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Week In Review

Another Week Ends: First Reformed, Millennial Gray, Self-Improvement B.S., Getting Back On the Bike (and Off Again), and World Cup Generosity

Another Week Ends: First Reformed, Millennial Gray, Self-Improvement B.S., Getting Back On the Bike (and Off Again), and World Cup Generosity

1. A new book out by Will Storr looks at the history of the self-esteem, and its rapid growth in the technological age. Storr’s book, Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us, focuses much of its history on the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, and places like it, which flourished in the 70s alongside the Human Potential Movement, and went mainstream in the 80s and 90s, focused on the real benefits stemming from a positive self-image. Storr uncovers the origin story of this movement, and its less-than-credible correlations between well-being and a…

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Another Week Ends: Nigerian Babies, Pairing Alzheimer's, Lonely Affluence, Competitive Meditation and New Spiritualized

Another Week Ends: Nigerian Babies, Pairing Alzheimer’s, Lonely Affluence, Competitive Meditation and New Spiritualized

1. At the top of the docket, two beautiful and deeply encouraging examples of grace in practice, the first programmatic and the second person-to-person. Nigeria, as you may know, currently suffers from the highest rate of HIV-positive infants in the world. Apparently many of the transmission prevention methods that work elsewhere have had a hard time catching on there, partly because so many mothers aren’t aware they’re infected (and understandably reticent to get tested, partially out of fear, partially out of shame). Instead of sounding the alarm bells more loudly, a new program called Baby Shower–developed in the church(!)–has taken…

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Another Week Ends: Prophetic Marshmallows, Honest Obituaries, Psychopathic AI, A Game for Good Christians, and the Bruised Face of Forgiveness

Another Week Ends: Prophetic Marshmallows, Honest Obituaries, Psychopathic AI, A Game for Good Christians, and the Bruised Face of Forgiveness

1. This week, a social science story takes the lede. New research out of NYU and UC Irvine is casting real doubt on the hallowed Stanford Marshmallow experiment, a study long used to tout the virtues of delayed gratification, patience, and self-control:

The marshmallow test is one of the most famous pieces of social-science research: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second one if she can go 15 minutes without eating the first one, and then leave the room. Whether she’s patient enough to double her payout is supposedly indicative of a…

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Another Week Ends: Theistic 'Nones', Fleming on Faith, Ideological Is-es and Oughts, Urban Kenosis, and the New Meritocratic Aristocracy

Another Week Ends: Theistic ‘Nones’, Fleming on Faith, Ideological Is-es and Oughts, Urban Kenosis, and the New Meritocratic Aristocracy

1. First up, Pew released the results of a recent survey on a religious beliefs, glossed this week by The Atlantic:

The third finding reported in the study is by far the most striking. As it turns out, “American ‘nones’ are as religious as—or even more religious than—Christians in several European countries, including France, Germany, and the U.K.”

“That was a surprise,” Neha Sahgal, the lead researcher on the study, told me. “That’s the comparison that’s fascinating to me.” She highlighted the fact that whereas only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty, 27 percent of American nones say this. ….

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Another Week Ends: The Capacity for Every Crime, the Unimportance of Being Cool, Violence Ad Infinitum, Defiled Lunch Meat, the Dallas Street Choir, and the Essential Anthropology of Philip Roth

Another Week Ends: The Capacity for Every Crime, the Unimportance of Being Cool, Violence Ad Infinitum, Defiled Lunch Meat, the Dallas Street Choir, and the Essential Anthropology of Philip Roth

1. Lots of good reading material for this Memorial Day weekend! Our first article—a ripe one 😉 by philosopher Crispin Sartwell, for the New York Times—defends the concept of original sin, from a secular standpoint. And while the era of extreme division and gun violence might seem the perfect stage for the original sin renaissance, Sartwell, importantly, begins his argument not with everyone else’s problems but with the man in the mirror. (I’ve excerpted a good majority of the piece here; it’s all quite good. Hear an extended convo about it on this week’s Mockingcast!)

When I look within, I see…

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Another Week Ends: Tom Wolfe, Royal Weddings, Unlikely Hospice Workers, Babylon Bee Book, New Marcionism, and More Loneliness

Another Week Ends: Tom Wolfe, Royal Weddings, Unlikely Hospice Workers, Babylon Bee Book, New Marcionism, and More Loneliness

1. As far as “theology of the cross” illustrations go, this one is unforgettable. A pastoral care initiative in a prison’s hospice wing, led entirely by fellow inmates, most of whom are convicted murderers serving a life sentence. Suleika Jaouad tells the story in this week’s New York Times Magazine, about the Pastoral Care Service Workers, a cohort of about two dozen inmates who have been trained and tested to provide end-of-life care for the sick and dying in the California Medical Center:

A job in the hospice is not easy to come by. To qualify, Lyman and the others first…

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Another Week Ends: Napalm Conversions, Technophile Faith, Kanye Gambino Jackson, Nomophobia, Camp Manna and Atlanta

Another Week Ends: Napalm Conversions, Technophile Faith, Kanye Gambino Jackson, Nomophobia, Camp Manna and Atlanta

1. First up, there’s the jaw-dropping testimony that appeared in Christianity Today last week, in which Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the subject of one of the 20th Century’s most iconic photographs (above), outrageously confesses that “These Bombs Led Me to Christ”. She describes the anguish of the day in question, as well as the bodily fallout of the napalm to which she was exposed – Kim was left unable to sweat and is still receiving treatment for the burns 40 years later. By her own account, however, the physical ailments paled in comparison to the spiritual and emotional torment she…

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Another Week Ends: The Craigslist Confessional, Ethical Beauty, Luck, Reincarnation, Realistic Wedding Vows, and Divided Times in the Body of Christ

Another Week Ends: The Craigslist Confessional, Ethical Beauty, Luck, Reincarnation, Realistic Wedding Vows, and Divided Times in the Body of Christ

1. This weekend’s opener: stories from the Craigslist Confessional. Several years ago, on a whim, a woman named Helena Bala posted an ad online, offering anyone who needed it the service of a non-judgmental listening ear. Crazy, huh? “Woke up the next morning…inbox was flooded.”

The video is a testament to the power of listening—just listening, without corrections, prescriptions, or solutions. Later she says, “I hadn’t done anything…I hadn’t provided any extraordinary insight…. I was just listening.”

But there’s an interesting part, two-thirds into the video, when a leading psychotherapist challenges Helena’s work, saying that, in his opinion, she isn’t doing longterm good,…

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Another Week Ends: Social Poverty, A Lutheran Take on Chik-Fil-A, Jacobs on Propaganda, Some Occult Stuff, Faking Russian Lit, New Prince, and the Work/Life Conundrum

Another Week Ends: Social Poverty, A Lutheran Take on Chik-Fil-A, Jacobs on Propaganda, Some Occult Stuff, Faking Russian Lit, New Prince, and the Work/Life Conundrum

1. Looks like David Brooks this week is onto something again–his article on “The Blindness of Social Wealth” strikes gold. Increasingly, the defining pathology of our time is loneliness, a theme we’ve surveyed on mbird pretty extensively. Brooks makes the case sharply and succinctly:

Bob Hall was a rancher. In 1936, in the midst of the Depression, he was suffering from a cancer that was eating the flesh on the side of his face. His ranch had dwindled to nearly nothing, and weeks after bankers took the last of his livestock, Hall died, leaving his family deeply in debt.

His sons pleaded with…

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Another Week Ends: De-Konged, Earning Easter, Natural Causes, Deep Laziness and American Recordings

Another Week Ends: De-Konged, Earning Easter, Natural Causes, Deep Laziness and American Recordings

1. Not quite sure what to make of the fact that in the eleven or so years I’ve been writing on Mbird, I have never been forwarded a single news item more than this one. I suppose I should take it as a compliment, as Lord knows there are worst things to be associated with. But it’s true: the mighty have fallen–and they have fallen hard. We’re talking here about Billy Mitchell, erstwhile record holder on both Donkey Kong and Centipede, AKA he of the perfect Pac Man game. The fulfillment of all (arcade) righteousness has been shown to be…

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Another Week Ends: Jean Vanier, Amen Dunes, Father Freeman, Invisibilia, 1 Corinthians (Ortberg Translation), and A Flock of (Hotel) Seagulls

Another Week Ends: Jean Vanier, Amen Dunes, Father Freeman, Invisibilia, 1 Corinthians (Ortberg Translation), and A Flock of (Hotel) Seagulls

1. Stephen Freeman, at it again, this time translating the story of the rich man and the eye of the needle. Freeman offers that maybe we should read the pronouncement today as saying that it is impossible for the middle-class man to make it to heaven, not just the rich man. Freeman argues that whenever we read this little bit from the bible, we immediately sigh a sigh of relief that, praise be Him, we are not, like totally loaded, at least not like Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So that have a ton of extra cash and extra homes. Freeman says…

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Another Week Ends: French Police, Long Hours, Divine Pranks, Self-Aware Addicts, Oldham's Charms, and Wild Country

Another Week Ends: French Police, Long Hours, Divine Pranks, Self-Aware Addicts, Oldham’s Charms, and Wild Country

1. First, if you didn’t catch the headlines about French policeman Arnaud Beltrame, they’re tailormade for today, e.g., “French officer who swapped places with a hostage in terror attack dies.” The story is really something:

The Daily Mail ran an interview with the Catholic monk who gave Beltrame last rites and was in the midst of preparing the gendarme to be married. It would appear that faith was not a minor part of the fallen man’s life.

2. Elsewhere, Elizabeth Bruenig penned the brief yet moving “It Will Happen Again and Again” on the long hour that passes between Peter’s second and third…

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