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Autoimmunity and the Heart Curved Inward

Autoimmunity and the Heart Curved Inward

I am sick. That’s pretty much all I can tell you about it with any real confidence. For two years, a harvest of strange and debilitating medical maladies have continued to hurl wrenches into the functioning of my poor and puzzled body (I’ve detailed some of that elegant saga here...

Hope, Realism, and the Protestant Face of Anglicanism

Hope, Realism, and the Protestant Face of Anglicanism

Back in 1998, my father wrote an unfashionable yet characteristically compelling little volume entitled The Protestant Face of Anglicanism. With the big anniversary finally here, it seemed like an ideal time to remind people of its existence (and merit)! Coincidentally, the book shares the title of PZ’s latest project, a tumblr devoted to, well,...

“The Only Thing You’ve Got Is What You Can Sell”: Making Peace with the Stories We Tell Ourselves

“The Only Thing You’ve Got Is What You Can Sell”: Making Peace with the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Death of a Salesman is one of my favorite stories, not because it is a piece of great “litracha,” but because it is about a man to whom I can profoundly relate. For anyone who wasn’t subjected to Arthur Miller’s masterpiece in high school, here are the basics: Willy Loman is...

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting a 3-point basket during the second half of Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Saturday, April 25, 2015. The Warriors won 109-98 to sweep the series. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Prejudice Like Crack: Confirming Confirmation Bias with Michael Lewis

I’ve been enjoying Michael Lewis’s new book, The Undoing Project, which picks up where Moneyball left off: When it comes to sports recruitment, if the numbers are more reliable than human judgment, the next question is why? What’s going on in the human mind that makes even the experts’ top picks hit-or-miss?

One answer...

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

However many years a man may live,    let him enjoy them all.    But let him remember the days of       darkness,    for they will be many. — Ecclesiastes 11:8

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. — John 1:5

I wake up mornings in the darkness, to...

Mbird Tyler 2017 (2/24-25): The Soul of the Gospel

Mbird Tyler 2017 (2/24-25): The Soul of the Gospel

Come join us next month (2/24-25) for our third annual event in downtown Tyler, TX! Our theme this year will be “The Soul of The Gospel”. Paul Zahl and Sarah Condon, along with a host of others, will guide us as we explore the question, “what remains when cultural attachments...
The Top Theology Books of 2016

The Top Theology Books of 2016

Another year and there are many, many more books to read. If that statement feels more like a celebration than an arduous demand, this post is for you. I buy an inordinate amount of books each year, so I’m firmly in the former category. Below are the best theology books...

The Cost of Teenage Optimism

The Cost of Teenage Optimism

Here’s a timely one. Last week a major new study of happiness hit the web, courtesy of the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science. The title of the report itself says it all, “More Happiness for Young People and Less for Mature Adults: Time-Period Differences in Subjective Wellbeing in...

US President Barack Obama(R) and First Lady Michelle Obama(L) welcome Preisdent-elect Donald Trump(2nd-L) and his wife Melania(2nd-R) to the White House in Washington, DC January 20, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSONJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Two Mockingbirds Talk Two Corinthians

Here’s a timely collaboration from Sarah Condon and Scott Jones, following up on today’s Mockingcast round table.

President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, greets President-elect Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Last week one of our friends (one of...

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From Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote

Last week, DZ posted from Oliver Burkeman’s excellent article on time management and the law of unread emails. I just finished up his 2012 book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, and, boy, good points of connection abound. Trying to get to the bottom of why we have such difficulty doing what we are told to do, or, rather, not doing what we are told not to do, Burkeman uses a study conducted by Daniel Wegner at Harvard’s ‘Mental Control Laboratory.’

When you try not to think of a white bear, you may experience some success in forcing alternative thoughts into your mind. At the same time, though, a metacognitive monitoring process will crank into action, to scan your mind for evidence of whether you are succeeding or failing at the task. And this is where things get perilous, because if you try too hard – or, Wegner’s studies suggest, if you are tired, stressed, depressed, attempting to multi-task, or otherwise suffering from ‘mental load’ – metacognition will frequently go wrong. The monantidote-oliver-burkemanitoring process will start to occupy more than its fair share of limelight on the cognitive stage. It will jump to the forefront of consciousness – and suddenly, all you will be able to think about is white bears, and how badly you’re doing at not thinking about them.

Could it be that … our efforts to feel positive seem so frequently to bring about the opposite result? … When experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content. Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss. Our efforts at mental suppression fail in the sexual arena, too: people instructed not to think about sex exhibit greater arousal, as measured by the electrical conductivity of their skin, than those instructed to suppress such thoughts.

He concludes this chapter, entitled “On Trying Too Hard to be Happy,” with the metaphor of a Chinese finger trap. In the case of striving for our own happiness, he writes, “‘doing the presumably sensible thing is counterproductive.’ Following the negative path to happiness is about doing the other thing – the presumably illogical thing – instead.” In other words, try to climb out of that ditch and before long human nature kicks in, handing down a shovel.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

On Being an Imposter: “Fake It Till Ya Make It” in a World of Expectations

This one comes to us from pastry-making imposter, Madeline D’Elia. 

The social science concept of imposter syndrome, or imposter phenomenon (IP) as it should properly be called, has been in the spotlight for a few years now. It was the topic of Facebook CEO’s Sheryl Sandberg’s 2011 book Lean In, social psychologist’s Amy Cuddy’s 2012 Ted Talk, and Carl Richards’ piece in the New York Times. We’ve all heard the hackneyed expression, “fake it till you make it,” and IP can best be thought of as the deep seated anxiety that you will always be on the former end versus the…

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Not Another Sports-and-Jesus Analogy

Not Another Sports-and-Jesus Analogy

I was born in Wisconsin, as was my dad, and his dad, which means that we are Green Bay Packers fans. Cheeseheads. We bleed green and gold. Our hearts belong to St. Vincent and Lambeau Field. Our loyalty is defined by our history and our sense of place. 

Unlike my dad and his dad and most of the rest of my family, I don’t understand football. I’ve tried. I went to a Big Ten school and attended all of the home football games, but honestly, that was mostly to see my friends in the marching band. (I’m not making…

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The Pastor in the Batter’s Box

Get your elbows up! Watch the ball! Bend your knees! Be a hitter! Keep your elbows down! Choke up on the bat! Jump on that fastball! Wait for your pitch!

I remember standing in that little league batter’s box, with coaches and random parents and teammates all yelling their well-meaning directives to me at the same time. And I wanted to please them all. I wanted with all my 9 year old body to actualize all their shouted instructions simultaneously — even when they contradicted one another. But most of the time, I felt practically paralyzed by their imperatives. The…

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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

However many years a man may live,
   let him enjoy them all.
   But let him remember the days of
      darkness,
   for they will be many.
— Ecclesiastes 11:8

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
— John 1:5

I wake up mornings in the darkness, to get ready for work, or writing if it’s a day off. I let my wife sleep and I close the bedroom door after I press the switch for the hall light. I turn on all the lights in the kitchen, even the under-cabinet fixtures that have separate switches because it’s…

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Martin Luther King, Jr: “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart”

This an excerpt from the conclusion to MLK’s 1959 sermon, “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.”

8f582_MLK-Home-thumb-400xauto-29178[1]I am thankful that we worship a God who is both tough minded and tenderhearted.  If God were only tough minded, he would be a cold, passionless despot sitting in some far-off Heaven “contemplating all,” as Tennyson puts it in “The Palace of Art.”  He would be Aristotle’s “unmoved mover,” self-knowing but not other-loving.  But if God were only tenderhearted, he would be too soft and sentimental to function when things go wrong and incapable of controlling what he has made.  He would be like H. G. Well’s loveable God in God, the Invisible King, who is strongly desirous of making a good world but finds himself helpless before the surging powers of evil.  God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded.  He is tough minded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it.  He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles.  He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.

At times we need to know that the Lord is a God of justice.  When slumbering giants of injustice emerge in the Earth, we need to know that there is a God of power who can cut them down like the grass and leave them withering like the Greek herb.  When our most tireless efforts fail to stop the surging sweep of oppression, we need to know that in this universe is a God whose matchless strength is a fit contrast to the sordid weakness of man.  But there are also times when we need to know that God possesses love and mercy.  When we are staggered by the chilly winds of adversity and battered by the raging storms of disappointment and when through our folly and sin we stray into some destructive far country and are frustrated because of a strange feeling of homesickness, we need to know that there is Someone who loves us, cares for us, understands us, and will give us another chance.  When days grow dark and nights grow dreary, we can be thankful that our God combines in his nature a creative synthesis of love and justice that will lead us through life’s dark valleys and into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfillment.

Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Five Verses Thirteen Through Fifteen

Hopelessly Devoted: Joshua Five Verses Thirteen Through Fifteen

This morning’s devotion comes to us from SM White.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are…

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Another Week Ends: Andrew Garfield Falls in Love with Jesus, Internet Trolls Enter the Confessional, Ninety-Percent Forgiveness, Bootstraps Parenting, Kirk Franklin Loses His Religion, and Labour-In-Vain Road

Another Week Ends: Andrew Garfield Falls in Love with Jesus, Internet Trolls Enter the Confessional, Ninety-Percent Forgiveness, Bootstraps Parenting, Kirk Franklin Loses His Religion, and Labour-In-Vain Road

1. Happy Friday, everyone! First up, America Magazine’s interview with Andrew Garfield, who plays Rodrigues in Scorsese’s adaption of Silence, which is wide-releasing today. Apparently Garfield prepared extensively for his role as a Jesuit priest, practicing Ignation Exercises for several months before shooting. To get the scoop, Jesuit Brendan Busse went on a “religious blind date” with Garfield. It started off pretty awkward…the actor was tired, the Jesuit was excited [about Ignatius Loyola]. And then Garfield explained his weariness: “…the grief of living in a time and a place where a life of joy and love is f–ing impossible.”

He goes on to identify the law: that, even…

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In Defense of 2016

In Defense of 2016

This past calendar year, known by many of us as 2016, was nothing if not controversial. Populated as it was by unexpected outcomes, celebrity demises, and global tragedies, the year stands out as, at the very least, memorable. And at the very most? Well, it may be the first time I’ve heard a quartet of numbers get accused of killing people. Who knew those four digits carried around a sickle and political machinations in their back pockets?

Whether the loss of Prince and Princess (Leia) ruined your year or just amounted to a footnote in it, overall apathy about the past…

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Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting a 3-point basket during the second half of Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Saturday, April 25, 2015. The Warriors won 109-98 to sweep the series. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Prejudice Like Crack: Confirming Confirmation Bias with Michael Lewis

I’ve been enjoying Michael Lewis’s new book, The Undoing Project, which picks up where Moneyball left off: When it comes to sports recruitment, if the numbers are more reliable than human judgment, the next question is why? What’s going on in the human mind that makes even the experts’ top picks hit-or-miss?

One answer is the inevitable confirmation bias. The following definition comes to us from our magazine’s recent Mental Health issue: “The tendency to experience the world through the lens of your already held beliefs. If you think, before you’ve eaten there, that La Frontera is a terrible restaurant…the odds are in favor of you hating it…

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Searching for Hope in Raising a Mentally Ill Child

Searching for Hope in Raising a Mentally Ill Child

One last peek into the Mental Health Issue, right before we send off the Food & Drink Issue to print (in one short week). This one came from Brian and Debbie Solum, who were also featured in the Mockingcast special during that time, which you can listen to here. (Not to be missed!) If you’d like to send the story, or the whole issue, to a friend–they’re still available here. 

We will be the first to admit that we are cynics when it comes to parenting. After almost twenty years of experience, we feel we can easily dismantle every Christian how-to book…

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From The New Yorker

newyorkercartoon