EPISODE 225: The Sacraments… Walk in the Room
A forthcoming book on the sacraments, edited by Justin Holcomb and David A. Johnson, has got me thinking about the “means of grace” — or rather, how do we know and recognize God’s grace in our actual personal lives. The history of the Christian Church could almost be reduced to a long timeline of disagreement over the sacraments as means of grace, and in particular, the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist.
In order to think about this today, I’ve had to travel back to basics: which is Jackie DeShannon, and a song she wrote, and performed and…
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EPISODE 223: MIA
I think American Buddhists are missing in action. I think they really are. At least in one particular.
They are missing in action in relation to an almost overwhelming contradiction with their teaching that exists in common public culture today.
I am talking about the notion of “narrative”.
“Narrative” is the word for a “story” — the usual term for it in mindfulness therapy — that collects the different realities in your life into one basket. Story, or narrative, is an attempt to understand as a single whole the different experiences you have in life. It is almost invariably imposed, or…
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EPISODE 221: Centennial
Healing, one’s healing, doesn’t come from fiat, i.e., from declaration. Nor does it come from deletion, i.e., from living as if events in your past never took place.
Healing comes from abreaction and merger, from engagement, even the ‘clash by night’, with the past and with your hurt, rejection and pain.
I saw this recently “up close and personal” during a visit to my old college.
It was the centennial of my final club (i.e., fraternity), and the whole world had returned to show good faith and loyalty. Suddenly I became witness to an ancient institution that is throbbing with life….
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I’m getting more and more convinced that we’re doing our peers a disservice by not talking about Satan. Satan is alive and well; and, as the New Testament says, he is prowling around like a lion seeking someone to devour.
This cast touches on assisted suicide — doffing my hat to the new upcoming issue of The Mockingbird, which concerns mental health. “Please… Don’t Do It” (The Band). Under any circumstances. If you don’t believe me, read Kipling’s short story “Uncovenanted Mercies” (1932).
But I’m not just gunning for assisted suicide. I’m warning you about The Burning Man. People who cultivate…
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Don’t think we’ve posted the wonderful on-stage conversation that took place in NYC between PZ and Scott Jones:
Grace in Practice 10 Years Later: A Conversation Between Scott Jones and Paul Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.
As with most of the provocative second half of Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, the following excerpt goes well beyond abstractions and gets uncomfortably close to the bone–in the best possible way. The language here has to do with marriage, but you could easily substitute a variety of other relational contexts:
Men and women encounter a serpent-ridden wilderness of Eden when they enter into marriage. Competition for need-fulfillment and attention squanders huge amounts of energy in resentment and suppressed antagonism. The nature of the law is to place every single marriage under the Damocles’ sword of needs to be met. The word…
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Gosh, I like Tommy Roe!
Well, partly, because his songs are catchy and sweet, and especially “Everybody” (1963). But “Dizzy” (1969) also makes me… dizzy.
The real reason a person likes a song — or really likes a song — is that it speaks for them. Or speaks to them. Or speaks from them. The song “resonates”, to use the idiom, with you. In other words, it’s not just the song. It’s the part of you that connects to the song.
All these things we like so much (i.e., pop songs, videos, movies, novels, television shows, poems, paintings) draw something out…
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Here’s another excerpt from Paul Zahl’s Grace in Practice, from pages 36-38, in the sections entitled “What is Grace?” and “Grace in the New Testament.”
In 1965 Joe Meek produced a would-be pop single that was sung by Bobby Rio and The Revelles and was entitled “Value for Love.” It was a great tune, but, like almost everything Joe Meek produced, it only grazed the Top Thirty. The lyrics were wildly false. The singer keeps telling the girl she should go for him because he is “good value for love.” He is “worth” her falling for him. Sure, Bobby Rio! That line never works. It never will. It is all weights and measures. Grace is one-way love.
The one-way love of grace is the essence of any lasting transformation that takes place in human experience. You can find this out for yourself by taking a simple inventory of your own happiness, or the moments of happiness you have had. They have almost always had to do with some incident of love or belatedness that has come to you from someone outside yourself when you were down. You felt ugly or sinking in confidence, and somebody complimented you, or helped you, or spoke a kind word to you. You were at the end of your rope and someone showed a little sympathy. This is the message of Otis Redding’s immortal 1962 song, “Try a Little Tenderness.” […]
One-way love is the change agent in everyday life because it speaks in a voice completely different from the voice of the law. It has nothing to do with its receiver’s characteristics. Its logic is hidden within the intention of its source. Theologically speaking, we can say it is the prime directive of God to love the world in no relation to the world’s fitness to be loved. Speaking in terms of Christian theology, God loves the world in a kind of reverse relationship to its moral unfitness. “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
In the dimension of grace, one-way love is inscrutable or irrational not only because it is out of relation with any intrinsic circumstances on the part of the receiver. One-way love is also irrational because it reaches out to he specifically undeserving person. This is the beating heart of it. Grace is directed toward what the Scripture calls “the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Not just the lonely, not just the sick and disconsolate, but the “perpetrators,” the murderers and abusers, the people who cross the line. God has a heart — his one-way love — for sinners. This is the problem with Christianity. This piece of logical and ethical incongruity and inappropriateness is the problem with Christianity.
Just how “effective” are collective expressions of grief? Do they work?
Every time I see a vast concourse of people gathered at the site of a massacre, I honestly “feel with” the grief; and yet remain a little skeptical. It’s one thing if you yourself lost someone you love as a result of the crime; or if you know someone that lost someone. It’s another thing if you are grieving by association or in relation to a category or collective identity.
Do you think you’ll be thinking about instances of collective loss that took place in your life, when you are dying? I wonder. I know you’ll be thinking about instances of personal loss that you suffered.
This podcast asks you to consider “exiting from history” (Milan Kundera) in order, well, to really live. Focus on the individual instance — on you, in other words! I cite the novels of Rider Haggard in this connection, who understood as well as almost anyone the persistence of the eternal in the life of the individual. There’s the rub, and there’s why Haggard’s “Zulu” novels are a kind of summit of racial reconciliation in English literature. These novels understand human beings as one, due to shared suffering, shared loss, and the shared aspiration to love and be loved. I wish Haggard were here today to write about Orlando.
Oh, and listen closely, if you can, to Dave Loggins at the end. Loggins said that after he wrote the song — in one night — he realized he hadn’t written it. He didn’t know where it came from, but he knew it didn’t come from him.
The following is an excerpt from pages 73-76 of Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life by Paul F. M. Zahl. Soak it up!
Grace has the power of the mallet. Every other prong and heavy-lifting device that seeks to change people is an expression of law and accomplishes the opposite of what it intends. People fear that grace will give permission to be bad. This is the classic fear: that grace will issue in a license–“007”–to do whatever you want, without consequences.
Yet that never happens! In fact, the opposite happens. When you treat people gracefully, they always end up…
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We’re just awash — aground! — in “narratives” these days. “Narratives” are conceptual stories or frameworks that are designed by the ever-grinding mind to organize and categorize realities of everyday life. Many of the realities faced by the ordinary person, starting with me, are unsatisfactory and distressing. “Narratives” are a form of mental control, to vitiate and diminish some of the distress of life..
But “narratives” don’t work! They are seldom completely true; and more often, they are cataclysmically partial. In both senses! This cast examines two “narratives” — one regarding an apparently neglected English hymn writer and the other being racism — and comes up with a caution.
I then expand the caution to account for irrational experiences within personal relationships. I had a vision a year ago, at a lovely beach wedding in the Carolinas, which invalidated almost everything else in front of me. (And it happened to be a great wedding.) But my vision rendered null and void the entire situation. “Let me take you there.”
Let’s hear it, too, for General Johnson.
The text is from a leading Presidential candidate, but it applies to two of them — two persons who are ideologically apart but have one main thing in common.
That main thing is: They are exposing the Cook’d Book of life, which is designed — “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” (S. Wonder) — to sign, seal and deliver YOU over to utter captivity and soullessness.
The New Testament is not a world-affirming document. On the contrary, it pits the human being against the world. Or rather, it posits the world as being against us. Our task, an impossible one without Help — “Help!” – The Beatles, 1965 — is to dodge the world. Kerouac wrote that we are born into this world in order to be saved from it.
The Cook’d Book of the world is not only true of political parties. It is true of institutions generally, job environments generally, schools and universities generally (which is why youth is eternally looking for the ‘Mr. Chips’-type altruist — one in a million), you name it.
I’m glad that Bernie and the other one are cutting to the nerve. Je repete: this is not about ideology, it’s about control. And this world’s control is not — I repeat, not — designed to enable and deliver. It is designed to suppress and captivate. LUV U!