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...

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...

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...

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,...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

Christmas in July: In Celebration of the Copycats and Original Cover of All Things

When you watch a movie that’s a re-make of an older movie (which was also probably adapted from a musical adaptation of a novel) – do you ever mope and wonder if anything out there is original anymore? Is there really nothing new under the sun? I like to be cynical and sleep bitterly in this camp from time to time, sure that our collective imaginations are being mercilessly wiped away by some Never Ending Story-esque of a Nothing. “This is all that’s left of Fantasia!?” But then I consider the very concept of originality and I start to chuckle…

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Forget the Standard: Teaching in the Time of Testing

Forget the Standard: Teaching in the Time of Testing

It is now five years since the Common Core State Standards were introduced, the newest governmental answer to educational plight in America, and still it seems that no one really knows what they are—and if they do know what they are, chances are they don’t like them. It has been called (critically) a “one size fits all” policy, a nation-wide rubric for assessing whether America’s public school kids are learning what they ought to be learning. As Andrew Ferguson wrote this week in the Standard Weekly, it is one more reform scientifically stamped by the Gates Foundation’s “technocrats” and “educationists”,…

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Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, pt 1 (“Was”)

Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner, pt 1 (“Was”)

One advantage of the Internet is providing a certain type of community for people in places where there’s little of it, and in that spirit we’re starting a Mockingbird reading group (no law!), which will really just be planned serial blog posts with commentary encouraged. The book will be Go Down, Moses, a favorite among Faulkner’s works, and one with a fair amount of thematic consonance with what’s going on at Mbird. The novel itself is a series of interweaving and cumulative short stories, with a novella about a bear taking up most of its second half. The critical approach will be…

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The Jilted Lover Rejoices! Lebron Goes Home

The Jilted Lover Rejoices! Lebron Goes Home

The biggest professional sports play in their history is notoriously referred to as “The Fumble”. Their NFL owner literally packed up their beloved team and moved them to Baltimore in the middle of the night. Their NFL team has been in existence for 68 years and has never sniffed a Super Bowl, let alone won one. Their MLB team hasn’t won a World Series title since the ’40s. Their NBA team has been around since 1970, zero championships. Futility, thy name is Cleveland.

That’s not to say that the city hasn’t had it’s sports moments.  The Indians have found their way back…

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Crazy Eyes Explains Atonement in Thirty Seconds

I can’t say that everything in the second season of Orange is the New Black has been this good (please, Jenji, accept this plea not to jump the Weeds shark), but this definition of love–from the adopted sociopath inmate Suzanne, aka “Crazy Eyes”–is probably one of the best hermeneutics of Romans 5:8 I’ve seen on television.

It’s like you become more you, which normally is like…[sound effect]…but now it’s okay, because the person, like, whoever, they chose to take all that on, all that weird stuff, whatever’s wrong, bad, or hiding in you, suddenly it’s all right. And you don’t feel like such a freak anymore.

Runners up: I have to say that Piper’s isn’t bad either: “It’s like coming home.” Or Sister Jane: “Love is light. Acceptance. Fire.” Or the hilarious Flaca y Maritza, who describe love as a chocolate pudding bath, with the Smiths playing “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out.” And there’s pizza, too.

Stephen Colbert and the Ancient Pulpit of Satire – Ethan Richardson

Another installment of our NYC Conference recordings, which ironically came the week before Stephen Colbert made the move to late night. Ethan talks about the weakness that is power in the ancient practice of satire.

Stephen Colbert and the Ancient Pulpit of Satire ~ Ethan Richardson from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

J. D. Salinger, Sugarcoated Melancholy and the Conspiracy of the Human Voice

J. D. Salinger, Sugarcoated Melancholy and the Conspiracy of the Human Voice

Given that our most recent issue of The Mockingbird magazine opens with a quote from J. D. Salinger’s novel Franny and Zooey, I figured I would share something from one of his lesser-known pieces in print, the novella Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.

In the novella, Salinger has a way of playfully getting at the darkest of human truths. The plot encapsulates this style; it is light-heartedly sad. The narrator, Buddy, goes to his brother Seymour’s wedding and knows no one else there. Seymour doesn’t show up, and Buddy spends the rest of the afternoon with the bride’s family,…

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

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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, pushing the envelope of forgiveness and dispersing the shadows of shame and guilt. God, “whose property it is always to have mercy”, does not flinch from reality–not from our hopes and dreams, our hurts and disappointments, our proudest moments or most embarrassing failures.

This October, at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in Houston, TX, we invite you to explore “The Risk of Grace” with us, how the Gospel fearlessly addresses the control freak in us all. Our keynote speaker will be preacher and author Tullian Tchividjian. He will be joined by a host of Mockingbird contributors, including David Zahl, Sarah Condon, Aaron Zimmerman, and RJ Heijmen. The Rev. David Browder will serve as the conference chaplain. We’ve even enlisted one of our favorite Texas singer-songwriters, Slaid Cleaves, to play a concert for us!

As always, the emphasis will be on where the freedom of the Gospel touches down in places that matter (and some that don’t), from romance and parenting to pop culture and social media, theology and literature, and lots more. Look for info about accommodations next week and the full schedule in early August. The event will run all day on Friday (9am-9pm) and half-day on Saturday (9am-12:30pm). The conference fee is $60, which covers the full program, plus lunch and dinner on Friday (which will be delicious). Childcare is provided for all the main sessions.

CLICK HERE TO PRE-REGISTER TODAY

Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

Another Week Ends: Blinded with Science, Stumped by Meaning After God, Paralyzed by the Law of Ice and Fire, Outmaneuvered by a Cheeseburger and Oversimplified by Gallup

1. Aquinas followed Aristotle in claiming the end (telos, purpose) of biology is medicine. Science has long been a technical discipline designed primarily to promote human flourishing / well-being. Of course, it was always contemplative to a degree, satisfying curiosity or even, as Aquinas also notes, teaching us about God. The study of creation reflects upon the Creator. One wonders what the role of science is today, what a panel of researchers would say if asked. My best guess would be something along the lines of increasing knowledge for knowledge’s sake; if pressed further, one might say that pure knowledge works to bolster happiness and/or…

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A Few Thoughts on Righteous Minds and Religious Liberty

A Few Thoughts on Righteous Minds and Religious Liberty

I believe it was Austin Powers’ father Nigel who once remarked, “There are only two things I can’t stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures… and the Dutch.”

That movie came out while I was in college, and the joke struck a chord. Having been educated in proudly ‘progressive’ institutions, I grew up hearing a lot about tolerance. My secondary school, for example, hosted a semi-annual ‘Diversity Day’, where the student body took part in workshops designed to expose us to different cultures and points of view. Of course, there’s nothing more cynical than a bunch…

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Mining Netflix: Giving Up on Being Right in My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

Mining Netflix: Giving Up on Being Right in My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend

Mark Twain once said, “Humor is tragedy plus time”. But, how much time?

In the fall of 2012, researchers at the University of Colorado examined “how humorous responses to a tragedy change over time by measuring reactions to jokes about Hurricane Sandy”. By studying humorous responses to a tragic situation, they found that, contrary to popular belief, most events don’t get funnier over time and that there is a actually a rise, peak, and fall to a joke’s reception after a tragedy. Essentially, jokes after a tragedy have a peak window of time where they are received as most funny and…

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Seven Signs Romans 7 Applies to You Perfectly (Look at Number 4!)

Seven Signs Romans 7 Applies to You Perfectly (Look at Number 4!)

You know you didn’t want to click this. You saw it and let out a wail of despair that Mockingbird is resorting to “click-bait” headlines, but you saw the adorable puppy as the featured image and clicked anyway. So now here you are.

“Click-bait” is a tactic used by all different kinds of websites (perfected by Buzzfeed and Upworthy) to inflate page views and Facebook shares. These raw statistics make a site more attractive to advertisers and drive revenue for a site. I’ve definitely succumbed to these. They aren’t inherently bad, but when I waste away a good chunk of my…

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Love Endures Fecklessness: Marilynne Robinson on The Sound and the Fury

Love Endures Fecklessness: Marilynne Robinson on The Sound and the Fury

Among Marilynne Robinson’s many brilliant essays, a 2012 Foreword to the Modern Library’s latest edition of The Sound and the Fury particularly struck a chord, the edition a must-buy despite its paint-chipped wood (new south!) cover. Maybe it’s her easy command of language, her gently probing (rather than assertively polemical) style of argument, maybe that it’s one of the few pieces I’ve read on Faulkner’s opus that seems like it takes the novel’s now less-than-in-vogue religious sensibilities seriously. At any rate, the publishers got it right with asking her to do it (see too the JJ Sullivan intro to Absalom, Absalom!). A couple of highlights below:

The…

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“Louie” Discussion 2.0 – A Season 4 Recap

“Louie” Discussion 2.0 – A Season 4 Recap

With the final five episodes of the fourth season of Louie, Blake (B.I.C) and I felt like another conversation over the remainder of the season was in order. So. For your perusal, here is part two of our ongoing email conversations on this season of Louie.

Blake: So there are two main story lines that must be dealt with to complete our coverage of this season of Louie. One is the about Pamela (who has been a love interest of Louie’s off and on throughout the seasons) and the other is a couple of episodes that deal with Louie’s middle school…

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When Less Is More: Reflections on Christian ADHD

When Less Is More: Reflections on Christian ADHD

The number of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses among our population continues to increase. There might be good, reliable scientific evidence to back it up, but I must admit I am a bit “old school.” There seems to be a tendency to affix labels and categorize every little thing resulting in the ‘baseline’ of ‘normalcy’ shrinking until nobody falls within its boundaries. But enough of that.

My contemplation of ADHD and where I find it under diagnosed is in our churches. A couple of months ago, I was at a conference aiming to ‘renew’ and ‘re-charge’ Christians. I know this sounds…

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