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Confessions of a Grace Bully

Confessions of a Grace Bully

This confession comes to us from Scott Brand.

Recently, I decided to move from Orlando to St. Louis for school. During the transition, I stopped for a week in Columbus, OH, to stay with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Most of my family still resides in...

Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

I promise you, I had no intention of writing about this subject again. Not for a long while at least. I’m talking about the whole culture of offense/outrage/oversensitivity/correctness/humorlessness/what-have-you that seems to have overtaken our nation’s universities, and by extension vast swaths of media, social and otherwise. It may be one...

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

It turns out that Stephen Colbert has a sign on his computer that reads, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.” No joke. I tell you this by way of context for what comes next. GQ ran a profile of him this month entitled “The Late,...

God Save Us From The Nasty Effect

God Save Us From The Nasty Effect

Quite a close-to-home article appeared in The NY Times the other day, “This Story Stinks”, in which Dominique Brossard and Dietram Scheufele relay some findings from a report published last month in The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (!) about the so-called “nasty effect” that afflicts online culture. Specifically, the comments...

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Another Week Ends: Amabots, Dismaland, Resurrected Souls, Evangelical Wizards, more Brene, and the Death of the Internet

Another Week Ends: Amabots, Dismaland, Resurrected Souls, Evangelical Wizards, more Brene, and the Death of the Internet

1. By this point, you’ve probably gandered at The NY Times’ “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace”, which describes the retail baron’s notorious pattern of “burn and churn” when it comes to its employees. If the report is to be believed, the closest reference point to their company ethos is that of the Prussian military, i.e. “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.” While reports about the mega-retailer’s internal culture have been circulating for quite some time now, this is the article that will cement Bezos et al at the top of the performancist foodchain. One of the ways they’ve…

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Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer’s Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Innocent Bystanders, Assemble! The Viewer’s Perspective in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

This reflection comes to us from Tim Peoples.

I’m no hero, and that was brought home to me in a three-month binge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (twelve films and three TV series…thanks very much, Age of Ultron marketing!).

Several works in the MCU follow a wider cultural trend of the deconstruction of the American male (ht DZ at the Love, Suffering, and Creativity conference), which shows us how low our anthropology should be. For example, the Iron Man trilogy is mostly about Tony Stark’s attempt to atone for war profiteering, and the third installment even provides a post-Iraq/Afghanistan meditation on post-traumatic…

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Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

Just Cause You Feel It: Emotional Coddling in a Culture of Offense

I promise you, I had no intention of writing about this subject again. Not for a long while at least. I’m talking about the whole culture of offense/outrage/oversensitivity/correctness/humorlessness/what-have-you that seems to have overtaken our nation’s universities, and by extension vast swaths of media, social and otherwise. It may be one of the primary places where the thematic rubber is meeting the road (for now), but it doesn’t bring out a terribly hopeful side. And one needs all the optimism one can get, especially at the dawn of a new semester. Or election.

Plus, we’ve already covered most of this stuff at…

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Waiting for the Full Revelation of Janelle Monae

Waiting for the Full Revelation of Janelle Monae

I realize that this post is at least two years late, maybe even five. But even though Janelle Monae is no longer ‘new’ to the music scene, nevertheless she does believe, and claims to have participated in, time travel. So this slowpoke post is already forgiven.

Monae is currently making headlines because of her work with the Black Lives Matter movement, which got me re-listening to her music. What I discovered was that even though every major music reviewer covered her “genre-defying” 2013 album, The Electric Lady, few humans have attempted an in-depth interpretation of that which has been heralded as…

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Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

Stephen Colbert Loves the Thing He Most Wishes Had Not Happened

It turns out that Stephen Colbert has a sign on his computer that reads, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the existence of God.” No joke. I tell you this by way of context for what comes next. GQ ran a profile of him this month entitled “The Late, Great Stephen Colbert”, checking in with the comedian (and, according to the article, “one of the country’s few public moral intellectuals”!) before he kicks off his much-anticipated stint as host of The Late Show in September. The article is jaw-dropping. What starts out with a story about Colbert needling Eminem on…

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How to Construct a Vehicle for Feeling Superior

Finally absorbed DT Max’s biography of David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story, while on vacation last week and figure the window of film-related hubbub won’t be open forever. One passage that stuck out comes from a letter that Wallace wrote to Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, in which he describes a familiar conflict: how one’s inner lawyer can marshal shortcomings just as deftly as strengths in its quest for personal righteousness:

aliciaworkI go through a loop in which I notice all the ways I am–for just an example–self-centered and careerist and not true to standards and values that transcend my own petty interests, and feel like I’m not one of the good ones; but then I countenance the fact that here at least here I am worrying about it, noticing all the ways I fall short of integrity, and I imagine that maybe people without any integrity at all don’t notice or worry about it; so then I feel better about myself (I mean, at least this stuff is on my mind, at least I’m dissatisfied with my level of integrity and commitment); but this soon becomes a vehicle for feeling superior to (imagined) Others… It has to do with God and gods and a basic sense of trust in the universe v. fear that the universe must be held at bay and micromanaged into giving me some smidgeon of some gratification I feel I simply can’t live without. It’s all very confusing. I think I’m very honest and candid, but I’m also proud of how honest and candid I am–so where does that put me.

Confessions of a Grace Bully

Confessions of a Grace Bully

This confession comes to us from Scott Brand.

Recently, I decided to move from Orlando to St. Louis for school. During the transition, I stopped for a week in Columbus, OH, to stay with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Most of my family still resides in Columbus, and, for the last five years, I haven’t been able to visit home very much. It was a good time to reconnect and catch up with cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as begin the process of making my nieces not terrified of the bearded monster that insists on…

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PZ’s Ten Ways to Grow Your Church

Mockingbird’s roving correspondent has been taking in a lot of church services this Summer, mostly in the Northeast. Some have been excruciating, two have been glorious. Here are ten short reflections on my trip, on how to grow a church in light of what I’ve seen. The most important is the last.

  1. Begin by watching and studying every minute of Red Beard (1965) by Akira Kurosawa. The main character, a physician, played by Toshiro Mifune, is the ideal parish minister. Everything he does is perceptive, right, and plenum gratiae.
  2. Only ever preach one sermon, which is the forgiveness of sins, the absolution of every human “as is”, through the suffering and Passion of the Christ.
  3. Make sure every sermon has at least one arresting emotional illustration.
  4. green+rayRead, mark, learn, and inwardly digest each incident in Theophilus North (1973), the final novel of Thornton Wilder. Theophilus North is the all time handbook for intrepid, effective pastoral evangelism.
  5. Abolish all rules concerning weddings, and also baptisms, and say yes to every request you get. But don’t schedule baptisms, unless they are “in house” cases such as your child’s, for the main Sunday service. Do them privately Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon – the Jane Austen way.
  6. Focus monomaniacally on the casual visitor and seeker, but don’t let them know that. Just visit them or call them (personally) the Sunday afternoon of their visit. But call them after your nap.
  7. Only choose old and familiar hymns for Sunday mornings and make sure you do the choosing, not whoever is the organist.
  8. Never miss a chance to write a thank-you note. It should be an apt postcard from the Morgan Library or some place like that.
  9. Try to visit everyone in their home, even if they seem to resist it at first. Also visit everyone who gets sick when they are in the hospital. This has become one of the hardest tasks of parish ministry, partly because hospital parking lots have become more complicated and partly because hospital security no longer favors members of the clergy. It can still be done, however.
  10. Watch and study every minute, especially the last 15, of The Green Ray (1986) by Eric Rohmer. That movie is a testament to the reality that anyone can be saved, and there’s how it happens.

Coming Soon: PZ’s Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church!

Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Vacation, All I Never Wanted

Louis CK does a bit about marriage (it’s an old bit; he’s since gotten divorced, which makes the content both sad and prescient) in which he recounts his therapist’s recommendation that he take his wife on a date. “I went on a date with my wife, and you know what? I’m not going to call her again.”

My husband reminded me of this joke recently upon returning from our “vacation.”

I use quotes because, as anyone with kids knows (and some have written), any temporary relocation of the family unit would be more aptly described as a trip. I’ve been on vacations…

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NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 31:  A man rides in a canoe in high water after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area August 31, 2005 in New Orleans.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Remembering Katrina 10 Years Later

I can hardly believe that it’s been a decade since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. For better or worse, I always think of the storm as a kind of before/after moment in my life. Before I realized that my personal diatribes are mostly useless. Before I understood that my judgment never matters. Before I knew how deeply God loves his creation.

I was standing in my apartment at the University of Mississippi the day after the storm made land. Public radio opened their lines up for people to call in and talk about what was happening as it was happening;…

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The Extreme Selfie as an Art Form

The Extreme Selfie as an Art Form

I didn’t ask to become inane; it just happened one day while I was driving down the highway, trying to take a selfie while eating a burrito. (This was to stand in as a more interesting version of the “on my way” text.) Mercifully, the rice spilled on my dress, I realized what I was doing, and no one died on that stretch of I-64 that day.

Worlds away, a number of Russians haven’t been so lucky. After at least ten deaths by selfie this year alone, Russian police have launched a campaign for the “safe selfie” to get their youngest…

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Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Three Verse Thirty

This morning’s devotion comes from Keith Pozzuto.

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30, ESV)

I grew up thinking that “sanctification” was all about me. I thought that I was saved by Jesus, but then it was up to me—in my cooperation with the Holy Spirit—to become a holy person, a good person. In my mind, my obedience and disciplines were what sanctified me, what helped me climb the ladder to glory. Sanctification is the word used to describe the life between “being saved” and going on up into God’s glory. “Sanctification is a process,” I had been told.

Now I have a new vision of sanctification—and it really is a vision. It’s not based on merit, but on reality. It kind of looks like this:

I am standing in front of a gravestone. It is grey and wet, predawn, and the breeze is brisk at first. I have a shovel in my hand and I am digging. The digging is easy for a while, but then, about a foot down, I hit clay and the digging becomes harder. After a while I’m completely covered in red mire, this refuse of years of decay. Then dawn breaks. The sun rises over the cruciform headstone, and its shadow passes over me. Not long after, I am completely under its shadow. I cannot escape the depths of digging, but I cannot escape the morning shadow of the cross, either. The sunlight seems to filter around the cold stone, heaven a cross-shaped keyhole through the pit that I have dug for myself.

To me, this is a more insightful vision of sanctification. The deeper we dig, the more we realize Christ’s boundless depth of love.