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The New Mockingbird Digest!

The New Mockingbird Digest!

Dear everyone, We invite you to subscribe to our new e-newsletter, delivered conveniently to your inbox fortnightly (once every two weeks-ish). It will be a compendium of fresh posts, pertinent archived material, and other grace-filled goodies. Think of it, maybe, as your good-news news. Note: If you are already subscribed...
You are The One (and Not the Ninety-Nine)

You are The One (and Not the Ninety-Nine)

In Twelve Step recovery groups, newcomers are advised to resist the temptation to “identify out.” Many newcomers have the tendency to find all the reasons they don’t fit with the group or can’t possibly become a part of the recovery fellowship. When I was new in recovery I fell victim...
Under Robert E. Lee's Shadow: Growing Up in The Lost Cause

Under Robert E. Lee’s Shadow: Growing Up in The Lost Cause

It was announced last Thursday that the six story tall statue of Robert E. Lee on Richmond Virginia’s Monument Avenue is going to be removed. It is a response to the murder of George Floyd and the following week of protests and riots in the city. The news says that...
Bottoming Out on Prediction Addiction

Bottoming Out on Prediction Addiction

One of the more memorable bits of Zahl family shorthand was introduced when I was a kid of eight or nine. We were visiting my grandparents in Florida one summer. A new library had just been built in their town, so we decided to seek it out on the first...
God Has Made a Decision About You

God Has Made a Decision About You

Once upon a time in the 1970s, a midwestern theology professor and his former student sat down to write a guide to Luther’s Small Catechism for teenagers, which sounds the most thankless task ever conceived by mortal mind. Breathtaking beauty is rarely associated with confirmation curriculum. However, these two were...
If Our Sins Were Embroidered on Our Hats

If Our Sins Were Embroidered on Our Hats

Recently, a friend texted me and another friend saying that she saw a couple at Trader Joe’s wearing hats embroidered with a provocative statement with which she disagreed. She politely walked up to them and engaged them in conversation (this friend is much braver than me), but they were unfortunately...
God of Our (Lonely) Fathers

God of Our (Lonely) Fathers

A few months ago, standup comedian John Mulaney had a brilliant opening monologue on Saturday Night Live in which he dove headfirst into the modern plights of fatherhood. Mulaney’s technique, unlike Emily Dickinson, is to tell the truth so bluntly that you really just have to laugh at the fact...
Lay Down Your Weary Smartphone

Lay Down Your Weary Smartphone

Before there was Seinfeld, there was Cheers—a 1980s comedy about the lives of bartenders and regular patrons of a local pub. The show is famous for its lovable and deeply flawed cast of characters that spanned over 11 seasons. Now almost 30 years later, the jokes mostly hold up. But...
Sticking Our Necks Out: Judgement in the Age of COVID Phases

Sticking Our Necks Out: Judgement in the Age of COVID Phases

Life is judged with all the blindness of life itself. – Santayana My friend recently admitted that he and his wife had invited people over for dinner. Plenty of qualifiers were set in place—not only did everyone eat outside on their porch, but their guests were mindful enough to bring...
ANNOUNCING! <i>Peace in the Last Third of Life: A Handbook of Hope for Boomers</i> by Paul Zahl

ANNOUNCING! Peace in the Last Third of Life: A Handbook of Hope for Boomers by Paul Zahl

SURPRISE!! We’ve dropped hints here and there that Paul Zahl has been working on a new book. The hardcover will be out this summer, but given our present circumstances (and the urgency of the book’s message), we wanted to get it into your hands as soon as possible. So we’ve...
Latest entries


God of Our (Lonely) Fathers

A few months ago, standup comedian John Mulaney had a brilliant opening monologue on Saturday Night Live in which he dove headfirst into the modern plights of fatherhood. Mulaney’s technique, unlike Emily Dickinson, is to tell the truth so bluntly that you really just have to laugh at the fact that someone had the gall […]

From The New Yorker

The Death of Desire Is Not Adulthood: The Millennial Burden to Grow Up

This summer, as graduation parties are celebrated across the country, older teenagers will find themselves expected to swiftly eject from a liminal stage they began only a few short years prior. Dwelling in the uncomfortable region between childhood and adulthood, it will be impressed upon them to direct their verve towards and subsume their fears […]

If Our Sins Were Embroidered on Our Hats

Recently, a friend texted me and another friend saying that she saw a couple at Trader Joe’s wearing hats embroidered with a provocative statement with which she disagreed. She politely walked up to them and engaged them in conversation (this friend is much braver than me), but they were unfortunately not receptive or interested in […]

Why Richard Rodriguez and I Keep Taking Our “Inner Atheists” to Church

“I believe in Jesus Christ, the Christ who was a loser in human history—destroyed by this world—whose life reveals in its generosity and tragedy the most complete and challenging version of theism I know. What the New Atheists do not comprehend is that the crucifix cannot be mocked. It is itself mockery.”

How to Save a Life: William James’ Tips for Surviving Depression

A young Gertrude Stein once took a class with the philosopher William James, who, even at the time, was something of a celebrity. One day, faced with an exam, Stein refused, writing at the top of it, “Dear Professor James, I am so sorry, but really I do not feel a bit like an examination […]

Quarantine, Netflix, and Bittersweet Memories of Bernie Mac

A couple of months ago, my big brother wanted to do a movie night replete with Miller High Life and the kind of fraternal bonding that can only take place in the midnight hour. Then, the kids are asleep, the challenges of marriage and parenting are momentarily put on pause, and two brothers who are […]

Lay Down Your Weary Smartphone

Before there was Seinfeld, there was Cheers—a 1980s comedy about the lives of bartenders and regular patrons of a local pub. The show is famous for its lovable and deeply flawed cast of characters that spanned over 11 seasons. Now almost 30 years later, the jokes mostly hold up. But viewers today will readily note […]

God Has Made a Decision About You

Once upon a time in the 1970s, a midwestern theology professor and his former student sat down to write a guide to Luther’s Small Catechism for teenagers, which sounds the most thankless task ever conceived by mortal mind. Breathtaking beauty is rarely associated with confirmation curriculum. However, these two were rare birds, and as they […]

A Loser’s Guide to Life: Mark 8:34-38

An excerpt from An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark, by Larry Parsley. Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose […]

Dylan on COVID and Little Richard’s Fugitive Good News

Bob Dylan to the rescue! The bard granted a rare interview last week to Douglas Brinkley, and man he did not disappoint, offering his brilliantly in-the-world-but-not-of-it perspective on Little Richard, COVID, and the mysterious nature of songwriting. Reminiscent of his transfiguration interview from a few years ago, and the line about the Eagles made me […]

Another Week Ends: Hospital Housekeepers, the Resurrection, Systemic Racism, “Amazing Grace,” David Hume, and Ramy’s Performance of Religion (and Ours)

1. We’ll begin this weekend’s round-up with a truly lovely story of grace. Reported by Daniel Burke at CNN, it’s about a hospital housekeeper, Rosaura Quinteros, whose job was to mop floors, pull trash, and clean surfaces in the rooms of COVID-19 patients. In one particular room, the patient’s last rites had been administered; via […]