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John Stuart Mill's Crisis of Faith

John Stuart Mill’s Crisis of Faith

This excerpt comes from John Gray’s latest book Seven Types of Atheism; the chapter is “Secular Humanism, a Sacred Relic,” where Gray deliberates over ‘the religion of humanity.’ In this passage, he tells of nineteenth-century philosopher John Stuart Mill’s faith in personal satisfaction and human progress — and the voice of doubt that arose amidst it: …John […]

Forty, Finitude, and Me

Forty, Finitude, and Me

A lovely personal reflection from Katy Attanasi: This is a story about the tension that exists between Christian triumph and human frailty, between the ideal and the real, and between the myth of unlimited potential and the reality of constrained choices. Once upon a time, my 21-year-old self was on top of a world that […]

Fear and the Reality of Horror, Part 2

Fear and the Reality of Horror, Part 2

How does horror move from awareness of the actual world in which we live (as described in Part 1) to apprehension of the gospel? Horror brings into focus what it is that we should be afraid of, often by emphasizing the identities we construct from our fears or showcasing the absurdity of our attempts to suppress […]

In Praise of Confusion and John L'Heureux

In Praise of Confusion and John L’Heureux

John L’Heureux’s latest short story, published recently in the New Yorker, tells of a woman who wants a sign from God…and receives one, just not in the way she expected. You can read the whole thing here. It’s called “The Rise and Rise of Annie Clark.” Annie, a “capital-C Catholic,” moves through life trying to measure […]

Now Available! Exit 36: A Fictional Chronicle, by Robert Farrar Capon

A priest’s suicide. A lover’s confession. A web of mysteries. The latest installment in Mockingbird’s Robert Farrar Capon series is available today! Exit 36: A Fictional Chronicle explores the secret life of a clergyman and the ultimate mystery of redemption.

In our discussions about Exit 36, Valerie Capon used one word repeatedly: “mystical.” She was adamant the book should have a colorful cover that could reflect the unique otherworldliness of this particular work. To me, her insight did not at first square with what appeared to be a coarse, noir-tinged novel about a suicide. “The suicide is the hook,” Valerie said. “Robert wasn’t really writing about that.”

So what was he writing about?

The Rev. Mark Strobel, our friend in Fargo, ND, says this book reads like one of Jesus’ parables. Brooding, humorous, a little outrageous, Exit 36 tells the story of Father William Jansson, an Episcopal priest with an unruly libido who receives an urgent phone call from a woman who knew the suicide victim (intimately). In her grief she turns to Jansson, who falls backwards into the four themes of eschatology: Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven. It’s undoubtedly one of Robert’s earthier works—grungy, sultry—but, as Valerie suggested, the persistent promise of the resurrection glows under its surface. The climactic sequence left me stunned.

This new edition of Exit 36 is the fourth entry in Mockingbird’s Capon collection and features a brand-new, deeply moving foreword by our friend Chad Bird. You can now find Exit 36 in our online bookstore and on Amazon, along with Mockingbird editions of Robert’s other works. As always, we welcome your help in spreading the word!

Happy reading,

CJG, editor

“Capon looks directly at the agony of a fallen world through the mystery of the reconciliation of everything and everybody in Christ. Whatever scandals one might find in this book, however, the scandal of grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus triumphs over it all. Capon’s voice is needed now as much as it ever has been.”

—The Very Revd Mark Strobel, Fargo, ND

“Running parallel to the good old-fashioned mystery is a long look at our deepest anxieties about death, sin, forgiveness when forgiveness is outrageous and impossible, and love. The romance of love is dealt with unabashedly. But the humanity of love – the Jesus who lives in us all and frees us from sin — is revealed by our narrator’s own searching thoughts, bold self-examination, frank dialogue with parishioners and quietly stunning acts of compassion.”

—Laura E. Bondarchuk, East Marion, NY

You can find Exit 36 in our online store and on Amazon!

You can also find Mockingbird editions of Robert’s other books: More Theology & Less Heavy Cream, The Man Who Met God in a Bar, and Bed & Board.

The Preacher's Understudy

The Preacher’s Understudy

In the 1990s, I served on staff at a church in a large metropolitan city in the South. For several years, we hosted an interdenominational worship service for young single adults. Close to a thousand singles would pack out our church’s sanctuary, with some people standing at the back of the balcony. Some college students […]

Many Good Things Start With a Grave

Many Good Things Start With a Grave

It seems like just about everyone I know right now is either grieving, infertile, or both. As a country and a global community, we’ve also had a lot of bad news. Our hurricanes are getting worse. There’s abuse. Addiction. “Politics” (I’ll let you unpack that one, reader). There’s prejudice. International affairs. Extramarital affairs. A TV […]

Loving the Dreadful Day of Judgment: Fleming Rutledge's <i>Advent</i>

Loving the Dreadful Day of Judgment: Fleming Rutledge’s Advent

The Rev. Fleming Rutledge’s “generous orthodoxy” defies pinning down. She loves both the Day of Judgment and the oppressed in society (and thinks the former will relieve the latter); she believes in Purgatory (without indulgences) and in the nine ranks of angels; and she boldly declares Christ to be Lord and King and coming again […]

New Religions, Fresh Heretics, and the Beyoncé-KISS Continuum

New Religions, Fresh Heretics, and the Beyoncé-KISS Continuum

The big 4-0 passed us by with hardly a whimper. It was just a couple weeks ago, but no one made a fuss, not even the band, who seldom pass up a chance at a cash grab. Perhaps it’s not all that surprising; on the list of Pop Culture Disasters, this one ranks pretty low–somewhere […]

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Lost Doctrine of Sin

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Lost Doctrine of Sin

An immense honor to put this up for online reading. This essay from Dr. Simeon Zahl was originally given at the NYC Conference in 2016 and was republished in written form in our most recent issue of the magazine, The Déjà Vu Issue. To order one for your favorite sinner, go here. And if you […]

An Air of Condescension: Why Working-Class Whites Don't Go to Church

An Air of Condescension: Why Working-Class Whites Don’t Go to Church

Grateful for this reflection by David Clay. In the 2016 film Manchester by the Sea, sixteen-year-old Patrick Chandler loses his father to congestive heart failure and finds himself in the custody of his uncle Lee, a laconic and depressed Boston janitor. Neither Patrick nor Lee are very excited about the situation; much of the movie revolves […]

How to Deploy Survival Mode: Some Notes on Mental Health from the Ladies of Unmapped — Charlotte Getz and Stephanie Phillips

This excerpt comes from Mockingbird’s latest publication, Unmapped: The (Mostly) True Story of How Two Women Lost at Sea Found Their Way Home, by Charlotte Getz and Stephanie Phillips. One of the many zingers from this spiritual memoir duet, the following passage finds the authors wrestling with anxiety and mental health issues…as related to the gospel:

The gospel gets a bad rap sometimes because it says you have to die before you can live. Which is a hard pill to swallow when you didn’t even want to take a pill in the first place.

Here’s how it goes: girl has anxiety. Girl gets tools to deal with it. Tools help. (Occasionally.) But girl ends up in a situation (usually involving failure, humiliation, menstruation, her children, all of these things, or NONE OF THEM) in which she ends up feeling totally defeated by her anxiety; we mean, crushed. All hope appears lost. She thinks she will never get better. She can’t bear to think about the looks she will get when everyone sees she’s STILL a mess. She thinks she will actually die. None of the techniques help. She is drowning, and she cannot breathe. She is sinking, sinking, sinking…and everything goes dark.

Awful, right? Like, Shakespearean tragedy-awful. Except there’s this other thing—death—and it relies not at all on the sinking girl, but on her being miraculously and improbably revived by something [Someone] entirely separate from herself. No strategy, no implementation, just plain being lifted up out of the depth of despair and placed atop some blessed rock. Death, but then…resurrection. See what we’re getting at here?

We know it’s not as simple as a granted wish. We know there’s a whole lot of fist shaking, swearing into the sky, and despair. But it took Jesus himself three days, people. Settle in: this may take a while. Chances are, we’re probably going to be staring that bastard (mental dysfunction) in the face off-and-on our whole lives until we arrive at that beautiful buffet in the sky, where there’s endless white bread and the bill is already paid. But God is right with us. The ultimate hope—for us, for our kids when we fail them, for our friends when we hurt them, for our marriages when we flounder, for our jobs when we blow it—is in the throes of death that transform into the pangs of new life.

Drown, resuscitate, repeat. Fail, get forgiven, go again. Despair, hope, defeat, redemption, over and over, until one day you wake up and you realize you’re still anxious, but you see it more clearly, for the cloudy lens it is, and you know—even though you’re not there yet, because TODAY IS A DOOZY—you know that you’re going to be okay. Ultimately, you will be whole. And you’re headed there. So you breathe, and you put one foot in front of the other while recognizing that you’re actually being carried. And your anxiety hasn’t disappeared; nope, it’s still following you around like a hot, wet rag someone keeps chucking at your face, but you’re no longer a table for two. You’ve got company, and it looks strangely like a lifeboat with all the provisions onboard (see what we did there?). You settle in, and soon other passengers come aboard your lifeboat, so you open a bottle of wine and hold hands and breathe together, everyone facing the same direction.