Weekend Wanderer: 11 August 2018

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.

 

Chabros“God at the Margins (Part 1 of 3)” – My dear friends, Michal and John Chabo, share their story of God’s faithfulness in the midst of the challenging environment of Syria. You do not want to miss this amazing story from these two wonderful men. You will also enjoy finding out more about their work with Chabros Music, including leading worship at many churches and telling their story as an encouragement to others.

 

HybelsThe ongoing saga at Willow Creek Community Church continued to heat up with the August 5 New York Times article “He’s a Superstar Pastor. She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly.” Shortly before this, Lead Teaching Pastor Steve Carter announced his immediate resignation in protest of the way the women who have come forward have been treated (read his “A Diverging Path”). Then, on Wednesday night, Lead Pastor Heather Larson announced her immediate resignation, and that the entire Willow Creek Board of Elders would be steeping down. If you don’t know the entire story about what has come forth in regards to former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels and the way in which leadership of Willow Creek handled accusations of sexual misconduct, take a look at Scot McKnight’s recent post in this regard. You may also benefit from reading Mel Lawrenz’s reflections on what this speaks into the lives of leaders.

 

Indianapolis“These 15 U.S. Cities Have the Most Churches” – While this article was created by basically dividing city populations by the number of church buildings that exist there and not something more complicated, it is still interesting to take a look at this list of fifteen cities that have the most church buildings in the US. You will probably be surprised by number 2. [Thanks to Warren Bird for sharing this article.]

 

83011“Rwanda Restricts Fasting as 8,000 Churches Closed” – This is not what you’d typically expect to see within a news headline, but the government of Rwanda has been addressing lack of training and safety concerns in churches and mosques in recent months. “About 8,000 official and unofficial churches, as well as 100 mosques, have been closed in Rwanda for failing to comply with health, safety, and noise regulations. This includes 4 in 10 congregations belonging to a nationwide association of 3,300 Pentecostal churches.”

 

savs-504074-unsplash-e1525470662382-770x400“A Letter from the Angry Black Woman in Your Pew”Lysaundra Campbell at The Witness speaks out: “This is not a time for performative theological discussions that do not result in action. We do not need a conference, panel discussion, or one-time awareness training about gender-based violence. If our conferences, panels, and pulpits are cultivating a culture that mirrors the broader society and diminishes the value of black women and girls through racism and sexism, we have a much deeper heart issue.”

 

EvangelicalImmigrationTableLOGO“Citing Religious Liberty, Evangelical Leaders Urge Trump Administration to Support Refugee Resettlement” – Evangelical Christian leaders have sent a letter asking the Trump administration to raise the refugee ceiling, citing religious liberty and our nation’s history of offering safe haven to people fleeing religious persecution. Signatories express deep concern that further cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement program would harm religious freedom internationally. The letter was sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.

 

82941“The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery” – Rodney Stark takes on one of the most-debated issues in relation to the culpability of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to the international slave trade. The claim that Christians were actively involved in promulgating slavery is beyond debate. However, Stark suggest that the role of the institutional church and its teaching came against that much more clearly and much earlier than often claimed.

 

Insert-ghost-“Ghosts on the Shore” – “Japanese awareness of ghosts – yūrei – goes back centuries, rooted in ideas of justice and injustice, and in a fear of unfinished business. If a person’s spirit is looked after at death, by a family providing a proper funeral, praying for that person, and visiting the grave, then the deceased is able to pass peacefully into the next world. From there, the dead look out for their still-living relatives, providing help and protection. Every year, in summer, they return to this world, welcomed by their families at the festival of Obon with food and drink, fireworks and dancing.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix and Prufrock News for sharing this.]

 

[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.]

Weekend Wanderer: 4 August 2018

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.

 

1000“Rare medieval bible returned to shelf at Canterbury Cathedral” – “A 13th century bible, one of a handful of books which survived intact when the library of Canterbury Cathedral was broken up at the time of the Reformation, is back in the building after almost 500 years. The Lyghfield bible – named for a monk at the cathedral who once owned it – is the only complete bible and the finest illuminated book known to have survived from the medieval collection. The cathedral won a grant of almost £96,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and raised £4,000 more to buy it at a recent rare books sale in London.”

 

Willie Jennings“Can ‘White’ People Be Saved?” – At the beginning of July I spent a week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a small group of pastors, professors, and non-profit leaders learning from Dr. Willie James Jennings around his outstanding book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. I wish I could have taken everyone there with me because the conversations were transformative for me, even as I continue to ponder all that I experienced. Since I couldn’t take you with me, I’d like to share this video of Dr. Jennings’ session at Fuller Theological Seminary, in which he helps define “whiteness” and the ways in which Christianity has been distorted through a racialized imagination. This is not for the faint of heart, but I highly recommend you wrestle with this challenging message. [Thanks to Nic Fridenmaker for sharing this particular link with me.]

 

29.thumb“Choosing Church: There are lots of reasons to avoid church, but here are the reasons to look again” – After listening to Jennings, you may find it helpful to look at this essay written over a year ago by Marilyn McEntyre, in which she addresses questions about Christianity’s relevance in the context of the rise of “religious nones” and  in a politically and racially divided world. McEntyre offers both admission of reasons to avoid church while also pointing to the ways in which the church is still important.

 

tal_vertical“Come All Ye Faithless” – A couple weeks ago on “This American Life” Eric Mennel told the story of one church planter, Watson Jones, who sets out on his mission to build a new church in a very challenging setting. As I listened, I was reminded again and again of the challenges of urban, multi-ethnic church planting. This episode will make you laugh and cry, particularly if you have been a part of efforts like this. [Thanks to the ten different people who shared this link with me.]

 

57221732_6481d1d067_o“Archaeologists May Have Discovered a Church Built on the Site of Constantine the Great’s Conversion to Christianity” – “Archaeologists working along the banks of the Tiber river in Rome last week discovered what may be the remnants of an early Christian church likely dating to the fourth century CE. The site of the church is only about 150 to 200 meters from where the emperor Constantine fought his rival Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312 CE — and in close proximity to the place where historical accounts indicate that Constantine saw a cross emblazoned in the sky, a cross that convinced him to convert to Christianity.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 5.31.55 PMWhile in conversation with some colleagues in ministry, one of them shared a ministry resource with me that I had not encountered. The Flourishing in Ministry project is organized by the Well Being at Work initiative of the University of Notre Dame. “Flourishing in Ministry examines what motivates pastors and priests to be engaged in ministry—and what disrupts them from experiencing wellbeing in their work. In our research, we attempt to explore how clergy—often working with lean resources—can give so much to others, and experience a sense of fulfillment and growth in their daily work lives.” Explore it and flourish.

 

BN“Barnes & Noble says sales of books related to anxiety are soaring. Here’s why” – If you’ve been feeling anxious about life in our current cultural climate, you may not be the only one.  “Sales of books related to anxiety are up more than 25 percent through this past June from a year ago, according to Barnes & Noble. The bookseller said ‘we may be living in an anxious nation.'”

 

Bergman“Remedial Bergman: On his centennial, introducing the great director to a new generation” – One of my favorite movie directors of all time is Ingmar Bergman, both in relation to the themes of his work and the skill with which he directs movies. John Simon offers a helpful introduction to Bergman and his work over at The Weekly Standard. He writes: “Bergman is unequaled in his filming of the human face; he uses faces in eloquent, sometimes sublime, close-ups to tell much of his stories. This is one reason why conventional synopsis often doesn’t suffice with Bergman’s films.”

 

[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.]

Weekend Wanderer: 28 July 2018

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.

 

82813“Do Church Plants Drive Neighborhood Change?: Why gentrification seems to correlate with the opening of new urban congregations” – Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast recently featured a conversation between José Humphreys, associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and associate theology editor Caleb Lindgren. Topics include “the catalysts behind church plants entering under-resourced neighborhoods, what separates church plants from the storefront churches, and if people should move into the neighborhoods in which they worship.”

 

merlin_141183912_74bede79-04fa-4d49-9a84-12478039e11d-superJumbo“The Quiet Death of Racial Progress” – Social commentator David Brooks reevaluates the idea that we are making racial progress in America. He writes: “The deeper I dug into the evidence, the more I came to doubt the idea that we are still making progress on race. For every positive statistic indicating racial reconciliation, there was one indicating stagnation or even decay….We’ve fallen into a bogus logjam in which progressives emphasize systems of oppression and conservatives emphasize cultural norms. Both critiques are correct. If we’re going to do something about this appalling retrogression on race, we probably need to be radical on both ends.”

 

Oswald ChambersA friend from church shared this article by Patricia Raybon on racial tensions entitled “The Dead White Man Who Could Fix Our Race Problem: Oswald Chambers.” Drawing from Oswald Chambers’ life and ministry, Raybon highlights four key insights from Chambers that are relevant today for race relations in the church and our culture.

 

flag“State of the Nation”John Wilson, in his column at First Things, addresses the current challenges in our divided nation, particularly the immigration debate. “This reluctance to offer shelter, very much at odds with America’s self-image, has not been characteristic of our entire history, but it hasn’t been limited to a handful of episodes either. We should be honest about that. To do so doesn’t require us to agree with those who are saying that the US today is a ‘hellish dystopia.'”

 

US-Mexico-border-fence-at-beach-in-Tijuana-e1530628968728Taking this a little further, Alan Cross pointedly addresses the realities of the current immigration debate and Christian faith in “Migration, Security, and the Witness of the Church.”  He writes: “People all over the world are engaged in spiritual conversations about the value of human life, what it means to live in community, and who they really are. The church must speak into that biblically, not first as citizens of their nation-state, but as the people of God.” Cross offers specific attention to the recent Southern Baptist resolution on immigration as one way forward on this contentious issue.

 

Attendees of the Qingdao International Beer Festival taking a selfie with a smartphone, Shandong province, China, August 2015“In the Depths of the Digital Age” by Edward Mendelson is a review of six books on technology and the digital age from a couple of years ago with invaluable insight. By engaging with the thoughts of the authors, Mendelson offers a series of profound questions and reflections on the realities of contemporary life, touching upon topics including surveillance, the pace of life, solitude, reading, polarization, anxiety, and changing social mores. Technology is one of the most important areas of discipleship in our current era, so we do well to understand the variety of issues at stake. [Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this article.]

 

2018_3-summer_auden_02Since Edward Mendelson is the literary executor of W. H. Auden, this seems like as good a time as any to share Danny Heitman‘s essay, “The Messy Genius of W. H. Auden: A disheveled poet crafted verse of exquisite order.” Auden is one of those writers who has intrigued me since my days as an undergrad and for whom my admiration has grown as I have read his work more widely, including his expansive collection of essays, forewords and afterwords. Heitman writes: “Auden’s personal contradictions make him a difficult man to fathom. His poems, like the poet himself, can defy easy understanding, too.” That could be said of many writers, but Heitman’s exploration of Auden’s messiness is delightful.

[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.]

Weekend Wanderer: 21 July 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

paul_lachine_illustration“Less Religion, More Money: Countries Get Wealthier as They Become More Secular, Study Says” – Newsweek reports on a recent study in Science Advances that tracked economic development in countries over the past 100 years. “Researchers called tolerance of individual expression the “ultimate driver” of economic change.” Of course, Newsweek doesn’t mention what the introduction for the study says: “Although a correlation between economic development and secularization is evident, in that countries that are highly religious tend to be the poorest (7, 8), it is not obvious which change precedes which through time: whether development causes secularization (9, 10), or vice versa (11), or whether both changes are driven, with different time lags, by a factor such as education or advances in technology.”  It does seem to me that if “individual expression” is the “‘ultimate driver’ of economic change,” we should also ask the question of whether economic change is the ultimate evaluative tool of individual and corporate satisfaction in a country. Are the wealthiest countries reflective of the highest level of well-being? While “well-being” is defined further down in the study, it is not clear how this relates to overall economic development and whether the definition of well-being is implicitly drawn from a secular versus religious definition.

 

pregnantOn a slightly different but related note, Philip Jenkins highlights the dipping fertility rates in the United States in his article: “Faith, Fertility, and the Fate of American Religion.” He writes: “The United States just passed a critical statistical landmark, one that I think – I fear – has immense implications for the nation’s religious life. If I am right, and we are dealing with early days, we might seriously be looking at the opening stages of a large scale process of secularization. After being reported and speculated about for decades, that secularization might finally be happening. As I will argue, the term “secularization” over-simplifies the process, but let that stand presently.”

 

Bonhoeffer_Union_Class“Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Harlem Renaissance” – It’s no secret that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my theological heroes. Ever since I first read his book The Cost of Discipleship in high school after giving my life to Christ, I have continued to learn from his writings up to the present time. Here is a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Reggie Williams on the intersection of the Harlem Renaissance with Bonhoeffer’s studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Williams is also the author of Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus.

 

VanhoozerSpeaking of theologians in development, every pastor, student pursuing their PhD in theology, or other budding theologians should read Kevin Vanhoozer‘s excellent essay: Letter to an Aspiring Theologian:” How to Speak of God Truly.” Along with giving all of us some excellent reading to pursue, Vanhoozer brings the pursuit of theological thinking into context of thought and context of life.

 

18-mariia-butina.w710.h473.2x“Alleged Russian Spy Was Working to Infiltrate Religious Right As Well As Gun Groups” – With all the ongoing attention given to spying and infiltration between the United States and Russia, one of the more interesting twists this past week came from the case of indicted Russian-spy Maria Butina. Not only was she seeking to influence gun groups, she was also intentionally targeting religious conservative groups as well.

 

michelle-jimenez-211321-unsplash-770x513Last week in “The Weekend Wanderer,” I shared an article on the dramatic increase of multiracial congregations in Protestant Christianity. Not everything about this is positive, however, as at times this can be what some call “racist multiculturalism.” Dr. Lamont Francies explores the potential negative aspects of multi-ethnic churches in his challenging article: “The Mask of Multicultural Churches.” Many of the issues he raises are areas we have struggled with at Eastbrook Church as we continue to navigate what it truly means to move from the appearance of ethnic diversity to deeper Gospel transformation toward the Revelation 7 family of God.

 

Andrew Brunson 2I continue to follow the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been jailed for the past two years in Turkey on allegations tying him to rebel groups there. You can read my latest update here, but also recent articles at Christianity Today (“Turkey Keeps American Pastor Behind Bars—At Least for Three More Months“), CNN (“Trump calls for Turkey to release US pastor accused of spying“), The New York Times (“Turkey Resists Pressure to Release American Pastor From Jail“), and The Washington Post (“Turkish court rejects appeals to release jailed American pastor“).

 

5-medina“4 Ways Men Can Combat Abuse in the Church” – In light of pervasive abuse in our society that also unfortunately touches the church, Gricel Medina says its time for a change. “#ChurchToo and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual have proven that, too often, our instinct is to blame the victim and assume the best of the abuser. Men receive standing ovations in some churches just for responding to allegations; whether they confess or deny misconduct appears almost irrelevant. It might be because Christians love a story of repentance and forgiveness more than the hard work of justice. Or, it might be because we want to believe the best of our leaders.” [Thanks to Sandra Maria Van Opstal for sharing this article.]

 

Laity-Age-of-Distraction-BW-0019-webEver wish you could have two of your favorite thinkers in one room talking about the same topic for an extended period of time. Sadly, I found out I missed on opportunity just like that when Alan Jacobs and Jamie Smith led a retreat together earlier this summer at the Laity Lodge entitled “Attending to God in an Age of Distraction.” Thankfully, I also discovered that audio recordings of the sessions are all available online here.

 

[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.]

Weekend Wanderer: 14 July 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

82591“Guess Who’s Coming to Church: Multiracial Congregations Triple Among Protestants” –  “The percentage of Protestant churches where no one racial group makes up more than 80 percent of the congregation tripled from 4 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2012, according to new research out this week from Baylor University. Evangelicals and Pentecostals show even higher levels of diverse churches, up to 15 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Overall, nearly 1 in 5 of all American worshipers belong to a multiethnic congregation.” This is something that is really important where I serve presently at Eastbrook Church. Of course, this is not just a trend, but something significant within the trajectory of salvation history toward Revelation 7:9-11[Thanks to Bryan Loritts for sharing this article.]

 

ows_152950853349496Then, at the same time, we read an article like this “As Churches Close, a Way of Life Fades.”  The subtitle for the article is: “Minnesota’s mainline Christian denominations face unprecedented declines, altering communities and traditions celebrated for generations.” As you would guess, this is an examination of mainline church declines in the Midwest, and the chart in the middle of the article is worth viewing in itself. This is an echo of the larger trend of the decline of Christianity in North America, particularly in mainline Christianity. Of course, we must not miss the fact that the world is simultaneously becoming more religious, not less.

 

soccer“Understanding the ‘Beautiful Game’” – As the World Cup winds down, you may want to read Alan Jacob‘s review of Laurent Dubois’ The Language of the Game. “It might be easy to conclude that soccer is the sort of game that you either get or don’t get, yet Laurent Dubois takes up the noble and difficult task of trying to make soccer comprehensible and interesting to people who are used to games that follow a different logic. It’s a task he handles very well.” If that’s not enough, then you should watch the famous Pele move that Alan refers to midway through the article (seen at 4:19 in this video).

 

82639“How Charles Taylor Helps Us Understand Our Secular Age” – Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast takes a look at why the work of Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is influencing so many Christian thinkers. I have read Taylor fairly deeply over the last two years after encountering his thought both in the work of Pastor Tim Keller and Professor James K. A. Smith. Taylor’s thought factored into a recent series I preached on identity, “Who Am I?”, fairly significantly. If you want to dip into Taylor’s writings, there is no easy place to begin, but his most well-known book is A Secular Age. If you want a good to his thought, then I’d suggest Jamie Smith’s How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor.

 

cross-and-lynching-tree-e1530797675581In other reading news, here’s Timothy Thomas at The Witness offering a compelling look at “Why You Should Read ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree.'” Thomas is new to James Cone’s work, which has spanned decades. This gives him fresh eyes in looking at Cone’s pivotal work on racial issues in America. If you’re unfamiliar with Cone or this book, please read Thomas’ reflections on this penetrating and important book published in 2011.

 

1_amXomiXpD9wDJ2xSS7On1w“The Tech Industry’s War on Kids: How psychology is being used as a weapon against children” – Adolescent and Child Psychologist Richard Freed writes: “What none of these parents understand is that their children’s and teens’ destructive obsession with technology is the predictable consequence of a virtually unrecognized merger between the tech industry and psychology. This alliance pairs the consumer tech industry’s immense wealth with the most sophisticated psychological research, making it possible to develop social media, video games, and phones with drug-like power to seduce young users.” [Thanks to Andy Crouch for sharing this article.]

 

starbucks straws.pngThis week Starbucks announced that it would cease using plastic straws by 2020. This is great news for the environment, especially when you get a view of the impact of plastic round the world (see “What Happens to the Plastic We Throw Out” from The Weekend Wanderer: 2 June 2018). Sure, it would be great if they would move more quickly, but as Ethan Epstein points out hopefully this sort of self-regulation would catch on with other companies.

 

mr rogersAnd last, but not least, here’s David Brooks with “Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good.” David Brooks is an insightful social critic and here he holds up the life and legacy of Mr. Rogers as an important model in our divided days. While I resonate with Brooks’ desire, I’m beginning to lose my optimism that a return to the kindness of Mr. Rogers will do anything in the face of the increasing rifts between people in our nation. Brooks’ essay is, at least in part, a reflection on the new documentary about Rogers’ life, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which I do hope to view sometime.

 

[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.]