The Weekend Wanderer: 21 May 2022

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.


womanpaintembed“In the Shoes of the Woman Considering Abortion” – Kirsten Sanders in Plough: “Both these narratives rely on the idea that life exists to self-actualize, that the goal of being alive is to enjoy as many positive experiences as possible and ‘make something of yourself.’ Pro-choice individuals argue that women need the opportunity to self-actualize in the form of career success and personal pleasure; pro-life individuals argue that those in the womb deserve such opportunities. The Christian life, however, is not about making the most of yourself, about removing impediments to pleasure and opportunity. To argue that those in the womb deserve life in this sense is simply to move the language of rights from the mother to the child. It is to decide who deserves to suffer. If life is simply about opportunity, abortion politics becomes a very real calculation of whose opportunity can be terminated. Christian teaching tells us that the things that are real are given by God, and therefore that all life given by God is good. But it also tells us that life is deeply fragile and marked by sorrow. It promises that the goodness in life is not in what we make of it or how much we enjoy it – the goodness of life is that it is given. Its givenness is what makes it real, what makes it good. It is not, then, in self-optimization, in building institutions, or in bringing our creativity to expression that we are living our best lives. It is, I believe, more likely to be found in parenting, where we are given life and must give our lives.”


Bono Surrender“Bono to release memoir about ‘the people, places and possibilities’ of his life” – Lucy Knight in The Guardian: “The first memoir by Bono will be released this year, publisher Penguin Random House has announced. While the U2 frontman’s career has been written about extensively, this will mark the first time Bono has written about it himself. Titled Surrender, the autobiography will span the singer’s early days growing up in Dublin, including the sudden loss of his mother when he was 14, the success of U2 and his activist work fighting against Aids and poverty. Surrender will contain 40 chapters, each named after a U2 song. Bono has also created 40 original drawings for the book. A video, in which Bono narrates an extract from the memoir, has been released across U2’s digital platforms. It uses animations based on Bono’s drawings to illustrate an extract from the Out of Control chapter, which is about how he wrote U2’s first single on his 18th birthday, exactly 44 years ago today. Bono said his intention was that the book would ‘draw in detail what [he’d] previously only sketched in songs. The people, places and possibilities in my life.’ He said he chose the title because, having grown up in Ireland in the 1970s, the act of surrendering was not a natural concept to him. Bono, whose lyrics have frequently been inspired by his Christian beliefs, said that /surrender’ was ‘a word I only circled until I gathered my thoughts for the book.'”


alan jacobs“The Speed of God” – Alan Jacobs at his blog, Snakes and Ladders, reflecting on aspects of Andy Crouch’s new book, The Life We’re Looking For : “Many of the key ideas in Andy Crouch’s new book The Life We Are Looking For emerge from his definition of the human person, which he derives from the Shema of Deuteronomy 6, as adapted by Jesus in Mark 12 (keywords emphasized):

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Thus Andy: “Every human person is a heart-soul-mind-strength complex designed for love.” Simple and direct; but the more you think about it the more complex and generative a definition it is.”


Changing the World?“The Monthly Salon (May): Changing the World vs living with it” – Paul Kingsnorth at The Abbey of Misrule: “I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the notion of ‘changing the world’, and how it represents a kind of post-religious religious impulse. I’ll be writing in my next essay about the teleology of Progress, but a good question to ask of any culture, and of any person, is: what god do you worship? It’s a question that would have been easy enough to respond to in any previous time, and still is to most people worldwide. But to those of us raised by the Machine it’s inadmissable. We do worship gods, of course, but we don’t call them gods, because gods are superstitious things that our ignorant ancestors dealt in, whereas we, being grown-ups, deal in reason and facts and The Science. Of course, we don’t really do anything of the sort, and the notion of ‘changing the world’ illustrates it. Progress is our God, and ‘changing the world’ is its liturgy. It’s a phrase I used to use all the time, but now I’m almost embarrassed even to look at it. Changing the world. Changing the world. Changing the world. It’s such an astonishing concept: that we have, or could ever have, the agency, ability or knowledge to change the nature of a vast, complex planet we barely understand, when most of us can’t even change ourselves. And that we imagine the results would be good if we did. What could be more superstitious?”


Sagittarius A*“Black hole: First picture of Milky Way monster” – Jonathan Amos at The BBC: “This is the gargantuan black hole that lives at the centre of our galaxy, pictured for the very first time. Known as Sagittarius A*, the object is a staggering four million times the mass of our Sun. What you see is a central dark region where the hole resides, circled by the light coming from super-heated gas accelerated by immense gravitational forces. For scale, the ring is roughly the size of Mercury’s orbit around our star. That’s about 60 million km, or 40 million miles, across. Fortunately, this monster is a long, long way away – some 26,000 light-years in the distance – so there’s no possibility of us ever coming to any danger. The image was produced by an international team called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration.”


03.27-2-Men-Fishing“The New Testament Picture of Discipleship” – Dallas Willard at Renovare: “Evangelicalism always looks to the Bible as the point of reference from which concepts are defined, practices legitimated, and principles adopted. So we must ask what can be made of discipleship and of the disciple of Jesus as seen in the life of the New Testament. Indeed, as it turns out, the New Testament ​disciple’ is by no means a peculiarly ​’Christian’ innovation. The disciple is one aspect of the progressive and massive decentralization of Judaism that began with the destruction of the first Temple (588 BC) and the Babylonian exile, and proceeds through the dispersal of the Jewish people among the nations that followed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. During this period the synagogue emerges as the center of the local Jewish communities, devotion to the Torah becomes the focus of the synagogue, and the rabbi or ​’great one’ stood forth in the role of interpreter of Torah: ‘By degrees, attachment to the law sank deeper and deeper into the national character…. Hence the law became a deep and intricate study. Certain men rose to acknowledged eminence for their ingenuity in explaining, their readiness in applying, their facility in quoting, and their clearness in offering solutions of, the difficult passages of the written statutes.'”


Music: Charlie Peacock, “Psalm 51,” from West Coast Diaries, Vol. 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 14 May 2022

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.


The Life We're Looking For - Andy Crouch“Can We Be Human in Meatspace?” –  Brad East reviews Andy Crouch’s new book, The Life We’re Looking For, in The New Atlantis: “In thinking about technology, three questions are fundamental. What is technology for? What are we for? And how is our answer to the first question related to our answer to the second? Since the Enlightenment, we have come to take for granted that there really is no relation, because we cannot publicly agree on what humans are for. We can answer that question only privately. But technology is public, not private. We create it for common use, ostensibly in the service of the common good. If we cannot broadly agree on what we are for, then how can we reason together about what our technology is for? It appears that we cannot. While the question about human purpose is now cordoned off from public debate, the question about the purpose of technology has vanished altogether. We no longer ask why we are making the latest widget. Its existence is self-justifying. Only listen to a Silicon Valley mogul talk about the newest invention or cutting-edge research. It is a dismal menu of options: the fantastical (immortality, uploading your consciousness to the cloud), the terrifying (digital surveillance, sentient robots), the shallow (streaming videos, the metaverse), the banal (smart thermostats, voice assistants), and the meaningless (‘greater connection,’ ‘enhanced creativity’). The last category alone is damning. We are meant to be connected and creative. Connected how? Creative to what end? A terrorist cell is deeply connected and highly creative. So is a local chapter of the Klan. Indeed, such groups are often among tech’s early adopters. What we need is a recommitment to public argument about purpose, both ours and that of our tools. What we need, further, is a recoupling of our beliefs about the one to our beliefs about the other. What we need, finally, is the resolve to make hard decisions about our technologies. ”


128842“Don’t Ignore Race. Or Alienate White People.” – Monique Duson in Christianity Today review George Yancey’s new book Beyond Racial Division: “For a long time, Americans committed to fighting racism have rallied around the ideals of colorblindness. Both legally and culturally, they have sought to build a society where, in Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words, people are judged not ‘by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ Over time, however, the persistence of racism has raised doubts about the colorblind approach. In response, groups like Black Lives Matter have seized on the rival paradigm of antiracism. Instead of aspiring to colorblindness, its proponents say, we should acknowledge that America is plagued by deep-seated racism—and then take aggressive steps to stamp it out. In Beyond Racial Division: A Unifying Alternative to Colorblindness and Antiracism, Baylor University sociologist George Yancey seeks a new way forward, one grounded in a vision of healthy interracial communication and community. As Yancey argues, both colorblindness and antiracism result in ‘racial alienation,’ which prevents us from working out our racial issues together in a way that honors the dignity, value, and worth of every individual.”


charlesdefoucauld“Shadowing the Carpenter” – Andreas Knapp in Plough: “I worked for years in an ecclesiastical ministry in Germany, as a university chaplain and as the director of a seminary. But I never really felt at home. An inner restlessness dogged me. For a long time, I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. As time went by, it became clear: I was subconsciously looking for a different life. Finally, in a discussion with a superior, I blurted out, ‘My original goal was to follow Jesus; but in the meantime I’ve turned into a civil servant.’ I shocked myself with the bluntness of that formulation. But it mirrored my disquiet. I had become part of a comfortable social system in which following prevailing norms seemed to count for everything. And yet I was bothered by the fact that I had so little to do with people who were not part of this system – those who were cut out of it. I longed for a simpler life, one lived in solidarity with others; I wanted to share my day-to-day existence with like-minded people. I simultaneously yearned for more silence and more time for prayer. How could I feed the fire of my longing? As I searched for answers, I found inspiration in Charles de Foucauld, whose legacy – his life, faith, and writings – eventually led me to the Little Brothers of the Gospel. What fascinated me most was the way he showed me, step by step, how to live like Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth.”


Ukraine-Children“Faith-based NGOs are helping Ukraine’s children. Now we have to prove it” – Brian Peterson at Religion News Service: “Only six weeks into Ukraine’s invasion by Russian forces, it was reported that nearly two-thirds of the country’s 7.5 million children had been displaced. These numbers are worsening as the conflict ensues and more and more families have to leave behind their homes, schools, belongings and livelihoods. At a time in their lives when routine and familiarity are critical to their development, millions of children in Ukraine have been forced to navigate a situation in which not only their physical safety, but their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing are in jeopardy. We know from research on children in similar situations — it’s estimated that 1 in 4 of the world’s children live in countries affected by armed conflict or disaster — that the effects of trauma from living through conflict are long-lasting and may be transmitted inter-generationally. To that end, it’s critical that support of the world’s most vulnerable children go beyond traditional aid or monetary donations. Holistic care — physical, mental, social and spiritual — is required. While it can come from a wide variety of organizations, faith-based organizations are natural partners in providing holistic care.”


051822niebuhr“Reading The Irony of American History 70 years later” – James K. A. Smith in The Christian Century: “When Reinhold Niebuhr published The Irony of American History in 1952, the United States was a very different place. The cataclysm of World War II was still a fresh wound, even as the postwar economy and reproduction rates were booming. Victors in a clash of good and evil, the United States nonetheless emerged from the war with a terrifying moral stain: this was the country that dropped the atomic bomb. These were the realities most on Niebuhr’s mind when he published the book to widespread acclaim. Indeed, the reception of the book is another reminder of the difference between Niebuhr’s generation and our own. That the musings of a theo­logian and minister on matters foreign and domestic could garner widespread public attention is hard to imagine today. All of this could make Irony a curious relic from the past. And yet, 70 years on, reading the book still feels timely. And in ways he couldn’t have anticipated, Niebuhr’s own blind spots are the reason this book deserves our renewed attention.”bi with his coterie of special students was a familiar feature of Jewish religious practice by the time of Jesus.”


ECPAChristianBookAward“Christian Book Awards for 2022”The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association announced the 2022 Christian Book Award winners by categories, including audio books, Bibles, Bible reference works, Bible study, biography & memoir, children, christian living, devotion & gift, faith & culture, ministry resources, and more. Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep was named the book of the year, as well as winning top marks in the “Christian Living” topic area.


Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Molly Parden], “Psalm 126,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 May 2022

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.


128209“As Pastoral Credibility Erodes, How Can We Respond?” – Glenn Packiam in Christianity Today: “Pastors do not hold the place of community esteem they once did. According to Barna’s State of Pastors report (2017), only about one in five Americans thinks of a pastor as very influential in their community, and about one in four doesn’t think they’re very influential or influential at all. The truth is, influential or not, many Americans don’t want to hear what pastors have to say. In 2016, Barna found that only 21 percent of Americans consider pastors to be ‘very credible’ on the ‘important issues of our day.’ Even among those Barna defined as evangelicals, the number only rises to slightly over half. Think about it: Nearly half of American evangelicals don’t see their pastors as being an authoritative voice for navigating current affairs. In a new study Barna and I did in 2020 for my book The Resilient Pastor, we learned that the picture might be getting worse. Only 23 percent of Americans said they ‘definitely’ see a pastor as a ‘trustworthy source of wisdom.’ Even among Christians, that number only rises to a mere 31 percent. Less than a third of Christians said they ‘definitely’ consider a pastor a ‘trustworthy source of wisdom.’ As you might expect, a mere 4 percent of non-Christians think of pastors in this way. That’s a pretty bleak picture.”


Supreme Court view“Overturning Roe v. Wade inches us back toward the arc of justice” – Karen Swallow Prior at Religion New Service: “Everywhere I look today — social media, news outlets, my email — people are discussing the SCOTUS leak. As a pro-life activist my whole adult life, I never thought I’d live to see the end of Roe v. Wade, if that’s what this is. Yet for me and others who recognize children in the womb as human persons whose lives are deserving of legal protection, overturning Roe doesn’t go far enough. The end of Roe will not bring back the millions of lives lost, heal the women and men and families harmed, or repair the damage done to our nation and our political life. But it is a step in the right direction. I really didn’t expect to see Roe overturned in my lifetime, but I always hoped. I know we can do better than abortion for women and children — and if Roe is overturned, we will have more than ever both the opportunity and the obligation to do so. Roe v. Wade forced abortion on the nation by inventing a ‘right’ to abortion on demand that was novel, unprecedented and unfounded on any common understanding of human life and human dignity. The most bizarre mental and linguistic gymnastics developed around this newly constructed constitutional right in order to justify, rationalize and shield ourselves from the obvious fact that abortion unjustly ends the life of a human being.”


candlelight“The Perpetual Flame of Devotion: How can we learn to pray in a way that pleases God? And what stands in the way?” – Richard Foster in Plough Quarterly: “By means of prayer we are learning to burn the perpetual flame of devotion on the altar of God’s love. I say “learning” because there is nothing automatic or instantaneous about this way of praying. Now, three great movements characterize Christian prayer. Each is distinct from the others but overlaps and interacts with the others. The first movement in prayer involves our will in interaction and struggle with God’s will. We ask for what we need – or what we want. Often what we want exceeds what we need, and our wants can be easily influenced by ego and greed. Most certainly, a substantial part of our inner struggle in this movement involves our own human rebellion and self-centeredness. But not always. Think of Abraham struggling to offer up Isaac. Or think of Job struggling to relinquish all human attachments. Or think of Paul struggling with a “thorn in the flesh” and learning that God’s grace is sufficient for him and that God’s power is made perfect in weakness….In time, we come into a second movement in prayer: the release of our will and a flowing into the will of the Father. Here we are learning to walk with God day by day. We are learning the contours of God’s character. And we are learning simple love for Jesus. Finally, we find ourselves entering into the third movement, what the great ones in the way of Christ have called “union with God” and the bringing of the will of the Father upon the face of the earth. Here we learn not only to love God, but also to love God’s ways.”


A Jacobs - not a server“You Are Not a Server: Nor are you finalizable” – Alan Jacobs in The Hedgehog Review: “That human beings understand themselves in terms of their dominant technologies has become a commonplace. Indeed, one could say that it was already a commonplace roughly 2,500 years ago, when the Psalmist wrote,

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

So it is natural and indeed inevitable that we today think of our brains as computers, even though that is an inaccurate and woefully inadequate model. But I would like to suggest that, because there are many kinds of computers that perform widely varied functions, we should be more specific. I believe that we have been trained by social media to use our brains as servers—as machines designed to receive requests and respond to them according to strict instructions.”


D27017 Alexis and Prof. Watt 3-31-22“Afghan refugees start a new journey at UWM” – We’re glad to be connected to this. Kathy Quirk in UWM Report: “As they waited in their bus at the airport in Kabul last August, Samira and her friends kept watch out the windows in case someone might be approaching the bus with a bomb. That was just one moment in a long, harrowing journey from Afghanistan to Milwaukee for a group of young women now enrolled in UW-Milwaukee’s Intensive English Program. (Because of the risk of retribution against family members who remain in Afghanistan, this story is using only their first names and photos that don’t show their faces.) The young women, mostly ages 18-23, are part of a group of 147 students from the Asian University for Women (AUW) who fled Afghanistan together. Following a stay at Fort McCoy, a group of eight started class at UWM in January. Samira, the ninth young woman, is the sister of one of the UWM students. She is taking classes remotely at Arizona State University, but is thinking of doing graduate work at UWM. The younger students hope to stay and continue their undergraduate work at the university in the fall.”


Francis and Kirill“Pope Francis warns pro-war Russian patriarch not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy'” – Delia Gallagher at CNN: “Pope Francis warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become “Putin’s altar boy,” he said in an interview this week. In his strongest words to date against the pro-war Patriarch, Francis also slammed Kirill for endorsing Russia’s stated reasons for invading Ukraine. ‘I spoke to him for 40 minutes via Zoom,’ the Pope told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday. ‘The first 20 minutes he read to me, with a card in hand, all the justifications for war. I listened and told him: I don’t understand anything about this,” said the Pope. ‘Brother, we are not clerics of state, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus. The Patriarch cannot transform himself into Putin’s altar boy,’ the Pope said. Francis said the conference call with Kirill took place on March 16, and that both he and the Patriarch had agreed to postpone a planned meeting on June 14 in Jerusalem.”


03.27-2-Men-Fishing“The New Testament Picture of Discipleship” – Dallas Willard at Renovare: “Evangelicalism always looks to the Bible as the point of reference from which concepts are defined, practices legitimated, and principles adopted. So we must ask what can be made of discipleship and of the disciple of Jesus as seen in the life of the New Testament. Indeed, as it turns out, the New Testament ​disciple’ is by no means a peculiarly ​’Christian’ innovation. The disciple is one aspect of the progressive and massive decentralization of Judaism that began with the destruction of the first Temple (588 BC) and the Babylonian exile, and proceeds through the dispersal of the Jewish people among the nations that followed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. During this period the synagogue emerges as the center of the local Jewish communities, devotion to the Torah becomes the focus of the synagogue, and the rabbi or ​’great one’ stood forth in the role of interpreter of Torah: ‘By degrees, attachment to the law sank deeper and deeper into the national character…. Hence the law became a deep and intricate study. Certain men rose to acknowledged eminence for their ingenuity in explaining, their readiness in applying, their facility in quoting, and their clearness in offering solutions of, the difficult passages of the written statutes.’ The rabbi with his coterie of special students was a familiar feature of Jewish religious practice by the time of Jesus.”


Music: Sandra McCracken, “We Will Feast,” from Steadfast (Live).

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 April 2022

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.


128862“As for Me and My Household, We’ll Resist Mammon” – Andy Crouch in Christianity Today: “Several friends helped my wife, Catherine, and me move into our first apartment, down and then up two steep and narrow sets of stairs. Three items seemed almost impossible to get up those stairs: a fragile old chest of drawers my wife had inherited from her grandmother, a queen-sized box spring, and an unfathomably heavy sofa bed. We christened them the Ordeal of Delicacy, the Ordeal of Dimension, and the Ordeal of Strength. Twenty years later we remember those ordeals; the friends who cheerfully endured them with us, sweating and swearing on a hot June day; and the sense of relief when we managed to overcome each one. A few years later, it was time to move again when my wife took the job she has held ever since. This time, the college that hired her covered the moving costs. The professional movers went through the same ordeals on our behalf that our friends had gone through a few years before—sweating and likely swearing as well—but I certainly cannot remember their names, or even a hint of their faces. They were paid, fairly, to do a fair job. And once the job was done, they were gone. This is the power of money: It allows us to get things done, often by means of other people, without the entanglements of friendship.”


The Convivial Society“On Twitter, Briefly” – L. M. Sacasas at The Convivial Society: “Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself, ‘I wonder what Sacasas makes of all this Twitter business?’ In truth, I don’t actually believe any of you have been thinking any such thing. Nonetheless, I have been thinking a bit about Twitter, if for no other reason than to reconsider my own use of the platform. So here you go, in no particular order, a few thoughts … some mine, some not.

1. Twitter is the only social media platform I use, and I’ve long characterized my use of it as a devil’s bargain. The platform has benefitted me in certain ways, but this has come at a cost. The benefits and costs are what you would expect. I’ve made good connections through the platform, my writing has garnered a bit more of an audience, and I’ve encountered the good work of others. On the other hand, I’ve given it too much of my time and energy, and I’m pretty sure my thinking and my writing have, on the whole, suffered as a consequence. Assuming I’m right in my self-assessment, that’s too high of a price, is it not? The problem, as I’ve suggested before, is that the machine requires too much virtue to operate, and, frankly, I’m not always up to the task.

2. And yet, to return to the other side of the ledger, the human connections are real and meaningful. A few months back, someone I’ve known on Twitter for years lost their father. I’ve know this person only as an avatar and occasional strings of text, but I was genuinely saddened by his loss and felt it keenly. Chiefly, I regretted that I could not offer more than my own string of text in support. And, so it is with more than a few others. Over time, occasional interactions and mutual awareness amounts to something. My sense of these Twitter-based friendships, if I may call them that, is not that they are inauthentic or inferior, but only that they are incomplete….”


repair-and-remain1-980x551“Repair and Remain: How to do the slow, hard, good work of staying put.” – Kurt Armstrong in Comment: “I’ve never had anything like a real career, only a long and varied string of jobs. I grew up working on the family farm, and then had jobs as a roofer, a groundskeeper at a rural hospital, and a mineral-bagging-machine operator in an unheated feed mill one frigid Manitoba winter. I spent a year as a photographer and store manager in a tiny portrait studio just as digital cameras were beginning to consign film cameras to obsolescence. I worked for three years as a barista at one of Vancouver’s top-rated independent coffee shops. I’ve been a magazine editor, a sessional lecturer in a couple of liberal arts schools, a glazier’s assistant, a mason tender, a plumber’s labourer, and a daycare worker. One winter I lived in a simple little cabin—no plumbing, no electricity—and I made homemade soap over a wood stove and sold it at craft sales. In my twenties and thirties I spent many of my summers planting close to half a million trees on countless logging clear-cuts between Hyder, Alaska, and Dryden, Ontario. And for twelve years now I’ve had a hybrid operation, juggling a one-man autodidact home-repair business and part-time lay ministry at a little Anglican church in Winnipeg. My basic MO in both roles is simple: repair and remain.”


Restoration of the Church

“The Decline and Renewal of the American Church: Part 3 – The Path to Renewal” – Tim Keller at Life in the Gospel: “What is wrong with the American Church and how can its life and ministry be renewed? To answer this, I wrote two articles looking at the decline of the church, limiting myself to Protestantism, though recognizing that the Catholic church is facing its own waning. In this article and the next, however, I would like to map out a possible way forward to renewal and new growth.  Basically—we need a revival that only God can provide, and a new movement to capture the fruit of that revival for the renewal of the American church. Revivals are periods of great spiritual awakening and growth. In revivals ‘sleepy’ and lukewarm Christians wake up, nominal Christians get converted, and many skeptical non-believers are drawn to faith. In Europe and North America there were significant revivals in the 1740s, the 1830s, and the late 1850s. The 1857 revival began in lower New York City and is often called ‘the Fulton Street Revival.’ By one account, during a period of about 2 years, about 10% of the population of Manhattan was converted and joined the city’s churches. In the Welsh revival of 1904, it is estimated that 150,000 people, or 7.5% of the nation’s population, were converted and came into Protestant churches. [1] Looking back further for revivals, historians point to the monastic movements that transformed Europe, and the Lutheran Pietist and Moravian movements. More recently there have also been major revivals in East Africa, Korea, as well as many more localized revivals.”


afghan-town-IMB-1024x683“USCIRF report: Religious liberty falters in Afghanistan” – Tom Strode in Baptist Press News: “The Taliban’s return to control of Afghanistan headlined the examples of religious freedom deteriorating in multiple countries last year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in its annual report issued April 25. For the first time in more than two decades, USCIRF – a bipartisan panel established by federal law in 1998 – recommended Afghanistan’s inclusion on a list of the world’s most egregious violators of the right to believe and practice faith. The commission last urged the U.S. State Department to designate Afghanistan as a ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) in 2001, shortly before the Taliban was removed from power. Religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan ‘went into an immediate and disastrous downward spiral following the full U.S. withdrawal in August 2021 and the immediate takeover by the Taliban,’ USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said during an online news conference. ‘[T]he Taliban’s return to power has had an immediate, chilling impact on religious freedom and on the broader human rights environment.’ Afghanistan is one of 15 countries USCIRF recommended to the State Department in its 2022 report for CPC designation. CPCs are governments the State Department determines are guilty of ‘systematic, ongoing [and] egregious violations’ of religious liberty. USCIRF also called for the State Department to place 12 countries on its Special Watch List (SWL), a category reserved for governments that meet two of the three criteria of the ‘systematic, ongoing [and] egregious’ standard.”


main-v01-18-1536x1024“Supreme Court tackles case about praying football coach” – Jessica Gresko at Religion News Service: “A coach who crosses himself before a game. A teacher who reads the Bible aloud before the bell rings. A coach who hosts an after-school Christian youth group in his home. Supreme Court justices discussed all those hypothetical scenarios Monday while hearing arguments about a former public high school football coach from Washington state who wanted to kneel and pray on the field after games. The justices were wrestling with how to balance the religious and free speech rights of teachers and coaches with the rights of students not to feel pressured into participating in religious practices. The court’s conservative majority seemed sympathetic to the coach while its three liberals seemed more skeptical. The outcome could strengthen the acceptability of some religious practices in the public school setting.”


Music: Sons of Korah, “Psalm 131,” from Resurrection.

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 April 2022

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.


Rowan Williams“Eastern wisdom for western Christians” – Timothy Jones interview Rowan Williams in The Christian Century: “Rowan Williams presided over the Anglican Communion as archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012, during fractious, fracturing times. Now retired as master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, he recently moved home to Wales, where he engages his many commitments in the wider church at a lower profile, though his work as an academic, a prolific author and lecturer, and a well-regarded poet continues unabated. Like Augustine, one figure to whom his mind has continually returned, Williams is known for the questing spiritual fervor that undergirds and deepens his intellectual prowess. In his latest theological work, Looking East in Winter, the quintessentially Anglican leader looks with respect and even longing toward the riches of another vast Christian stream. He explores the rich resources for spiritual practice from the Eastern churches, the Jesus prayer, and Orthodoxy’s insights on the Trinity and human identity, along with social and liturgical applications. In many ways the book is a culmination: Williams’s graduate school days left him fascinated with Eastern Orthodoxy, and his doctoral thesis mined Vladimir Lossky’s theology. He shares the riches of decades of reflection with a Western Christendom that seems plagued by anxiety and angst over its calling.”


Drained Pastors“Our Pulpits Are Full of Empty Preachers” – Kyle Rohane in Christianity Today: Seven years ago, First Presbyterian Church of Deming, New Mexico, had to replace the rope hanging from its bell tower. After 75 years of regular use, it had finally unraveled. The bell has been ringing since the Pueblo mission-style building was constructed in 1941, and the church itself dates back further, to the turn of the 20th century. Not much else has endured like the bell. Today, the church building’s original adobe walls are covered by white paneling and a powder-blue roof. Out front, the steps leading to the entrance have been replaced with a wheelchair ramp. There was a time when the congregation nearly filled its 200-person sanctuary. On a recent Sunday, five people showed up. ‘That’s the lowest it’s ever been,’ Liv Johnson said. In the three decades since she started as secretary at First Presbyterian, Johnson has watched a slow trickle of people leave. ‘When I first came here, the average attendance—because I had to do that report—was 82,’ she said. ‘I remember having 35 kids for Sunday school, and now we have none.’ Still, Johnson doesn’t despair. She believes strong, stable leadership could turn things around. But recently, consistent leadership has been difficult to come by.”


Jesus Disciples The Chosen“Who is Jesus? How Pop Culture and Makers of ‘The Chosen’ Help Define His Life Amid Few Biographical Details” – Julia Duin in Newsweek: “Who is Jesus Christ? This weekend, his 2.3 billion followers will observe Easter, the Christian high holy day marking his resurrection from death. Every decade or so, a cottage industry of scholars, filmmakers, authors and clergy plow through the sparse biographical details of the man who claimed to be God in human form to discern how he lived his life.  More recently, artists, not theologians, have led the way, starting with Akiane Kramarik, a a homeschooled child from Mount Morris, Ill., whose striking head shots of a bearded, tousel-haired Jesus came from visions starting at the age of 4. By the age of 9, she was appearing on Oprah Winfrey. Film efforts range from the gritty ‘Last Days in the Desert’ (2015) with Ewan McGregor portraying an emaciated and doubting Jesus enduring 40 days in the wilderness to the Lumo Project’s ‘The Gospel Collection’ (2014-2018), a word-for-word presentation shot in Morocco and featuring British-Tamil actor Selva Rasalingam. Cultural authenticity is key; Rasalingam looks convincingly Jewish and the actors – taking a cue from Mel Gibson’s 2004 ‘The Passion of the Christ’ – spoke in Aramaic with subtitles. The most recent pop religious portrayal is The Chosen, a seven-season TV production that traces the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Some $45 million – mostly through crowdfunding – has been poured into the first two seasons of the production. A third will premiere in the fall. Hopes are to raise $100 million to eventually reach an audience of 1 billion. The show is closing in on 390 million views now.”


man playing tennis with his shadow, surreal abstract concept
man playing tennis with his shadow, surreal abstract concept

“Something Happened By Us: A Demonology” – Alan Jacobs in The New Atlantis: “On January 6, 2021, Samuel Camargo posted a video on Instagram showing him struggling to break through a police barrier to get into the U.S. Capitol building. The next day he wrote on Facebook: ‘I’m sorry to all the people I’ve disappointed as this is not who I am nor what I stand for.’ A month after the riot, Jacob Chansley, the man widely known as the QAnon Shaman, wrote a letter from his jail cell in Virginia asking Americans to ‘be patient with me and other peaceful people who, like me, are having a very difficult time piecing together all that happened to us, around us, and by us.’ ‘This is not who I am,’ ‘all that happened … by us’ — it is commonplace to hear such statements as mere evasions of responsibility, and often they are. But what if they reflect genuine puzzlement, genuine difficulty understanding one’s behavior or even seeing it as one’s own, a genuine feeling of being driven, compelled, by something other than one’s own will?”


franzlisztembed“Franz Liszt: Superstar, Sinner, Saint – For years Franz Liszt had been two men: a hedonist, scoundrel, and homewrecker, but also a generous soul who pined for a life of peace and prayer.” – Nathan Beacom in Plough Quarterly: “For a long time, Franz Liszt had been two men. In his days as a touring pianist, he was a hedonist, a scoundrel, and a homewrecker; he was also a generous soul who always pined for a life of peace and prayer. Now, on this sacred hill, things were simplifying themselves. For the first time, he was becoming one person. Underneath his years of superficial celebrity lay a desire still deeper than that which drove him after fame. ‘Holiness’ is a stuffy word, easily misused by the sentimental, but in its oldest origins, it simply means ‘wholeness.’ That is what Liszt was really searching for, and what he came nearer to finding in these, his later years. In his life and in his music, we can see that universal human drama between selfishness and salvation. In it, we can learn something about wholeness, too.”


Centro_america,_bernardino_de_Sahagún,_historia_general_de_las_cosas_de_nueva_españa,_1576-77,_cod._m.p._220“Nature does not care: Too many nature writers descend into poetic self-absorption instead of the sharp-eyed realism the natural world deserves” – Richard Smyth in Aeon: “I worry, sometimes, that knowledge is falling out of fashion – that in the field in which I work, nature writing, the multitudinous nonfictions of the more-than-human world, facts have been devalued; knowing stuff is no longer enough. Marc Hamer, a British writer on nature and gardening, said in his book Seed to Dust (2021) that he likes his head ‘to be clean and empty’ – as if, the naturalist Tim Dee remarked in his review for The Guardian, ‘it were a spiritual goal to be de-cluttered of facts’. ‘It is only humans that define and name things,’ Hamer declares, strangely. ‘Nature doesn’t waste its time on that.’ Jini Reddy, who explored the British landscape in her book Wanderland(2020), wondered which was worse, ‘needing to know the name of every beautiful flower you come across or needing to photograph it’. Increasingly, I get the impression that dusty, tweedy, moth-eaten old knowledge has had its day. Sure, it has its uses – of course, we wouldn’t want to do away with it altogether. But beside emotional truth, beside the human perspectives of the author, it seems dispensable. Am I right to worry? I know for a fact, after all, that there are still places where knowledge for its own sake is – up to a point – prized, even rewarded.”


Music: John Michael Talbot, “Jesus Prayer,” from Master Collection: The Quiet Side