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Theology

The Ultimate Apocalypse

The Ultimate Apocalypse

Just in time for spring, this one comes to us from our fellow survivor, Zack Verham.

“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves?” – The First History Man (Mad Max: Fury Road)

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” – 1 John 5:11 (NRSV)

My all-time favorite book is Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s a complete four-course science fiction buffet for nerds across the land, and it’s fundamentally post-apocalyptic. The world-building Herbert undertakes is extravagantly meticulous, and the universe as it stands when the…

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A Rabbi and a Psychiatrist Walk into a…

A Rabbi and a Psychiatrist Walk into a…

My love language is books. If you know me for any length of time and I like you, there will probably be books arriving. I might even send you books if I don’t like you. Two that will be among the first to arrive are The Prophets and The Sabbath, both written by the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. There is much to be said of Heschel, but for my money, all you need to know about the author is communicated by the tears running down this brother’s face:

Today I was thinking, rather randomly, about something Rabbi Heschel said in…

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Blind Pilot’s Biblical Paradox

Blind Pilot’s Biblical Paradox

Half album review, half theological forage, this one comes to us from Madeline D’Elia. 

Panic in the first beat of the morning
Even what I’ve got isn’t worth offering
Even faces change—my heart stays the same.

After five years of waiting for their album release, I was hooked on And Then Like Lions in the first fifteen seconds. Once again, with trumpets, banjos, guitars, ukuleles, and mountain dulcimers, Blind Pilot poetically captured the experience of being a human. But this album was markedly different content-wise because it focused on tragedy from beginning to end. Called a “darker shade of folk” by the Wall Street…

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The Zacchaeus Option

The Zacchaeus Option

I guess there comes a point in every couple’s life where watching TV and not showering is a more alluring prospect than long hygenic rituals followed by being social. My wife and I are binge-watching a new show called Imposters. I thought the show’s premise was implausible, almost silly at first. But now we’re hooked.

Imposters begins with a newlywed couple so immersed in their own love and happiness, it’s almost nauseating. After some intimate moments (this show is on Bravo) we cut to the husband, Ezra Bloom (played by up-and-coming actor Rob Heaps), talking about his nuptial bliss with co-workers at the…

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Robert F. Capon in the Year 3000

Robert F. Capon in the Year 3000

This comes from our friend Michael Morgan. 

Sometimes, the best stuff flies under the radar. C.f. Futurama. It may be a hard sell to call anything produced by Matt Groening “under the radar,” but it’s certainly living in the even-yet-lengthening shadow of The Simpsons. Suffice it to say that the show has aired four series finales and you’ll understand its small share of the limelight. But, unlike Sit Down, Shut up, Golan the Insatiable, and Axe Cop—other feckless Fox animations—Futurama wouldn’t die, which is a testament to its excellence.

For the uninitiated, Futurama happens in the year 3000 and centers on Fry, a 20th-century…

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The Magic in Magical Thinking

The Magic in Magical Thinking

“…conscious uncoupling…”

“…and Mexico will pay for it!”

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

We cannot help it. Humans desperately need to square the circle. I want to find a cosmic thread or Special Sauce that allows the New York Football Giants to somehow, over about 6 coaching changes and zillions of players post-LT/Simms, to somehow get to the Super Bowl every year.

That is Magical Thinking.

But not every illogical extrapolation is as delusional as the Giants making the Super Bowl in the next few years. Not all desire-driven reality-bnding is magical. Heroin, smoking, and bacon have no objective merit: to…

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Desmond Doss, the Coward

Desmond Doss, the Coward

This look at the critically acclaimed film, Hacksaw Ridge, comes to us from our friend Josh Encinias.

I loved being in the House of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in college, but if I were to create a Christian fraternity today, it would be under a different namesake: Desmond Doss. Prince is the most famous former Seventh-day Adventist, but Doss is the most important Adventist you’ve never heard of. I recently spoke to David Permut, producer of Hacksaw Ridge—who walked away with two Academy Awards last night—who said he wanted to turn Doss’ story into a feature film for sixteen years before it happened.

“When I…

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When God’s Will Is the Only Thing Left

Acclaimed writer Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and the forthcoming Abandon Me, graced us as a guest on the most recent episode of The Mockingcast. During their fantastic interview — would have reposted the whole thing if I could have — Scott read this beautiful excerpt from Abandon Me:

Jonah, whose name means “dove,” is not brave. He simply exhausts all his other choices. The only thing left to choose is God’s will, and even then, after proclaiming his prophecy, Jonah shakes his fist at the Lord. His destiny does not give him peace; it enrages him. It’s not what he wants. He begs God to kill him. But God doesn’t kill Jonah. God’s mercy often doesn’t come in the form of erasure. And the story of Jonah seems a parable of what I have often suspected, that life is a great “choose your own adventure story.” Every choice leads the hero to the same princes, the same cliff. There are alternative routes, but there is only one ending, if you make it there…every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Over the past eight years or so, Mockingbird contributors have said quite a lot about the works of Thornton Niven Wilder. His contributions to the idea of a theo-poetic approach to the Gospel, i.e., an approach that avoids didacticism by employing literary archetypes to illustrate gospel themes, are well documented on this site. For a couple of examples, read this from Wilder himself, or this from Paul Zahl. Wilder’s Angel that Troubled the Waters is a tour de force in such terms, and it illustrates what this site is usually trying to do: use an oblique approach to get in past the heart’s defenses, because a didactic frontal…

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The God Who Can’t Hate His Fingers

A passage from W.H. Auden’s posthumously published The Prolific and the Devourer, which comes to us via the inestimable Matthew Sitman:

Both in the substance and the parabolic method of his teaching about love, Jesus never asks anyone to accept anything except on the basis of their personal experience of human love. In using the terms Father and Son to express the relation of the divine and the human, rather than, say King and subject, he makes the relation a physical not an intellectual one, for it is precisely because in the relation of parent and child the physical material relation is so impossible to deny, that it is so difficult for a human parent not to love their children irrespective of moral judgment. They can do so, but it is very much more difficult for them than for those who have not such an obvious physical connection.

Jesus in fact is asserting what the psychologists have confirmed: that one does in fact always conceive of one’s relations with life in terms of one’s relations with one’s parents, and in proportion as these were bad, one’s attitude to life is distorted [ed. note: see video below]. But though parental love is often imperfect, it is good enough and often enough for us to have no doubt about what it should be like. We expect parents to love their children whether they act well or badly because it is our experience that they usually do: we expect a physical relation to override morals. In speaking of the fatherhood of God, Jesus is teaching that God does not love us because we are ‘good’ or because he is very ‘good’ and merciful but because he has to, because we are part of him, and he can no more hate us if we act badly than a man can hate one of its fingers when it aches: he can only want it to get well.

Mockingbird on a Wire: Grace Across the Church Divide

Mockingbird on a Wire: Grace Across the Church Divide

We’re humbled (by which I mean, deeply flattered) to offer up this generous contribution from Prof. Matthew Milliner, who also happens to be speaking at our upcoming NYC Conference (4/27-29):

I imagine there are some enthusiastic Mockingbird recruits out there, but I feel drafted. Visiting the Limelight Marketplace – a onetime church turned legendary nightclub turned bourgeois boutique (which advertises a “slice of heaven” from its gourmet pizza shop) – was my Protestant rock bottom. Limelight is not far from where I had attended Father Richard John Neuhaus’ funeral, who had been keen (as he was everyone) to see me come…

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The Well-Tempered Temperament: Radical Pragmatism

The Well-Tempered Temperament: Radical Pragmatism

Just as your New Year’s resolutions are running out of steam, a lyrical reflection from S. Burns.

Behold, a zealous devotion to suffering, with the burnt offering of calories rising to meet the demands of the cult of extreme fitness. The CrossFit genre is, on the whole, resistant to the promotional Globo-Gym world, preferring the stripped down “box” to plush facilities, the practical motion of sledgehammers and tire-flipping to specialized pulley-equipment and the elliptical machine. America is the fattest it has ever been and yet the most militarized in its fitness. There is a striving for a reactionary cleansing, an elusive…

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