The Weekend Wanderer: 25 June 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


abortion ruling“Dobbs decision and the fall of Roe is met with rejoicing, dismay from faith groups” – Bob Smietana in Religion News Service: “After nearly 50 years, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, is no more. In a 6-3 decision Friday (June 24), the Supreme Court overruled both Roe, decided in 1973, and a 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the constitutional right to abortion. The ruling came in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a Mississippi law that imposed strict restrictions on abortion. ‘Abortion presents a profound moral question,’ the Supreme Court ruled. ‘The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.’ The Dobbs decision has been anticipated since May, when an early draft of the ruling was leaked to Politico. Friday’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion was met with both rejoicing and dismay by faith leaders, who have been loud voices on either side of the abortion debate since before Roe.”


Dates“Charlie Dates to Succeed Retiring Chicago Megachurch Pastor; Will Lead 2 Churches” – Sarah Einselen at The Roys Report: “Nationally known pastor Rev. Charlie Dates is set to succeed Rev. James Meeks next year as senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church—one of Chicago’s biggest megachurches. Meeks, a former state senator, founded Salem Baptist 38 years ago. He announced Sunday he’ll preach his last sermon to the 10,000-member church on January 8, 2023. The 65-year-old has been a pastor for 42 years and said he feels like he’s “got 42 more years in me.’ But Meeks added he’s learned from King David’s life ‘when it’s time to come off the battlefield.’ ‘It’s time for Salem to move forward,” he told his congregants. ‘It’s time for Salem to have younger leadership . . . We need new ideas. We need new opportunities. And God has blessed us with our own son’ as the church’s next pastor. Dates, 41, is senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church—a position he’ll keep, despite assuming the pastorate at Salem. In a video message to Progressive, Dates said the two churches will stay distinct, though he’ll pastor them both.”


Leithart progress“Radical Hope: When worlds die, we need something sturdier than the myth of technological and social progress” – Peter Leithart in Plough: “The year 2020 came down like the wolf on the fold. Then came 2021. And 2022. It feels like ‘the end of the world as we know it.’ It feels like an apocalypse. It may be one. Worlds do die. Historians and junior high students debate the precise end of the Roman Empire and whether it should be described as a ‘fall,’ but no one doubts the Roman Empire now lies peacefully in the graveyard of history. Remnants of medieval life persist in our world, more than we realize, but we no longer live medievally. Worlds can disappear speedily. Less than a month after the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, France’s National Constituent Assembly abolished feudalism and the mandatory tithe, shattering the foundations of medieval order and slashing the alliance between the French monarchy and the Catholic Church that began with Clovis’s baptism in the early sixth century. Within two years, the royal family fled the palace and early in 1793 Louis XVI was executed. More recently: the world that existed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine is gone, a memory of the age of American unipolarity and what was in retrospect a shockingly fragile European peace. The change was rapid and distinct: the week after the invasion, one felt a nostalgia for a stable geopolitical order that simply didn’t exist anymore. Once it was destabilized, its former stability in retrospect looks illusory.”


harmful social media“How Harmful Is Social Media?” – Gideon Lewis-Kraus in The New Yorker: “In April, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published an essay in The Atlantic in which he sought to explain, as the piece’s title had it, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid.” Anyone familiar with Haidt’s work in the past half decade could have anticipated his answer: social media. Although Haidt concedes that political polarization and factional enmity long predate the rise of the platforms, and that there are plenty of other factors involved, he believes that the tools of virality—Facebook’s Like and Share buttons, Twitter’s Retweet function—have algorithmically and irrevocably corroded public life. He has determined that a great historical discontinuity can be dated with some precision to the period between 2010 and 2014, when these features became widely available on phones….These are, needless to say, common concerns. Chief among Haidt’s worries is that use of social media has left us particularly vulnerable to confirmation bias, or the propensity to fix upon evidence that shores up our prior beliefs. Haidt acknowledges that the extant literature on social media’s effects is large and complex, and that there is something in it for everyone. On January 6, 2021, he was on the phone with Chris Bail, a sociologist at Duke and the author of the recent book ‘Breaking the Social Media Prism,’ when Bail urged him to turn on the television. Two weeks later, Haidt wrote to Bail, expressing his frustration at the way Facebook officials consistently cited the same handful of studies in their defense. He suggested that the two of them collaborate on a comprehensive literature review that they could share, as a Google Doc, with other researchers. (Haidt had experimented with such a model before.) Bail was cautious. He told me, ‘What I said to him was, “Well, you know, I’m not sure the research is going to bear out your version of the story,” and he said, “Why don’t we see?”‘”


The Convivial Society“Trading Solitude for Loneliness” – L. M. Sacasas in The Convivial Society: “We live in a world of pervasive connection but also rising rates of loneliness. How do we make sense of this state of affairs? I suspect there are a few answers that may come readily to mind, particularly if you already take a dim view of social media. But I’m intrigued by a certain possibility that had not occurred to me until recently. As I’ve thought about loneliness and digital networks over the years, I’ve done so in conversation with the work of the 20th century political theorist, Hannah Arendt. For one thing, I think Arendt was right about the political stakes. Loneliness and isolation, she argued, were the seedbeds of totalitarianism….But Arendt also helps us distinguish among a variety of experiences that may bear a surface resemblance. Loneliness, for example, is to be distinguished from solitude, and solitude is essential to thought.”


webRNS-Gallup-God1“Poll: Americans’ belief in God is dropping” – Yonat Shimron at Religion News Service: “Belief in God has been one of the strongest, most reliable markers of the persistence of American religiosity over the years. But a new Gallup Poll suggests that may be changing. In the latest Gallup Poll, belief in God dipped to 81%, down 6 percentage points from 2017, and the lowest since Gallup first asked the question in 1944. Even at 81%, Americans’ belief in God remains robust, at least in comparison with Europe, where only 26% said they believed in the God of the Bible, and an additional 36% believe in a higher power, according to a 2018 Pew poll. Throughout the post-World War II era, an overwhelming 98% of U.S. adults said they believed in God. That began to fall in 2011, when 92% of Americans said they believed in God and, in 2013, went down again to 87%. The latest decline may be part of the larger growth in the number of Americans who are unaffiliated or say they have no religion in particular. About 29% of Americans are religious ‘nones’ — people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. ‘Belief is typically the last thing to go,’ said Ryan Burge, assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. ‘They stop attending, they stop affiliating and then they stop believing.'”


Music: Sandra McCracken (ft. All Sons & Daughters), “Trinity Song” (Live), originally from God’s Highway

Let Him In :: William Holman Hunt, “The Light of the World”

William Holman Hunt, The Light of the World; Oil on canvas; 1901-1904.

In the seven letters to early churches which begins the book of Revelation, there is one verse that stands out above others as well known. In the last letter, addressed to the infamous church of Laodicea, Jesus issues a stern rebuke and call to repentance, emphasized with this statement: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). These words of the glorified Lord have effectively spoken to many people, leading them to open their lives to Jesus as Lord. What catches my attention is that these verses are written to a group of people and, not just any group of people, but a group of early disciples known as a church. What strikes me as deeply ironic is that Jesus stands outside the church community. He is standing at the door of the church fellowship’s gathering asking to be let in. Apparently, He is not in their midst.

William Holman Hunt was inspired by Jesus’ words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12), to paint The Light of the World. Hunt painted the same scene three different times. The original was painted in the mid-19th century and today is in the side chapel of Keble College, Oxford. Shortly thereafter, Hunt painted a smaller version which today is in the Manchester City Art Gallery. The third and final version, Holman painted near the end of his life at the turn of the century. It was the largest of all three, bringing the figure of Jesus to life-size proportions. The painting was so revered it actually was sent on a world tour before eventually being purchase and donated to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where it continues to be held today. Jesus stands within an overgrown garden, knocking at a door with a handle only on the inside. The eye-catching frame, which surrounds the painting captures the words of Revelation 3:20, leaving us to reflect on the stunning situation: Jesus is on the outside of lives and even churches. Will the individual let Jesus in? Will the church let Jesus in?

A Prayer on the Transcendent Gift of Adoption in Christ

Blue sky sunshine

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)

Thank You, Father, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit which we have received through faith in Jesus Christ. We could not buy or earn this favor but have received it from You as a generous gift. We don’t take it lightly. Thank You that the Holy Spirit makes us children, not slaves, and brings us boldly and lovingly into Your family. Thank You that we can call out, “Abba, Father!”, by the Spirit and know that we belong and will be heard.

What dramatic sort of gift is this, Lord? How could it be that any who come by faith through Christ might receive the immeasurable gifts of belonging, adoption, and being able to call on You? All these gifts are beyond value. Many things that we pursue with our lives for and strive endlessly after still outpace our wild grasping or earning. Yet here with You we find all we most need given as sheer received gift! What else can we say but “thank You”? Thank You for the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit who speaks of our adoption, confirming within our spirits what the Scriptures tell us is true and our new reality.Thank You that we are heirs of Your full kingdom as we become children—even co-heirs with Christ. Thank You that we are privileged to share in both the suffering and the glory of discipleship with Christ Jesus. As Peter writes, this is “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade…kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Thank You!

And so, Father, with abounding praise and gratitude we step into this day as children of God, heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ, and recipients of the Holy Spirit. We choose to yield and surrender ourselves to You again. Let us enter into the fellowship of Your suffering that we might also enter into the fellowship of Your glory. Strengthen us to deny ourselves that we might also find the abundant life in You. Give us power each step of this journey that we might live a long obedience in the same direction. Again, today, Lord, we declare that we are Yours.

A Prayer-Reflection on Becoming Children of God through Christ

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

To move from achieving to receiving,
earning to inheriting,
slave to child—
all through Christ, the only Son of God,
born as we were born
to bring us into life from death,
into light from darkness,
into belonging from captivity.

Now, His Spirit in our hearts by faith,
we live as children,
calling out to our divine Father,
free and fully alive,
breathing deep God’s fresh air,
secure and at peace
in the Father’s house.

“Mary, a disciple of Christ”: a word from St. Augustine of Hippo

A good word from St. Augustine of Hippo on Mary as a disciple of Christ. This reflects some themes from my message this past week, “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.”

But look here, my brothers and sisters, concentrate more, I beg you, on what follows, concentrate more on what Christ the Lord said as he stretched out his hand over his disciples: This is my mother and these are my brothers; and whoever does the will of my Father who sent me, that person is a brother to me and a sister and a mother (Mt 12:49-50). Didn’t the Virgin Mary do the will of the Father? I mean, she believed by faith, she conceived by faith, she was chosen to be the one from whom salvation in the very midst of the human race would be born for us, she was created by Christ before Christ was created in her. Yes, of course, holy Mary did the will of the Father. And therefore it means more for Mary to have been a disciple of Christ than to have been the mother of Christ. It means more for her, an altogether greater blessing, to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been Christ’s mother. That is why Mary was blessed, because even before she gave him birth, she bore her teacher in her womb.

Just see if it isn’t as I say. While the Lord was passing by, performing divine miracles, with the crowds following him, a woman said: Fortunate is the womb that bore you. And how did the Lord answer, to show that good fortune is not really to be sought in mere family ties? Rather blessed are those who hear the word of God and keepit (Lk 11:27-28). So that is why Mary, too, is blessed, because she heard the word of God and kept it. She kept truth safe in her mind even better than she kept flesh safe in her womb. Christ is truth, Christ is flesh; Christ as truth was in Mary’s mind, Christ as flesh in Mary’s womb; that which is in the mind is greater than what is carried in the womb.

Mary is holy, Mary is blessed, but the Church is something better than the Virgin Mary. Why? Because Mary is part of the Church, a holy member, a quite exceptional member, the supremely wonderful member, but still a member of the whole body. That being so, it follows that the body is something greater than the member. The Lord is the head, and the whole Christ is head and body. How shall I put it? We have a divine head, we have God as our head.

St. Augustine, Sermon 72/A, 7.