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About CJ Green

CJ Green is a staff editor at Mockingbird. His favorite books are for ages 7-12.

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    The Future of Our Children: Doom, Gloom, and Love at the End of the World

    The Future of Our Children: Doom, Gloom, and Love at the End of the World

    This week Roy Scranton wrote a stirring op-ed for the New York Times called “Raising My Child in a Doomed World.” Frankly it’s not a headline you would have seen before 2016. Now, this rhetoric is everywhere. Fictional dystopias are no longer phantasms of who we could become, of where we might go, but of who we are—‘shocking commentaries on the state of things.’ This is it. This is the end. Amidst all the fear, Scranton confesses an interesting conflict:

    I cried two times when my daughter was born. First for joy, when after 27 hours of labor the little feral…

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    Sleeping the Pain Away: A Young Woman Takes a Chill Pill in "My Year of Rest and Relaxation"

    Sleeping the Pain Away: A Young Woman Takes a Chill Pill in “My Year of Rest and Relaxation”

    When asked about her favorite holiday, writer Ottessa Moshfegh says, “I don’t know if I’ve ever been on holiday…?” And then laughs.

    On the one hand, I suppose she could be speaking literally. But I take the above response as an invitation, a question: Do human beings ever really relax? After all, we never catch a break from the predominant source of our exhaustion: us.

    This points to the central conflict in Moshfegh’s haunting (and darkly funny) new book My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which reviewers have called “the finest existential novel not written by a French author.” (It’s already been optioned…

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    Another Week Ends: Death Cafés, Eighth Grade, Basement Revolver, Sterile Style, Church Planting, and the Meekness of God

    Another Week Ends: Death Cafés, Eighth Grade, Basement Revolver, Sterile Style, Church Planting, and the Meekness of God

    1. Lots to consider from this week’s first link: “The Positive Death Movement Comes to Life,” by John Leland for the Times (ht SZ). All told, this article is partly amazing, partly ridiculous.

    First, the amazing. “Death is having a moment,” the subtitle says. This is good news in the context of modernity’s widespread denial of death. We so fear death that we pretend it doesn’t exist. Says one interviewee: “We got so far removed from death even being an option.”

    Now, in small pockets here and there, certain people—mostly women—are beginning to question the denial of this undeniable reality. Why don’t we…

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    The Only Available Candidates for Holy Matrimony

    The Only Available Candidates for Holy Matrimony

    Well, it’s wedding season here in Charlottesville, VA, which is as good a time as any to share some marital non-advice from the late priest-chef-writer Robert Farrar Capon. The following excerpt is taken from his seminal work, originally published in the 60s, Bed & Board: Plain Talk About Marriage (ht AM). 

    A man and a woman schooled in pride cannot simply sit down together and start caring. It takes humility to look wide-eyed at somebody else, to praise, to cherish, to honor. They will have to acquire some before they can succeed. For as long as it lasts, of course, the first…

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    A Great Insight

    A Great Insight

    I imagine it’s a common experience: Whether in Bible studies, or from the pulpit, or in one-on-one “discipling” relationships, Christian ministers often feel pressured to come up with something genius, something that will knock the spiritual socks off whoever it is they’re ministering to. If you say just the right thing, maybe you can save or convert or help this person.

    And I have to admit, on this website, the quandary’s similar. When we begin writing, often our first (or ever-present) concern has to do with saying something new and brilliant. “But has someone already said this?” With eleven years under…

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    Another Week Ends: The Capacity for Every Crime, the Unimportance of Being Cool, Violence Ad Infinitum, Defiled Lunch Meat, the Dallas Street Choir, and the Essential Anthropology of Philip Roth

    Another Week Ends: The Capacity for Every Crime, the Unimportance of Being Cool, Violence Ad Infinitum, Defiled Lunch Meat, the Dallas Street Choir, and the Essential Anthropology of Philip Roth

    1. Lots of good reading material for this Memorial Day weekend! Our first article—a ripe one 😉 by philosopher Crispin Sartwell, for the New York Times—defends the concept of original sin, from a secular standpoint. And while the era of extreme division and gun violence might seem the perfect stage for the original sin renaissance, Sartwell, importantly, begins his argument not with everyone else’s problems but with the man in the mirror. (I’ve excerpted a good majority of the piece here; it’s all quite good. Hear an extended convo about it on this week’s Mockingcast!)

    When I look within, I see…

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    Another Week Ends: The Craigslist Confessional, Ethical Beauty, Luck, Reincarnation, Realistic Wedding Vows, and Divided Times in the Body of Christ

    Another Week Ends: The Craigslist Confessional, Ethical Beauty, Luck, Reincarnation, Realistic Wedding Vows, and Divided Times in the Body of Christ

    1. This weekend’s opener: stories from the Craigslist Confessional. Several years ago, on a whim, a woman named Helena Bala posted an ad online, offering anyone who needed it the service of a non-judgmental listening ear. Crazy, huh? “Woke up the next morning…inbox was flooded.”

    The video is a testament to the power of listening—just listening, without corrections, prescriptions, or solutions. Later she says, “I hadn’t done anything…I hadn’t provided any extraordinary insight…. I was just listening.”

    But there’s an interesting part, two-thirds into the video, when a leading psychotherapist challenges Helena’s work, saying that, in his opinion, she isn’t doing longterm good,…

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    "The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph: Our Patron of Falling Short, Who Became a Prayer," by Denis Johnson

    “The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph: Our Patron of Falling Short, Who Became a Prayer,” by Denis Johnson

    The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph
    BY DENIS JOHNSON

    OUR PATRON OF FALLING SHORT,
    WHO BECAME A PRAYER

    I used to sneak into the movies without paying.
    I watched the stories but I failed to see the dark.
    I went to college and drank everything they gave me,
    and I never paid for any of that water
    on which I drifted as if by grace until
    after the drownings, when in the diamond light
    of seven-something A.M., as the spring was tearing
    me up in Cartajena, only praying
    on my knees before the magnifying ark
    of the Seventh St. Hotel could possibly save me,
    until falling on my face before the daughter
    of money while the world poured from the till
    brought the…

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    A Visit to Another World: Modern Fiction and Life After Death – A Conference Breakout Preview

    Christians have long puzzled over whether literary fiction is of any use to the remnant of believers in the world. Of course, most of the Western canon is essentially Christian; you can’t get anywhere in a lit course without some basic familiarity with the Bible. But many of today’s stories seem postmodern, remaining thematically ambiguous and unresolved. Even so, stories remain one of our surest avenues for (something like) transcendence.

    Good fiction describes the reality of everyday life—describes, in the words of Flannery O’Conner, “what is.” But for many Christians this seems too earthly a goal. Where have the symbolic references to Calvary gone? How long do we wait for this character’s redemption? Good stories are not always innocent or sentimental, nor necessarily redemptive. O’Connor, a Catholic herself, seemed just fine with this: “We lost our innocence in the Fall,” she writes plainly, “and our return to it is through the Redemption which was brought about by Christ’s death and by our slow participation in it. Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite.” Oof!

    During this breakout session, we’ll spend some time looking at the work of 3 contemporary writers—Denis Johnson, George Saunders, and Ottessa Moshfegh—who I haven’t been able to get out of my head this year. Their stories relate, sometimes brutally, sometimes humorously, “what is.” These writers are not Christians (actually one of them is), but they nevertheless “reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete, observable reality” (O’Connor). These stories poke fun at the absurdity of our everyday reality and illuminate our desperate need for a life after life. My hope is that their words will help us put some fresh “skin on the bones” of the Christian message (in the words of John Zahl). It should be fun and maybe a little weird! Hope to see ya there.

    Click here to register for the upcoming Mockingbird conference in NYC! And check out the incredible line-up of speakers here.

    Ted Bundy and Me: The Slow-Going Power of Love and the Myth of the Psychopath

    Ted Bundy and Me: The Slow-Going Power of Love and the Myth of the Psychopath

    Recently a friend told me I looked like a serial killer but “in a good way.”

    I said there is no good way to look like a serial killer.

    He said, “Oh but there is. Remember that one guy…? The one who didn’t look scary at all?”

    He was referring to Ted Bundy. For the record, I do not look like Ted Bundy, but it was an interesting point of coincidence, because I had just finished reading a massive, totally engrossing article about him. It’s called, “The End of Evil: America’s Most Famous Serial Killer and the Myth of the Psychopath,” by Sarah…

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    Another Week Ends: The Book of Life, Tribal Culture, Seasonal Depression, A Wrinkle in Time, Sister Jean's Prayers, David Attenborough's Horror, and Mason Pryor's Second Chance

    Another Week Ends: The Book of Life, Tribal Culture, Seasonal Depression, A Wrinkle in Time, Sister Jean’s Prayers, David Attenborough’s Horror, and Mason Pryor’s Second Chance

    1. Let’s begin with a couple links to Alain de Botton’s (wellspring of a) website, The Book of Life. The first is about the importance of confession. A traditionally Christian practice, confession remains as necessary in 2018 as it ever was (ht JB):

    …many of us feel like very bad people and have certainly done and thought some pretty odd things. But we are not, on that score, abnormal or beyond forgiveness, redemption and understanding. We are just operating with an overly narrow conception of normality and a desperately punitive idea of what is permissible… We need the opportunity to let another…

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    Lessons from the Mid-Lent Slump

    Lessons from the Mid-Lent Slump

    This year for Lent, I decided not to get crazy. In the past, especially as a kid, I’d sometimes give up three things at once, candy, my Gameboy, and fun in general. In the absence of those worldly distractions, I’d take up the terribly sanctified tendency of comparing and contrasting my virtue against my brother’s: “Mom, he’s playing Backyard Baseball, again…”

    This year, none of that. I wanted to do something low-key. I wanted to spend a little time every morning praying. And not for any reason other than that, even now, that just sounds like a really nice way to…

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