Alright, so I know that my breakout session was supposed to be “What Would Don Draper Do (to Eric Taylor)? Downward Mobility and Grace in Mad Men and Friday Night Lights”, and I’ll touch on those themes and would be happy to discuss them over drinks (Shiner or Rye:), but as someone once said, “the wind blows wherever it pleases,” and I have found my thinking gusting in other directions. Not to mention that, judging by Season 5 of Mad Men (at least so far), Don Draper and Eric Taylor aren’t such polar opposites anymore, and might actually be friends! Don has experienced his fair share of failure and has been seemingly sanctified by the experience.

All that being said, here’s where my heart is at present:

About 10 years ago, as my wife and I were coming to terms with Law/Gospel theology and all of its implications for our lives, we tried a little thought experiment: what if we actually believed in what Luther called the “bondage of the will”? What would happen if we tried to see people as out-of-control of themselves – their actions, words and emotions?

In this experiment, we made a startling discovery: compassion. As we began to see our family, friends, strangers, each other, even ourselves, as being mastered by (rather than masters of) the raging storms of human existence, both internal and external, a great love welled up in us for all of the world’s sorry saps who, just like us, were doing the best they could, and mostly failing.

In my breakout session, we will be examining the bondage of the will and its import (indeed necessity!) for all loving relationships. Watching and listening to clips from Modern Family, Downton Abbey, United States of Tara, Radiolab and This American Life, we will discover the joy and freedom that comes from admitting that everyone (including us) is basically insane, and the humility and compassion enabled by this confession.