Another Week Ends

1. The final word on the New Year from 2011 Mockingbird Conference speaker Mark Galli […]

David Zahl / 1.7.11

1. The final word on the New Year from 2011 Mockingbird Conference speaker Mark Galli over at Christianity Today, in his column “Blessed Are the Poor in Virtue”:

At the risk of derailing someone’s hard fought New Year’s vows, let me suggest that some of us stop trying to become good Christians, or whatever noble thing we’re striving to be.

The more I strive to be a “good Christian”—more prayerful, patient, giving, sacrificial, whatever—the more I find myself anxious, irritated, guilty, resentful, and self-righteous. When I simply accept that I’m a sinner, really, I find that I pray more, am more patient, more giving, more humble, and more loving. 

This is the paradoxical reality that has been exploited effectively by Alcoholic’s Anonymous for decades. The more an alcoholic strives to control her drinking, the more she is given to drink. The moment she admits she has no control over alcohol, that’s when she can gain some freedom—as long as she continues to identify herself accordingly: “Hi, I’m Anne, and I’m an alcoholic.” We are regularly tempted—at least I am tempted thus—to control our sinful longings and to strive to become what we are not: holy.


2. CNN reports on some very interesting new studies about Anger at God, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

It’s not just religious folks, either. People unaffiliated with organized religion, atheists and agnostics also report anger toward God either in the past, or anger focused on a hypothetical image – that is, what they imagined God might be like – said lead study author Julie Exline, Case Western Reserve University psychologist. In studies on college students, atheists and agnostics reported more anger at God during their lifetimes than believers.

Younger people tend to be angrier at God than older people, Exline said. She says some of the reasons she’s seen people the angriest at God include rejection from preferred colleges and sports injuries preventing high schoolers from competing.

Be sure to read The Onion’s comments here.

3. Speaking of anger at God – and excruciating existential pain immune to all efforts at managing it – there’s The Agonizing Last Words of Bill Zeller, a suicide letter from a prominent computer programmer that will gut you to the core. That is, if you have the stomach for something so unflinching and morose [fair warning: it’s really grim, and there’s a lot of frank talk about sexual abuse]. But for anyone engaged in pastoral care, or simply interested in finding compassion for people dealing with severe internal and external darkness, Zeller’s letter is as must-read as it is depressing. The final section, where he speaks about his family, depicts the fallout of Law-heavy Christianity in as uncensored and stirring terms as I’ve ever come across.

4. From Science Daily, a new study suggests that “Couples Who Delay Having Sex Get Benefits Later.” Go figure! Also on the relationship tip, if you read between the (at-first-blush embarrassingly zeitgeisty) lines of the recent NY Times article “The Happy Marriage Is The ‘Me’ Marriage” you’ll pick up on some surprisingly strong undertones of Imputational potency. 

5. For one last gasp of Christmas, check out the inspired wit/silliness of An Interview with The Innkeeper (ht JD).

6. A highly entertaining essay in Wired by comedian/actor/Remy-voice Patton Oswalt about the death of geek culture. [Hint: Blame the Internet!] Enough to make one genuinely nostalgic… not to mention skeptical about the basis of one’s identity (ht SMZ).

7. In music, Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub (to whom we’re eternally grateful for raising Honeybus awareness) and Euros Childs of the now defunct Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci have just announced the release of their first record together as Jonny, a project I’d be excited about even if the first single, Candyfloss, didn’t deliver such insane amounts of power-pop goodness:

Get their free EP here.