The Weekend Wanderer: 25 May 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.

 

Karamles“The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East: An ancient faith is disappearing from the lands in which it first took root. At stake is not just a religious community, but the fate of pluralism in the region.” – Emma Green offers a stellar piece of reporting at The Atlantic on the situation that I have discussed often with my friends in the Middle East, both while visiting there and when they have visited here. There is a crisis in the Middle East of Christians fleeing their homelands for a variety of reasons.

 

Back Row America

“Back Row America” – Chris Arnade at First Things: “For many back row Americans, the only places that regularly treat them like humans are churches. The churches are everywhere, small churches that have come in and taken over a space and light it up on Sundays and Wednesdays. They walk inside the church, and immediately they meet people who get them. The preachers and congregants inside may preach to them, even judge their past decisions, but they don’t look down on them. They have walked the walk and know the shit they are going through, not from a book, not from a movie, not from an article, not from a study, but from their own lives or the lives of their friends. They look like them, and they get them. There are rules to follow if you join, but they don’t require having your paperwork in order or having proper ID. They don’t require getting grilled about this and that. They say, ‘Enter as you are,’ letting forgiveness wash away a past that many want gone.”

India-election“Why Indian Leader Modi’s Big Win is an ‘Absolute Tragedy’ for Christians” – From Open Doors: “Since Modi came to power in 2014, India has risen from number 28 to number 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch Listthe annual list that measures the 50 places around the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus. Under his leadership, Hindu nationalist attacks against Christians have risen, believers are given fewer rights in some areas and the government is frequently accused of turning a blind eye to brutal attacks against religious minorities like Christians. Open Doors’ local partners recorded 147 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2014, but they have recorded 216 violent incidents in India in the first quarter of 2019 alone, including two murders.”

 

90341“Lessons on Christian Rhetoric from Five of its Greatest Practitioners” – Erin Straza interviews James E. Beitler III on his new book Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. There, Beitler examines the rhetorical strategies of C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson in their oral and written communication.

 

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset“After Technopoly” – Alan Jacobs reflects in The New Atlantis on Neil Postman’s assessment of “technopoly” with some help from Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski and English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. With the fine distinction between technological core and mythological core, Jacobs’ concludes: “Technopoly is a system that arises within a society that views moral life as an application of rules but that produces people who practice moral life by habits of affection, not by rules. (Think of Silicon Valley social engineers who have created and capitalized upon Twitter outrage mobs.) Put another way, technopoly arises from the technological core of society but produces people who are driven and formed by the mythical core.”

 

Marilynne Robinson“Pushing Back Against Marilynne Robinson’s Theology” – Speaking of Marilynne Robinson, this essay by Jessica Hooten Wilson offers a thoughtful critique of Robinson’s approach to Christian faith. While I deeply enjoy Robinson’s writing, particularly her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, there seems to be at times an uncritical reading of her work within Christian circles. Wheaton College’s theology conference two years ago was entirely focused on her work, producing a book of appreciation and critique entitled Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson.

 

7d8acac56“Vacation is Good For Your Health” – “If you feel like you need a vacation, you’re almost certainly right. Americans get far fewer paid days off than workers in pretty much any other industrialized democracy, and the time we actually take off has declined significantly, from 20.3 days in 1987 to 17.2 days in 2017….people who take more of their allotted vacation time tend to find their work more meaningful. Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus. And time not taken depresses more than individual career prospects: In 2017, the average U.S. worker left six paid vacation days unused, which works out to 705 million days of travel nationally, enough to support 1.9 million travel-related jobs.” So, take a vacation this summer.

 

great-day-of-his-wrath“A Revolution of Time” –  Paul Kosmin takes us on a journey through time to the cataclysmic beginning of marking time as we know it. “Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it. . . .Now, imagine inhabiting a world without such a numbered timeline for ordering current events, memories and future hopes. For from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.”

 

90711“1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left a Church Over Abuse” – “Surrounded by revelations of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, younger Christians are more keen to recognize sexual abuse—and less likely to put up with it. According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously. That’s twice as many as the 5 percent of all churchgoers who have done the same. Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct.”

 

age of fear.jpeg“Age of Fear” – John Wilson, editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, wants to talk about fear. In his own inimitable style, Wilson does so in First Things by interviewing himself about fear based on a tweet that he made earlier this month. In this self-interview, Wilson tracks through a number of books and articles he has been reading on the topic, including a piece in The Weekly Standard that I referenced in an earlier edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” which you also might enjoy reading, “Fear Factor,” which is an extended review of Martha Nussbaum’s The Monarchy of Fear.

 

Music: Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken,” outtake from MTV Unplugged in 1994; originally from the album Oh Mercy.

[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 Weekend Wanderer: 22 September 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

melani mcalister“Look Outside America for Fresh Insight on American Evangelicals” – “Melani McAlister, a professor of American studies at George Washington University, wants to tell a broader story by looking outside American borders. Studying American evangelical missionary and humanitarian activity in Egypt, South Africa, Congo, and South Sudan, she says, reveals a movement that has always seen itself as part of a global communion. In her book, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders, McAlister applies this international lens to the past half-century of American evangelical history.”

 

puerto rico maria“The State of the Puerto Rican Church, One Year After Maria” – Gadiel Ríos reports on the challenges to the church in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and how this disaster is entirely changing the way churches do ministry. ” The church in Puerto Rico and the spiritual lives of its citizens have not been spared of all of this pain and desolation, but their story is still one of grace and love overcoming loss and suffering.”

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 10.19.57 AM“Leave no dark corner: China is building a digital dictatorship to exert control over its 1.4 billion citizens. For some, ‘social credit’ will bring privileges — for others, punishment” – If you like dystopian literature or film, Matthew Carney’s exploration of China’s in-depth digital tracking of its citizenry may intrigue you. But it also may disturb you. As others have noted, privacy may be a thing of the past, but it reaches a very new level when one’s government agenda includes this: “a vast network of 200 million CCTV cameras across China ensures there’s no dark corner in which to hide.”

 

beth moore“The Tiny Blond Bible Teacher Taking on the Evangelical Political Machine” – Emma Green interviews evangelical Bible teacher Beth Moore about her recent venture into tense conversations within evangelicalism about politics. “On a chilly Texas evening recently, Moore and I sat in rocking chairs on her porch. It was the first time she had invited a reporter to visit her home, on the outskirts of Houston. Moore, who is 61, was the consummate hostess, fussing about feeding me and making sure I was warm enough beside the mesquite-wood fire. But as we settled into conversation, her demeanor changed. She fixed her perfectly mascaraed eyes on me. ‘The old way is over,’ she said. ‘The stakes are too high now.'”

 

webRNS-Abuse-Research-46-091818“Survey shows more pastors preach about abuse in #MeToo age” – “Half of Protestant pastors say they preach to their churches about domestic and sexual violence, an increase from four years ago, when only a third said they raised the issue, a new survey shows. LifeWay Research took a detailed look at Protestant clergy’s attitudes toward abuse and harassment and what they’ve done about it, surveying 1,000 pastors by phone during the summer of 2018 as the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements dominated the news.”

 

Gettys3“Towards a Deeper Song: Why Keith and Kristyn Getty Are Helping the Church to Sing (Again)” – “Often credited with re-inventing the traditional hymn-form, they are passionate about the importance of congregational singing and how we learn truth through song. This year alone, their journey has taken them from the Global Hymn Sing to the UK Houses of Parliament and recently to their own Sing! Conference in Nashville. A few days before the conference, Keith shared more about Getty Music’s vision and why we must never stop singing.”

 

iraqi-refugees“Evangelical Leaders Denounce Trump Administration Refugee Cap, Call for Increase” – “National leaders from the Evangelical Immigration Table sent a letter asking the Trump administration to admit more refugees…The announced new cap is even lower than this year’s historic low of 45,000 for this FY 2018, and the U.S. is on track to take in fewer than 22,000 refugees this fiscal year, also a record low.” This statement was fashioned by conservative evangelicals, including Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who says: “America has long been a beacon of freedom and safety for those fleeing persecution, including many persecuted for their Christian faith, but the proposed cap of just 30,000 refugees would mean stepping back from our historic role of global leadership. We can both be a secure nation and a compassionate nation, leading the world in resettling the most vulnerable refugees who have been identified and vetted abroad and ensuring due process for those who reach our country to request asylum.”

 

closed“Let’s bring back the Sabbath as a radical act against ‘total work’William R. Black, a professor of history and religion, offers an interesting critique of our fast-paced, work-oriented culture. He writes: “We usually encounter the Sabbath as an inconvenience, or at best a nice idea increasingly at odds with reality. But observing this weekly day of rest can actually be a radical act. Indeed, what makes it so obsolete and impractical is precisely what makes it so dangerous.”

 

Bill Hybels“Here’s Who Willow Creek Chose to Investigate Bill Hybels” – This past week Willow Creek Community Church announced the leadership of the investigative team looking at the allegations against Bill Hybels reported earlier this year. “The new Willow Creek Independent Advisory Group (IAG) is co-chaired by Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent emerita and current ambassador of The Wesleyan Church, and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The other two members are Margaret Diddams, provost of Wheaton College and a professor of psychology, and Gary Walter, past president of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois.”

 

failure“6 Warning Signs You’re Risking A Moral Failure – And How To Avoid A Fall” – On that note, over at the Vanderbloemen Search Group’s blog, Jay Mitchell writes for those in ministry about six warning signs that may lead you into a moral failure. He follows that with three suggestions about how to safeguard yourself against such a failure. In the current climate of moral failures, both inside the church and outside the church, ministers cannot fail to pay attention to this topic.

 

blue“The Bible described it as the perfect, pure blue. And then for nearly 2,000 years, everyone forgot what it looked like” – This is not your typical exploration of Scripture. “Forty-nine times the Bible mentions a perfect, pure blue, a color so magnificent and transcendent that it was all but impossible to describe. Yet, for most of the last 2,000 years, nobody has known exactly what ‘biblical blue’ — called tekhelet in Hebrew — actually looked like or how it could be re-created.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

[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 Weekend Wanderer: 21 July 2018

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Wess Stafford – Leveraging Your Past (LS09)

wess-stafford

Dr. Wess Stafford, president and CEO of Compassion International, shared a very personal and intimate message on pain in leadership. It would be impossible to convey Stafford’s story here. In short, he spoke of how, as a missionary kid, he experienced immense physical and emotional abuse while at a Christian boarding school. However, it was his experiences of abuse – both his own and viewing the abuse inflicted on others – that led him to have a compassion for children and to found Compassion International.

What this session led me to consider was the immense power of God that can be released when we open our lives, especially the dark places of our lives, to others. It is often the dark and heavy places in our lives where we most powerfully experience the grace of God ourselves. And when we experience that powerful grace of God in such deep places, those deep hurts have the potential to be our most powerful means of ministering to others.

So my questions for anyone reading this to consider are:

  • who am I?
  • where are my painful places?
  • how have I experienced God’s grace in those painful places?
  • how can I let that experience of God’s grace be a means for authentic ministry to others?

What do you think?