“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, 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.
“Died: Tim Keller, New York City Pastor Who Modeled Winsome Witness” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “Tim Keller, a New York City pastor who ministered to young urban professionals and in the process became a leading example for how a winsome Christian witness could win a hearing for the gospel even in unlikely places, died on Friday at age 72—three years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Keller planted and grew a Reformed evangelical congregation in Manhattan; launched a church planting network; cofounded The Gospel Coalition; and wrote multiple best-selling books about God, the gospel, and the Christian life. Everywhere he went, he preached sin and grace. ‘The gospel is this,’ Keller said time and again: ‘We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.’ Keller was frequently accused—especially in later years—of cultural accommodation. He rejected culture-war antagonism and the “own the libs” approach to evangelism, and people accused him of putting too much emphasis on relevance and watering down or even betraying the truth of Christianity out of a misplaced desire for social acceptance. But a frequent theme throughout his preaching and teaching was idolatry. Keller maintained that people are broken and they know that. But they haven’t grasped that only Jesus can really fix them. Only God’s grace can satisfy their deepest longings.”
“‘There are many worlds in me’: Asian American Christians reject conformity” – Kathryn Post at Religion News Service: “In her poem ‘I Have a New Name,’ spoken-word artist Hosanna Wong boldly lists the names God calls her in Scripture: Friend, chosen, greatly loved. But when she first released her bravura anthem of acceptance in 2017, it was under a pseudonym. ‘Early on, a handful of leaders told me that my background might stand in the way of me being effective in the places and spaces I felt called to,’ Wong, 33, told Religion News Service in a recent interview. ‘So they suggested that I don’t go by the last name “Wong.”‘ After performing for most of her career as ‘Hosanna Poetry,’ Wong, 33, now records under her own name. She’s one of several Asian American Christian leaders who have rejected the mold that others tried to force them into, forging a more expansive faith that acknowledges the rich dimensions of their identity. But being open about who you are isn’t easy when you’ve been ‘shape shifting,’ as Wong put it, from an early age. Growing up in San Francisco in the 1990s, Wong felt most at home serving alongside her dad at his Christian outreach ministry for people living without homes and battling addiction. ‘We had outdoor services two to three days a week. People brought their alcohol bottles, people brought their needles. That’s how I learned church,’ said Wong, whose father was a former gang member who battled heroin addiction. ‘That’s where I learned that Jesus could save anyone’s soul and redeem anyone’s story … and that’s also where I learned the art of spoken word poetry.'”
“The Word became relationship” – Samuel Wells in The Christian Century: “Fawlty Towers is getting a reboot. If you’ve seen the original series, you’ll know it’s one joke stretched out over 12 episodes. John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty is the proprietor of an undistinguished hotel in the seaside town of Torquay. He’s surrounded by foolish people—some of his staff, several of his guests—but he has to find a way to contain his barely suppressed rage enough to be polite to his guests and communicate with his staff. His attempts and failures to do so constitute the endless cycle of wild flailing and ultimately explosive violence that make the series agonizing, hilarious, and gripping viewing. But what if it weren’t a comedy? What if Fawlty Towers were actually a profound portrayal of human life, in which communication is largely impossible and conventions of civility are always on the point of snapping, whereupon violence inevitably ensues? Think about what it’s like to try to communicate with a relentless puppy that just won’t calm down, a youth group that won’t listen to instructions, a terrorist who won’t be reasonable, or a roommate who’s like a brick wall. In all these situations, violence lurks just beneath the surface. Words aren’t helping. You’re perilously close to a place beyond words. Civilization is about learning ways to resolve tension and conflict without violence. But sometimes the best of us can teeter toward becoming profoundly uncivilized. Which is why some of the most moving stories are about how two people can make a journey from a standoff of frustrated and scarcely suppressed violence to a relationship of genuine peace. Virginia Axline was a primary school teacher in 1940s Ohio who went back to college and studied with psychologist Carl Rogers. She developed the practice of child-centered play therapy, which offers warm, nonjudgmental acceptance to children and patiently allows them to find their own solutions at their own pace.”
“Inspired by footwashing, Ethiopian turns rebel fighters toward peace” – Meserete Kristos Church News in Anabaptist News: “A demonstration of humility through footwashing in an Ethiopian peacebuilding training inspired one man to persuade more than 600 rebel fighters to turn from their violent ways. Meserete Kristos Church, the Anabaptist church in Ethiopia, has been engaged in peacebuilding efforts in Benishangul-Gumuz Region, home to ethnic-based violence and rebels fighting the government. Trainings have included activities based on community dialogue and reconciliation, as well as humility. In one such training, MKC director of peacebuilding Mekonnen Gemeda demonstrated humility’s importance in building peace in communities torn apart by ethnic violence. He asked for two volunteers, a Muslim and a Christian, and informed them he would wash their feet. Many participants did not believe he would do it until they saw it. One of the volunteers was Dergu Belena. He was from a Gumuz ethnic group, which initiated armed conflict against the government and killed people from other local ethnic groups. After the training, Belena went to the district government administration and asked for a gun with bullets. The administrator asked him why he wanted to get a gun. He told him, ‘I am cleansed from my past wrong thoughts and ready to be an ambassador of peace in my community.'”
“The mystery of Thomas Merton’s death—and the witness of America magazine’s poetry editor” – James T. Keane in America: “In last week’s column I wrote about John Moffitt, the America poetry editor from 1963 to 1987 who was a disciple of Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda for many years, and of Moffitt’s correspondence with another disciple of Vedanta Hinduism, J. D. Salinger. The author of The Catcher in the Rye was one of many Western devotees of Hinduism and Eastern monastic traditions whom Moffitt met or corresponded with over the years. Another was Thomas Merton, whom Moffitt met at a conference on monasticism outside Bangkok in December 1968—the conference where Merton died. The two had never met in person before, though their youthful interests in religion have a curious point of connection. In his autobiography The Seven-Storey Mountain, Merton traced his interest in religion to reading Aldous Huxley’s Ends and Means, a collection of essays on religion, ethics and the nature of the universe. Huxley was among the many literary and cultural luminaries who had taken an interest in Swami Vivekananda’s teachings, and he eventually became associated with the Vedanta Society of Southern California, even writing the introduction to an English translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. (Readers interested in Sri Ramakrishna, the Hindu monk whose teachings Vivekananda sought to spread, might profit from this 1986 America essay on him by Francis X. Clooney, S.J.) The Bengali translator of the book was Swami Nikhilananda, the spiritual guide to both Salinger and Moffitt. Credited with rendering Ramakrishna’s mystic hymns into free verse was (you guessed it) John Moffitt.”
“Of Songs and Stories: What Bruce Springsteen Learned From Flannery O’Connor” – Warren Zanes at LitHub: “Shortly after the birth of his sister Virginia in 1951, Springsteen’s family moved in with his paternal grandparents. They would stay there through 1956, but the years spent in that house would remain with Springsteen, a thing to untangle. It was a period of his childhood that, in his telling, would come to the fore in Nebraska. ‘I know the house was very dilapidated,’ Springsteen told me. ‘That was something that embarrassed me as a child. It was visibly ramshackle, my grandparents’ house. On the street you could see that it was deteriorating. I just remember being embarrassed about it as a child. That would have been my only sense that something wasn’t right with who we were and what we were doing. I can’t quite describe it. It was intense. The house was eventually condemned. Really, it fell apart around us. I lived there when there was only one functional room, the living room. Everything else was pretty much finished.’ In the living room was the portrait of his aunt Virginia, his father’s sister, an image Springsteen has described on a few occasions. Virginia, at age six and out riding her bicycle, was hit and killed by a truck as it pulled out of a gas station on Freehold’s McLean Street. In some misguided tribute to Virginia’s early and sudden death, Springsteen’s grandparents withheld discipline from their first grandchild, Bruce. It was a twisting of logic that likely seemed beneficent, if only to minds stuck in grief. His was a terrible freedom. When Bruce pushed, there was nothing there to push against.”
Music: Bruce Springsteen, “My Father’s House,” from Nebraska