“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.
“15 Prayers for a Violent World” – W. David O. Taylor in Christianity Today: “It’s tempting to shut down emotionally in light of all of this violence. It’s tempting to give into despair. ‘So goes the world,’ we might say, wishing it were otherwise but feeling powerless to make a difference. It’s tempting to distract ourselves with busywork or to reach for spiritual platitudes to numb the pain. ‘Let go and let God.’ ‘God works in mysterious ways.’ ‘Heaven’s our real home.’ But our world is a violent one and the Bible does not allow us to ignore its violence or to explain it away with tidy theological slogans. It asks us to face our world squarely, together, and, where needed, to yell our rage to God. The Bible invites us to get angry at God, because he can handle all our bitter, angry tears and curses. And such words need to be said out loud, because that’s partly how we keep the chaos of violence from taking root in our own hearts. As I write in my book on the psalms, there is no faithful prayer in Israel’s official book of worship, the Psalter, that trivializes evil, no genuine faith that ignores the destructive powers of sin, and no true witness that turns a blind eye to the violence of our world. It is for this reason that we turn to the psalms for guidance in times such as these, for they show us what we can—and indeed should—be praying in a violent world. But a question remains: How exactly do we pray in the aftermath of such violence? What words of lament can we put on our lips that make sense of the senseless? To what could the whole people of God possibly say “amen” in light of the corrosive power of hate that allows neighbor to irrationally kill neighbor? What do an exhausted and dispirited people say to God at such a time? These questions are, of course, far from easy to answer, but over the past couple of years I have attempted to give language to such matters in the form of Collect Prayers—in the hopes that they might prove useful, and perhaps comforting, to people who face the terrors and traumas of violent activities in one form or another.”
“An Old Course in a Country New: Political theology between quietism and theocracy” – James Mumford in Comment: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That, all too often, has been the fate of political theology. Theology in the contemporary West has faced two main reproaches. First, that any kind of engagement in politics betrays theocratic pretensions. Second, that Christianity is fundamentally quietist—that is, always acquiescing to the status quo. Consider the public reputation of Christianity when it comes to two particular areas of life. First, on matters of gender and sexuality, progressives fear that imposing arcane regulations derived from ancient sex codes on the modern world will restrict human liberty. As the public debates over gay marriage in the early 2000s clearly demonstrated, painting the traditional Christian position on the goods of marriage as fundamentally parochial aided the cause of changing marriage laws in Western countries. The mere impression that the theological convictions of the few could rule the many undermined efforts to show how the traditional definition of marriage emerged from multiple thick traditions of thought and practice. This is the theocratic suspicion. But it’s quite the opposite with the environmental movement. When it comes to the effort to stave off climate disaster, the common perception is not that Christianity is too political but that it is not political enough. Christianity has been criticized for being too otherworldly to care about the fate of the planet. This is the quietist charge. So the two charges make opposing claims. The second reverses the first. The first insists theology stay out of politics and mind its own business. The second rebukes theology for having stayed out of politics and minded its own business. Theology is damned if it does politics, damned if it doesn’t.”
“For better or for worse, the church is keeping Haiti afloat” – Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “When societies lack good governance and social stability, churches and clergy often fill in the gaps. In some cases, notably in modern Africa, church leaders can become something like kingmakers. In the Western Hemisphere, the nation of Haiti exemplifies the pivotal role of Christian churches in politics. The nation was born in the 1790s from the incredible turmoil of the great revolt of an enslaved population and the decades of war and devastation that followed. Famously, Haiti has always retained its African religious heritage in the form of vodun, but the great majority of the people also asserted their faithful Catholic roots. Most recently, evangelical and Pentecostal churches have boomed, partly as a consequence of the new forms of faith Haitian migrants encountered when they set up homes in US cities such as Boston and Miami. Today, Protestants (mainly evangelicals) make up some 30 percent of the country’s 11 million people, compared to 55 percent Catholic and 10 percent nones.”
“How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church: The movement spent 40 years at war with secular America. Now it’s at war with itself.” – Tim Alberta in The Atlantic: “‘Before I turn to the Word,’ the preacher announces, ‘I’m gonna do another diatribe.’ ‘Go on!’ one man yells. ‘Amen!’ shouts a woman several pews in front of me. Between 40 minutes of praise music and 40 minutes of preaching is the strangest ritual I’ve ever witnessed inside a house of worship. Pastor Bill Bolin calls it his ‘diatribe.’ The congregants at FloodGate Church, in Brighton, Michigan, call it something else: ‘Headline News.’ Bolin, in his mid-60s, is a gregarious man with thick jowls and a thinning wave of dyed hair. His floral shirt is untucked over dark-blue jeans. ‘On the vaccines …’ he begins. For the next 15 minutes, Bolin does not mention the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, or the life everlasting. Instead, he spouts misinformation and conspiratorial nonsense, much of it related to the ‘radically dangerous’ COVID-19 vaccines. ‘A local nurse who attends FloodGate, who is anonymous at this time—she reported to my wife the other day that at her hospital, they have two COVID patients that are hospitalized. Two.’ Bolin pauses dramatically. ‘They have 103 vaccine-complication patients.’ The crowd gasps.”
“David Whyte: Seeking Language Large Enough” – Krista Tippett interviews philosopher-poet David Whyte in On Being: “It has ever and always been true, David Whyte reminds us, that so much of human experience is a conversation between loss and celebration. This conversational nature of reality — indeed, this drama of vitality — is something we have all been shown, willing or unwilling, in these years. Many have turned to David Whyte for his gorgeous, life-giving poetry and his wisdom at the interplay of theology, psychology, and leadership — his insistence on the power of a beautiful question and of everyday words amidst the drama of work as well as the drama of life. The notion of “frontier” — inner frontiers, outer frontiers — weaves through this hour. We surface this as a companion for the frontiers we are all on just by virtue of being alive in this time.”
“Is Reading Fiction a Waste of Time?” – Kathleen A. Mulhern in Plough: “For the last decade, I’ve been teaching Christian formation at a seminary, and part of the instruction has included a justification of the whole concept of formation, which has not been a common term in many evangelical circles. If I were to switch to talking about “discipleship,” evangelical minds might move into the ordinary grooves: Bible study, evangelism, small groups, intercessory prayer. For decades, this simple and tidy list of spiritual practices, which revolve around church and home, made up the evangelical’s limited arsenal for Christian living. When Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline was first published in the late 1970s, however, a whole new menu of practices – foreign to the evangelical world for the most part but rooted in ancient rhythms – triggered an awareness of possibilities to make the spiritual life deeper and richer. At seminary today we continue to engage in this ressourcement, the recovery of historical ways of thought and practice. Alongside this ecclesial archaeology, however, we need to tackle the marked differences between ancient disciplines and the modern world. Twenty-first-century technology, lifestyles, and societal norms have made spiritual disciplines of any kind more daunting, more squeezed, more focused on productivity and information management. There is no time to waste. Which is why the idea of making a new spiritual discipline for the twenty-first century, one that has no measurable effect while demanding a great deal of time, seems counterintuitive.”
Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Chelsey Scott], “Psalm 46,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2