Let the pinning commence – not sure what we were waiting for but Mbird is now on Pinterest! Pretty gratifying to see six year’s worth of visual silliness in one place. Also, pre-registration for our Fall Conference near Houston, TX opens next week, on August 1st. Theme this time will be “Overextended, Under God: Christian Freedom in a Non-Stop World.”

1. Kicking things off this week in the mercy-not-sacrifice department is a doozie of an essay by Barbara Fried in the Boston Review entitled “Beyond Blame,” which takes as its starting point the observation that “recent decades have been boom years for blame—our collective sense that if things go badly for you, it’s all your fault.” While one is naturally tempted to replace “decades” with “millenia”, still, it’s refreshing to read something that questions the blame reflex on utilitarian grounds (or any grounds for that matter). It’s that rare contemporary discussion of the relationship between free will and responsibility that doesn’t ignore the (enormous) contribution theologians have made to the debate. And while Jonathan Edwards wouldn’t have exactly been my first choice to represent Protestant thought on the topic, still, if you can get through the discussion of compatibilism (skeptical incompatibilism sounds tasty!), some stirring conclusions are there to be discovered. For example, ht WM:

7ac705cdff44aa2630e87aec44ecf4bbWe have gotten nothing from our 40-year blame fest except the guilty pleasure of reproaching others for acts that, but for the grace of God, or luck, or social or biological forces, we might well have committed ourselves. Our schools are broken, a new generation of kids has been lost, our prisons are crammed with petty offenders whose lives we have ruined in the name of a war on drugs that has been a total failure. And judging from the current mood of the country, the guilty pleasure of blaming others has not proved all that pleasurable.

2. Tullian Tchividjian posted another excerpt from his much-anticipated (and Mbird-saturated!) new book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World, the story of two very different lunches–and approaches to bad behavior (and culpability!)–that he experienced during a challenging time in his life. Read the full account on Liberate or skip to the lessons learned below. And mark your calendars – OWL is out Oct 1:

Most parents and spouses, siblings and friends—even preachers—fall prey to the illusion that real change happens when we lay down the law, exercise control, demand good performance, or offer “constructive” criticism. We wonder why our husbands grow increasingly withdrawn over the years, why our children don’t call as much as we would like them to, why our colleagues don’t confide in us, why our congregants become relationally and emotionally detached from us.

In more cases than not, it happens because we are feeding their deep fear of judgment—by playing the judge. Our lips may be moving, but the voice they hear is that of the law. The law may have the power to instruct and expose, but it does not have the power to inspire or create. That job is reserved for grace–grace alone.

Along similar lines, a helpful little piece appeared on Heidelblog a few weeks ago on “The Attraction of Legal Preaching.” Must-read for anyone engaged in the ‘art of homiletics,’ ht TT.


3. Speaking of the Law, perhaps you saw the Slate article this week about Instagram having a more depressing effect on its users than Facebook? We’ve got a post on the subject coming next week, but while you’re waiting, Will Welch wrote up a clever column on our collective “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) and the suffering it causes, i.e. the discouraging discrepancy between who we (think we) should be and who we actually are:

Let’s say it’s 7:30 on a Thursday night. You’ve made serious plans to not have plans tonight. Tonight you’re going to be at home, stir-frying vegetables and having a meaningful interaction with ESPN. So while those fiddlehead ferns are sizzling, you take a quick flick through your Instagram feed. It turns out your friends, and the people you’re not friends with but whose lives are somehow a daily part of your own, thanks to the wonders of 4G and social media, are not at home alone getting it on with some sugar snap peas and Stephen A. Smith. It turns out some people are out there experiencing things. Somebody is sitting at a corner booth at a downtown restaurant experiencing a delicious plate of housemade burrata (with a fancy-pants wine bottle not so accidentally lurking in the background)! Other friend types are experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime musical extravaganza that is Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z together in concert. (Check out these twelfth-row seats, bitches!) Not to mention the acquaintance who is, at this very minute, experiencing the wonder of nurse sharks (and a lady in an emerald green bikini who’s placed, wine bottlelike, in the corner of the picture)! Which makes you suddenly feel a little differently about experiencing the heat from your $12 wok.

Now for your diagnosis. Upon seeing all this, you: (1) Set down your phone and happily go back to your simple night, as a Buddhist monk goes contentedly back to his simple cell. (2) Feel a gentle but totally manageable pang of regret that you are not savoring the rich, creamy wonder of burrata. (3) Become overcome with anxiety and borderline grief that in fact your life is lame and that you missed out on a night of limitless possibilities. Or (4) stage an artful still-life shot of your sweating craft-beer bottle and Instagram it with the caption “Nothing is more satisfying than a night chillin at home,” and then lie in bed and cry yourself to sleep.

tumblr_mi2774d0E11s36e5ko2_500-2 (dragged)

If you answered 1, congratulations. You’re not only of sound mental health, you’re also shockingly free of insecurities and possessed of a grounded life perspective, and you are free to leave the GQ #FOMO Center now, simply by turning the page. (You’re also probably a total liar.) If you answered 2, 3, or 4, however, you are on the #FOMO spectrum.

4. Self-Justification Study of the Week comes from the Harvard Business Review, “Consumers Don’t Want to Cook, But Want to Feel as If They’re Cooking”.

5. Humor-wise, Behance did us all a great service by putting together some “Price of Being Superheroes” infographics. And The Onion sharpened their teeth a bit more than normal for “Unambitious Loser With Happy, Fulfilling Life Still Lives In Hometown”, the key paragraph being:

“I honestly don’t get Mike—does he even want to get out of that backwater town and try to make something of himself, or does he want to just waste his time feeling pleased with the pace and content of his life and enjoying his existence?” high school friend Caitlin Sese said of the man who gets eight hours of sleep per night and has time after work to see his loved ones and take care of his health. “Everyone else left Camden as soon as possible and is consumed by a deep sense of apprehension about getting ahead, but he’s still hanging around the same places from high school, focusing on the things that matter most to him, and existing as a relaxed, easygoing person who’s fun to be around. I can’t imagine anything sadder than that.”

6. Next, The Wall Street Journal sat down with Tom Wolfe this week to speak about his new novel, and he remains our most charming alarmist. His commentary on life in a “post-Christian” society will be of particular interest, ht BG:

On the considerably less profound side, there are plenty of ways a non-believer could have plausibly responded to Larry’s Taunton’s piece for The Atlantic about young atheists. The one the publication decided to go with, however, only confirms Taunton’s interpretation of his subject, i.e. it embraces the same almost laughably unconstrained rationalism. Sigh.

7. As is to be expected from late July, the music biz is pretty quiet at the moment. But as we get to the point in the season where Belle and Sebastian’s “A Summer Wasting” becomes an appropriate soundtrack, check out the AV Club’s primer on the Glasgow band’s stellar catalog. I personally would have ranked The Life Pursuit as more essential than Catastrophe Waitress (or Tigermilk), but it’s still a solid intro. Elsewhere on the same site, the writers took a risk and put together a laudable list of 14 Early Non-Hits That Show The Eagles Are Better Than You Think. And Lou Reed of all people authored a lengthy and colorful paean to the genius of Yeezus for The Talkhouse.

8. In the videosphere, if you haven’t come across Jon Negroni’s “The Pixar Theory”, brace yourself for a mindbender of the most enjoyable sort. Pitchfork’s new film site, The Dissolve, posted a great write-up of Adam Curtis’ elusive work, The Century of Self being one of our absolute favorites. And The AV Club has spent the week leading up to Blue Jasmine looking at what they consider the most underrated films in Woody Allen’s ouevre, and while Radio Days and Alice are conspicuously absent, it still makes for some good reading. Next, Luther’s third season just concluded (in the UK), and it was no less of a nail-biter than the preceding two. Not for the remotely faint of heart, it remains the scariest show on TV, and Idris Elba’s Emmy-winning title character one of its most compelling figures (almost a walking illustration of the difference between the Holy and the Good). Season three even upped the ethical ante that has become the show’s calling card; university professors would do well to take a look. In fact, that third episode may be the best (and most surprisingly grace-centered) of its entire run. Lastly, Colbert’s commentary on Kate Middleton’s post-delivery glamor is pure Mbird bait. Fast forward to the 1:48 mark if you’re feeling impatient, ht KW:

BONUS TRACK(S): In honor of a certain singer’s 70th birthday, it may not be his all-time finest moment, but it nonetheless seems appropriate: