The Weekend Wanderer: 13 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.


Iran Gospel Movements“Meet the World’s Fastest-Growing Evangelical Movement” – Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at The Gospel Coalition: “While official reports still claim that 99.4 percent of Iranians practice Islam, a 2020 survey found that just 40 percent actually identify as Muslim. An even larger number—about 47 percent—said they were ‘nones,’ atheists, spiritual, agnostic, or humanist. Another 8 percent claim Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion. And a small sliver—1.5 percent—said they were Christians. ‘About 20 years ago, the number of Christian converts from a Muslim background was between 5,000 and 10,000 people,’ Crabtree said. ‘Today that’s between 800,000 to 1 million people. That’s massive growth.’ According to Operation World, Iran has the fastest-growing evangelical movement in the world.”


The Black Church“The Black Church: This is our story – this is our song” – I just saw this new series premiering from PBS: “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song is a moving four-hour, two-part series from executive producer, host and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, that traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power. The documentary reveals how Black people have worshipped and, through their spiritual journeys, improvised ways to bring their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, while translating them into a form of Christianity that was not only truly their own, but a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was found in their ancestors’ enslavement across the Middle Passage.” Trailer here.


Hershel Shanks“Died: Hershel Shanks, Editor Who Saved Biblical Archaeology from Academics” – Daniel Silliman at Christianity Today: “Hershel Shanks, the founder and longtime editor of Biblical Archaeology Reviewdied on Friday at the age of 90….The biggest test of Shanks’s clout in the field came in the early 1990s, when he decided it was time to make the Dead Sea Scrolls widely available. Though the texts had been discovered in the 1940s, only bits and pieces had been shown to the public—or even to other scholars. The academics in charge of the study of the scrolls were carefully guarding them until their own extensive research was published….Shanks thought this was dumb and persuaded Abegg to let him publish the ‘bootleg’ version of the scrolls that Abegg had reconstructed by computer from a concordance of Dead Sea Scrolls words that was assembled in the late 1950s but kept secret outside of a small group of specialists.”


Kathleen Norris - Retreat“How to Retreat When We Can’t Go to Retreats” – Here is renowned author Kathleen Norris: “For years in America, the retreat centers sponsored by churches and monasteries have been booked up well in advance. People recognize that they need the chance to enter into silence and live for a while in a place where the day is centered on prayer and contemplation. They need the music, art, and conversation that programs at these facilities provide. These centers are often found in places of great natural beauty, encouraging guests to take time to enjoy and praise God’s creation as they hike a trail or swim in a river. I doubt that anyone expected 2020 would be the year when we were all suddenly plunged into a forced retreat in our own homes. “


evangelical Myanmar“After Military Coup, It’s ‘Time to Shout’ for Myanmar Evangelicals” – Kate Shellnutt at Christianity Today: “Evangelical pastors in Myanmar have taken to the streets alongside their Buddhist neighbors in the week since a military takeover, believing that God is on the people’s side and praying desperately for him to bring justice. Amid nationwide internet and phone shutdowns, some churches gathering online due to the pandemic couldn’t connect to worship together last weekend, the first Sunday since the coup in the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma. Hundreds of displaced Christians have been physically blocked out of their towns due to travel restrictions and roadblocks.”


Music: Lachrimae” by John Dowland performed by Christopher Morrongiello, filmed in the Chapel from Le Château de la Bastie d’Urfé at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 December 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. 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.


Nazareth site“Ancient Dwelling Excavated in Nazareth May Have Been Childhood Home of Jesus” – “An archaeologist may have discovered the location of the childhood home of Jesus in Nazareth. Professor Ken Dark from the University of Reading in England believes he has established a plausible case for the remains of a 1st-century home excavated beneath a modern-day convent. According to him, the ancient dwelling was first investigated in the 19th century, but the idea lost traction among experts in the 1930s. The site went mostly forgotten since, until Dark launched an expedition in 2006 to reinvestigate the area.”


Chauncey Allmond“Logos Enlists Black Church Leaders to Diversify Bible Study Resources” – “Chauncey Allmond dreams of a day when white evangelical preachers will reference the work of African American Bible scholars without even thinking about it. He and his colleagues at Logos Bible Software hope they can make that happen by adding more African American voices to the digital study tools currently used by more than 4.5 million people. ‘The African American voice is a powerful voice that needs to be heard,’ Allmond said. ‘There’s a lot of traditions in the African American church that I think Logos is missing out on.'”


W H Auden - Reimer“What Comes After: W. H. Auden’s cure for the post-Christmas blues” – W. H. Auden was one of the foremost English poets of the 20th century and also a Christian. His poetry was increasingly influenced by his faith, and his book-length work For the Time Being is particularly appropriate for this time of year. A professor I studied with while at Wheaton reads this work every year during Advent or Christmas. Here is Jeff Reimer in Commonweal: “every character in this long and complex poem senses that the birth of the child demands a response; senses that…Christ has “thrown everything off balance.” They are all caught up in the aspect of time that Tillich, developing a biblical contrast, calls kairos as opposed to kronos, categories with which Auden was consciously working. In other words, their confrontation with the Christ child is not part of the flow of ordinary chronological time, but by appointment; it is a summons, a moment of decision.”


Including the Stranger“Book Review: Including the Stranger: Foreigners in the Former Prophets – The prophets of the Hebrew Bible often address God’s care for what is often called “the quartet of the vulnerable“: the widow, the orphan, resident aliens, and the poor. The Minor Prophets are the easiest portion of Scripture to turn to on God’s concern for these people, but what do other portions of Scripture say about this theme? In Themelois, David R. Jackson reviews David G. Firth’s recent contribution to this area of study on the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) for the New Studies in Biblical Theology series.


Keira Bell“Puberty blockers: Under-16s ‘unlikely to be able to give informed consent'” – This in from the UK, which tends to be ahead of us on some of these issues related to social change, via the BBC: “Children under 16 with gender dysphoria are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to undergo treatment with puberty-blocking drugs, three High Court judges have ruled. The case was brought against Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, which said it was ‘disappointed’ but immediately suspended such referrals for under-16s. The NHS said it ‘welcomed the clarity’ the ruling would bring. One of the claimants, Keira Bell, said she was ‘delighted’ by the judgment. Ms Bell, 23, from Cambridge, had been referred to the Tavistock Centre, which runs the UK’s only gender-identity development service (GIDS), as a teenager and was prescribed puberty blockers aged 16. She argued the clinic should have challenged her more over her decision to transition to a male as a teenager.”


Walter Hooper“Died: Walter Hooper, Who Gave His Life to C.S. Lewis’s Legacy” – From Christianity Today: “Walter Hooper, a North Carolina man who dedicated his life to preserving and promoting the writings of C. S. Lewis, died Monday at the age of 89. He was sick with COVID-19. Hooper served briefly and informally as Lewis’s literary secretary—helping the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Abolition of Man answer his mail—before Lewis’s death in 1963. Hooper, then 33, left a teaching post at the University of Kentucky to take a leading role in managing Lewis’s literary estate. He continued to promote Lewis for the rest of his life.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

The Weekend Wanderer: 14 December 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.

01Warren-jumbo“Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit?: Face Into the Darkness” – Advent is one of the most necessary seasons of the church calendar. It helps us from the pervasive consumerism and triviality in our culture related to Christmas. Advent gives us space to reflect, to prepare, to call out to God, and, as I’ve written elsewhere, to recover the wonder of Christmas. Here is Tish Harrison Warren writing in The New York Times about her own journey with Advent: “To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime.”

 

Ethiopia archaeology“Church Unearthed in Ethiopia Rewrites the History of Christianity in Africa” – “In the dusty highlands of northern Ethiopia, a team of archaeologists recently uncovered the oldest known Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa, a find that sheds new light on one of the Old World’s most enigmatic kingdoms—and its surprisingly early conversion to Christianity. An international assemblage of scientists discovered the church 30 miles northeast of Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom, a trading empire that emerged in the first century A.D. and would go on to dominate much of eastern Africa and western Arabia. Through radiocarbon dating artifacts uncovered at the church, the researchers concluded that the structure was built in the fourth century A.D., about the same time when Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christiantiy in 313 CE and then converted on his deathbed in 337 CE. The team detailed their findings in a paper published today in Antiquity.

 

a-hidden-life“Vatican Holds Private Screening of Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life'” – I know you’re probably getting ready to see Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker, but let me present a cinematic alternative. One of the most intriguing and moving films I have ever seen is Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011). Since that time, I have delved into Malick’s other films, which are a one-of-a-kind experience of stream-of-consciousness and imagistic cinematography, laden with nature and themes of transcendence. Tree of Life engages with themes of nature and grace, which recur in some of his more recent films, although without the same effectiveness, in my opinion. Malick’s most recent film, A Hidden Life, focuses on the centers on the real-life story of Franz Jägerstätter, and debuted on December 13 (although it is very difficult to find a local viewing because of limited release).  Malick’s first film since 2007, it is reputed to be one of his most powerful, engaging deeply with themes of politics and faith. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Vatican requested a private viewing of the film, which the notoriously reclusive Malick actually attended.

 

Gerald_Hughes,_Cleveland_School_Teacher,_Leads_the_Lee_Heights_Community_Church_(Cleveland,_Ohio)_Congregation_in_Song,_1960_(16458543170)“American Salvation: The Place of Christianity in Public Life” – The conversation about faith and the public square, which Malick’s film raises, is one of the most pressing conversations in our contemporary American context. Should the church engage or withdraw from politics? Whould the church subvert or transform culture? What does it mean to engage with these questions at all? Albert J. Raboteau, professor emeritus of religion at Princeton University, and a convert from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy, weaves an interesting tapestry around this discussion, engaging with the American civil rights movement, early Christian political dissent, sacramental theology, and much more.

 

114259“Solar Light of the World: Evangelicals Launch Global Clean Energy Campaign” – “Through a campaign called Project 20.’25, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has set out to get 20 percent of its members to convert fully to clean energy by 2025. This fall, the global network announced its partnership with Smart Roofs Solar Inc. Together they will help universities, health care facilities, and churches looking to adopt clean power, including offering guidance for local suppliers and providing financing options. The renewable energy initiative builds on the WEA’s efforts to promote creation care, said Chris Elisara, director of the WEA Creation Care Task Force.”

 

Madeleine L' Engle“Ready for Silence” – Poetry helps us encounter the familiar in a fresh way through rich use of language that makes what we already know become unfamiliar and new. Madeleine L’Engle, perhaps best known for her novel, A Wrinkle in Time, and related books, offers us a poem, “Ready for Silence,” that helps us re-approach Advent and the Christmas Story.

 

booksBest Books of 2019 – This is the time of the year that “best of 2019” lists of all sorts arise. I haven’t assembled my own list like this yet, but may do something like that in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, here are a few lists about the best books or reads from 2019 that you might enjoy: Christianity Today‘s “2020 Book Awards,” John Wilson’s “A Year of Reading: 2019,” Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed Books of the Year 2019” (including a most disappointing book of 2019), Russell Moore’s “My Favorite Books of 2019,” The Englewood Review of Books‘ “Advent Calendar 2019 – Best Books of the Year for Christian Readers!,” “The Gospel Coalition 2019 Book Awards,” The New York Times‘ “Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019,” and LitHub‘s compilation of best of lists in “The Ultimate Best Books of 2019 List,”

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (BWV 62), from Bach: Cantatas – Advent (John Eliot Gardiner)

[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: 24 August 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.

 

1619.png“The 1619 Project” – The New York Times unveiled a major new project last weekend, reexamining American history through the lens of slavery. “The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” If you have difficulty accessing the interactive article at The New York Times, you can also read a static version of this first 100-page installment here.

 

Fleming Rutledge“The year 1619 and my home state of Virginia” – There were all sorts of reactions to “The 1619 Project.” You could read some of those at National Review (“What The 1619 Project Leaves Out”), Vox (“1619 and the cult of American innocence”), The Washington Post (“The 1619 Project and the far-right fear of history”), and The American Conservative (“The NYT’s Woke-ism Undermines Liberalism”). However, the article related to the 1619 Project that I found most interesting was theologian and preacher Fleming Rutledge’s personal reflections on “The year 1619 and my home state of Virginia.” In this, Rutledge wrestles with her own personal history and background, questioning what it means for the church and individual Christians to face into the present moment.

 

91857“Have Archaeologists Found the Lost City of the Apostles?” – “After recent headlines announced that archaeologists in Israel had uncovered the Church of the Apostles, questions followed. What church is this? And what do these findings tell us about the days of Jesus and his earliest followers? The world’s attention has turned to a small excavation on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a project I have been involved with as the academic director since the beginning. Our findings have rekindled the debate about the location for Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip referenced in John 1:44.”

 

article_5d24c3e7090fe“Fear of the Word”Hans Boersma at First Things: “My students are afraid to preach—not all of them, but more and more, it seems. And it is often the brightest and most eloquent, those who are least justified in parroting Moses’s excuse—“I am slow of speech and of tongue”—who lack the confidence to open the Scriptures for the people of God. I write now for them, though they are not alone: I have the same feeling of inadequacy, and I know that others do as well.”

 

Litter_on_Singapore's_East_Coast_Park.620_0“The tiny nation waging war on plastic” –  From BBC: “Over the years, the tropical island nation of Vanuatu has struggled with its attempts to eliminate single-use plastics, but thanks to an extensive campaign, the country is about to implement one of the toughest plastic bans in the world. Last year it banned drinking straws, plastic bags and styrofoam, but by December 2019 it will have added all single-use plastics to the list (ahead of the EU next year).”

 

Bernard of Clairvaux“On Loving God” – I reflected this week on the influence of Bernard of Clairvaux in my grasp of God’s love for us as believers and our return love to God. Here is a summary of Bernard’s teaching in his classic work, On Loving God. “You wish me to tell you why and how God should be loved. My answer is that God himself is the reason why he is to be loved. As for how he is to be loved, there is to be no limit to that love. Is this sufficient answer? Perhaps, but only for a wise man.”

 

download.jpeg“How the great truth dawned” – One of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century for me personally is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. His insightful critique of both repressive Soviet communism and unbound American capitalism from a deeply reflective and insightful Christianity is still as valuable today as back then. Here is Gary Paul Morson reflecting on “the Soviet virtue of cruelty” with a healthy does of Solzhenitsyn woven into the mix.

 

Bob Dylan - Slow Train Coming“Slow Train Coming” – This past week marked the 40th anniversary of the release of Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming.” Loved by some and reviled by others, “Slow Train Coming” was Dylan’s first release after his conversion to Christianity and every song on the album reflects those themes. This article is Rolling Stone‘s original review of the album, in which Jann Wenner writes: “The more I hear the new album — at least fifty times since early July — the more I feel that it’s one of the finest records Dylan has ever made. In time, it is possible that it might even be considered his greatest.” While certain tracks are religiously strange (“Man Gave Names to All the Animals”), I still love some of the tracks on this album, such as “You Gotta Serve Somebody,” “Slow Train,” and “When You Gonna Wake Up?”

 

Music: “Slow Train” by Bob Dylan from Slow Train Coming; this version from a live concert in Trouble No More.

[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 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.

 

pew-846021_640“Why Evangelicals Should Care More About Ecclesiology” – At the Mere Orthodoxy web-site, Tish Harrison Warren writes about the crisis in evangelical integrity and moral leadership highlighted by the current political divides and failures of pastoral leaders. What I appreciate about Warren’s article is the way in which she connects this failure with a tendency within evangelicalism to become enamored with celebrity leadership while simultaneously not paying attention to the “boring” institutional necessities that sustain the life of the church.

 

d4e13e1c5865740384133e7da6be19“The rising political power of Evangelicals in Latin America” – This is old news with a new twist as evangelicals continue to have rising influence within Latin America, including in the political sphere. “It would seem that the reach of these religious organisations in Latin America is not only expanding in terms of the number of followers but also in terms of their influence on government policy. The various Evangelical churches are seeing rising electoral support for their moral conservatism.”

 

macarthur.jpeg“The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” – John MacArthur has been at the center of a series of debates on social justice and the gospel culminating in The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. More than 4,000 evangelicals have joined MacArthur, and others like Voddie Baucham and Douglas Wilson, in signing this statement, which equates the emphasis upon social justice within the evangelical church as a cultural distortion on theological and a misunderstanding of the gospel. This seem at least in part to be a reaction to the works of Tim Keller (see his Generous Justice), Matt Chandler, Thabiti Anyabwile and others within conservative evangelicalism who have been calling for engagement in justice and racial reconciliation as an overflow of living in the gospel. Underlying it all is a deep divide about the nature of the gospel and the life to which it calls us as a response. Jemar Tisby has a word of advice about how to respond to the ministries of those who signed this statement: “avoid them.” Ryan Burton King outlines why he cannot sign this statement, even though he was invited to do so.

 

02allen-superJumbo“The Biblical Guide to Reporting” – In an OpEd in The New York Times, Marshall Allen reflects on how his Christian faith has helped him become a better journalist. “The editor scowled and said, ‘So what makes you think that a Christian can be a good journalist?’ He emphasized ‘Christian’ as if it was some kind of slur. I liked that he spoke his mind, but I was taken aback. I explained what I saw as a natural progression from the ministry to muckraking, pointing out that both are valid ways of serving a higher cause. The Bible endorses telling the truth, without bias. So does journalism. The Bible commands honesty and integrity. In journalism, your reputation is your main calling card with sources and readers. Obviously, many people have succeeded as reporters without strong religious beliefs. But I told him my faith had made me a better, more determined journalist. He replied with a noncommittal grunt. But I got the job.” [Thanks to Makoto Fujimura for sharing this article.]

 

ct-aretha-franklin-funeral-eulogy-reaction-201-001“Old-school eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s funeral ignites social media backlash” – Aretha Franklin’s funeral received a lot of attention but it seems to have turned a little too “old school” than many desired when Rev. Jasper Williams, Jr., stepped up for the eulogy. Speaking for roughly 50 minutes, Rev. Williams’ statement that “black America has lost its soul” received intense backlash on social media and other outlets. While it seems as if a lot of people feel like America has last its soul these days, the real problem is that we don’t know what a soul is anymore and what to do with it if we discovered we actually had one.

 

Carl Jung“From Myers Briggs to the Love Languages: the renaissance of the personality test” – I know a lot of people who are obsessed with personality tests, as well as a whole range of other personal assessments. I have subjected myself to many of them over the years, sometimes finding aspects helpful, but oftentimes feeling like I don’t really want to be put in a box like that. If you think that is just an INTJ talking, then maybe you should read Sarah Manavis’ article about how personality tests, in some way, have a renewed attraction because they become a personal gospel by which we can justify the way in which we live our lives. [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

 

the first testamentThe First Testament: A New Translation by John Goldingay” – Old Testament scholar John Goldingay brings us a new translation of the Hebrew Bible. “Most translations bend the text toward us. They make the rough places smooth, the odd bits more palatable to our modern sensibilities. In every translation something is gained and something lost. In The First Testament: A New Translation, John Goldingay interrupts our sleepy familiarity with the Old Testament. He sets our expectations off balance by inviting us to hear the strange accent of the Hebrew text. We encounter the sinewed cadences of the Hebrew Bible, its tics and its textures. Translating words consistently, word by word, allows us to hear resonances and see the subtle figures stitched into the textual carpet. In a day of white-bread renderings of the Bible, here is a nine-grain translation with no sugar or additives. In The First Testament the language of Zion comes to us unbaptized in pious religiosity. Familiar terms such as salvation, righteousness, and holiness are avoided. We cock our ears to listen more carefully, to catch the intonations and features we had not caught before.”

 

wessex“Medieval Tiles Unearthed at Bath Abbey” – “A team from Wessex Archaeology has uncovered brightly decorated 700-year-old floor tiles during excavations at Bath Abbey, according to a Somerset Live report. The abbey has been a religious center for well over 1,000 years, and the current Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul—completed in the seventeenth century—is a renowned example of gothic architecture. The tiles, however, provide a glimpse into an earlier Norman cathedral at the site that was constructed in the eleventh century but fell into decay in the late Middle Ages, and lay in ruins by 1500.”

 

C3PO-R2D2-header“The 100 Greatest Movie Robots of All Time” – Okay, this has little to do with anything other than fun. Why not traipse through the history of film searching for the greatest robots of them all? Sure, there are a lot of reasons not to spend your time on this article, but it might just be entertaining to see who else appears on the list, other than C-3PO, R2-D2, Hal, and the Borg.

[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.]