Law

How Did We Get Back to 1991?

How Did We Get Back to 1991?

One of the themes we’ve been exploring these past few months in our weekend columns, as well as a few isolated posts, is the palpable rise in censoriousness that has been making itself felt on social media and in certain higher education settings. According to voices on all sides of the ideological equation, a resurgent devotion to “political correctness” is creating a situation where the institutions charged with promoting open dialogue in a liberal society–academia and journalism–are in fact squashing it.

Chris Rock described the state of things memorably in his recent interview with New York Magazine, admitting that he refuses…

Read More »

From The Onion: Law-Abiding Citizen Keeps Herself On Track With Weekly Cheat Day

-3NEW YORK—Saying that sometimes she just needs a little break from her daily regimen, law-abiding citizen Karen Garver told reporters Tuesday that she keeps herself on track with a weekly cheat day in which she allows herself to commit any crime she wants. “I’m pretty strict Sunday through Friday, but come Saturday I tell myself it’s okay to bend the rules a little and improperly dispose of hazardous substances or rob a liquor store,” said Garver, explaining that by setting aside one day a week during which she can evade tax regulations, cause thousands of dollars in property damage, or assault a stranger, she’s able to resist temptation the rest of the week. “Being able to pause from living within the law now and then definitely helps keep me on the right path. Sometimes I’ll make a big day out of it with my girlfriends and we’ll all go out and set a forest fire, and then lead police on a high-speed chase through a crowded residential neighborhood.”… Read the rest here.

The Chameleon’s Cult of Intensive Motherhood

The Chameleon’s Cult of Intensive Motherhood

I had the privilege to interview Brigid Schulte for our next issue of the magazine (out the doors in the next month!), The Work and Play Issue. Schulte, who is a columnist at the Washington Post and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, is also a mother, a busy mother, who found herself entwined a life that was bordering on madness. Her book is the story of coming to grips with this modern busyness–a busyness she found was more universal than just her, just mothers, or even just women. Instead, she found that,…

Read More »

Hopelessly Devoted: Exodus Chapter Fourteen Verses Twenty One and Twenty Two

This morning’s devotion comes from the one and only Justin Holcomb.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-22, NIV)

This passage is about God showing up in the middle of insecurity and confusion. The Exodus and subsequent journey to the Promised Land are the great moments of deliverance in Jewish history. bible-archeology-red-sea-crossingAs it is written in the Psalms, “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot—come, let us rejoice in him” (66:5-6). For thousands of years now, Jews remember and celebrate that God took them from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. At the last minute, on their way out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, God divided the Red Sea—had God not provided, they would have died.

To Christians, the Exodus foreshadows the ultimate story of deliverance. It points to the cross—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as “the work of God on our behalf.” The Exodus and the ministry of Jesus both tell us that God provides for those in need, and that God causes life and flourishing where death and destruction try to reign. The Exodus and the cross tell us that God’s operative principle is rescue. God comes near to us—down here in the thick of it—to rescue us.

There is no work we can do in exchange for this rescue: it is undeserved and unearned. As the psalmist highlights the mighty works of God on our behalf, so we see this fulfilled in Christ. Jesus, who came to “fulfill the law,” did the work we couldn’t do, on our behalf. We could never be good enough. We could never fulfill the righteousness required by the Law. God, in the person of Jesus, did the work we couldn’t do for ourselves, and so God attributes Jesus’ work as our work. God exchanges our sin for Jesus’ righteousness. The work of God on our behalf is the best news possible to those in need of rescue.

Running For Cover: The Unbearable Weight of Goodness in Broadchurch

Running For Cover: The Unbearable Weight of Goodness in Broadchurch

This one comes to us from Nick Rynerson:

Before we get into it, let’s have a quick chat. Nick here. Hey. If you haven’t watched the first season of Broadchurch don’t read this yet. Seriously. Stop. The show is on Netflix right now. Borrow your friend’s password and binge-watch it! It’s only eight episodes. Go on! Get! It’s not that I don’t want you to read this. It’s just that I’m pretty much going to ruin the ending of season one, and it’s a doozy.

Sometimes I wonder why I write. I usually feel guilty after I write something for publications that…

Read More »

David Brooks and the Ever-Pinging Status Sonar

A great way of talking about the continuous feedback loop of self-examination, this is a throwback quote from a favorite, The Social Animal, David Brooks’ investigation of the interior lives of people. The book follows the lives of two fictional lovers, Harold and Erica, from infancy to adulthood, and all the bumps along the way. We pick up as Harold and Erica have fallen in love. Mark, who is mentioned here, is Harold’s exotic, take-life-by-the-horns roommate.

This “sonar” analogy is a pretty apt picture of little-l law in our lives. It may not be the law of God, but its effect often feels the same. It forces us to rate ourselves on the continuum of righteous living. (It is also interesting what falling in love does to Harold’s self-appraisal.)

Doctor_jacobyA few weeks later, Harold sat alone in his apartment, feeling that his life was going tremendously well. All human beings go through life with a fully operational status sonar. We send out continuous waves of status measurements and receive a stream of positive or negative feedback signals that cumulatively define our place in society. Harold looked around at his loft. PING. A plus signal came back. He loved its open space and high ceilings. Hard contemplated his abs. PING. A negative signal came back. He really should go to the gym more. Harold looked at his face in the mirror. PING. A neutral signal came back. No sculpted cheekbones, but it could be worse.

All day long the status sonar hums along–a stream of pluses, minuses and neutrals building in the mind, producing either happiness, anxiety, or doubt. The status sonar isn’t even a conscious process most of the time; it is just the hedonic tone of existence. Much of life, Mark had told Harold, consists of trying to maximize the number of pluses in the stream and minimize the number of minuses. Much of life is a series of adjustments to plus up the flow.

The problem is, nobody’s status sonar is accurate. Some people are status exaggerators. They wildly inflate their spot in the pecking order. They are sixes they think they are eights and when they ask out women who are nines they are flummoxed when they get rejected. Other people are status minimizers. These people will never apply for jobs for which they are amply qualified because they assume they’ll be crushed by the competition.

…Harold’s sonar sensor was like a finely crafted Swiss watch. It was balanced, sensitive, and appropriately forgiving. Like most happy people, Harold judged himself by his intentions, his friends by their deeds, and his rivals by their mistakes. The PINGs continued. The pluses flowed. And when Harold imagined himself with Erica, well, it was like a surging torrent of pluses…But there was also something deeper going on. All his life, Harold had lived at a certain level, but now he had discovered deeper compulsions. Coming to this realization was like living in a house all your life and suddenly falling through a trapdoor to find there had been a level underground all along, and then to find another level beneath that, and another level and another.

Francis Schaeffer on the Problem with Thomas Kinkade’s Optimistic Art

Francis Schaeffer on the Problem with Thomas Kinkade’s Optimistic Art

Several months ago I wrote a post on the well known and now deceased “Painter of Light,” Thomas Kinkade. I addressed Kinkade’s tragic backstory of suffering and how his pain never came through in his I’m-OK-you’re-OK artwork. Most of all I lamented that Christians in particular promote his brand of sentimental artwork because it is safe. What I originally thought would be an obscure post actually got a lot of attention. I was surprised that it struck such a nerve. One redditor called me patronizing: “F*ck Matt Schneider. This piece was condescending and nauseating.”

I don’t usually criticize individual artists and thinkers publically,…

Read More »

Mining Netflix: Performancism and The School of Rock

Mining Netflix: Performancism and The School of Rock

Did you watch the Golden Globes on Sunday? One of the biggest stories from this year was the accolades given to Boyhood, an epic-of-the-ordinary that took 12 years to film. We wrote about Boyhood back when it came out, and if you read that post you’ll get a sense of why its director, Richard Linklater, won top honors on Sunday. Oddly enough, though, as Linklater was bestowed his award, my twitter feed was not filled with applause for Boyhood, but for another project of his: 2003’s School of Rock.

Why in the world would School of Rock be so well remembered over a…

Read More »

The Guru’s Distinction Between Power and Force

The Guru’s Distinction Between Power and Force

Opening up Power vs. Force by 1990s self-help psychiatrist-guru David R. Hawkins, I must confess I should’ve done some background on what I was getting into. Dr. Hawkins worked with Linus Pauling on the Nobel-prize winning Orthomolecular Psychiatry. And then he left clinical psychiatry to travel and speak about his pursuit of “pure consciousness”–his theory on the accessibility of the great Truth of life. Power vs. Force is his blueprint–an “anatomy of consciousness,” he calls it–the map of the hidden motivators of human behavior.

There’s lots of kooky stuff in here. For one, Hawkins’ fundamental “database of consciousness” is based in…

Read More »

On Playing Catch Up (In Case You Missed It)

On Playing Catch Up (In Case You Missed It)

God bless Portlandia. Their first season contained a skit that has proven to be more than a little prophetic. In case you missed it (ICYMI):

On the surface, Fred and Carrie are emphasizing how people compete over being well informed, how prideful our relationship with information has become. They’re lampooning a world where ‘staying on top of things’ has become an increasingly treasured form of righteousness, where the mastery of information–for certain personality types–is as tantalizing as it is illusive.

One expression of this pursuit is the barrage of links we receive and share with others over social media. Taken individually, such…

Read More »

Comfortable to Death: Confessions of an Un-Showered College Student

Comfortable to Death: Confessions of an Un-Showered College Student

Brett Helquist

Like spaghetti and meatballs, comfort and rest go well together; unlike spaghetti and meatballs, however, comfort and rest can’t often be served on a nice dinner plate. More fleeting and mysterious in nature, comfort and rest resist definition and therefore law. (For more details on the Sabbath/Law fiasco, see Mark 2.) Even in contemporary churches, Sabbath (and therefore rest) remains touchy. Given that rest is good (Gen 2, Mark 6) and that comfort lends to rest, it’s worth prying deeper into the nature of comfort.

We’re all familiar with discomfort: We often define ourselves by the amount of discomfort…

Read More »

Why I Spent Last Year Writing a Book About Pop Music

Why I Spent Last Year Writing a Book About Pop Music

Thought I’d kick off the new year with the introduction from A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock N’ Roll (minus the footnotes), something of a personal essay and one which spells out a bit of the thinking behind this whole Mockingbird project.

It was the kind of question that sticks with a person, especially when they’re seventeen. My father asked me one day, out of the blue, “What do you think matters more to people your age—music or movies? Which has more influence?” Even then, I knew enough not to speak for ‘people my age’. But my…

Read More »