Rank #1: Episode 58 - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
This gorgeous 1964 film is everything people say it is, and makes you wonder sometimes whether its director and writer, Jacques Demy, was too good for this world.
Let's also hear it for Michel Legrand, who wrote the score.
What I wish to eyeball, and what this podcast is about, is its vision of romance,
for "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is about
first love, lost love, best love, et enfin, true love.
The hero's "Je crois que tu peux partir" ("It's time for you to go.") is so wonderfully masculine, and faithful, and cognizant but 'he's not buying',
that I truly wish every woman in the world who has lost faith in men
could see this movie.
My podcast is about True Love.
It is dedicated to Nick Greenwood.
Aug 14 2011
Rank #2: Episode 140 - Make It Easy on Yourself
This is a meditation on self-forgiveness.
I used to think that was a lame phrase,
an exercise in twaddle.
Here we have The Walker Brothers,
Los Straitjackets, even Frankie (Goes to Hollywood).
The Lesson This Morning is from Isherwood's journal entry of
July 14, 1940, which is to say,
the Second of the Two Great Commandments.
Mar 17 2013
Rank #3: Episode 122 - Worst That Could Happen
It's being labelled a "Zwinglian"!
And there's something even worse than that.
This podcast is a plea for the wheels to be put back on
Nov 09 2012
Rank #4: Episode 207 - Is Paris Burning? (1966)
Here are a few thoughts concerning the atrocity attacks in Paris.
I talk about Islam (and "Islamophobia"), Syrian migration into Europe,
Original Sin and "low" vs. "high" anthropology, reaction-formations among young men when drones are over their heads and they have no control, let alone "buy-in"; and finally, a threatening experience Mary and I had on Times Square recently. Call this PZ's perspective on a current (big) event.
Nov 16 2015
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Rank #5: Episode 149 - A Heartache, A Shadow, A Lifetime
This is a reflection on 45 years of New Testament scholarship.
That's 45 years in 45 minutes -- one minute for every year.
And Dave Mason puts it all in perspective.
Aug 25 2013
Rank #6: Episode 92 - G-d
It means 'God', or rather G-d, in Martian.
You can find out all about "Kuh-hay-tchuh-pek" in the now Criterioned
1964 movie "Robinson Crusoe on Mars".
"Kuh-hay-tchuh-pek" is God, and a very right and proper God, too.
He is Divine Order, but He is also a Nice Guy.
This podcast is about G-d.
I hope you'll like Him.
Feb 01 2012
Rank #7: Episode 87 - Bette Davis Eyes
They are all, like Ray Milland, "The Man with the X-Ray Eyes" --
these Huguenot heroes:
Marot, Duplessis-Mornay, de Beze, de Coligny, de Rohan,
That includes their English co-religionists, such as
Whitgift and Abbott and Grindal.
These are eyes of defeat, eyes that convey an end to
self-reference, eyes of a markedly ego-less state.
You simply have to undergo defeat, have to, in order to, well,
become a little child.
Old ancient wisdom.
Jan 19 2012
Rank #8: Area 51 - William Inge
William Inge (1913-1973) wrote plays of restrained optimism concerning broken families in small Kansas towns of the 1920's and '30's. He understood about the importance of sex in everyday life -- even in Protestant Middle-Western America during the Great Depression. He also understood about the Church and its disappointing failure to help people when the bottom fell out of their lives.
Yet there a wistfulness to Inge. He seems to be saying, 'If only'. If only our religious tradition had not declined so from the teachings of Christ.
This podcast talks about William Inge's perspective on the Church Defeated -- by itself ! He writes of sufferers with tender sympathy, with grace in practice.
Jun 18 2011
Rank #9: Episode 236 – Psychosis
“Psychosis” is a very strong word for a cultural phenomenon. But it allows us to speak of a fissure over against reality, when groups of people see things around them in a way that is divorced from the facts.
You can apply the phenomenon of group fissure from reality, to anything you like. I can see it in the way a very specific historical reality, the Anglican Church as the English expression of legal and official Protestantism, has been so completely buried by a different “narrative” that it is as if the reality never was and never existed.
So completely, in other words, has a narrative concerning a development in church history taken over the historical facts that it has become AS IF THE REALITY NEVER WAS.
You see this sometimes in relationships. You thought somebody was totally wonderful, and sympathetically disposed towards you, and maybe even loved you. And then, in a single moment, you discovered you were wrong! Everything you thought about the person had been a misreading on your part. They actually hated you and wanted to betray you — after they got what they wanted from you.
“Je repete”: This Happens All the Time.
In this podcast, I refer to a current narrative that is powerful around us. And you have to decide yourself whether you believe that narrative or not. But then I talk about Agatha Christie, and the
up-ending denouement of her famous story “Witness for the Prosecution”. So powerful is Agatha Christie’s narrative-shattering story that it was made into an excellent movie in 1957 by Billy Wilder, starring Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and Tyrone Power; and then got re-made by the BBC in time for last Christmas. “Witness for the Prosecution” is about a prominent divorce from reality.
And yet, there’s Palm Sunday. And yet, there’s Christ on the Donkey. And yet, there’s a narrative that explodes all ‘narratives’ — the narrative of the Incarnation. Thus the music for this cast: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. I’d put that truth before Agatha Christie’s any time. Moreover, SHE’d agree with me!.
Sep 27 2017
Rank #10: Episode 239 – A Disease I Do Not Have the Courage to Name
This Christmas cast is about communication between people, and God. Moreover, it’s about the cost of poor communication, which can be suicide, let alone habitual alienation. And the rich advantage of good communication, which can be the
difference between life and death, let alone satisfaction and personal happiness.
Recently, Tullian Tchividjian spoke at a ‘Broken Christmas’ service in Living Faith Lutheran Brethren Church at Cape Coral, FL. He spoke brilliantly, soberly, gravely, touchingly, humorously at points, and as affectingly as Mary and I have ever heard him speak.
To introduce Tullian, I took an illustration from William Inge’s 1970 novel entitled “My Son Is a Splendid Driver”.
In that novel, the author, a man in his mid-40s, is visiting his aging mother and father in the small Kansas town where they live and where he grew up. Uncharacteristically, his mother does not meet him at the station — ‘My Son’ takes place during the Great Depression — but only his father.
When the author arrives home, his mother is there, but looking thin and very worn. She informs her son, “Your father has given me a disease that I do not have the courage to name.”
What has happened is that his mother has been given what we today call an STD by her husband, who, like her, is in his mid-60s, and who contracted the disease from a prostitute during a business trip.
The mother is completely collapsed and ashamed. Her son reflects as follows: “Mother had stopped going to church. ‘ Church isn’t the place to go with your troubles. Church is just a place to go when you’re feeling good and have a new
hat to wear.’
“There was a little bitterness in what she said, but there was also truth. Our minister would have been the last person in the world she could have talked to, to have lifted the curse she felt upon her and saved her from feeling damned. She would have embarrassed the man into speechlessness had she gone to him with her story…
“Most of our morality, I was beginning to think, was based on a refusal to recognize sin. Our entire religious heritage, it seemed to me, was one of refusal to deal with it.”
William Inge’s thoughts are so germane. How many people do you and I know who have “dropped out” of Christianity because of their feeling that the church is judging them in some way? Your friend may feel judged by conservative or evangelical Christians. But I may feel judged by liberal or progressive Christians. Judgment “swings both ways” (Herman Hermits, 1966). It swings all ways!
Tullian focused some on suicide, in his talk. He reminded us that almost everybody contemplates suicide at some point, even if only for a minute. (“Did It in a Minute”, Hall and Oates, 1981) And the people that actually do take their own lives are usually people who have felt unable to confide their real thoughts and feelings to ANYONE, and for quite some time. You can become habituated, in other words, to suppressing yourself. And the long-term result of that?: POOF!
Listen to this cast in the light of your desire — very natural — to express yourself to somebody. Ultimately, your desire to express yourself, to God. The key is empathy. Tullian has it. I hope I have it, at least a little. And I know that the Burning Babe (Robert Southwell) has it, also. LOL at Christmas, PZ
Dec 12 2017
Rank #11: Episode 163 - Deetour
It's getting bigger. Bigger, at least, from where I sit.
The Contraption, I mean.
And thank you, Karen Young!
And thank you, Mike Francis!
This podcast is dedicated to JAZ, the Minister of Edits.
Feb 13 2014
Rank #12: Episode 255 - The Letter
Pastorally -- and generally -- it is easy to miss the core of what's going on with a person in pain. You may see some symptoms -- tho' sometimes even the symptoms are hidden -- and may sub-rationally understand that something bad is taking place under the surface. But when it comes to the "Heart of Darkness" inside a sufferer, it may be very hard to fathom and to surface.
Yet surfacing that "Heart" is the essence of what love is all about.
How often in relationships have I missed the heart of the problem!
This cast takes as its text a letter that Eric Clapton once wrote to Pattie Boyd. It is as heartfelt and simply surgical as a letter to another person -- let alone God -- could possibly be. If only all of us could lay out our elemental pain in such an open fashion. For then the pain, through active and concerned empathy, could be felt, and maybe healed.
But that rarely happens. What happens instead is suicide, fatal irrational decisions, extreme actings-out, and interventions that inspire life-long regret in their aftermath.
I think Eric Clapton's letter to Pattie Boyd should be required reading for anyone in the helping professions, and particularly in the ministry. Listen to it -- I'm not Alexander Scourby, but I tried -- and think of yourself. Or think of someone you truly love. Who is suffering in silence.
Podcast 255 is dedicated to CHARLOTTE B. GETZ.
Jul 31 2018
Rank #13: Episode 156 - I Am Curious (Orange)
A Protestant spin on a Golden Oldie from Sweden.
This is also a warning against categorization -- a very personal warning,
as I've suffered from categorization and feel it keenly still.
Oct 16 2013
Rank #14: Episode 235 – The Year We Make Contact
I’m talking about pastoral contact, which is just another way of talking about personal contact. How do you get through to somebody? How do they get through to you? What establishes direct contact with the person that you really are?
The music of my casts almost all concerns that point of contact. Music can do it! Movies can do it. Cable can do it. It’s got to happen, by the way; or you perish from solitude.
There is a particularly instructive classic movie that deals head on with this question of making contact, and from a specifically Christian angle. It is called “Come to the Stable”, and stars Loretta Young and Celeste Holm. It came out in 1949.
“Come to the Stable” tells the story of two French nuns — one was born in America — who believe they have been directed by God to found a hospital for children in southern New England. They approach individuals whom they meet basically “by chance”, with their requests for concrete aid. They are never, finally turned away. The reason they are never, finally turned away is that they have wisdom about people — about the losses and the unwilling hardnesses that people “grow” into. ‘Sister Margaret’, especially, is acutely sensitive to people’s hidden hurts. And when these hurts are touched, sympathetically, nothing is off the table.
During the podcast, which had to be recorded twice, I get choked up, also twice, while I talk about an incident in the movie. It could be my story. It could be yours. And you could be Sister Margaret to me, and I could be Sister Margaret to you. (You’ve got to see “Come to the Stable.”)
If you’re in any kind of pastoral care, or need pastoral care (Hands go up!), share this podcast around. And listen to the last song. It’s The Carpenters from their most pop-inspired period. LUV U.
Sep 12 2017
Rank #15: Episode 103 - Flowers for Algernon I
How does the ego actually die?
Or rather, what does a person look like when their ego has died,
or is dying?
Can we see this -- the "seed falling into the ground"?
Algernon Blackwood wrote about the dying.
He wrote about it vividly and concretely, not just symbolically.
This podcast quotes from two of Blackwood's "Eternity" stories:
"The Centaur" (1911) and "A Descent into Egypt" (1914).
The theme is healing, at the end of the day;
Apr 24 2012
Rank #16: Episode 82 - Speaking in Tongues
This is a theme with me --
the pros and cons (there aren't many cons) of learning foreign languages.
Also, how does it actually work?
Why is one language easier for a given person to learn than another?
Also, what's the relatiion between learning a language to read,
and learning a language to speak?
And why is psychology so important, personal psychology,
in the acquisition of a foreign 'tongue'?
Here is 50 years' experience of pain and suffering (and altered states)
rolled up into a single half hour.
Dec 28 2011
Rank #17: Episode 230 – Question (LIVE)
The fact that the mainstream churches are hiding their Light under a bushel is the primary reason for their atrophy. The fact that most of our churches are “missing in action” when it comes to the seemingly insuperable pain of living that we bring to them and to their representatives — well, that, I believe, is the main cause of their numerical decline.
Today I want to posit an alternative to this almost willful but in fact mostly unconscious suppression of the Primary (i.e, the Gospel Word) in favor of the secondary (i.e., “issues” of the day) and the tertiary (i.e., endless announcements about meaningless, useless parish activities and functions, to which almost no one really wants to come).
The response to Episode 229, entitled “I Live on a Battlefield”, was astounding! It was as if that cast had pulled down the statue of Dagon, and with it the failed constructions of a generation.
All I was trying to say in that cast was that Mary and I had been “Crawling from the Wreckage” (Dave Edmunds, 1979) of our lives, especially my professional life — crawling on our hands and knees — to “mainstream” churches near us — you name it, almost anywhere — and finding nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, to help us or sustain us. That is, unless we were victims of Hurricane Harvey, in the instance of which most local churches usually do well. (Paging pastoral Josh Condon and others like him!)
In today’s cast, in the aftermath of NOTHING — or almost nothing — proffered to a sufferer like me when he or she comes to church, drawn by pain, I sketch out the profundity of… The Moody Blues. Yes, the partly lame but more often inspired Moody Blues.
The Moodies’ single from 1969 entitled “Question” says almost everything there is to say — about life and living. One can be astonished, thinking about it now, that Justin Hayward composed that song when he was 23 years old. Would that I had met him, and been counseled pastorally by him — I fear he would have run the other way — in… 1969.
Hope this cast speaks to you. Hope this cast bears… a little empathy.
Aug 29 2017
Rank #18: Episode 174 - Federal Theology in the Letters of Samuel Rutherford
"So, here's the thing." :
Wanna know what faith is?
Listen to ABBA.
Wanna arrest the decline of,
oh, let's say,
Listen to ABBA.
Wanna understand yourself?
Listen to ABBA.
Aug 22 2014
Rank #19: Episode 231 – On the Road to Love
One more ‘riff’ on the paucity of mainstream church “address” to the hungry and hurt visitor, let alone the hungry and hurt regular; but with hope:
Justin Hayward is sometimes accused of sentimental romanticism. I don’t agree. I think he is on to something.
His songs locate the heart of human pain in the misses and defeats incurred within the elemental atmosphere of romantic love. I believe experience confirms this. Nobody dies thinking about Clemson vs. Alabama, or whether their career could have gone better, or whether Senator Muskie did or did not win the Presidency — or even how you acquitted yourself during a natural disaster.
But EVERYBODY dies thinking about love, or rather, who it is that loved you. That’s the Golgotha door to the next life! It’s the biggest thing that can hang you up at the end of death.
Songs like the two that conclude this cast, which are “It’s Up To You” and “Lovely To See You Again”, have the shoe on the right foot. In fact, I would almost defy you to hear them and not have them in your head for the next… week, at least.
From a theological point of view, Episode 231 is also a reflection on analogy, and how God is understand through analogy. But I don’t take Barth’s line. Would rather work from the bottom up.
There is also a moment of unguarded rhetoric near the end — not vulgarity but rather “Hercules Unchained” — that absolutely cracked me up when I heard it played back.
Aug 29 2017
Rank #20: Episode 107 - Bishop Ryle
John Charles Ryle, who lived from l816 to 1900,
was "a giant of a man with the heart of a child".
He was a Christian warrior in the Church of England,
who contended against High Churchmen and Liberals
for 60 years, concluding his ministry as the first Bishop of Liverpool.
J.C. Ryle is a fascinating character, a hero-type with some
This podcast tells the story of his life.
It is dedicated to my friend Fred Rogers.
May 25 2012