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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.

The Rising Tide of #selfharmmm

The Rising Tide of #selfharmmm

One of the clear refrains I’m hearing post-election has to do with the cost of virtual communication. We are only starting to come to terms with the degree to which our current climate of divisiveness has been amplified by the limitations of the Internet. Physical remove makes it (much) easier to dehumanize another person and (much) harder to empathize with them. Or, as we put it in the tech issue of The Mockingbird:

At its best, the disembodiment [of the web] engenders safety, the permission to engage with someone or something you otherwise find threatening, e.g., a Gospel that seems too…

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A Gift Discarded in Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums”

A Gift Discarded in Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums”

Somehow, all these years later, that “dark speck” has stuck with me.

I first spotted it over 30 years ago, when I discovered John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” (available online here) in a short story class in college. I knew then that there was much more much going on in that beautiful story than I would  ever be able to divine. But I did know that I would not easily move past that “dark speck.”

Elisa Allen lives in the beautiful but cloistered Salinas Valley. As the story opens, she wears a man’s black hat pulled down low and her…

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Religious Experts vs. the Cross: On Reading the Book of Job

Religious Experts vs. the Cross: On Reading the Book of Job

In the first chapter of Fleming Rutledge’s impressive book, The Crucifixion, she explains that modern Christianity shares the same widespread rival as early Christianity: gnosticism. She doesn’t mince words bringing the dusty historical term back down to the ground: “All the various forms of gnosticism are grounded in the belief that privileged spiritual knowledge is the way of salvation.” With one swoop of the vested arm, Rutledge knocks down the pawns of self-help, educated elitism, not to mention a massive percentage of the modern-day Christian church—in short, “religion”. To cherry-pick some of her key remarks on this subject:

Defining this philosophy is no…

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Bumper Stickers and Background Screens: Reflections on Losing a Child

Bumper Stickers and Background Screens: Reflections on Losing a Child

Our bumper stickers and computer backgrounds reveal so much about us. Through the college team logo, the institution we attended, a political cause, or images of loved ones, we tell the world so much about what we love, desire, and stand for.

I have often considered what the picture displayed on my own screen represents about me:

As you see above, there is a beautiful woman with a glowing smile. (That’s my wife.) Holding her hand is a little boy with white, curly locks flowing out from beneath a fireman’s hat. (That’s my oldest child.) His firefighter’s jacket can hardly contain the…

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Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God

Attachment Theory and Your Relationship With God

Another sampler from the Mental Health Issue! Here’s a doozie from psychologist Bonnie Poon Zahl about the meaning of ‘attachment theory’ and its implications for the ways we talk about our faith. Of course, this is only to whet your appetite…

I am a psychologist of religion. This means that I use tools from psychological science to study, empirically, the manifold expressions of religion and spirituality in human lives. I am most interested in how people understand and relate to God, and in my research I adopt the methodological naturalism that is expected in my discipline; I try to understand people’s religious…

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Welcome to My House, Where Every Day is Demo-Day

Welcome to My House, Where Every Day is Demo-Day

On a recent Sunday as my family returned home from church, my three-year-old son began to sing part of a song he’d evidently learned in Sunday School that morning: “And the rains came down and the floods came up.” He sang it over and over. Only problem? He couldn’t remember any more of the lyrics than those. At first it was cute, because what mother’s heart doesn’t turn into a swirl of pink cotton candy when their children first start to sing all the Jesus songs? But after about five minutes of “The rains came down and the floods came…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verses Twenty Eight Through Thirty Nine

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verses Twenty Eight Through Thirty Nine

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Laurel Marr.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, George Matheson, 1882

Paul, the chief of sinners, tells us God’s answer when he pleads with God to remove a thorn in his flesh. “My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12: 7-10). Paul makes it known to us that this thorn is given to him. In ancient…

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The Difference Between the Minister and the Doctor

The Difference Between the Minister and the Doctor

I have always been a bit skeptical of the “comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable” adage deployed in many an evangelical circle. It’s not just the implicit condescension it lends to the ‘minister’ in any given moment. The main skepticism has to do with the supposition that anyone is actually comfortable in life–that, beneath the surface, all of us are experiencing some underlying discomfort with the world we’re inhabiting. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re all afflicted, and we all need comfort.

If this adage makes any sense, then, it’s that we sometimes need help facing ourselves. It’s that maybe the…

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The Strangest Symbol: A Fellowship in Suffering

The Strangest Symbol: A Fellowship in Suffering

This reflection comes to us from our friend and esteemed magician, Jim McNeely. 

1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by…

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Calling a Thing What it is: Ruminations with Lemony Snicket, Pt 2

Here’s yet another quote from the celebrated children’s author, Lemony Snicket, posted for your amusement (and in anticipation for Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the filming of which wrapped last month!). 

Snicket may be one of the only children’s authors who dares to raise an eyebrow at the rosy outlook of the optimist. He wants his young readers to know that emotions, even sad ones, are allowed to be felt and that “a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” From The Miserable Mill:

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“Optimist” is a word which here refers to a person who thinks hopeful and pleasant thoughts about nearly everything. For instance, if an optimist had his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say, in a pleasant and hopeful voice, “Well, this isn’t too bad. I don’t have my left arm anymore, but at least no body will ever ask me whether I am right-handed or left-handed,” but most of us would say something along the lines of “Aaaaah! My arm! My arm!”….

If you have ever had a miserable experience, then you have probably had it said to you that you would feel better in the morning. This, of course, is utter nonsense, because a miserable experience remains a miserable experience even on the loveliest of mornings. For instance, if it were your birthday, and a wart-removal cream was the only present you received, someone might tell you to get a good night’s sleep and wait until morning, but in the morning the tube of wart-removal cream would still be sitting there next to your uneaten birthday cake, and you would feel as miserable as ever. My chauffeur once told me that I would feel better in the morning, but when I woke up the two of us were still on a tiny island surrounded by man-eating crocodiles, and, as I’m sure you can understand, I didn’t feel any better about it.

Of Blessed Memory on September 11: Welles Crowther

Of Blessed Memory on September 11: Welles Crowther

The first time I wrote something for Mockingbird, it was in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. Often, after these tragedies happen, a reactionary narrative responds with stories that are meant to “restore our faith in humanity,” as if the people on the ground are all heroes and the people who set off the bombs were actually robots from another planet. Turns out, we are all human beings. Plus, it is a well-documented fact that I gave up on restoring my faith in us a very long time ago.

I was a senior in high school in May of 2001….

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