The Weekend Wanderer: 7 March 2020

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.

masked girl to protect herself from wuhan virus in public area“Is Your Church Ready for the Coronavirus?” – Like other pastors, I am working with my staff to make sure that our church is ready for what may come our way with COVID-19. In the midst of famous religious figures being quarantined as a result of travels outside the US, fringe religious sects being blamed for outbreaks of the virus in South Korea, and changes in methods of serving communion in Italy, it is important to come back to basics of being informed by the CDC and WHO about the actual situation with this epidemic. Beyond that, I found this article by Jamie Aten, Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) at Wheaton College (IL), really helpful in providing a few simple things churches can do now to help prepare for any potential public health crisis.


1918 influenza“The Coronavirus Is No 1918 Pandemic” – On the other hand, here is Jeremy Brown, Director of the Office of Emergency Care Research, National Institutes of Health: “We have just commemorated the centenary of the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918, which lasted only a few months but claimed 50 million to 100 million lives worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States. That pandemic remains a benchmark, and many commentators have rushed to compare it to the current coronavirus outbreak. What’s most striking about these comparisons, though, is not the similarities between the two episodes, but the distance that medicine has traveled in the intervening century. Whatever happens next, it won’t be a second 1918.”


115085“What Martin Luther Teaches Us About Coronavirus” – In light of all of this, it’s always helpful to remember who we are as the church, sometimes by getting in touch with those from an earlier time who faced major public health challenges. “In 1527, less than 200 years after the Black Death killed about half the population of Europe, the plague re-emerged in Luther’s own town of Wittenberg and neighboring cities. In his letter ‘Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,’ the famous reformer weighs the responsibilities of ordinary citizens during contagion. His advice serves as a practical guide for Christians confronting infectious disease outbreaks today.”


Screen-Shot-2020-01-22-at-10.49.12-PM“Stepping Toward the Future”Vince Bacote, who will be joining us at Eastbrook Church on April 27 as part of our “Faith and Politics” series, concludes a series of posts related to his lectures at the Theopolis Institute on the Church and Race.  “God’s work within the church is not the neat trajectory of transformation that we prefer, but the Spirit is at work leading God’s people to:

  1. be those who look at the truth about ourselves and the world,
  2. be those who patiently engage each other and pursue mutual understanding,
  3. be those who work with imperfect concepts while learning how to pursue mission together across ethnic differences,
  4. be those who are relentless in confessing and conveying our hope that God’s kingdom and heavenly city is on the way.”

hiddenlife4“Patience: Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life – Like most of us, I enjoy watching a good movie. But there is a significant distance between the sort of basic ‘good movie’ and a good, or even great, film. One of the great filmmakers of our era is Terrence Malick, whose limited work has several times reached greatness. Some of his more recent films, particularly since The Tree of Life, have involved religious and even Christian themes. In The Point, Alan Jacobs offers insights into his early viewing of and meaningful response to Malick’s most recent film, A Hidden Life.


biker-church-4-002--650a7ee07f76ec3f7ce36b5bb2aba79c80244736-s1500-c85“Bikers Get A Bad Rep, So They Started A Church Where They Feel Welcome” – Here’s a sentence I never thought I would write. Now, let’s look at an article from NPR about a biker church that has sprung up in Bangor, Maine, to help reach those in that subgroup who are struggling to find community in Christ. “Our mission-vision behind that, originally, was to have 10,000 bikers in the Bible every week. And God said, ‘Well, that’s great. We can do that.’ But we’ve far exceeded any of those numbers. I can’t even tell you what they are today. But we are in New Zealand now. We’re in Africa. We’re in Canada. We’re all over.”


Music: U2, “Yahweh/40,” from Vertigo Tour Live in Chicago

[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: 8 February 2020

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.

The Course - Jessica Bruah“The Cancer Chair: Is suffering meaningless?” – Christian Wiman, American poet and Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature at Yale Divinity School, writes about his journey with cancer and questions about the meaning of suffering. Always an astute craftsman of words (if you haven’t read My Bright Abyss, do yourself a favor and read it sometime soon!), Wiman brings together reflections on his own cancer, the book of Job, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Albert Camus, and the Cross of Christ.

 

0_DydTubCNbDSFL-mb“From the Abundance of the Heart” – Alan Jacobs shares an essay on a topic that more of us should think about, particularly in the social media era: the power of our words. Relating an experience of giving a lecture based on an essay he had written but not yet published, Jacobs encountered the sourness of his words as they came out of his mouth, bringing a sense of conviction about the fact that these were both his words and words of which he did not approve at the same. There are some interesting insights here about the words of Jesus: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

 

Vector picture of Human Evolution“What If We Don’t Have to Choose Between Evolution and Adam and Eve?” – When I was working as a college pastor in the early 2000s, we conducted a teaching series called “Hot Topics,” where we engaged with controversial issues facing students in relation to faith. One of those topics that continues to be hotly debated in certain circles is the relationship between creation and evolution. Just this past year, S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, published The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry in an attempt to change the terms of the debate. His book is up for a Reader’s Choice Award at InterVarsity Press. Here’s an interview with Swamidass about his book and his thought-provoking claims.

 

Dorothy Sayer mystery“‘No Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition or Mumbo Jumbo’: Dorothy L Sayers and the Detection Club” – Dorothy Sayers, one of the most incisive writers and thinkers of her era, is perhaps known best today for her connection to the Inklings, a group of writer including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Christians may know her for her radio play, The Man Born to Be King, or The Mind of the Maker, but Sayers was well-known for her mystery-writing with the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Sayers founded the Detection Club to support mystery writing, and it apparently still exists today. Who knew?

 

rohr_edit“Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe” – These days I cannot seem to take more than a few steps within Christian circles without someone mentioning Richard Rohr. He is one of those authors whose influence looms large for those who are seeking to reengage with faith and spirituality in an ecclesially disillusioned age. There are certain impulses about Rohr that I appreciate, some theological moves that deeply concern me, and a few other things about him that just drive me nuts. Love him or hate him, you have to reckon with Richard Rohr in discussions of faith today. Back in July, I shared Matthew Milliner’s helpful “field guide” to Rohr, and just this week Eliza Griswold offered a more personal look Rohr and his influence in North America today.

 

Steve Gillen“Willow Creek’s interim pastor to step down as church drops top candidates to fill Hybels’ shoes” – Speaking of ecclesial disillusionment, Willow Creek continues to reel after the leadership crisis surrounding misconduct accusations against former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. After the top two candidates for filling the Senior Pastor role were released by Willow Creek, Steve Gillen, Willow’s acting senior pastor, tendered his resignation effective March 17 because of the protracted nature of the search. Looming in the background are recent accusations that Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, an influential founder of Willow Creek and mentor to Bill Hybels, has also been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct both at Willow Creek and during his time at Wheaton College. May God purify His church and have mercy upon His people.

 

Music: Asgeir, “Until Daybreak,” from Bury the Moon

[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: 28 September 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.

 

BRAZIL-LGBT-EVANGELICAL-CHURCHEvangelical Has Lost Its Meaning” – Ever since the last presidential election, there have been debates about the meaning of the word ‘evangelical.’ Books have been written not merely about the history of the movement and meaning of the word, but, more recently, whether the word has any continue relevance (watch for the forthcoming book edited by historians Mark Noll, David Bebbington, and George Marsden, Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be). I think, in many ways, the central question is whether the word ‘evangelical’ has any shared meaning that communicates broadly, as it did in the past. I doubt that it does, and here is Alan Jacobs to make a much more convincing case than I could about that as he reviews Thomas S. Kidd’s recent book, Who Is an Evangelical? The History of a Movement in Crisis. You may also enjoy Christianity Today‘s recent “Quick to Listen” podcast with editor Mark Galli, “So, What’s an Evangelical?” and The Englewood Review of Books booklist “Evangelicalism – Ten Books for Assessing its Present and Future.”

 

Bible translation“Why it matters if your Bible was translated by a racially diverse group”Esau McCaulley, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, engages with whether the make-up of Bible translation committees is important or not. “As a New Testament scholar, I’ve discovered that people of color and women have rarely led or participated in Bible translation. On one hand, this doesn’t trouble me much. It is hard to mess up the story of the Exodus, distort the message of the prophets or dismantle the story of Jesus. It is all there in every English translation. On the other, I believe it matters who translates the Bible, and that more diverse translation committees could inspire fresh confidence among Christians of color. Such a translation would allow black Christians and others to ‘know with certainty the things that you have been taught’ (Luke 1:4).”

 

1_0rZWywtB3AYoRJVH08RUbQ“Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group” – When I read this article I was simultaneously disappointed and not surprised. These issues are so very difficult to navigate, and few are doing it well. Every majority culture leader/pastor needs to pay attention to what Andre Henry is saying as he recounts his negative experiences as an editor at Relevant. “RELEVANT remains without excuse for the patterns of tokenization of black people and fetishization of racial justice efforts that characterize their work, and the harm it has caused to Black people within and outside of the organization. As long as they refuse to acknowledge this about their praxis, they’ll remain an unsafe environment for Black people and a collaborator in the racist status quo while giving themselves credit for being an ally.” You can also read Relevant‘s response here and a summary of related news gathered by Religion News Service.

 

Visual Commentary on ScriptureVisual Commentary on Scripture – I was talking after our worship services this past weekend with an artist within our church about some of the images I use while preaching, which are often taken from paintings on themes somewhat related to the passage from which I am preaching. Not too long ago, I came across The Visual Commentary on Scripture, which is a fascinating resource “that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries.” Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

 

5YQEW5F6EBGR7L5MJG7QRUYI4A“Wheaton College students sue city, say rights to free speech, religious liberty were violated by guards booting them from Millennium Park, restricting access” – When I was an undergrad at Wheaton College, I decided to join in with a team of students sharing their faith in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. This team was led by a group of students with a passion to share Christ in a loving yet clear way with others. One of them was my wife, Kelly, who challenged me then (and still does today) to let the passion I had for Christ make its way out of my mouth through spiritual conversations. With all the conversation about the loss of evangelistic zeal in the North American church today, I was surprised on several fronts to read this Chicago Tribune story of Wheaton College students sharing their faith at Millennium Park in Chicago and also the free speech lawsuit that has arisen around them being asked to not share in the park. This isn’t just about religious groups, but also pertains to political groups and the like. It does raise the question of the nature of free speech in contemporary democratic societies. I also can’t help but think of the fascinating tradition of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park.

 

2019-09-19-hui-crackdown-efeng-04_custom-008e193490d162aa9422f4172aaf25de549fbd52-s1400-c85“‘Afraid We Will Become The Next Xinjiang’: China’s Hui Muslims Face Crackdown” – Religious freedom in democratic societies seems lightweight compared to what happens in non-democratic societies. If you have not paid attention to the intensification of pressure on religious minorities in China, let me urge you to start paying attention. This latest NPR piece focuses on minority Hui Muslims, and is an echo of the efforts brought against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and Christians throughout the country.

 

18.large“Seeing the Beauty of Dappled Things: Gerard Manley Hopkins” – Confession: my favorite poet of all time is Gerard Manley Hopkins. I appreciate the poetry of so many other poets that I hate to mention them by name here, but I find myself returning to Hopkins again and again. Perhaps that’s because my first reading of his poetry in high school startled me awake to literature and faith with such vibrant metaphors, skipping rhythms, and striking imagery. I hope that you enjoy as much as I did reading this 2017 article by physician Raymond C. Barfield on how Hopkins’ poetry enabled him to see the beauty of God’s world with fresh eyes.

 

songbird-domain“North America Has Lost More Than 1 in 4 Birds in Last 50 Years, New Study Says” – 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 inimical 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). But today we have to consider this startling news:  a recent study records a drastic decrease in bird population in North America. As stewards of the earth, we should be concerned. As those who enjoy this world charged with God’s grandeur, we should be grieved.

 

Music: Charlie Parker, “Ornithology,” from the original motion picture soundtrack for Bird.

[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 September 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.

 

article_5d72a06785e29“Catholicism Made Me Protestant” – After college I worked in a Roman Catholic books and church supply store for about nine months. As I learned to navigate the store and its contents, I also went on a journey of exploring the historic roots of the Christian faith. More than once since those days, I have searched out Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as possibilities of getting to the bottom of the nature of authority within the church. Each time I have gained deeper appreciation for voices from earlier eras of the history of the church, while also returning to my Protestant roots stronger for the exploration.  Onsi A. Kamel offers an essay at First Things that echoed some aspects of my own search: “Catholicism had taught me to think like a Protestant, because, as it turned out, the Reformers had thought like catholics. Like their pope-aligned opponents, they had asked questions about justification, the authority of tradition, the mode of Christ’s self-gift in the Eucharist, the nature of apostolic succession, and the Church’s wielding of the keys. Like their opponents, Protestants had appealed to Scripture and tradition. In time, I came to find their answers not only plausible, but more faithful to Scripture than the Catholic answers, and at least as well-represented in the traditions of the Church.”

 

Judgment Day Florence Cathedral“Is the ‘final judgment’ really final?” – It would be difficult to not hear some rumblings about David Bentley Hart’s new book, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. Hart is a rough and tumble essayist and author, whose recent translation of the New Testament spurred a critical exchange between Hart and N. T. Wright, as well as some appreciative yet critical comments from Alan Jacobs about one of Hart’s bad intellectual habits. This latest book has already generated a lot of conversations, but is essentially an argument against the church’s reliance on a form of Augustine’s thinking and for a form of Gregory of Nyssa’s thinking on salvation and hell. The Christian Century provides this excerpt from Hart’s book for engagement. Douglas Farrow’s review in First Things is not all that appreciative of Hart’s thinking in the book, but engaging with Hart’s theological project at some level is necessary work for pastors and Christian leaders.

 

Willow Creek jd word cloud“Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?” – I have been on a journey of recovery in pastoral ministry for the last year or two. It has led me toward rediscovering what it means to be a pastor by listening to voices like Eugene Peterson and John Chrysostom, as well as exploring the dark side of leadership and what keeps ministry resilient. After serving within it for the past fifteen plus years, I am questioning nearly every aspect of non-denominational, evangelical, megachuch Christianity in North America. The flagship church for that is Willow Creek, who is now searching for a new Senior Pastor. I have some sadness for how Willow has taken so much flak in these days, but not enough sadness to avoid pointing out that most of the historically essential work of the pastor is really not present in the job description they have put forward for this role. Scot McKnight says it with much better clarity than me in this article.

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?“When Philip K. Dick turned to Christianity” – Most fans of science fiction know that the movies Blade Runner (1982) and the recent sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017) were inspired by Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I was surprised to read this article in Salon a few months back about Dick’s turn toward Christianity shortly before his surge to fame within 1960s counterculture. While he didn’t stick with the church in its institutional form, his turn toward faith did, apparently, shape his later outlook and writings.

 

0_omPrFdurOKV3rsyv“A Radical Guide to Spending Less Time on Your Phone” – Those closest to me know that I’ve been on a multi-year journey to shed much of my closeness to my smartphone, some forms of technology, and social media. The most recent version of that is a project I affectionately call “the dumbest smartphone in the universe,” which is an attempt to radically simplify the apps available on my smartphone. Someday, maybe I’ll blog about it, but in the meantime read Ryan Holiday’s article which echoes many of the changes I’ve made.

 

William Blake“A blockbuster show at Tate Britain gives William Blake his due” – Two summers ago, my wife and I had the chance to get away to London for a week as part of celebrating twenty years of marriage. While there, we returned to places we had visited years ago when we both participated in a summer study program. Seeing works of revered artists in Tate Britain and Tate Modern was a highlight. While we saw many of William Blake’s drawings and etchings, this new show sounds like a delightful look at his work.

 

Music: Daniel Lanois, “The Maker,” from Acadie.

[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: 6 July 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.

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This past week, I was in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin with my family at Fort Wilderness, where I had the privilege of serving as a speaker for one of their family camps. It was a wonderful time with others from various parts of the country, enjoying God’s stunning creation, building relationships, and walking through the book of Ruth. Hopefully you could visit Fort Wilderness sometime. I don’t think you would be disappointed. In the midst of a full week, with spotty internet connection (thankfully!), I had less opportunity to read online and, because of that, “The Weekend Wanderer” is a bit shorter this week.

 

6-classical-“6 Works of Classical Music Every Christian Should Know”Jeremy Begbie, professor of theology at Duke and specialist on the interface between theology and the arts, offers a primer on classical music for Christians. “Music can be a remarkable index of the profoundest impulses and stirrings of a culture—impulses and stirrings that are often theologically charged. What, then, of classical music in particular? Strictly speaking, ‘classical music’ is the music of a fairly brief era (roughly, the second half of the 18th century), but the term is commonly used to refer to the whole stream of music associated with European concert and operatic culture, emerging around 1600. Sometimes called ‘art music,’ it’s generally regarded as there to be listened to, not just heard….And the Christian can ask a further question: ‘What might I learn theologically from what’s going on here?'”

 

authentic“Authenticity under Fire: Researchers are calling into question authenticity as a scientifically viable concept” – Everyone wants to be “real.” What does it mean, however, to be “real” or “authentic,” and is it a concept that can actually be measured? Scott Barry Kaufman reports on recent research calling into question the concept of authenticity. “Authenticity is one of the most valued characteristics in our society. As children we are taught to just ‘be ourselves’, and as adults we can choose from a large number of self-help books that will tell us how important it is to get in touch with our ‘real self’. It’s taken as a given by everyone that authenticity is a real thing and that it is worth cultivating. Even the science of authenticity has surged in recent years, with hundreds of journal articles, conferences, and workshops. However, the more that researchers have put authenticity under the microscope, the more muddied the waters of authenticity have become. Many common ideas about authenticity are being overturned. Turns out, authenticity is a real mess.”

 

US-MEXICO-BORDER-IMMIGRATION-MIGRANTS“Christ in the Camps: Migrant children are suffering. Christians need to help.” – “I humbly reach out to the only faction of Americans I know of who have the ear of the administration and who care about children: my brothers and sisters in Christ who attend evangelical churches. It seems clear that we are in the midst of a profound humanitarian crisis and that children are being forced to suffer in terrible ways. Maybe it was never supposed to be this way; maybe the system just got overwhelmed. But this is a disaster. Children are programmed to think that any separation from a parent or a caregiver is a life-or-death situation. I keep imagining one of these children having a dream that he’s home, with his mother and brothers and sisters, but then waking up to see he’s still in a terrible place. If evangelical Christians stood up for these children, things could change in the camps very quickly.”

 

5758.social“Citizens Aren’t Just Born. They’re Formed” Kevin den Dulk at Comment: “My university (yes: by press time Calvin College will be a university) recently crafted an ‘educational framework.’ Its purpose, as I understand it, is to ‘operationalize’ our primary mission. Three of its four categories of goals—’faith,’ ‘learning,’ and ‘vocation’—are standard fare for an institution of both higher learning and Christian persuasion. While the fourth category—’citizenship’—has a less obvious connection to mission, the thrust of the other three lead in its direction. A Christian university committed to learning and vocation ought to educate for citizenship, a calling none of us can escape. At least that’s my reading as a civic educator.”

Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn_1974b“Solzhenitsyn: Politics and the Ascent of the Soul” – I have returned to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn again and again in the past few years. His insights are poignant and soulful in a secular age. Here’s Daniel J. Mahoney reflecting on the enduring legacy of Solzhenitsyn.  “As we rapidly move along in the twenty-first century, [Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn, chronicler of the fate of the soul under both ideological despotism and, increasingly, a soft and relativistic democracy, very much remains our contemporary: a true friend of ‘liberty and human dignity,’ as Tocqueville put it, and a partisan of the human soul imparted to us by a just and merciful God.”

 

return to shire alan lee“Unscoured”Alan Jacobs wrote an alternative ending to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which he shared at his blog. It is, well…worth reading.

 

Music: Asgeir, “Underneath It,” from Afterglow.

[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.]