“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.
“Our Memory Is Flawed. Luckily, God’s Isn’t.” – Tish Harrison Warren in The New York Times: “In August, my sister and I took my mom on a trip to Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. It’s a special place to my mom. She and my late father went there for their honeymoon over five decades ago, and she’s been back many times since. There’s a particular restaurant where she likes to get shrimp bisque. She likes the cheery sea wall and the chocolate shop downtown. But mostly she wants to watch the waves and the children playing along the shore. It was a good trip, but Mom will probably not remember any of it. Even now, just a few weeks later, she may have already forgotten that it happened. Mom is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. She knows who we are and remembers everyone’s names. She can tell you who her third-grade teacher was, but not what happened a week ago or a month ago or 10 minutes ago. For me, being with her is like looking through a camera coming in and out of focus. At times, things blur, go soft and fuzzy. She’s quiet and distant and seems to fade. And then, boom, a moment later, she seems like the mother I once knew. Laughing, opinionated, witty. She was an incredibly competent, accomplished and driven woman. She started a small business and became mayor of her little town, and I wonder in the months and years to come what she will continue to remember about her life, about who she used to be.”
“Died: Brother Andrew, Who Smuggled Bibles into Communist Countries” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “Anne van der Bijl, a Dutch evangelical known to Christians worldwide as Brother Andrew, the man who smuggled Bibles into closed Communist countries, has died at the age of 94. Van der Bijl became famous as ‘God’s smuggler’ when the first-person account of his missionary adventures—slipping past border guards with Bibles hidden in his blue Volkswagen Beetle—was published in 1967. God’s Smuggler was written with evangelical journalists John and Elizabeth Sherrill and published under his code name ‘Brother Andrew.’ It sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages. The book inspired numerous other missionary smugglers, provided funding to van der Bilj’s ministry Open Doors, and drew evangelical attention to the plight of believers in countries where Christian belief and practice were illegal. Van der Bijl protested that people missed the point, however, when they held him up as heroic and extraordinary. ‘I am not an evangelical stuntman,” he said. “I am just an ordinary guy. What I did, anyone can do.'” You may also want to visit Open Doors’ website remembering Brother Andrew’s legacy here.
“How M.I.A. Found Jesus” – Tyler Huckabee at Relevant: “‘It’s an interesting time for a Brown person to turn up in America and say, “Look, there’s truth in Christianity.”‘ Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam isn’t giving an understatement. The hip-hop icon known as M.I.A.’s reflections are unspooling at a pace you might call slow and steady. She chooses her language carefully, owning her own discomfort a number of times. While she’s known for her high tempo, energetic delivery as M.I.A., in conversation she’s precise, open, vulnerable and a little cautious. There are moments when she takes so long in choosing the right word that I almost wonder if our connection got lost. But her carefulness is understandable. She’s still a little new at being a Christian, and she hasn’t talked about it on the record very much. Until now. ‘When I’m confused about it, I’ll share my confusion,’ she says. ‘But if I’m clear about it, and you catch me on a clear day, then I will be more clear. And right now I think the only clear thing I can say is that even when I had no belief in Jesus Christ and Christianity, and even when I was 100 percent comfortable in Hinduism, it was a Christian God that turned up to save me,’ she says. “And I think there is truth in that.'”
“In ‘Work Pray Code,’ author Carolyn Chen reflects on what happens when we worship work” – Stefano Kotsonis and Meghna Chakrabarti from On Point at WBUR: “Sociologist Carolyn Chen studied Silicon Valley and discovered that tech firm culture had become a kind of religion. ‘The workplace was the last meaningful institution standing,’ she says. ‘It was an institution that offered the best means for meaning, identity, belonging and purpose.’ In return for their workers’ devotion, companies take care of their every need. ‘It’s very easy to drink the Kool-Aid, as it were,’ Jessica Dai says. ‘It’s very easy to be sucked into, Oh, just do all of the things that have been planned out for you.’ Today, On Point: What happens when work is like a religion, and the workplace the only community? ‘The flip side of that is public brokenness, where you have people withdrawing from the political system, disengagement from the public. That is a public problem,’ Chen adds.”
“The Mega Church Born Again” – Matthew Milliner in Mere Orthodoxy: “I arrived in the Thessaloniki airport and passed by the customs office, its door casually propped open, and saw everything I had come to Greece to avoid: a framed reproduction of Warner Sallman’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed American Jesus, testimony to the global reach of that thing we call evangelicalism. I had come to escape all that, to experience the power of ancient icons, and the cheap reproduction in the airport portrait told me that if that was my objective, I had better move fast. So I attacked the storied city of Thessaloniki with my feet. I was less an evangelical now than I was a jet-setting grad student with a modest research budget, and I was on a mission. Just outside the hotel where I stashed my bag was an ancient Roman agora. I was not interested in the Romans, however, but in those they killed. A block north I visited the spacious basilica of the early Christian martyr St. Demetrios, a son of senatorial privilege whose Christian faith, legend tells us, earned him a spear in the gut. I had been in many an American megachurch, and the basilica of St. Demetrios was the early Christian equivalent, accommodating the influx that came with an increasingly fashionable faith. The five-aisles of the church mirrored the five-aisled modern highways that accommodate traffic congestion today.”
“An Interview with Johnny Cash” – In Plough Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio shares an interview from 1972, in which Johnny Cash talks about faith and music – and then breaks into song: “Pioneering interviewer Ken Myers, whose Mars Hill Audio Journal was being circulated on audiotape long before the concept of the podcast was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, recently offered us at The PloughCast the opportunity to share with our listeners an extraordinary piece of history: his very first interview, which he did backstage at a concert near the University of Maryland, where he was still going, in 1972. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ken Myers, interviewing Johnny Cash. ‘Johnny Cash: I’ve been through a lot in my time, and I always knew that God was saving me for something special. I believe we’re doing that work right now. Ken Myers: In the fall of 1972, not long after Cash kicked his nearly fatal amphetamine habit and his career rebounded as yet another generation took a liking to his music, I had an opportunity to interview Johnny Cash. It was the very first interview I ever did. I was nineteen, and I just started a Christian radio program on the campus station. I thought it would give the show a boost to feature interviews with some celebrities, and Cash, who had sung gospel music all of his life, had recently been collaborating with Billy Graham and with Campus Crusade for Christ. He and June Carter Cash were performing not far from where I went to school.'”
Music: Johnny Cash, “Amazing Grace”