The Weekend Wanderer: 27 February 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.


When Harry Became Sally3 Posts by Alan Jacobs on Amazon Pulling Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally – Several people reached out to me this past week about Amazon pulling Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally, a somewhat provocative bestselling book about transgender, from their website. This was noteworthy enough for Newsweek to write about it. I really appreciated Alan Jacobs’ reflections on this from a philosophical and a practical level. I highly recommend reading his three posts on it: “Damnatio memoriae,” “free speech under technocracy,” and “up the Amazon.” If you end up pulling the plug on your Amazon purchasing, as Jacobs suggest, that’s one clear way to let a retailer know you’re not happy. Will that make a difference to Amazon? Given the number of people purchasing from them during the pandemic and the colossal increases in sales, it might not matter to them. But it might matter to you, and that may be what’s more important. You can read Anderson’s own comments about this in First Things, as well as buy the book directly from the publisher.


060320mindchange_4“I’m a philosopher. We can’t think our way out of this mess. – Here’s James K. A. Smith, author and professor of philosophy at Calvin College, reflecting on his calling, philosophy, and the arts in The Christian Century: “The path to philosophy is paved with polemic and fueled by brash confidence in the power of logic. When I answered the call to be a philosophical theologian 25 years ago, I imagined the world’s (and the church’s) problems amounted to a failure of analysis. If only we could think more carefully, the truth would come out. Good arguments would save us. And yet here I am, in the middle of this profession, in the middle of a career as a philosopher, with second thoughts. I’ve had a change of heart about how to change someone’s mind. This change is bound up with my biography.”


Kirk Franklin Tiny Desk Concert“Kirk Franklin: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert” – NPR Tiny Desk Concert: “Kirk Franklin, set up with his band and choir in a corner of Uncle Jessie’s Kitchen, makes a declaration. “I know you’re at home right now, in your draws, listening to some Jesus music. It’s ok. Jesus loves you in your draws!” The Arlington, Texas studio, named after a long time close friend, features a large photo of the iconic “I AM A MAN” protest signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike on the wall. The jubilant energy that Franklin and company emit, juxtaposed with a visual reminder of the strife that Black people have endured is illustrative of the importance of gospel music in the Black community.”


Equality Act“Swinging the Pendulum Too Far” – Ed Stetzer this past Thursday at “The Exchange” on the Equality Act: “Congress will consider the Equality Act, which its proponents indicate would ban discrimination toward people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While discrimination toward people created in the image of God should, indeed, be opposed, the EA does so in ways that significantly disregard religious liberty concerns. Just how far remains to be seen….University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock spoke about this unbalanced impact of the Equality Act as well: ‘It protects the rights of one side, but attempts to destroy the rights of the other side,’ he said. ‘We ought to protect the liberty of both sides to live their own lives by their own identities and their own values.'”


Michael Abs“Interview: The Middle East Church Must Resemble Salt, not Rabbits” – An interview by Jayson Casper of Christianity Today with Michael Abs, head of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC): “Pope Francis will make the first papal visit ever to Iraq in March to encourage the dwindling faithful. War and terrorism have hemorrhaged the nation’s Christians, but he hopes they might return. Meanwhile in Lebanon, Michel Abs, recently selected as the new leader of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), agrees with the pontiff. But in an interview with CT, he said that schools and hospitals have distinguished Christians, who he hopes might even increase in number—and quality. And Protestants, he said, have a lever effect that raises the whole. Representing only 7 percent of the regional Christian population, they have a full one-quarter share in the council.”


Our Songs Came Through“Our Songs Came Through: A review of When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, edited by Joy Harjo and others” – A review by Diane Glancy at Plough: “In the most ambitious anthology of its kind, US poet laureate and editor Joy Harjo celebrates Native talent in stirring poems that span centuries, regions, languages, styles, and tribal nations. The book, When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, comprises five sections, organized by geographic region. Poets are introduced in a short biographical note to give their work historical context. In the words of Linda Hogan, Chickasaw, ‘air is between these words, / fanning the flame.'”


Music: Harrod and Funck, “Lion Song,” from Harrod and Funck

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 February 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.


Multiethnic Church“The Multiethnic Church Movement Hasn’t Lived up to Its Promise” – Here is Korie Little Edwards, author of The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches, writing in Christianity Today about the failings and the potential of the multi-ethnic church movement: “The number of multiracial churches has risen steadily in the US over the past two decades. A recent study reveals that in 2019, multiracial churches made up about 16 percent of all congregations in the US, compared to 6 percent in 1998. While Catholics have consistently had the largest percentage of multiracial churches—17 percent in 1998 and 23 percent in 2019—evangelical churches showed the greatest increase, moving from 7 percent in 1998 to 22 percent in 2019….Multiracial congregations have gained a greater share of American churches over the past 20 years, but as my colleagues and I have found, they are not delivering on what they promised.”


Ravi Zacharias“Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation” – This past year has revealed a series of moral failures of Christian leaders, but perhaps none has sent as strong of shockwaves as the recent revelations about Ravi Zacharias. When Zacharias died in May 2020 after a relatively short battle with cancer, many Christians offered praise for his impact upon their life and ministry, me included. But now it has become clear Zacharias lived a double-life. He hid a series of shocking and inappropriate activities, which led RZIM into an independent investigation and his publisher to subsequently remove all his books from publication. You can read the RZIM International Board’s open letter on the investigation and their proposed next steps, plus the detailed and often stomach-turning 12-page independent report from Miller & Martin PLLC (“Report of Independent Investigation into Sexual Misconduct of Ravi Zacharias”). Further reflections are David French’s personal and probing “‘You Are One Step Away from Complete and Total Insanity'”, James Emery White’s “The Crisis of Character,” as well as Christianity Today‘s reporting linked at the headline of this article. This highlights once again the urgency of a shift in the way we approach public ministry in North America, the importance of spiritual formation in leadership, and recapturing what it means to be the church.


Algeria“United Nations demands Algeria to explain its campaign against Protestant churches” – From Evangelical Focus – Europe: “The United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) has increased its pressure on Algeria, asking its government to clarify how it is treating the Protestant Christian minority. A letter signed by three UN HRC special rapporteurs (freedom of religion and belief, freedom of peaceful gathering and association, and of minorities) was sent in December 2020 to the President of the government of Algeria asking for ‘detailed information’ about the closing of Protestant worship places around the country. Now the United Nations has made the letter public. The 7-page long document summarises some of the latest developments that are a breaching of human rights in Algeria, especially those related to the ‘closing of worship places and churches affiliated with the Eglise Protestante d’Algérie (EPA) as well as the actions of discrimination against the members of the Protestant Christian minority’.”


Another Life is Possible“Review: A Deeper Way of Living” – Emily Esfahani Smith reviews a recent history of the Bruderhof movement for Comment: “In 1920, the German pastor and anti-Nazi dissident Eberhard Arnold gave up his comfortable middle-class life in Berlin to launch an experiment in community living that has endured to this day….To mark the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Bruderhof, Plough, the community’s publishing house, has released a beautiful book that collects moving stories and luminous photographs of today’s Bruderhof members. Another Life Is Possible: Insights from 100 Years of Life Together is a snapshot of the Bruderhof community today—and the yearning for meaning that has led its nearly three thousand members to exchange the liberties and luxuries of modern life for a deeper way of living.”


practicing-church“The Practicing Church in Shoreline, Washington, seeks to live out its faith in the neighborhood” – From Yonat Shimron at Faith and Leadership: “The Rev. Jessica Ketola is an old hand at doing church. Her parents were pastors. She served as a worship leader for more than a decade. She recorded Christian praise songs. She ran a church nonprofit that tutored low-income neighborhood children. But in her mid-40s, the Vineyard-ordained pastor decided to change all the rules. In January 2017, after a season of upheaval at Vineyard Community Church, where she had been serving as an associate pastor, she relaunched the congregation in her Shoreline, Washington, living room. Ketola called it The Practicing Church and explained her vision to the 25 or so members that remained: it would be a neighborhood-based church that would serve the community out of a commitment to Jesus’ way of love and a desire for God’s shalom, or peace.”


Music: Maverick City & Upperroom, “Remember,” from You Hold It All Together

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 February 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.


Iran Gospel Movements“Meet the World’s Fastest-Growing Evangelical Movement” – Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at The Gospel Coalition: “While official reports still claim that 99.4 percent of Iranians practice Islam, a 2020 survey found that just 40 percent actually identify as Muslim. An even larger number—about 47 percent—said they were ‘nones,’ atheists, spiritual, agnostic, or humanist. Another 8 percent claim Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion. And a small sliver—1.5 percent—said they were Christians. ‘About 20 years ago, the number of Christian converts from a Muslim background was between 5,000 and 10,000 people,’ Crabtree said. ‘Today that’s between 800,000 to 1 million people. That’s massive growth.’ According to Operation World, Iran has the fastest-growing evangelical movement in the world.”


The Black Church“The Black Church: This is our story – this is our song” – I just saw this new series premiering from PBS: “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song is a moving four-hour, two-part series from executive producer, host and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, that traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power. The documentary reveals how Black people have worshipped and, through their spiritual journeys, improvised ways to bring their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, while translating them into a form of Christianity that was not only truly their own, but a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was found in their ancestors’ enslavement across the Middle Passage.” Trailer here.


Hershel Shanks“Died: Hershel Shanks, Editor Who Saved Biblical Archaeology from Academics” – Daniel Silliman at Christianity Today: “Hershel Shanks, the founder and longtime editor of Biblical Archaeology Reviewdied on Friday at the age of 90….The biggest test of Shanks’s clout in the field came in the early 1990s, when he decided it was time to make the Dead Sea Scrolls widely available. Though the texts had been discovered in the 1940s, only bits and pieces had been shown to the public—or even to other scholars. The academics in charge of the study of the scrolls were carefully guarding them until their own extensive research was published….Shanks thought this was dumb and persuaded Abegg to let him publish the ‘bootleg’ version of the scrolls that Abegg had reconstructed by computer from a concordance of Dead Sea Scrolls words that was assembled in the late 1950s but kept secret outside of a small group of specialists.”


Kathleen Norris - Retreat“How to Retreat When We Can’t Go to Retreats” – Here is renowned author Kathleen Norris: “For years in America, the retreat centers sponsored by churches and monasteries have been booked up well in advance. People recognize that they need the chance to enter into silence and live for a while in a place where the day is centered on prayer and contemplation. They need the music, art, and conversation that programs at these facilities provide. These centers are often found in places of great natural beauty, encouraging guests to take time to enjoy and praise God’s creation as they hike a trail or swim in a river. I doubt that anyone expected 2020 would be the year when we were all suddenly plunged into a forced retreat in our own homes. “


evangelical Myanmar“After Military Coup, It’s ‘Time to Shout’ for Myanmar Evangelicals” – Kate Shellnutt at Christianity Today: “Evangelical pastors in Myanmar have taken to the streets alongside their Buddhist neighbors in the week since a military takeover, believing that God is on the people’s side and praying desperately for him to bring justice. Amid nationwide internet and phone shutdowns, some churches gathering online due to the pandemic couldn’t connect to worship together last weekend, the first Sunday since the coup in the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma. Hundreds of displaced Christians have been physically blocked out of their towns due to travel restrictions and roadblocks.”


Music: Lachrimae” by John Dowland performed by Christopher Morrongiello, filmed in the Chapel from Le Château de la Bastie d’Urfé at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 February 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.


Modernist Churches in Chicago“The Bold Architecture of Chicago’s Black Churches” – Daniel Hautzinger at WTTW: “Most people probably imagine a particular archetype when they think of a church: an imposing stone edifice or white clapboard building, a towering steeple, stained glass. But what about an old hat factory with glass block windows? That’s First Church of Deliverance in Bronzeville. Converted into a church in 1939 by Walter Thomas Bailey, Illinois’s first licensed African American architect, and the Black structural engineer Charles Sumner Duke, the building is clad in cream-colored terra cotta with horizontal red and green accents. Bailey and Duke doubled the width of the factory and added a second floor while remaking the interior into a stylish sanctuary, with a cross on the ceiling illuminated by colored lights and Art Deco touches. Two Art Moderne towers that flank the entrance were added in 1946 by the firm Kocher Buss & DeKlerk. Not for nothing does Open House Chicago call it ‘undoubtedly one of the most unique [churches] in Chicago.'”


Hymns-in-a-Womans-Life-1-270x250“Hymns in a Woman’s Life” – Drew Bratcher reflects on his grandmother’s life and the hymns she loved: “Among the first songs I remember hearing are the hymns my great-grandmother sang: ‘I’ll Fly Away,’ ‘Do Lord,’ ‘I Am Bound for the Promised Land.’ Doubtless I had heard other hymns before these, and still others with greater frequency, but to this day when I think of hymns, it is my great-grandmother who comes to mind. Her name was Elmay (pronounced ‘Elmy’). She lived in a holler in West Virginia, on land owned by the company for which my great-grandfather dug coal. We would see them twice, maybe three times, a year, once at their house on Thanksgiving, and at least once at my grandparents’ place in Nashville, where they visited for a couple of weeks each summer.”


Church of the Immaculate Conception“For Iraqi priest, pope’s visit raises hope of restored trust between Christians and Muslims” – From Claire Giangravé at  Religion News Service: “In Iraq, the birthplace of Abraham, the patriarch of three major faiths, religion has rarely so divided the country, and Christians, descendants of one of their faith’s oldest communities, feel more threatened than they have in living memory. The Rev. Karam Qasha, a parish priest of the Chaldean Catholic Church of St. George in Telskuf, in northern Iraq, is among those hoping Pope Francis can mend the “broken trust” between the country’s Christians and Muslims and give courage to frightened Christians. Francis will visit Iraq March 5-8, making good on St. John Paul II’s attempt to travel to Iraq in 2000 when failed negotiations with the government of Saddam Hussein prevented John Paul from visiting.”


COVID-19 and faith“Pew: How COVID-19 Changed Faith in 14 Countries” – FromJeremy Weber at Christianity Today: “Today, the Pew Research Center released a study on how COVID-19 affected levels of religious faith this past summer in 14 countries with advanced economies: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. ‘In 11 of 14 countries surveyed, the share who say their religious faith has strengthened is higher than the share who say it has weakened,’ noted Pew researchers. ‘But generally, people in developed countries don’t see much change in their own religious faith as a result of the pandemic.'”


alan jacobs“Katharsis Culture” – Here’s Alan Jacobs with a helpful reframing of the many discussions of cancel culture: “A great many people have criticized the use of the term ‘cancel culture,’ but have done so for different reasons. One group of people simply wants to deny that cancellation is a widespread phenomenon; others are aware that something is going on but don’t think that ‘cancellation’ is the right way to describe it. I myself don’t have a problem with the use of the phrase, but I think there are more accurate ways of describing the very real phenomenon to which that phrase points. I think the two key concepts for understanding what is happening are katharsis and broken-windows policing.”


Music: Aklesso, “Wilderness,” from My Life is a Beautiful Mess

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 January 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.


Sebastian Kim“Democracy, ‘The Problem of Minorities,’ and the Theology of the Common Good” – In this brief, but informative essay, Sebastian Chang Hwan Kim, Academic Dean for the Korean Center and Robert Wiley Professor of Renewal and Public Life at Fuller School of Theology, offers a helpful exploration of theology for the common good. Engaging with other prevalent theologies for public engagement, Kim suggest some meaningful ways in which we as Christians can step into the public sphere for the good of all without relinquishing our theological footing.


Praying for the World“Prayers and Praises from the World’s Hardest Places to Be a Christian” – Just over two weeks ago, Open Doors released their annual “World Watch List,” which tracks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to follow Jesus. I strongly encourage you to explore the amazing resource that Open Doors has assembled there, but also want to encourage you to take a look at this resource from Christianity Today. Here, CT has assembled both praises and prayers not merely for that part of the world but from believers in many of those countries. This is a very helpful resource for intercessory prayer for the world.


wayne

Jesus and John Wayne – a series of reviews” – One of the most thought-provoking religious books of the past year is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. The title itself may either draw you in or frustrate you, but the book has sent ripples through the church. It was through church historian John Fea that I first heard about a series of reviews of the book at the Mere Orthodoxy website. If you’re interested in the book (love it or dislike it) or if you’ve never heard of the book, consider reading this series of reviews for appreciative, reflective, and critical responses, often intermixed in each essay:


Wintering“How ‘Wintering’ Replenishes” – In this interview by Krista Tippett from On Being, Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times speaks to something many of us have felt in this past year of trials and challenges. Here’s the description from On Being: “In so many stories and fables that shape us, cold and snow, the closing in of the light — these have deep psychological as much as physical reality. This is “wintering,” as the English writer Katherine May illuminates in her beautiful, meditative book of that title — wintering as at once a season of the natural world, a respite our bodies require, and a state of mind. It’s one way to describe our pandemic year: as one big extended communal experience of wintering. Some of us are laboring harder than ever on its front lines and also on its home front of parenting. All of us are exhausted. This conversation with Katherine May helps.”


Jefferson Bible Jesus“What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus” – Vinson Cunningham offers an insightful review of Peter Manseau’s The Jefferson Bible: A Biography in The New Yorker, touching upon not only Jefferson, but also Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Howard Thurman: “Jefferson, meanwhile, was mulling a book project. He imagined it as a work of comparative moral philosophy, which would include a survey of ‘the most remarkable of the ancient philosophers,’ then swiftly address the ‘repulsive’ ethics of the Jews, before demonstrating that the ‘system of morality’ offered by Jesus was ‘the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught.’ This sublimity, however, would need to be rescued from the Gospels, which were—as Jefferson put it in a letter to the English chemist, philosopher, and minister Joseph Priestley—written by ‘the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him.'”


Music: Víkingur Ólafsson, “Philip Glass: Études, No. 2,” from Glass Piano Works | recorded at the Yellow Lounge