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Wearing Black

Wearing Black

This one was written by Ann Lowrey Forster.

I didn’t actually catch the Golden Globes on Sunday. On Monday morning, though, I watched Oprah’s dazzling speech and heard Natalie Portman’s perfect one-liner. I also saw the streaming in of men and women dressed in midnight and ebony and onyx. Oprah telling...

Mockingbird Update: What's in Store for 2018 and How You Can Help

Mockingbird Update: What’s in Store for 2018 and How You Can Help

A year of anniversaries–Mockingbird’s 10th and the Reformation’s 500th–is now behind us, and what a year it was. We published our first children’s book, released two issues of our magazine (Food & Drink and Love & Death), held three conferences, racked up 1.2 million pageviews on our website. We hired...

When the Diagnosis Is the Treatment

When the Diagnosis Is the Treatment

We’re slowly but surely rolling out the list of confirmed speakers for this year’s NYC Conference (4/26-28) and somewhere very close to the top of the pile sits Alan Jacobs, a writer, teacher, and thinker who has been an invaluable influence on–and help to–our work these past couple years. Alan’s...

The Top Theology Books of 2017

The Top Theology Books of 2017

Were you given an Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card, but don’t know what to spend it on? Or perhaps you’re a bibliophile like me and have an insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest theology books. In either case, I’ve got just the list for you: the top...

But Now Let's Have a Surprise

But Now Let’s Have a Surprise

I love church mishaps. Once, at a Baptist service, I spilled my little cup of communion Welch’s on a neighbor’s new white pants. He was so kind about it but also probably mad, and I was so embarrassed. There was a soft piano playing in the background while the preacher,...

MLK's Eulogy for Martyred Children

MLK’s Eulogy for Martyred Children

The following speech/sermon was given by Martin Luther King, Jr after the bombing at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963, just three weeks after the March on Washington.

This afternoon we gather in the quiet of this sanctuary to pay our last tribute of respect to these beautiful children...

What Russell Brand Used to Think of as Happiness

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...

The Top Ten Films of 2017

The Top Ten Films of 2017

2017 was a great year in film. For more, check out our abbreviated wrap-up (Seven Films from 2017).

As the year comes to a close, let’s limp across the finish line together while reminiscing about the best that 2017 had to offer up to the silver screen! It was another big...

Latest entries

But Now Let's Have a Surprise

But Now Let’s Have a Surprise

I love church mishaps. Once, at a Baptist service, I spilled my little cup of communion Welch’s on a neighbor’s new white pants. He was so kind about it but also probably mad, and I was so embarrassed. There was a soft piano playing in the background while the preacher, up front, invited the congregation to commune with the Lord and, when we were ready, to go ahead and drink. I tried mopping up the spill with my sleeve, until parishioners from all sides descended upon me and told me to stop: “It’s okay,” they said, “it’s okay.” It didn’t…

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The Key That Unlocks Divine Favor

The Key That Unlocks Divine Favor

Been a little while since we posted an excerpt from Law and Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints). Here’s what we’ve been told is one of the more controversial passages, taken from the Forgiveness section: 

In those places where the Gospel speaks loudest we often find ourselves grasping most desperately for the law. How does this happen in regard to forgiveness? Our tactic is somewhat diagonal. We make ‘repentance’ a pre-condition for pardon. We insist that people express (sufficient) remorse before we let them off the hook. In this scenario, sorrow somehow activates absolution.

This not only undercuts the gravity of…

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When the Diagnosis Is the Treatment

We’re slowly but surely rolling out the list of confirmed speakers for this year’s NYC Conference (4/26-28) and somewhere very close to the top of the pile sits Alan Jacobs, a writer, teacher, and thinker who has been an invaluable influence on–and help to–our work these past couple years. Alan’s How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds dropped this past Fall, i.e. not a moment too soon, and the book is as short as it is essential. (NY Times readers may remember it inspiring a particularly strong Brooks column back in October.) Here’s a small taste of the intro:

Everyone today seems to have an RCO [Repugnant Cultural Other], and everyone’s RCO is on social media somewhere. We may be able to avoid listening to our RCO, but we can’t avoid the realization that he or she is there, shouting from two rooms away.

This is a profoundly unhealthy situation. It’s unhealthy because it prevents us from recognizing others as our neighbors–even when they are quite literally our neighbors. If I’m consumed by this belief that that person over there is both Other and Repugnant, I may never discover that my favorite television program is also his favorite television program; that we like some of the same books, though not precisely for the same reasons; that we both know what it’s like to nurse a loved one through a long illness. All of which is to say that I may all too easily forget that political and social and religious differences are not the whole of human experience. The cold divisive logic of the RCO impoverishes us, all of us, and brings us closer to that primitive state that the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “the war of every man against every man.”…

Once, years ago, I started having chest pains, and my doctors couldn’t isolate the problem: I exercised regularly, my heart seemed healthy, nothing was evidently wrong. But the pains kept coming back, and that scared me. Finally, one doctor asked some probing questions and discovered that I had had, before the pains began, a lingering heavy cough. It seemed that coughing had strained a muscle in my chest, and that was the source of the pain; and when I started worrying about it, the resulting anxiety tensed the muscle and increased the pain–which then led to more anxiety. It was the classic vicious circle of reinforcement. When I asked the doctor what treatment he thought best, he replied, “The diagnosis is the treatment. Now that you know you don’t have a life-threatening illness, you won’t worry so much, and less stress in your mind will mean less stress on your chest muscles. That’ll give them a chance to heal.”

p.s. Click here to pre-register for the NYC Conference (4/26-28)!

When Katie Met Luther: A New Kind of Love – Sarah Condon

Very excited to present the video of Rev. Condon’s highly meme-able talk from the DC event:

p.s. For on when (Sister) Mary Tyler Moore dated Dr. Presley, click here.

Before the Big Top, There Was Love: The Greatest Showman

Before the Big Top, There Was Love: The Greatest Showman

The many movies that contemplate men experiencing work/dream/family conflicts have not, generally, been helpful to viewers—men or otherwise. This category of film is vast, of course, but they almost always posit that fathers who sincerely return their gaze to family in Act 3 will achieve a previously inconceivable version of whatever they were pursuing to their children’s detriment in Act 1. It’s a bit like the pop theology “let go [of yourdesires/needs/wants] and let God [lavishly reward your moment of selflessness with all the riches and favors you’ve ever wanted].” If I can just trick myself into believing that my…

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Snow Blowers Are Of The Devil (Blue Jeans Too)

Snow Blowers Are Of The Devil (Blue Jeans Too)

We live in a time of raging technology. Everything is changing as the microprocessors are taking everything over. A couple of centuries ago a group called the Luddites simply rejected technology beyond what they knew back when the microprocessor was called the steam engine. Luddites smashed machines to retain control. It didn’t work. Technology won. Everything changed.

In a similar way, I think technology has become a public crisis once again. Not since the advent of The Machines has our culture convulsed as it is now with the advent of the pervasive robot. I know this personally because I…

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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)

A New Year & A Better Immanuel...

A New Year & A Better Immanuel…

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

-Matthew 1:23

Immanuel, God with us, epitomizes the Christmas season and carries certain implications which we could summarize in the following respects: Firstly, God has come near us not to condemn, but rather to be condemned for our sins. We understand this as a fitting contrast to Genesis 3:8 (and they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden…and they hid). As well, we can see in this a foreshadowing of the blessed future state John…

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Another Year Begins: Gracious Mosques, Chaotic Normals, Blizzard Bingo, (Re-)Moralized Sex and Perfectionist Students

Another Year Begins: Gracious Mosques, Chaotic Normals, Blizzard Bingo, (Re-)Moralized Sex and Perfectionist Students

1. How about we kick off 2018 with a pair of fresh instances of grace? First, there’s the story of a Baltimore city councilwoman who has become a mentor to the two boys who carjacked her last year. Beautiful stuff. But merely a precursor to the story of “The Vandal and the Mosque”, which you can listen to here. The gist: in late 2016, a poor young man in Arkansas named Abraham Davis, along with a couple friends, deface a local mosque in the most ugly fashion imaginable. He is caught and convicted of a felony, which means community service…

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UCF Tries to Make Themselves...Just Like Me

UCF Tries to Make Themselves…Just Like Me

Are you excited for the Georgia/Alabama game on Monday? The one that will crown the 2018 National Champi…oh, wait. Apparently the University of Central Florida already claimed the 2018 National Championship after their Peach Bowl victory over Auburn (admittedly, the only team who beat both Georgia and Alabama this season). What are we to make of this? In one sense, it’s almost honorable: the school is celebrating a group of students who accomplished something remarkable and is even paying its coaches the national championship bonuses called for in their contracts. There is even precedent for this behavior: calling yourself a…

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January Playlist

Can’t Stop the Signal: Enduring Hope for Divided Times

Been waiting for the right opportunity to post a video of this talk, which I had the privilege of giving twice this past Fall. I actually prefer the San Diego one (from the Here We Still Stand conference – sorry, DC!), partly cause it’s a little more theological, partly cause the lighting was better–read into those signals what you will. But as I was ruminating on a possible ‘state of the union’-type New Years post, I realized it contained a good deal of what I’d want to say:

p.s. As you’ll discover, you can hear but not see the clips I reference. The second one makes sense without the video (read a description), but the first one from Curb Your Enthusiasm is a lot funnier if you can see Larry’s face.