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About David Zahl

David Zahl is the director of Mockingbird Ministries and editor-in-chief of the Mockingbird blog. He and his wife Cate reside in Charlottesville, VA, with their three sons, where David also serves on the staff of Christ Episcopal Church (christchurchcville.org).

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Author Archive
    
    None Without Faith (or a Strong Belief in the Reality of Evil)

    None Without Faith (or a Strong Belief in the Reality of Evil)

    The following comes from Chris Arnade’s book of photography “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America,” pages 110-111, chapter 3: God Filled My Emptiness. Everyone I met [in the South Bronx] who was living homeless or battling an addiction held a deep faith. Street walking is stunningly dangerous work, and everyone has stories of being […]

    From The Onion: New Parenting Trend Involves Just Handing Children Bulleted List Of Things To Accomplish By 30

    An inspiring new report from America’s Finest News Source. Visit here to read the entire thing…

    NEW YORK—Several family experts confirmed Friday that the latest parenting trend involves just handing children a bulleted list of things they need to accomplish by the age of 30. “An increasing number of moms and dads are taking a more direct style of parenting that involves simply printing out a list of life achievements, handing it to their child, and telling them to get it all done before they turn 30 years old,” said Parents magazine editor Mallory Schneider, adding that the new technique encourages independence and has a built-in flexibility, as parents can customize their lists according to whatever specific expectations they have for their child. “These lists often span multiple pages and contain a variety of personal and career benchmarks… It really puts the power in the hands of the child—typically around the age of 10 or 11, when they receive the list—by allowing them to figure out how to achieve all the goals in the allotted time.” Experts also confirmed that many parents are giving their children a supplementary list of less-preferred, but still suitable, backup plans should they fail to complete the original set of accomplishments.

    If Jesus Were a Dietitian

    If Jesus Were a Dietitian

    “I was my sickest and loneliest when I appeared my healthiest.” How’s that for an admission? Yet it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jessica Knoll’s recent op-ed for The NY Times, the provocatively titled “Smash the Wellness Industry.” She describes a somewhat harrowing relationship with food and body that sounds […]

    When Everything Came Alive for Leo Tolstoy

    The new episode of The Mockingcast dropped yesterday (“Pelagian Privilege”), in which Sarah shared the following entry from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. The Arrival Fallacy strikes again:

    [Leo Tolstoy] was 52 years old, and his two greatest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), were behind him. He had found himself in a crisis—he was famous, had a family and land and money, but it all seemed empty. He was unable to write, had trouble sleeping, contemplated suicide. He read the great philosophers, but found holes in all of their arguments. He was amazed that the majority of ordinary Russians managed to keep themselves going every day, and he finally decided that it must be their faith. From there, it was a short time until Tolstoy took a walk in the woods and found God. He wrote: “At the thought of God, happy waves of life welled up inside me. Everything came alive, took on meaning. The moment I thought I knew God, I lived. But the moment I forgot him, the moment I stopped believing, I also stopped living.”

    His wife Sophia was not so thrilled with his conversion. He renounced meat, sex, alcohol, fiction, tobacco, and the temptations of a family. He dressed like a peasant. He wanted to give all of his money away, but Sophia wanted to live what she considered a normal life, not to mention raise their 10 children.

    Tolstoy made his first visit to [the Optina-Pustyn monastery] in 1877, a visit in which he apparently exhausted the chief starets—or community elder—with his questions. On this day [June 10th] in 1881 he set off on a second visit, and this time he decided that to be more like the common people, he would walk all the way there, dressed in his peasant coat and wearing shoes made out of bark. He was pleased with his spiritual guidance, but he wasn’t used to walking in bark shoes, so by the time he made it to Optina his feet were so covered in blisters that he had to take the train back home.

    For the next chapter in Tolstoy’s eccentric spiritual journey, look no further. You can also check out our Tolstoy archive here. And for more on where he landed on monasticism be sure to track down his masterpiece of a novella, Father Sergius.

    Another Week Ends: Pelagian Privilege, Quaker Parents, Reddit Karma, Church of Dataism, Summer Reading, and Search History Repeats

    Another Week Ends: Pelagian Privilege, Quaker Parents, Reddit Karma, Church of Dataism, Summer Reading, and Search History Repeats

    1. Well, file this first one under unexpected. Christianity Today published the transcript of the commencement address that Missouri senator Joshua Hawley gave at Kings College earlier this month, the title of which immediately piqued my interest, “The Age of Pelagius.” Pelagianism has long been a favorite punching bag here at Mbird, though admittedly not […]

    The One Kind of Prosperity Gospel Kate Bowler Believes In

    This is one for the ages, from the author of Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Watch with tissues nearby. You’ve been warned:

    If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I'll Be Happy

    If I Can Just Understand the Arrival Fallacy, I'll Be Happy

    The latest ‘gimme’ from the world of social science has, er, arrived. I’m referring to the Arrival Fallacy, “the illusion that once we make it, once we attain our goal or reach our destination, we will reach lasting happiness.” Earlier this week The NY Times devoted a whole column to this familiar dynamic, A.C. Shilton’s […]

    Confession of a Dieting Supremacist (*in June)

    A short, timely excerpt from Seculosity, which turned two months old over the weekend! Scroll down for info about the final dates in the book tour. This is taken from chapter 7:

    When I was in middle school, my grandmother sat me down and told me that unlike my two brothers, I would have to watch what I ate as I got older. I don’t know what tipped her off, whether it was my husky build or awful snacking habits, but she wanted me to know that if I didn’t pay attention to what I ate, I could develop a problem, the one known as–[whispering]–fatness.

    She was frank, but she was right. The truth is, I’ve always looked to food for comfort, especially during times of stress. Ben and Jerry’s, not Budweiser, is my preferred method of self-medication.

    And so, every June of adulthood, I’ve undertaken a month-long “reduction” in which I cut out desserts and carbs and late-night nibbles. For men my age, the pounds fall off with relatively little effort and old pants soon begin to fit again. Affirmation starts to flow my way in the form of unsolicited comments (which my inner lawyer immediately flips into condemnation, i.e., “had I really gotten so heavy?”). I start to feel a bit better, both physiologically and emotionally. Your body thanks you, as they say. The social rewards can be pretty noticeable, too, even for a guy. No more pizza-neck!

    Yet the downsides are not negligible. For thirty days it’s tunnel vision all the way, as I place my needs and plans above those of my wife, kids, and coworkers. I can’t seem to do it any other way. All to avoid the accusation of F-A-T, aka the worst F-word in the English language.

    The self-centeredness pales in comparison to the self-righteousness. The moment I step on the scale and it registers less is the moment I reproach both my past self for being lazy and others for their failure to be as disciplined as I am. I become what journalist Joyce Wadler calls a “Dieting Supremacist” or we might call a Food Pharisee, forgetting the many factors that contributed to my weight loss, as well as the inconvenient fact that I gained it all back the last time. Instead I craft a narrative about self-determination and effort and performance. A testimony, if you will.

    The swiftness of this change in attitude, and the size of the feelings involved, reveals just how much I lean on my relationship to food (and by extension, body image) for self-esteem and justification. Still, given the choice between being a self-aggrandizing performancist who can fit into his clothes and a self-loathing performancist who can’t, I choose the former. Neither is what we might call spiritually healthy, but the latter at least reinforces need rather than self-sufficiency.

    Last leg of the Seculosity Tour kicks off later this month! Those dates, plus a couple Fall add-ons, are:

    • June 19, 2019: Jacksonville, FL (Church of our Savior @ 6pm) – This is a ticketed event, with dinner provided. Click here to reserve your spot today!
    • June 20, 2019: Winter Park, FL (Winter Park Country Club, WP 9 @ 6:30pm)
    • June 21, 2019: Orange County, CA (WeWork 200 Spectrum Center Drive, Suite 200, Irvine CA @ 6:30-9pm) – This is a ticketed event. Click here to reserve your spot today!
    • June 22, 2019: Los Angeles, CA (The Zank’s 1101 Hartzell St, Pacific Palisades CA 90272 @ 3:30-5:30pm) – totally free, but please rsvp to info@mbird.com
    • August 28, 2019: Wenowah, NJ (Holy Trinity Episcopal Church @ TBA)
    • October 13, 2019: Charlotte, NC (Christ Church Charlotte @ TBA)

    p.s. If you haven’t posted a review on Amazon yet (even a single line!), gosh it would be appreciated. Thanks!

    June Playlist

    Click here to listen (to most of it) on Spotify. Likely going to be moving these there exclusively in the next couple months, fyi.

    Another Week Ends: Clean Slates, Mock Funerals, Webb's Inspiration, Orthosomnia, Consumer Fugue States, and Purpose-Driven Paper Towels

    Another Week Ends: Clean Slates, Mock Funerals, Webb's Inspiration, Orthosomnia, Consumer Fugue States, and Purpose-Driven Paper Towels

    1. How can we not lead off by talking about Robert Smith’s surprise announcement during his commencement address to the graduating class of Morehouse College last Sunday? A third party who wipes a slate clean, shoulders a burden, absolves a debt, gifts a wholeness–by surprise, without coercion, and at a cost to themselves–whatever language you […]

    The Only Places on the Streets That Understand

    The Only Places on the Streets That Understand

    Way back on Christmas Eve of 2013, The Guardian ran a piece by photographer Chris Arnade under the provocative title, “The People Who Challenged My Atheism Most Were Drug Addicts and Prostitutes.” It remains one of the best and most heartening things I’ve read on that intersection. Arnade recounts how thoroughly his unbelief was challenged […]

    All Pride Contains a Hint of Malice

    All Pride Contains a Hint of Malice

    Another heartening excerpt from David Brooks’ new work The Second Mountain. Here the Times columnist turns over the definition of grace with a little help from Martin Luther and Reinhold Niebuhr—but with the heavy-lifting from Anne Snyder, Brooks’ erstwhile research assistant, now wife. I was struggling with the concept of surrender and grace. I didn’t […]

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