The Weekend Wanderer: 16 April 2022

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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


Tower of Babel“Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” – Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic: “What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower ‘with its top in the heavens’ to ‘make a name’ for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.

The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension. The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.”


Religion and upbringing“Trying to raise successful kids? Experts say you shouldn’t forget about faith” – Kelsey Dallas in Deseret News: “In America today, being a parent is much like being a talent manager. Moms and dads shepherd their aspiring sports star or Rhodes scholar from school to practice to private lesson, all the while looking for additional opportunities to maximize their child’s potential. ‘Parents are emphasizing personal achievement and skill-building for their kids. … They’re looking for ways to build-out a resume, whether for college or future career success,’ said Daniel Cox, director and founder of the Survey Center on American Life. As part of this push, moms and dads often deemphasize activities that don’t lead to individual acclaim, like worship services or family dinners. When you’re heavily invested in building measurable skills, you quickly run out of time to do anything else, Cox said. ‘It’s not OK anymore for kids just to hang out and goof around. They have to be learning something,’ he said. In addition to creating a lot of stressed-out kids, modern parents’ fixation on achievement is reshaping families’ relationships with organized religion. Young adults today heard less about faith from their parents during childhood than previous generations and spent less time in church, according to a new report from Cox’s survey center. These findings help explain why members of Generation Z (34%) are more likely than millennials (29%) and members of Generation X (25%) to be religiously unaffiliated. Research has long shown that the quantity and quality of childhood religious experiences predict how religious someone is as an adult, Cox said.”


Holy-Sepulchre-exterior“High-tech start for restoration of Christianity’s holiest site” – Rod Sweet in Global Construction Review: “A major restoration project at Christianity’s most hallowed place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, has begun with a high-tech start. By collecting more than 50,000 detailed images, built-environment researchers from the Politecnico di Milano have created detailed 3D models of the church’s floor ahead of the project, begun on 14 March, to conserve and restore it, conduct archeological research and install plumbing and other services at the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified and resurrected. The project, jointly funded by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, will also evaluate the stability of the Holy Edicule, a shrine built to enclose what is considered to be Jesus’ empty tomb. Led by architect and archeologist Osama Hamdan of Jerusalem’s Al Quds University, the team collected the data between September and October 2021 using a bespoke system.” 


IMG_3289-copy-scaled“Divine Intimations: Contemporary Floral Design for Sacred Spaces” – Margaret Gardner in Image: “I sit in the pew waiting for the service to begin. Glancing from the cross to the pulpit, I am struck by the stunning tropical flower arrangement—a contemporary design of cut bamboo, protea, aspidistra, and heliconia, rising from a circle of thorny vines. Not your typical bouquet of roses or lilies, it expresses a sensibility beyond its beauty. The open mouths of the cut bamboo call out; the spiky heliconia, both erect and hanging, speak to spent blood and powerful straining upward. It’s Sunday, January 16, 2022, and the notes in the bulletin say that the flowers are given ‘to the glory of God in recognition of the January 15 birthday and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ The symbolism of the arrangement is tangible. As a floral artist and longtime arranger for churches, I wonder about the vision behind this evocative design, and how other congregants connect with it as art. Located in a grand mid-century-modern building, my congregation is National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. As a member of the Reformed tradition, I am aware of our iconoclastic heritage and emphasis on plain style within the worship space. My previous church home, the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, was an early nineteenth-century Protestant box of bare-bone architecture. Clear glass, no paintings on the walls, no cross in the front, a few historic tombstones embedded in the floor, it honored our forebears’ distaste for distractions from the word of God. Yet, as Reformed scholar William Dyrness has pointed out (in his works Visual Faith and Reformed Theology and Visual Culture), even John Calvin, who forbade the use of images in worship, waxed eloquent on the beauty of the natural world and the presence of God in the theater of creation. Arranged flowers seem an ideal way to bring that ‘third book’ of God into the sacred space.”


Turkey church“Despite Drop in Deportations, Turkey Still Troubles Christians” – Jayson Casper in Christianity Today: “Last year, Protestant Christians in Turkey suffered no physical attacks. There were no reported violations of their freedom to share their faith. And there was a sharp reduction in foreign missionaries denied residency. But not all is well, according to the 2021 Human Rights Violation Report, issued March 18 by the nationally registered Association of Protestant Churches (APC). Hate speech against Christians is increasing, fueled by social media. Legal recognition as a church is limited to historic places of worship. And missionaries are still needed, because it remains exceedingly difficult to formalize the training of Turkish pastors. ‘Generally there is freedom of religion in our country,’ stated the report. ‘But despite legal protections, there were still some basic problems.'”


Carl Lenz hype pastor“The rise and fall of Hillsong’s ‘hypepriests'” – Leah Payne at NBC News: “Is the era of the ‘hypepriest’ over? The ouster of pastor-turned-celebrity Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC, the controversy and legal troubles swirling around Hillsong founder Brian Houston and a recent documentary series chronicling alleged abuse in the famously famous Hillsong Church, might certainly lead some to believe that the American public has tired of expensively dressed pastors with famous friends and large social media followings. But while recent headlines have led to a precipitous decline in Hillsong USA churches, the celebrity pastor’s place in the United States is not under serious threat. At least not yet. America’s affinity for dramatic preaching, sex appeal and celebrity predates the American republic. George Whitefield was an actor in England before he crossed the pond and used his gifts for self-promotion and status as a ‘most beautiful youth’ to win young admirers and become the celebrity preacher of the colonies in the 1700s. Presbyterian Charles Finney’s worship spaces of the 1800s resembled theaters as much as they did sanctuaries, and he popularized ‘new measures’ of engagement, like emotive preaching and stirring music, which entertained and revived the spiritual feelings of the faithful. The 20th century brought enterprising American preachers new media outlets for spreading the good news. The attractiveness of the preachers — their body, voice and demeanor — often went hand in hand with their success. Hellfire and brimstone preacher Billy Sunday understood this well and had suits tailored to displayhis athletic physique. Women and men alike enjoyed his ultra-masculine preaching performances.”


Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Ah, Holy Jesus,” from Silver and Gold

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 April 2022

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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


sotc-yellow“Holy Week: Practicing the Most Sacred Rhythm of All” – Ruth Haley Barton at Beyond Words, the blog for The Transforming Center: ““Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.” C.S. Lewis.   I remember leading a retreat for pastors some years ago in which we talked about that place in the spiritual journey (variously called the Dark Night, the wilderness, the movement from the false self to the true self) in which there is a very profound kind of death and dying that must take place in order for something truer to emerge. We talked about the fact that it is a time when even those who have been faithful to the spiritual journey may experience loss and disillusionment, when we are humbled, confused and even begin to question those things that we used to be so sure of. It feels like dying because in some sense it is. We are dying to what is false within us—surrendering that which is passing and needs to pass—in order to be more completely given over to God. After that teaching, I walked to lunch with several young men who were in their late twenties/early thirties. They were elders at a hip and happenin’ church that was growing and developing in good ways and they had a question. I don’t remember the exact words now but it was something like this, ‘Does everyone have to go through this kind of death and dying? How can we do ministry in such a way that we don’t have to pass through such a dark night? And if we can’t, is there any way we can speed up the process so we can get it behind us?’ What they were really asking was, Isn’t there any way we can be good enough so we don’t have to die?”


spirituals“Go Tell It on the Mountain: Black spirituals aren’t just for Black churches. They should be sung by everyone”  – Stephen Michael Newby in Plough Quarterly: “It’s Christmas Eve 2021, and here I am, a descendant of enslaved Africans, leading my predominantly White Presbyterian congregation in Atlanta, Georgia, in singing the Black spiritual ‘Go Tell It on the Mountain.’ The song is not being presented to the congregation as a performance concert piece. Instead, I’ve prepared an arrangement that allows it to be what it was always meant to be: a relational, transformative, communal act of worship that joins us together. My great-grandfather six generations removed, Michael, who was enslaved less than a hundred miles from here in Jones County, Georgia, would never have imagined such a picture. I am deeply moved and thankful for this moment in time and how far we have come. Three years before I arrived at this church, I visited the Jones County archives to research my ancestry. I found the graves of the Newby family, the White landowners in the area. I stood in front of a Newby tombstone, fists clenched and heart grieved, imagining all that my ancestors had suffered at this man’s hands. The sun was shining brightly. Even the mosquitoes were quiet. At that moment God spoke into my heart and said, ‘Be reconciled.’ I had already spent three decades trying to bridge divides by bringing different genres of music into conversation. But now this call to live out reconciliation with others would lead me to share my people’s music with predominantly White congregations throughout the United States and particularly here in the South. Whatever our personal histories, I can think of no better way to express our shared longing for liberation from the bonds of racism than the spirituals.”


St Michael's Ukraine“In pictures: The Ukrainian religious sites ruined by fighting” – Jack Hunter at BBC News: “Ukraine has accused Russia of damaging or destroying at least 59 religious sites across the country since its invasion began. They include an Orthodox cathedral with its steeple ripped apart, a Jewish school struck by shelling, and parish churches left almost totally flattened. Targeting historic monuments and cultural heritage sites is a war crime under international law, according to the Hague Convention. Russia denies targeting civilian infrastructure, but the BBC has identified a number of religious sites that have suffered damage. St Michael’s Cathedral was described by Mariupol’s tourist office as ‘the most beautiful place’ in the city’s Left Bank district. Offering ‘panoramic views of the Sea of ​​Azov, green hills and coastal villages,’ the cathedral – opened in 1997 – attracted both worshippers and visitors alike, it said. But after weeks of relentless Russian bombardment on the southern port city, the Orthodox cathedral’s crowning dome is now a mangled heap of exposed steel and smashed brickwork.”


Belfast movie“The Best Movies of 2021” – Brett McCracken at The Gospel Coalition: “Twenty years ago this month, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring released in theaters. I was a freshman at Wheaton College and went to see it with a group of dorm friends. It was a magical, memorable movie-going experience; awesomely cinematic and transportive. In retrospect, I wonder if that trilogy was the last great ‘big’ cinematic event. With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s films and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, few movie-going experiences have matched the awe I experienced watching Lord of the Rings. Will we ever have movies like that again? Movie-watching is changing. The screens are smaller, the experience less communal. For all but the biggest-tentpole superhero movies, most people seem to prefer watching movies from the convenience of home. How will the evolving economics of Hollywood change the nature of the films produced? Time will tell. In the meantime, interesting and soul-enriching films are still being made. On that note, the following is my list of the best films of 2021.”


Jesus-mosaic-with-conservationist-640x400“Earliest mosaic in Israel dedicated to Jesus may soon be sprung from prison” – Amanda Borschel-Dan in The Times of Israel: “Plans are underway to move Megiddo prison in order to excavate the Israeli church with the earliest mosaic dedicated to Jesus. In 2004, a Greek inscription ‘to the God Jesus Christ’ was uncovered inside a 3rd-century structure during Israel Antiquities Authority salvage operations ahead of a proposed expansion of the prison in northern Israel. On Thursday, Israel Prisons Service, Megiddo Regional Council and Israel Antiquities Authority personnel toured the Megiddo Prison in preparation for the prison’s evacuation ahead of renewed excavations at this important early Christian site, according to the IAA’s Hebrew Facebook page. The new excavations may commence in June, according to the post. In 2004-2008, Dr. Yotam Tepper headed excavations at the prison ahead of the proposed expansion. Now, in light of the significant archaeological finds, discussions are well underway to relocate the entire prison complex, re-expose the mosaics underneath and build a tourist site. ‘This structure is interpreted as the oldest Christian prayer house in the world… and in fact, it tells the story of Christianity even before it became official.'”


128136“C.S. Lewis Was a Modern Man Who Breathed Medieval Air” – Louis Markos in Christianity Today: “In the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien tells us two things about his beloved hobbits that identify them as medieval in their thinking and their behavior. First, their relationship to technology is distinctively premodern: ‘They love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skillful with tools.’ Second, their taste in books runs toward old masters like Dante, Chaucer, and Thomas Aquinas; they would not have enjoyed or understood the radical originality of novels by modern writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Marcel Proust, or Virginia Woolf. Indeed, ‘they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions.’…Like his friend Tolkien, C. S. Lewis was a man who loved all things medieval and who infused all that he wrote with a premodern ethos that hearkened back to an older, more traditional understanding of technology, books, wisdom, and morality.”


Music: The Gesualdo Six, “Agnus Dei” from Mass for five voices by William Byrd, at Ely Cathedral

The Weekend Wanderer: 26 February 2022

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


274810155_245611617777589_5201497153106588650_n-750x375“Ecumenical Patriarch condemned unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine” – Orthodox Times: “Shocked by the invasion of the armed forces of the Russian Federation in the territory of the Republic of Ukraine [on Thursday], the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew telephoned Metropolitan Epifaniy of Ukraine, expressing his deep sorrow at this blatant violation of any notion of international legitimacy, as well as his support to the fighting Ukrainian people and to the families of innocent victims. The Ecumenical Patriarch condemned this unprovoked attack by Russia against Ukraine, an independent and sovereign state of Europe, as well as the violation of human rights and the brutal violence against our fellow humans and, above all, against civilians. He prayed to the God of love and peace to enlighten the leadership of the Russian Federation, in order to understand the tragic consequences of its decisions and actions, which can be the trigger for even a world war.”


Ukraine war“To Stay and Serve: Why We Didn’t Flee Ukraine” – Vasyl Ostryi from Ukraine at The Gospel Coalition: “In recent days, the events from the book of Esther have become real to us in Ukraine. It’s as if the decree is signed, and Haman has the license to destroy an entire nation. The gallows are ready. Ukraine is simply waiting. Can you imagine the mood in a society when gradually, day after day for months, the world’s media has been saying that war is inevitable? That much blood will be shed? In recent weeks, nearly all the missionaries have been told to leave Ukraine. Western nations evacuated their embassies and citizens. Traffic in the capital of Kyiv is disappearing. Where did the people go? Oligarchs, businessmen, and those who can afford it are leaving, saving their families from potential war. Should we do the same?”


man-at-work-unhappy“Reconnecting Worship and Work” – Matthew Kaemingk in Comment: “They feel it in their bones. Most Christian workers living in the modern West experience a deep chasm between their Sunday worship and their Monday work. Their daily labors in the world and their Sunday liturgies in the sanctuary feel as if they are a million miles apart.
Most pastors and worship leaders sincerely hope that Sunday morning worship meaningfully connects with Monday morning work. But are their hopes realized? Walking into the sanctuary, many workers feel as if they’re visiting another country, a ‘sacred’ world quite detached from a world of work that they call ‘secular.’ Some workers have resigned themselves to this growing chasm between work and worship. Some even appreciate it. They’re grateful for a Sunday escape from work, a chance to forget the weekly pressures and pains of their careers – even if just for a moment. In the sanctuary they’ve found a spiritual haven, an oasis far from the cares of troublesome bosses, deadlines, and reports. Other workers are deeply bothered by the divorce between their worship and work: they’re haunted by a gnawing sense that the sanctuary is increasingly irrelevant to their daily lives in the world – incapable of speaking to the vocational struggles, questions, and issues they face in the workplace. The chasm eats at them. They long for things to connect.”


madaba_map_Jerusalem“Madaba: The World’s Oldest Holy Land Map” – Nathan Steinmeyer at Bible History Daily: “In 1884, the local community in Madaba, Jordan, made an incredible discovery, the oldest Holy Land map in the world. The now-famous Madaba Map, however, is not found on a piece of paper but rather is part of an intricately designed mosaic floor, now part of the Church of St. George. The map was constructed in the second half of the sixth century C.E. and originally depicted the entire Holy Land and neighboring regions. Although older maps have been discovered, the Madaba Map is by far the oldest Holy Land map. It is not the map’s age that makes it remarkable, however, but rather its extreme accuracy and detail. The preserved portions of the map depict much of the biblical world, with the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the center of the floor. The Holy Land map stretches from the area of modern Lebanon in the north to Egypt’s Nile Delta in the south, with the Mediterranean Sea as its western border and the Jordan desert as its eastern border. Using at least eight different colors, the Madaba Map portrays the cities, landscapes, flora, and fauna of the region.”


21farmer-haiti2-superJumbo.jpg“Paul Farmer, Pioneer of Global Health, Dies at 62” – Obituary in The New York Times: “Paul Farmer, a physician, anthropologist and humanitarian who gained global acclaim for his work delivering high-quality health care to some of the world’s poorest people, died on Monday on the grounds of a hospital and university he had helped establish in Butaro, Rwanda. He was 62. Partners in Health, the global public health organization that Dr. Farmer helped found, announced his death in a statement that did not specify the cause. Dr. Farmer attracted public renown with Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, a 2003 book by Tracy Kidder that described the extraordinary efforts he would make to care for patients, sometimes walking hours to their homes to ensure they were taking their medication. He was a practitioner of ‘social medicine,’ arguing there was no point in treating patients for diseases only to send them back into the desperate circumstances that contributed to them in the first place. Illness, he said, has social roots and must be addressed through social structures.”


OnBeing_JohnODonohue_Social_1200x628_FBTWWEB_EpArtwork-768x402“John O’Donohue – The Inner Landscape of Beauty” – Krista Tippett interviews John O’Donohue at On Being before his death in 2008: “No conversation we’ve ever done has been more beloved than this one. The Irish poet, theologian, and philosopher insisted on beauty as a human calling. He had a very Celtic, lifelong fascination with the inner landscape of our lives and with what he called “the invisible world” that is constantly intertwining what we can know and see. This was one of the last interviews he gave before his unexpected death in 2008. But John O’Donohue’s voice and writings continue to bring ancient mystical wisdom to modern confusions and longings.”


John Perkins change“Why John Perkins Didn’t Want More White Christians like Jonathan Edwards” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “John Perkins stood up at a planning meeting for a Billy Graham crusade in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1975. The Black pastor and civil rights activist was invited to the meeting, along with a group of African American clergy from the area, because Graham himself had insisted the evangelistic event would be desegregated. Black and white Mississippians would hear the gospel together. Perkins loved Graham and his powerful gospel message, and he was excited to hear that the world’s leading evangelist was taking practical steps to end segregation in the church. So he went to the Holiday Inn in Jackson and sat down on the Black side of the conference room, with all the Black pastors, and looked over at the white side, with all the white pastors. Then he stood up. He asked the white pastors whether their churches were committed to accepting new converts from the crusade into their congregations if the born-again brothers and sisters were Black. He didn’t think they were ready for that in Mississippi. And if they weren’t ready, he didn’t know whether he was either. ‘I don’t know whether or not I want to participate,’ Perkins said, ‘in making the same kind of white Christians that we’ve had in the past.'”


Music: Gene Eugene, “Marvelous Light,” from City on a Hill

The Weekend Wanderer: 15 January 2022

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


webRNS-Eastbrook-Refugees4-011022-1536x982“At Milwaukee church, refugees find welcome from a less suspicious time” – Here is Bob Smietana at Religion News Service with a feature on the church where I serve, Eastbrook Church: “Asher Imtiaz is the kind of person who always seems to be wandering into a great story. Like the time in 2017, when the Pakistani American computer scientist and documentary photographer walked into a Target in Nebraska and ended up being invited to a wedding thrown by Yazidi refugees from the Middle East. Imtiaz had gone to Nebraska to shoot pictures of life in small-town America in the age of Trump, far from the country’s urban centers. Among his portfolio from the time is another Yazidi family, dressed in patriotic garb and heading to a Fourth of July picnic. ‘I went to see America and found these new Americans,’ said Imtiaz at a coffee shop on the north side of Milwaukee last year. Imtiaz fits right in at Eastbrook Church, a multi-ethnic congregation where he serves as a volunteer leader at an outreach ministry for international students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus nearby.”


PAKISTAN-RELIGION-CHRISTMAS

“Pakistan’s top court grants bail to Christian facing blasphemy charge” – In Light for the Voiceless News: “The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision to grant bail to a Christian accused of blasphemy should give hope to others facing the charge, according to a prominent lawyer. Saif ul Malook welcomed the court’s ruling on Jan. 6 that Nadeem Samson should be released on bail. ‘It is a very important ruling, the first in the judicial history of Pakistan,’ the lawyer said in a video call reported by the Jubilee Campaign, a nonprofit promoting human rights. Samson, identified as a Catholic by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), was arrested in 2017 and imprisoned in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, after a property dispute. He was charged with insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The 42-year-old’s supporters believe that he was falsely accused of the crime, which is punishable by death in Pakistan, an Islamic republic in South Asia with a population of almost 227 million people. Malook, who represented Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother acquitted of blasphemy in 2018, petitioned the Supreme Court at a hearing on Jan. 5 to break with the practice of denying bail to people accused of blasphemy.”


3326“From respair to cacklefart – the joy of reclaiming long-lost positive words” – Susie Dent in The Guardian: “‘Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them’: words of positivity from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. But how many of us really dwell on the upside of life, as opposed to its mad, bad, seamy side? It’s unsurprising that we have lost some of our joie de vivre in the past few years – finding sparkle amid the grey has become distinctly difficult. But a riffle through a historical dictionary suggests that it’s always been this way, and at heart we’ve long been a pessimistic lot. Linguistically, as in life, our glass is usually half-empty. Usually – but not always. In recent times I’ve made it a mission to highlight a category of English that linguists fondly call “orphaned negatives”. These are the words that inexplicably lost their mojo at some point in the past, becoming a sorry crew of adjectives that includes unkempt, unruly, disgruntled, unwieldy and inept. Yet previous generations had the potential to be kempt, ruly, wieldy, ept and – most recently thanks to PG Wodehouse – gruntled. Some were even full of ruth (compassion), feck (initiative) and gorm (due care and attention). Now is surely the time to reunite these long-lost couples. It may not work for everything – there is no entry (yet) for ‘shevelled’ or ‘combobulated’, but Mitchell airport in Milwaukee has gloriously provided its passengers with a ‘recombobulation area’ in which to release some of the tension of air travel.”


alan jacobs“formation and martyrdom” – Alan Jacobs at his blog, Snakes and Ladders: “The question then is: How to form Christians in such a way that they are capable of undergoing martyrdom? (In any of its forms: red, green, or white.) I am convinced that this is indeed a matter of cultivating the proper practices – which include words and deeds alike, by the way, or rather speech and writing understood asdeeds: as Newbigin goes on to say, the fact that the witness of the martyrs was so exceptionally powerful does not abrogate the need for faithful preaching – indeed, faithful preaching was surely one of the means by which the martyrs were formed: ‘The central reality is neither word nor act, but the total life of a community enabled by the Spirit to live in Christ, sharing his passion and the power of his resurrection. Both the words and the acts of that community may at any time provide the occasion through which the living Christ challenges the ruling powers. Sometimes it is a word that pierces through layers of custom and opens up a new vision. Sometimes it is a deed which shakes a whole traditional plausibility structure. They mutually reinforce and interpret one another. The words explain the deeds, and the deeds validate the words.’  Preaching and praise, fasting and penitence, reading and serving – all are core practices of the Church.”


Human-as-Gift-Nick-Spencer-980x551“Human as Gift” – Nick Spencer in Comment: “Admit it, if only quietly and to yourself. You have, in those quieter moments of your life, daydreamed about what people will say of you at your funeral. Or, at least, what you would like them to say. Chances are, you don’t want the priest or next of kin to utter the words, “She managed her portfolio of shares with extreme diligence,” or “He spent long hours in the office but did at least achieve a bit of work-life balance with some amazing holidays in the Caribbean.” You want to be remembered for what matters. We all do. Death mercilessly cuts through the moral fog of living. Few people want to be memorialized for the stuff they had or the leisure they enjoyed, in spite of the fact that we spend so much of our time on earth pursuing these things and then talking about then. We want our funeral eulogy to be positive—obviously—but positive about the right things.”


Tombs of the kings Jerusalem“The Tomb of the Kings in Jerusalem” – Marek Dospěl in Biblical Archaeology Society: “There is no shortage of controversial sites and monuments in Israel. Among the less well known to visitors to Jerusalem is the so-called Tomb of the Kings which remains highly controversial in two aspects: its original purpose and the site’s current ownership. The Tomb of the Kings is an ancient funerary monument located about a half mile north of the Old City walls. The tomb complex, almost entirely carved out of natural rock, consists of a monumental staircase, a spacious courtyard, an imposing portico, and a maze of subterranean passages and chambers that could have held up to 50 burials. There are ancient ritual baths (mikva’ot) at the foot of the staircase. Despite its traditional name, however, the tomb did not serve as the final resting place of the kings of ancient Israel or Judah. The scholarly consensus has long been that the Tomb of the Kings was the family tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene, a first-century convert to Judaism who moved to Jerusalem from her original home in Adiabene, an ancient kingdom in what is today northern Iraq.”


Music: U2, “White as Snow,” No Line on the Horizon

The Weekend Wanderer: 11 December 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.


cultural-infusion-scaled“Cultural Infusion” – Caroline Stowell in The Other Journal: “One Sunday morning at my Evangelical Covenant church, the tech team projects a video interview with an Iranian woman who came to Boston for an education and ended up finding Jesus. She encourages us to reach out to those around us, because you never know when someone might be ready to hear about this hope she now has in Christ. I have tears in my eyes by the end as I think of Zahra. Zahra and I met this spring at a Cambridge community playgroup I attend with my twin three-year-old boys, Kyle and Tasman. She’s here from Iran with her two young boys while her husband studies at Harvard. One day, at a playgroup shortly after I watched the video at church, Zahra asks me what else I do with my kids during the week. I tell her about the library story time and the boys’ dance class. Then I tell her about church and the moms group I attend there on Wednesdays.  ‘Church?’ Zahra chirps at me like a startled bird. ‘Mm hmm.’ ‘Are you a Christian?’ ‘Yes,’ I say. She smiles and nods.’You are Muslim?’ I ask, trying not to gesture to the hijab that outlines the olive skin of her face. ‘Muslim? Yes,’ she says.”


Sarah Ruden - The Gospels“The Bible Made Strange: Sarah Ruden’s Four New Gospels” – Scot McKnight at Marginalia: “People think they know how a specific verse should sound. Such opinions flow freely from those who have never learned a word of the original languages. Our Bibles are so Englishy sounding, most readers think their preferred translation is the translation. Add to this that committees authorize our most common translations: the New Revised Standard, the English Standard Version, the New International Version (2011), and the Common English Bible. Authorized translations are publicized and marketed and then used in churches where they acquire sacred standing. Churlish such accusations may be, but each of these translations represents a particular tribe of Christians, and it takes no hard thinking to recognize the tribe behind each. As a sometimes preacher I learned long ago to ask which translation a church uses and go with it, for anything else leads to not-so-gentle questions about one’s orthodoxy. The only translations transcending tribalism are done by individuals, despite the obvious shortcomings of one person translating the whole Bible (Eugene Peterson’s The Message) or separate testaments.”


Roman crucifixion evidence“Best physical evidence of Roman crucifixion found in Cambridgeshire” – Jamie Grierson in The Guardian: “Found at the site of a future housing development in Cambridgeshire, the near 1,900-year-old skeleton at first did not seem particularly remarkable. Aged 25 to 35 at the time of death, the man had been buried with his arms across his chest in a grave with a wooden structure, possibly a bier, at one of five cemeteries around a newly discovered Roman settlement at Fenstanton, between Roman Cambridge and Godmanchester. But once his remains were removed to a laboratory in Bedford, a grisly discovery was made – a nail through the heel bone that experts now say is the best physical evidence of a crucifixion in the Roman world.”


biblical archaeology“How Archaeologists Are Finding the Signatures of Bible Kings, Ancient Villains, and Maybe a Prophet”– Gordon Govier at Christianity Today: “The closest I’ve ever felt to the prophet Jeremiah was sitting at the bottom of an empty cistern. About 20 years ago, I was taken to an excavated water reservoir in Jerusalem and told this could be the actual hole in Jeremiah 38:6 where the prophet was left to starve when four government officials decided they didn’t like his messages from God. I sat on a bench and looked up at the stone walls. Jeremiah sank into the mud, according to the biblical account. But maybe it wasn’t at that spot. Who’s to say it was this cistern, which was dug up in 1998, and not another one that has yet to be found? Or perhaps it will never be found. I could imagine the prophet trapped in that exact place, wondering if God would rescue him, but short of finding ‘Jeremiah’ scratched on the wall, no one could say for sure. In the time since I was there, questions have been raised about that cistern, casting doubt on its role in the Jeremiah drama. It’s not a place people visit these days. Archaeology can take you so close to the biblical world and still leave you wishing someone had left a signature.”


Old-Vintage-Books“A Year of Reading: 2021” – John Wilson in First Things: “I don’t know about you, but my sense of time has been altered—to some extent “thrown off”—by the still-unfolding pandemic. But here we are, approaching the end of another year, and according to the prescribed ritual I entered into a mildly trancelike state to think about books from 2021 that stand out. As usual, I hasten to add that if the list were made on another day, it would be at least slightly different from this one. At any given moment, even when I am not under the spell, books are jostling around in my head. I am particularly looking forward to Toya Wolfe’s novel Last Summer on State Street, coming from William Morrow in June. Just around the corner, I expect to see On the Theory of Prose, a new translation (by Shushan Avagyan) of Viktor Shklovsky’s classic (Dalkey Archive). Then there’s Adam Roberts’s new novel, coming in February in the U.K. (can it really be titled The This, purportedly with reference to Hegel?). But I mustn’t keep going down this path. There are so many books to look forward to, not to mention many more that will take me by surprise. But on with the list. As usual, the titles are (mostly) in alphabetical order; the logic of departures from that rule will be clear. The Books of the Year will come at the end.”


Middle East - disappearing Christians“A Requiem for the Disappearing Christians of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Gaza” – Tim Dowley in Christianity Today: “‘Islamic fundamentalist groups, in particular ISIS, have ravaged parts of Iraq and Syria and brought those countries’ already decimated Christian population to the verge of extinction. In Egypt, Christian Copts face legal and societal discrimination. In Gaza, which in the fourth century was entirely Christian, fewer than one thousand Christians remain.’ Sobering statistics like these set a grim backdrop for The Vanishing, war journalist Janine di Giovanni’s fearless account of what the book’s subtitle calls ‘Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets.’ There can be few better suited or equipped to tell this story than di Giovanni, who has previously reported on the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Syria and is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. The Vanishing is neither a chronological record of Christian withdrawal nor a geopolitical analysis of religious trends. Instead, di Giovanni offers a kind of requiem for a disappearing religious culture, a tale rendered all the more heart-wrenching for having been written during some of the worst months of the COVID-19 crisis.”


Music: The Porter’s Gate, “Isaiah (O Come),” Advent Songs