The Weekend Wanderer: 21 January 2023

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.


MLK“The Angry Martin Luther King” – Ed Gilbreath in Christianity Today: “In the 2012 superhero film The Avengers, a serpent-like, mechanical behemoth is closing in on our ragtag team of heroes. Tired and overmatched, their only hope lies hidden within the mild-mannered frame of scientist Dr. Bruce Banner, who morphs into the big, green and powerful creature known as the Hulk when rattled by conditions of great stress or anger. Seconds before Banner gives himself over to the rage that transforms him into his alter ego, a no-nonsense Captain America volunteers, ‘Dr. Banner, I think now might be a good time for you to get angry.’ Banner responds with a roguish smile, ‘That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry.’ I’m always angry. I identified with that line and repeated it many times in the weeks after I saw the movie, much to my wife’s chagrin. What resonated with me was that sense of living with a concealed, low-temperature rage; of wanting to avoid difficult people or awkward situations but being dragged into them wholesale nonetheless; of knowing certain conversations with certain folks would invariably lead to unpleasant debates about politics, religion or—heaven forbid—race, but being sucked in anyway; of being looked upon as the harmless black guy my white friends could talk to about virtually anything related to race and know they wouldn’t be unfairly judged. Of course, these are all good things in their own way—sometimes it’s beneficial to be dragged into uncomfortable situations or forced into interacting with people with whom we wouldn’t ordinarily connect; sometimes a fierce debate on a taboo subject such as politics or religion can help both parties see a different side to an issue; sometimes being a person’s nonjudgmental bridge to another cultural perspective can be viewed as an act of compassion and service. I know all that. But sometimes a man gets tired of wearing that façade Paul Laurence Dunbar spoke of so eloquently, and he just wants to detonate. Sometimes the life of constant smiling and pretending and interpreting can wear on the nerves.”


arndt-featuredimage-750x490“Lessons from the Desert: How Frustration with the Church May Be an Invitation of the Spirit” – Andrew Arndt at Missio Alliance: “This conversation happens on the regular for me: ‘Pastor, I just can’t do it anymore,’ the frustrated congregant will say. ‘What can’t you do anymore?’  I’ll reply, though I suspect I know the answer. ‘This. The whole thing. Church. There’s just so much hypocrisy. So much scandal. Leaders are falling left and right. Ministries are being discredited. Entire denominations are failing. And rather than being places where the way of Jesus is deeply cultivated, the church just seems, I don’t know, shallow and superficial at best, consumeristic and dominated by partisan politics at worst. I love Jesus. And I want to follow Jesus. But I can’t do this anymore. I’m out.’  I’m guessing if you’re a pastor or church leader, you’ve had that conversation too—probably many times over. If you’re like me, you love them. The Spirit speaks prophetically to the church in many ways, not least through the voices of those who are ready to throw in the towel because of how spiritually bankrupt the church often proves to be. Indeed, many of us in church leadership are doing the very work we are doing precisely because we also have felt the burning heat of prophetic indignation—and yet believe that God has not and will never abandon his people. And so, when I have those conversations with frustrated and ready-to-throw-in-the-towel congregants, I lean in—both for the church’s sake and for theirs. The Spirit is speaking. Yet the questions remain: just what is the Spirit speaking in our frustrations, and how do we creatively engage the Spirit in a way that builds up rather than tears down, that edifies rather than destroys—not only our own lives but the greater life of the church?” 


Orthodox theological gathering 2023“A historic meeting of Orthodox Christian scholars convenes to confront divisions and war” – Meagan Saliashvili at Religion News Service: “Nearly 400 Orthodox Christian theologians from 44 countries convened in the largest international conference of its kind in Greece on Thursday (Jan. 12) to discuss ‘Nicaea-sized’ questions facing the Eastern Orthodox Church amid war and bitter division. Some of the most contentious issues at the Mega-Conference of the International Orthodox Theological Association, meeting in Volos, have been exposed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which exacerbated a split between a newly independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Kyiv and the Russian Orthodox Church based in Moscow. The conference’s keynote speaker, Metropolitan Ambrosios (Zografos) of Korea and Exarch of Japan, a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, told the assembly Wednesday evening that the various branches of Orthodox Christianity had fomented a heresy by taking sides in the war, calling it “an unspeakable travesty” that as a result, “most Orthodox leaders have failed to condemn this diabolical war unequivocally. ‘We cannot even say, “Well this is a war driven by politicians. Our churches are against it,”‘ Ambrosios said, ‘because so few of our church leaders have actually taken a public anti-war stance.’  At the root of the Russia-Ukraine split is a theological heresy called ethno-phyletism that conflates church and nation, Ambrosios argued. The practice of applying church governance based on ethnicity, nationality or culture rather than geography, the metropolitan said, is ‘nothing less than the greatest danger to the Orthodox unity of the church.'”


fine-tuning-space“What do ‘fine-tuning’ and the ‘multiverse’ say about God?” – Editors at the BioLogos blog: “Scientists of all worldviews agree that the physical constants of our universe and the conditions of the early universe are exquisitely fine-tuned for life. Multiple theories in physics predict that our universe may be one of very many, an idea known as the multiverse. Some Christians argue that fine-tuning is proof of God’s existence, while some atheists argue that the multiverse replaces God. Neither conclusion can be reached on the basis of science alone, because the existence of God is not a scientific question. Yet our fruitful cosmos resonates with the Christian understanding of God as the creator of a world fit for life. When viewed through the eyes of faith, we see a personal God crafting an abundant, complex universe that includes our life-giving home, the Earth. Even if multiverse theories eventually explain scientifically how our universe began, the multiverse itself would still be God’s creation. Scientific explanations cannot replace God but rather increase our wonder and praise of the Creator God.”


Title IX exemptions“U.S. judge upholds Title IX exemption for religious schools” – Nate Raymond at Reuters: “A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by 40 LGBTQ+ individuals against the U.S. Department of Education challenging a provision of Title IX that allows religious colleges to seek exemptions from the civil rights law’s bar against sex-based discrimination. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday wrote that exempting religious schools from Title IX to avoid interfering with their convictions is ‘substantially related to the government’s objective of accommodating religious exercise.’ The Religious Exemption Accountability Project, an advocacy group representing LGBTQ+ former and current students who said they were discriminated against at religious colleges, sued in 2021 to have the exemption declared unconstitutional. The group argued that the exemption violated the students’ equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution by treating them differently than other students due to their sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.”


im-704193“Rise in middle-aged white ‘deaths of despair’ may be fueled by loss of religion, new research paper argues” – Steve Goldstein at MarketWatch: “So-called deaths of despair such as from suicide or alcohol abuse have been skyrocketing for middle-aged white Americans. It’s been blamed on various phenomenon, including opioid abuse. But a new research paper finds a different culprit — declining religious practice. The working paper, from Tyler Giles of Wellesley College, Daniel Hungerman of the University of Notre Dame, and Tamar Oostrom of The Ohio State University, looked at the relationship between religiosity and mortality from deaths of despair. The paper was circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The authors noted that many measures of religious adherence began to decline in the late 1980s. They find that the large decline in religious practice was driven by the group experiencing the subsequent increases in mortality: white middle-aged Americans without a college degree. States that experienced larger declines in religious participation in the last 15 years of the 20th century saw larger increases in deaths of despair. The researchers looked at the repeal of blue laws in particular. Blue laws limited commerce, typically on Sunday mornings. ‘These laws have been shown to be strongly related to religious practice, creating discrete changes in incentives to attend religious services that are plausibly unrelated to other drivers of religiosity,’ they said.”


Music: Mahalia Jackson, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

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