Another Week Ends

1. On the subject of forgiveness, The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan posted a comment from […]

David Zahl / 8.19.11

1. On the subject of forgiveness, The Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan posted a comment from one of his readers that gets at what I was trying to say in this week’s article, namely, that any attempt to tack a requirement or condition onto forgiveness (in the case of the HuffPo piece, repentance) robs it of its power and beauty, rendering it just another peg on the oppressive scale of achievement/deservedness – rather than an escape/rescue from “works” or identity altogether. There’s very little worth getting hot under the collar about vis a vis mainstream coverage of Christianity, but the radical a priori forgiveness of God, which we often term “grace,” is definitely one area where it’s tough to look the other way. Without it, I’m not sure how much we have to offer to sufferers and addicts, or ourselves for that matter:

The expectation of satisfaction, of the give-and-take of apology and statement of absolution, or the quid pro quo of penance, is exactly the opposite of true forgiveness!  Grace, in its most Godly sense, exists prior to apology and far after the polite “I forgive you” that we assume is the necessary transactional basis of love.  The key moment in the parable is that the Father ran toward the Son “while he was still far off.”  Such Grace is the ONLY thing which makes forgiveness possible.

2. Speaking of addiction, the word was given a new definition by the American Society of Addiction Medicine this week. They no longer categorize it as “merely a behavioral problem or simply the result of taking the wrong choices” but as a brain disorder. We might add that there’s an undeniable spiritual component to it as well, ht JD.

3. The Atlantic reports on some new research that suggests that people lie substantially more over the phone than they do in person and less over email and IM. A few key factors affect the rate of lying:

  • People lie more during real-time (synchronous) interactions.
  • People lie more when they are not in the same room with the people they’re lying to.
  • People lie less when an interaction is easily recorded.

They also ran a short article unpacking some new insights into global happiness, via a fresh examination of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the scheme which places physiological needs as our most fundamental:

As it turns out, the needs that are most linked with everyday satisfaction are interpersonal ones, such as love and respect. Our troubles, conversely, relate most to lack of esteem, lack of freedom, and lack of nourishment. Only when we look back on the quality of our lives thus far do basic needs become significant indicators for well-being.

4. The Wall Street Journal published a worthy if slightly curmudgeonly piece on “Religion and the Cult of Tolerance,” taking the situation in Great Britain as a jumping off point to muse on the “new intolerance being imposed in the name of tolerance.” I thought the comments by the UK’s chief Rabbi were pretty eloquent (also, who knew England had a ‘chief rabbi’ who was a Lord?!), ht VH:

“I share a real concern that the attempt to impose the current prevailing template of equality and discrimination on religious organizations is an erosion of religious liberty,” Lord Sacks told a House of Commons committee in June. “We are beginning to move back to where we came in in the 17th century—a whole lot of people on the Mayflower leaving to find religious freedom elsewhere.”

Speaking of intolerance, both the giving and receiving of it, if you haven’t read The Washington Post’s article on the Mormon LDS-sanctioned practice of “search engine optimization,” it’s a trip! ht MZ.

5. Oh the Humanity/Irony! Santiago Casilla and The Worst Plate Appearance in Baseball History is a pretty brilliant illustration of, well, a lot of things, ht JD:

Casilla batted with no intention of batting, and made it abundantly clear that he was content to stand there and look around at things while the pitcher and catcher went about their business. Jose Ceda, a major league pitcher, walked Casilla on four pitches. The guy with the least interest in reaching base ever reached base, because the guy on the mound couldn’t throw three uncontested strikes. He couldn’t throw one.

6. In non-fictional humor, be sure to read the light-heartedly relevant This Family Is Much Cooler Than Mine, in which a domestic prohibition yields some inspired hijinks. And then there’s the absolutely priceless “Priests in Italty Call for Bible Thief to Be Struck Down with the Runs.”

7. Mbird laureate Brad Davis has a new book in the works, Self-Portrait w/ Disposable Camera. Only hitch is, the print run depends on the advance orders. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll reserve your copy today! We have the opportunity to help get some seriously great work out there.

8. In music, for those of you who’ve been wanting to listen to more Elvis Presley but haven’t know where to start, The A/V Club published a primer on The King earlier this week that’s pretty hard to beat. Only potential gripe is the omission of his best live albums, On Stage and In Person. Also, NPR is streaming the new Muppets tribute album, the cleverly titled The Green Album. Weezer turns in a reliably earnest version of “Rainbow Connection,” while OK Go do their Prince/Flaming Lips-freakout thing on “The Muppet Show Theme” to pretty great effect.

Finally, this hit the web this week and it’s just so awesome on so many levels:


P.S. The physical invites to our Fall Conference in Birmingham, AL (10/28-29) went out a few days ago, to all the addresses on our mailing list south of the Mason-Dixon. If you’d like some extras for any reason, be sure to drop us a line at – same goes for all you Yankees and West Coasters. If you’re new to Mbird, sign up for our mailing list and we’ll pop one in the mail to you as well. Stay tuned for info about… The Merciful Impasse.

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3 responses to “Another Week Ends: More Forgiveness, Addiction and Maslow; Lying Pundits, Tolerance Cults, Googling Mormons, Santiago Casilla, Elvis, Tom Waits and Cookie Monster”

  1. bls says:

    Interesting point in #1 above. Again I’ll quote from that amazing little A.A. tract, “A Member’s-Eye View of Alcoholics Anonymous“:

    It may also appear to some of you that in the Fourth and Fifth of its Twelve Steps, A.A. might very well be accused of talking out of both sides of its mouth at once. If you will recall, these Steps are:

    “4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
    “5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

    Here, it would appear, is an organization that on the one hand claims there is no moral culpability involved in the disease of alcoholism, and on the other suggests to its members that recovery entails a searching and fearless accounting of this culpability to God and to another human being. I personally feel that this apparent paradox results from the empirical knowledge gained by the founders of A.A. I believe they found, as we all have since, that no matter what you tell the newcomer about the disease of alcoholism, he still feels guilty. He cannot blind himself to the moral consequences of his drinking: the blight he has visited upon those around him and the shame and degradation he has inflicted on himself. This load of conventional guilt – and I use the word “conventional” advisedly – as well as the alcoholic’s stubborn and perverse wish to cling to it, is the oldest of his “old ideas.” It is the oldest because it started first, and in most cases it will be the last to go. But go it must if the alcoholic’s attitude toward himself and hence the world around him is to undergo any basic change. That’s why I believe the founds of A.A. learned in their own experimentation that the alcoholic must be given a conventional means of unloading this burden of conventional guilt. Hence the Fourth and Fifth Steps.

  2. bls says:

    (Sorry – the notes below say I can use the “blockquote” tag, but it didn’t indent. Imagine everything except the first para above indented, then, as a citation….)

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