them these past couple of seasons being Hank, played by a post-Everybody Loves Raymond Ray Romano. Matter of fact, I think the Hank and Max storyline may be single-handedly salvaging this season of Parenthood for me.
If you are caught up to the 15th episode that aired Jan. 23rd, then you will know the substance of the storyline of which I am speaking. If you are not…
The first time I realized Philip Seymour Hoffman was astonishing was when I saw the movie Magnolia. In it he plays the character of a nurse named Phil Parma. Phil has been charged with caring for an elderly man dying of brain cancer. As is the case with so many nurses, Phil goes far beyond the call of duty, and attempts to connect the dying man with his prodigal son. It is a beautiful movie about the desperate pain and honesty of the human condition. And it seems appropriate that in remembering the life of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I think of this compassionate character first.
I suppose the second…
“I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.” –Franny Glass in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey
Is there any question that inspires more fascination and worry, creativity and fear, than ‘who am I?’ Or, put differently, ‘who are you?’ No matter where we are in life, the search for–and maintenance of–an identity seems to be as fundamental as it is irresolvable.
Join us this spring as we delve into the subject that occupies an embarrassing amount of our waking hours—ourselves—and explore how the grace of God might fit in. To help us, we’ve enlisted seven quite disparate identities: a novelist/professor (Francis Spufford), a moral psychologist (Jonathan Haidt), a columnist/cartoonist (Tim Kreider), a children’s book author (Sally Lloyd-Jones), a Reformation historian (Ashley Null), an Episcopal minister/preacher (Paul Walker), and, yes, a mockingbird (David Zahl). We hope the event will shed some light and maybe even some calm on this most consuming of topics.
In addition to the main presentations, there will be a full slate of breakout sessions by Mockingbird writers and volunteers, covering a wide range of topics, from theology to literature, television to aging, music to parenting, etc. Look for announcement with more details in early February.
The event is open to anyone and everyone. Just be sure to pre-register ASAP, as space is limited.
This just in: art historian Dan Siedell has agreed to lead a pre-conference gallery outing for those who arrive early on Thursday the 3rd. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
Many pastors, especially of the mainline and Catholic varieties, are required as part of their training to do a brief internship at a hospital serving as a chaplain to the sick and dying. Oh how I wish I had read the recent blog post by Catherine Woodiwess and the accompanying op-ed by David Brooks that appeared today in The NY Times before I stumbled through my own hospital rotation a few years back! It would have saved me (and more importantly the patients I visited) a good deal of unnecessary grief.
Woodiwess offers a few bullet-point reflections on her own trauma…
From Gerhard Forde’s Where God Meets Man, one of the most grace-packed bits of Lutheran theology out there, despite the retro cover design:
“It is in this theology of old versus new that we can see, finally, the reason for Luther’s formulation of the problem of bondage and freedom. The old Adam is totally bound. No compromise is possible with him. To allow him a ‘little bit’ of freedom is to open the doors to the whole sticky attempt to combine grace with his fraudulent spiritual ambitions. It is to bind man to his self-imposed legalisms and reduce God to his helper. It is to reintroduce the insipid piety of the ‘little bit.’ There is absolutely no way to cure this old Adam, no way to allow him into the picture. He is ‘totally depraved.’ He must die. And that is just what the Gospel means. The cross and resurrection sounds his death knell. Almighty God moves onto the scene to reclaim his own.
And so the gospel is the announcement and realization of total freedom. It is not a matter of little bits. God moves in Christ to raise up a new man – a completely free man – not just to do a partial repair job. When the old Adam is put to death one is set free from bondage to spiritual ambition, legalism, and tyranny. And Luther, for one, meant this quite literally. One is absolutely free. It is a total state.”