The Weekend Wanderer: 16 October 2021

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 the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


6531“India’s Christians living in fear as claims of ‘forced conversions’ swirl” – Hannah Ellis-Petersen in The Guardian: “It was a stifling July afternoon when the crowd moved into the small district of Lakholi, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, and gathered outside the house of Tamesh War Sahu. Sahu, a 55-year-old volunteer with the Home Guard who had begun following Christianity more than five years previously, had never before had issues with his neighbours. But now, more than 100 people had descended from surrounding villages and were shouting Hindu nationalist slogans outside his front door. Sahu’s son Moses, who had come out to investigate the noise, was beaten by the mob, who then charged inside. As the men entered the house, they shouted death threats at Sahu’s wife and began tearing posters bearing Bible quotes down from the walls. Bibles were seized from the shelves and brought outside where they were set alight, doused in water and the ashes thrown in the gutter. ‘We will teach you a lesson,’ some people were heard to shout. ‘This is what you get for forcing people into Christianity.’ Sahu’s family was not the only one attacked that day. Four other local Christian households were also targeted by mobs, led by the Hindu nationalist vigilante group Bajrang Dal, known for their aggressive and hardline approach to ‘defending’ Hinduism. ‘We had never had any issue before but now our local community has turned against us,’ said Sahu.”


webRNS-Refugees-Afghanistan1-100821-768x512“How one Chicago church is stepping up to help Afghan evacuees” – Emily McFarlan Miller at Religion News Today: “When Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, fell to the Taliban in August, it didn’t take long for the ripple effects to be felt halfway around the globe in Amy Treier’s home in the Chicago suburbs. By mid-August, the local office of evangelical aid group World Relief was so overwhelmed by contributions to help Afghans arriving in the Chicago area it didn’t have the capacity to store them. Neither did Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois, which Treier and her family attend. So Treier, a professor of political science at nearby evangelical Wheaton College, and others at Immanuel stepped up to sort and hold onto the donations until Afghans who need them arrive. Within weeks, her guest room had become a storage room. By late September, her living and dining room were starting to look more like storage as well. The donations in Treier’s home will be packaged into three welcome kits for evacuees who are being resettled by World Relief, one of nine agencies that contracts with the United States government to work with refugees in the U.S.”


First Nations art“G.K. Chesterton and the Art of the First Nations” – Matthew J. Milliner in The Hedgehog Review: “A century ago this year the British journalist G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) first visited North America, where he was received like a celebrity. He lectured to packed venues in the major cities of the East Coast, Canada, the Midwest, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Along the way he critiqued H.G. Wells’s naively optimistic view of progress as expressed in his Outline of History, which had been published the previous year in 1920. Wells saw humanity advancing beyond primitive cavemen toward a universal brotherhood (the ‘nascent Federal world State’) that surpassed traditional religion. Wells sought ‘religious emotion—stripped of corruptions and freed from its last priestly entanglements.’ Chesterton saw in such utopianism a ‘dangerously optimist’ view of history, which he believed remains ‘the first cry of Imperialism.’ So-called cavemen, for Chesterton, were not a waystation en route to modernity but were themselves a wonder, as evidenced by the inexplicable creative activity of rock art. These paintings didn’t need to be ‘explained’ with reductive theories (as they were in Chesterton’s day or ours); instead they testified to the inexplicable mystery of human consciousness itself. A century later, Chesterton’s vogue has been somewhat refreshed through the admiration of the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, but it would be hard to imagine his being received like a celebrity today by anyone but select admiring Catholics.”


https---bucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com-public-images-28d601cb-fec6-443e-b81d-2a7be461548b_1024x683“It’s Time for a Better and Smarter Alliance Against Porn” – David French in The Dispatch: “Last month I read a story that gave me a surge of cultural hope. No, strike that. It gave me another surge of cultural hope. And it made me ask a key question that afflicts more homes and more hearts than virtually any political issue that dominates the news. Is America ready for a culture change on pornography?  And that leads to a second question. Is America ready for a new alliance between feminists and Evangelicals, between left and right, to achieve that change?  The story that gave me hope came last month from New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg….Goldberg’s piece comes on the heels of a series of shattering reports that have exposed grotesque practices in the porn industry and grotesque recklessness from porn outlets.”


2021-CW-First-Baptist-Church-1-1-1536x864“Remnant of one of the oldest Black churches in US is unveiled in Virginia” – Adelle M. Banks in Religion News Service: “Archaeologists believe they have discovered the foundation of the original building of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the nation’s oldest Black churches. The announcement, shared first with descendants of First Baptist Church members, was officially made on Thursday (Oct. 7) by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which runs the well-known outdoor living museum and historic district in Williamsburg. ‘The early history of our congregation, beginning with enslaved and free Blacks gathering outdoors in secret in 1776, has always been a part of who we are as a community,’ said the Rev. Reginald F. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement.”


social media“10 Beatitudes for the Use of Social Media” – W. David O. Taylor at Churches for the Sake of Others website: “In October 2020, less than a month away from the polarizing presidential election that haunts us still, Bishop Todd wrote me to see if I might craft a policy to offer guidance to pastors, ministry leaders and lay people around the ‘good’ use of social media. He had witnessed enough petty, cantankerous, inflammatory and divisive rhetoric across our respective communities—around topics like Christian nationalism, Critical Race Theory, Covid-19 protocols and school board policies—to feel the need to point us in a better direction. After a few initial attempts, however, I found myself giving up on the task. On the one hand, I struggled to find the right language, both surgical and sensitive, to address every possible concern and every possible context in a way that might be felt faithful for any given person’s or congregation’s ‘right’ use of social media. On the other hand, I couldn’t quite see how a policy qua policy would do much good to dissuade someone from doing whatever they pleased on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest. Letting it sit for a few weeks, I suddenly (perhaps Spirit-edly!) landed on what seemed to be a much better approach: a series of beatitudes.”


Black_hole“Wrinkles in Spacetime: The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar – Adam Rogers in Wired: “Kip Thorne looks into the black hole he helped create and thinks, ‘Why, of course. That’s what it would do.’ This particular black hole is a simulation of unprecedented accuracy. It appears to spin at nearly the speed of light, dragging bits of the universe along with it. (That’s gravity for you; relativity is superweird.) In theory it was once a star, but instead of fading or exploding, it collapsed like a failed soufflé into a tiny point of inescapable singularity. A glowing ring orbiting the spheroidal maelstrom seems to curve over the top and below the bottom simultaneously.”


Music: Hans Zimmer, “Day One,” from Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

T. S. Eliot, excerpt from “Choruses from ‘The Rock'”, Il [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is an excerpt from the second part of T. S. Eliot’s poem Choruses from ‘The Rock’Thomas Stearns Eliot is probably the most famous twentieth-century English-language poet, renowned for his groundbreaking work typified in poems like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1911) and The Wasteland (1922). Eliot was born in the United States but resided in England for most of his adult life.



Of all that was done in the past, you eat the fruit, either rotten or ripe. 
And the Church must be forever building, and always decaying, and always being restored. 
For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence: 
For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of GOD,
For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.
And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance. 
For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he stands alone on the other side of death, 
But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that was done by those who have gone before you. 
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers; 
And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it. 
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying within and attacked from without; 
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while there is time of prosperity 
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity they will decry it. 

What life have you if you have not life together? 
There is no life that is not in community, 
And no community not lived in praise of GOD. 
Even the anchorite who meditates alone, 
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD, 
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate. 
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads, 
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour 
Unless his neighbour makes too much disturbance, 
But all dash to and fro in motor cars, 
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere. 
Nor does the family even move about together, 
But every son would have his motor cycle, 
And daughters ride away on casual pillions. 

Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore; 
Let the work not delay, time and the arm not waste; 
Let the clay be dug from the pit, let the saw cut the stone, 
Let the fire not be quenched in the forge. 


Previous poems in this series:

Growing in the Belly of the Fish?: Eugene Peterson on the Need for Askesis [Under the Unpredictable Plant 2]

I recently re-read Eugene Peterson’s classic book on pastoral ministry based in the life of Jonah, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1992). There is so much in this book, but I am merely sharing a few pieces that have stuck out powerfully to me in this particular season of time.

Here is Peterson on the necessity of askesis in the spiritual life and in particularly in the life of the pastor. Comparing it to Jonah’s experience in the belly of the great fish, Peterson helps us get a sense of what is necessary for a thriving spirituality in general and, perhaps, especially for pastors.

The belly of the fish was the unattractive opposite to everything Jonah had set out for. The belly of the fish was a dark, damp, and probably stinking cell. The belly of the fish is Jonah’s introduction to askesis.

Askesis is to spirituality what a training regimen is to an athlete. It is not the thing itself, but the means to maturity and excellence. Otherwise we are at the mercy of glands and weather. It is a spiritual equivalent to the old artistic idea that talent grows by its very confinement, that the genie’s strength comes from his confinement in the bottle. The creative artist and the praying pastor work common ground here. Without confinement, without the intensification resulting from compassion, there is no energy worth speaking of. This is not an option for either artist or pastor. This is not an item that may or may not be incorporated into the creative/spiritual life. This is required. The particular askesis that each person embraces varies, but without an askesis, a time and a place of confinement/concentration, there is no energy of spirit

Askesis is not a New Testament word, but the early church used it to make analogies with athletic training and spiritual development. This use has carried askesis into our language as an aspect of prayer and spirituality. But the disciplined practice behind the world permeates every human activity that deals with creativity and strives toward excellence.

Spirituality requires context. Always. Boundaries, borders, limits. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” No one becomes more spiritual by becoming less material. No one becomes exalted by ascending in a gloriously colored hot-air balloon. Mature spirituality requires askesis, a training program custom-designed for each individual-in-community, and then continuously monitored and adapted as development takes place and conditions vary. It can never be mechanically imposed from without; it must be organically grown in locale. Askesis must be context sensitive.

Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 74-76.

Other posts in this series:

The Christian Leader is…: 15 insights from Henri Nouwen’s “In the Name of Jesus”

This past week our Church Council just finished reading and discussing Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. This is a book that has meant a lot to me over the years. On the inside cover of my copy I have written down various settings where I have led groups through discussions of the book. They are a college ministry student leadership group (Summer 2005), a megachurch staff team (Fall 2005), the staff of a new church plant (Spring 2010), and this past summer (2021) with our staff team here at Eastbrook.

Nouwen’s book is framed around the three temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) and Peter’s reinstatement and call to shepherd the flock (John 21:15-19). I don’t want to summarize the entire book here. For that you can look at my earlier interactions with the book here:

Instead, I want to share what I found in the back of the book while reading it this time. I found a list I made somewhere along the way of Nouwen’s descriptive statements about the nature of the Christian leader throughout the book.

It was helpful for me to remember these things, so I simply want to share them here. Nouwen tells us that the Christian leader:

  • claims irrelevance in solidarity with society’s suffering to bring Jesus’ light (35)
  • knows the incarnate heart of God in Jesus (38)
  • is a mystic who dwells in the presence of the loving Jesus by contemplative prayer (42)
  • is a vulnerable brother or sister, not a “professional” who knows clients’ problems (61)
  • makes their own limited and conditional love a gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God (62)
  • is a servant leader like Jesus, not playing the power games of this world (65)
  • must be willing to confess their own brokenness and ask for forgiveness (64)
  • is called to live the Incarnation, both in their own bodies and in the corporate body (68)
  • is to be a full member of their community—accountable and affectionate—with their whole selves (69)
  • walks in the way of downward-mobility like Jesus, not the upward mobility of our culture (81-82)
  • will be radically poor, thus led where they do not want to go (84)
  • is strenuously theologically reflective (85)
  • thinks, speaks, and acts in the name of Jesus (86)
  • is called to help people hear God’s voice and be consoled and comforted by God’s voice (88)
  • is spiritually formed as a whole person (90)

If you’ve never read the book and Nouwen’s words move you or unsettle you, encourage you or confuse you, I strongly encourage you to read it. It is a great book on Christian leadership and pastoral ministry. Let me close by sharing Nouwen’s final paragraph of the book:

I hope and pray that you have seen that the oldest, most traditional vision of Christian leadership is still a vision that awaits realization in the future. I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility. It is the image of the praying leader, the vulnerable leader, and the trusting, leader. May that image fill your hearts with hope, courage, and confidence as you anticipate the new century. (92-93).

Ed Stetzer on “Church Leadership in a Post-COVID World”

In case you missed it, here is the video from Sunday afternoon’s Leadership Community event at Eastbrook on the church leadership in a post-COVID world with Dr. Ed Stetzer. Ed joined us for this session to augment our annual MissionsFest, which began this weekend.

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story.