Another Week Ends

Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview […]

Ethan Richardson / 5.27.16

Click here to listen to this week’s episode of The Mockingcast, which features an interview with Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg.


1. I’ll just make a note of this, and then I’ll direct you to the Podcast above for more in depth (and hilarious) commentary, but it should also be read in tandem with DZ’s post from earlier this week about the state of “manliness” and male identity today. Lena Dunham, in the New York Daily News, made a comment about challenging herself to leave her “Sorry” addiction. As a woman, she found it had become a default form of communication—apologizing for things she actually didn’t need to apologize for.

The 30-year-old actress highlighted her habit of apologizing excessively — something she believes women are especially guilty of — and credited Beyoncé for allowing her and other females to express “just how sick to death they were of apologizing.” Bey’s provocative track off her recently released “Lemonade” album has made headlines for its “Becky” lyrics, but it’s the repeated verses of “Sorry, I ain’t sorry” which Dunham views as a “massive cultural event.”

Opine what you will–I think it could either way. I’ll leave it to our audio gender correspondents to provide the gender commentary, but it also begs the question, what do we mean today when we say sorry? Besides making it a gender-hegemony question, it is also a language question, and it becomes very apparent in our current cultural moment of constant opinionating that the spate has an overall deleterious effect on actual meaningful connection…does the same become true for repentance/confession? This writer, for one, knows he says sorry far too much for meaningless reasons, and says sorry far too little for the meaningful ones.

032916-kendall-jenner-snapchat2. Two Internet-related articles from the New York Times worth checking out. The first is about Snapchat and how it is different from other social media platforms, mainly because it tends not to promote the kind of “curated me” that we find so readily on Instagram and Facebook. As opposed to the self-promotional form of communication, Snapchat—intimate because of its messaging format, freeing because of the ephemeral lifespan of its message—creates a more honest form of communication.

When it first blew up around 2012, the press seemed to assume it would primarily be used by horny teenagers swapping nudes.

If that was ever the case, it has since expanded. Each time I check the app, I’m surprised to see who else in my network has started using the service. My circle includes every demographic, age and locale: co-workers who send snaps of their dogs, friends on strange adventures in the desert, people I talk to mostly online sending videos from their travels. The videos are rarely elaborate: just a few seconds of my favorite people’s faces on a large screen, smiling, or singing, or showing off their view, before they fade and disappear.

Its entire aesthetic flies in the face of how most people behave on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — as if we’re waiting to be plucked from obscurity by a talent agent or model scout. But Snapchat isn’t the place where you go to be pretty. It’s the place where you go to be yourself, and that is made easy thanks to the app’s inbuilt ephemerality. Away from the fave-based economies of mainstream social media, there’s less pressure to be dolled up, or funny. For all the advances in tech that let us try on various guises to play around with who we are, it seems that we just want new ways to be ourselves. As it turns out, the mundanity of our regular lives is the most captivating thing we could share with one another.

image_072-600x900The second one was in last weekend’s NYT Magazine, about the use of the word “EVERYTHING” as the next last frontier in Internet hyperbole (i.e. “That dress is EVERYTHING” or “Sunny cabin porch is EVERYTHING right now”). As you might guess, the omnipotence of such a descriptor rarely fits the thing being described, but as Jody Rosen observes, the desire for God-sized proportions to touch something we see, even if it is not a big deal, still says something. Even it its hyperbole makes it seem like nothing.

The inescapable mantra “This is everything!” may strike us as glib, puerile, an assault on our sanity and intelligence. But every now and then, there’s truth in it. Sometimes, click bait can be a God dream. This Vine, that GIF, those tiny pigs dancing in the grass: They may have the power to obliterate the world for a minute or two. That might not be EVERYTHING — but it’s not nothing.

3. Too good, from the Babylon Bee: Mainline Protestantism Declared A Safe Space From the Gospel.

Speaking on behalf of a plethora of denominations including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Methodist Church, a spokesperson issued the following statement: “We are in agreement that there is a great need for churches to rise up and create spaces that are safe for questioning and accepting our identities, doubts, fears, failures, and blatant sins. Effective immediately, we are declaring all mainline Protestant churches safe spaces, where there are no judgments, conviction, repentance, or gospel presentations whatsoever.”

And then, there’s this, too: “Rock-Bottom Loser Entertaining Offers from Several Religions.” Just when you think The Onion might be losing its mojo…

4. A heartwarming story from the BBC Magazine, about some American Vietnam War veterans, who have found solace and comfort in returning to (and living in) the nation they fought in. A lot of different things at work here; atonement is there, for sure—the felt need to revisit (and repay) a debt they felt they hadn’t paid. There’s also some pastoral/psychological gold here—the mention of “frozen memories” is not just reserved for those with PTSD. Confrontation with old traumas and wounds often has tremendous healing power—just look at the woman at the well—and provides hope for meaning again.

When Vetter came to Da Nang in November 2012 he only intended to stay three months to help a family care for two sick boys apparently suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide used by the US military to kill trees and shrubs, which is still causing cancer, deformities and paralysis today.

“I have the feeling that we need to restore some things,” says Vetter, who is known to his friends as Captain Larry. “The US government refuses to do that, so I’m here to do my part.”

It was partly a sense of guilt that led Vetter to stay in Vietnam after the three months were over.

“There’s a closet in my head that I don’t want to open, because I fear of what comes out of it. I don’t know exactly what’s in there, but every now and then the door opens a bit and I get bad dreams. Maybe this closet is the reason I’m in Vietnam. We have done so many stupid things here.”

Chas Lehman, a man in his 70s with a white beard and dark sunglasses, describes his return to Vietnam as the will of God. It was conversion to Christianity, he says, that saved him from falling into a black hole of depression, disillusion and post-traumatic stress disorder.

img_19545. Speaking of pastoral sensibilities, David Brooks uses a commentary on Hillary Clinton’s wide disapproval ratings to unearth a character trait in each of us: to be defined by the work we do. Brooks notes that her lack of popularity is not her politics, but her absent personhood. Clinton appears, to the public and before the media, as “multi-task oriented” or “calculated” or “deceptive.” Yeesh.

But what I find most interesting, is that Brooks argues that this person-less propensity can be most alive in those who find a lot of meaning in the work they do, in people who are doing society a lot of good. People, like, well, ministers.

This formal, career-oriented persona puts her in direct contrast with the mores of the social media age, which is intimate, personalist, revealing, trusting and vulnerable. It puts her in conflict with most people’s lived experience. Most Americans feel more vivid and alive outside the work experience than within. So of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.

There’s a larger lesson here, especially for people who have found a career and vocation that feels fulfilling. Even a socially good vocation can swallow you up and make you lose a sense of your own voice. Maybe it’s doubly important that people with fulfilling vocations develop, and be seen to develop, sanctuaries outside them: in play, solitude, family, faith, hobbies and leisure.

6. Finally, the conversion story from the Toast editor and co-founder Nicole Cliffe is a fantastic note to end on. As you know, we really love The Toast, we’re really going to miss it, precisely for reasons like Mallory Ortberg’s post this week: “Why You Keep Having the Same Fight Every Time.” But this testimony is the best testimony I’ve read in a long time. It gets really good at the end, which I’ll ruin by pasting here, out of context (but read the whole thing). She describes how “coming to Christ” had been completely unwanted and emotionally personal. And it didn’t make her feel better, it made her feel more:

This is why apologetics, in my opinion, are hugely unconvincing. (Dallas Willard, for the record, never debated unbelievers.) No one could have in a billion years of their gripping testimony or by showing me a radiant life of good deeds or through song or even the most beautiful of books brought me to Christ. I had to be tapped on the shoulder. I had to be taken to a place where books about God were something I could experience without distance. It was alchemical.

I have been asked if deciding to become a Christian ended my exciting new crying-multiple-times-a-day hobby. The truth is that I continue to cry a lot more than I did before either Be-With-Me-Gate or the Dallas Willard Incident. I am more undone by love, or kindness, or friendship than I would have thought possible. Last night I tried to explain who Henri Nouwen was to some visiting cousins, and they had to bring me Kleenex, which they did sweetly and cautiously, as though I might melt in front of them. This morning I read a piece in Texas Monthly that literally sank me to my knees at how broken this world is, and yet how stubbornly resilient and joyful we can be in the face of that brokenness. I never possessed much chill, to be honest. Now I have none whatsoever.


Viggo Mortensen has the real virility.

-Why Do We Want Our GMOs labeled? Here’s why: “When it comes to genetically modified food, people don’t know much, they don’t know what they don’t know, and they sure as heck aren’t letting that stop them from having strong opinions.”

-We’re in the midst of sending out our big semi-annual newsletter and appeal. If you’d like to receive one–and find out more about how you can help us keep doing what we do–be sure you’ve signed up for our physical mailing list. Some pretty exciting news included in there this time as well. Many thanks, as always, to all our generous supporters!

-We’ll be taking Memorial off – see you on Tuesday.

-But before we go, Racist Laundry Detergent? Uhh…