Is the Breaking Bad Finale Too Neat?

  **Warning: Massive Spoilers**   Amidst the mostly unanimous praise for Breaking Bad’s finale this past Sunday there was one steady complaint from a fair share of critics: Was the finale too neat? Alan Sepinwall raised the point at HitFix but Matt Yglesias’s wooden criticism at Slate may have been the firmest on the point. The trouble with the criticism (and to his credit, Yglesias himself acknowledges this) is that it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what Breaking Bad was…. Read more

The Idolatry of Breaking Bad

     **WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT **   The empire has fallen. All that remains of our Ozymandias is a broken, bloodied body – infected with cancer but finally killed by a bullet wound. The story, after its climax at the confrontation of anti-hero and hero, has winded down slowly, but satisfyingly, through its denouement to its final conclusion last night. The question remains: will Walter’s story be for naught, gradually forgotten as we fill our evenings with the next smash serial, or… Read more

Overgrown

  When James Blake debuted on the independent music scene in 2011 with his self-titled first LP, his appeal lay not only in his musicianship and songwriting abilities, but in his unique, genre-defying sound. Fusing dubstep with serious classical piano chops, jazz chords, and soulful vocals, Blake’s music is strikingly unique, yet surprisingly cohesive. Pair all of this with charming interpersonal awkwardness and a British accent, and you have an instant commercial success. While it isn’t always the case that… Read more

Why Priests?

  The first priest that Garry Wills takes aim at isn’t a man in a clerical collar. It’s Christ. A significant proportion of the book is spent disputing Jesus’s lineage as a priest in the order of Melchizedek (as laid out in the Letter to the Hebrews), but Wills isn’t trying to strip Jesus of titles. He means to recast Jesus in a role he respects more—not a priest, but a Jewish prophet. Quoth Wills: Jesus was a radical Jewish… Read more

The Real Paradox of Individualism

  In contemporary American political discourse, there are two poles of authority and power: the individual and the state. Their relationship is inverse and antagonistic; as one waxes, the other wanes. Thus, our world is split conceptually between the realm of state authority and the realm of individual autonomy, and politics is the working-out of the boundary between the two. Politicians may pay lip service to concepts such as “family” and “community,” but ultimately the individual-state bipolar scheme is buttressed… Read more

Politics and Faith: Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich at Union Seminary in New York

Christianity, as a faith rooted necessarily in history, has been shaped by theologians battered to and fro by the happenings of their world. Augustine wrote his City of God as the barbarians massed at the walls of his city; Jonathan Edwards penned his landmark Freedom of the Will from his home in Stockbridge that doubled as a barricade against French and Indian assaults; and Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich developed theological systems in the midst of 20th century global upheaval… Read more

Out with the Old

Edith Schaeffer died this past Holy Saturday at her home in Gryon, Switzerland at the age of 98. She was a retired missionary, writer, and speaker who, along with her husband Francis, founded the residential study center L’Abri in 1955 in the small Swiss village of Huemoz. Over the next 30 years, the two would work to radically alter the shape of American evangelicalism and American Christianity more broadly. As others have noted, the Schaeffers were themselves fundamentalists when they… Read more

The Theology of Breaking Bad

  Editor’s Note: Massive Spoilers. Read at your own risk. Breaking Bad is one of the most ethically complicated dramas on television today. The series explores themes of sin, guilt, forgiveness, and damantion through the transformation of Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin. Calling the series’s thematic landscape a philosophy fails to fully appreciate its religious dimensions; in this essay, I will sketch a few tenets of what we might call the theology of Breaking Bad…. Read more

Cancer and Divine Transcendence

  When your phone goes off in class, your biggest concern is usually the teacher’s reaction. But in that moment, I could not have cared less what my professor was thinking. For staring me in the face was the worst text I had ever received. One of my best friends from home had just gotten word from his oncologist that, less than a year after it had been defeated the first time, his leukemia was back with a vengeance. After… Read more

Reforming Desire

  I recently heard a priest make the following statement in a homily on the virtue of faith: “As a teenager, I thought that Heaven was essentially a mass that never ended. The very idea of sitting through a never-ending series of church hymns repulsed me. Nevertheless, I wanted to want this because I believed I should.” Putting aside the idea of Heaven as a never-ending series of church hymns, a few immensely important questions arise from this glimpse into… Read more