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The Gospel of Alexander Hamilton

If you haven’t yet snagged your e-version of Never Satisfied Until Satisfied In Thee: Finding Grace in Hamilton, now’s your chance! Mockingbird’s latest e-book is a wonderful collection of gospel-centered essays about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s landmark musical, Hamilton. Edited by Tim Peoples and Cort Gatliff, this e-book features fresh essays by Stephanie Phillips, Michael Sansbury, Lauren R.E. Larkin, […]

Anne Lamott and What Dies (and Grows) in the Creative Struggle

If you write, you’ve probably read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She is the shy, neurotic, wise, funny, dread-locked, recovering alcoholic, who is a font of sanity and encouragement for many of us engaged in the compulsion of writing. Anne grew up in a family of atheists, but came to faith and got sober — […]

Love the Art, Hate the Artist?

A phenomenal piece from our friend, Abby Farson Pratt, who asks what we do when we’re all monsters.  We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves these days. We are doing a lot of smirking, a lot of finger-pointing, a lot of handing down of fatwas on Twitter. When we cut someone off in traffic or lie […]

Every Tear That Falls Must Converge: A Review of The Dusk In Us

After five long years, hardcore legends Converge are back. Their first album since 2012’s All We Love We Leave Behind, The Dusk In Us is an aptly titled exploration of the hurts and promises latent within a world receding from the light. And while Converge have matured with this album, that maturation in no way […]

Little Sister: Good News for the Goth Family

This spooky little treat comes to us from Caleb Stallings. “Fail to see the tragic, Turn it into magic!” – Marilyn Manson “Remember your congregation, which you acquired long ago, which you redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage.” – Psalm 74:2, NRSV Halloween came strangely early for me this year. By the time September […]

Jesus Has Left the Building: Architecture and Artificial Intelligence

“God is in the details” is reputed to have been uttered by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe back when Mid-Century modern architecture made the idea of “expressive” details sexy to the world of architecture. Now the mention of God in architecture is a little “off” for most of my fellow architects. Like most in […]

Mother!: Sinners in the Hands of a Petty God

This look at the controversial new film was written by Caleb Ackley. (Spoilers ahead.) Mother! was advertised as a mystery-thriller and the trailer, which was riveting, left much to the imagination. Thus, on opening weekend, hordes of thrill-seeking men and women went to see it, each with their own set of expectations. Some came for horror, […]

Champions She Shall Never Want

I recently decided to leave Mockingbird. I do not mean that I was convinced over a bourbon-fueled colloquy with a recent Catholic convert that Sylvester Prierias was unimpeachably correct to respond to Luther’s attack on indulgences by defending papal authority. Nor do I mean that I brushed up on recent Pauline scholarship and determined that […]

Dear Evan Hansen, I’m Missing Richard Simmons from S-Town, or: A Note from the Outcast

I saw the emotional avalanche that is Dear Evan Hansen two weeks ago, on a yearly childless pilgrimage my husband and I make to the city where we fell in love, and conveniently, where Mockingbird holds an annual conference. Maybe it’s the range and sincerity displayed by headliner Ben Platt, with whose image I am considering […]

What Sort of World? Trivial Expressions of the Transcendent ~ Randy Randall & Mary McCleary

You thought we had posted all the videos from the Tyler conference? Wrong again! Here’s Randy Randall’s enthralling (and highly relevant) on-stage discussion with renowned artist Mary McCleary. As you’ll see, audio alone wouldn’t have made much sense:

What Sort of World? Trivial Expressions of the Transcendent ~ Randy Randall & Mary McCleary from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Designing Justification: A Conference Talk Preview

You would think that having a full belly, a good night’s sleep, love, and shelter is the bottom line. But it’s not. Things disappoint. Promise thrills, and expectations rise.

I wanted to play. I wanted to start. Then captain. Then Harvard (got Cornell). Then Alison, Helen, Jane, Barbara, finally Liz. Marriage became babies, then Great Kids, then adults. Degree became license, became firm. Building became awards, lectures, writing.

Now I receive justification I did not ask for. But then kicked ass to get. I never wanted to be a part of the American Institute of Architects. I helped make places to live for 25 years then my publisher made me join at 48 to sell the next book.

Then the world had a decade that said my last 25 were part of economic salvation: homes were the way everyone could be great again: forever. I helped make a place for architects who did that: and the instant I joined they asked to get me in ever deeper, running a tiny piece of the AIA.

No, I said.

I always had had my own obsessions – and soon the balloon popped. I kept on doing what I do for the last decade, but there are, now, 50% less of us doing it – like it was 20 years ago. Between 3 or 4 other booms.

But now, in 2 weeks or so, I get to be one of 3,000 of 111,000. First you need justification enough to get licensed (down to the 200,000 who have degrees), then pay $700 a year to be a member of the AIA (down to 60,000). Then a branch has a committee who reviews nominations (are you kidding?) or as per me, that committee, one of a hundred, finds the Fellow in their midst.

So, at 61, but only just after the AIA decade required for nomination, I get the verification I never sought – but always wanted, and that can never be had and go to Florida to wear a robe – 9 hours on the ground.

Doing is not satisfaction. Getting things done is not verification. Swimming to push air over your gills is not breathing.

There are infinite measures, goals, achievements: but, really, there is only one: living – being given everything – Everything – by a simple, completely unknown, Faith.

I do not think that guy asked to have his last 3 years become billions of humans 2,000 years ago. I do not know if he, in this last week, felt verification. I doubt it.

To hear Duo’s full talk, “Architect: Fellow & Failing,” join us Saturday morning, April 29, at the 10th Annual Mockingbird Conference.

As you may have read elsewhere, we have officially reached capacity for dining at the NYC conference. If you have yet to pre-register but would like to eat, please purchase your tickets ASAP and send us an email at to reserve a spot on the waiting list. We’ll do all we can to accommodate everyone and will let you know as soon as your plate(s) is guaranteed. Thanks for understanding! Please note: there’s still plenty of room for those who want to attend the sessions. Last-minute walk-ins are always welcome.

Hearing Law, Seeing Gospel: A Mockingbird History of Art – A Conference Breakout Preview

Today’s first conference breakout preview comes to us from Matthew J. Milliner, an associate professor of art history at Wheaton College.

It doesn’t take long at Mockingbird before one hears about… yes, here it comes… Law and Gospel. It is the name of the book after all. And while most of the fun is to be had in observing this versatile skeleton key to the human condition illustrated in everything from Finding Dory to David Bowie, or from Black Mirror to Axl Rose, the original Law/Gospel illustration, of course, came from Martin Luther’s BFF, Lucas Cranach the Elder, as evidenced below. On the left, expectation and obligation – with help from sin and death – send a helpless streaker toward an unwelcome barbeque (that’s Law). On the right, expectation is met by fulfillment. As the good news sinks in, a super-soaker of imputing blood jet streams from a side-wound, while sin and death get busted by a deputized sheep (that’s Gospel).

It would be perfectly serviceable to offer an extended talk on such wonderful illustrations, one of which bedazzles the front of Paul Zahl’s Short Systematic Theology. Cranach, after all, painted several variations, each of which convey different nuances to Law/Gospel dynamic. Nevertheless, addled as I am by the oppressive law of academia, with its merciless demand for originality, I am incapable of delivering something so straightforward, which, at any rate, has been done well in several top-notch publications.

Instead, I thought I’d look to artists from whom one would not expect such a message. Indeed, at the tenth anniversary conference I shall contend the Law/Gospel message can be found concealed in artists a long way from Wittenberg. The thrilling truth of grace emerges in art history just where you’d expect to hear something different (hence my title, “Hearing Law, Seeing Gospel”). What if the dynamic famously painted by Cranach could be found incognito in Orthodox icons, peeking from the unsurpassable achievements of Michelangelo and Pontormo, concealed in Catholic kitsch, even shining through the cult of creativity in contemporary art?

It’s all succinctly conveyed in the witty title, “camouflage Cranach,” really, but my wife said that sounded terrible.

Join us April 27-29 in NYC for the 10th annual Mockingbird conference!