The Weekend Wanderer: 29 June 2019

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.

lincoln_bible_-_front“A Bible Owned by Lincoln, Unknown to Historians for 150 Years, Goes on Display
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– Via The Smithsonian: “Seven years after her husband was assassinated, Mary Todd Lincoln presented his friend and neighbor, the Reverend Noyes W. Miner, with a special gift: an 18-pound Bible, adorned with a hand-tooled leather cover and gilt-edged pages, that had once belonged to the president. The Bible remained in Noyes’ family, unbeknownst to historians, for 150 years. But the precious the artifact has now been gifted to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois, where it went on display for the first time this week.”

 

_107156925_ab_index_promo_976_v5-nc“The Arab world in seven charts: Are Arabs turning their backs on religion?” – From BBC News: “Arabs are increasingly saying they are no longer religious, according to the largest and most in-depth survey undertaken of the Middle East and North Africa. The finding is one of a number on how Arabs feel about a wide range of issues, from women’s rights and migration to security and sexuality. More than 25,000 people were interviewed for the survey – for BBC News Arabic by the Arab Barometer research network – across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019. Here are some of the results.”

 

hong kong christian hymn“With Hymns and Prayers, Christians Help Drive Hong Kong’s Protests” – “Christianity has had a striking influence in demonstrations against a proposed law that would allow extraditions to mainland China. A hymn called ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ has become an unofficial anthem of demonstrations against a proposed extradition law.”

 

refugee crisis“The Global Refugee Crisis Hit a Record High. The US Welcome for the Persecuted Is at a Record Low” – From Christianity Today: “In just a few years, the United States has gone from a world leader in refugee resettlement to only admitting a fraction as many as it once did—a shift that has allowed fewer persecuted Christians and other religious minorities into the country. On Thursday, World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees declared a record-high 70.8 million people were displaced last year. Despite pleas from evangelicals, the Trump Administration continued to restrict the number of refugees admitted in the country to fewer than half of what it had been for decades.”

 

Congregation at church praying“Donations to ‘religion’ declined $2 billion in 2018 after years of growth: study” – “Giving to houses of worship, denominational bodies and religious television and radio declined in 2018 after years of growth as individual Americans donated about $3 billion less than they did in 2017 under a new federal tax code, according to a new study.  The Giving USA Foundation, an arm of the Giving Institute, released its 2019 annual report on philanthropy in the U.S. conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy on Tuesday. The study is the longest-running and most comprehensive report on charitable giving in the United States. It finds that total overall charitable giving in the country rose 0.7 percent to an even higher record level of nearly $428 billion actual dollars in 2018. But when inflation is accounted for, the study finds that total giving in 2018 declined by 1.7 percent from a record level in 2017.”

 

Thorncrown Chapel“9 Exceptional Works of Worship Architecture in the United States” – “Let’s get this out of the way: God-honoring worship can happen anywhere—a strip mall, a bowling alley, a rented high-school cafeteria, wherever. And the how—worshiping Jesus in spirit and in truth—is far more important than the where. But in 2,000 years, the global church has created some awesome architectural spaces that glorify God just by being. And in about a tenth of that time, the United States has produced a few as well.”

 

MusicBryce Dessner and André de Ridder, “Lachrimae,” from St. Carolyn by the Sea.

[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.]

The Elusive Midwestern Identity

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_ProjectThis past May I traveled to a Pastor’s Conference at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, as part of my sabbatical. While there, I had numerous opportunities to answer the question, “Where are you from?” Since most of the attendees were from western Canada or the Pacific Northwest, it was always entertaining to explain where Milwaukee is (‘just north of Chicago’) or what it means to be from the Midwestern region of America. What is the Midwest, anyway, and is it really unique to be from there?

That topic is exactly what Phil Christman explores in his article, “On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality,” in the latest edition of The Hedgehog Review.

After my Texas-born wife and I moved to Michigan—an eleven-hour drive in the snow, during which time itself seemed to widen and flatten with the terrain—I found myself pressed into service as an expert on the region where I was born and where I have spent most of my life. “What is the Midwest like?” she asked. “Midwestern history, Midwestern customs, Midwestern cuisine?” I struggled to answer with anything more than clichés: bad weather, hard work, humble people. I knew these were inadequate.

As a lifelong Midwesterner I thoroughly enjoyed Christman’s exploration of the stereotypes, artistic representations, self-deprecating humor, and perceptions of the Midwest. Referencing Fargo, Abraham Lincoln, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, and social commentary over the past one-hundred years, Christman addresses the burdens of life in the Midwest. What burdens, you may ask?

What does it do to people to see themselves as normal? On the one hand, one might adopt a posture of vigilant defense, both internal and external, against anything that might detract from such a fully, finally achieved humanness. On the other hand, a person might feel intense alienation and disgust, which one might project inward—What is wrong with me?—or outward, in a kind of bomb-the-suburbs reflex. A third possibility—a simple, contented being normal—arises often in our culture’s fictions about the Midwest, both the stupid versions (the contented families of old sitcoms) and the more sophisticated ones (Fargo’s Marge Gunderson, that living argument for the value of banal goodness). I have yet to meet any real people who manage it. A species is a bounded set of variations on a template, not an achieved state of being.

Give it a read here.