The Weekend Wanderer: 10 July 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.


“The Platform is Not the Person” – Scot McKnight in his TOV newsletter: “We all present ourselves to give good impressions to others. Ordinary community members want other ordinaries to think of them in positive ways. More public figures in a community do the same, sometimes with a more ramped method of image management. Teachers do this in their teaching, pastors do this from the platform and pulpit and in various communications, neighbors can be quite busy in managing what other neighbors think of them. Authors present themselves in their writings in a way that readers trust and then think of them in those terms. What about social media? Not a few critics think the whole thing is little more than image construction and management. I’m not so cynical, but let’s not be naïve: our social media is a forum of self-presentation. Let’s call all this self-presentation the platform. On the platform we create a persona, and the persona is what we want others to think of us, whether we are curating that image or not. Others generate impressions of who we are on the basis of our public presentation. Untangling persona and platform from person, personality and character require discerning eyes, wisdom, and discernment.”


green-burial“Green burial as an act of faith” – Dawn Araujo-Hawkins in The Christian Century: “Hoeltke started looking for a more Christlike alternative to conventional US burial practices—and she found it in the resurgent green or natural burial movement. Broadly speaking, green burial means caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact. That usually includes forgoing any chemical embalming, opting for a shroud or a biodegradable coffin instead of the more popular steel or fiberglass, and skipping the cement vaults that typically enclose a coffin in the ground. It can also mean being buried in a cemetery that practices land conservation efforts. And for some people, like Hoeltke, natural burial also involves a more participatory burial process: washing and dressing your loved one’s body at home, accompanying them to the grave site, physically laying them into the ground, and then fully covering their body with dirt. ‘It’s a really beautiful experience. And I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve seen the beauty of what can happen,’ Hoeltke said.”


“On Re-Reading Acts” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “I’ve been re-reading the book of Acts, and my chief response this time is: It’s wonderfully encouraging to see how bluntly and unapologetically Luke records a chronicle of confusion, ineptitude, and misdirected enthusiasm. The apostles are often a collective mess, and Luke does nothing to hide that from us. I find this strangely consoling. It’s also fascinating to note how little the apostles understand the message they been entrusted with. They know that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, and they know that the Christ’s own people rejected him and demanded his death – but beyond that they’re a little fuzzy about what the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus mean.”


faith doubt“Writing in the Sand: The Poetry of Doubt and Faith” – Christian Wiman in Plough: “A few years ago I was asked to give the convocation address at Yale Divinity School, where I have taught for the past decade. Not only did I happen to be reading George Marsden’s biography of the great eighteen-century minister and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was both a student and tutor at Yale, but I happened to have paused at precisely the moment when Edwards himself was about to address the student body. Teaching in an institution to which I would not have been admitted as a student (bad grades, bad ‘life choices’), I was flattered by the association, and it occurred to me that many of the students in attendance might be as well. To be welcomed into a place with so much august history, so much intellectual curiosity and attainment, so many great names – surely it’s worth a moment of pride. But maybe just a moment….What I do have instead are two things. The first is a first-century Jew from Nazareth well known for his oratorical skills but nevertheless, at a crucial moment in his ministry, remaining silent and writing in the sand. It is a strange moment – and one of my very favorite stories from the New Testament. I’ll come back to that. The second thing is another form of writing in the sand: poetry.”


Wendell Berry's radical conservatism“When Losing Is Likely: Wendell Berry’s Conservative Radicalism” – Brad East in The Point: “The lesson: “cultivating our own gardens and learning the virtues we have forgotten will not suffice to save the world.” Scialabba is surely correct about that. But I think he is wrong about Berry, and in a way that opens the door to larger questions. Those questions concern the connection between public justice and private virtue—or, put differently, whether justice is at once a private and a public virtue. Furthermore, they raise an issue facing a variety of factions and social movements across the world today: namely, whether it is possible to live with integrity, not to mention a clean conscience, when the causes in which one believes and for which one advocates are likely to lose.”


Patriotism?“How Do Christian Patriots Love Their Country Well?” – David French at The Dispatch: “Yet five years later, as our nation picks up the pieces from one of the most divisive, cruel, and incompetent administrations in the modern history of the United States—one in which the pursuit of Christian power led to prominent Christian voices endorsing nation-cracking litigation and revolutionary efforts to overturn a lawful election—the Christian “deal” looks bad indeed. When push came to shove, all too often the pursuit of justice yielded to the pursuit of power. The cultural shockwaves are still being felt. They’re rearranging not just America’s political alignments but our language itself. Is “Evangelical” more of a political marker than a religious identifier? Does it even carry true religious meaning any longer?”


Music: Mordent.IO, “The Foundation”

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: 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: 9 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.


Screen Shot 2021-01-07 at 1.03.39 PM“Faith leaders react to mob at Capitol with prayers, calls for end to violence” – Wednesday was one of the most unsettling days in our nation’s life that I can remember since 9/11. The breaching of the Capitol building by armed protestors sent shivers into the national consciousness in an already stressful and divided time. How did faith leaders around the nation respond? Here is a summary compiled by Religion New Service that spans the spectrum of beliefs and perspectives.


beyondW-epiphany21-2“An Unexpected Epiphany” – Ruth Haley Barton is an insightful Christian leader integrating spiritual formation with our leadership. Her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership is one of my favorites on spiritual leadership, drawing upon the life of Moses as a guide for us. In a recent post, Ruth brought together some powerful reflections on leadership and the season of Epiphany, something I read only after I had already drawn a similar connection but toward different ends in my post yesterday. She writes: “Leadership matters. Transforming leadership matters. Untransformed leadership is dangerous and destructive in the extreme.” This statement summarizes much of what she is trying to get at, but the entire blog post is worth reading.


Anne Snyder - Sowing for Trust“Sowing for Trust” – Here is Anne Snyder writing an editorial at Comment: “We are living through times that often feel like one long commentary on Joni Mitchell’s line ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.’ From quotidian encounters on the street to public sacraments, hospitality in the flesh to basic truth-telling from our leaders, it is not the sophisticated accoutrements of an advanced civilization that have screamed in their absence, but rather the rudimentary things. The things we ordinarily take for granted, the ‘essential’ and the core. As I write in the twilight of this most revealing year, there is one societal staple that is tremoring with a particular foreboding: trust. Trust in other people, trust in institutions, trust in the future, trust in a shared story of hope.”


MakoQuote“Theology of Making” – While working on a book review for Makoto Fujimura’s latest book Art and Faith: A Theology of Making (Yale University Press 2021), I stumbled across this wonderful film series by Windrider Productions that brings to life much of what is on the page in Fujimura’s book. I hope you’ll take a few moments to watch some of the thought-provoking video shorts on this site that reflect on the intersection of biblical theology and aesthetics through the work of Mako Fujimura, as well as other artists and theologians.


Dadivank Monastery in Nagorno-Karabakh“6 Christian Sites Armenia Fears It Has Lost to Azerbaijan” – Christina Maranci offers this beautiful and informative photo essay in Christianity Today related to Christian historic sites in question after the recent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. “In less than seven weeks of war last fall, fighting over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, known to Armenians as Artsakh, cost thousands of lives and created tens of thousands of refugees. It also left a wealth of Christian monuments in the balance. Below, a photo slideshow of the six sites most at risk as their final status and access is still being negotiated. But first, a summary of why Armenians fear the fate of their heritage.”


A Jacobs tech critique“From Tech Critique to Ways of Living” – One of the greatest challenges of our day is how to navigate the ever-increasing influence of technology in our lives. Much of it we are simply not aware of, or have become so quickly accustomed to that we rarely think of what we are sacrificing in order to give space to it. There are many who have raised concerns about technology and its subtle power in our life, urging us to resist or re-approach it in some way; voices like Neil Postman, Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Albert Borgmann, and others. In this valuable essay in The New Atlantis, Alan Jacobs summarizes what he describes as “the Standard Critique of Technology” before charting another way that we might critically approach and live with technology based on the work of Yuk Hui and his proposal regarding cosmotechnics.


Music: The Stance Brothers, “Resolution Blue,” from We Jazz Records 7″ Singles Box / Vol. 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 28 November 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.


Thanksgiving“5 rules for better conversations around your Thanksgiving table” – Even though our Thanksgiving the holiday has passed, and even though our Thanksgiving gatherings may have looked a little different this year, these five rules for better conversation from Justin Brierley are worth considering. In fact, they might just be good rules for better conversations with people in general.


chain-light“How Grat­i­tude Breaks the Chains of Resentment” – Every once in awhile I share resources that are not new but are still worth reading. Here is an article from Henri Nouwen on gratitude that was written many years ago but may still be helpful and pertinent to us. In this time when it seems so difficult to give thanks, when our lives have been reduced and changed in more ways than we want to mention, may we learn to move toward God in gratitude instead of living in resentment.


Islam ETS“Muslims Join Evangelical Theology Conference” – “The trimmed-down 72nd annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), held virtually this week, usually welcomes up to 2,000 top scholars to present on the most salient issues facing evangelical scholarship. This year’s theme: Islam and Christianity. ‘We are called to truth, and to understanding the world around us more accurately and thoughtfully,’ said [Al] Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), who also served as ETS program chair. ‘That certainly includes our understanding of Islam, which has from the beginning represented an enormous challenge to Christian evangelism, apologetics, theology, and cultural engagement.'”


John Wilson“‘A Small Good Thing’ An Interview with John Wilson” – John Wilson’s tenure as editor for the now defunct Books and Culturwas wonderful. When that publication shut down it was a great loss. Wilson had a curiosity-sparked meandering sort of way of drawing together various interests into one place. He continues to write for First ThingsThe Englewood Review of Books, and now begins a new run as Senior Editor for The Marginalia Review of Books. Here is a little interview with Wilson by Samuel Loncar that touches on the old days of Books and Culture, as well as Wilson’s more recent endeavors.


Gospel of the Trees“Gospel of the Trees” – Alan Jacobs writes about one of his older projects that has recently gone through a major redesign and upgrade. I encourage you to take a look at it: “Ten years ago my friend Brad Cathey — a designer and the head of Highgate Creative — and I built a website called Gospel of the Trees. Here’s what it’s about: ‘The Bible is a story about trees. It begins, or nearly enough, with two trees in a garden: the Tree of Life, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The pivotal event in the book comes when a man named Jesus is hanged on a tree. And the last chapter of the last book features a remade Jerusalem: ‘In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” If you understand the trees, you understand the story.’ Brad has just redesigned the entire site, and the work he has done is fantastic.”


Music: Liturgical Folk (featuring Audrey Assad), “Our Lady Sings Magnificat,” from Advent

[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.]