Grace in Practice
Another Week Ends: Cosmopolitans, Accepting Feedback, Instagram Envy, Ideology Trumping Art, Hawaii Sucks, Muggles, and Mudbloods

Another Week Ends: Cosmopolitans, Accepting Feedback, Instagram Envy, Ideology Trumping Art, Hawaii Sucks, Muggles, and Mudbloods

1. While we try to stay away from plugging anything too exuberantly, and Lord knows TV/movie recs can make one less likely to watch, not more, still – writer/director Whit Stillman is coming out with a new show on Amazon, Cosmopolitans, which sounds like a not-so-veiled reference to his acclaimed feature debut about young WASP life in NYC. Vanity Fair this week got a preview of the pilot, and TV snobs will be heartened to know that Stillman cited Everybody Loves Raymond and Desperate Housewives as favorites. Cautiously optimistic, Stillman said that even if the show doesn’t get picked up, he’s happy to have just a pilot: “I really feel that…

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Steve Brown on the Laughter of the Forgiven

WBGIGE_13610f86-7f95-48b5-8411-f07cf247ee34_1024x1024Mockingbird-favorite Steve Brown’s classic, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough (recently revised in a new edition), calls us to enter the impasse of the overcontrolled Christian, half-looking at ourselves or at others with one eye, while the other one’s uneasily flitting back and forth to the scoreboard, seeing how things are measuring up. It admits that despite our doctrinal sophistication, our born-again spiritual credentials, our good work, and/or our pursuit of holiness, something still seems to missing. Brown says we miss laughter, the normal reaction to one’s own silliness or unexpected good fortune, because we take ourselves very seriously – especially in faith – and try to expect, predict, and control for everything. How could there be laughter in those circumstances? How can there be?

One story of his follows a woman who moved from having everything under control to being forced to give it up, ht JH:

Early in my ministry I counseled a woman who, some twenty years before, had been unfaithful to her husband. For years that sin had haunted her. I was the first person she had ever told about it. After we talked and prayed for a long time, I recommended she tell her husband. (That, by the way, isn’t always the advice I give. In this case, I knew the woman’s husband and knew that her revelation, after the initial shock, would probably strengthen their marriage.) It wasn’t easy for her, but she promised she would tell him. “Pastor,” she said, “I trust you enough to do what you ask, but if my marriage falls apart as a result, I want you to know I’m going to blame you.” She didn’t smile when she said that, either.

That’s when I commenced to pray with a high degree of seriousness. (I pray best when I’m scared.) “Father,” I prayed, “if I gave her dumb advice, forgive me and clean up my mess.”

I saw her the next day, and she looked fifteen years younger. “What happened?” I asked. “When I told him,” she exclaimed, “replied that he had known about the incident for twenty years and was just waiting for me to tell him so he could tell me how much he loved me!” And then she started to laugh. “He forgave me twenty years ago, and I’ve been needlessly carrying all this guilt for all these years!” Perhaps you are like this woman who had been forgiven and didn’t know it.

 

PZ’s Podcast: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

EPISODE 171: If You Can’t Stand the Heat

IMG_3572Guess I never tire of quoting Gerald Heard’s maxim about opting out: “The verb to escape is clear enough — it means to leave a position which has become impossible.”

There’s a long back-and-forth within the history of Christian endeavor as to the relative merit of engaging a fallen world in the hope of transforming it; or opting out of it in order to watch, wait and pray. Many dedicated saints have taken the first road. Many others have taken the second. There is obviously room for both.

This podcast examines the second road, and offers another element, too. You could entitle the talk “Feel to Heal”. I believe it, in any event.

Something happened to me on the 26th of July in London, Ontario. I knew it was happening when it was happening. It was even captured “on tape”. You can hear it at the end of this cast, about five minutes into the concluding music. “Good God,” I said to my friend — over the shouting — “he’s really doing it!” Speechless we were. Hope you will be, too, in a good way.

The Lame Shall Enter First: Remembering Flannery O’Connor, Fifty Years Later

The Lame Shall Enter First: Remembering Flannery O’Connor, Fifty Years Later

A woman once wrote Flannery O’Connor, whose stories spanned such plots as misfit murderers, rapacious Bible salesmen, and racist old men, and the woman suggested Flannery’s stories weren’t uplifting. Complaining about the criticism in a letter to a friend, O’Connor said she would’ve found them uplifting, “if her heart were in the right place.”

Flannery’s stories usually involved the all-out assault on the human illusion of mastery and independence, undertaken desperately and absurdly. An invalid for years, you can almost hear O’Connor’s relish as she describes various medical aids:

The brace shop was a small concrete warehouse lined and stacked with the equipment…

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Jogarza and the Only Left-Handed Catcher (Ever): Netflix’s Battered Bastards of Baseball

Jogarza and the Only Left-Handed Catcher (Ever): Netflix’s Battered Bastards of Baseball

A look into the new Netflix documentary on the scrappy, beer-belching, independent pro baseball team, Portland’s Mavericks, and the joke they pulled on Major League Baseball.

The Courage to Be “Weird”

The Courage to Be “Weird”

The internet got a little bit stranger this week with the release of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s newest album, Mandatory Fun. For close to 40 years now, Weird Al has embraced everything counterculture, playfully mocking the earnestness of 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s versions of “cool.” From Michael Jackson to Celine Dion, from Star Wars to the Beverly Hillbillies, there are few pop culture themes and memes that the musical master of parody has left untouched.

Weird Al predates me. I discovered him as a nerdy elementary schooler at a friend’s sleep-over. All we third and fourth graders howled with laughter,…

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The Jilted Lover Rejoices! Lebron Goes Home

The Jilted Lover Rejoices! Lebron Goes Home

The biggest professional sports play in their history is notoriously referred to as “The Fumble”. Their NFL owner literally packed up their beloved team and moved them to Baltimore in the middle of the night. Their NFL team has been in existence for 68 years and has never sniffed a Super Bowl, let alone won one. Their MLB team hasn’t won a World Series title since the ’40s. Their NBA team has been around since 1970, zero championships. Futility, thy name is Cleveland.

That’s not to say that the city hasn’t had it’s sports moments.  The Indians have found their way back…

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“Louie” Discussion 2.0 – A Season 4 Recap

“Louie” Discussion 2.0 – A Season 4 Recap

With the final five episodes of the fourth season of Louie, Blake (B.I.C) and I felt like another conversation over the remainder of the season was in order. So. For your perusal, here is part two of our ongoing email conversations on this season of Louie.

Blake: So there are two main story lines that must be dealt with to complete our coverage of this season of Louie. One is the about Pamela (who has been a love interest of Louie’s off and on throughout the seasons) and the other is a couple of episodes that deal with Louie’s middle school…

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The Messy Truth of the Axe Effect

The Messy Truth of the Axe Effect

Before the early 2000’s, the mention of the word “axe” conjured up visions of heavily bearded, weapon wielding men; men who were cloaked in bright red, pre-hipsterdom flannel, the kind of flannel that a man could wear while walking through a forest of ten foot tall thorn bushes and come out unscathed. Maybe hearing the word would even force out an occasional banshee like “TIMBER!” scream. But now, the word axe, attacks a different sense. It brings back the toxic smells of an overly fumigated high school boy’s locker room. Or, if you are a girl, the scent of that…

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Another Week Ends: Capitalist Christians, Parents Teaching Achievement (Not Empathy), Post-Penitent Pantene, Sedaris’s Journey to the Ends of the Law (and Back), Antinomian Aucklanders,  and Crooked-Timber Anthropology

Another Week Ends: Capitalist Christians, Parents Teaching Achievement (Not Empathy), Post-Penitent Pantene, Sedaris’s Journey to the Ends of the Law (and Back), Antinomian Aucklanders, and Crooked-Timber Anthropology

1. The New York Times hosted a debate asking the question of whether capitalism has become incompatible with Christianity. It’s a pretty interesting forum, and some highlights with commentary are below:

[Gary Dorrien, Union:] The field I teach, social ethics, was founded in the late 19th century as a protest against capitalist ideology. American social gospel theologian Walter Rauschenbusch put it poignantly: “Capitalism has overdeveloped the selfish instincts in all of us and left the capacity of devotion to larger ends shrunken and atrophied.” Pope Leo XIII described capitalism as a system defined by the callousness of employers and the greed of unrestrained competition, including its…

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“Lest Ye Be Judged” – Dean Esskew and his Umpire Church

“Lest Ye Be Judged” – Dean Esskew and his Umpire Church

What if you made your living passing judgement? What if you, on the rarest of occasions (and without the intention of doing so) passed judgement incorrectly? (Maybe one time in 100). What if, for each “one” time, you were mercilessly berated and held responsible for ruining the “day” of tens of thousands? Keep in mind, you were absolutely stellar and were cheered (albeit unwittingly) the other 99 times. It doesn’t matter though. That one time? It can’t possibly be made up for by the other 99 cheers you heard because, honestly?, those cheers were for someone else. That one miscue?…

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Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Finding Myself at The Ontario Symposium; or Self-Forgetfulness

Back in 1988, a bunch of social psychologists met in a sunny Canadian province to run through new experiments, theories, and approaches in social psych research. The theme was self-inference processes, or the ways we make judgments – accurate or inaccurate, constructive or merely descriptive – about, you know, who we are. The result is a mostly mundane, dry, and technical body of psych literature, littered with revolutionary insights into who we are (which, nonetheless, Luther had arguably discovered or personally reified centuries before), leavened with some real, concrete, original insight.

We’ve covered less psychology of late on the site, partly because it feels the field…

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Hopelessly Devoted: 1 Samuel 8:9-22

Hopelessly Devoted: 1 Samuel 8:9-22

This morning’s reflection comes from Leonard Finn, by way of the Mockingbird Devotional:

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.” Samuel then said…

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On TV: Louis C.K. Babels About The Language of Love

On TV: Louis C.K. Babels About The Language of Love

Blake (B.I.C) and I both share a fondness for the television show, “Louie”, so we felt compelled to have an email conversation this week about the episodes entitled “Elevator” (parts 1-6). Here is the edited and streamlined result of an exchange between a couple of guys with certifiable Louis C.K. man crushes.

B.I.C: So, Howie, what did you think of the six-part Elevator episodes of Louie and what do you think the central idea behind them was?

Howie: Well, I think they’re called Elevator (parts 1-6) because that’s the situation that led to him meeting Amia—a Hungarian woman who cannot speak English…

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PZ’s Podcast: Farewell to the First Golden Era

EPISODE 170: Farewell to the First Golden Era

ACH000801895.1307708911.580x580Here is some recommended Summer reading, and listening; a few words of “Good Counsel”, as in Our Lady of Good Counsel; and a brief musical offering, at the end, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

You’ll note an animadversion to Aversion, a Hymn to Him (My Fair Lady), and an invitation to Him to Take the Wheel. All three are solid in me now, and all three I commend. Then there’s the Bach, and the happy birth-trauma pictured in the Offering.

By the way, a “Noye’s Fludde” of new reviews has appeared on Amazon for the updated new edition of PZ’s Panopticon. I find them to be short and shrewd, and some a little heart-rending. Here are some highlights:

“Arresting, Difficult, Funny, Brilliant, and Ultimately Hopeful! I loved PZ’s Panopticon. I started it in December, but I had to put it down after 40 pages because I found it too emotionally difficult. It was too close to something. I picked it back up in late January and finished it in one sitting. Then I wept. I pray it touches you in the way it did me.”

“The stultifying stupidity of defensive prejudice in the spiritual mud-wrestling ring that is organized religion is ripped apart by Zahl in a breathless romp to reanimate politically correct soullessness into a place where we live and long to be connected to what we know, but cannot prove: that God is with us every minute of every heartbeat…”

“Resurrection and mercy—that’s the diamond thread of hope that can withstand the testing-by-fire that is the question of death.”

“It is the only book I’ve ever read through from cover to cover, then immediately turned around and read it cover to cover again.”

Take my breath away (Berlin). Hugs always, and see you in September, –PZ