Breakout Previews

We’re just three weeks away from the Annual Mockingbird Conference! To give you a bit of a preview for what to expect, here’s a peek at few of the fantastic breakout sessions we have planned.

Elizabeth Passarella — “Yelling Feels So Good: an Honest (and Hopeful) Conversation about Anger”

In my first book, I wrote about all kinds of things I was taught never to bring up in polite company—politics, Jesus, telling everyone I met in my first year in New York City that I was a virgin—but readers were mostly shocked by the fighting. I have no answers, only lots of embarrassing stories (which may make you feel better about yourself!). I hope to bring some comfort and humor to those of us who struggle, as well as the assurance that God’s mercies are new every morning, regardless of our moods.

Sam Bush — “The Hope of Humor”

Humor can be used in various capacities – as a defense mechanism, as a way to grieve – but it can also resemble hope.  Humor is often born out of recognizing the truth about oneself and the world without condemnation or bitterness. The very act of laughter involves a relinquishing of control, a lowering of the defenses. When enough time has passed, the old cliché of laughter being the best medicine turns out to be true more often than not. In this breakout session, we’ll be exploring how humor is often a means of grace. Come for the stand-up comedy clips and Saturday Night Live sketches, stay for the ways humor can offer real, effectual hope for the hopeless.

Daniel van Voorhis — “Loving My Dead Neighbors: Finding Grace in the Lives of Others”

Since May of 2019 I have been the writer and host of the Christian History Almanac at 1517. It is a daily 5 minute or so exploration of a figure or event in church history that has some implications for today. What I have been doing with the Almanac for the past 3 years, and professionally for the last 20 has been to look at the lives of others. The truth is, this project — documenting the “lives of others” in Church history has had a profound effect on how I understand the church and my faith today.  I’ll be sharing my favorite stories, expanding on them, asking you questions and hopefully will help guide us on our examination of others (famous, infamous or neither) through the lens of grace.

Ben Maddison — “F***ing Hope: the Best (and Worst) Part of the Christian Life”

Life is hard. We want and hope and pray that things will go the way we expect, and yet so often, we are left with dashed expectations and lingering resentments. St. Paul describes Christians as being a people “not without hope,” but that promise can be doubled-edged. In this talk, we’ll examine the flip side of hope — the moments in life when God breaks in and drags us, kicking and screaming, to something new. If you like to linger in hopelessness and resentment, this talk is for you. From the pandemic to child-rearing, and everything in-between, we’ll say the unsaid thing aloud and commiserate in hopelessness. But alas, even as much as we’d like to wallow, we’re left very little room to do so. Hope is an incredible thing, whether we want it or not.

Adam Morton — “We Will Bury You: the Law’s Modern Deathmatch, and the Only Way Out”

This talk assumes polarization is very real, and that for most of us, living as if it weren’t real isn’t much of an option. However, the explanations we’ve been offered fail to get to the theological heart of the matter. What makes the sides so different is that they are committed to opposing pictures of the Law, not just wanting different things, but at odds over what the Law is and how it works. These pictures of the Law are, for most modern people (religious and non-religious), actually more important than whether we purport to believe in God: more of our behavior is explained by how we think about Law than by whether and how we claim to worship. Our modern conflict is theological to the bone, and there is no escape for any of us. Unless, of course, God is not the Law … Join me to discuss history, truth, communism, obscure Russian philosophers, Batman, and more, as we attempt to see our way through the modern deathmatch over the Law

Jason Thompson — “Marriage: Soulmates, Roommates, Enemies, or Inmates?”

There are no guarantees in life … the least of which being your marriage and how it will turn out. While much of the conventional wisdom on this subject from both the religious and irreligious world majors on what you need to do to ensure a successful relationship with your significant other, the gospel has true hope to offer us … albeit not ‘answers’ per se. We will consider how C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, and 90’s era comedians (my generational bias) can help us navigate one of the most tumultuous, yet also rewarding (at times) experiences this side of heaven. We might even discuss how English proto-goth band The Cure have something to say on this matter as well.

Janet Broderick – “The Holy Spirit, Self Talk, and Healing”

We all have an inner life. A life deeply inside ourselves with our own sensations, fears, images, desires and joys. With all the cracks in our armor – how does that voice transform from a voice of disapproval, judgment and fear to one of approval, care, compassion and love? How do our injuries become the very strengths we have to give to the world?  Using dreams, experiences, people, circumstances, scripture, signs and wonders God makes known to us what he desires for us. This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit as it guides us.  We will explore the very real way the Holy Spirit interacts with our day-to-day life, perhaps even the most unexpected places.

Amanda McMillen – “Hope and Hopelessness in Reality TV”

At the end of the day, when we’re too tired to live our own lives, we watch other people live their lives – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the fabulous lifestyles of The Real Housewives of New York City to the soulmate searches of The Bachelor to the odd sense of calm that comes from watching British people bake “puddings” in The Great British Bake Off, reality TV has so beautifully marked our television era. And whether we like it or not, what we watch shapes us. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to convince you of TV’s impure hold on our nation’s children in order to keep you from watching more Real Housewives. Quite the contrary, in fact. This is very much a TV friendly space. Just like in our own lives, the people we watch on television find themselves in moments of both great hope and moments of great hopelessness – and these shows create narratives that reflect our society’s hopes, too. What does the Real Housewives franchise have to say about forgiveness? What does Love is Blind teach us about our standards and expectations in relationships? Why does The Great British Bake Off manage to bring us to tears every single time??? All of your burning questions will be answered as we find threads of Gospel hope and human hopelessness in America’s favorite shows.

Tasha Genck Morton

Somewhere in the last five years BTS became one of the biggest bands in the world and Squid Game became the most streamed show on Netflix.  12 year old Korean-American adoptee me would have never seen this coming.  No matter our background, we all long to see our lives reflected back to us in the entertainment industry whether through seeing people like us on the big or small screens, hearing our feelings sung by our favorite bands, and reading our stories in print.  We want to feel “seen.”  But beyond the buzzwords of “seen” and the hashtag “representation matters,” what does this longing tell us about ourselves?  What does it tell us about our relationship to God?  Join me to learn why I’m the worst Asian, ever, and to share your answer the age-old question who would play you in a movie about your life and to figure out where the Gospel fits into all of this.