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American Horror Story Taught Me That Jesus Was a Human Voodoo Doll

American Horror Story Taught Me That Jesus Was a Human Voodoo Doll

The math behind the cross is a little confusing. As a kid, I went to church every Sunday and recited: “In dying you destroyed our death, in rising you restored our life.” I’d known since day one that Jesus had died for my sins, but the equation itself—how the death of a man two thousand years ago could be related to me drinking the last ounce of milk and getting in a fistfight with my brother about it—has always been just a little beyond my reach.

Until American Horror Story, that is. For those struggling with the idea of substitutionary atonement,…

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The Essence of Christianity (Plus)

A couple of brand-new bonus recordings to which to draw your attention on this Tuesday afternoon:

  • Scott Jones and Bill Borrer interviewing Paul Zahl about “The Essence of Christianity” for their stellar New Persuasive Words podcast (which you can subscribe to here). You might think of it as a preview of the in-person conversation they’re going to have in April:

Sometimes these things don’t turn out as well as you’d hope. But sometimes they do, which seems to have been the case here. Or so we’ve been told, thank God.

PZ’s Podcast: Saved!

PZ’s Podcast: Saved!

EPISODE 210

When you were in a tight spot, how did help get through to you, assuming help did get through to you?

Did God speak from out of the whirlwind — of crisis, panic, and despair? Or did aid come from inside yourself — a ‘how-to’ or random thought that proved serviceable in the midst?

If you’re a regular listener to PZ’s Podcast, you may well answer, the former. That’s certainly what happened to PZ!

Nevertheless, your source of inspiration, and help, and salvation in the imminent immanent sense of the word: what was it?

You won’t be surprised that I’ve been thinking, in…

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Good News From Doctor Who: On Being a Baby Christian

Good News From Doctor Who: On Being a Baby Christian

Growing up in the Deep South, I heard my fair share of churchy catchphrases. One of them is making a comeback (or it’s been here for years?), and I’m calling horse manure. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, stop calling people “Baby Christians.”

The first time I heard this phrase I was in high school. One of my closest and most faithful girlfriends was telling me all about this new guy she was dating. He was undeniably handsome, somewhat debonair, and, as she put it, a “Baby Christian.” I asked her immediately what this insider religious…

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Frank Lake on God-Talk and the Power of Plainspeak

Frank Lake on God-Talk and the Power of Plainspeak

This comes from Frank Lake’s Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling. In this section, entitled, “The Use and Misuse of Religion,” Dr. Lake discusses the age-old propensity of religion and religious language to become either a self-defensive shield between a person and their much-needed comfort; or, on the flipside, for religion to become the “bad thing” upon which all of their collective discomfort–past, present, and future–is projected. This is not the time for apologetics, Lake argues. In a time of such opposition, it is better to listen. This great story illustrates his meaning:

I never find myself threatened by hostility to religion in those who consult me: quite the reverse. The…

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Fear of a Free Planet

Fear of a Free Planet

Ben Franklin was close but wrong on life’s certainties. Enoch walked with God and did not see death, for God took him; Elijah was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot; Apple hardly pays a dime. Death is a statistical lock and taxes hard to evade, but there are better bets still. To wit: the Vikings will blow a home playoff game on a missed FG (the Lord has so ordained it), the identities of Rey’s parents and Supreme Leader Snoke will disappoint fans’ Sherlockian strivings, and any public expression of Christian freedom worth the name will inspire a chorus of anemically orthodox…

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The God of Tidying Up Hates Me

The God of Tidying Up Hates Me

Buried in last week’s installment of Another Week Ends, CJ mentioned the new book by sociologist Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith: Why the World Is More Religious than Ever. The subtitle pretty much says it all. The Wall Street Journal, in its review, summarized Stark’s principal finding this way:

Huldufolk

For the champions of the secularization thesis [i.e. that the planet is growing steadily less religious]…, Empty churches [in Europe] are a sign of reason’s progress. Mr. Stark offers some amusing evidence to the contrary. Drawing on the Gallup poll, he notes that Europeans hold all sorts of supernatural beliefs. In Austria, 28%…

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Star Wars’ Finn Awakens: The Troopers, The Traitors, and Me

Star Wars’ Finn Awakens: The Troopers, The Traitors, and Me

 I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw Star Wars: A New Hope. The film came out the year I was born, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t catch it at the theater. All I remember is an image from my early childhood, a procession of characters down an aisle toward a princess on our TV screen. Even though they didn’t give Chewie a medal, and despite (or maybe because of–I’m still deciding) the existence of Ewoks, I was hooked on these stories populated by characters who were at once iconic and accessible: a peerless warrior packaged…

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Just Like That Bluebird: The Mortal Prayers of David Bowie, RIP

Just Like That Bluebird: The Mortal Prayers of David Bowie, RIP

Gutted by this morning’s tragic news about the death of David Bowie. His incredible new single “Lazarus” had actually been on repeat in our office the past couple weeks. By way of paltry tribute, here’s the reflection from the back of A Mess of Help, slightly embellished. The world will be a duller place without him:

Rumor has it that David Bowie lobbied for the role of grand elf Elrond in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of The Rings. As good as Hugo Weaving was, Bowie would have been better, and not just because he played more or less to type in…

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The Secret History of William Axl Rose [Super Deluxe Edition]

The Secret History of William Axl Rose [Super Deluxe Edition]

Well, the unthinkable has happened. Axl and Slash have buried the hatchet and are confirmed to be playing a headlining set (with Duff, possibly others) at Coachella this year. True to my word, to celebrate the momentous news, I’m posting the full Guns n Roses chapter of A Mess of Help. Portions of it appeared years ago in various forms on this site, but what you’ll find below was completely rewritten and is about three times longer – thus the Super Deluxe descriptor. Hope you have a fraction of the fun reading it that I had writing it. 

Intrigued, excited, and…

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Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

Checking in with the Church (2015 Edition)

“If we had some bruallki, we could have bruallki and Menkooro—if we had some Menkooro.”

That famous quip from the Star Wars expanded universe (Zahn) pretty much captures the church situation. The grass often looks greener in other traditions (Eastern Orthodoxy: Iconology! Aesthetics!), and sometimes it’s easy, standing within a tradition, to appreciate how it’s evolved, often to the point it would be almost unrecognizable to adherents past. Add to that that the best solution to today’s most pressing theological problem is likely tomorrow’s heresy, and you’ve got a complicated, no-win situation. But it’s worth looking back and checking in on,…

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The Life, Death, Life Cycle

The Life, Death, Life Cycle

We are now up to our necks in Advent, two candles burning. We’ve got lights on the tree and parties dead ahead. It’s a season of waiting, as we all know, but in a lot of ways, between leafless trees and dry skin, it’s also a season of dying. Because there has to be some sort of death before there can be life, some sort of struggle before triumph. You can’t celebrate a championship unless there were teams to beat. You can’t celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary unless there was something challenging about that course of life. Christmas is a…

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