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Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Five Verses Thirteen Through Fifteen

Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Five Verses Thirteen Through Fifteen

This morning’s devotion comes to us from SM White.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are…

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The Church Without Christ and the Ghost of Christmas Future

The Church Without Christ and the Ghost of Christmas Future

I am an American Christian, however little I sometimes want to own that label. God, preaching, and proper theology may matter to me, but I know there is a business side of the church that demands pragmatic response. Bills must be paid, complaints satisfied, and attendance must be kept up, and all these things seem to ask technique of this pastor far more than faith. Pragmatism is rewarded, and this pragmatism easily hardens into cynicism when one knows how the ecclesial sausage is made.

I serve two congregations and converse daily with an assortment of other insiders, and I have to watch my tongue around…

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How to Lose an Argument: Biased Assimilation in Rational Thinking

How to Lose an Argument: Biased Assimilation in Rational Thinking

I think we owe ourselves a congratulations. We got through the holidays! The holiday-less S.A.D.-inducing winter spans before us and the countdown to new TV shows and MLK day begins.

Amid all of my complaining about 2016 and the politics of gift-giving, I had forgotten to expect one thing that can actually make the holidays challenging: just spending time with family…occupying the same dinner table, digging into the same refrigerator, watching the same movies with a group of people we never chose our relation to. It was only a matter of time before our great Uncle Fabio–we all have one–staggered through the doorway with all sorts of opinions…

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Humility in the Face of Lettuce

Humility in the Face of Lettuce

Rural Midwesterners like myself tend to have vegetable gardens. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like vegetables–you grow them because that’s what you do. I’ll refrain from going full Garrison Keillor on you, extolling the virtues of the first tomato of the year, but it’s a thing, really.

Starting with Thanksgiving, through Christmas and New Years, my holiday season is marked by the steady arrival of seed catalogs. The garden might be covered with snow, but for me, the growing season starts before the year ends. Dark days pouring over colorful catalogs filled with promises of huge, blemish-free fruit in overflowing…

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On Surviving the Holidays: Personal Suffering and the Demand of Christmas Cheer

On Surviving the Holidays: Personal Suffering and the Demand of Christmas Cheer

This one comes to us from Luke Roland.

I have always loved Christmas. This time of year is what I looked forward to for much of my life. I love everything about Christmas. Movies, decorations, music, food, Santa, gifts, and more food. My family Christmases growing up were near picture perfect. My mother and father went all out and made home a magical and fun place for my sister and me. I wouldn’t change anything about it.

This Christmas will be like no other Christmas I have ever experienced in my life. I have two children, and I’m currently going through a…

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What Would You Eat If You Weren’t Afraid?

It’s Thanksgiving again, that one day of the year where we used to loosen our belts to enjoy a glut of buttery foods. But things have gotten more complicated. In the current gastronomic climate we inhabit, even if we do loosen our physical belts, we tighten the moral ones. Whether it’s nutritionally clean or ethically sourced, Thanksgiving now provides us with a chance to be worthy of our own gratitude. Gluten-free stuffing? Vegan creamed corn? Quinoa sweet potatoes? One by one, our peerlessly tasteful G.M.O.s leave our tables, leaving us thankful for, well, other things. What gives?!

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In an article in the Times Magazine, Alex Halberstadt tells the story of his own moral search for the right turkey–a search which landed him with a heritage bird from a small farm in Pennsylvania:

For weeks we watched the turkey — our turkey — on the farmer’s webcam, a cluster of pixels frolicking inside a chicken-wire enclosure. It was butchered and shipped overnight (the FedEx shipping cost nearly as much as the bird) and when it emerged from the oven, mari­nated and basted decadently in butter, the turkey tasted so unspeakably bland that much of it was left on our friends’ plates, camouflaged awkwardly under brussels sprouts. The feel-good narrative of our lovingly raised, hormone-antibiotic-and-G.M.O.-free certified-organic turkey became supplanted with a more ambiguous one. We felt both duped and morally abject: Not only were we out nearly $200, but our ethical gambit put an end to the bird’s bucolic life.

I’m sure you’ve had no such experience. The rest of Halberstadt’s article is a love letter about the joys and complexities of, you guessed it, Frito-Lay’s Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles.

Which made me think, just in time for The Food & Drink Issue (out in January), ENOUGH! Let’s do something about this! Mary Karr once asked us a similar question, but this Thanksgiving, we put it to your gut: What would you eat if you weren’t afraid? Seriously, this is not rhetorical: what would you? What would you allow yourself to indulge were it not for the consequences–bodily and ethical and otherwise? Were it not for your self-consciousness?

We want to know! Leave a comment below or email us here, and tell us what heavenly nosh you so diligently (or not so diligently) avoid. And we’ll publish the answers (anonymously) in our upcoming issue! 

Happy Thanksgiving, whatever grub you’re pining for!

Lazaretto, or Where Is That Moral Progress I Was Promised? – Scott Johnson

Here comes the next video from Oklahoma, and the first of the breakout sessions. This one arrives courtesy of Dr. Scott Johnson, our resident expert in classical Greek and all things White Stripes-related:

Lazaretto, or Where is that Moral Progress I was Promised? – Scott Johnson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Let’s Have an Uncomfortable Talk About Infertility and (I Guess) Grace

Let’s Have an Uncomfortable Talk About Infertility and (I Guess) Grace

This moving reflection comes to us from Ben Maddison.

Sitting alone in the doctor’s office at a quarter past two on a Wednesday, I held out hope that I was still in control of my life. After a year and a half of trying—of home tests and office tests, and pills and vitamins and online tips, and all those pesky “lifestyle changes”—I waited for the doctor to come in and give me the news I wanted. I sort of knew I was grasping at straws. That didn’t stop me from hoping for the best.

It’s weird to anxiously wait for test results…

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To Step Off the Turntable

To Step Off the Turntable

One chilly fall day when I was in the fourth grade, I decided to run laps around the driveway. I had obsessed about it all the way home from the rear-facing bench-seat of Mrs. Miller’s Volvo station wagon. It was penance. I had eaten a really unhealthy lunch involving bacon cheeseburgers and deviled eggs. Even in the fourth grade, I knew I couldn’t eat like that without paying the piper one way or another.

It was a crisp, deep-yellow late afternoon. The brown-orange leaves crunch-crunch-crunched under the frantic and determined steps of my dirty white Keds. I hadn’t changed out of…

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God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

At the end of August, I shared a quote from sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in which he described social media networks and various communities in our day as reflections of the individual. That is, we contemporary Americans tend to seek out communities and people that help express our inner selves more visibly to the wider world. Like my new iPhone 7, J.Crew shirt, and selvedge denim jeans reveal something about their owner, so in much the same way are my networks and circle of friends an extension of my inner ego. And if Bauman is correct in that observation, then might it be that God is…

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From the Archives: A Referendum on Midlife Friendships

From the Archives: A Referendum on Midlife Friendships

“We haven’t seen them in a while,” I hear myself observing every few weeks, usually in reference to friends with whom my wife and I have lost touch.

Most of the time, the estrangement is logistical, schedules being what they are in a house with two working parents and two napping toddlers. But guilt nevertheless sets in and triggers defensiveness. Soon platitudes like “it takes two to tango” or “life happens” are being trotted out and before long, you’re castigating yourself or the other person(s), possibly deconstructing society as a whole, and any chance of reconnection has been essentially nullified.

Growing up,…

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Playing it Safe with Consumer Reports

Playing it Safe with Consumer Reports

It’s taken a while to write this love letter. Consumer Reports has for 80 years now provided its readers with solace from the fear of getting it wrong. Its slogan, “Smarter Choices for a Better World,” says it all. Who doesn’t want to make smarter choices? And when it comes to consumer products, who doesn’t want to get a deal—or at least not screwed? When an entire display wall at the Walmart gives you 148 different plaque and tartar removal toothpastes, when your kitchen remodel is stuck between electric smoothtop and pro-style dual-fuel ranges, when you wonder whose frequent flyer…

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