New Here?
     
You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Ideal and the Actual)

You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Ideal and the Actual)

For magic to come through in the performance of a tightrope dancer, he or she requires some amount of tension in their rope, and then to step out off the platform.

Tension is defined as: the act of stretching or straining.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Nadia Bolz-Weber speak at...

2016 NYC Conference Recordings: Relief!

2016 NYC Conference Recordings: Relief!

Thank you again to everyone who helped put on this year’s conference in NYC, especially our invaluable friends at Calvary St. George’s. Feels rather poetic that a conference about “grace in world of expectation” so exceeded our own. Praise God for that.

We’re once again making the recordings available gratis; we only ask that those who...

Now Available: The Church Issue of The Mockingbird!

Now Available: The Church Issue of The Mockingbird!

Issue number seven has arrived! We really love this one and think you will too. Needless to say, the theme this time is a potent one. Yet as laden with history and hope and hurt as the subject may be, that didn’t stop us from having some fun. Below find...

Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

Deeply saddened by the news of Prince’s death today at age 57. Since it’s borderline impossible to find his music online, those looking for some immediate catharsis would do well to tune into Minnesota public radio The Current, which is streaming his records non-stop.

Like everyone else who was alive in...

So You Have Your Doubts…

So You Have Your Doubts…

Last week, William Irwin wrote an op-ed for the New York Times’ philosophy forum, The Stone, called “God Is a Question, Not an Answer.” Despite the nauseating title, and the ever more nauseating 2,000-plus comments that have come in the week since it has been published, the article asks a...

The Archbishop’s Identity Never Changes

The Archbishop’s Identity Never Changes

Welby and his biological father, Anthony Montague Browne.

Not sure if you’ve been following the story unfolding around Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby this past week, but it is truly extraordinary, both in its details and in what it reveals about the Archbishop himself. In a nutshell, at the age...

Cords of wool in the EU Colors

String Theory, Shoestring Theory, and Your Entry in Modern Jackass Magazine

In 2010 Kathryn Schulz, a journalist for the New Yorker, wrote a book called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. This passage comes from that book, and describes a phenomenon we know all too well: that we pretend to know something that we, in fact, don’t know anything about. Maybe we lay...

Latest entries

Failed Evangelist

Failed Evangelist

This comes to us from our friend Emily Skelding. 

I’m a terrible evangelist.

I have never once, not ever, converted anyone. I am suspicious of emotional altar calls after a sermon that starts at a whisper and ends with shouts.  I’ve never wandered a Florida beach converting a hungover college kid. In fact, I doubt these transformations. They ring tinny to my ear.

Sometimes I’m not sure if I even qualify as a born-again Christian.

Still, I cling to the idea of rebirth. God’s grace, the process of God holding my cracked soul to make it healed and whole, carries me through life’s…

Read More > > >

That’s the Law, Baby

That’s the Law, Baby

Since I’m a parent of two small children, I watch a lot of crap TV. (This is, to be clear, different from the crap TV I used to watch of my own volition. See left.) And by “watch,” I mean, “check my phone/read while the kids watch.” But recently a plot point of an episode of Octonauts caught my attention. Please stay with me–I promise at least the potential of relatability.

The animal adventurers (I guess there’s a submarine? And they’re in some version of the Navy? Or something?) stumbled upon their twice-per-episode sea creature, and this particular example was…

Read More > > >

Love at Arm’s Length: The Dark Knight Can Do Anything but Give You His Heart

Love at Arm’s Length: The Dark Knight Can Do Anything but Give You His Heart

Wenatchee the Hatchet continues his series, “Justice Has Its Price: The Exiles and Orphans of the Justice League,” with this look at the character of Batman.

Over the years the Batman given to us by Kevin Conroy, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm has done a lot of things. Batman has foiled the Joker repeatedly. He has overcome worlds of illusion to stop the Mad Hatter. He has thwarted Ra’s al Ghul’s plans to kill most of humanity. He has outsmarted the Riddler. He’s done battle with Lex Luthor. He’s battled magicians. He’s even managed to dodge Darkseid’s Omega beams. It would seem there’s…

Read More > > >

Another Week Ends: Crooked Cops, Rueful Rates, Toasted Prayers, Humanized Preppies, Katims’ Path, GNR Haters, and 15 Year Old Prince

Another Week Ends: Crooked Cops, Rueful Rates, Toasted Prayers, Humanized Preppies, Katims’ Path, GNR Haters, and 15 Year Old Prince

Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with musician Derek Webb, among other things. Conference recordings coming early next week!

1. Given the grim findings reported in the next item, I thought we’d kick off with a beautiful story of grace that aired on CBS this week. Pretty much the reverse of every prison movie ever made, thank God:

2. This past Friday, the National Institute for Health Statistics published updated findings on national rates of suicide, and the news is not good. Bluntly put, between 1999 and 2014, the US suicide rate has risen by…

Read More > > >

The Sultry Sounds of Vin Scully and the “Jack Rabbit Resurrection”

88-year-old Vin Scully has been doing Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers’ games for 60+ years. He’s always been the “Garrison Keillor of Sports Broadcasting” – weaving yarn after yarn between pitches to keep listeners engaged (the vast majority of his work having been on radio). In this, his final season, Scully has become a social media phenomenon with this true tale he told in a Giant-Dodger game last week. Madison Bumgarner (pitcher pictured here) and his wife, are the story’s hero/heroine:

Cords of wool in the EU Colors

String Theory, Shoestring Theory, and Your Entry in Modern Jackass Magazine

In 2010 Kathryn Schulz, a journalist for the New Yorker, wrote a book called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. This passage comes from that book, and describes a phenomenon we know all too well: that we pretend to know something that we, in fact, don’t know anything about. Maybe we lay out the chief causes of the Flint, Michigan water crisis because we skimmed a Washington Post story on it. Maybe we throw out some statistics about incarceration in America–statistics even we didn’t know before they came out of our mouth. Maybe we describe to our spouse how he/she should water the fig plant….

Read More > > >

You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Ideal and the Actual)

You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Ideal and the Actual)

For magic to come through in the performance of a tightrope dancer, he or she requires some amount of tension in their rope, and then to step out off the platform.

Tension is defined as: the act of stretching or straining.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Nadia Bolz-Weber speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing, and I was struck by this statement she made:

So many of us are tormented by the distance between our ideal self and our actual self.”

Like a tightrope dancer, we stand at one end of the rope, palms sweating and knees buckled at the hopes…

Read More > > >

Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

Black Day, Stormy Night: Don’t Die Without Knowing Prince

Deeply saddened by the news of Prince’s death today at age 57. Since it’s borderline impossible to find his music online, those looking for some immediate catharsis would do well to tune into Minnesota public radio The Current, which is streaming his records non-stop.

Like everyone else who was alive in the 80s, Purple Rain and its many singles were my entry point into the music of Prince Rogers Nelson: the bassless “When Doves Cry”, the euphoric “Let’s Go Crazy”, the Journey-cribbing title track (no joke). Yet while I treasured my “Batdance” cassette single, I’d be lying if I didn’t say…

Read More > > >

A Prodigal – Elizabeth Bishop

slippin_jimmy_tshirtThe brown enormous odor he lived by
was too close, with its breathing and thick hair,
for him to judge. The floor was rotten; the sty
was plastered halfway up with glass-smooth dung.
Light-lashed, self-righteous, above moving snouts,
the pigs’ eyes followed him, a cheerful stare–
even to the sow that always ate her young–
till, sickening, he leaned to scratch her head.
But sometimes mornings after drinking bouts
(he hid the pints behind the two-by-fours),
the sunrise glazed the barnyard mud with red
the burning puddles seemed to reassure.
And then he thought he almost might endure
his exile yet another year or more.

But evenings the first star came to warn.
The farmer whom he worked for came at dark
to shut the cows and horses in the barn
beneath their overhanging clouds of hay,
with pitchforks, faint forked lightnings, catching light,
safe and companionable as in the Ark.
The pigs stuck out their little feet and snored.
The lantern–like the sun, going away–
laid on the mud a pacing aureole.
Carrying a bucket along a slimy board,
he felt the bats’ uncertain staggering flight,
his shuddering insights, beyond his control,
touching him. But it took him a long time
finally to make up his mind to go home.

The Limits of the Self in King Louie’s Temple

The Limits of the Self in King Louie’s Temple

“Oobee doo! I wanna be like you! I wanna walk like you, talk like you, too. You’ll see it’s true—an ape like me can learn to be human too!”

While some of the story has been changed or updated since the 60s, one thing you absolutely can look forward to in the new Jungle Book is a snazzy rendition of the song, “I Wanna Be Like You,” sung by King Louie, the ape who wants to be human. Where in the old Disney movie King Louie was an orangutan, in the new version he takes on the form of a Gigantopithecus, a…

Read More > > >

From the Magazine: Molly Worthen on Cultural Identity in the American Church

With the Church Issue out the door and hitting mailboxes this week, we thought it might be prudent to post a teaser edition of our amazing interview with religious historian and New York Times contributor Molly Worthen. 

If you want to order the Church Issue or subscribe, this is the place to do it.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 9.15.30 AMIn the introduction to her 2014 book, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism, historian and journalist Molly Worthen sets out to reappraise the term “evangelical”—both what it has meant and what it continues to mean today. She discusses the inherent distrust of American evangelical culture in the wider public sphere, where evangelicals on the whole are typecasted as hostile or anachronistic, too blinded by an authoritarian faith to confront the discoveries of science and reason. Yet Worthen argues that this characterization misrepresents wide swaths of evangelicals, that, on the whole, evangelicals are far more thoughtful and diverse than most critics realize. Worthen argues that evangelicals have been further from ‘authoritarian’ than the intellectual spheres that so readily spurn them:

The central source of anti-intellectualism in evangelical life is the antithesis of “authoritarianism.” It is evangelicals’ ongoing crisis of authority—their struggle to reconcile reason with revelation, heart with head, and private piety with the public square—that best explains their anxiety and animosity toward intellectual life. Thinkers in the democratic West celebrate their freedom of thought but practice a certain kind of unwavering obedience—bowing to the Enlightenment before all other gods—that allows modern intellectual life to function. Evangelicals, by contrast, are torn between sovereign powers that each claim supremacy.

In a way, this tension has been the story of the Church universal, perpetually buffeted between the unique revelation of truth in Jesus Christ, and the world of independent thought that also demands their everyday consideration. The Church, for better or worse, tends to operate in tandem with these powers, which has always led to tricky (and often, precarious) outcomes.

Worthen argues that evangelicals today are still searching for firm footing. As a journalist, the current moments of discord seem of particular interest to her. Her articles in the New York Times often engage the tension between the doctrines of tolerance given us by secular liberalism, and the exclusive truth claims made by the many we would call “evangelicals.” As a Professor at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), she is also interested in how secular thought and identity politics on American campuses have tended to provoke similar kinds of exclusive truth claims on its students, though to a different end. As you will see in our interview, for Molly Worthen, evangelicals are a group of believers who have found it necessary to reconcile the constraints of the public sphere and the demands of their own personal belief.

Worthen spoke to us from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

M

Are there contemporary issues today within the Church that are simply rehashings of an old issue from centuries ago?

MW

Sure, I’m often aware of continuities, and I try to stress them to my students. I teach a course on North American religion since European contact, and one of the themes is the way Christians have always struggled with the paradoxes that define their faith. These paradoxes are what give Christianity its majesty and brilliance, but they’re also what cause great frustration among believers. It has seemed to me that, over the millennia, people who are deemed heretics by defenders of orthodoxy are Christians who sought to resolve one or more of the key paradoxes of Christianity—whether it was to try to separate Christ’s human and divine nature or to try to rationalize the mystery of the Trinity or to push apart the paradox of free will and divine sovereignty.

41-xe2IErwL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_And then there are the less Trinitarian paradoxes that continue to pop up in contemporary religion, that deal with culture—the paradox of the Christian calling to be ‘in the world but not of it’—that dilemma frames so many issues for Christians today.

The paradox whereby Paul calls Christians to be always alert to the way in which culture can become confused with the Gospel, and worldly identities blended with identity in Christ—that one is so apparent in the current presidential election. It certainly illuminates the appeal of Donald Trump’s xenophobic, nativist, essentially white supremacist language. Some evangelical leaders I’ve asked about this insist that evangelicals who support Trump are not real evangelicals because many of them don’t go to church, but the fact is that “evangelical” has become a kind of cultural identity that churches do not control.

One trend I’ve been following is the way in which more and more evangelical leaders are calling for American Christians to think of themselves as a “moral minority,” a Christian counterculture, to recognize that the ship has sailed on marriage equality and that they can no longer aspire to “take the country back.” And yet, at the same time, we have the evangelical grassroots rallying for a presidential candidate who is resurrecting the rhetoric of Jerry Falwell, speaking about how the “silent majority” is back to reclaim the country. I mean, this is what Trump says! So there’s a widening gap between the strategies and desires of many evangelical leaders, and what seem to be the sentiments of their constituents.

M

College students are certainly up against a lot, especially if they’re professing a faith that has exclusive truth claims. Your recent article in the New York Times, “Hallelujah College,” talked a little bit about that too, about the Christian student in a world of trigger warnings and what Jonathan Haidt called, “emotional coddling.” Can you share your thoughts there?

MW

I think that the general paradigm on most secular campuses is that of New Left identity politics, in which we all claim a certain set of identities based on our life experiences. We have authority to speak from those identities because of our experiences, and we must grant all respect and sovereignty to other people’s identity claims and adopt a posture of openness, but never confrontation or judgment. My students, even those who come from conservative Christian backgrounds, have been steeped in that culture for long enough that they obey its rules without really thinking about them. On one hand, pragmatically, it works. It produces a fairly civil conversation. Most of the time, it allows people with very different perspectives to coexist.

But the fact is that traditional Christianity has a different way of conceiving of human nature and truth claims than do modern secular liberals. I think that modern secular liberals have not worked through some of the inconsistencies in their own ideologies when it comes to the accommodation of traditional religions, Christian or otherwise. You know, this problem is really coming to the fore in Western Europe, as these secular European liberal democracies try to accommodate and acculturate huge numbers of conservative Muslim immigrants. For the secular liberal, it’s the old problem of, “How do you tolerate the intolerant?” What boundaries do you enforce?

It’s a conversation that liberals have been exempt from having for a long time, at least in this country, and what I find interesting is the way conservative Christian students are trying to compel that conversation. Although both sides sometimes fall prey to a sense of moral superiority, and the rigidity of their own assumptions can prevent them from totally hearing the other side, I think liberals have a lot to learn from the way religious conservatives have learned to articulate their presuppositions and understand the intellectual framework of their own worldview. I think liberals, especially at universities, where they do enjoy cultural dominance, have not always had to come to terms with the logic of their own ideas.

Order your copy here!

Parenthood: What it Means to Make Magical Oranges

Parenthood: What it Means to Make Magical Oranges

This past weekend my husband and I headed home from the best theological conference we have ever attended. Simply put, Mbird NYC 2016 wonderful. We ate every meal with friends, walked around New York City holding hands, and felt the profound relief of God’s Grace.

Then we came home to our kids. And they woke us up at 5am.

There was a time early on in my son’s babyhood when I realized his every move felt like it was cramping our style. We couldn’t see our friends anymore and we were spending all of our cash on Target diapers. And contrary to…

Read More > > >