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Posts tagged "Paul Zahl"

From Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians”

From Lucas Hnath’s “The Christians”

An addendum to episode 206 of PZ’s Podcast (“The Rich Man and Lazarus”), courtesy of the host himself:

A few weeks ago a new play finished its New York run, entitled “The Christians”. The play is by Lucas Hnath.

Initially, I was reluctant to see “The Christians”, believing it was probably a hatchet job on evangelical Christianity. Well, it wasn’t, and it’s not.

Here is a quotation from the play. The ‘Associate Pastor’, who is conservatively evangelical in the traditional sense, is explaining himself to the ‘Pastor’, who has become a liberal in theology.

Up to this point in the play, the audience’s sympathies…

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PZ’s Podcast: Unforeseen & The Rich Man and Lazarus

PZ’s Podcast: Unforeseen & The Rich Man and Lazarus

Episode 205: Unforeseen

It’s not an abstraction! It’s more than something just to talk about or consider. It could happen to you. In fact, it probably will.

I’m talking about unforeseen death. Some people hold on for a long time, even when they don’t really want to. Other people want to hold on, but illness intervenes and they go a dozen years earlier than they expected. (You never expect it.) Other people had a bad habit in youth and maybe adulthood, and it catches them later. They never thought they would be hooked up to a respirator personally.

“I Had Too Much To…

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A Mockingbird Guide to 10 Current Colloquialisms

A Mockingbird Guide to 10 Current Colloquialisms

Compiled by Friends of Mockingbird John and Anne Nolon, Liz and Duo Dickinson, Betsy and Larry Roadman, Paul and Mary Zahl, and The Rev. Nancy W. Hanna:

1) “It’s all good.”
Meaning: It’s not all good, something has gone badly amiss. And I absolutely don’t want to admit it.

2) “It is what it is.”
Meaning: I can’t stand this particular situation I’m in. Actually, I hate it and don’t want to talk about it.

3) “Yuh think?!”
Meaning: I want you to agree with me, but don’t want you to think I think I’m smarter than you are. Though I do!

4) “Perfect!”
Meaning: This is fine,…

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PZ’s Podcast: Honest to God

PZ’s Podcast: Honest to God


Pop songs about love are like a corkscrew for understanding the Bible. Songs like “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Don’t Pull Your Love Out on Me, Baby”, together with a zillion co-belligerants that are written and performed “In the Name of Love” (Thompson Twins), reveal the nature of love and loss, undoings and exaltings, and painful stasis and buoyed forward movement.

Now just imagine if professional New Testament scholars “parsed” pop songs the way they want to parse the Gospels. You can’t do it. Or rather, you don’t need to do it. “She Loves You” (The Beatles) is so obviously…

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PZ’s Podcast: Pope Francis and the Historical Jesus

PZ’s Podcast: Pope Francis and the Historical Jesus


So much has been written — I mean, SO MUCH — concerning the so-called Historical Jesus: a welter of books and “Untersuchungen”. I’ve spent most of my career reading these books, and writing a few, too.

Then Pope Francis came along and put them all in a cocked hat. This is because if you want to see with your own eyes how Jesus operated in the New Testament — how he acted, how he spoke, how he was desired, and how he was received — all you need to do is watch Francis. Phrancis.

The way Christ was with Zacchaeus, Bartimaeus,…

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Pope Francis clasping hands with an inmate at a Philadelphia prison yesterday.

PZ’s Podcast: Pope Francis – SPECIAL EDITION

Pope Francis clasping hands with an inmate at a Philadelphia prison yesterday – Click here for PZ’s commentary.


Did you cry at any point as you watched Pope Francis in action during his visit? If you did, when was it? What made you cry?

Now it wasn’t just John Boehner! I noticed as I watched the Pope inter-acting with individuals, and especially with individuals in acute need or distress, that it was those encounters that touched me personally. (I was abreacting all over the place.)

I don’t have spina bifida. I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m not six years old, nor…

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PZ’s Podcast: The Real Thing


Is there anything to it?

MI0002445199Is vertical religion — not just calls to social justice, not just implied belief (system) — but actual vertical religion, rooted in anything resembling fact?

I’m bummed these days by mainstream Christianity that just leaps over the religious element on the way to the “mission” element. There’s nothing there, I mean nothing there — to aid an everyday sufferer. Like me, for example.

On the other hand, evangelicals continue to fake it royally. They’ll talk you blue in the face about God’s being present in the worst and darkest moments of your life. But when it’s you who is actually there, you who is sitting flummoxed in the Shadows of Knight (1966), they act as if they didn’t mean a word of it. Grace? Real Grace? “You have got to be kidding.” Book him!

The theme of my 201st podcast is Real Religion. Does it exist? What is it like if it does?

Oh, and SEE The Sentinel (1977). Don’t miss The Sentinel (1977). It’s about to be released on Blu Ray; and with all its memorable eccentricities, it is a total home run about The Real Thing. LUV U. (PZ)

This podcast is dedicated to Melina Smith.

Gru?s nemesis, Vector (JASON SEGEL), shows off the shrink ray in Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment?s inaugural 3-D CGI feature, ?Despicable Me?.  The film tells the story of one the world?s greatest villains who meets his match in three little girls.

PZ’s Eight Easy Ways To Shrink Your Church

The strangest thing happened. The other day, just after penning his “Ten Ways to Grow Your Church”, PZ was looking through an old box of letters and found a sealed envelope he’d never seen before. The return address read only “Screwtape”. He was so surprised and bedazzled by its contents (reprinted below) that he almost missed the subheading on the envelope, “Do not open until 2015”

Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church

Just in case you’re not yet part of the program, there is still time. Here is how:

1) Preach to your congregation not as individuals but as a “worshiping community”….

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PZ’s Podcast Episode 200: Catatonia

PtL! PZ’s Podcast hits quite a milestone today, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t take the opportunity to point newcomers to this guide to PZP world. It doubles as a fond look back. Oh and we’re aware of the difficulties listeners are having with a handful of older episodes. Hoping to have them re-uploaded in the next week or two. Thank you for your patience.


This is not the Who’s Final Tour. (They always come back.) So maybe it is the Who’s Final Tour.

Whatever it is, it’s Podcast 200, and that’s a benchmark. Somehow. So I decided to sum up the two core themes of the last… 100 or so casts, and also tell you something that’s blown my mind recently. It’s an instance of catatonia by way of Catalonia.

Seriously, the two core themes of PZ’s Podcast are the durability and necessity of romantic connection; and the presence of God when a person is at the end of his or her rope. ‘God meets us at our point of need.’

Gosh, I’ve seen that happen a lot. Not least of all, to me.

And I know, too, from Mary — ‘Along Comes Mary’ (The Association) — that the boy-girl side of things is paramount. Nothing above it.

Now, for 23 short minutes, Come Fly With Me.

PZ’s Ten Ways to Grow Your Church

Mockingbird’s roving correspondent has been taking in a lot of church services this Summer, mostly in the Northeast. Some have been excruciating, two have been glorious. Here are ten short reflections on my trip, on how to grow a church in light of what I’ve seen. The most important is the last.

  1. Begin by watching and studying every minute of Red Beard (1965) by Akira Kurosawa. The main character, a physician, played by Toshiro Mifune, is the ideal parish minister. Everything he does is perceptive, right, and plenum gratiae.
  2. Only ever preach one sermon, which is the forgiveness of sins, the absolution of every human “as is”, through the suffering and Passion of the Christ.
  3. Make sure every sermon has at least one arresting emotional illustration.
  4. green+rayRead, mark, learn, and inwardly digest each incident in Theophilus North (1973), the final novel of Thornton Wilder. Theophilus North is the all time handbook for intrepid, effective pastoral evangelism.
  5. Abolish all rules concerning weddings, and also baptisms, and say yes to every request you get. But don’t schedule baptisms, unless they are “in house” cases such as your child’s, for the main Sunday service. Do them privately Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon – the Jane Austen way.
  6. Focus monomaniacally on the casual visitor and seeker, but don’t let them know that. Just visit them or call them (personally) the Sunday afternoon of their visit. But call them after your nap.
  7. Only choose old and familiar hymns for Sunday mornings and make sure you do the choosing, not whoever is the organist.
  8. Never miss a chance to write a thank-you note. It should be an apt postcard from the Morgan Library or some place like that.
  9. Try to visit everyone in their home, even if they seem to resist it at first. Also visit everyone who gets sick when they are in the hospital. This has become one of the hardest tasks of parish ministry, partly because hospital parking lots have become more complicated and partly because hospital security no longer favors members of the clergy. It can still be done, however.
  10. Watch and study every minute, especially the last 15, of The Green Ray (1986) by Eric Rohmer. That movie is a testament to the reality that anyone can be saved, and there’s how it happens.

Don’t Miss: PZ’s Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church!

PZ’s Podcast: Shag (The Movie), Cimarron, The Sacraments Rightly Understood, Mirage Fighter, and What Actually Happens

PZ’s Podcast: Shag (The Movie), Cimarron, The Sacraments Rightly Understood, Mirage Fighter, and What Actually Happens

Episode 195: Shag (The Movie)

That’s a great little movie, from 1989. But I’m afraid it’s going to get banned one of these days, by the Ministry of Truth. Right from the “get go”, there’s an image in it that’s distressing today.

Which gives me a chance to talk Christianly about how to deal with
distressing or upsetting material? Do you rid yourself of it by burning it? By hauling it down and cutting it up, and “take out the paper and the trash” (The Coasters, 1958)? Ecrasez l’infame!?

I don’t think that works. (Wish it did.) The averse material, if it touches something…

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PZ’s Podcast: Cross Dressing and Left Hand Path

PZ’s Podcast: Cross Dressing and Left Hand Path

EPISODE 193: Cross Dressing

“I’m absolutely captivated by a movie called The Gallant Hours (1959), starring James Cagney and directed by Robert Montgomery.

For one thing, it presents an ideal picture of how a person should be thanked for faithful service. And what a piece of work the “Church” is,
that it’s so rarely able to give thanks for the work of its servants. (Oh, unless they’re newly dead. Thank God he’s dead!) It’s almost as if the Church specializes in forgetfulness concerning the brightest and best. I’ve seen that happen in about 500 cases, my own, of course, being an exception.

More importantly,…

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