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Can These Bones Live?

Can These Bones Live?

The greatest American theologian since Jonathan Edwards died this week. His name was Robert Jenson. But to his friends he was “Jens.” Jenson wrote scores of books. His impact on Christian theology will be felt for generations to come. He was a theologian’s theologian with a pastoral heart and a...

Seven Tips for Winning an Argument with Your Spouse

Seven Tips for Winning an Argument with Your Spouse

The subtitle in the Love & Death Issue is, naturally, “How to Bring Hell into Your Household.”  

1. Ignore initial pesky feeling that you might be wrong.

If you are thinking to yourself that this is the moment to apologize, forget about it. You started this riot in...

Memo From Houston: What Harvey Taught Me

Memo From Houston: What Harvey Taught Me

One week you will be doing ballet barre classes and drinking self-righteousness smoothies and the next week you will be hunkered down on a couch in your native Mississippi, crying into your 6am Jimmy Dean pancake on a stick, while endlessly watching the Weather Channel. When your husband sends you and...
A Fatal Attraction: The Law As Means of Control

A Fatal Attraction: The Law As Means of Control

One of passages from our Law & Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints) that we hear about most often:

If no one fulfills the law, the question naturally arises: Why should we care about it? If it accuses and condemns us—two things that no one likes—why do we pay it...

Still Learning

Still Learning

Grateful for this piece—11 vignettes of 100 words each—by Andrew Taylor-Troutman.

“It is a hard time to be human. / We know too much / and too little.” Ellen Bass

1

Newly minted with my Masters of Divinity degree, I stepped into a pulpit before a dozen black faces. After reading from Romans,...

Why I Invited Daryl Davis to Speak in DC

Why I Invited Daryl Davis to Speak in DC

There’s a scene about fifteen minutes into Accidental Courtesy, the 2016 documentary about musician Daryl Davis, that so blew my hair back that I immediately looked up his contact info for the purposes of begging him to join us at our upcoming event in Washington, DC.

The scene begins with a...

Pre-Register Today!

Pre-Register Today!

We're overjoyed to announce that, over Reformation Weekend (Oct 27-28), we'll be celebrating in Washington, DC, with a 24-hour mini-conference. Hosted by our friends at All Saints Chevy Chase, we would love for you to join us. Talks will be (of course) Reformation-themed, and as always, we'll...

Reading to Big Kids, Making Connections, and The Very Persistent Pirate

Reading to Big Kids, Making Connections, and The Very Persistent Pirate

Some of my most cherished memories of my kids’ younger years are connected to our children’s books. We read to our kids multiple times every day with The Carrot Seed, Caps for Sale, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Curious George, and Olivia topping our list of favorites. When...

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Revenge of the Puritans

Revenge of the Puritans

Whether God is in your life or not, you know you are going to die here on Earth. Mortality is as common and constant as sunrise and sunset. But we, the folks who gave you Stonehenge, rage against the fading light. Duh.

There are options. You can choose to live for you. You can be grateful for the things you have been given, especially life itself, and be “mindful”. Or you think there is a much Greater Truth, that you are part of it, and that there is a transaction it offers—more than just a gift. For some…

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Accidental Killers and Cities of Refuge

Accidental Killers and Cities of Refuge

“There are self-help books written for seemingly every aberration of human experience: for alcoholics and opiate abusers; for widows, rape victims, gambling addicts, and anorexics; for the parents of children with disabilities; for sufferers of acne and shopping compulsions; for cancer survivors, asexuals, and people who just aren’t that happy and don’t know why. But there are no self-help books for anyone who has accidentally killed another person. An exhaustive search yielded no research on such people, and nothing in the way of therapeutic protocols, publicly listed support groups, or therapists who specialize in their treatment…”

Thus opens the second section…

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From The New Yorker

"Jesus Take the Wheel" Is Not Enough

“Jesus Take the Wheel” Is Not Enough

Carrie Underwood has offered many the willy-nilly soul “spinning on a thin black sheet of glass” a sense of relief since her 2005 hit, “Jesus Take the Wheel.” There is an immediate comfort to the notion that when we’re “running low on faith and gasoline,” God might step in as if he were a sub, tagging us out of the game of life; as if to say, “Thanks for keeping us on the right track, soldier! You rest a while. I’ve got it from here.”

Upon closer observation, this is a pretty flimsy picture of a God who “created the heavens…

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A Welcomed Interrogation

A Welcomed Interrogation

John le Carré knows spy craft. A master of espionage fiction, he also once served as an intelligence officer in Britain’s MI5. In a recent interview with Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air,” while promoting “A Legacy of Spies,” le Carré discussed the art of interrogation. He expressed his firm conviction that the “rough stuff” we hear about today (say, waterboarding and torture) is “quite useless,” not to mention immoral. Why? People under such pressure and pain will basically say anything to make the pain stop.

“I’ve found that trying to understand people, trying to befriend them, trying to indicate that…

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PZ's Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

PZ’s Podcast: Turning Point & The Year We Make Contact

EPISODE 234: Turning Point

This theme of the insuperability of at least one problem in your life continues to absorb me — and in the light of hope and hopefulness.

I tell the story of a woman who recently attended a meeting of church executives, almost all of whom are absorbed by current issues and questions of identity in political terms. This person said to me afterwards, “It seemed like a voice spoke to me, as I listened to the virtue-signalling: ‘This form of Christianity has no future.’ ” What she meant was that there was no SAVING being proffered, nothing related…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Eighteen Verses Twenty-One Through Thirty-Five

This morning’s devotion, inspired by yesterday’s Gospel passage, was written by Kris McInnes.

…Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV)

Forgiveness is hard, and the forgiveness God demands is impossible. Jesus tells a story of a man who was forgiven much and then refused to forgive one who owed him little. This unforgiving man was tortured until he paid back all he owed, an amount so staggering that it would have been impossible for him to recover.

We often assume the point of the parable is simple, that we should forgive others and not hold grudges, but that end is impossible to attain. If we walk away from the parable thinking that this is something we can live up to, or worse, something we are living up to, then we are lost. The parable can only help us if through it we hear what we are supposed to do and realize that we are not doing it. And this should come naturally—it won’t take long to think about how unforgiving we are: think about the last time you heard someone sing the national anthem, the last time you watched Access Hollywood, the last time you sized someone up in the grocery store, the latest gossip you heard.

These are our shortcomings before the Law of Forgiveness. We may like that Jesus forgives, we may even like the idea of forgiving others, but we cannot do it ourselves. Like any other, this law can only assist us in illuminating our death before it and our need for an external forgiver. Thankfully, on the other side of this death is the new life in a forgiving and loving God, who sent his son Jesus to show us how it’s done.

From the cross Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and that is exactly what God does. He doesn’t even wait for us to ask. Before we go looking for it or even realize we need help, we are forgiven. Before our mouths can even form the words “I’m sorry,” we are forgiven.

Another Week Ends: Apple's Future; the Problem with Present-ism; Rick, Morty, Jim Carrey, and JAZ; Denis Johnson's Darkness; Bergman's Light; and HGTV-Fights

Another Week Ends: Apple’s Future; the Problem with Present-ism; Rick, Morty, Jim Carrey, and JAZ; Denis Johnson’s Darkness; Bergman’s Light; and HGTV-Fights

1. At Apple’s Keynote on Tuesday, Tim Cook – in classic Jobs style – gave a short history of television. The first stage was black and white, and the second was color. A third was HD. Now, he assured his audience, we’re at another “inflection point” in television history: Apple TV 4K.

In hindsight, the original iPhone really did present such an inflection point: it dramatically changed the way we live our lives. People that attended that original keynote were, in a sense, present for the making of history. I’m not sure how well that holds up, actually–if one of my…

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A Fatal Attraction: The Law As Means of Control

A Fatal Attraction: The Law As Means of Control

One of passages from our Law & Gospel: A Theology for Sinners (and Saints) that we hear about most often:

If no one fulfills the law, the question naturally arises: Why should we care about it? If it accuses and condemns us—two things that no one likes—why do we pay it such mind? Why does it keep coming back?

Perhaps because the law [of God] is a true and good thing. Just because we are not able to live up to God’s standard does not somehow invalidate it. That is, we may find it impossible to stop worrying about the future, but…

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Seven Tips for Winning an Argument with Your Spouse

The subtitle in the Love & Death Issue is, naturally, “How to Bring Hell into Your Household.”  

1. Ignore initial pesky feeling that you might be wrong.

If you are thinking to yourself that this is the moment to apologize, forget about it. You started this riot in the street and you are damn well going to finish it. Double down on your argument by 1000% Even if (especially if) you no longer believe it.

2. Ask questions you already know the answer to.

Did you even read that book I suggested? How many drinks have you had? Are we ever going on a vacation again?

3. Blurt out expletives you typically reserve for car accidents.

Most people exist on a sliding scale of what is considered really bad language. But we’ve all got those few words we reserve for life’s most precious moments: car accidents, iPhones dropped in toilets, and fights with our spouse. This is your chance! Because you are mad as hell and fresh out of ducks!

4. Tell them they look just like their mother.

Or father. Just choose whichever parent they have the most contentious relationship with. If you say this enough then you will start to believe it yourself. And then you might imagine you are kissing your mother in law. This one is the gift that you give yourself.

5. Bring up your honeymoon.

Surely, they did something that you hated. If you are among the .002 percent of Americans who had a bucolic honeymoon, then there’s always Christmases past, the birth of children, or that time you spent $5K at Disney World.

(Bonus Pro Tip: Even soiling happy memories can be great fuel for the fire.)

6. Repeat whatever they say back to them in an antagonistic voice.

Especially if they’ve just said something kind and genuine. It looks like this, “Babe, can we just talk about this?” You respond, “OH, WE CAN TALK ABOUT THIS.” The possibilities are endless. Try to imagine yourself as a perched squawky bird.

7. For the Ladies Only: Birth Stories

Gloriously claim victory over any domestic chores argument by bringing up childbirth. “How great that you unloaded the dishwasher? I MADE BABIES!” This is especially effective if you do it in front of the babies you are talking about. Then, everyone will know you are a champion.

Order Love & Death Here!

Why We Eat (and Think About Eating) Too Much

Another excerpt from Mark Greif’s intimidatingly excellent essay collection Against Everything, this time as an excuse for posting the accompanying de Botton video almost as much as the quote itself:

It will be objected that the care for food is a fascination only of the rich; this is false. Stretching from high to low, the commands to lose weight, to undertake every sort of diet for the purposes of health, to enjoy food as entertainment, to privatize food care as a category of inner, personal life (beyond the shared decisions of cooking and the family dinner), have communicated new thought and work concerning food to the vast middle and working classes of the rich Western countries, too.

I think there is something wrong with all this. Underlying my opposition is a presumption that our destiny could be something other than grooming–something other than monitoring and stroking our biological lives. Many readers will disagree. I respect their disagreement if they are prepared to stand up for the fundamental principle that seems to underlie their behavior: that what our freedom and leisure were made for, in our highest state, really is bodily perfection and the extension of life.

One of the main features of our moment in history, in anything that affects the state of the body (though, importantly, not the life of the mind), is that we prefer optimization to simplicity. We are afraid of dying, and reluctant to miss any physical improvement. I don’t want to die, either. But I am caught between that negative desire and the wish for freedom from control. I think we barely notice how much these tricks of care take up our thinking, and what domination they exert. (pgs 38-39)

One of the Cruel Betrayals of Sexual Liberation

Merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fascinating observations about inverted “little l law” in n+1 co-founder Mark Greif’s masterful collection, Against Everything:

Liberation implies freedom to do what you have already been doing or meant to do… But a test of liberation, as distinct from liberalization, must be whether you have also been freed to be free from sex, too–to ignore it, or to be asexual, without consequent social opprobrium or imputation of deficiency… One of the cruel betrayals of sexual liberation, in liberalization, was the illusion that the person can be free only if he holds sex as all-important and exposes it endlessly to others–providing it, proving it, enjoying it.

This was a new kind of unfreedom… sinfulness redefined as the unconditioned, unexercised and unaroused body, and a new shamefulness for anyone who manifests a nonsexuality or, worst of all, willful sexlessness. (pg 26-27)