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Posts tagged "Thornton Wilder"

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Over the past eight years or so, Mockingbird contributors have said quite a lot about the works of Thornton Niven Wilder. His contributions to the idea of a theo-poetic approach to the Gospel, i.e., an approach that avoids didacticism by employing literary archetypes to illustrate gospel themes, are well documented on this site. For a couple of examples, read this from Wilder himself, or this from Paul Zahl. Wilder’s Angel that Troubled the Waters is a tour de force in such terms, and it illustrates what this site is usually trying to do: use an oblique approach to get in past the heart’s defenses, because a didactic frontal…

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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!

Bible Wednesdays: Jesus Heals the Man at the Pool (from Competitive Urges)

Bible Wednesdays: Jesus Heals the Man at the Pool (from Competitive Urges)

This week, we turn to John 5:5-8 for the story about a pool, a paralytic, and Jesus. 

“Do you want to be made well?” This is the classic question usually asked by discussion leaders on this passage. They mean, by this, that we can be made well by Jesus if only we ask. This view is shallow. It’s shallow because it ignores the deep-seated psychological truth that almost no one, in practice, actually wants the help that God offers. No one can ask honestly, no one can ask sincerely with anything other than “I believe; help my unbelief” in mind.

Anyway, Jesus…

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A New Pentecost, or Maybe Just a Rhetorical Revival, According to Peanuts

A New Pentecost, or Maybe Just a Rhetorical Revival, According to Peanuts

We have written several pieces on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts here before, and in particular on Robert L. Short’s prophetic interpretation in his The Gospel According to Peanuts (1965) here, here, and here. Both Peanuts in general and Short’s book in particular have played meaningful roles in my life ever since my conversion to Christian faith. In fact, I recently reread Short’s very important (and Mockingbird-esque) first chapter, “The Church and the Arts.” I found that he gives us—as Thornton Wilder called it—some “new persuasive words  for defaced or degraded ones” about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit’s work in the arts and…

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Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Twenty One Verse Seventeen

Hopelessly Devoted: John Chapter Twenty One Verse Seventeen

Coming home from our New York Conference, where many of you picked up the conference edition of The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day), this morning’s devotion comes from DZ.

[Christ] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (ESV)

A quick recap of Peter’s “greatest hits” in the New Testament:

a) When Jesus tells…

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Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job? Thornton Wilder on Good Friday

Hast Thou Considered My Servant Job? Thornton Wilder on Good Friday

One of my favorite Thornton Wilder playlets, and if I may say, a great little three-minute read for Good Friday, in which Wilder imagines a New Testament reversal of the proposition recorded in Job 1:8:

Now it came to pass on the day when the sons of God came to present themselves before SATAN that CHRIST also came among them.  And

SATAN.  [Said unto CHRIST:] Whence comest Thou?

CHRIST. [Answered SATAN and said:] From going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it.

[And:]

SATAN. [Said unto CHRIST:] Hast though considered my servant Judas? For there is none like him in…

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From Our Town: Emily's Vision in Death

From Our Town: Emily’s Vision in Death

In the third act of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, death comes for young Emily Gibbs. At first unsettled by her new home in the cemetery on the top of the hill away from Grover’s Corner, she wishes she could go back and re-live certain happy and mundane moments of her life. She’s illustratively holding on to an image, an idea of the life that’s hers–the one that’s been taken from her. She’s longing to look at things the same way she’s always looked at them, mostly because it’s easiest this way, also because she knows the hurt her departure has…

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Only a Broken Will Can Enter: Two from Thornton Wilder's The Cabala

Only a Broken Will Can Enter: Two from Thornton Wilder’s The Cabala

Two beautiful passages from Thornton Wilder’s delightful first novel, The Cabala, ht WDR:

“When Astree Luce and the Cardinal discovered that they were living in a world where such things could be forgiven, that no actions were too complicated but that love could understand, or dismiss them, on that day they began their lives all over again. This reconciliation was never put into words, in fact it remained to the end merely in a state of hope. They longed to see one another again, but it would have been impossible. They dreamed of one of those long conversations that one never…

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PZ's Desert Island Discs (But This Time It's Books!)

PZ’s Desert Island Discs (But This Time It’s Books!)

I’m just now beginning to emerge from two years of living in the desert, the howling waste of inwardness that is caused by the box canyon of life.

I’m coming out of it.

In addition to the New Testament, ten books, in particular, have proven sustaining to me in the wilderness. If you read Mockingbird, many of them will be familiar to you. But I wanted to list them here, in one place, for the readers and supporters of Mockingbird, in hopes of their being useful to you. “For you the living, this Mash was meant, too.”

Each work, and three of them…

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Despair, Hope, and Imagination: Theophilus North and Edweena

Despair, Hope, and Imagination: Theophilus North and Edweena

From Thornton Wilder’s vigorously perceptive student of faces, Theophilus North, a 20-something with his hands in every corner of the “Nine Cities” of 1920s Newport, Rhode Island–from the house of “Nine Gables” to Navy watering holes to immigrant shop owners–without intending to do so! He finds ways into the homes and hearts of the people of Newport, not through an omniscient understanding of people, but with an imaginative knack for seeing a situation and playing with it. He talks about hope and despair in a way that connects directly to the imagination:

I have said before that both despair and hope…

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From Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey

From Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey

“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” (ht MS)

If you’re looking for some good summer reading, Wilder’s Pulitzer-winning The Bridge of San Luis Rey can’t…

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Speaking of Thornton Wilder...

Speaking of Thornton Wilder…

The great author expressing a similar sentiment as the one which inspires PZ’s new DVD (below), slightly elucidated, and touching on some of Mockingbird’s core concerns. This comes from the final paragraph of the foreward to his book of short plays The Angel That Troubled The Waters:

“The last four plays here were written within a year and a half. Almost all the plays in this book are religious, but religious in that dilute fashion that is a believer’s concession to a contemporary standard of good manners. But these four plant their flag as boldly as they may….

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