The Weekend Wanderer: 24 July 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Keller - Sabbath Wisdom“Wisdom and Sabbath Rest” – Tim Keller at Redeemer City to City: “Leadership is stewardship—the cultivation of the resources God has entrusted to us for his glory. The Sabbath gives us both theological and practical help in managing one of our primary resources: our time. In Ephesians 5, Paul invokes the biblical concept of wisdom:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

— Ephesians 5:15–17

The King James Version translates verses 15 and 16 as, ‘walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’ Living wisely (or circumspectly) is to a great degree a matter of how we spend our time.”


Burge - Mainline & Evangelical demography“Mainline Protestants Are Still Declining, But That’s Not Good News for Evangelicals” – Ryan P. Burge in Christianity Today: “Religious demography is a zero-sum game. If one group grows larger that means that other groups must be shrinking in size. So that rise in the nones is bad news for churches, pretty much across traditions. When you sort Christians by denomination, mainline Protestants are continuing to show significant decline. By their own membership tallies, mainline denominations are showing drops of 15 percent, 25 percent, and even 40 percent over the span of the last decade. There is little room for triumph on the evangelical side; their numbers are slipping too. Examining these two traditions, though, shows us two different stories about how their churches are losing members and could offer a trajectory for what the American religious landscape will look like in the future.”


nubian_church“Ruins of Monumental Church Linked to Medieval Nubian Kingdom Found in Sudan” – Livia Gershon at Smithsonian Magazine: “Archaeologists in northern Sudan have discovered the ruins of a cathedral that likely stood as a seat of Christian power in the Nubian kingdom of Makuria 1,000 years ago. As the Art Newspaper’s Emi Eleode reports, the remains, discovered in the subterranean citadel of Makuria’s capital city, Old Dongola, may be the largest church ever found in Nubia. Researchers say the structure was 85 feet wide and about as tall as a three-story building. The walls of the cathedral’s apse—the most sacred part of the building—were painted in the 10th or early 11th century with portraits believed to represent the Twelve Apostles, reports Jesse Holth for ARTnews.”


sliwka-fig-6“The Painter & The Preacher: Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity and Savonarola’s Sermons” – Jennifer Sliwka at The Brooklyn Rail: “On February 7, 1497 the Piazza della Signoria, the civic heart of the city of Florence, erupted into flames as piles of artworks, books, mirrors, fine clothes, and musical instruments were stacked high and lit on fire. Known as the Bonfire of the Vanities, these pyres were the result of years of preaching by the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola who petitioned Florentine citizens to sacrifice all objects that might tempt one to sin, to redress what he deemed the corrupt and vice-ridden aspects of their lives….Savonarola criticised pagan and mythological artworks in particular. One of the many artists specialising in these genres was Sandro Botticelli, perhaps best known for his poetic mythological paintings of beautiful lithe goddesses in the Primavera (Springtime) and the Birth of Venus (late 1470s–early 1480s), painted for the Renaissance palaces and villas of Florence’s elite. Less well known are his smaller religious ‘Savonarolan’ works from the 1490s, such as the so-called Mystic Nativity (1500), arguably the most personal, complex, enigmatic, and powerful of all his works.”


Snyder - Embodiment's GraceEmbodiment’s Grace: Recovering the gifts of human finitude” – Anne Snyder at Comment: “Summer is a time portal. Every July at the local ice cream counter I hear a child chirp a request that echoes something of my own from earlier innocence: ‘Dad, I’d like the super-size whippy dip, dunked in fudge, caramel, all the fixings. Trust me, I can handle it.’ The magic of anticipating a supreme level of sugary joy never fails to bring a smile. Kids generally don’t appreciate the value of limits. Most if not all of what is great in a child’s mind is something huge, more, whatever that alluring curiosity is beyond the parental boundary. Limits are something we learn to respect, typically by experiencing the consequences of exceeding them.”


Bob Dylan gospel“A Closer Look at Bob Dylan’s Confounding and Compassionate Christian Trilogy” – Timothy Bracy at Inside Hook: “Following the gender-fluid liberations of glam, the volatile excesses of The Who and Led Zeppelin and the high-voltage course correction of punk, it was not so easy to shock rock ‘n’ roll audiences in 1979. They’d seen and done a lot in that decade — things you can’t unsee. Bob Dylan had helped it all along — the tip of the spear in so many vanguard movements, two decades spent subverting expectations, coloring outside the lines and constantly moving the goalposts. But his newest gambit wasn’t like any of the others before. In 1979, the world was introduced to Bob Dylan: Born-Again Christian. Now that was surprising.”


Music: Bob Dylan, “When You Gonna Wake Up” (Live), from Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, volume 13.

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 March 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.


26librescoembed“Dependence: Toward an Illiberalism of the Weak” – Leah Libresco Sargeant in Plough Quarterly: “Our physical weakness is a training ground for our struggles with moral weakness. There is no physical infirmity we can endure that is more humiliating than our susceptibility to sin. The elderly woman with tremors that leave her unable to lift her cup to her lip is not, in the final sense, weaker than any vigorous young man who finds he must echo Paul and admit, ‘For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do’ (Rom. 7:19). There is a blessing in the inescapability of physical weakness that breaks our pride. Sister Teresa de Cartagena, a fifteenth-century Cistercian nun from Spain, wrote; Arboleda de los enfermos (Grove of the Infirm) as a spiritual reflection on her own deafness. Sister Teresa writes: ‘Divine generosity invites all to this blessed feast, but suffering grabs the infirm by their cloak and makes them enter by force.'”


iraq christian pope“Pope’s risky Iraq trip aims to boost Christians” – Nicole Winfield in AP News: “Pope Francis is pushing ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite rising coronavirus infections, hoping to encourage the country’s dwindling number of Christians who were violently persecuted during the Islamic State’s insurgency while seeking to boost ties with the Shiite Muslim world. Security is a concern for the March 5-8 visit, given the continued presence of rogue Shiite militias and fresh rocket attacks. Francis, who relishes plunging into crowds and zipping around in his popemobile, is expected to travel in an armored car with a sizeable security detail. The Vatican hopes the measures will have the dual effect of protecting the pope while discouraging contagion-inducing crowds.”


AND Campaign“And Campaign to Add 13 New Chapters During Pandemic” – Jacqueline J. Holness in Christianity Today: “The And Campaign—the organization rallying urban Christians to ‘faithful civic engagement’—is on track to quadruple its size in the span of a year, with chapters launching in three Southern cities in 2020 and scheduled to launch in another 10 cities in the first half of 2021. Last year’s convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and political and racial unrest in the United States catapulted organizations like the And Campaign, which were already addressing these complex issues, to a new level of prominence.”


Gentle and Lowly“What the Success of Gentle and Lowly Reveals About Our View of God’s Love” – Samuel Jones at The Gospel Coalition: “I’ve had numerous conversations about Gentle and Lowly, often with friends and family members who have a similar heritage within evangelicalism. We all read Ortlund’s case that our sins and struggles, far from repelling Jesus, draw him closer to us. We realized this was not our predominant conception of Jesus. Yet few books are as packed with Scripture or as conversant with great saints as Gentle and Lowly. This is not innovative theology or a feel-good devotional. While reading the book I repeatedly thought, This can’t be right; this has to be a postmodern view of Jesus. Then I’d realize the statement was a passage from Scripture or a Puritan such as Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, or John Bunyan. The Bible teaches that this is really how Jesus relates to those he has redeemed. Our Christian forebears believed it and taught it.”


head in hands“Beyond Pornography: Spiritual Formation Studied in a Particular Case” – One of the most pervasive temptations I encounter in my ministry as a pastor is pornography. The accessibility of pornography has led many people into the imprisonment of this temptation. While many think this is only a problem for men, studies have shown this is not true. I have seen many attempts to deal with pornography not really bring freedom in peoples’ lives, but actually lead to increased guilt and sometimes increased hiding. Dallas Willard offers one of the most fruitful approaches to spiritual growth, outlined very clearly in his book Renovation of the Heart, and here applied to the temptation of pornography. I heartily recommend reading and re-reading this one, or even sharing it with someone who you know struggles in this way.


WV Gaza“A World Vision Employee Is Still Awaiting Fair Trial in Israel” – Ken Chitwood in Christianity Today: “Every day, at least once and sometimes more, Khalil el-Halabi logs on to Twitter and posts pictures, videos, and appeals on behalf of his son Mohammad. Tagging people he believes might come to his aid—human rights lawyers, politicians, and journalists—he calls for justice and mercy. On January 4, he posted, ‘To our Israeli neighbours. My son will be brought to court for the 154th time Tuesday facing a charge he has not committed without any credible evidence.’ He closed the tweet with a quote from Amos 5:24: ‘Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.'”


Music: Bob Dylan, “Not Dark Yet,” from Time Out of Mind.

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 November 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.

Kanye West“Kanye West, Heretic by Nature, Finds God” – Two confessions. First, I have never been a huge fan of hip hop. Sorry. My high school and college-age kids love it, but it’s not my first choice for listening. Second, one of the few exceptions to that is Kanye West’s 2008 album, 808s & Heartbreak. I enjoy listening to that album because of West’s vulnerability and the funky vibes. Last Friday, Kanye released his most recent musical project entitled Jesus is King. In a two-hour interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, West claims to have undergone a conversion to Christianity, and wants to turn his life around and tell everyone about it. He even asked those participating in the album to abstain from premarital sex during the recording process. Critics abound, but something is happening here. West has been pulling together worship services during the past year, including an Easter Sunday morning worship service at Coachella. I can’t help but think of Bob Dylan’s conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s that brought about some of the most interesting “gospel” music of that era, including albums like Slow Train Coming and live performances with a gospel choir and invitations to receive Christ. Christian hip hop star, Lecrae, shares some of his thoughts on Kanye’s album and journey with Billboard. Time will tell what all of this really means in Kanye West’s life but in the meantime we can enjoy the music.

 

Kirk Franklin“Kirk Franklin Boycotts Dove Awards for Cutting His Prayers for Black Victims” – Loving others means hearing them, even when it hurts. This is true in friendship, marriage, parenting, and with others whose situation we don’t entirely understand. Listening to others is particularly important in situations fraught with tension, even though it can be difficult and painful. When he won Dove Awards in 2016 and now in 2019 Kirk Franklin called people to prayer for the killing of African Americans within our country. Both times, TBN cut that portion of Franklin’s awards speech out of their broadcast. In response, after seeking council and addressing this with the Dove Awards committee both times, Franklin is boycotting the Dove Awards until change happens. I encourage you to watch to Franklin address this in a pair of Twitter videos, and listen to his important words: “Not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African American experience.”

 

92447“The Cautionary Tale of Jerry Falwell Jr.” – Mark Galli writes a reflection on Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his leadership at Liberty University that quickly turns into a reflection on the crisis of evangelical “leadership.” This is something I have reflected on quite a bit over the last year, but Galli pulls it all together in quick form in a way that asks what it would look like to return to biblical characteristics of leadership. Along with Galli’s important thoughts, I also sense we need to evaluate not just job descriptions, but the culture of evangelical institutions, whether schools, church, or other, and why it might be that they often produce the sort of leaders we know do not look like Christ.

 

92693“There’s No One Christian View on Turks and Kurds” – A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the tensions in northeast Syria in which I called Christians to awareness of the plight of Christians in the Middle East more broadly and this latest situation. (“Standing with Christians in Northeast Syria“). I really appreciated this recent article in Christianity Today exploring the complexity of this situation and the variety of perspectives present even in the region about how to view it. The diversity of voices invited to speak to this issue makes the article invaluable.

 

C S Lewis“When C.S. Lewis Predicted Our Doom” – If you asked me what my favorite work by C. S. Lewis is, I would tend to point to The Great DivorceMere Christianity, or The Weight of Glory (worth the cost of the book for the title essay alone). Of course, I love the Narnia books and The Screwtape Letters, but they are not really my favorite. If you were to ask the same question of my wife, Kelly, you might be surprised to hear her, a high school English teacher and spiritual mentor to many, immediately say The Abolition of Man. That book, although not always as well known to a broad audience, is Lewis’ pointed critique of modern liberal culture and the loss of a sense of humanity and virtue in an attempt to re-order the world. Matt Purple’s essay here combines a reading of The Abolition of Man in tandem with the third book in Lewis’ space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, to draw attention to his insights into the coming dystopian world.

 

Music: Vampire Weekend, “Sunflower,” (ft Steve Lacy) from Father of the Bride

[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.]