The Weekend Wanderer: 7 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.


Brooks - happiness“Are We Trading Our Happiness for Modern Comforts?” – This article by Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic explores an important reality: “One of the greatest paradoxes in American life is that while, on average, existence has gotten more comfortable over time, happiness has fallen….amid these advances in quality of life across the income scale, average happiness is decreasing in the U.S. The General Social Survey, which has been measuring social trends among Americans every one or two years since 1972, shows a long-term, gradual decline in happiness—and rise in unhappiness—from 1988 to the present. There are several possible explanations for this paradox: It could be that people are uninformed about all of this amazing progress, that we can’t perceive progress very well when it occurs over decades, or that we are measuring the wrong indicators of ‘quality of life.’ I suspect the answer is all three. The last idea, however, is especially important to understand in order to improve our own happiness.”


Li-Young LeeLi-Young Lee reads “Changing Places in the Fire” – I needed a break from politics this week, no matter how hard that was to find, so I turned to other things to fill my mind and heart, such as poeetry. Li-Young Lee is a powerful poet who I heard in person while I was an undergraduate student studying literature. This recent poem by Lee plays with the concept of the word/Word through a form of poetic conversation. “There are words, I say, / and there is The Word. / Every word is a fluctuating flame / to a wick that dies. / But The Word, The Word / is a ruling sum and drastic mean, / the standard that travels / without moving.”


iceberg“Spiritual Practices for Public Leadership”  – With his characteristic insight, Andy Crouch offers fine wisdom for spiritual leadership in the public sphere. “Being a public person—someone who is recognized by people who do not actually know us personally—can be a lot like being a cruise ship. We are rewarded for cultivating the parts of our lives that are visible: our talents, our opinions, our appearance. And while the most spectacular cruise ships on the public ocean may be the people we call celebrities, the unique reality of life in the age of social media is that we are almost all public now, publishing a version of our life to gain others’ attention and, we almost always hope, approval.  This kind of life carries with it grave threats to our health, and the safety of those around us. Without spiritual practices to guard against the unique temptations of public life, we will likely drift into narcissism and exploitation. Sooner or later we will hit an iceberg—and the testimony of maritime history is that when a cruise ship meets an iceberg, the iceberg wins.”


Jamie Smith - public art“Attention as Prayer: Public Art in the Pandemic” – “Simone Weil once said that ‘Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.'” Building from this idea, James K. A. Smith takes us along on his morning jog through Grand Rapids to help us recover attention to the beauty around us, specifically in the form of public art in the beauty-drained times of the pandemic.


church-groningen“New Bible translation goes back to capital letters to refer to Him” – Most English Bible translations no longer use capitalized pronouns for God, a move which reflects changes in language over time and perhaps also translation or editing challenges. However, a new Dutch translation of the Bible, while not attempting to become archaic, has reintroduced the capitalization of pronouns referring to God. “The Bible translation most commonly used in Protestant churches in the Netherlands, has been modernised but capital letters have returned to refer to God. The NVB21, which stands for the new Bible translation for the 21st century, has been altered in 12,000 places making it ‘better, sharper and more powerful’, the Dutch Bible association NBG said.”


unlearning“On Unlearning” – Here’s Kirsten Sanders at the Mere Orthodoxy blog: “The problem with Theology done at a critical remove is that we can become untethered from love of God and so untethered from the Other. It is then that we begin talking mostly about ourselves. Even ‘transcendence,’ often referred to, longingly, can be misappropriated as the erotic longing of the soul. This happens slowly, but it begins when the initial orienting love of God is forgotten. Anselm’s ‘where can I find you?’ is based in trust, but it can become a cry of despair.”


Music: Chris Lizotte, “Peace Be With You,” from Long Time Comin’

[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 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: 26 January 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.

85939“Can We Handle the Truth About Racism and the Church?” – Kathryn Freeman reviews Jemar Tisby’s new book, The Color of Compromise, which is a challenging look at racism in the church. “The Color of Compromise corrects the record by surveying key points in American history where the tide of racial oppression could have been turned back—or at least minimized—had the church stood against it. Instead, as Tisby demonstrates, Christians chose again and again to propagate the American racial caste system.”

 

george whitefield“The Sins of Early Evangelicalism” – And in another book review…here’s a look at Peter Y. Choi’s new biography of George Whitefield, early British evangelist of the Great Awakening and one of the leading influences on contemporary American Christianity. “George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire seeks to avoid the extreme reactions this preacher so often evokes, whether adulation or derision. Toward that end, the book makes space for sincere religious motivations but also does not shy away from a closer look at his more ‘worldly’ activities.”

 

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 8.52.54 am“Christianity’s future looks more like Lady Gaga than Mike Pence” – At least, that’s what CNN reporter Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons says in this latest piece reporting on the very public rifts within Christianity. “Do you stand with Lady Gaga and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Mike Pence and Sarah Sanders? Two disputes in the last week between prominent Christians from the faith’s progressive and fundamentalist sides might help you decide.” Hopefully we don’t make our decisions about what our faith should look like based around two differing forms of popular power. If these are the only two options, then we may want to look for something different altogether.

 

coffee cup“Liturgies of Less…and More” – At Comment Magazine: “In the fall of 2018, contributing editor Sarah Hamersma and Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest and author of Liturgy of the Ordinary, sat down to talk about minimalism in both our spiritual lives and our modern world. Both candidly reflect on their own failures to live fully countercultural lives marked by minimalism, but also helpfully provide ways that we might rethink the minimalist impulse in ways that still enjoy the goodness of the feast after the restraints of the fast.”

 

smartphone-twitter-facebook-icons“The Daily Scripture Feed” – Michael Brendan Dougherty has named our modern devotional and liturgical practices. “Our culture has lost its faith in Christ. It has lost a Bible. But it still does a deep exegesis. Our clerical class does its daily devotional reading, it chants its moralizing passages, it experiences incredible transfigurations. The newsfeed makes up the liturgical calendar. The stories are all deeper iterations of stories we know before.”

 

alter hebrew bible“After 24 Years, Scholar Completes 3,000-Page Translation Of The Hebrew Bible” – From NPR: “For 24 years, literary scholar Robert Alter has been working on a new translation of the Hebrew Bible and — ‘this may shock some of your listeners,’ he warns — he’s been working on it by hand. ‘I’m very particular — I write on narrow-lined paper and I have a Cross mechanical pencil,’ he says. The result is a three-volume set — a translation with commentary — that runs over 3,000 pages.” Alter is renowned for his work on the literary aspects of the Bible, and this is a lifetime achievement for him.

 

[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: 12 January 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.

lamin sanneh“Professor Lamin Sanneh, 1942-2019” – I was saddened to hear about the sudden and unexpected death of Dr. Lamin Sanneh of Yale Divinity School. His insights about faith, culture, and mission are invaluable to the church. A great introduction to his work is Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture or his memoir Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African. You might also enjoy reading reflections by Christian leaders on Sanneh’s life at Christianity Today[Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this link.]

 

cyntoia-brown“Pastor who talked to governor about clemency for Cyntoia Brown will walk her out of prison” – “They met for the first time a few weeks before Christmas — the woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex as a teenager, and a pastor who believed in her. At the time of their meeting, high-profile advocates had been calling for clemency for Cyntoia Denise Brown, including a US Congressman and A-list celebrities like Ashley Judd. Gov. Bill Haslam had heard from both sides on whether to grant her clemency. Members of Bishop Joseph W. Walker III’s congregation were working with Brown through a Tennessee Department of Corrections faith-based mentoring program. Days after meeting her, Walker joined the chorus of people lobbying the Republican governor. He spoke to Haslam about forgiveness and second chances, Walker said.”

 

Fred Rogers and François Clemmons in an episode of <i>Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood</i>, 1993“The Ministry of Mr. Rogers” – In The New York Review of Books, Robert Sullivan reviews two works on the life of Fred Rogers, both the highly acclaimed documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, by Morgan Neville and Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. “In December 2002 Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he died the following February. In his final days he read the Bible, which he had often read along with the work of his great friend Henri Nouwen, the Catholic priest who wrote that being in a community was like being in a mosaic of stones, no single stone able to tell the group’s story. After receiving his diagnosis, Rogers had managed to give his last commencement speech, at Dartmouth. Still the preacher, he recited the lyrics to his song ‘It’s You I Like,’ and commented on the text, reminding the crowd not just how far he had taken TV from pie-throwing but how thoroughly he had illustrated the drama in the seemingly ordinary, the stage on which most of our adult lives are set.”

 

85745“Can Anger at God Be Righteous?” – “After I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, I returned to the Book of Psalms anew. I started to pray with psalms that I had merely read before or had skipped altogether. While I was receiving intense chemo, a seminary student told me he was praying Psalm 102 for me:  ‘In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. (v. 5–6)’ My heart skipped a beat. As I read on, I found that the psalm contained a complaint and a petition that I felt deeply but did not know how to express.”

 

85807“The Gospel in Every Sign Language: Passion Raises $450K for Deaf Bible Translations” – “Though there are hundreds of sign languages, none have a full Bible translation, and just 2 percent of deaf people around the world have access to the Gospels in their sign languages, which is crucial for deeper understanding of Scripture, according to the Deaf Bible Society. Donations from the 40,000 students at Passion 2019 will go toward translating Gospel stories for the deaf in 16 countries: Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Moldova, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, and Russia.”

 

david brooks selfismThe Morality of Selfism: The Gospel of Saint You” – David Brooks offers a bitingly satirical, tongue-in-cheek approach to our current cultural climate of fixation upon the self. “We live in a culture of selfism — a culture that puts tremendous emphasis on self, on self-care and self-display. And one of the things we’ve discovered is that you can be a very good person while thinking only about yourself! Back in the old days people thought morality was about living up to some external standard of moral excellence. Abraham Lincoln tried to live a life of honesty and courage. Mother Teresa tried to live up to a standard of selfless love. But now we know this is actually harmful!”

 

gallup integrity“Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics” – A recent Gallup survey identified nurses as the most-trusted profession for Americans. Way to go, nurses! Doctors, pharmacists, high school teachers, and police officers round out the top-five professions based on their integrity. I found this a little interesting given the sense of tension that exists in many realms about public trust in law enforcement. However, I was saddened to see that clergy had dropped down to position eight in trusted professions. Griffin Paul Jackson writes about this for Christianity Today, quoting from John Armstrong who speaks what many of us feel: “The kinds of scandals and authoritarian leadership that we saw this year among the clergy undermines the trust we place in them.”

 

john finnis“Petition Launched To Remove Law Professor For ‘Discriminatory’ Comments” – In another example of the utter inability for diversity of views within the cultural orthodoxy of supposed diversity, we have this situation at Oxford University. “A petition to remove Emeritus Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy John Finnis from teaching has attracted three hundred and fifty signatures in five days. Finnis has been accused of having ‘a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people’, including the LGBTQ community….Remarks highlighted by the authors of the petition as particularly discriminatory include a comment from his Collected Essays in which he suggests that homosexual conduct is ‘never a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life’ and is ‘destructive of human character and relationships’ because ‘it treats human sexual capacities in a way which is deeply hostile to the self-understanding of those members who are willing to commit themselves to real marriage’. This essay was published in 2011 but refers to arguments he made in a previous essay from 1994.” Read the article here to see Finnis’ rebuttal of the petition.

 

orthodox“From Russia, Without Love: Ukraine Marks Orthodox Christmas with Biggest Schism Since 1054” – “On January 6, it received the tomos of autocephaly—the documentation of its independence among Eastern church bodies—from one Orthodox heavyweight, the Patriarch of Constantinople, despite the vociferous opposition of another heavyweight, the Patriarch of Moscow. To understand the significance of the biggest Christian schism since the Protestant Reformation, unfolding since last fall and formalized this weekend as Eastern churches celebrated Christmas Eve, a brief history is in order.”

[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.]