We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

Warning: some spoilers ahead, but no major plot developments, I don’t think. It’s hard to tell with sitcoms, especially one in the 30 Rock vein.

Netflix’s newest “original” show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, very quickly won me over with its blend of goofy characters and cultural commentary. From the mind of Tina...

Mindful of Our Busyness: Notes on Another Epidemic (and Its Relief)

Mindful of Our Busyness: Notes on Another Epidemic (and Its Relief)

A pair of (somewhat) related articles came across my desk yesterday that seem especially relevant with the new ‘Work and Play’ issue of The Mockingbird shipping today. The first is the latest dispatch on that cultural flashpoint known as Busyness. In a pithy blogpost for The Huffington Post, Scott Dannemiller contends...

NOW AVAILABLE! Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue

NOW AVAILABLE! Issue 4 of The Mockingbird: The Work and Play Issue

We’re happy to announce that Issue 4 is now available! Here’s our Table of Contents for the Work and Play Issue. Needless to say there’s lots to be excited for, so if you’re looking for a subscription, now’s the time, because this is also the last time we’ll be selling...

SPRING CONFERENCE IN NYC (4/16-18) – FULL SCHEDULE!

SPRING CONFERENCE IN NYC (4/16-18) – FULL SCHEDULE!

Very excited to announce the preliminary schedule for our upcoming conference in NYC! For more info on the various speakers, click here. In addition to the sessions below, we can confirm that we’ll have a magician in tow to perform tricks between talks (seriously!). Some details subject to change. To...

Silencing the Messy Conscience

Silencing the Messy Conscience

This post originally appeared on LaurenRELarkin.com.

Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave...

Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

The widely loved writer and thinker Philip Yancey (who also happens to be coming to Mockingbirdtown this week) has come out with a new book, called Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? In it, he seems to have a lot to say about the falling state of American Christendom...

To Practice Dying

To Practice Dying

Last week, yet another beautiful story about death came across my newsfeed. There are a lot of things I can avoid clicking on (kitten videos, I’m looking at you), but tell me a story about dying and I’m all ears. While the inclination might have something to do with my...

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

My Relationship With God Is Better Than Ever

(This essay was originally published in issue 3 of The Mockingbird. All issues and subscriptions, including issue 4 which ships tomorrow, are available available here).

“We can permit ourselves to be more romantic than the romanticists and more humanistic than the humanists. But we must be more precise.” —Karl Barth, “The Christian’s Place...

Latest entries

PZ’s Podcast: One Toke Over the Line (Sweet Mary)

PZ’s Podcast: One Toke Over the Line (Sweet Mary)

EPISODE 185: One Toke Over the Line (Sweet Mary)

Call it another “Envoi”. A Last Word, The Summing Up (Maugham). Which is what it is.

I’ve tried to bring it on home, wrap it up: the message of PZ’s Podcast. Remember I tried to distill things once in an episode entitled “My Sharona”? That was in July 2011 and it was the 54th cast. Well, this is “My Sharona” revisited and it’s the 185th.

I had a vision on the 29th of January (2015). It was not a fun or reassuring vision. Far from it! But it seemed important. I can’t shake it.

So…

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Another Week Ends: The Purity Witchhunt, March Madness, Punitive Gods, Better Call Saul, The TED Testament and Forgiving Racists

Another Week Ends: The Purity Witchhunt, March Madness, Punitive Gods, Better Call Saul, The TED Testament and Forgiving Racists

1) “Purity” talk is not just for the Evangelicals, it would seem. Despite the characterization of purity rings and abstinence devotionals and root beer pong, Richard Beck at Experimental Theology points to the moral fixation implicit in progressive Christians like himself, too. It’s not a difference in value, it’s merely a difference in where the self-justifying finger is pointed. Referring to an article written by Aurora Dagny, Beck argues that the fixation itself is complicit in making “everything problematic.”

For progressive Christians moral purity will fixate on complicity in injustice. To be increasingly “pure” in progressive Christian circles is to become less and…

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Tim Tebow, Battle Creek, Nice Guy Displacement…and the NCAA Comeback

Tim Tebow, Battle Creek, Nice Guy Displacement…and the NCAA Comeback

All Tim Tebow does is win – NCAA Championships, Heisman Trophies, NFL Playoff Games, “guy I most want to date my daughter contests”, etc. He’s still looking for a job in the NFL though, because, even though he wins, teams don’t trust him. He takes too long to get rid of the ball and isn’t particularly accurate. In short, he’s the opposite of the NFL “prototype” quarterback. That’s a tough label to shake.

There’s a rumor this week that he may get another shot–as a third string QB for The Philadelphia Eagles and Coach Chip Kelly. Kelly worked out Tebow this…

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Ricky Eat Acid’s Aural Law/Gospel

Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Ricky Eat Acid’s Aural Law/Gospel

While listening to music, I’ve found there are certain details or aspects in songs that I will tend to gravitate toward or focus on more.  A lot of times, these aspects can, in a sense, make or break a song for me and can be something as menial as a specific chord change, a song’s particular drum sound or pattern, a short musical riff, etc. When I gravitate toward an aspect like this, I tend to disregard a lot of other elements in the song to the point where if that one aspect were missing, I might not enjoy the…

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Thursday Afternoon Law, pt 1 – Conrad’s Lord Jim

Walker Percy said that Wednesday afternoon is the worst time of the week, when an existential fugue settles over you – and as T-Bone Walker sang, “Thursday’s also sad.” The narrator of Ikiru said, “he will have to get a lot worse before he can get better.”  So here’s some afternoon Law to help, from Conrad’s Lord Jim, as he describes a man trying to define himself, to narrate a shameful mistake from his past in such a way as to lessen his guilt:

It was solemn, and a little ridiculous too, as they always are, those struggles of an individual trying to save from the fire his idea of what his moral identity should be, this precious notion of a convention, only one of the rules of the game, nothing more, but all the same so terribly effective by its assumption of unlimited power over natural instincts, by the awful penalties of its failure.

NYC Breakout Preview: Faith through Imagination

This begins our series of previews for our Mockingbird NYC Conference this April. It comes from the one and only Melina Smith.  

Until a character becomes a personality it cannot be believed. Without personality, the character may do funny or interesting things, but unless people are able to identify themselves with the character, its actions will seem unreal. And without personality, a story cannot ring true to the audience. – Walt Disney

We can all recall being small people and being captured through imagination. For me this experience came through vivid stories and films my father shared with me as a child. I can honestly say faith did not come through Sunday School. I can recall being disappointed in the presentation of your average Bible story– they came across as stale, rigid, and lacking in any creativity. As a child I preferred being in the big church; it was there, at the very least,that I heard more compelling and imaginative readings of the Bible. Sunday School felt like a threat–a boring one.

Walt-Disney-and-Mickey-Mouse-at-Disneyland-walter-e-disney-6626898-400-512Fast forward to 2007 when I find myself in the basement of the church, working with a couple of volunteers to create Sunday School programing. I call upon my own childhood, remembering the felt board Jesus, watching Salty, and reading through the KJV. I knew going forward we would not be using materials I grew up with. As our small team continued, we bought curriculums, and worked with Godly Play, the programs we used were good, but I found something was missing.

Why is it that in the Christian subculture we miss our opportunity to capture the imaginations of our youngest members during the time when its development is MOST vivid? As children we are not bound to what’s “real”–we are open to story. Take Walt Disney for instance: you could argue the world of Disney is its very own religious sphere. Disney said, “Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.” He was onto something here. Disney understood the power or imagination, he knew how to communicate the impossible with the hope of plausibility.

Children and grown-ups are captivated by the strength of a story. Sure, the Bible may not include singing lobsters, but each story includes enough drama and risk to capture any listener, if the story is told well.

Join us for “Faith Through Imagination” at the 2015 Mockingbird conference. Jackie DeMarco and I will share how our team has created programing that captures the imaginations of our youngest members. The imagination is the natural way to the heart of our youngest members. Can you imagine creation, the stormy story of Noah, and Jonah’s time in the belly of a whale? Children can so long as the story is told well. Join Jackie and I as we share our process, our vision, and hope for sharing the Gospel through story.

Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.

We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

We All Have Our Own Bunkers: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law, and Grace

Warning: some spoilers ahead, but no major plot developments, I don’t think. It’s hard to tell with sitcoms, especially one in the 30 Rock vein.

Netflix’s newest “original” show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, very quickly won me over with its blend of goofy characters and cultural commentary. From the mind of Tina Fey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt feels a lot like 30 Rock, but has a slightly different, more optimistic tone, mainly due to Ellie Kemper’s portrayal of the titular character. Kimmy’s demeanor is reminiscent of Leslie Knope, so it’s nice see another solid female character step in to fill the void left…

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Silencing the Messy Conscience

Silencing the Messy Conscience

This post originally appeared on LaurenRELarkin.com.

Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.

― Martin Luther “The Life…

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Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

Addressing the “Grace Gap” in American Churches

The widely loved writer and thinker Philip Yancey (who also happens to be coming to Mockingbirdtown this week) has come out with a new book, called Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? In it, he seems to have a lot to say about the falling state of American Christendom in its cultural conception, not as being lovers and welcomers and forgivers, but as being rigidly judgmental, self-oriented, and more or less “anti-” everything.

I’m excited about the book, mainly because I’ve seen Yancey speak before, at St. George’s in Nashville, and the guy has a dispensary of stories about grace. He…

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The (Beginning and) End of Scorekeeping

Here’s my presentation at last month’s Liberate Conference, which is much indebted to Paul Walker’s talk on the same subject back in 2011. Those who came to the Fall conference in Houston (or have read the new issue of The Mockingbird) may be tempted to subtract points for the overlap:

LIBERATE 2015 | David Zahl from Coral Ridge | LIBERATE on Vimeo.

From The Onion: Scientists Discover Eating Serves Function Other Than Easing Anxiety

Holy lord they got me good today:

This-Is-40-2-Paul-Rudd-cupcakesPROVIDENCE, RI—Shedding new light on the biological underpinnings behind the behavior, scientists at Brown University announced Tuesday that eating appears to serve a number of key functions besides relieving anxiety. “While a considerable portion of food is indeed ingested in order to distract an individual from feelings of panic and insecurity, our research shows that eating actually confers several benefits beyond temporarily holding despair at bay,” said Dr. Sandra Lutkin, who explained that consuming food has been found to provide vital nutrients to the human body and in many cases replenish it with energy, suggesting that its primary purpose may not be as a coping mechanism at all. “In fact, we observed dozens of subjects and discovered that only a portion of the items they ingested were intended to assuage their apprehension about their job, relationship, or body image…” Although she cautioned the findings were tentative, Lutkin posited that there might be additional methods of eating besides frantically devouring a meal directly over a trash can or sink.

David Carr Took Good Cards and Set Them on Fire

David Carr Took Good Cards and Set Them on Fire

A remarkable passage from the opening to the late David Carr’s unbelievably good memoir of addiction, The Night of the Gun, in which he lays out the difficulty of investigating and recapitulating one’s past. Reminded me of Tavris and Aaronson’s description of memory as editor, i.e. one of the chief instruments of self-justification. Turns out the stories we tell about ourselves, especially the harrowing ones, reveal the narratives we have constructed around our identities–AKA the laws to which we are beholden and which drive our editing/dishonesty, such as Thou Shalt Be Transformed (and Stay That Way). Also one of the…

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