1. Our Pensacola mini-conference is underway! If you live in the area, don’t be afraid to drop in unannounced… We would love to see you. And those of you that don’t live in the area, don’t be afraid to say a prayer in support.

2. An unsettling firsthand account of professional plagiarism over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled “The Shadow Scholar”, the most arresting portion for us being (ht AZ):

I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America’s moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.

3. A worthy look at Disney’s conflicted relationship with its religious past over at First Things, through the lens of Armond White’s review of Disney’s current PC-schlock-fest Tangled. The always provocative White employs Mbird faves Carl Dreyer, Hans Christian Anderson, and The Pet Shop Boys among others to make his point. He writes:

We’ve accustomed ourselves to the formula by which a family movie designed to pacify children is considered innocuous, but we cannot ignore the ramifications of entertainment concepts that move away from profundity or that deny audiences the persuasiveness and the confirmation of epiphany.

Religion offers a way to understand our human impulses; popular culture has become a way to muddle them. That’s the theme the Pet Shop Boys identify in [their new project, a musical adaptation of] Hans Christian Andersen’s “Most Incredible Thing”; it’s also exemplified by the commercial corruptions that Tangled performs on the tale of Rapunzel. In his classic study The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, psychologist Bruno Bettelheim argued that readers “find folk fairy tales more satisfying than all other children’s stories” because “fairy tales carry important messages to the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious mind, on whatever level each is functioning at the time.” As pop culture gets away from faith, it also abandons its most important social function, confusing rather than uniting our humanity. It will take faith to raise corrupted pop culture from the dead. 

4. New York publishes two curiously affirming profiles of evangelical figures in one week!
At least, considerably less condescending than usual (though no less clinical)…: A. NY Times Magazine does its best to figure out the gender politics/theology of prominent Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer, and B. NY Magazine gets charmed by the ultra-emergent yet surprisingly sympathetic (although dare I say truly antinomian?) ways of Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye.

5. Over at the A/V Club a fantastic primer on the equally fantastic DC Animated Universe (DCAU). Stay tuned for the Mockingbird primer on the very same. Also, this just in: director Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty) has given away all of his possessions (ht BE).

6. A delightful little piece from the Wall Street Journal about Mad Men obsession as a (woefully insufficient) identity marker, “Far From the Madding Crowd, or What Ruined my Infatuation with Don Draper”. Also in television, The LA Times looks at the friendship craze currently dominating prime-time and its relationship to the ever-rising social disconnectivity in America (ht KW):

“The fact is that we miss the friendships we no longer have, and we know that Facebook or e-mails cannot possibly compensate for the loss. So we sit in front of our television sets and enjoy the dream of friendship instead: a dream where we need never be alone, where there are a group of people who would do anything for us, and where everyone seems to understand us to our very core, just like Jerry and George, Chandler and Joey, Carrie and her girls, or the members of the McKinley High glee club. It is a powerful dream, and it is one that may now be the primary pleasure of television.”

7. The new Michael Jackson single “Hold My Hand” is now available on iTunes! Definitely more Free Willy than Captain Eo, but not a complete loss. Personally I much prefer “Breaking News”