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.]

C. S. Lewis on God’s Gift-Love

cs-lewis_at_desk.jpg

I preached this past weekend at Eastbrook about “Prayer as Living within the Power and Love of God” from Ephesians 3:14-20. Thinking about the love of God is something I never tire of. Although it didn’t make it into the sermon, I was reminded of this quotation from from C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves:

God is love….[and] This…love is Gift-love. In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give….God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing…the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.[1]


[1] C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1960), 175-6.

Prayer as Living within God’s Power and Love (Ephesians 3:14-21)

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we began a new series entitled “Power in Prayer: Learning to Pray with St. Paul.” This first weekend in the series, I took us inside of Ephesians 3:14-21, one of Paul’s notable prayers from this circular letter sent to churches in Ephesus and the surrounding area. I structured the message around two deep longings in our hearts: to have access to power and to find love. Prayer is, in many ways, a direct connection with these longings, as we reach out for power beyond ourselves and also open ourselves to the deepest vulnerability and intimacy possible in the spiritual realm.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement. Each weekend I am also providing some resources for prayer related to the passage or theme of the week.

Resources for prayer

Our life of prayer is fueled by accurate knowledge of God’s power and love. Read through these verses and use them as material for prayer, both this week and in the future:

Understanding God’s love is central to our growth in faith and prayer. Here are some resources that may help us better understand God’s love:

Read More »

The Weekend Wanderer: 22 June 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.

 

smartphone-usage“The Greatest Enemy of a Leader (And What to Do About It)”J. R. Briggs writes about his own personal grappling with what a recent interview mentioned as the greatest enemy of a leader. This parallels some of my own journey with distraction, technology, and recovering focus in my life. “Several months ago I listened to a fascinating podcast interview on the importance of focused work. The leader being interviewed said one of the greatest enemies of leaders today was distraction. I stopped to listen more intently—this was not the answer I was expecting him to say. He went on to share that our phones are the single greatest factor to distraction in the life of a leader.”

 

90982“Pro-Lifers Aren’t Hypocrites” – Here is Tish Harrison Warren addressing the hype around anti-abortion campaigns around the nation and claims of hypocrisy that have been leveled against pro-life advocates. “In any debate about abortion, someone will eventually say that pro-lifers only care about babies until birth or only care about children in the womb, not outside of it. The pro-choice advocacy group NARAL even uses this ubiquitous cliché in an ongoing public campaign that encourages supporters to share memes spotlighting ‘pro-life hypocrisy.’…This cliché distorts our picture of the pro-life movement and is often used to dismiss the larger moral argument that a person in utero is a human being who deserves legal protection. Its invocation allows pro-choice advocates to hold their opponents to abstracted standards of radicalism in order to sidestep substantive debate.”

 

transgender-protest-erase“A Kind of Experiment, Separating Gender and Sex: Why the Church Says No” – Since we’re on the run with hot topics, why not take a read of Kevin D. Williamson’s sharp critique of current gender theory and the recent Vatican release of “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education.” Williamson writes: “For this reason, the Catholic Church’s education committee, the Congregation for Catholic Education, formally, has turned its attention to one of the peculiar and destructive ideas of our time, what it describes as ;’the theory of a radical separation between gender and sex, with the former having priority over the latter.’…The stakes here are high, as the Church sees it, employing language that will be entirely familiar to American conservatives: ‘Similar theories aim to annihilate the concept of nature,’ the document reads, ‘that is, everything we have been given as a preexisting foundation of our being and action in the world.'”

 

lost worlds.jpeg“Longing for lost worlds won’t convert America” – And in case reading some of these articles gets your blood boiling and ready to amp up the culture war, then you might benefit from reading Matthew Schmitz’s essay. Schmitz, a conservative and Senior Editor for First Things, writes: “Converting America begins with love, not contempt. We should cherish our nation’s variegated traditions, its multi-racial people, its habits of piety and liberality. Anyone who presents America as irredeemably ‘commercial’, ‘Protestant’, ‘liberal’ or ‘decadent’ has conceded the territory for which he should contend. Those who dream of defending the Church against 20th-century Spanish anti-clericals should be equally eager to protect her rights in 21st-century America. Those who lament the fall of Austro-Hungary should also resist those who would tear apart the United States.”

 

NL-2-300x199.jpg“Are All White People Privileged?” – Cultural competence consultant, David Livermore reflects on white privilege from a cultural intelligence framework in this provocative article. “You can’t have an honest conversation about cultural intelligence (CQ) without addressing white privilege,  the idea that white people inherit certain privileges simply by the color of their skin. But privilege is not an easy topic of conversation. People on all sides of the issue quickly become emotional and defensive. People of color are fatigued by having to prove the point to white colleagues while many white people feel anything but privileged and experience what Robin DiAngelo refers to as white fragility.

 

Historical Document US Constitution“The Pursuit of Happiness Rightly Understood” – “On the day C.S. Lewis died, his last written work was already in press with the Saturday Evening Post. ‘We have no “right to happiness,”‘ Lewis declared in the essay, by which he meant that we have no moral right to trample the rules of justice to gratify our impulses.”

 

Crying in Church“Crying in Church” – Here’s Martha Park in Image: “When I first started attending church again, I found myself crying at some point during every service. It could happen any time: at the start of worship, when my dad stands in the hallway ringing a hand bell, the signal for us all to settle into our pews; or at the start of a hymn I have not heard in church for years but find myself humming even now; or when my father baptizes a baby and asks us all to promise we will ‘nurture one another in the Christian faith and life.'”

 

king-kong-story“Data from a Century of Cinema Reveals How Movies Have Evolved” – Okay, so I have to admit that I’m a cinephile. I love film, even if our family has agreed to forego movies for the summer to take advantage of the beautiful Wisconsin summers. But in this article, Greg Miller at Wired explores how shorter shots, different patterns of shots, more motion, and changing light has shifted the way that movies are developed and our experience of film.

 

MusicHenryk Górecki, Symphony No. 3 [“Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”], Op. 36

[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: 25 May 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.

 

Karamles“The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East: An ancient faith is disappearing from the lands in which it first took root. At stake is not just a religious community, but the fate of pluralism in the region.” – Emma Green offers a stellar piece of reporting at The Atlantic on the situation that I have discussed often with my friends in the Middle East, both while visiting there and when they have visited here. There is a crisis in the Middle East of Christians fleeing their homelands for a variety of reasons.

 

Back Row America

“Back Row America” – Chris Arnade at First Things: “For many back row Americans, the only places that regularly treat them like humans are churches. The churches are everywhere, small churches that have come in and taken over a space and light it up on Sundays and Wednesdays. They walk inside the church, and immediately they meet people who get them. The preachers and congregants inside may preach to them, even judge their past decisions, but they don’t look down on them. They have walked the walk and know the shit they are going through, not from a book, not from a movie, not from an article, not from a study, but from their own lives or the lives of their friends. They look like them, and they get them. There are rules to follow if you join, but they don’t require having your paperwork in order or having proper ID. They don’t require getting grilled about this and that. They say, ‘Enter as you are,’ letting forgiveness wash away a past that many want gone.”

India-election“Why Indian Leader Modi’s Big Win is an ‘Absolute Tragedy’ for Christians” – From Open Doors: “Since Modi came to power in 2014, India has risen from number 28 to number 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch Listthe annual list that measures the 50 places around the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus. Under his leadership, Hindu nationalist attacks against Christians have risen, believers are given fewer rights in some areas and the government is frequently accused of turning a blind eye to brutal attacks against religious minorities like Christians. Open Doors’ local partners recorded 147 incidents of violence against Christians in India in 2014, but they have recorded 216 violent incidents in India in the first quarter of 2019 alone, including two murders.”

 

90341“Lessons on Christian Rhetoric from Five of its Greatest Practitioners” – Erin Straza interviews James E. Beitler III on his new book Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. There, Beitler examines the rhetorical strategies of C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson in their oral and written communication.

 

Processed with VSCO with e1 preset“After Technopoly” – Alan Jacobs reflects in The New Atlantis on Neil Postman’s assessment of “technopoly” with some help from Polish philosopher Leszek Kołakowski and English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott. With the fine distinction between technological core and mythological core, Jacobs’ concludes: “Technopoly is a system that arises within a society that views moral life as an application of rules but that produces people who practice moral life by habits of affection, not by rules. (Think of Silicon Valley social engineers who have created and capitalized upon Twitter outrage mobs.) Put another way, technopoly arises from the technological core of society but produces people who are driven and formed by the mythical core.”

 

Marilynne Robinson“Pushing Back Against Marilynne Robinson’s Theology” – Speaking of Marilynne Robinson, this essay by Jessica Hooten Wilson offers a thoughtful critique of Robinson’s approach to Christian faith. While I deeply enjoy Robinson’s writing, particularly her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead, there seems to be at times an uncritical reading of her work within Christian circles. Wheaton College’s theology conference two years ago was entirely focused on her work, producing a book of appreciation and critique entitled Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson.

 

7d8acac56“Vacation is Good For Your Health” – “If you feel like you need a vacation, you’re almost certainly right. Americans get far fewer paid days off than workers in pretty much any other industrialized democracy, and the time we actually take off has declined significantly, from 20.3 days in 1987 to 17.2 days in 2017….people who take more of their allotted vacation time tend to find their work more meaningful. Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus. And time not taken depresses more than individual career prospects: In 2017, the average U.S. worker left six paid vacation days unused, which works out to 705 million days of travel nationally, enough to support 1.9 million travel-related jobs.” So, take a vacation this summer.

 

great-day-of-his-wrath“A Revolution of Time” –  Paul Kosmin takes us on a journey through time to the cataclysmic beginning of marking time as we know it. “Last year was 2018. Next year will be 2020. We are confident that a century ago it was 1919, and in 1,000 years it will be 3019, if there is anyone left to name it. . . .Now, imagine inhabiting a world without such a numbered timeline for ordering current events, memories and future hopes. For from earliest recorded history right up to the years after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE, historical time – the public and annual marking of the passage of years – could be measured only in three ways: by unique events, by annual offices, or by royal lifecycles.”

 

90711“1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left a Church Over Abuse” – “Surrounded by revelations of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, younger Christians are more keen to recognize sexual abuse—and less likely to put up with it. According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously. That’s twice as many as the 5 percent of all churchgoers who have done the same. Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct.”

 

age of fear.jpeg“Age of Fear” – John Wilson, editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, wants to talk about fear. In his own inimitable style, Wilson does so in First Things by interviewing himself about fear based on a tweet that he made earlier this month. In this self-interview, Wilson tracks through a number of books and articles he has been reading on the topic, including a piece in The Weekly Standard that I referenced in an earlier edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” which you also might enjoy reading, “Fear Factor,” which is an extended review of Martha Nussbaum’s The Monarchy of Fear.

 

Music: Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken,” outtake from MTV Unplugged in 1994; originally from the album Oh Mercy.

[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.]

C S Lewis on the moment before damnation

That Hideous Strength.jpegOne of my favorite works by C. S. Lewis is The Great Divorce, which is awkwardly billed on the paperback cover as “a fantastic bus ride from hell to heaven—a roundtrip for some but not for others.” Lewis’ conviction in that book, which he expresses elsewhere, is that hell is the self-conscious decision to resist heaven and God for the self. It is a subtle, sleepy drifting inward to ephemeral joys without regard for the more robust, lasting joy that comes form God.

I just finished re-reading That Hideous Strength, the third novel of Lewis’ Space Trilogy. One of the most poignant moments on this theme of the sleepy, self-conscious decision for hell comes near the end of the book, after the descent into chaos that afflicts the headquarters of N.I.C.E. (The National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments) in Belbury. Lewis writes of Wither:

He had willed with his whole heart that there should be no reality and no truth, and now even the imminence of his own ruin could not wake him. The last scene of Dr. Faustus where the man raves and implores on the edge of Hell is, perhaps, stage fire. The last moment before damnation are not often so dramatic. Often the man knows with perfect clarity that some still possible action of his own will could yet save him. But he cannot make this knowledge real to himself. Some tiny habitual sensuality, some resentment too trivial to waste on a blue-bottle, the indulgence of some fatal lethargy, seems to him at that moment more important than the choice between total joy and total destruction. With eyes wide open, seeing that the endless terror is just about to begin and yet (for the moment) unable to feel terrified, he watches passively, not moving a finger for his own rescue, while the last links with joy and reason are severed, and drowsily sees the trap close upon his soul. So full of sleep are they at the time when they leave the right way.

The moment before damnation is not necessarily something tremendous and noticeable, but apparently one more, subtle, sleepy decision for the self and lesser joys. I could not help but also hear another quote from Lewis in his essay “The Weight of Glory.”

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 March 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.

open Bible“Memorization and Repentance” – I have often called our church toward Bible memorization, believing that it is not only one of the best ways to call truth to mind, but also inherently formational. I was delighted, then, when I came across Hans Boersma‘s article in First Things, extolling the role of memorization within the journey of repentance during Lent. He writes: “Memorization is underrated. But it’s understandable that contemporary society puts it down: Why worry about mental storage when we have digital storage? One answer is that repentance depends on memory. Thus, memorization is a Lenten practice, a repentant turning back to the memory of God.”

 

90075“China Shuts Down Another Big Beijing Church” – “Another prominent unregistered church in China, Shouwang Church in Beijing, was raided by Chinese police over the weekend and officially banned from gathering to worship. Shouwang, which draws more than 1,000 attendees, is the fourth major underground congregation shut down by the Communist government over the past several months, as party leaders and heads of the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement intensify efforts to rid religious groups of Western influence and exert control to make them more Chinese.”

 

gaza“Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket hits house” – This past week CNN reported that “Israel has carried out strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza, after a rocket attack on a house injured seven Israelis. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the office of Hamas’s political leader and the group’s military intelligence headquarters were among the targets.” In the midst of this, many innocent people on both sides continue to suffer. Too often, however, in conversations with westerners I have found that many people fail to realize that Palestinian Christians in Gaza are caught in the crossfire, some literally fleeing as their homes were demolished by rocket blasts this past week.

 

llifestyle6_1“Miracles in Munich” – “Two streets away, at the Freie Evangelische Gemeinde (Free Evangelical Church, or FEG), there were signs of another influx to Germany: refugees. As I walked upstairs, the bustle and aroma of coffee from the fellowship hour gave way to quiet in a room where Afghan refugees meet each week to study the Bible in Farsi. Welcoming 1.6 million asylum-seekers since 2015 has strained the German social system, but it has also been a God-delivered opportunity for FEG to reach part of the refugee population.”

 

webRNS-Volf-Book3-022819“How Christian theology lost its way” – Miroslav Volf has written a new book with Matthew Croasmun, For the Life of the World: Theology that Makes a Difference, which calls Christian theology back to its reason for existence. “Christian theology has lost its way because it has neglected its purpose. We believe the purpose of theology is to discern, articulate, and commend visions of flourishing life in light of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. The flourishing of human beings and all God’s creatures in the presence of God is God’s foremost concern for creation, and should therefore be the central purpose of theology. With this manifesto we aim to return theology to itself so it can better serve communities of Christian conviction and participate in truth-seeking cultural conversation about flourishing life for all.”

 

Francis Spufford“Francis Spufford pens unauthorised Narnia novel” – Francis Spufford, author of the witty Unapologetic and other great works, has written a novel that falls within the Narnia stories. Originally written for his daughter, Spufford’s novel, The Stone Table, has received noteworthy praise: “one of the best works of fiction I have read in the past several years” (Alan Jacobs). Unfortunately, due both to copyright law and trademark law, the book will not see the light of day until after 2034, if we are lucky, or unless CS Lewis PTE grants special permission. If that’s confusing, you may want to read Alan Jacobs’ clarification on the matter here. Now, after all of that, don’t you just want to feast your eyes on this work?

 

Azusa Pacific“Azusa Pacific Drops Ban on Same-Sex Student Relationships, Again” – After dropping a ban on same-sex student relationships in September 2018, and then reversing course to restore the ban in October, Azusa Pacific University has just announced a shift to once again drop the ban on same-sex student relationships from its student conduct code. While Azusa does not allow students to have sex outside of marriage according to its student conduct code, this change allows ‘romantic’ same-sex relationships.

 

89954“ECFA Suspends Harvest Bible Chapel’s Accreditation” – In the ongoing saga of recently-fired pastor James MacDonald and his former church, Harvest Bible Chapel, the latest news highlights further concerns. Not only was MacDonald verbally abusive of staff members and authoritarian in his leadership, but the church also apparently mismanaged funds during his tenure. Because of these concerns, the ECFA has suspended Harvest’s accreditation until further investigation.

 

054_001A.TIF“The Books Briefing: As the Good Book Says” – The weekly books briefing from The Atlantic features a look at faith and writing with nods to Jemar Tisby, Graham Greene, Min Jin Lee, and more. “Faith, for many people, is a deeply personal thing: a set of spiritual beliefs that are inseparable from one’s identity. At the same time, especially in the context of organized religion, faith is defined by social customs—and this combination of private passion and public practice can sometimes be fraught.”

 

Music: Thomas Tallis, “Lamentations of Jeremiah,” sung by The Tallis Scholars directed by Peter Phillips.

[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.]