The Weekend Wanderer: 1 April 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.

Nashville“Weeping in Nashville” – Scott Sauls in Religion News Service: “This Monday morning, parents were dropping their children off at The Covenant School anticipating a bright, sunny, promising day of love, friendship and learning. No one could fathom what would happen soon after this, when a 28-year-old assailant entered the building and opened fire, resulting in the loss of life for three 9-year-old children, three adults on staff and then the assailant as police intervened. Part of a pastor’s calling is to enter into life’s disorienting, gut-punching, heart-ripping spaces and offer perspective on questions that honestly cannot be answered. This is especially true when the main question being asked is, ‘Why?’ Why would a good and loving God who is sovereign over every square inch of the universe, who knows the number of hairs on our heads, who said, “Let the little children come to me,” and who promised again and again to be our shield, our protector and our defender allow for the senseless loss of life for these precious little ones? Why would the same God let faithful, loving, godly educators also be gutted from their families and communities so prematurely? Why would he allow the young survivors and those who took great risk to protect them experience the trauma of being there, of hearing the gunfire, of being rushed frantically to places of safety, and then be marked by the memory for the rest of their precious and fragile lives? Why would he not foil and fail the shooter’s plans before a single shot was fired?”

“Is It Time to Quit ‘Quiet Time’?” – Dru Johnson and Celinda Durgin in Christianity Today: “The disconnect crystalized 12 years ago when I (Dru) started teaching an introductory Old Testament class to freshmen. Every semester, devout Christian students would report to me that they read their Bibles every day. They could even recite key verses from memory. They were fluent in Christian theological clichés. Yet despite their constant engagement with the Bible, they were shocked by what we found in Genesis—such as there being some things God appears not to know (Gen. 11:5; 18:21; 22:12)—not to mention Judges. I began to realize that their poor grasp of Scripture wasn’t necessarily due to a lack of reading, although that’s also a large problem in the US. From 2021 to 2022, Bible engagement—scored on frequency of use, spiritual impact, and moral importance in day-to-day life—fell 21 percent among American adult Bible users. It was the American Bible Society’s largest recorded one-year drop in its annual State of the Bible study. And almost 1 in 5 churchgoers said they never read the Bible. But for my students, many of whom read the Bible daily and have chosen to attend a Christian college, their poor grasp on and application of Scripture seems to be due to the way they engage with it. It is a way many American Christians have been reading the Bible for decades: through ‘daily devotions’ or ‘quiet time.’ The way daily quiet time is typically practiced today is unlikely to yield the fluency required to understand and apply biblical teaching. Only when devotional time is situated within a matrix of Scripture study habits can it regain its power to transform our thinking and our communities.”

45423350995_f206a574f6_k.jpg“Seeds of Contemplation and Revolution amid War: The subversive power of attention and presence” – Andrew DeCort in Comment: “In 1967, Pope Paul VI asked the Catholic monk Thomas Merton to write a letter from contemplatives to the world. It was a time of social upheaval and cold war. And yet here was a pope, representing a public institution, asking for those who spend their days in practices of prayerful listening to weigh in from the silence. The pope’s invitation was daunting, but Merton saw in it an opportunity for a needed dialogue between the interior and the exterior, a back-and-forth that seemed far too rare. So he began. The fifty-two-year-old Merton explained that he had entered the monastery ‘in revolt against the meaningless confusion of a life in which there was so much activity, so much movement, so much useless talk, that I could not remember who I was.’ And then he wrote, ‘Can I tell you that I have found answers to the questions that torment the [person] of our time? I do not know if I have found answers. . . . As I grow old in the monastic life and advance further into solitude, I become aware that I have only begun to seek the questions.’  Merton was serious. In another letter, this time to the historian Herbert Mason, he asked, ‘Who are we that we wake up in the morning expecting ourselves to “do something for” somebody or for “the world”?'”

Charles Pace - gospel“Pioneer of gospel music rediscovered in Pittsburgh archives” – Jessie Wardarski at The Associated Press: “Scattered in crates, dirty and difficult to read, the gospel music of composer Charles Henry Pace sat packed away, unorganized — and unrealized — for more than 20 years. Frances Pace Barnes, the pioneering music publisher’s daughter who remembers how he could turn a hum into a song, knew the crates held pieces of her family’s past. But she was not expecting those decaying printing plates and papers to reveal an important part of gospel music history. ‘I didn’t know it was going to be a legacy,’ said Pace Barnes. As it turns out, her father was one of the first African American gospel music composers in the United States, and the owner of one of the country’s first independent, Black gospel music publishing companies. Today, the University of Pittsburgh is restoring his work from the 1920s to the 1950s and cementing his place in the genre’s history. It was the curiosity of music historian Christopher Lynch that set the Charles Henry Pace preservation project into motion. ‘This is something that we can, as Pittsburghers, all be proud of,’ said Lynch with a smile. ‘Charles Pace was a tremendous figure in music history.’ Long after Pace died in 1963, his music store, which was first known as the Old Ship of Zion and later changed to the Charles H. Pace Music Publishers located in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, was sold and his archives went with it. Eventually, the materials made their way to auction, and the university’s library system bought them in 1999.”

“COVID-19 sent houses of worship online. Will congregations come back in person?” – Ryan Burge at Religion News Service: “When the COVID-19 pandemic led governors across the United States to close places where people congregated, religious organizations were left scrambling. While some larger houses of worship had already been broadcasting their weekend services online, many had to suddenly and urgently master the logistics of streaming worship online. The vast majority adapted quickly. In 2020, Lifeway, the Southern Baptist Convention’s research arm, indicated that just a few months into the pandemic, 97% of churches were offering some form of online worship, salvaging the best form of connection to their congregants they had. Today, as a result, many religious leaders are facing a difficult transition: How do they nudge people off of streaming and back into the pews for weekend worship? And will they ever pull the plug on streaming services altogether?  Data from the Pew Research Center just uploaded to the Association of Religion Data Archives provides interesting insights into how religious Americans expected online services to reshape their religious lives. The American Trends Panel Wave 70 was conducted in July of 2020 — still early days of the pandemic, so it represents only worshippers’ intentions. But the survey provides some of the most wide-ranging and revealing numbers we have seen on attendance before and after the pandemic.”

Alasdair MacIntyre“After Liberalism: What does Alasdair MacIntyre want?” – Jennifer A. Frey in The Hedgehog Review: “There are different ways to conceive of the task of writing the biography of a prominent philosopher. The most familiar is to approach its subject with the goal of showing how these works sprang forth from this person. One example of this method is Ray Monk’s justly famous 1990 biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Duty of Genius. Such a project situates the philosophical works against the backdrop not just of time and place but of the private affairs and the inner life—the spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or political world—of its subject. Émile Perreau-Saussine’s ‘intellectual biography’ of Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929) is something different. He has little concern for MacIntyre’s private life (although we do learn in a short footnote that he had three wives and four children), and not much for his public life, either, beyond some explorations of the various institutions and projects he involved himself in back in his activist years. Perreau-Saussine, a scholar of political philosophy and ideas at Cambridge University who died tragically young in 2010, does not present what Pierre Manent in his foreword calls ‘the story of a soul.’ I would argue that it is not truly a biography but an account of how MacIntyre has struggled, over the course of his long (and ongoing) career, to articulate an antiliberal philosophy that avoids the pitfalls of either communism or fascism, while taking the former’s concern with justice and the latter’s concern with nobility into his account of a virtue ethics that he sees as indispensable to collective human flourishing. According to MacIntyre’s neo-Aristotelian interpretation, most fully formulated in After Virtue, there can be no true justice or true nobility apart from virtue and character formation, and there can be no character formation outside the community—its practices, traditions, customs, and laws. Perreau-Saussine’s interest in his subject is clearly political: MacIntyre is worth studying because the progression of his thought helps us better understand our own relationship to liberalism in terms of both its trajectory in the latter half of the twentieth century and its prospects in the twenty-first. Perreau-Saussine sees MacIntyre as ‘a privileged figure’ within the long history of antiliberalism, one of its “eminent cases,” the close study of which reveals its necessity and its absurdities.”

Music: “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” by St. Theodulph of Orleans, from Easter at King’s 2018

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