New Here?
     
Religion


From The Onion: Parents Clinging To Lone Religious Element Of Daughter’s Wedding Ceremony

How do they keep this up? That’s what I’d like to know. Just in time for wedding season:

ROCHESTER, NY—After sitting through an outdoor ceremony officiated by the groom’s best friend, local parents Scott and Linda McNeil were clinging to the lone religious element of their daughter’s wedding, sources confirmed Saturday. “The vows they wrote for each other were nice, but the passage from Corinthians they used on the back of the wedding program was just beautiful,” said Linda McNeil, adding that she and her husband were both deeply touched by the inclusion of the biblical quote “Love still stands when all else has fallen,” which appeared beneath a verse from a Sarah McLachlan song. “I’ve always loved that passage, and it’s a part of the Scripture that really captures who they are.” McNeil then added that she knew the small image of a dove above the quote would have made her late mother very happy.

Read the original here.

A Quick Quote from Richard Rohr

fallingupwardA quote by Richard Rohr recently struck me, from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Rohr admittedly sounds new-agey sometimes, and this is no exception, but he talks in the book about how things fall apart from the “first half” of life, characterized by identity-building and Law, and then the “second half” – analogous to what we might call life under the cross – happens. This second moment is marked by mystery, surrender, destitution, and spiritual maturity, traits which often go together, as Rohr’s monastic tradition remembers. How does this passage from worldliness to spirituality, identity-building to identity-surrender, life under law to life under grace, happen? At Mbird, we talk a lot about theology of the cross, the idea that suffering can expose the pride and futility behind our self-justification schemes and free us from their burden. (It’s not the healthy who need a doctor anyway, but the sick.) Rohr describes this transition in his own, to me fresh, way:

Today we might use a variety of metaphors: reversing engines, a change in game plan, a falling off the very wagon that we constructed. No one would choose such upheaval consciously; we must somehow ‘fall’ into it. Those who are too carefully engineering their own superiority systems will usually not allow it at all. It is much more done to you than anything you do yourself, and sometimes nonreligious folks are more open to this change in strategy than are religious folks who have their private salvation project all worked out. This is how I would interpret Jesus’ enigmatic words, ‘The children of this world are wiser in their ways than the children of light’ (Luke 16:8)…

The human ego prefers anything, just about anything, to falling or changing or dying. The ego is the part of you that loves the status quo, even when it is not working. It attaches to past and present, and fears the future.

The rest of Rohr’s book explores the mechanism of this transition, and I think he does well to remind us, that God’s work to change is often deconstructive, undesired, even violent. And it reminds me that whatever else people might say about the Bible, its books are some of the only ones written with sufficient originality to speak against the grain of any time or place or culture, since it speaks against the Adamic ego itself. And he does well to remind us that nonreligious people often do best with the message; early Christianity got the most traction among Gentiles, after all. Which means that, far from the prevalent American model of preaching the Gospel to unbelievers and (baptized) self-improvement to the ‘mature’, we religious people need the message just as deeply as anyone – though we’re more likely to resist it.

Absolved Parenthood

Absolved Parenthood

I read a post via the online magazine for parents, Brain, Child, titled, “Regret is Poison.” For a Law/Gospel theologian/parent who isn’t afraid of the darkness of human existence, I was a moth to a flame. Regret? I’m listening. Regret as it pertains to guilt and parenting? Hellooo. I’ve been there. Tell me more. So I read the article.

The author of the article describes her regret and guilt for how she parented her children in vivid, palpable, imagery:

Now, as my three eldest children round the corner out of adolescence and into adulthood and my youngest is just a few months…

Read More > > >

Being Human in an Age of Ultron

Being Human in an Age of Ultron

Spoilers follow.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is a bafflingly different film from its cherished predecessor. It takes enormous risks which, when they succeed, succeed spectacularly, but at their worst only fail to spark. What The Godfather Part II is to The Godfather, Age of Ultron is to the first Avengers, and the enlargement of scope and emotional intensity smooth out the splintered edges where Joss Whedon’s vision outstripped his reach. Its scope is astonishingly wide: it probes an array of existential questions and, in true Whedon fashion, doesn’t shy away from answers the director himself doesn’t hold yet can’t avoid…

Read More > > >

On Christian Friendship

On Christian Friendship

I remember the high school Bible studies of my Deep South upbringing would often remind students to be wary of whom they befriended. They told students that they should keep a good distance from people who chose to smoke behind the gym (me) or make out in the teacher’s lounge (also me) because as St. Paul reminds us, “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Retrospectively, it’s totally okay. I showed up at one of those Bible studies and asked a lot of questions. Everyone, including me, was okay with me not coming again. And so my friends were mostly theatre kids as they…

Read More > > >

All the Lonely Virtues, Where Do They All Belong?

All the Lonely Virtues, Where Do They All Belong?

There’s this funny revival of Aristotelian virtue ethics going on in the Church today, typified by N. T. Wright. The Nicomachean Ethics, while more approachable than most Greek philosophy, is as dry as the Metaphysics, so I’m going to pass over my due diligence here and throw out an interesting anomaly.

The virtues we like to take up from the Greeks are not quite the same ones they would have clung to. Wright’s After You Believe (Virtue Reborn, before they decided to market it to Americans) is a little choosy about its use of virtue ethics. After deploying Hamlet’s suggestion that we put on virtue…

Read More > > >

Does Jesus Like Donuts? The After-Party for the Sermon on the Mount – Aaron Zimmerman

The first of a slew of conference videos is here, Aaron’s ridiculously inspired talk from Texas! Many thanks, again, to Mark and David Babikow for making this possible:

Does Jesus Like Donuts? The After-Party for the Sermon on the Mount – Aaron Zimmerman from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Now Available! Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints)

Mockingbird couldn’t be more excited to announce a new book, Law and Gospel. A collaboration between Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, and David Zahl, this theology for sinners (and saints) is a short primer on a subject near and dear to us, the distinction between–you guessed it–Law and Gospel. From the back cover:

Mbird LAW AND GOSPEL Cover options4There’s a big difference between judgment and love, obligation and freedom, a wage and a gift. The difference characterizes an extraordinary amount of our day-to-day experience, often dividing fear from hope, and death from life. At the heart of Christianity lies a similar and related dynamic: between the Law and the Gospel. Far from being a reductive or antiquated distinction, understanding where one ends and the other begins allows a person to see both the Bible and themselves – indeed, the whole world! – in a fresh and enlivening way. Written with the non-theologian in mind, this short volume unpacks the good news of God’s grace with practicality, humor, and a whole lot of heart.

We open the book by turning a critical eye on American optimism, then look at the roles of the Law – command, measure, accusation, means of control, and death – then break for a short autobiographical imaginative reflection on baseball failure. The Gospel section includes a look at Christ as Good News, as a Person, and as a divine Gift. From there we talk about possible ‘fruits’ of the Gospel, and close on the Gospel as objective comfort.

Bonuses, in the appendices, include a short guide to distinguishing between Law and Gospel, especially from the pulpit; a spirited defense against charges of antinomianism; and a look at how demands and forgiveness in human relationships relate to God’s Law and Gospel, respectively.

We mean for the book to serve as an introduction to Mockingbird and/or Martin Luther’s Law/Gospel paradigm for new readers, to let people know “Where We’re Calling From” (Carver). For old readers, it’s a more precise, clear, and frankly better-written version of ideas we haven’t explicitly developed on the site for a few years. For pastors and churches, it can work as a thematic handbook to Law and Gospel. For laypeople, it’s an extremely accessible entry point into a rich theological tradition. And at 91 pages, its burden errs on the light side.

Early reviews have been great, and we mean the book to serve as a primer, a gift, or fresh material for Sunday School. To that end, you can pick it up on Amazon for $11, or email us for bulk-order discounts (10+ copies = $7/per). Finally, we have a “conference version” that differs in page numbering and a few typos, but is identical in content – for $5, also available via email (info@mbird.com). Thanks for the support, and hope you enjoy!

P.S. Anything you can do to help us spread the word about this exciting project (sharing on social media, reviewing on Amazon, etc), we’d sure appreciate it.

Take Me to Church

Take Me to Church

I wore jeans on Easter Sunday.

I don’t remember the last time I missed church on Easter—or if there ever even has been a time. The Lord’s triumphant return from the grave, spring’s return to our calendars, and lapsed parishioners’ return to pews amalgamate into an unmissable Super-Bowl-Sunday among the observant. It’s like the newest club that has everything: fashion. Crowded sanctuaries. Clogged parking lots. Boisterous hymns.

And we missed it all. My family—husband, boys aged three years and six months, and I—have unintentionally participated in a sabbatical from church since our youngest was born last fall. We knew we would take…

Read More > > >

Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Low Anthropology Is My Love Language

Often, when I try to explain what Mockingbird is I am faced with the daunting task of articulating a “low anthropology”. That is, an unflattering view of humanity. People accuse me of being negative or of losing sight of the fact that human beings are “mostly good.” So I pause and consider their opinions. And then I start to judge them for having those opinions. “How naïve” I say to myself. Then I realize I’m sinning in the middle of a theological discussion. Which brings me back to square one: low anthropology it is.

Recently, I met a lovely person who…

Read More > > >

Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

Disembodied Truth Part I: Biblical Science, Creationism, Truth in Love, and Dover Beach

I want to think for a second about the ways we tend to process language in different places. At our conference last weekend, Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke eloquently about how a sermon is a local event, preached to a specific people at a specific time in the contexts of the larger worship service, the community’s makeup, the identity of the pastor, and so on.

To use just one of these vectors, community makeup, a sermon on the prodigal son parable could differ by audience. To an audience of religious burnouts who have committed the obvious sins over and over, a focus on…

Read More > > >

Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

Every Single Thing Anne Lamott Knows

Perhaps you’ve seen Anne Lamott’s Facebook post that went viral over the weekend, in which she lists “every single thing she knows” on the eve of her 61st birthday (which turns out to be fifteen things)? If not, do yourself a favor. Filled with characteristic wit and wisdom, not to mention memorable turns of phrase, it’s a crash course in effective communication, especially in regards to Christianity. In fact, it’s enough to make a person wonder: why is it that so many of the most compelling religious voices these days belong to women in recovery? It’s almost uncanny. Whatever the…

Read More > > >