Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (and Are Not Clobbered by Platitudes or Advice)

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (and Are Not Clobbered by Platitudes or Advice)

A few months ago we reported on Slate’s grief survey, focusing mainly on the pressure that the bereaved feel to grieve or not grieve “appropriately.” This past week, Slate released more of the survey’s findings, this time with the emphasis on “How to Help Friends in Mourning.” Or, as the...

Religious Prejudice and Alcoholic Resurrections

Religious Prejudice and Alcoholic Resurrections

A particularly memorable section of “Bill’s Story,” in which Bill Wilson, primary author of The Big Book and co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, recounts what it was like to begin thinking about religious ideas afresh, in light of the significant internal resistance/baggage incurred by negative experiences he’d had with the church...

Dead Horses, Repentance, and American Religion

Dead Horses, Repentance, and American Religion

Allen Tate, an admired Southern poet (friend of Robert Penn Warren and teacher of Robert Lowell), published an essay in 1930 diagnosing the complexities of Southern and, by extension, American religion. It appears in a work by defenders of the agrarian way of life, titled I’ll Take My Stand, a book...

Introducing Mockingbird’s Guide to Genesis

Introducing Mockingbird’s Guide to Genesis

This piece originally appears as the Introduction chapter of Eden and Afterward, Mbird’s latest publication, which looks at Genesis through the lenses of literary commentary, theology, and everyday life. Contents include Adam, Abel, Noah, Babel, Abram, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Leah, Tamar, and Joseph.

There’s an old story of a Jewish rabbi who once...

Al Green Explores Your Soul (and Spirit, too)

Al Green Explores Your Soul (and Spirit, too)

Al Green was a total stud, in every sense of that word, at the very top of the soul music food chain in the early 70s, when something Earth-shattering happened to him. A woman with whom he was involved asked him to marry her, and he brushed her off. A...

True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

Now a month out from its release to your doorsteps, it’s now time to leak just a few samplings of what’s in our summer issue of The Mockingbird. If you feel you missed your chance, fear not! Click here and we’ll set you up.

This essay comes James Gilmore, business...

On Christian Nakedness (Muy Caliente!)

On Christian Nakedness (Muy Caliente!)

Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.

–The Devil (as played by Al Pacino)

I have a clothing problem.

It’s not that I spend too much money on clothes or that I’m obsessed with having the latest fashions. It’s that I put too much importance on what I wear.

In 2000, Nicolas Cage starred in The...

Let’s Hear It for the Boys… And Girls

Let’s Hear It for the Boys… And Girls

Another great contribution from Stephanie Phillips:

“This could be our last big surprise in life,” I said to my husband on our way to the gender-reveal ultrasound of our second child a couple of months ago. He laughed at the melodrama of the statement even...

2014 Fall Conference in Houston TX (10/17-18) – Pre-Registration Now Open!

2014 Fall Conference in Houston TX (10/17-18) – Pre-Registration Now Open!

Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It’s not expensive. It’s not even cheap. It’s free. – Robert Capon

The grace of God does not play it safe. It is imprudent, risky, foolish. It cannot be contained by the walls we build and masks we wear. It moves beyond deserving,...

Even As Though There Were No Law: William Tyndale on the Christian Life

Even As Though There Were No Law: William Tyndale on the Christian Life

Was William Tyndale, a founding father of Anglicanism, an antinomian? The following comes from his Prologue to the book of Romans. In it he outlines a Christian life which is unflinchingly active in works, yet it does so wholly apart from the law. In the economy of the Christian life,...

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“Enter Sandman” Mariano Rivera and the “Long Arm” of the Law

“Enter Sandman” Mariano Rivera and the “Long Arm” of the Law

It was perhaps the best “mid-game entrance” routine in the history of sports. I certainly can’t think of anything that comes close. When Mariano Rivera strolled out of the bullpen in Yankee Stadium to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, it was game over. The ominous, yet melodic heavy metal tune certainly added to the mystique. It truly stunk to be on the opposing team.

Exit light
Enter night
Take my hand
Off to never never land

Rivera not only has the most saves in baseball history, he also has the highest save percentage (89%) among the all-time greats.  (The save statistic is defined for closers as either…

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Dead Horses, Repentance, and American Religion

Dead Horses, Repentance, and American Religion

Allen Tate, an admired Southern poet (friend of Robert Penn Warren and teacher of Robert Lowell), published an essay in 1930 diagnosing the complexities of Southern and, by extension, American religion. It appears in a work by defenders of the agrarian way of life, titled I’ll Take My Stand, a book with some high points of wisdom which are neglected, now, as a result of its significant/egregious low points of racism and Southern revanchism. Tate finds American religion to be pragmatic in a bad way, focused on an abstract ability to work rather than a view of the whole human. You can…

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St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

St. Reba Reminds Us to Pray

The past few weeks have offered us a particularly difficult news cycle. A passenger plane was shot down in Ukraine. People continue to die in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And at home in America, children have crossed our borders alone and scared, longing for something less violent than the places they left.

I find myself wanting to do something, anything, to make it better. At this point I have been to all the relief websites. I know I can give money. If we knew Spanish, we could foster a child. And past that, I am basically out of options and stuck feeling…

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The Difference Between the Prophecies of Orwell and Huxley

A provocative quote from the introduction to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, ht VH:

brawndo2“Contrary to common belief even among the educated, [Aldous] Huxley and [George] Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

True Colors: Car Choices, Food Sources, and the Fauxthenticity of Our Times

Now a month out from its release to your doorsteps, it’s now time to leak just a few samplings of what’s in our summer issue of The Mockingbird. If you feel you missed your chance, fear not! Click here and we’ll set you up.

This essay comes James Gilmore, business school professor and co-author of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want and The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, both published by Harvard Business School Press. In this essay, Gilmore examines the pervasive and nuanced Economy of Authenticity, where the myth of what is “real” is what…

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Mockingbird: Bringing You the Gospel (pt 37)

Robot Butler at a Party

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

On Christian Nakedness (Muy Caliente!)

On Christian Nakedness (Muy Caliente!)

Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.

–The Devil (as played by Al Pacino)

I have a clothing problem.

It’s not that I spend too much money on clothes or that I’m obsessed with having the latest fashions. It’s that I put too much importance on what I wear.

In 2000, Nicolas Cage starred in The Family Man alongside Tea Leoni. It is basically a modern-day version of A Christmas Carol (directed by Brett Ratner of all people!), but the plot is not important to my point. What is important is a scene where Nicolas Cage, who has been magically transported from his life as a…

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Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Jesus: Not Quite Your All-American Hero

Babe Ruth taught me one thing: “Remember, kid,” he said, “there’s heroes, and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong.” All right, sure… maybe that was the not-so-historical Great Bambino from The Sandlot talking, but still, his advice has stuck with me since I was a wee lad. I believe it was my freshman year of high school that I heard Chad Kroeger of Nickelback opine, “They say that a hero can save us, I’m not gonna stand here and wait.” And I’ll never be able to expunge from…

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The Courage to Be “Weird”

The Courage to Be “Weird”

The internet got a little bit stranger this week with the release of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s newest album, Mandatory Fun. For close to 40 years now, Weird Al has embraced everything counterculture, playfully mocking the earnestness of 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s versions of “cool.” From Michael Jackson to Celine Dion, from Star Wars to the Beverly Hillbillies, there are few pop culture themes and memes that the musical master of parody has left untouched.

Weird Al predates me. I discovered him as a nerdy elementary schooler at a friend’s sleep-over. All we third and fourth graders howled with laughter,…

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Gerhard Forde Doesn’t Shore Up the Old Adam, But Kills Him

Here is a drastic parting of the ways with a theology of glory. The Christ of the Cross takes away the possibility of doing something. The theologian of glory might be able to follow to the point of accepting the truth that Christ has fulfilled all things, but then that will have to be used as a motivational tool to make sure the law gets its due. The point is precisely that the power to do good comes only out of this wild claim that everything has already been done. The language has to break out into preaching. Never mind that when we look to ourselves we find no sign of good works. Never mind our fears and our anxieties. We are looking in the wrong place. Look to Christ! He has done it all. Nothing will be gained by trying to shore up the Old Adam. Christ leaves nothing for the Old Adam and Eve to do. The old can only be killed by the law, not given artificial respiration by recourse to it… To the theologian of the cross the language of grace and faith must be pushed absolutely to this length – until it kills the old and raises the new.

-Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross

From The Onion: Man’s Anxiety Not About To Let Depression Muscle In On Turf

tumblr_static_willAmerica’s Finest News Source reports:

PHOENIX—Unwilling to cede decades of hard-won advances, local man Roger Cannon’s persistent anxiety vowed Monday that it would not let clinical depression muscle in on any of its turf. “Look, I’ve had a vise-grip on this guy for 30 years, so I’m not about to roll over now and let some despondent feelings and an overriding aversion to activity waltz in and take over his emotional state,” said the mental disorder… “Roger’s mental condition is my domain. And if all-encompassing thoughts of hopelessness and inadequacy think they can parade around like they own the place, trust me, they’ve got another thing coming.” The neurosis then promised that it wouldn’t make the same mistake it did in 2011, when it briefly let its guard down and disastrously allowed happiness to take hold.

The Repetitive Hope of Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”

The Repetitive Hope of Gavin Bryars’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”

I heard Gavin Bryar’s “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” for the first time in college late one night while perusing the internet for new music. This was during a particularly dark period in my life after a recent breakup where I spent many a night on the internet distracting myself with music blogs, Facebook, or AddictingGames.com. I happened upon a positive review endorsing the piece and intrigued by the concept and backstory, I downloaded it and pressed play. Normally, I would listen to music on my laptop while continuing to browse the internet but minutes after the song started,…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Ten Verses Thirty Five to Forty Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Ten Verses Thirty Five to Forty Five

This morning’s devotion comes from the Reverend Doctor Dave Johnson.

…And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able”… (Mark 10:35-45, ESV)

A couple of years ago I read a book by John Maxwell called Failing Forward, which is about moving forward when things in our lives do not go…

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Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

Another Week Ends: Nick Cave, Cuddle Parties, Prognostalgia, Wine Snobbery, The Vicar of Baghdad, and the Post-Christian Politics of Jesus

1) “The Vicar of Baghdad” is a three-part series over at Vice, and it’s difficult to put into words the (foolish? amazing?) courage of Vicar Andrew White, an English-born Anglican priest who walks with a cane, and who has now served in Baghdad’s central districts for fourteen years, running St. George’s Episcopal Anglican Church, as well as running a clinic for locals and, most interestingly, working as a intermediary between Sunni and Shia leaders for peace and dialogue. It’s a real-life parable (ht JZ).

2) There were several au contraires to the presumption that we “live by looks” this week. Or,…

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Let’s Hear It for the Boys… And Girls

Let’s Hear It for the Boys… And Girls

Another great contribution from Stephanie Phillips:

“This could be our last big surprise in life,” I said to my husband on our way to the gender-reveal ultrasound of our second child a couple of months ago. He laughed at the melodrama of the statement even as we both acknowledged that the news was likely to be anticlimactic, since the perinatologist had already guessed–and we had suspected–that we were having another boy. An hour later, our suspicions were confirmed. I was set to be the lone female in a house populated by Y chromosomes.

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