“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, 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.
“A Tale of Two New York City Pastors” – Kara Bettis Carvalho in Christianity Today: “On a sunny March afternoon in 2014, I found myself jumping on the L train from Manhattan to Williamsburg to interview a young, urban pastor named Carl Lentz in his luxury waterfront apartment. A trendy evangelical magazine wanted me to profile him. With its nightclub venues and award-winning worship music, his Hillsong church was attracting thousands of diverse young people from around New York City. Lentz is now featured in an FX documentary, The Secrets of Hillsong, which examines his string of affairs and the embattled church he left behind. The four-episode exposé features a solemn and emotional Lentz sharing that he was sexually abused as a child, admitting to moral failings (from sexual indiscretions to drug abuse), and describing the conflict among Hillsong leadership and staff. The documentary dropped the same day that another New York City pastor made headlines: Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s founder, Tim Keller, died of cancer on May 19. In the mid-2000s, both Redeemer and Hillsong drew flocks of spiritually curious New Yorkers, and both brought in around 5,000 attendees weekly across several services. For two years during college, I attended both churches simultaneously. After growing up as a homeschooled pastor’s kid in New England, I moved to New York City for undergrad. But it wasn’t just the star-studded Manhattan sidewalks that grabbed my attention; it was also the churches led by rapidly rising evangelical stars, including Keller and Lentz.”
“How evangelical Christian writer Jemar Tisby became a radioactive symbol of ‘wokeness'” – Bob Smietana in Religion News Service: “Over the past decade, Jemar Tisby’s life has largely been shaped by two forces: the Bible, and the deaths of young Black men, often at the hands of law enforcement. About a decade ago, Tisby, then a seminary student in Jackson, Mississippi, helped start a new group called the Reformed African American Network — an offshoot of the ‘Young, Restless, and Reformed’ movement that had spread like wildfire among evangelical Christians in the first decade of the 21st century. The group hoped to write about racial reconciliation from the viewpoint of Reformed theology, the ideas most closely associated with the ideas of John Calvin and popularized at the time by preachers and authors such as John Piper. But amid this resurgence of Reformed thought, there were few resources to be had on race issues. Then, in 2012 in Florida, Trayvon Martin, a Black teen, was killed by the neighborhood watch coordinator of a gated community. All of a sudden, people in the movement were listening. At the time, Tisby said in an interview, he and others raised their hands and said they had something to offer. The mostly white leaders of the Reformed movement, he said, welcomed them. ‘I believed them,’ he said. ‘I thought, we are here, they must want us here.’ Over the next few years, Tisby, a former pastor turned history professor, became a leading voice on race among evangelicals through his writing and as co-host of ‘Pass the Mic,’ a popular podcast.”
“To Labour is to Love: Dorothy L. Sayers and putting first things first” – Jessica Hooten Wilson in Comment: “In January I agreed to participate in a gathering at the local brewery in my small town. Each Thursday, about a dozen people buy pints and sit around an armchair where a designated reader reads from the work of an author. I chose Dorothy L. Sayers’s famous essay “Why Work?” Sitting under the tall lamp, inhaling hops and keeping my coat on because of the cool night air, I began slowly. “Sayers wrote and delivered this as a lecture eighty years ago,” I said by way of context. A white-haired woman turned to her daughter and whispered, ‘I was in second grade that year.’ We sat and absorbed Sayers’s logic as it unspooled aloud, all of us transported to 1942 London. Sayers was writing in the middle of war when rationing and communal sacrifice were a necessity on the part of British citizens. She argued that their efforts at conservation and purposeful work should not be a temporary situation. Rather, the requirements of the crisis had provided them a pause in which to reconceive the default social system, which had led not only to waste in vast amounts but also to unsatisfying work. For Sayers, human beings are created to be workers, but that work should be profoundly fulfilling. She opposed the Fascist and Communist perspectives that each person does equal work without discerning personal calling, capabilities, or fulfillment. Instead, she argued, work should be ‘the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.’ Sayers saw all work as equal, from brewing to farming to retail service to art. What was needed was human beings who worked in order to live and who served the work placed before them.”
“Paul Simon Finds the Lord” – Timothy Larsen at Current: “Paul Simon, now 81, is from a generation that has always been strangely embarrassed by religion. Although his family belonged to a synagogue and he took instruction in Judaism and was bar mitzvahed, throughout his career Simon has been anxious to be seen as entirely secular. Just last year, when an interviewer tried to uncover Jewish influences in his songs, his instinct was to deny it. But the secular Simon has never made much sense. After all, his first hit, ‘The Sound of Silence,’ included the words, ‘And the people bowed and prayed / To the neon god they made . . . The words of the prophets are written on the subway wall.’ That success was reinforced by ‘Mrs. Robinson,’ which straight out of the gate was proclaiming: ‘Jesus loves you more than you will know . . . God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson / Heaven holds a place for those who pray.’ Then in 1973 came Simon’s Gospel song ‘Love Me Like a Rock,’ which is about a ‘consecrated boy’ who sings in the Sunday choir and resists the devil. Or, ‘Get Ready for Christmas Day’ (2010), a song that incorporates the voice of the Rev. J. M. Gates preaching. Not to mention album titles such as Graceland (1986) and The Rhythm of the Saints (1990). It’s harder than it looks to keep on the straight and narrow path of secularity. Making it yet more difficult, like the biblical Joseph, Simon is also a dreamer of dreams. On January 15, 2019—the anniversary of his father’s death—he had a dream in which he was informed, ‘You are writing, or are meant to write, a piece called Seven Psalms.'”
“Mended to Make” – An Interview with Makoto Fujimura by Chris Carter in Ekstasis: “‘Silence’ is a word full of the connotations of absence; we hear it as a space to be filled. In situations defined by this perceived absence, we often deploy an army of words to subdue and order the void. The ironic thing, though, is that silence doesn’t fight back; it yields itself to our onslaught, making itself a willing victim of our perennial need to be heard. It stretches its arms out wide to receive all that pours from our tongues. Like the ocean, it’s expansive enough to receive all we throw into it. Artist and author Makoto Fujimura, known also as Mako, is no stranger to the perplexing questions that silence raises, both in the concept itself, but also in the titular book he bases much of his theological pondering upon. In the novel Silence, Shūsaku Endō narrates a tale that stares into the sea of silence. The work is witness to a society in transition. In the early 1600s, Japan was saturated by a flood of Catholic missionaries. The situation changed drastically, however, in the 1620s when the shogun forbade the religion. Japanese believers were now forced to choose between an imported faith they cherished and the culture into which they were born. Amid this persecution, Fathers Rodrigues and Garrpe sneak into Japan to bolster the believers’ flagging faith and to ascertain the whereabouts of Father Ferreira. During their mission, they meet a range of Christians, some strong and others bent and broken. As Father Rodrigues witnesses the brutal suppression of Japanese believers, his faith wavers under the reality that his Lord is silent amidst the pain. In the end, he chooses to apostatize in order to save the lives of many Japanese believers. When I first encountered this story, I was bewildered by Rodrigues’s choice. I strove to make sense of it, but, like the consuming sea Endō uses as a central motif, my conclusions were swallowed in the wake. ‘Endō is holding the fragments,’ Mako said, ‘and asking us the question, “What are you going to do with it? Are you going to judge it, fragment it further, or are you going to behold it and identify with the lines, the shapes, the sharp edges of these fragments?”‘”
“Martin Scorsese Meets Pope Francis, Announces Film About Jesus – Report” – Nick Vivarelli in Variety: “Martin Scorsese is on a post-Cannes tour of Italy where over the weekend the director, known for having a religious bent, met with Pope Francis and announced that he will make a film about Jesus. ‘I have responded to the Pope’s appeal to artists in the only way I know how: by imagining and writing a screenplay for a film about Jesus,’ Scorsese announced on Saturday during a Rome conference at the Vatican, according to multiple reports. ‘And I’m about to start making it,’ the director added, suggesting that this could be his next film. Also on Saturday, before attending the conference – titled ‘The Global Aesthetics of the Catholic Imagination’ – Scorsese and his wife Helen Morris met Pope Francis during a brief private audience at the Vatican.”
Music: Paul Simon, “Seven Psalms“