Filling in for DZ this week as the Birmingham Conference kicks off…

1. Can you be a hipster and Mormon at the same time? An interesting NY Times article appearing on Wednesday outlined a Mormon’s guide to looking cool without totally losing your faith (a.k.a “How to be like Brandon Flowers”). It’s a classic case study in the casuistry that arises when navigating between conflicting judgments – slightly appeasing one demand without violating the other, or transgressing just enough but not too much. As Mormonism seeks more and more acceptance from mainstream America, I suspect this will be just one of many articles to appear on the subject. The article includes sage advice, such as:

Cover up the tattoos or at least try a compromise, like getting a tattoo of a beehive, a Mormon symbol of working together for the common good…. An allergic reaction to shaving, demonstrated by razor bumps, can score you a “beard card” at B.Y.U…. Drink Pellegrino and don’t bother to correct other party guests who assume you are in recovery.


2. Christanity Today has a must read interview with pastor Tullian Tchividjian, on surviving a coupe within his own church. Tullian succeeded James Kennedy at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, only to face a congregational vote calling for his removal. It’s a profound reflection on the power of the gospel within the difficulties of life. His book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, was recently published.

It was tremendously uncomfortable coming to worship every Sunday morning during that time not knowing who liked you and who hated you. There were people in the choir who, when I would stand up to preach, would get up and walk out. People would sit in the front row and just stare me down as I preached. It was extremely uncomfortable. People would grab me in the hallway between services and say, “You’re ruining this church, and I’m going to do everything I can to stop you.” I would come out to my car and it would be keyed. Some people would stop at nothing to intimidate.

…I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being deeply disliked and distrusted, and by more than a few people. Now I realized just how much I’d been relying on something other than the approval and acceptance and love that were already mine in Jesus.

I was realizing in a fresh way the now-power of the gospel—that The gospel doesn’t simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance. Through my pain, I was being convinced all over again that the power of the gospel is just as necessary and relevant after you become a Christian as it is before.

3. A great piece over at Grantland on the non-religious significance of Tebowmania, pointing out the issues with rooting against the ambassador of a Christian theology of glory (see also Nick’s great post). If Tebow has almost purposefully correlated his on-the-field success with the validity of Christianity (see here for proof!), rooting against Tebow to disprove Christianity reflects the same interest in having your beliefs validated by success. Rather than trying to “peer into the invisible things of God”, better to give up the quest altogether (ht OWM):

Tebow scoring a two-point conversion on an off-tackle power play could prove that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, or it could, well, not. Tebow’s getting picked off after telegraphing a pass could doom us to a state of terrifying metaphysical uncertainty, especially if we are the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach. But if you’re against Tebow, you can’t read too much into Tebow’s failures, or else Tebow has already won. From a theological standpoint, it’s so hard to say what you’re actually rooting for and how it aligns with specific on-field outcomes that it almost seems to make more sense not to bring religion or politics or philosophy into the NFL, or maybe any sport, at all.


4. A relevant article on coaching from the NY Times which all but confirms the thesis that grace triumphs over the conditionality of the law…. i.e… playing sports is stressful and the coaches should seek to build-up and encourage players rather than demean and belittle players for the sake of winning. Rather than a source of anxiety, coaches should be advocates for their players (see also Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights)

“The single most important thing we do is help coaches teach kids not to be afraid to make mistakes,”… P.C.A.’s techniques are grounded in the idea that every child has a kind of “emotional tank.” When it gets drained, it’s difficult to take on challenges or perform well. Coaches need to learn to recognize this and adjust accordingly. P.C.A. even has a “magic ratio” ― the ideal ratio of positive (i.e., tank filling) statements to criticism ― should be 5 to 1. …“Instead of getting into a kid: ‘Hey, What’s the matter with you? Didn’t we just go over this?’ I like to take the approach: ‘Hey, young lady, you’re doing a great job. You know on that approach to a ground ball, maybe I would use a different footwork. Other than that I cannot commend you enough on your hard work.’ It works so much better.”

5. As part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the Bush Theatre in London has commissioned and produced “Sixty-Six Books“, a collection of 66 short plays – one for each of the books in the Bible – with contributors ranging from the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to musician Billy Bragg or playwright Christopher Shinn. From the looks of it, this project has people thinking about the bible in freshly creative ways. As Shinn says:

One of the interesting things about early Christianity is the way it justifies suffering, almost encourages it. The Bible offers some ideas for explaining human behavior that I found not even Marxism and psychoanalysis could explain.

6. A recent book from the world of psychology (reviewed here) has found the root of hypocrisy: ourselves. It seems that humans are neurologically unable to translate knowledge of something into right actions. Perhaps St. Paul was really on to something when he wrote “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

Self-knowledge is surprisingly useless. Teaching people about the hazards of multitasking doesn’t lead to less texting in the car; learning about the weakness of the will doesn’t increase the success of diets; knowing that most people are overconfident about the future doesn’t make us more realistic. The problem isn’t that we’re stupid—it’s that we’re so damn stubborn.


7. Coldplay – the rock band that critics love to hate – released their new album Mylo Xyloto this week and the reviews are mostly positive. The consensus is if you overlook their well documented flaws, the album is irresistibly fantastic and features the best of what Coldplay does well: catchy tunes and toe-tapping beats. I think The AV Club sums it up best:

Coldplay began as a melancholy Brit-rock band with a gift for hooks. The band lost its way somewhat through X&Y and Viva La Vida—which aren’t bad so much as forgettable—but it finds a new path to mojo here. That occasionally results in pop cheese, but those concerned by Coldplay’s clear interest in massive popularity probably jumped ship years ago. The rest are left with the best—maybe the only—rock band of the day capable of a truly engaging crossover.

8. Finally, a video which is funny, cute, and sad all at once: