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Addiction

The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

The Difficulty of Drawing Near the Suffering

This comes to us from Father Kenneth Tanner.  When I first came to the parish I serve, there were about twenty persons over the age of seventy. We have since buried a few, some have retired to Florida or warmer states, but until recently about half were still active participants in our worship and community. […]

My Lifestyle Brand Isn't Pretty, But It's Amazing

My Lifestyle Brand Isn’t Pretty, But It’s Amazing

“Reality is an ally of God.” — Richard Rohr When I was in dental school, I spent most afternoons with the rest of my class in the lab, where we’d toil over fake teeth for three hours. It was just as fun as it sounds, which led to filling the time with wandering conversations over […]

On Praying in the Bathroom, and Giving Up on Self-Control

On Praying in the Bathroom, and Giving Up on Self-Control

Leslie Jamison’s book The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath uses a broad scope of material to construct the experience of addiction and attempts at recovery: through personal memoir, research into historical figures, and reflection on the methods and theories associated with treating substance abuse. There are many, many reasons to read this book, and none […]

Turn with Me to The Book of Ryan

Turn with Me to The Book of Ryan

This one was written by Blake Nail. The people of the Bible are often described as heroes. We see this in secular culture, where the characters of the “good” book are often mocked for “goody good” morals and ideals, which they supposedly manifest. We see this even in our churches. (At least from my limited experience […]

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 […]

The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everyone – John Zahl

From our recent conference in Tyler, TX, here’s the incredible second talk from John Zahl, inspired by his book Grace in Addiction. Topics include: the founding of AA, the spirituality of the 12-steps, a plaid peg-leg, an empathetic high priest, and cat curling.

The Good News of Alcoholics Anonymous for Everyone – John Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Five Years of Grace and Bad Coffee: Sobriety and Holy Week

Five Years of Grace and Bad Coffee: Sobriety and Holy Week

On Tuesday night of Holy Week, I sat under fluorescent lights at a plastic folding table and gripped a styrofoam cup of bad coffee. Around the room sat men from all walks of life. Respectable businessmen, craftsmen and laborers, men living in a residential rehab or halfway house, and me: a young clergyman who looks […]

It Is Good: Waiting on Our New Creation — A Conference Breakout Preview

In preparation for our annual conference in NYC, we’ll be taking the next few weeks to share previews of our upcoming breakout sessions, which cover a variety of topics both personal and spiritual. Here’s the first, from Laurel Marr, staff member with our gracious hosts at Calvary St. George’s.

This breakout will look at where the 12-steps of recovery intersect with Martin Luther’s theology of the cross. We will be connecting The Rev. John Zahl’s book Grace in Addiction and Dr. Simeon Zahl’s dissertation, Pneumatology and Theology of the Cross in the Preaching of Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt: The Holy Spirit between Wittenburg & Azusa Street. You don’t have to be an addict in recovery to identify with this subject in the least.

Come and hear the theology of the German Preacher, Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919), the son of a renowned healer. He eventually departed from his father’s healing ministry and belief that supernatural forces were opposing the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God, and adopted the theology that it is the sinful heart of mankind that is in opposition to the Kingdom of God. “Die, so that Jesus may live!” was Blumhardt’s call to his congregation.

This call to death is patterned after the cross of Christ. It is here that we are humbled, that we truly suffer, and that our will is thwarted. The recovering addict must die daily if he or she is to maintain sobriety. Blumhardt believed that this dying “belongs at first only to a few.” Only a few are first called to take on this dying work that opens a pathway for Christ to spread His message and His will. In a day where Christianity seemed to have lost its way, Blumhardt believed the Kingdom would move forward once again when a “little flock” of faithful men and women came to understand the problem of the flesh and put it in its rightful place, in the care and keeping of God.

For more, join Laurel on Friday April 27, at 3:00pm at Calvary St. George’s church in NYC.

You can register for the 11th Annual Mockingbird Conference here! We hope to see you there!

Grace in the Age of Fentanyl

Grace in the Age of Fentanyl

“[Karl] Marx famously called religion the opiate of the masses, but these days opiates are the opiates of the masses.” That’s the first variation of this observation I came across last week, via Tim Kreider’s new I Wrote This Book Because I Love You. The second run-in occurred a couple days later, toward the middle […]

Peace/Love/Elvis: The Death of Ambition, and Also of Denis Johnson

Peace/Love/Elvis: The Death of Ambition, and Also of Denis Johnson

It’s hard to say exactly when the plummet of Elvis Presley began. Some say in the late 60s, some say the early 70s. Some might say as early as 1958, when he was drafted into the Army. In any case, there’s no denying the devilish phase of physical and mental deterioration which carried him to […]

"Chip in My Brain": <i>This American Life</i> Buried the Lede

“Chip in My Brain”: This American Life Buried the Lede

Like many here at Mockingbird, I’m a big fan of This American Life and Serial/S-Town and all of those NPRish, WBEC Chicago Public Radio podcasts. I’ve been listening to the TAL podcasts for going on four years now, and “Chip in My Brain” (Jan 13, 2018) is the most compelling to date, for me. That’s a huge compliment […]

What Russell Brand Used to Think of as Happiness

On the Mockingcast this past week, we talked a bit about our favorite books of 2017. For me, Russell Brand’s Recovery was right up there, in part because it’s so funny but mainly because it cuts through so much of the baloney (read: reactivity) surrounding the G-O-D question these days and grounds it in the reality of lived experience and desperation. Here are a few more cases in point:

I have heard 12 Step support groups referred to as a cult and it could be argued that any group with a system of beliefs is a cult. In working a 12 Step program I don’t feel like I’ve joined a cult, but that I’ve been liberated from one. The cult that told me that I’m not enough, that I need to be famous to be of value, that I need to have money to live a worthwhile life, that I should affiliate, associate and identify on 
the basis of color and class, that my role in life is to consume, that 
I was to live in a darkness only occasionally lit up by billboards and screens, always framing the smiling face of someone trying to sell me something. Sell me phones and food and prejudice, low cost and low values, low-frequency thinking. We are in a cult by default. We just can’t see it because its boundaries lie beyond our horizons. (pg 67)

When my last great romance combusted and I came fleeing from the inferno, looking for comfort and peace, it is to this community, assembled around the mutual wound, that I turned. Every time I reinvest in the material world as a potential source of happiness I am able to return to them when it fails. When religions talk of idolatry, I feel I know what they are saying; when I make something else,… my symbol of the divine, I get in trouble. If you take away the bombast, the sense that these edicts are being bellowed down from a purple cloud, ‘Don’t get too wrapped up in relationships or money’ sounds like the sort of thing a grandparent might say. I have an inclination to make these things my salvation. (pg 101)

What I used to think of as happiness was merely distraction from the pain. (pg 218)

How do you stop yourself from milking [a] situation for spiritual credit? Of course there is no such thing as spiritual credit, as soon as credit is sought you are in the domain of the ego. So even by writing about it the purity is compromised if not undone. How do you avoid making it about the result? You just do your best and let go of the outcome. It’s easy to become snared on each of these points. In the end, you just try your best. (pg 235)