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Church of the Deconstruction

Church of the Deconstruction

This piece was featured in Issue 7 of The Mockingbird: The Church Issue. Issue 8 is well underway!

In a recent visit to Mexico, Pope Francis spoke to a congregation of Mexican bishops and clergy. His words were harsh, to say the least. Instead of decrying the social and political upheaval of the country, or its history of human trafficking and drug violence, the pontiff pointed the finger at his subordinates, warning them of their seduction by religious power:

Do not allow yourselves to be corrupted by trivial materialism or by the seductive illusion of underhanded agreements; do not place your faith…

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From the Archives: Optimizing the Sabbath (One Pillow at a Time)

From the Archives: Optimizing the Sabbath (One Pillow at a Time)

The following originally appeared as a guest post to Amy Julia Becker’s Thin Places blog over at Christianity Today. Some readers may notice a few, er, congruencies with past Mbird posts:

A couple of years ago, The New York Times ran a remarkably astute editorial about the state of American sleep. Apparently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently declared insomnia to be a full-blown public health epidemic. The “Sleep Industry”—a $32 billion/year endeavor—has responded. They’ve introduced a spate of new soporific technology, from pills and teas and chocolates to bracelets and mattresses. (The number one selling paid app on…

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Walker Percy’s Two Classes of Maniacs

Walker Percy’s Two Classes of Maniacs

As the Mental Health Issue is coming together, it is becoming quite apparent that one of our chief navigators in the strange land of the human mind will be the one and only Walker Percy. This passage comes from his wildly original and heartwarming novel, The Second Coming. It is a portion of a letter written by the novel’s leading man, Will Barrett, a successful and well-respected retiree who has recently taken a fall into the “mentally unstable” category…by the grace of God. For Percy, his salvation can come only by way of the absurd–by truly examining the absurd existence he finds himself inhabiting. You will notice here that…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: American Idol

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: American Idol

Welcome to the seventh and final installment of act three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own.  If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here.

Everybody worships … idols. Last time we reached this inevitable and undeniable conclusion, and in it hides the definition of greed.

Everybody worships idols.  At first glance you may disagree, but recall that worship need not involve a supernatural being.  Merriam-Webster defines it as “extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>.”  Dictionary.com says it’s “to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any…

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The Individual Sufferer and Preaching like a Bad Kid

The Individual Sufferer and Preaching like a Bad Kid

This one comes to us from our friend, Cody Gainous.

I get tasked with the Sunday morning sermon pretty regularly at the parish I serve, even though I’m only the Youth Minister. I’m always grateful for the invitation, and I’m always humbled by the opportunity. Beloved Father Capon says in his excellent The Foolishness of Preaching that “Good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills, spirituality pills, and morality pills and flush them all down the drain.” Well and good, but a bit intimidating…

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Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

Our Daily Liturgies: An Excerpt from Bed and Board

Returning to an Episcopal Church during college after some years worshiping in different traditions, I was surprised that the various creeds and dictums came back to me quickly. It was so assuring to hear the words that I had been so familiar with growing up, finding them still there in the recesses of memory. When the pastor said, “Hear these comfortable words” after the Confession and the Prayers of the People, the scripture then, and also the familiar liturgy throughout, really were that to me: comfortable words. Dwelling on them in content was important, no doubt, and a few teaching series I’d…

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EpiscoDisco: The Documentary – Out Now!

Let’s face it–this is probably the single coolest thing Mockingbird has ever been involved with, or will ever be involved with. I’m talking about the short documentary on DJ JAZ and “The Episco Disco” that VICE (and their electronic music division Thump) filmed at our conference in NYC this year. A culmination of culminations! Of course, if it’s all downhill from here, at least our decline will have a killer soundtrack.

Those in the United States can click on the image below to watch ten of the greatest minutes of the year. Those in other countries will either have to get crafty, or wait til the video hits youtube later this year:

dothis

And if by some sad circumstance you missed the session John mentions in the clip, never fear: we got you covered.

The Rabbi and the KKK: What We Can Learn

The Rabbi and the KKK: What We Can Learn

According to the latest findings from Brookings, over half of all American Christians believe that they are being discriminated against. While this is not something I can say I’ve personally experienced, it is certainly an issue worth addressing, as the numbers involved are staggering.

To be honest, I’m not really invested in figuring out why people feel this way, or whether they should or shouldn’t feel this way.

What I am interested in, however, is how American Christians collectively respond to feeling discriminated against. Do we meet vitriol with vitriol? Do we justify ourselves to those who wish to do us harm?…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Everybody Worships

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Everybody Worships

Welcome to the sixth installment of act three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here.

“Everybody worships.” Two simple words, subject and verb. Everybody. Worships.

Google the dyad and the source explodes off the screen, a wholly unexpected wellspring for theologians (and Mockingbird).

David Foster Wallace was an enigmatic literary genius. It’s almost embarrassing for me to say, the height of clichés, but I must: Reading Infinite Jest changed my life. DFW’s hyper-intellectual maze of words and atonal writing style sprung…

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The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

The Worst F-Word There Is (On the Elephant in the Room)

I feel sorry for those who have to put up with me this month. It gets pretty unbearable. You see, some people try to lose weight in January. For me, it’s June, the month when the calendar empties out and I can devote what little willpower I have to the project of reduction. The other eleven months of the year, for whatever reason, such attempts have always proven to be “subject to futility”.

So for thirty days at the beginning of each summer, the majority of my mental energy is occupied consumed by dieting. I try to play the single-mindedness for laughs, but it’s irritating.

The…

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“Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell” by Archibald MacLeish

When he moved to Paris in the 1920s, Archibald MacLeish (1892 – 1982) ran with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, and I have every suspicion that his God-wrestling Pulitzer-winning legacy will make a cultural resurgence soon enough; here’s hoping.

Despite first appearances, the following poem doesn’t just pit science against faith. Rather, it emphasizes the persistence of the unknown versus the known and the unmeasurable versus the measurable. As with much of MacLeish’s work, it’s designed to affect us emotionally, not just intellectually.

Eugenia-Loli6

Eugenia Loli

Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell
by Archibald MacLeish

Science, that simple saint, cannot be bothered
Figuring what anything is for:
Enough for her devotions that things are
And can be contemplated soon as gathered.

She knows how every living thing was fathered,
She calculates the climate of each star,
She counts the fish at sea, but cannot care
Why any one of them exists, fish, fire or feathered.

Why should she? Her religion is to tell
By rote her rosary of perfect answers.
Metaphysics she can leave to man:
She never wakes at night in heaven or hell

Staring at darkness. In her holy cell
There is no darkness ever: the pure candle
Burns, the beads drop briskly from her hand.

Who dares to offer Her the curled sea shell!
She will not touch it!—knows the world she sees
Is all the world there is! Her faith is perfect!

And still he offers the sea shell . . .

What surf
Of what far sea upon what unknown ground
Troubles forever with that asking sound?
What surge is this whose question never ceases?

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Thirteen Verses Forty Four Through Forty Six

This morning’s devotion comes from the great magician, Jim McNeely III. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46, NASB)

pearlHere we have two very distinct parables with two very distinct messages: the “Treasure in the Field” and the “Pearl of Great Price.” Let’s start by getting our actors straight. In the first parable, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, and you and I are the man. In the second parable the kingdom of heaven is like the merchant, and you and I are the pearl. The simple observation that the kingdom of heaven is said to be like the merchant, not like the pearl, ends up being very significant, as you will see.

After years of thinking and writing about it, I am more convinced than ever that the message of the parable of the treasure hidden in the field is critical for us. It is because there was a treasure that the man sacrifices all. It is from joy that he sells all that he has. It is from a great and a true desire that he acts. The Gospel is not simply doctrinal correctness or sound theology—it is a great treasure, and once we perceive its surpassing value hidden in the scrubby field of the church, it engages our desire powerfully. We drop our self-justification projects with joy, because we have found a treasure of much greater worth. We are released from all care and worry, and we have become impossibly and eternally rich and taken care of. Of all the people on earth, we have found our way and have obtained our fortune—we are spiritual gazillionaires.

I am even more convinced that the message of the Pearl of Great Value is critical for us. The heart of the message of the Gospel is that God truly wants us. He is greedy and jealous for us. He has sold all that He had, to obtain us:

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11, NASB)

Why do we call Christ’s death on the cross the “Passion?” I haven’t researched it at all and I have no idea why we call it that. But I know what passion means—it means extreme desire, reckless love, fierce devotion to the point of obsession. It means laser-like focus born of strong wanting. How does this word relate to Jesus’ death on the cross?

His love for us is an absolutely reckless and dangerous love. It is abandon-everything-else desire. It is the pearl merchant selling all he had to get that one perfect pearl. It is passion for us that led to such sacrifice. He wanted us. Badly. Enough to do this.

God is love. Not just any love. Not just idle affection. Not the gentle, detached love of a grandmother. That is a wonderful kind of love, but it is not this love. His is a passionate, reckless, die-for-you love. His is a throw-away-every-other-option love. We are His obsession. We are not His obligation, we are His joy (Heb 12:2). This is the God who is love—the God who would go to such shocking lengths on our behalf.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Amen.