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Spiritual Consultants at the Gates of a Great Unraveling

The Great Unraveling they’re calling it, what’s happening to our society right now. A little melodramatic, I know; headlines are just words after all, and it’s gotten so hard to tell what’s hype and what’s not, how much of what we’re hearing is Internet-land hysteria and what’s actually, well, true. So maybe “unraveling” is a […]

The God of Surprises

Last month, John Dickerson wrote an article in the Atlantic in which he discusses the inevitable surprises of a president’s tenure. Without fail, a sitting president will undergo something completely unexpected, during which their entire legacy will be tested. It’s a fascinating, historical take on the age-old joke, “If you want to hear God laugh, […]

Is Christianity to Blame for Slavery?

This one comes to us from our friend Jeanette. Recently in a polemical piece for the New Republic, historian Bruce Bartlett wrote that Christianity is responsible for slavery. The claim is pithy, irritating, and particularly slippery. Necessarily, in polemics, language has to be as vague as possible in order to stir up the maximum amount […]

The Irony of Outrage and Sufjan Stevens’ “America”

This one comes to us from Jeb Ralston. Sufjan Stevens, that enigmatic and soft-spoken tortured soul of a musician, released a new single last week, “America,” with the not-so-subtle timing of being one day before the Fourth of July. Sufjan, who is no stranger to political commentary through the lens of his own Christian perception, […]

David Brooks on the Beauty of Jesus in the Raging Storm

Political and cultural commentator David Brooks is a long-running Mockingbird favorite, and has shown up on the blog several times in the past few years due in part to his 2019 book The Second Mountain (about the deepening of his religious faith) and a related sermon he gave at the National Cathedral in 2017. Well, […]

Under Robert E. Lee’s Shadow

Growing Up in The Lost Cause

Good Luck With That Self-Sufficiency You Speak Of

On Forced Relaxation and True Freedom

The True Churches on Adjustment Day

If, in these tenuous times, you’re the sort of person who’d enjoy a whale of a tale about societal collapse, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more inventive entry than Chuck Palahniuk’s Adjustment Day. Equal parts screwball satire and thinly veiled prophecy, the writer of Fight Club sends up our contentious culture with a riotous story of revolt and reorganization. Not for the faint of heart but in the right hands it could make a terrific cult TV series. The class revolution that culminates on ‘Adjustment Day’ begins in the basements of churches, which the demagogue at the center of the plot, Talbott, describes in vivid terms (while duct-taped to a chair):

“His tongue crowded with food, Talbott had cited the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Prior to it the dispossessed and powerless had gone to churches for comfort, and in those the disenfranchised had discovered they weren’t alone in their misery…

Choking and sputtering, Talbott had said, ‘Those groups… recovery and support groups are the new churches.’ He’d said that traditional places of worship had been reduced to crass theaters where people went to signal their status and virtues. A true church had to serve as the place where people went in safety to risk confessing their worst selves. Not to boast and display their pride. Those who attended recovery groups, they arrived defeated. They told the story of their failure. Their sins and shortcomings. To admit their culpability, and in doing so they receive a communion with their flawed peers.”

The Cross Brings Mercy and Comfort

Yesterday morning, Comfort sailed into New York harbor. A few days ago, Mercy arrived in Los Angeles. I’m not sure I have ever witnessed a more powerful image of the Gospel.

How MLK Got His Name

Perhaps you know the story: In 1934 the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta sent its pastor Michael King, Sr. to attend a Baptist World Alliance Meeting in Berlin. The trip included a whirlwind visit to a number of other sites, but apparently the time in Germany (just as the National Socialists were starting their rise) had such an impact on Michael that he decided to rename himself and his 5-year-old son after the Great Reformer. Thus, father and son became Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr.

Somehow I don’t think we’ve ever posted this beautiful portion of MLK’s 1967 speech “Where Do We Go From Here?” in which he sounds more than a little like his namesake, especially toward the end, ht SC & JF:

I’m concerned about a better World. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood and sisterhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

And so I say to you today, my friends, that you may be able to speak with the tongues of men and angels; you may have the eloquence of articulate speech; but if you have not love, it means nothing. Yes, you may have the gift of prophecy; you may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand the behavior of molecules; you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights; yes, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement so that you have all knowledge; and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but if you have not love, all of these mean absolutely nothing. You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing. You may even give your body to be burned and die the death of a martyr, and your spilt blood may be a symbol of honor for generations yet unborn, and thousands may praise you as one of history’s greatest heroes; but if you have not love, your blood was spilt in vain. What I’m trying to get you to see this morning is that a man may be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. His generosity may feed his ego, and his piety may feed his pride. So without love, benevolence becomes egotism, and martyrdom becomes spiritual pride.

Connection

For 30 years, I have designed places for people to live when they are at the edge of coping. When creating anything, knowing those who will use the creation makes the creation better. This year, I have been part of an effort to make a safe harbor for the young who are lost. Listening to […]

Another Week Ends: Religious Decline, Peloton, Halloween Righteousness, Reformation Day, and Kanye

1a. This week featured a point-counter-point on the religious decline in America. Fewer people are going to church, particularly millennials. Accordingly, Christine Emba sees genuine cause for alarm. Millennials prefer low-cost, substitute religions (read: seculosities!), and the church may not be there as a fallback option in the future: Faith and practice can’t persevere through […]