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Grace in Practice

Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

Singing Love Songs to Addicts (and Earth People, Too)

Been a while since we checked in on the world of addiction. Back in January The Huffington Post ran an article with the transparently baiting title of “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think” that went viral. I think we mentioned it in a weekender. It was the work of Johann Hari, a controversial British journalist and author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. In June Hari gave a TED talk–embedded below–based on the same material, in which he stresses the social factors that…

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PZ’s Eight Easy Ways To Shrink Your Church

The strangest thing happened. The other day, just after penning his “Ten Ways to Grow Your Church”, PZ was looking through an old box of letters and found a sealed envelope he’d never seen before. The return address read only “Screwtape”. He was so surprised and bedazzled by its contents (reprinted below) that he almost missed the subheading on the envelope, “Do not open until 2015″

Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church

Just in case you’re not yet part of the program, there is still time. Here is how:

server1) Preach to your congregation not as individuals but as a “worshiping community”. This way, no individual sufferer will get the idea that God has a word for him or her concretely.

2) Try to schedule a Public Baptism at every main Sunday service. This works well over time, because (a) the people who only came for the Public Baptism won’t come back anyway; and (b) the individual seeker whose personal need drew him to church that Sunday will feel completely out of things and also never come back. A major advantage of having Public Baptisms at the main Sunday service is that it prevents the preacher from giving a serious, sustained message. This is key.

3) Schedule as many possible Sunday morning awards ceremonies for your young people’s choirs. This way you can guarantee interminable rounds of applause for individuals whom a visitor has never met, in connection with an activity of which a newcomer can scarcely conceive. Schedule at least four of these per year, though six is better.

4) Get your congregation to stand as long as possible and as much as possible during the service. This helps make newcomers and seekers feel uncomfortable psychologically and physically. It has the excellent corollary of discouraging an attitude of repentance and remorse. Since newcomers and visitors often come with a burdened heart and brain, you want to deprive them, if you can, of relief from the very thing that drew them to church. Especially get your congregation to stand during the penitential parts of the service. Better yet, delete those parts.

7c249490529ac511ec31b95ff6bead0fad257dcb5) Emphasize and re-emphasize that the main reason people come to church is their “hunger for community”. See your listeners primarily as social animals who have constructed themselves as collective beings rather than troubled, anxious souls. This way you will miss the reason they come to church. Focus on community long enough as an end in itself, and you can probably drive away even the most loyal member of your parish. This method takes about four years to work completely.

6) Make sure your sermons have no compelling illustrations. This means that no one will remember a thing you said and they can go home without needing to think about what happened in church. Make religious assertions — orthodox assertions are fine, too — but don’t apply them to individual pain. Over about three years this method can thin your numbers nicely.

7) Constantly remind your congregation to do more in the way of social justice. This works especially well when you have 20 or so stalwarts left in the congregation and they’re not exhausted enough yet to stop coming on Sundays. Always “up the ante” of demand as your numbers go down. This speeds things up beautifully.

8) Make sure your organist or director of music always chooses the hymns for Sunday morning. This way no one will know any of them, especially visitors or newcomers. That’s an advantage in making sure they don’t come back.

Lay Down Your Weary Tune (in NYC) – David Zahl

The closing talk from our Spring NYC Conference – only loosely related to the talk of the same name given in Tyler:

Lay Down Your Weary Tune – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

PZ’s Podcast Episode 200: Catatonia

PtL! PZ’s Podcast hits quite a milestone today, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to point newcomers to this guide to PZP world. It doubles as a fond look back. Oh and we’re aware of the difficulties listeners are having with a handful of older episodes. Hoping to have them re-uploaded in the next week or two. Thank you for your patience.

EPISODE 200

This is not the Who’s Final Tour. (They always come back.) So maybe it is the Who’s Final Tour.

Whatever it is, it’s Podcast 200, and that’s a benchmark. Somehow. So I decided to sum up the two core themes of the last… 100 or so casts, and also tell you something that’s blown my mind recently. It’s an instance of catatonia by way of Catalonia.

Seriously, the two core themes of PZ’s Podcast are the durability and necessity of romantic connection; and the presence of God when a person is at the end of his or her rope. ‘God meets us at our point of need.’

Gosh, I’ve seen that happen a lot. Not least of all, to me.

And I know, too, from Mary — ‘Along Comes Mary’ (The Association) — that the boy-girl side of things is paramount. Nothing above it.

Now, for 23 short minutes, Come Fly With Me.

Confessions of a Grace Bully

Confessions of a Grace Bully

This confession comes to us from Scott Brand.

Recently, I decided to move from Orlando to St. Louis for school. During the transition, I stopped for a week in Columbus, OH, to stay with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Most of my family still resides in Columbus, and, for the last five years, I haven’t been able to visit home very much. It was a good time to reconnect and catch up with cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as begin the process of making my nieces not terrified of the bearded monster that insists on…

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PZ’s Podcast: Shag (The Movie), Cimarron, The Sacraments Rightly Understood, Mirage Fighter, and What Actually Happens

PZ’s Podcast: Shag (The Movie), Cimarron, The Sacraments Rightly Understood, Mirage Fighter, and What Actually Happens

Episode 195: Shag (The Movie)

That’s a great little movie, from 1989. But I’m afraid it’s going to get banned one of these days, by the Ministry of Truth. Right from the “get go”, there’s an image in it that’s distressing today.

Which gives me a chance to talk Christianly about how to deal with
distressing or upsetting material? Do you rid yourself of it by burning it? By hauling it down and cutting it up, and “take out the paper and the trash” (The Coasters, 1958)? Ecrasez l’infame!?

I don’t think that works. (Wish it did.) The averse material, if it touches something…

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PZ’s Podcast: Cross Dressing and Left Hand Path

PZ’s Podcast: Cross Dressing and Left Hand Path

EPISODE 193: Cross Dressing

“I’m absolutely captivated by a movie called The Gallant Hours (1959), starring James Cagney and directed by Robert Montgomery.

For one thing, it presents an ideal picture of how a person should be thanked for faithful service. And what a piece of work the “Church” is,
that it’s so rarely able to give thanks for the work of its servants. (Oh, unless they’re newly dead. Thank God he’s dead!) It’s almost as if the Church specializes in forgetfulness concerning the brightest and best. I’ve seen that happen in about 500 cases, my own, of course, being an exception.

More importantly,…

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I’m New Here! What’s Going On? – Jacob Smith & Sarah Condon

A crowd favorite from our Spring Conference, featuring quite the dynamic duo:

I’m New Here! What’s Going On? – Jacob Smith & Sarah Condon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Nerd Alert! The Curious Rehabilitation of Geeks

Nerd Alert! The Curious Rehabilitation of Geeks

Of all the reversals we’ve seen take place in our culture of late, one of the most unexpected has to be what’s happened with “nerds”. If you had told me in 1988 that the group of oddballs who sold me and my friends our comic books every Saturday would come to dominate the mainstream, part of me would’ve wanted to believe you, but wouldn’t have.

Back then, “nerd” was a label to be avoided not embraced. It wasn’t a synonym for shy or misunderstood or even studious as it is today (though those traits often fell under its umbrella). Nor was…

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A Tale of Two Podcasts

A Tale of Two Podcasts

I recently went back to work (does one day a week count as going back? I say YES!) and, with a thirty-minute-minimum commute each way, wondered how to make the most of my hour spent in the car. I wanted to use the time effectively–productively, even–because, as a parent of young kids, I look at blocks of alone time much like Gollum looks at the ring.

After completing and singing the praises of Serial, I searched for another podcast that could fill my commute and leave me more informed than when I ambivalently climbed into the car that morning, tears both blurring and…

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PZ’s Podcast: PZ’s Fabulous New Dating Tips for Gals

EPISODE 190

This is a word to your future self. I’m not sure you can hear it now. But in five or ten years… OMG. You’ll hear it then, inside your head pounding like a perpetual hammer, and… you’ll remember.

It’s a comment on internet dating, and a massive warning. You may want to say back, Don’t take away the only hope I have for a non-alone life. Don’t pour cold water on the one thing I’ve got.

But it’s not cold water. It’s actually balm in Gilead. But to your future self! In five or ten years, and maybe in five or six months, “You’ll come running back” (Time Is On My Side, The Rolling Stones). You’ll hear this again and say, Dang!

Incidentally, at the end of the cast I offer a future. There is still a way. Love is out there, but… yet… nevertheless… however… better to be alone than be crucified on the altar of a man’s body and mind collapsing aeons before yours does.

This is your Ghost of Christmas Future speaking.

I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Grace: Thoughts on The Useful Sinner

I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Grace: Thoughts on The Useful Sinner

Culturally we spend a lot of time talking about a kind of “pay it forward” do gooderism. You know, you pay for a random stranger’s Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks and then they pay for somebody’s Lemonade Coolerista (just kidding, they haven’t started making those yet). Perfect strangers in perfect harmony, as the thinking goes. Or maybe you are familiar with the pebble theory. We drop a pebble of kindness into water and the ripple effect is such that even more encouraging acts come from this one moment of positivity.

I love this way of seeing humanity. But it lives in denial…

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