The Weekend Wanderer: 26 June 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.


Wang Yi“Concerns Grow Over the Health of Imprisoned ERCC Pastor” – From International Christian Concern: “Concerns over the health of the imprisoned pastor of the banned Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) are growing. Pastor Wang Yi has been in police custody since December 14, 2018. Wang Yi, the pastor and founder of ERCC, was detained by the police in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, the southwestern Chinese province where ERCC is located. He was arrested alongside dozens of members of his church on suspicion of ‘incitement to subvert state power.’ Pastor Wang was found guilty of this charge by the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. In December of 2019, he was sentenced to nine years in jail. In addition, authorities placed his family and the other members of his church who were detained under house arrest.”


AAPI mental health Verma“Churches Should Help Normalize Mental Health for Asian Americans” –  Prasanta Verma in Sojourners: “Last month, Chicago-based writer Liuan Huska tweeted that she “can’t write or talk about getting a massage without feeling retraumatized” by the Atlanta spa murders in March that left eight people dead — six of them Asian women. Huska is Chinese American and her mother is a massage therapist. With the documented rise in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, fueled at least in part by racist rhetoric blaming Chinese people for the COVID-19 pandemic, Huska is not alone in feeling race-based trauma. Recent polling found that one-third of Asian adults in the U.S. fear physical attacks and threats, and more than half the Asian American women interviewed in a separate poll conducted by National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, reported experiencing incidents of hate in the past two years. A recent report by Stop AAPI Hate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Asian American Psychological Association found that Asian Americans who have experienced racism are more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic. Further, it found that 1 in 5 Asian Americans who have experienced racism show signs of racial trauma. But unlike Huska, who has been able to process her grief with friends, family, and a professional, many Asian Americans have been unable to share the trauma they are feeling. While 18 percent of the general U.S. population seeks mental health services only 8.6 percent of Asian Americans do so. This discrepancy is especially stark when compared to white U.S. citizens, who access mental health services at three times the rate of Asian Americans.”


Eternity in Our HeartsEternity in Our Heart: How Art Makes Us Long for Home” – Kelly Kruse in Ekstasis Magazine: “As a child and young adult, I thought that I was homesick for beauty itself. Like many artists, I was aware of a sort of insatiable hunger in me for the beautiful at an early age. I grew up in northwest Iowa, near a place called the Loess Hills, named for its glacially deposited bluffs of humus-rich yellow soil. The sunsets in those bluffs brought about some of my first experiences of transient beauty, too rich to savor all at once, a feast that disappears before it can be finished….Sehnsucht is a German word for a particular kind of longing that I have heard described as a homesickness for a place you’ve never been. You may ask, but how could we be homesick if we haven ’t been there? This is a good question, and it’s also part of the secret.”


OBS-Trees“Practices of Place” – Matt Busby in The Intersection Journal: “Onion Bottom is a place in Chattanooga. Most people who live in Chattanooga have never heard of it, and those who have would argue that it isn’t much of a place. To be honest, there is probably at least some truth to that. There aren’t any houses in Onion Bottom, and most of the lots are vacant industrial land bisected by railroads….Onion Bottom is also the home of our church, Mission Chattanooga. I wanted to begin with a rich description of our neighborhood because I believe that one of the only ways to overcome this gap between mission as evangelism and mission as social action is in the embodied presence of the church in a place.”


Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

“Social Media, Identity, and the Church” – Tim Keller in Life in the Gospel: “Recently I was in a Zoom forum of journalists and academics who were discussing the increasing polarization of American culture. At one point a male speaker said, ‘If I wanted to invent a public forum that would undermine civil discourse and lead to social division, I couldn’t do a better job than to create Twitter.’ A respected woman journalist, who had been working for nearly a year to understand how social media worked, agreed with him. I believe they are right. But I don’t see social media going away, either, because it has enormous benefits, too. It is also deeply embedded in the psyches especially of the young. So Christians can’t ignore it, and most of all we need to begin to understand it. One book that will be useful for that purpose is Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing by Chris Bail (Princeton, 2021). This is not a religious book—it is a work of social science. (Bail is professor of sociology at Duke University.) But its findings can be significant for how Christians conduct themselves and consume social media. And, indeed, many of his final principles for “a way forward” align with Christian ethics. Here’s what we can learn from the book.”


CROP_a and b“From Here to Utopia: What religion can teach the Left” – David Albertson and Jason Blakely in Commonweal: “Utopian thinkers have often been motivated by Christian faith. The last century alone includes William Morris, G. K. Chesterton, Karl Barth, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Cornel West…But too often Catholic political identity is limited to issues, ideology, and religious affiliation in survey polls. Equally important is the slow ethical formation of the self through the various practices of the Catholic faith, especially liturgies and other rituals that actually do the labor of constituting social belonging between individuals….The Left needs to learn how to introduce what James K. A. Smith has termed ‘cultural liturgies.’ Liturgies in this sense are cultural practices that shape our desires toward a highest good. Smith is ultimately concerned with Christian sacraments, readings, prayers, ascetic acts, charitable works, celebrations, and holy days. But he also draws attention to the way that other liturgies are offered to us by consumer capitalism that condition the heart to seek a rival highest good.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Dominik Ray), “life thoughts.”

The Weekend Wanderer: 22 May 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.


Israel Palestine“Rockets, Riots, Sermons, and Soccer: Christian Views on the Conflict in Gaza and Israel” – Jayson Casper at Christianity Today: “Bombs fall in Gaza as rockets target Israel. Frustrated Arab rioters are met by extremist Jewish settlers. And in the middle of it all, Danny Kopp sent his boys out to play soccer. Numbers were down at the Jerusalem neighborhood park frequented by Jew and Arab alike, but his 13-, 10-, and 8-year-old sons still translated between the sides. ‘These encounters, as small as they are, remind belligerents that coexistence is still viable,’ said the chairman of the Evangelical Alliance in Israel. ‘Wholesale vilifying is simply inaccurate.’ But it is easy to do, if attached to a favored narrative.”


Kingsnorth First Things“The Cross 
and the Machine” – I first became acquainted with the writings of Paul Kingsnorth through his fascinating book, Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays. Through that book I discovered Kingsnorth’s shared love for the work of Wendell Berry, including the fact that Kingsnorth edited a recent selection of Wendell Berry’s works The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry. Further digging led me to explore his writing as part of the Dark Mountain Project. Several times in my reading I have wondered where Kingsnorth was headed spiritually, and then I discovered this recent essay by him at First Things about his conversion to Christianity. As Rod Dreher comments on this article: “Drop everything you’re doing right now and read [it].”


worship hands“Why Contemporary Worship Isn’t Actually Ruining the Church” – Glenn Packiam at Missio Alliance: “In the latest iteration of a tired diatribe against contemporary worship, Hans Boersma complained in First Things that contemporary worship is ruining everything…But Boersma is wrong. Worship historians Lester Ruth and Swee-Hong Lim traced multiple root systems for the contemporary worship movement. Yes, one is indeed a missional impulse borne of a burden to reach the lost. But another—arguably the more dominant one—is the expectation of an encounter with the presence of God. Contemporary worship songs that are being sung around the world aren’t being written by seeker-friendly megachurches trying to set Jesus-y lyrics to Taylor Swift tunes just to get the kids to come through the doors. These songs are being written by charismatic worship leaders who believe that something happens when the people of God gather to praise God.”


AAPI_Heritage_Month“The Asian American Experience: a free reading guide” – From Fuller Seminary’s Centered: Resources for the Asian American Church: “Asian American identity is complicated! ’20 million Asian Americans trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent,’ with a broad range of immigration experiences, income levels, religions, languages, and cultures. The resources below, ordered from short articles to lengthy readers and study guides, are all freely available from credible, well-respected sources. We recommend them as beginning points to explore and become conversant in the identity and needs of Asian America.”


CMDA“Is It Discrimination or ‘Do No Harm’? Christian Doctors Gear Up for Transgender Debates” – Kate Shellnutt at Christianity Today: “As cultural conflicts around transgender identity grow more intense, Christian doctors see a need to be more sensitive to the plights and preferences of people experiencing gender dysphoria while also holding firm to personal and professional convictions around biological sex. That’s what the Christian Medical and Dental Associations (CMDA) says in an updated statement on transgender identification that leaders hope will inform its 20,000 members as well as the general public. That balance might be difficult to maintain, though, if federal health officials take the position that declining certain treatments for transgender patients can be considered a form of discrimination based on sex.”


teaching“How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit” – This list of ten tips on writing from author Rebecca Solnit at LitHub is well worth the read if you aspire to writing. Solnit offers advice that is simple yet necessary, like “Write…Write bad stuff because the road to good writing is made out of words and not all of them are well-arranged words” and ” Facts. Always get them right.” But she also speaks to the more profound, such as “Writing is facing your deepest fears and all your failures…[but] Find pleasure and joy. Maybe even make lists of joys for emergencies” and “What we call success is very nice and comes with useful byproducts, but success is not love.” Read it and then, well…write!


Music: Marvin Gaye, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” from What’s Going On

The Weekend Wanderer: 27 March 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.even sharing it with someone who you know struggles in this way.


Holy Week & Easter“Suffering and Glory: Meditations on Holy Week and Easter” – Here is a great resource for Holy Week and Easter to encourage us in our faith: “How does Jesus’ triumphal entry and his cleansing of the temple speak to critical cultural issues today? What does Christ’s prayer in the garden teach us about suffering and submission? How can Christ’s journey to the cross help us learn to die to ourselves? In Suffering & Glory: Meditations on Easter and Holy Week, a book co-published by Christianity Today and Lexham Press, we feature some of the best Holy Week and Easter articles from the last half-century of Christianity Today magazine. Here is a sampling of some of the articles featured in Suffering & Glory. May these reflections help you draw ever closer to Christ as you journey with him to the cross and rejoice at the empty tomb.”


chad-madden-xWohP8D-i0M-unsplash“A Country With No Name: Living in Liminal Spaces” – Here is Prasanta Verma, a friend and congregant at Eastbrook Church, sharing her experiences: “We were out on the softball field for recess. In the outfield, no one else could hear our conversation, well out of earshot from the teacher on duty. It was another typical hot, sunny, Southern day, and I could feel the red clay burning like hot coals beneath my feet. My classmate turned to me, hatred and bitterness seething in her eyes. ‘Go back to Indiana, or wherever it is you came from!’ she hissed. Sound travels faster in humid air, stinging the ears more quickly than normal. I said nothing in response, but knew what she meant. Her use of the name of a state, Indiana, instead of the name of the country, India, made the meaning undeniably clear. My family was, as far as we were aware, the only Indian family within a 45-mile radius, and my classmate had never met (or presumably seen) anyone else before from the far-off land of ‘Indiana’.”


Atlanta March killings“The Atlanta massacre is yet another reminder we desperately need race-conscious discipleship” – Ray Chang of Wheaton College at RNS: “My phone started lighting up with notifications. By now, when this happens, it’s usually because an incident involving race has occurred. As I picked up my phone, I saw the words, ‘8 shot dead in Atlanta.’ My stomach dropped. All I could say to myself was: ‘Lord, have mercy. Not again. No more.’ At the start of the pandemic, anyone who had even a basic understanding of how race functions in society knew the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump would lead to discrimination, targeting and violence against Asian Americans. This is why we at the Asian American Christian Collaborative wrote the ‘Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19.’ As we watched the number of incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate, we knew that we were about to see another spike of anti-Asian racism. What we hoped was for efforts like ours to get the church to speak up against anti-Asian racism.”


Flannery O'Connor“Flannery O’Connor’s Grotesque Grace” – Karen Swallow Prior at Think Christian on a recently-released documentary on the work and influence of author Flannery O’Connor, which you can view here: “Nearly nine years in the making, Flannery—a prize-winning documentary on the Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor, debuting in virtual-cinemas July 17—couldn’t come at a better time….O’Connor—who lived from 1925 to 1964, dying of lupus at age 39—experienced ‘the best of times’ and ‘the worst of times’ in modern American history. Accordingly, one of the documentary’s strengths is placing O’Connor’s life and work squarely within the context of the mid-twentieth century crises that informed and defined her writing: the impact of World War II on Americans here at home, the rapidly changing roles for women, the challenge of the Civil Rights movement, and the growth of material prosperity along with an accompanying decline in spiritual richness. Flannery rightly makes O’Connor’s theology of grace and her commitment to the life of the church central, yet portrays these subjects in broad strokes that likely reflect the views of its directors and backers.”


What-John-Stott-Learned-about-Theology-from-Bird-Watching-Recovered-Recovered“What John Stott Learned about Theology from Bird-Watching” – John Stott, the renowned Bible teacher and author, enjoyed birds for their own sake and as teachers of theological truths. In his most unique book, The Birds, Our Teachers: Essays in Orni-theology, Stott takes the reader on an adventure inside his own wonder and theological reflection over the variegated beauty of birds. In his own way, Stott was attempting to live out what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Consider the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). I came across this article by Tim Chester offering his take on this uniqueness in Stott while preparing my own message for this weekend from this same text.


Seemuth-Family-scaled“A Shadow of Your Future Self” – Friend and former colleague David Seemuth writes very personally about resurrection, mental illness, and true hope at NT Wright Online: “For as long as I can remember, my mother struggled with mental illness. Back when I was a young boy, they called the malady ‘manic-depressive disorder’. In the 1960s, the treatment regimen was harsh, given the lack of appropriate medications to deal with the illness. The approach would later be regarded as somewhat cruel and barbaric . Later, the understanding of the illness and treatment protocol changed. My mother was labeled ‘bi-polar’. Fortunately, better treatments were developed that helped her live a fruitful life….As my own theological studies progressed in my adult life, I understood that the hope of a Resurrection Body and a New Heaven and a New Earth, renewed by the Risen Christ, was my true hope. My mother, who trusted in Jesus as her Lord, will be raised up again, but with a renewed mind, no longer tortured by her illness.”


Music: Poor Bishop Hooper, “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley