Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Surprised Eagle and the Best Things You'll Read All Week

by Sebastian Faust and Ben Howard

Reads of the Week

1) I Am Not a Pacifist (But I Live in that Land) by Christie Purifoy

"Now we are reading different stories. These stories are written in quiet Quaker graveyards. On roadside historical markers titled Underground Railroad. These stories are written in the tranquil abundance of small Amish and Mennonite farmsteads. Together, we see a bearded young man harvesting his field behind a team of six shaggy workhorses. He stands so tall and still on his wagon, it is suddenly easy for me to read the heroism of Pennsylvania pacifists. From generation to generation, they have not moved with the moving world. Their steadfastness has carved deep grooves of beauty and peace into this landscape."

2) The Sunday She Stood by Megan Gahan

"And though jealousy is touted as an emotion we're supposed to flee from, I confess I don't regret that ugly feeling bubbling full-force up and into the depths of my soul. Because it stirred something in me. Something I hadn't known until that very moment. I had no idea that a part of my heart had been dormant. That I'd always felt a bit squashed into a too tight mold of womanhood. That I had been holding on to a deep wild hope that there was more. That there could be more."

3) Me and Michael Brown's Mama – Nothing in Common by Maria Dixon

"As I watched the tattooed woman with the bright colored shell top mourning her son, her peroxide dyed hair: two-toned, parted down the middle, reminded me of the sisters I would see rolling into Sally's to get the color their girl was going to use in their 'kitchen shop' later that night. She was a teenage mother, who raised her child in her mama's house. An 'around the way' sister, I knew that she would be one of those chicks that I would say good morning to and then try to slyly take a picture of to send to my crew and ask, 'why can't our people do better?'"

4) Holy Relics: The Church Bulletin by Martyn Wendell Jones

"Here is a moment of clarity in the chaos. But out in the roiling tumult, a journalist bleeds into a patch of sand under a sky that's still God's, if memory serves. What's outside this ongoing act of community can be downright horrifying, although that isn't to say that what's within the community can't be. Moses can't look at God full on in the face because if he did, he'd die. We can't look at the world without interposing a filter either, and perhaps for similar reasons. Would your mind stay whole if you were privy to the suffering of the whole race?"

5) Evangelicalism's Poor Form by Alistair Roberts

"Evangelical identity is also widely expressed through the forms of a consumer society: through corporate models of Christian leadership, through the production, marketing, advertising, and selling of a Christianity that functions like a 'brand' on everything from mints to keyrings. Few pause to question whether these forms of expression might be shaping us in unhealthy ways, assimilating us into culturally prevailing habits, dynamics, and ways of life and perception, all beneath the cover of a thin veneer of Christianity."

Honorable Mention

The Book that Changed Lydia's Life by D.L. Mayfield

To Ferguson and beyond by Carol Howard Merritt

Tweets of the Week

"i wrote the washington football team’s name for years and stopped when it was trendy to stop. i’m a hero, basically, is what i’m saying" - @jon_bois

"Not tonight, honey. I'm suffering from the angst of post-industrial man under late capitalism." - @VikramParalkar

"The first rule of Thesaurus Club is you don't talk about, mention, speak of, discuss, or chat about Thesaurus Club." - @Pundamentalism

On Pop Theology Week in Review

10 People Doing the Awesome Work of Racial Justice & Reconciliation by Rebekah Mays

"If you’re like me, you weren’t able to take your eyes off your Twitter feed a few weeks ago. If you’re like me, you still feel grieved and overwhelmed by what you’ve seen in Ferguson, and maybe even a little cynical that it’s ever going to get better."

Pop Culture Gospels: Martha and Mary Do Pinterest Projects by Charity Erickson

"Now as they were traveling along, Jesus entered a gentrified warehouse district and a wellness blogger named Martha welcomed Him into her farmhouse-inspired loft."

Song of the Week

"Holy Blood" by Alabama 3

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Pop Culture Gospels: Martha and Mary Do Pinterest Projects

by Charity Erickson

Now as they were traveling along, Jesus entered a gentrified warehouse district and a wellness blogger named Martha welcomed Him into her farmhouse-inspired loft.

She had a sister named Mary who was seated on the floor beside a reclaimed barnwood coffee table, near the Lord’s feet, listening to His word and fiddling with the doily she was crocheting.

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations: looking for the harem pants that matched her jaunty hat, serving a round of home-fermented probiotic drinks, and resetting the shutter speed on her camera. And she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to literally serve the kombucha alone? Then tell her to help me.”

But the Lord swirled the kombucha in his glass as he peered moodily over His Bonhoeffer glasses and said --

“Wait, Lord!” said Martha, “Let me see if I can catch that light.” And she did take a picture. “I think I got it?”

“Martha, Martha,” Jesus said, “you are worried and bothered about many things, but only one thing is necessary. A high-contrast filter.”

Jesus sipped his fizzy drink and continued. “Truly I say to you -- did you know that wine and kombucha have basically the same alcohol content?”

Mary looked up from her hook and yarn. “You know, I think I read that somewhere, too.”

-- Luke 10:38-42, JFTTTV (Jokes From 2010 Version) 

Charity Erickson and her husband live and work together in the north woods of Minnesota. Check out her blog for more of her writing and follow her on Twitter @ecumystic.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

10 People Doing the Awesome Work of Racial Justice & Reconciliation

by Rebekah Mays

If you’re like me, you weren’t able to take your eyes off your Twitter feed a few weeks ago. If you’re like me, you still feel grieved and overwhelmed by what you’ve seen in Ferguson, and maybe even a little cynical that it’s ever going to get better.

But here’s the good news. We may not be aware of it, but many people are already doing everything they can to help heal our country’s deep racial wounds. They are slowly changing the world with their sermons and homeless ministries, their blog posts and youth mentorship programs. Please reflect upon the words of these ten individuals, organizations and churches who are all doing the beautiful, often messy work of racial justice.

1. Rev. Willis Johnson of Wellspring Church  
Ferguson, Missouri

Rev. Johnson is the pastor of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, on the very street where so much national attention has been fixed the past two weeks. During the protests, someone captured a photograph of Johnson laying a hand on 18-year-old Joshua Wilson. In a powerful interview on NPR, Johnson describes his identification with Joshua’s anger, and breaks down in tears as he describes his own son he’s trying to raise. “This is a not a race issue,” Johnson says, “this is a human issue.” Listen to the interview here.

Church website:
Twitter: @FWillisJohnson

2. Christena Cleveland
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist and the author of the book Disunity in Christ. She speaks about racial reconciliation around the United States and is an associate professor of reconciliation studies at Bethel University.

Her website is a treasure trove of thought and practical advice on overcoming cultural divisions. In a recent post, “The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail,” she writes:
“It’s relatively easy to see the suffering Christ in black men who are already dead and aren’t threatening to hurt anyone. But can you see the suffering Christ in black men who are still alive and might hurt someone? Can you see the suffering Christ in violent responses to injustice? Can you see the cross in the Molotov cocktail?”
Twitter: @CSCleve

3. Austin Channing-Brown  
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Austin Channing-Brown speaks and writes about racial reconciliation and leads diversity trainings around the country. In a fascinating post on Rachel Held Evans' website, Channing-Brown thoughtfully responds to several questions about implementing multicultural initiatives in Christian communities. Read her answers here.

Twitter: @austinchanning

4. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove 
Durham, North Carolina

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of many spiritual books and articles and a leader in the New Monasticism movement. He has also started a “house of hospitality” for the formerly homeless and recently began coordinating content for the blog Red Letter Christians, which strives to take the “red letter” words of Jesus seriously.

Read this wonderful piece he recently wrote on God’s gracious commandment for Americans to “go to hell.”

Twitter: @wilsonhartgrove

5.  A House on Beekman 
Bronx, NY

A House on Beekman serves the neighborhood of Mott Haven, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. The house provides long-term spiritual, educational, economic services to the neighborhoods’ residents and hosts a number of summer camps and after-school programs for local youth. The House is directed by Sara Miller and supported by Trinity Grace Church in New York City.

Watch “Sara’s Story,” the director’s beautiful testimony about dedicating herself to the renewal of the South Bronx.

Twitter: @ahouseonbeekman

6. Daniel Hill and the River City Community Church 
Chicago, Illinois

Daniel Hill is the founding and senior pastor of River City Community Church, a vibrant, multicultural body of believers. Hill is deeply committed to bringing both spiritual renewal and social justice to Humboldt Park of Chicago.

In a recent interview in which he discusses the choice Christians have to be brave or to be safe, Hill says, “If we actually have the luxury of choosing between safe and brave, then we are living in a far more comfortable existence than most of the world … That is just one more reminder of what has always been true – safe is not the goal of a believer!”    

Twitter: @danielhill1336, @rc3chicago

7. Mihee Kim-Kort

Mihee Kim-Kort is a PCUSA pastor and the author of Making Paper Cranes and Streams Run Uphill. Her prose is gorgeous and emotive, often grappling with the issues of racial and gender equality in the church. Read her compelling post “#BlackLivesMatter and Vigilance.”

Twitter: @miheekimkort 

8. By Their Strange Fruit 
Columbus, Ohio

“By Their Strange Fruit” is a blog that facilitates conversations about racial divides and renewal and is edited by Kaitelin Hansen. The blog is extraordinarily well-researched and informative – a great starting point for anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of racial injustice.

Twitter: @BTSFblog

9. Shane Fast and Rebirth East St. Louis  
St. Louis, Missouri

Rebirth founder Shane Fast first began volunteering with East St. Louis High School’s football team in 2009. Since then, Rebirth has been expanding its support to the young men in the area, and now provides athletic, academic, and spiritual support through a range of opportunities.

Fast recently wrote an excellent essay on CNN iReport responding to the Ferguson tragedy. You can read it here.

Twitter: @RebirthESL

10. Jonathan Walton and the New York City Urban Project 
New York, NY

Jonathan Walton is the director of the New York City Urban Project, a ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship that  works with college students to feed the homeless and fight sex trafficking. Walton has mentored dozens of students through NYCUP’s Spring Break Plunge and Summer Immersion programs and often uses spoken-word poetry to encourage and challenge his listeners.

“Would you say I didn’t deserve to grow up in poverty?
Or would you say, ‘jonathan, yours is such a great story!’”
Read the rest of his poem here.

Twitter: @foreverfocused

These are just ten of many others working for racial justice and reconciliation. Who are the other leaders who have challenged and motivated you to pursue racial justice? Tell us in the comments. 

Rebekah Mays is a Barnard College graduate originally from Austin, Texas. She currently works and writes in Prague, Czech Republic. You can find more of her writing on her blog The Prague BLOG or follow her on Twitter @smallbeks.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Taco Bell is Self-Aware and the Best Things You'll Read All Week

by Ben Howard and Sebastian Faust

Reads of the Week

1) More Than Three Minutes: Resistance and Grace in Ferguson by Richard Beck

"Because that will be a temptation. Again, if Darren Wilson is "innocent" many will feel safe to move on. And if Darren Wilson is found "guilty" many will feel safe to blame him and judge him as a sinner. The shooting of Michael Brown would have been caused by one individual's moral failure, a lapse in virtue and piety. A mistake. Or the product of a "bad person." Which means the guilt of Darren Wilson gets the system and our history off the hook. Guilt can be reduced to an individual, reduced to those three minutes. Daren Wilson can become the scapegoat for the system."

2) An Ancient Prayer Saved My Faith by David R. Henson

"My faith was saved, again, that first time I blessed bread and wine, and realized I had come home after wandering so long. And in countless celebrations since, I've had my faith saved in the blessing of bread and wine, when something more than I can ever imagine or pretend happens, when simple things become holy things, revealing that all simple things are holy things. Like the oily mark of Chrism on an infant's head, on a teenager's forehead, the weight of a stole and chasuble, the new light in the darkness of an Easter Vigil."

3) Birthday Celebrations and Awkward Feelings: Let the Little Children Lead by Abby Norman

"Can I tell you that it is hard to feel awkward sometimes at a neighbor's birthday party? Can I tell you that sometimes, in a store where I am the only white lady, I am extra embarrassed when my children throw a fit? Not just because my children are throwing a fit, but because I hear the things that people used to tell me, about white parents and fit throwing children. Can I tell you that my black friends deal with this every single day, but it isn't just a matter of feeling awkward? It is a matter of making sure their kids stay alive."

4) Does It Help To Know History? by Adam Gopnik

"The advantage of having a historical sense is not that it will lead you to some quarry of instructions, the way Superman can regularly return to the Fortress of Solitude to get instructions from his dad, but that it will teach you that no such crystal cave exists. What history generally "teaches" is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they're making it."

5) We Underestimate the Foolish and the Kind Ones by Sarah Bessey

"I'm also suspicious of empire tactics being baptized and employed to "build the Kingdom of God." My soul recoils from the use of the very tactics of the empire - silencing, bullying, judging, other-ing, dehumanizing, mocking, name-calling, ganging up and piling on, violence - used against the oppressed and marginalized, now somehow being used for "good purpose." I see this tendency in my own soul and it grieves me."

Honorable Mention

Sermon on the Beatitudes by Nadia Bolz Weber

The Foolish Debate by Nate Pyle

What Does It Really Mean to Have Faith? by Zack Hunt

Tweets of the Week

"No one saw it coming. The students took over on the 1st day of school, led by the Kindergarteners who weren't yet drones of the system." - @VeryShortStory

"NBC: We exist! Since….I don’t know, we sort of lost count." - @revlucymeg

"TV filmed This Is Where I Leave You on an iPod Touch over summer break with all its friends. TV’s mom said it was 'VERY good, sweetie.'" - @tvoti
Song of the Week

"The Mariner's Revenge Song" by The Decemberists

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Smell of Freedom and the Best Things You'll Read All Week

by Sebastian Faust and Ben Howard

Reads of the Week

1) I Know a Boy by Shannan Martin

"There are so many sides to every story and we may never know for sure what happened in those moments where time stood still and a new line of mangled history was inked. It's too hard to wade through, the water too murky, and we don't want to be wrong. So we turn and walk away, back to our tidy corners and our predominantly white churches where things make sense and everyone believes the same version of the story."

2) He Was a Miracle by Laura Turner

"He's there, walking, so alive, so completely, painfully alive. He's right there, a living, breathing human person! His diaphragm is contracting! His lungs are taking in oxygen and nitrogen! Air moved from his trachea to his bronchi, then bronchioles, then alveoli! He was a walking ninth-grade science class, right there in front of us, a fucking miracle on two feet!
It was over in about fifteen seconds. The cops came, of course. They are white. He, as you know, was black."

3) The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail by Christena Cleveland

"Can you see the suffering Christ in the oppressed, even the ones who aren't responding perfectly to society's oppression? Christ doesn't just suffer for the innocent, the ones who don't have the energy to fight back, or the ones who perfectly respond to injustice. He suffers for the ones who suffer now and sin in their suffering."

4) The Eccentric Economy of Love by Richard Beck

"The church is denying its own need, weakness and vulnerability. Thus, the church comes to see itself as a hero, riding in on a white horse to save others. Since we don't need anything from the people we are helping, there is no reciprocity, no economy, no relationship, no giving and sharing back and forth.
We show up, do our good deeds and then pack up and leave. Why? Because we don't need anything from those people. They need us. We don't need them.
But we do need them. And we need each other."

5) For Now, Young Black Males Matter...Until the Cameras Go Off by Romal Tune

"If they go inside now, they know that they will cease to matter. America will go right back to not caring about what happens to them. In their minds, they have to stay outside, they will do whatever it takes to keep the cameras rolling. It's almost as if they are saying please don't go away, please stay, because the moment you leave or turn the channel, no one will care anymore."

Honorable Mention

When Them Becomes Us: On Emmanuel by Abby Norman

Sermon on Grace, Dogs, and Sass-Mouthed Women by Nadia Bolz Weber

What to Wear When You're Lost by Shannan Martin

Tweets of the Week (via Lane Severson)

"According to Led Zeppelin, people in wheelchairs aren't getting into heaven." - @daemonic3

"I held a grape up to a cup of wine before eating it, so it could see how fully my species has subjugated its kind" - @lanyardigan

"i put my pants on like everyone else - surrounded by cops in the middle of a wendy's screaming furiously about my rights" - @rahtzee

On Pop Theology Week in Review 

Ferguson and the Suffering God by Kyle Baughman

"Theology is, for me, a Trojan Horse. I allowed it through the gates and trusted much too quickly, when suddenly its peaceful presence turned savage; the doors fell open and it revealed its nature."

Song of the Week

For Michael Brown, Ferguson, and all the rest... "Final Straw" by R.E.M.

If hatred makes a play on me tomorrow
And forgiveness takes a backseat to revenge
There's a hurt down deep that has not been corrected
There's a voice in me that says you will not win.

Now I don't believe, and I never did,
That two wrongs make a right
But if the world be filled with the likes of you
Then I'm putting up a fight.

So I raise my voice up higher
And I look you in the eye,
And I offer love with one condition:
With conviction, tell me why.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ferguson and the Suffering God

by Kyle Baughman

Theology is, for me, a Trojan Horse. I allowed it through the gates and trusted much too quickly, when suddenly its peaceful presence turned savage; the doors fell open and it revealed its nature.

Theology is a force that ravages, that confronts and tears down.

This week, my wife and I were lying in bed, lamenting over Ferguson as its horrors still unfolded, praying together and speaking the cries of the prophets. Yet they seemed to die in the darkened room, unanswered prayers that hoped, that begged for something to change, that something would be done. Against the darkness, we levied the words of Amos:

“Therefore, because you who hate the poor and take from them tariffs of grain, you who have built houses of hewn stone…you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate…Seek good and not evil, that you may live…Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.”

And then we fell quiet. In silence, we shifted; each of us turned away, and my wife spoke her hurt: “Where is God? Why isn’t God helping?”

Had she known that she was bringing this wooden horse into my fortress, she probably would have turned her lament inward. But the damage had been done. The soldiers of Troy were now waiting patiently in the town square of my stirring mind. “Where is God?” And so, the door swung open, and my mind was torn asunder.

Theology, no matter its pedigree, is only so much mental masturbation if we don’t attend to how its propositions take form in the material world. I often grow frustrated with the metaphysics of theo-talk, the ink that is spilled to argue creatio ex nihilo or that dogs do not fly because angels hold them to the earth. When one invokes the name of God, the most obscure notion has consequences. What matters in theology is how its claims are lived out in the world, how they affect those who believe them. A theology may lead some to feed the poor, and some to oppress them, and still others to despair that hope will ever come.

Theology has power. It names the unnamed God. It defines, and so determines.

And in the midst of our questions about God and the streets of Ferguson, a host of voices rush to battle in my mind. Most come for battle fully armed, swords drawn, shields gleaming. They proclaim their God of distance, letting the world run its course, or their God of power, ready to fight evil and let the chips fall where they may. They cite their texts of warfare and genocide and they do their damage, looting my constructs about a loving God. My city in ruins, they move on, looking for the next great battle by which to win glory, and I am left alone in the rubble. And then a single figure comes, walking slowly, and he sits and mourns beside me. He says, “Only the suffering God can help.”

“Only the suffering God can help.” So wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who lamented his own attempts at stopping the evil wave of Hitler’s Reich. He was a man who spent the remainder of his life in Tegel Prison witnessing the horrors of the concentration camps before his execution in 1945.

Only the suffering God can help. It stings my ears, yet I know it to be true.

Gary M. Simpson did well to point out that the weight of the statement lies at the beginning: only. Bonhoeffer determines that the only possibility of hope is found in no other theology, no other god than the one defined by suffering. And Bonhoeffer’s continued faithfulness in the face of imprisonment and death is warranted only by the image of the God who suffers alongside him.

This is cruciform theology. It is a theology centered on the point where the possibility of God and the inevitability of suffering were merged into a singular moment, a singular event. Bonhoeffer sees in Christ and his crucifixion a demonstration of what is required of God. God must suffer. God must bend beneath its weight. Bonhoeffer rejects the boasting of omnipotence or the tidiness of deus ex machina as trappings of an imperialist god, modeled on imperialist power – a god whose reputation and abilities must be inflated and held distant if God is to be preserved. Instead, he holds fast to a God who suffers.

But how can it be that only a suffering God can save us? Surely a god who descends the mount with sword unsheathed and fire in his eyes is able to triumph over evil! But… what does that god know of me? What does that god know of Ferguson? What does that god know of pain except as a provocation for retribution?

Not many of us have known power. Not many of us have triumphed in warfare. Not many of us have had the privilege of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. How can we identify with a god like that? How can such a god identify with us? Instead, this world is ripe with stories of people who never knew strength or joy, people who are marred with stories of pain and defeat. What does Superman have to do with anyone but himself? To rally around the omnipotent figure is only to grovel for his good favor, in the hopes that he will stay, in the hopes that he will remain on our side. We share nothing with him, and he shares nothing with us.

I have suffered. I have been wounded. I have lost and have mourned, and I bear witness to countless others who have shared in the same.

The suffering God is a God who is capable of empathy and identification. The suffering God is ever-present in the hurt and the pains of this world. We all suffer. We all hurt. And in the face of a suffering, crucified God, we find ourselves looking at one of our own. We bear scars, as does he. He lost his name; so have countless others. Empathy and compassion are the real fragrance of the gospel.

And so I find myself affirming alongside Bonhoeffer: the suffering God, the crucified God is my only hope. It is our only hope, because suffering is the only human experience we all share in common. We all lament together. We see our pain reflected in others, and others see their pain in us. Seeing neighbors battling depression, friends who lose loved ones, systemic social issues that oppress minorities, all draw from us a deep lamentation that unites us with all humanity.

The suffering God is the only one who can truly know us, and who can be truly known. The fullness of God is not found in the warrior arrayed for battle or the splendor of cathedrals. Instead, the fullness of God is discovered to be suffering alongside those who suffer, crying out just as they do. God, then, is the one who is capable of bearing our iniquities, both individually and societally, because God suffers among those who are subject to our evil. God bears the pain of Ferguson, and we cannot help but have a share in it, for the same God bears our own.

Kyle Baughman is a human. He studied theology at Fuller Seminary and enjoys the attention he receives from flirting with several different theo-camps. He hits things with sticks as the drummer for Coyotes in Boxes. You can find him on Twitter @truekyleb.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Robin Williams

by Lyndsey Graves

The first thing you have to say about Robin Williams is that he was brilliant. We watch his films over and over again, always in anticipation of catching the little things we missed the last time round: the quick aside, the triple entendre you didn’t appreciate before, the sincerity in a facial expression that made you really fall in love with his character. Williams was an intellectual and emotional genius who plied his craft with excellence.

But he was more than that, or we wouldn’t be bawling in public places. He is someone we carry with us, even if we didn’t realize it until tonight. So many of us bear some little piece of understanding about life and this world that we learned only from him, from the bits of himself that he brought to every part, whether gentle, bold, or playful.

I first connected with Mrs. Doubtfire and Genie as a young kid already enamored with words and wit; I recognized in Williams my own appreciation for language, as obliging as Mrs. Doubtfire’s overstuffed bag for supplying just the right tool for any job. Since becoming an improviser, though, I’ve drawn even more inspiration from his ability to play without pretense, without forethought, without reason. Williams’ comedy sprang from that improvised worldview and gave him an immense, but often underrated, power - the power to make us laugh in spite of ourselves.

Abandoning oneself completely to a given moment, without a thought for the next, is a mindset most people take years to really master. Williams seemed to do it instinctively and purely, without a thought for himself at all, simply from a desire to see what might happen. He was as happy as we were to see something funny come of it; and if something didn’t, in the words of a friend, he just kept going - barreling over any possibility of embarrassment or defeat. What may be hard to recognize in an actor is self-evident to another improviser: an immense and hard-won humility that trusts serendipity rather than one’s own whirling cogs, that risks dignity for art and laughter.

If every child of God inherits a special strand of kinship with the divine, perhaps this was part of Williams’; someone so rarely self-regarding who offers us an image of what it might mean to be confident, powerful, and humble all at once. So, too, Williams seemed to thrill to the small and the simple, a wisdom that enabled him to peer through convoluted situations and cultures into the core of things. Those simple truths are often piercingly funny, and Williams was able to celebrate them in all their hilarity and their poignancy. He shared, I think, God’s attention and appreciation for small things of beauty and oddity.

Because of that, he rarely, if ever, resorted to the cheap cynicism that is the fallback of most comedians. He delighted in the absurdities of life without trivializing them, without denying the wonder that is found in simple things. But neither did he glibly gloss over the pain in the world or the cruelly irreducible complexities that confront us in the midst of it. He did justice to the idiocy of golf and the bewilderment of divorce without making us feel that either one was meaningless – he had none of the comedian’s arrogance which leave the impression that life exists only to be mocked.

We can talk about the un-funniness of someone’s death brought on by depression when he had made so many millions of people happier. There is something about the sincerity Williams brought to a shifty and dissembling Hollywood, though, about his capacity for play and delight, that makes this feel so much more than unfunny; it feels unfair. Death is always cruel, but not because it is the opposite of laughter; it is because it is the thief of a genuine joy in the weirdness and beauty of human life that Williams taught us just by his own revelry in it.

To take him seriously is certainly not to try and conjure a happy ending or moral from this story. It is more frightening than anything to recognize that an impish comic can be as much a tortured genius as any dour painter of doom, or any self-righteous playwright of opaque satire. The suicide of someone whose characters brought so much joy and wisdom to others’ hard times reminds us that battling demons is not always just a metaphor. Depression is a real, dark, and enormous monster, all the more bewildering because others can hardly see it, because others are unable to fight it for you. Only stay with the person in your life with depression, even when you are helpless to understand or act. There is a persistent and quiet love that often means more than all the dramatic interventions ever devised.

Williams’ death is sad and wrong and worthy of our tears, yet it also seems much too pious and stuffy to try and remember him without laughter. In all the best and worst ways, things just do not make sense - and sometimes all there is to do for the moment is to laugh despite ourselves.

 Lyndsey lives in Boston, MA where she is pursuing her Master's in Theological Studies at Boston University. She enjoys Community, Mad Men and Beauty and the Beast and her spirit animal is a sloth. She would like to know if this is some kind of interactive theater art piece. You can follow her on Twitter @lyndseygraves and you can find more of her writing at her blog To Be Honest. 

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