1. Happy Friday, everyone! First up, America Magazine’s interview with Andrew Garfield, who plays Rodrigues in Scorsese’s adaption of Silence, which is wide-releasing today. Apparently Garfield prepared extensively for his role as a Jesuit priest, practicing Ignation Exercises for several months before shooting. To get the scoop, Jesuit Brendan Busse went on a “religious blind date” with Garfield. It started off pretty awkward…the actor was tired, the Jesuit was excited [about Ignatius Loyola]. And then Garfield explained his weariness: “…the grief of living in a time and a place where a life of joy and love is f–ing impossible.”

He goes on to identify the law: that, even though Jesus doesn’t ask much of us, we can never live the way he demands, we can never love the way he asks us to.

“That’s for me the beautiful agony of creating,” he continued, “the beautiful agony of never being able to fully express the possibility of love and the possibility of loving as he teaches, and living as he wants us to live. My compulsion to work is this longing to express that very thing.”…

When I asked what stood out in the Exercises…he smiled widely and said: “What was really easy was falling in love with this person, was falling in love with Jesus Christ. That was the most surprising thing…I felt so bad for [Jesus] and angry on his behalf when I finally did meet him, because everyone has given him such a bad name. So many people have given him such a s— f–ing name. And he has been used for so many dark things.” …


Like Ignatius before him, Garfield was a young person looking for his own place in the world. And, like many of us, beneath this longing he carried a deep fear, a fear that he wasn’t good enough. “The main thing that I wanted to heal, that I brought to Jesus, that I brought to the Exercises, was this feeling of not-enough-ness,” he said. “This feeling of that forever longing for the perfect expression of this thing that is inside each of us. That wound of not-enough-ness. That wound of feeling like what I have to offer is never enough.”

He tells of a turning point early in his carrier, when, during a bout of stage fright, he found himself reaching out to God:

“I begin thinking of throwing myself into the river. I have nothing to give, I have nothing to offer, I’m a fraud.” He understands it now as a moment of prayer: “I’m asking for something. I’m asking for help.”

2. The internet, too, is in desperate need of help, as it struggles under the siege of trolls and fake Twitter accounts. This article from Aeon, “Shame on You,” by Firmin deBrabander, argues that apparent shamelessness on the internet is actually evidence of widespread shame in people:

Having a smartphone and access to the internet does not automatically equip us with the tools necessary for effective and respectful collaboration, negotiation and speech, such as democracy requires. Plato would be alarmed by the lack of shame online. He thought that shame was a crucial emotion, indispensable for doing philosophy and acting morally. In Plato’s famed dialogues, the character of Socrates is always being pestered by people who complain that his wisdom makes them feel ashamed, as soon as his arguments start to sink in. At one point in the section known as the Symposium, the drunken Alcibiades declares his disgruntled love for the philosopher, saying: ‘I know that I cannot answer him or say that I ought not to do as he bids, but when I leave his presence the love of popularity gets the better of me.’

Plato’s imagined alarm is at least an interesting riposte to the idea that happiness is the only crucial emotion in life.

Shame presupposes that we ought to know better but flout the rules regardless. This is precisely Plato’s point about moral knowledge: we already possess it, we already know the right way to live a just and fulfilling life, but are constantly diverted from that noble aim. For Plato, then, shame is a force that helps us resist the urge to conform when we know it’s wrong to do so. Shame helps us be true to ourselves, to endure Socrates’ needling, and to heed the moral knowledge within. A man without shame, Plato says, is a slave to desire – for material goods, power, fame, respect. Such desire is tyrannical because, by its nature, it cannot be satisfied.

599065_489488951109733_988965386_nOnce upon a time there was a young man who thought he was better than the internet. He didn’t participate in social media until he found a reddit forum about one of his favorite TV shows. After sharing a theory about the show that the invisible people on the internet didn’t like and getting downvoted to hell, he began trolling shamelessly. That young man is me.

What manifests itself as a certain shamelessness, then, might in fact be precisely the opposite. The approbation of the digital crowd has come to fill in for the authority of the confessor – or, to put it another way, it acts as a substitute for Socrates’ inner voice of moral conscience. People unburden themselves to their followers in the hope that their needs will be validated, their opinions affirmed, their quirks delightfully accepted. The result is a growing conformity within camps, as well as a narrowing of the shared space for understanding and dialogue between them.

Unfortunately, as the author points out, if we are searching for absolution, the internet is a bait-and-switch. We need the real thing, baby.

3. In humor this week: “Have More Empathy!” (which jabs at empathy’s strange current controversiality) by Chas Gillespie. At least just read to the “Bible pouch” line. You won’t regret it.

Also check out, “A Night at the Facebook Hotel,” and this instagram account:

4. In Vinson Cunningham’s incredible write-up of Kirk Franklin this week, the gospel musician said, “Sometimes, when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, often you find out that God is the rock at the bottom.” Franklin talks music, religion, and how his marriage of the two is paving dirt roads in the music industry.

One of the problems, he said, is gospel’s dual role as artistic endeavor and as purveyor of religious experience. “They don’t come to gospel for the production or for the beats,” he said of his audience. “They come because they wanna be ministered to. So sometimes it’s, like, Well, if that’s all I’m good for, what do I do with all these ideas, and these creative dreams, and growth I want to do as an artist? I wanna give you Jesus, but I wanna give you Jesus with an 808. I wanna give you Jesus with some strings.”

He discussed the tension between being a religious artist: both proclaiming a message and trying to appeal to the inner artist. It’s nothing new:

Acts like [Sam] Cooke, Solomon Burke, and Aretha Franklin made their way into the hearts of pop audiences by shedding their music’s religious content while retaining its fervor. They left traditional gospel behind and invented, in its place, an entirely new American genre: soul. Other acts held on to the sacred, and some of them were swept into wider fame by the social turmoil of the sixties. Mahalia Jackson soundtracked the civil-rights movement, echoing its overtly religious appeal. But nobody danced to Mahalia; hers was a moral moment, and the mainstream largely left her there…

“It’s still very much a genre that wants these vertical songs,” Franklin said. “But I want to write about the God that I live with, not just the God that I love. Because the God that I live with sees me having doubts with him, and being afraid of him, and being mad at him, and saying sorry, and making up …”

Escaping this provincialism is the theme of Franklin’s most recent album, “Losing My Religion,” which was released late in 2015 and was just nominated for a Grammy. The title was instantly and predictably provocative: Franklin’s fan base wondered if he planned to depart from Christian doctrine. He didn’t…“I wanna make sure that we’re not just being cultural Christians, just ’cause we’re black. Or because we’re American. I want to talk about weighty stuff.” 

Assurances notwithstanding, “Losing My Religion” is an open rebuke to the stuffier, more conservative corners of the church. “Religion is a prison but truth sets us free,” Franklin says…


5. Over at The Ringer, Molly McHugh wrote a fantastic article on the anxiety of parenting in the age of surveillance: “Mommy, Daddy, and Their Precious Bundle of Data“:

The concept of “It takes a village” has been slowly dying. More than ever, people are accomplishing the intensely demanding tasks of child-rearing on their own. … [Her friend, EJ, said:] “That [attachment parenting] is so in vogue points to a real trend in our culture toward being as pull-up-your-bootstraps, hands-on, and DIY as possible when it comes to parenting — which is kind of surprising given that technology has never made it easier to be a parent.” …

“Today, people think that when they have their child, they know what they’re doing, and it’s normal to raise them on their own,” said [pediatrician Dr. Harvey] Karp, “and if they have a hard time with that they are wusses. But the truth is parents today have the hardest job because no one ever did this on their own and it’s very hard to do…there was this idea [that] it was macho to sleep less — and there’s this macha idea with moms: ‘I get up with my baby every time she cries.’ And it’s not like you’re a great mom because you’ve been awake 20 out of 24 hours.”

6. Here’s a great confessional from 1517, “When Old Adam Fences the Table,” by Bob Hiller. Hiller describes an experience of teenage guilt, and his mother’s frustration at him when he refused to take communion because of that guilt.

She was upset with the old Adam in me.

For those who may not be familiar with the phrase, “the old Adam” is a way to speak about our sinful nature…The old Adam is that voice in our heads that convinces us we know better than the Word of God. The old Adam likes to be in charge. The old Adam seeks life apart from and against God’s Word because the old Adam knows God’s Word is the death of him…

“Why didn’t you take communion today?”

“I didn’t feel worthy enough. I’m too sinful.” I confessed.

“Too sinful?” my mom retorted. “Too sinful? Who do you think it’s for?!?”

7. A lot of language of “choosing” and “earning” in “Forgiveness is Not a Binary State” from Science of Us. It’s topic is nevertheless of great importance. Cari Romm, the article’s author, argues that forgiveness has become a moral mandate which is easier to demand than actually experience in a genuine way.

And if you can’t bring yourself to do it [extend forgiveness], you’re going to feel all the worse… “It’s a terribly hurtful thing to put forth the notion, which is everywhere, that there can be no peace or healing without forgiveness,” [psychologist Harriet Lerner] says.

“[Let’s say] the hurt party opens a conversation with their mother about some earlier neglect or injustice. And the mother says, ‘I’m really sorry, what I did was wrong, do you forgive me?’” Most of the time, she says, “The impulse is to say, ‘I forgive you,’ because they’re so relieved the mother has acknowledged the harm. But the problem is that forgiveness takes its own time to hold…If the hurt party says, ‘I don’t forgive you, I need more time,’ very often the hurt party becomes the bad guy. And the wrongdoer feels self-righteous because they’re angry the other person isn’t saying ‘I forgive you,’ and blame is shifted to the one who doesn’t forgive.”

If true forgiveness can only happen at 100 percent, in other words, it’s less likely to happen at all.

Forgiveness is messy if not impossible, but it’s still a command of the Christian faith: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Another tenant of the faith, however, is that God achieves what we cannot, and for him, forgiveness is a binary state: he’s not interested 98% forgiveness. He’s all in.