The Sickness and Health Issue Now Available to Pre-Order!

The Mockingbird Issue 22, feat. Ross Douthat, Simeon Zahl, Lydia Dugdale, and more.

Mockingbird / 2.3.23

The Mockingbird magazine is excited to announce that Issue 22: Sickness & Health  is now available to pre-order, with delivery in late February. To quicken the wait, we’ve doctored a little elixir in the form of an issue-themed playlist, with tunes by Belle & Sebastian, Bloc Party, The Band, and many others.


“I felt as if I failed myself and society,” one San Francisco resident told their local news station after finally contracting COVID this past year. To the same reporter, a physician confessed that getting “coronated” “felt like a moral failing on some level,” while even those testing negative expressed shame and anxiety related to any minor sniffle. A study from 2022 reported that around 30% of participants felt guilt or shame about contracting the virus, as it indicated they had neglected to take the right preventative measures.

This isn’t a rona-specific quandary. Catching the seasonal flu, RSV, or any number of “things going around” could mean you didn’t wear your mask properly, or you went to a party with the wrong kind of people, or you didn’t drink enough elderberry syrup to safeguard your immune system. You made some miscalculation worthy of your punishment. Even cancer is, for some, attended by stigma. In her book No Cure for Being Human, church historian Kate Bowler tells story after story about the bizarre advice and off-the-wall home remedies she received following her stage-IV diagnosis. Strangers — WebMD experts that they were — believed she was to blame for the tumors in her colon, and that if only she “fought harder,” she would be cured.

As for wellness, the same basic theory prevails. You can be healthy, it is thought, as long as you imbibe the right elixirs and cultivate proper lifestyle practices. Though the specifics of this observation are modern, its general shape is timeless — what theologians call “the law,” wherein literal cleanliness equates to holiness and transgression invites disease.

In this issue of The Mockingbird, our contributors balk at feeling shame for their sickness by writing boldly of their own. Our magazine has often leaned toward the personal essay form, but never more so than with Sickness and Health, a topic that cuts so close to the bone it could never not be, well, personal.

From doctors and patients alike, we’ve collected essays on late-stage cancer, intergenerational illness, vexing autoimmune disorders, miscarriage — and on faith in the supernatural that endures it all. In interviews, Ross Douthat recounts his experience of chronic Lyme disease, while Daniel Harris challenges popular notions about disability. We consult journalist Rina Raphael about the multibillion-dollar wellness industry and where its marketing claims lead desperate American consumers astray. Physician Lydia Dugdale explains how art can influence the way we live and die, and theologian Simeon Zahl lays out how the Church might offer ordinary people a cure for soul-sickness — and why it often fails to.

The gospels are clear that while Jesus miraculously healed peoples’ bodies beyond their expectations and in spite of their deserving, his foremost concern was their inner maladies, in particular the forgiveness of their sins. In arranging this magazine, we prioritized a similar concern. We reckoned directly with the limitations of the body, while paying close attention to whatever lay submerged beneath what the eye can see. Under the skin of this issue there pulses a steady understanding that, whether in sickness or in health, our most abiding needs require abiding tonics: unconditional love, mercy, and grace.

— The Editors

Pre Order Here!


Table of Contents


In the Elector’s School | Bill Gardner

In Sickness and In Health | Ann Lowrey Forster

Freedom | Jane Anderson Grizzle

Healthy While Sick: Life Lessons from an Intergenerational Virus | Dorcas Cheng-Tozun

The Cure of Souls: Theory of Change in Christian Ministry | Simeon Zahl

Pathos and Pathology | Lydia Dugdale

The Womb and the Tomb | Derrill Hagood

More than a Metaphor: Reflections on “Footprints on the Sand” | Sarah Gates

The In-Between | Liz Tichenor

Hoping for the Best, Planning for the Worst: Notes from Palliative Care | Lauren Gnagy


The Wellness [Journalism] Guru | Rina Raphael

Stranger Than Otherwise | Ross Douthat

Redefining Disability | Daniel Harris, Interviewed by Kelsey Marden

On the Possibility of a Miracle | Caleb Maskell


“March” | Nathaniel Perry

“Bethesda” | Dan Leach

“Refleshment” | Joel Kurz

“Charmed are Your Unformed Wishes” | Jenny Browne


To Have and to Hold: Famous Couples Parted by Death | Meaghan Ritchey

Dear Gracie | Sarah Condon

Twelve Steps for Everyday Sinners Like Me and You | Connor G.


Under Assault | David Zahl


The Playlist


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One response to “The Sickness and Health Issue Now Available to Pre-Order!”

  1. […] contributions from Ross Douthat, Simeon Zahl, and more! Check out the full contents here and snag a copy/subscription […]

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