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…
In reading the gospels, it is difficult to separate the person Jesus from the images and stories that have been built up in our own memories and readings. It is hard to shell, to un-husk, the historical account from the gloss that our re-readings and re-tellings have rendered. It is impossible not to heroize with story the death and resurrection of a man who is also God’s son. To make His crucifixion the Crucifixion.
But to do so, as (our conference speaker!) Francis Spufford says here, is to miss the point of Christianity’s unique position on the everyday tragedies of life,…
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 you who you are.” –Adam Phillips, “In Excess”
If Phillips is right, and excesses are the ways we are revealed, then there’s plenty to say about what’s been passing through my Newsfeed. Just this week: Kanye West commissions a Kim Kardashian pop-art portrait from one of Andy Warhol’s cousins in Arizona….
The first issue of The Mockingbird, our brand new quarterly magazine, is in the mail! If you signed up for our mailing list, you should have one coming to you, free of charge. If haven’t, sign up before March 1st and we’ll happily send you one. If you want to subscribe, look no further than magazine.mbird.com. (Remember, Mockingbird’s monthly donors receive a free subscription!)
In the meantime, here’s the line-up for our maiden voyage.
The Real Real Orange County: Looking Back on MTV’s Laguna Beach by Dan Varley
There Is Nothing the Matter with My Heart: Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and My Myth of Me by Zach Williams
For the Record: Mockingbird’s Netflix Queue, Must-Hear TED Talks, A Kurosawa Primer, Top 5 Church Debates, and an Elvis Gospel Playlist
Transformational: The Hidden Spirituality of America’s Great Movement by Ethan Richardson
“Friends Don’t Get Serious”: John Cassavetes, James Baldwin and Tall Tales of Angry Men by Charlotte Hornsby
When a Measure Becomes a Target: Inside the Economics of Repentance by Will McDavid
A New Way to Tell It: An Interview with Francis Spufford (click here for a preview)
A Vision for the Storms by Blake Ian Collier
Coming to Terms with the American Hero Fix by Sarah Condon
Dying to Live: What Are the Side Effects of the Modern Hospital? by R-J Heijmen
Can’t believe we haven’t posted anything from Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic since we announced that he’d be the keynote at our 2014 Conference in NYC. For yet another taste of why we felt it so incumbent upon us to get him “to the church on time”, here’s his unbelievably awesome and compassion-inducing articulation of one our favorite hobby-horses, what Bo Giertz refers to as “the Hammer of God”, aka the role of The Law. The excerpt bleeds into a section we’ve posted elsewhere on Spufford’s view of the church. Not sure it gets any better than this:
“[Christianity] makes frankly…
When it comes to articulating religious insights in secular terms, no one does it better than philosopher Alain de Botton, AKA he of Religion for Atheists fame. We’ve written about his rather Bultmannian genius before, but none of that prepared me for the TED talk he gave in 2009 about notions of success (and failure). Whereas elsewhere he mines Christian wisdom more generally, here he goes straight for law and grace, albeit in their aggressively lower-cased forms. The conclusion may naturally be a little fuzzy/abrupt–be sure to listen to the Q&A–the diagnosis is absolutely stunning. If you’re at all like me, you’ll be hooked from the first sentence, ht JD:
Speaking of de Botton, much to his credit, when asked by The New Statesman to select his favorite book of 2012, he went with the following:
This year, I was touched by Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. As a non-Christian, indeed a committed atheist, I was worried about how I’d feel about this book but it pulled off a rare feat: making Christianity seem appealing to those who have no interest in ever being Christians. A number of Christian writers have over the past decade tried to write books defending their faith against the onslaughts of the new atheists – but they’ve generally failed. Spufford understands that the trick isn’t to try to convince the reader that Christianity is true but rather to show why it’s interesting, wise and sometimes consoling.
I can’t pass up the opportunity to link to Alan Jacobs’ rave review of the same liked-it-so-much-we-invited-the-author-to-speak-book, which just went live on the Books & Culture website.
Last weekend we bought my wife a new (used) car. Her old(er) one was getting a bit small for our growing boys, and was quickly approaching 100,000 miles (at which point it would become more difficult to sell), so we bit the bullet and took the plunge.
Now we have a 12 year-old, 99k-mile car to get off our hands. It’s in excellent shape, by the way. New timing belt and everything, if you happen to be in the market.
On Sunday evening I posted a for-sale ad on Craigslist. Wanting to separate myself from the herd, I spent some time crafting…
In celebration of the American release of Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, we sat down (via Skype) with Francis Spufford to talk about his book, its American release, and the “Yeshua” chapter that still has us reeling. We talked about other things, too; like the problem of human emotion, like hipster irony and David Foster Wallace, like the “cruel optimism” of the world we live in, and Spufford’s own take on the Good Samaritan story.
For the full interview, though, you might just have to wait until for our first issue of our first ever…
We’re just a week out from the American release of Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. If you haven’t had a chance to look at our other previews, take a gander. What you will find is an arresting re-appraisal of the tradition, heart, and central figure of the Christian framework–a framework that still puts faith where it’s put best, as it “lives in life.” That’s all fine and dandy. Many writers and thinkers sympathetic to the Christian faith have made claim on this, that theology ought to be “on the ground,” that scripture…
Francis Spufford on the horizontal power of prayer, known uniquely to Christianity (from Unapologetic):
Christians too, of course, draw consolation from the patterns faith makes as it repeats in time. For us too there’s an important wisdom in not leading a life whose only measure is the impulse of the moment. But our main comfort in the face of unjustifiable suffering is very different. It’s not an investment in order we’re asked to make; it’s a gamble on change. Our hope in not in time cycling on predictably and benevolently under an almighty hand. Our hope is in time interrupted, disrupted,…
We’ve said it a few times already but it bears repeating: Francis Spufford’s “Yeshua” chapter in his book Unapologetic contains some of the most vivid and exciting writing about Jesus of Nazareth one is likely to find, this side of Robert Capon. Maybe it’s the tone (he’s clearly not writing with Christians in mind), maybe all the unexpected turns of phrase, or maybe something else, but this guy has an extremely rare knack for cutting through the dense cultural and religious fog surrounding Christ. It’s re-energizing, to say the least. Again, like the rest of the book, the “Yeshua” chapter…
We’ll be doing a new, five-or-six-week series on some stories from the Gospels as portraits of grace (or basically really, really good short stories that happen to be true). This week’s is on the woman at the well, found in John 4:1-42.
You know the story: Jesus walks up to a new place, requests a meeting with the village elders, tells them he’s an up-and-coming Jewish teacher who doesn’t have beef with the alienated Samaritans, and organizes a speaking engagement in the tradition of the tent revival. That’s what I would’ve done.
Francis Spufford, in his incredible chapter on Jesus’ life, he…