2014 NYC Conference Recordings: Identity, Anxiety & the Christian Message

2014 NYC Conference Recordings: Identity, Anxiety & the Christian Message

An incredibly heartfelt thank-you to everyone who helped put on this year’s Mockingbird Conference in NYC, especially our friends at Calvary St. George’s Church. We took some risks this time around, and if reports are to be believed, it sounds like they paid off. Phew!

We are once again making the...

Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

I was bonding with a friend in New York last week over our mutual affection for the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. After swapping a few favorite lines, he asked, with a twinkle in his eye, “So how’re you going to shoe-horn this one into your theological...

Ministry as Leisure, from Comfortable Words

Ministry as Leisure, from Comfortable Words

In NYC a couple of weeks ago, we held a reception for Paul Zahl’s Festschrift, Comfortable Words (more details here), edited by Jady Koch and Todd Brewer. The work honors Paul Zahl’s life-giving influence upon academics, pastors, laypeople, and everything in between. Among many extraordinary essays, Dylan Potter’s “Ministry as Leisure”...

Eminem Writes the Textbook on Reconciliation… Sort Of

Eminem Writes the Textbook on Reconciliation… Sort Of

When I teach students about reconciliation, I start with an unexpected source: Eminem. Believe it or not, his new track, “Headlights,” serves not only as a musical olive branch to his mother but as a beautiful example of human reconciliation. At the same time, the rapper demonstrates an interesting deviation...

Good Friday: Getting The Answer You Didn’t Want

Good Friday: Getting The Answer You Didn’t Want

As powerful as it possibly gets from the new Archbishop of Canterbury. I defy you not to feel: [youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYo7zWixe4w&w=600]
Mining Netflix: The Common Mess of a Punch-Drunk Love

Mining Netflix: The Common Mess of a Punch-Drunk Love

(For the optimal reading experience, listen to the film’s soundtrack on Spotify while reading.) 

The phantasmal kid films of the mid to late 1990’s functioned as educational catechisms for my comprehension of cinematic storytelling. And make no mistake, the 90’s were a golden age for children’s movies. With the birth of...

From The Mockingbird: What Are the Side Effects of the Modern Hospital?

From The Mockingbird: What Are the Side Effects of the Modern Hospital?

We have been delighted (and humbled) to hear all the encouraging words about the first issue of The Mockingbird. If you’re without a copy, it’s not too late to place an order. We’re not biased, but we think you’ll be glad you did. In the following weeks, we’ll be publishing...

Legalism, Gnosticism, and Resurrection: An Easter Reflection

Legalism, Gnosticism, and Resurrection: An Easter Reflection

Some people have said that the ‘grace message’ can tend toward Gnosticism. Luther’s exposition of St. Paul’s distrust of the Law can feel like a distrust of the restored, peaceful world to which the Law bears witness. The most extreme interpretations of Luther’s “two kingdoms”, with Christianity’s oft-implied indifference to temporal...

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Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Glimmers of Civilization (and Grace) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

I was bonding with a friend in New York last week over our mutual affection for the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. After swapping a few favorite lines, he asked, with a twinkle in his eye, “So how’re you going to shoe-horn this one into your theological framework?” Quick wit that I am, I responded, “A story about adoption and inheritance that ends with an act of radical self-sacrifice – probably won’t need my shoehorn for this one”. Badabing! Obnoxious, I know. What’s even more obnoxious is that I’d been thinking for days about Grand Budapest and…

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On Tiger Woods Becoming His “Own Ragged Company”

On Tiger Woods Becoming His “Own Ragged Company”

“Golf is a good walk spoiled” – Mark Twain

Indeed.

In the “Tiger/Phil Debate”, I’ve always been a Phil guy.  My reasoning is a tad lame.  I like Phil Mickelson because he’s left-handed (like me) and because he has a propensity for those Tin Cup type shots from bodily crevices heretofore not defined (in all of the good and bad ways).   However, Tiger Woods is growing on me because he’s becoming (whether he likes it or not) increasingly human – and correspondingly, increasingly rootable.

Tiger pulled out of this week’s Masters Tournament (and at least the first half of the 2014 season)…

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New Music: The Hold Steady’s Teeth Dreams

New Music: The Hold Steady’s Teeth Dreams

“So maybe [anxiety]’s just a part of who we all are, and always were. My worry now, though, is that we are starting to nurture these neuroses of ours, and treating them like pets. That can’t be a good thing.” –Craig Finn, in The Independent

I don’t often remember my dreams, yet for some reason, I still have a fairly vivid memory of a dream I had a couple years ago—in that dream, my teeth were falling out. As I later learned, dreams about teeth are normally assumed to reveal anxiety about money, relationships, and, well, just about anything. For me,…

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2014 NYC Book Table / Reading List

Thanks so much to volunteers, speakers, and attendants of our 2014 NYC Conference! Recordings and videos should be coming soon, but for now, here’s our conference book table, which doubles as a recommended reading list from Mbird. Titles with asterisks are either new or new to us:

LITERATURE

photo 2-W.H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays
-Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King (Penguin Classics)*
-T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
-George Herbert, Herbert Poems
-Mary Karr, Lit: A Memoir (P.S.)
-Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome: Poems
-C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
-Sally Lloyd-Jones, Poor Doreen: A Fishy Tale*
-Sally Lloyd-Jones, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing
-Sally Lloyd-Jones, Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
-Reynolds Price, A Whole New Life: An Illness and a Healing
-J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
-Oscar Wilde, De Profundis: The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Writings
-Thornton Wilder, Theophilus North: A Novel
-Christian Wiman, Every Riven Thing: Poems

CHRISTIANITY / THEOLOGY

-Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation
-Todd Brewer and David Zahl, The Gospel According to Pixar
-Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace
-Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus
-Gerhard Ebeling, Luther: An Introduction to His Thought
-Gerhard Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (Theology)
-Gerhard Forde, Where God Meets Man
-Bo Giertz, Hammer of God
-John D. Koch and Todd Brewer, Comfortable Words: Essays in Honor of Paul F. M. Zahl*
-Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Luther Classic Commentaries)
-Martin Luther, On the Bondage of the Will
-Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

photo 3 (1)
-William McDavid, Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis*
-Jim McNeely, The Romance of Grace
-Sean Norris, Judgment and Love
-Ashley Null, Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of Repentance: Renewing the Power to Love
-Ethan Richardson, This American Gospel: Public Radio Parables and the Grace of God
-Ethan Richardson and Sean Norris, The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day)
-Ethan Richardson, The Mockingbird (Magazine)*
-Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense
-Tullian Tchividjian, Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free
-Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World
-Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
-Paul F.M. Zahl, Grace in Addiction: The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everybody
-Paul F.M. Zahl, The Merciful Impasse
-Paul F.M. Zahl, PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion*
-Paul F.M. Zahl, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life
-Paul F.M. Zahl, Who Will Deliver Us?: The Present Power of the Death of Christ

photo 4

SOCIAL SCIENCE
-Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom
-Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Vintage)
-Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing: Essays*
-Dorothy Martyn, Beyond Deserving: Children, Parents, and Responsibility Revisited
-Walker Percy, Signposts in a Strange Land: Essays
-Adam Phillips, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life*
-Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought
-Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts

MUSIC

-Sam Bush and Kathryn Caine, Love and Mercy*
-High Street Hymns, High Street Hymns
-High Street Hymns, Love Shall Be Our Token

Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable (According to DFW)

The time has come to post four rather astounding quotes from the 1993 interview that Larry McCaffery conducted with David Foster Wallace. It first appeared in Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the second paragraph will be familiar to those who attended last week’s conference:

I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves….

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What’s Oppressive about My Opinion? Millennial Paralysis in the Post-Critical Age

What’s Oppressive about My Opinion? Millennial Paralysis in the Post-Critical Age

Over at the New York Times‘ Opinionator, Zachary Fine ponders the millennial predicament of pluralism, and the pressure all 20- and 30-somethings face to inherit opinions that can most easily fit into the “new orthodoxy of multiculturalism.” Fine notes that pluralism is often gracefully self-described as ” faithfully disinterested” or “energetically engaged with diversity,” but that its impact has created a kind of analysis paralysis. What can one say, we wonder, without wakening the beehive of multicultural non-violence? How can one have an opinion, when having one means being a bigot? The generosity of pluralism, in theory, seems to create…

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On TV: “Two Swords”, Game of Thrones (4.1)

On TV: “Two Swords”, Game of Thrones (4.1)

Spoilers Below

“Chaos isn’t a pit; chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm or the gods or love – illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.”

-Littlefinger, Season 3

By the end of Season 3, the realm-spanning “War of the Five Kings” was well at a close. After the Blackwater, the Lannisters had eliminated their main threat from the South, and the Red Wedding took care of the…

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The Verge Takes a Swipe at Performancism

The Verge Takes a Swipe at Performancism

Here’s a quick one from Josh Encinias:

When the journalism market bottomed out in 2008, many writers—discouraged and broke—gave up on their careers. But a few years later click-bait journalism pumped life into the industry, and it’s still riding that wave. Measuring clicks may help with advertising, but a writer stuck on their deliverables become “traffic whores,” according to The Verge.

From “If Popular Books Had Clickbait Titles” on CollegeHumor.com

Last month, the American Journalism Review reported that The Verge’s editing team does not share clicks and traffic data with their writers.

“We used to show the writers and editors traffic, and told…

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Cosmic-Gospel-Prog, Gospel-Funk, & Gospel-Boogie

As promised, here are tracks from the devotions at the Mockingbird NYC Conference…

1. “Let us affirm our faith with the (cosmic) Nicene Creed.” Eela Craig, 1978 #AustrianCosmicProg 


2. “Holy Spirit, don’t leave me for a minute.” Limousine, 1976 #SwedishGospelFunk

3. “Won’t you serve Him?” Cyril Walker, 1983 #GospelBoogie

BONUS TRACK: “Holy Ghost” by The Barkays

Bono Talks Jesus on The Meaning of Life

This is a clip from a longer interview on The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne, an Irish program on RTÉ Television (ht, AP). Much of what Bono says here overlaps portions of the book Bono: In Conversation With Michka Assayas that we’ve highlighted in the past. Bono seems to be in something of a league of his own as such a huge rockstar who is so open with his (solid) Christian faith, and he is articulate about it to boot. Watch the whole interview here.

By the way, did you happen to catch the amazing/dizzying U2 performance of “Invisible” on the roof of 30 Rock on the premier episode of The Tonight Show Staring Jimmy Fallon? Their acoustic set of “Ordinary Love” was pretty mesmerizing, too. Some worthy lyrics here:

‘Cause we can’t fall any further
If we can’t feel ordinary love
And we cannot reach any higher
If we can’t deal with ordinary love

Are we tough enough
For ordinary love

“Hey, We See Dead People:” Will Willimon on Easter and ABC’s Resurrection

“Hey, We See Dead People:” Will Willimon on Easter and ABC’s Resurrection

ABC’s mid-season offering, Resurrection, arrived to mixed reviews, sporting a 59 out of 100 on Metacritic and a 53% rating with a 5.7 out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes.  What’s been interesting, though, has been the content of the critical reviews.  Critics appear to have panned the show largely because the premise is unoriginal.  In paging through the Metacritic reviews, one critic concludes, “Hey, we see dead people.”  Another says, “…Resurrection feels awfully ordinary.”  The A.V. Club flatly declares, “It’s hard to look at Resurrection and not see all the nerve that broadcast networks have lost.”  Ouch!

Of course, the show is…

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The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and Cultural Christianity in the Deep South

The Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and Cultural Christianity in the Deep South

This one comes to us from Oscar Price:

The Alabama State House of Representatives recently passed a bill which, if approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, would create a ballot measure to permit the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools.  That the sponsor of the bill did not actually know the Ten Commandments did little to deter his colleagues, who passed the bill by an overwhelming majority.

This is precisely the cultural climate of which Ross Douthat writes in Sunday’s New York Times – a culture in which Christianity, or some form of it, is so mainstream, and “traditional” values so…

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Darren Aronofsky’s Noah Asks the Question, “What Makes You Savable?”

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah Asks the Question, “What Makes You Savable?”

A telling interview over at Complex with director Darren Aronofsky and Logan Lerman, Sir Anthony Hopkins, and Ray Winstone from the cast of Noah.

To kick off the interview, Complex asks the question, “I’m Noah, and you guys are up to your necks in water.  What would you say to me to convince me to let you on the ark?”  And the answers given are rather bizarre but very human.  Lerman says he would “offer up life’s debt, maybe sexual debt?”  Winstone says, “I’m gonna buy you a drink.”  Hopkins simply says, “Please.”  Aronofsky says he would offer to bring his camera…

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“That’s not a Catch!”: The Fallible Official and the Demand for Justice

“That’s not a Catch!”: The Fallible Official and the Demand for Justice

Major League Baseball finally “got with the ’90′s” this week, as it saw it’s first coach’s (manager’s) challenge, on an 0ut/safe call, in league history.    There has long been a debate within the sport over whether or not to slow down an already leisurely paced game by instituting a challenge system similar to what has been used for years in the NFL and other professional sports.  Despite the objections of some baseball purists, beginning this season, managers can challenge out/safe, fair/foul, catch/no catch calls.

In March 28th’s New York Times “Gray Matter” column, Brayden King points out that (oddly) the…

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Robert Farrar Capon and the Anti-Heroic Church

From his take on the Parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8).

And there, if you will, is the ultimate dilemma of the church. The one thing it doesn’t dare try to sell–for fear of being laughed out of town–turns out to be the only thing it was sent to sell. But because it more often than not caves in to its fear of ridicule, it gives the world the perennial spectacle of an institution eager to peddle anything but its authentic merchandise. I can stand up in the pulpit and tell people that God is angry, mean, and nasty; I can tell them he is so good they couldn’t possibly come within a million miles of him; and I can lash them into a frenzy of trying to placate him with irrelevant remorse and bogus good behavior–with sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings, all of which are offered by the law (Heb 10:8); but I cannot stand there and tell them the truth that he no longer cares a fig for their sacred guilt or their precious lists of good deeds, responsible outlooks, and earnest intentions. I can never just say to them that God has abolished all those oppressive, godly requirements in order that he might grant them free acceptance by his death on the cross. Because when I do that, they can conclude only one of two things: either that I am crazy or that God is. But alas, God’s sanity is the ultimate article of their non-faith. Therefore, despite Scripture’s relentless piling up of proof that he is a certifiable nut–that he is the Crazy Eddie of eternity, whose prices are insane–it always means that I am the one who gets offered a ticket to the funny farm.

Which is all right, I guess. After the unjust steward, the unjust judge, and the God who hasn’t got the integrity to come down from the cross and zap the world into shape, it’s a nice, rough approximation of justification by grace alone, through faith.