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...

An Introduction to the Excessive World of The Mockingbird

An Introduction to the Excessive World of The Mockingbird

This letter from the editor opens up our first issue of The Mockingbird, our quarterly magazine which has just arrived in mailboxes! To subscribe to The Mockingbird, click here. 

“Tell me which kinds of excesses fascinate you, tell me which kinds of excesses appall you, and I will tell...

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]
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...

The Palm Before The Storm

The Palm Before The Storm

Good morning to you all! I’ve just returned from a theology conference in York where the topic, in recognition of this being the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, or Authorized Version, was HOLY WRIT: Authority and Reception. As with all conferences of this type, there was a wide...

On Being Chill: Peace, Love, and Overcompensation

On Being Chill: Peace, Love, and Overcompensation

Summer after senior year of high school, I wrote a letter. To an older boy. It was vulnerability in the extreme sense—the Dawson’s Creek worthy, angst-ridden, hormones-flying, high school romance type of vulnerability that still makes me wince. And, true to my high school self, it was totally unwarranted. And...

No Possibility of a Smooth Evolution: An Atheist’s Good Friday Sermon

No Possibility of a Smooth Evolution: An Atheist’s Good Friday Sermon

From Terry Eagleton’s lecture series, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, in which Eagleton criticizes the approach of new atheists Richard Dawkins and Hitch (God rest his soul), or “Ditchkins,” as Eagleton calls them. Raised a Catholic and currently finding it “hard to say” what his current...

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...

He Gave Us Sweet Cherry Wine (So Very Fine)

He Gave Us Sweet Cherry Wine (So Very Fine)

Not sure there’s a better Maundy Thursday jam out there than Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Sweet Cherry Wine”, their follow-up to “Crimson and Clover”. I’ll let the man speak for himself via this interview from Songfacts. (If you’ve never heard the story behind “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, it’s just as...

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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.

April Playlist

Coming very soon! Advance copies will be available at the Conference.

Coming very soon! Advance copies will be available at the Conference.

  1. Tin Solider (live) – The Small Faces
  2. One Tin Soldier – The Original Castle
  3. Morning Girl – Neon Philharmonic
  4. Made in Dagenham – Sandie Shaw
  5. Going Down – The Stone Roses
  6. New York Morning – Elbow
  7. The Story of Me – The Everly Brothers
  8. Eyes to the Wind – The War on Drugs
  9. Mockingbird – Rob Thomas
  10. How a Resurrection Really Feels – The Hold Steady
  11. Carl Perkins’ Cadillac – Drive-by Truckers
  12. Mirage – Mack Starks
  13. Invisible – Burton Cummings
  14. Big Jet Plane – Primal Scream
  15. Stranger in Moscow – Tame Impala
  16. Control – Broken Bells
  17. Be Good – Emily Kinney
  18. Just One Victory – Todd Rundgren

 


“XLIX” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

tennyson-01-reducedBe near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is racked with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sting,
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.

Bringing You the (Hippie) Gospel: “Oh, And That’s Right…He Dug It.”

Bringing You the (Hippie) Gospel: “Oh, And That’s Right…He Dug It.”

I was recently introduced to this rare bit of hipness by my friend and fellow seminarian, Susan Sevier.

An early attempt at cultural relevance, Pastor John Rydgren’s circa-1967 Silhouette radio shows are so much fun.  Rydgren was serving as the head of the TV, Radio and Film Department for the American Lutheran Church at the time he produced this series.  With his hip, rhythmic baritone jive, Rydgren was seeking to connect people with the Gospel message in fresh and down-to-earth ways, and he was doing so in the midst of the cultural upheavals that characterized the Summer of Love.

Talk about dramatic parables!  Can…

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Mockingbird at the Movies: Noah

Mockingbird at the Movies: Noah

Director Darren Aronofsky’s new biblical epic, Noah, is wild – think of it as the 300 of Bible stories, an exaggeratedly Aronofskyan Silent Spring, or simply Kon-Tiki 6.0. It’s the director at his most ambitious yet, no longer content with harrowing tales of addiction or dark meditations on doppelgängers. His reach is as high as the firmament, and his grasp only slightly behind. The movie’s received a good deal of the wrong kind of attention from Christian viewers, who cite its (admittedly generous) artistic license, veering away from the original Bible story. Unfortunately, the biblical version contains few details, so some amount of improvisation…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Psalm Chapter Fifty One Verse Twelve

Hopelessly Devoted: Psalm Chapter Fifty One Verse Twelve

This morning’s devotion comes from Simeon Zahl.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12, NRSV)

The psalmist brings two things to bear here:

First, it is okay to ask God for joy. Joy is good. The reality of sin and of human limitations, and the truth of the cost of atonement, are no excuse for being grim and boring. Quite the reverse! Secure in God and His salvation, the true and natural way is to laugh at ourselves and at this world, and to seek and find the joy in it. God’s world…

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Another Week Ends: Robots, Children, Busybodies, Grocery Store Flowcharts, Self-Hating Memories, Money-Burning Radio, Noah Dissent and Eight-Year-Old Guitar

Another Week Ends: Robots, Children, Busybodies, Grocery Store Flowcharts, Self-Hating Memories, Money-Burning Radio, Noah Dissent and Eight-Year-Old Guitar

 A quick update: we had some trouble with the Kindle version of The Mockingbird Devotional, but it’s now available here. It’s been tested with Kindle Fire and should work for older Kindles, too – Paperwhite compatibility is a little dubious (if there are problems, let us know so we can gripe to Amazon) – and it should work for iPad/iPhone and Android, too. 

1. The robots are coming: it’s a major upheaval we’ll see in the next few years, and one that’s flown relatively under the radar. So many avenues for exploring how we’ll relate to them, how they’ll change things – surrogate…

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SPRING CONFERENCE IN NYC: Final Schedule (T-Minus 1 Day)

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Tomorrow, Mockingbird is hosting its 7th Annual Conference in New York City! The event has come together beautifully, and the full schedule is below. While we always welcome last minute walk-ins, we ask that if you plan to dine with us, you pre-register on the conference website by Monday, 3/31.

Thursday April 3rd

2:00pm **  Pre-Conference Tour of the MoMA with Dan Siedell (email us at info@mbird.com to sign up)
5:00pm Registration Opens!
6:30pm “Can You See The Real Me?” – David Zahl
7:30pm Dinner (click here for the jaw-dropping menu)

Friday April 4th

8:15am   Coffee and Registration
9:00am   Morning Talks (30 minutes each)

10:15am Coffee Break and Book Signing with Sally
10:45am Morning Breakouts

12:00pm  ** Lunch
1:15pm Afternoon Talks (30 minutes each)

2:30pm Afternoon Breakouts

3:45pm Book Signing with Tim
5:30pm Cocktail Reception in the St. George’s Chapel celebrating the release of Comfortable Words: Essays in Honor of Paul F.M. Zahl and PZ’s Panopticon (including Book Signing with Paul Zahl)
7:00pm “Can You Say the Creed (And Still Call Your Soul Your Own)?” – Francis Spufford
7:40pm Q&A and Book Signing with Francis
8:00pm Dinner

Saturday April 5th

8:45am Coffee
9:30am “The Rationalist Delusion and the Perils of Certainty” – Jonathan Haidt
10:15am “On Not Being C.S. Lewis” – Francis Spufford
10:45am   ** Q&A with Francis
11:30am Conference Ends
12:30pm Book Table closes

CLICK HERE TO PRE-REGISTER TODAY!
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The New “Curse of the Bambino”

The New “Curse of the Bambino”

While getting an annual physical yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice all of the little inspirational quotes that had been meticulously typed, printed, cut out, and taped generously throughout the lab technician’s office.  Some were quite good – you can’t go wrong with MLK or JFK.  I have to admit that when I walked out of there, after having had blood drawn amidst a sea of “you can do it’s”, I was ready to charge hell with a squirt gun – or at least charge less squeamishly into the next “less fun” parts of the physical.

One of the quotes I…

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Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Right: A Belated Memorial

Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Right: A Belated Memorial

When you work too much, you don’t experience events of life so much as you pass them by.  The dry cleaning piles up.  I need to take those shirts in; I do when I’m down to my last shirt.  Without realizing it, the only thing in my refrigerator is a carton of curdled half-and-half and some rotted vegetables.  I have some friends, I remember; I’ll catch up with them when work dies down (which it never does).  I need to refresh myself on the current events; yesterday I heard something about a lost airliner.  At the coffee shop, at two…

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The Curated Life of Gwyneth Paltrow

The Curated Life of Gwyneth Paltrow

People really hate Gwyneth Paltrow. Last year, Star magazine named her one of “Hollywood’s Most Hated Stars.” But, that same week, she was also named the “World’s Most Beautiful Woman” by People Magazine.

That juxtaposition confused Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, presumably because he prizes beauty above all else. But, to the non-beautiful, the juxtaposition isn’t all that difficult to explain: People hate Gwyneth in part because she is beautiful.

Apparently there are other reasons to hate Gwyneth. Indeed, Vanity Fair commissioned an article exploring the reasons why people hate Gwyneth, reasons that Carter summarized well in this paragraph:

Half the female…

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“He loved them all…”  James Rebhorn and the Unanxious Life

“He loved them all…” James Rebhorn and the Unanxious Life

It appears that, before he died on Friday, actor James Rebhorn (Homeland, The Game, Seinfeld) wrote his own obituary. Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Jersey City, New Jersey has posted a letter entitled “His Life, According to Jim” which is dated March 2014 and signed by the actor.

This is a rare opportunity for a person who is dying: to have enough notice of one’s impending death in order to make final arrangements, including in this case the crafting of one’s own obituary. Most obituaries, in my honest opinion, are just dreadful–they’re usually written for the distraught family by a close friend, and…

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A Cure for Our Self-Knowledge: Why We’ll Always Want Our Milk in the Same Sippy Cup

A Cure for Our Self-Knowledge: Why We’ll Always Want Our Milk in the Same Sippy Cup

The Paris Review’s (stunning) most recent issue features interviews with quite the coupling: Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner and our favorite psychoanalyst, Adam Phillips. Both men talk about the art of writing, Phillips using a lot of the dialectic idioms you seem him using on paper all the time. Things like, “Symptoms are forms of self-knowledge.” Or, “Analysis should be the need not to know yourself.”

That being said, Phillips covers a lot of ground, including his own childhood, the books that formed him, the initial interests that brought him to the analysands’ chair. But mainly the conversation covers the breadth…

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Henderson Wants!

Time for another memorable passage from Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King:

4535310075_f231037dbd_zNow I have already mentioned that there was a disturbance in my heart, a voice that spoke there and said, I want, I want, I want! It happened every afternoon, and when I tried to suppress it it got even stronger. It only said one thing, I want, I want!

And I would ask, “What do you want?”

But this was all it would ever tell me. It never said a thing except I want, I want, I want!

At times I would treat it like an ailing child whom you offer rhymes or candy. I would walk it, I would trot it. I would sing to it or read to it. No use. I would change into overalls and go up on the ladder and spackle cracks in the ceiling; I would chop wood, go out and drive a tractor, work in the barn among the pigs. No, no! Through fistfights and drunkenness and labor it went right on, in the country, in the city. No purchase, no matter how expensive, would lessen it. Then I would say, “Come on, tell me. What’s the complaint, is it Lily herself? Do you want some nasty whore? It has to be some lust?” But this was no better a guess than the others. The demand came louder, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want! And I would cry, begging at last, “Oh, tell me then. Tell me what you want!” And finally I’d say, “Okay, then. One of these days, stupid. You wait!”

This was what made me behave as I did. By three o’clock I was in despair. Only toward sunset the voice would let up. And sometimes I thought maybe this was my occupation because it would knock off at five o’clock itself. America is so big, and everybody is working, making, digging, bulldozing, trucking, loading, and so on, and I guess the sufferers suffer at the same rate. Everybody wanting to pull together. I tried every cure you can think of. Of course, in an age of madness, to expect to be untouched by madness is a form of madness. But the pursuit of sanity can be a form of madness, too. (pg. 24-25)