The Weekend Wanderer: 18 July 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


George Yancey“Not White Fragility, Mutual Responsibility” – The pressing conversations related to race in America eventually turn toward the topics of white privilege and white fragility. The most well-known resource on the latter is Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. The conversation about this topic feels largely over, yet here is George Yancey calling for a reassessment. If you’re not familiar with Yancey, he is a professor of sociology at Baylor University who has done a tremendous amount of work on race relations as an African American Christian, including writing both popular and academic books. Yancey has developed a model for race relations that move beyond colorblindness and anti-racism. Please read this important article.


J I Packer“J. I. Packer, ‘Knowing God’ Author, Dies at 93” – I still remember reading J. I. Packer’s book Knowing God for the first time while a freshman in college in a discipleship group. The basic walk through the character of God was my first exposure to the writings of J. I. Packer, who became a trusted theological voice in my life with books like Evangelism and the Sovereignty of GodConcise Theology, and Keep in Step with the Spirit. I was sad to read early this morning that Packer died yesterday at the age of 93, but was thoroughly blessed by Leland Ryken’s moving remembrance and reflection on his life.


Walter Kim“The Long Obedience of Racial Justice: To bear the image of God is a declaration of dignity that challenges power” – Christianity Today is hosting a great series of posts on race and faith called “The Race Set Before Us.” Walter Kim, recently appointed President of the National Association of Evangelicals, offers his unique perspective in one of the most recent posts here. “Our identity as humans is based on being made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). More than a premise for discussion, to be made in God’s image is a declaration of dignity and a prophetic challenge to power.”


cancel culture“10 Theses About Cancel Culture” – Here’s Ross Douthat in The New York Times with his ten sweeping theses about cancel culture. Love it or hate it, it is hard to avoid the topic. Douthat takes an able swing at helping us understand what’s really going on with cancel culture. “‘Cancel culture’ is destroying liberalism. No, cancel culture doesn’t exist. No, it has always existed; remember when Brutus and Cassius canceled Julius Caesar? No, it exists but it’s just a bunch of rich entitled celebrities complaining that people can finally talk back to them on Twitter. No, it doesn’t exist except when it’s good and the canceled deserve it. Actually, it does exist, but — well, look, I can’t explain it to you until you’ve read at least four open letters on the subject. These are just a few of the answers that you’ll get to a simple question — ‘What is this cancel culture thing, anyway?’ — if you’re foolish enough to toss it, like chum, into the seething waters of the internet. They’re contradictory because the phenomenon is complicated — but not complicated enough to deter me from making 10 sweeping claims about the subject.” If you have a hard time getting through the NYT paywall, you can also read it here.


statue removal“American History Is Not Canceled” – Has there ever been so many statues falling in a nation as now? In light of Ross Douthat’s comments about cancel culture, we may wonder if all this statue removal is just another aspect of cancel culture. Or is it something else aimed at reevaluation of what we celebrate?  Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and author of Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis, addresses the recent very public debate about symbols—statues, plaques, and flags—and what it means to consider this from the perspective of our faith and the broader background of American history.


Religious violence India“Hate and Targeted Violence Against Christians in India” – While most of the news coming from India these days focuses on either trends with COVID-19 or tensions along the border with Pakistan or China, other things continue to happen. A friend shared this report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India about recent uptick in religious violence against Christians in India during the first six months of 2020. “A lynching, community ostracization and concerted efforts to stop worship and gospel-sharing, mark the 135 cases registered by the EFI in the first six momentous and eventful months of 2020. ”


W1899-1-1-pma“The Million Masks of God: Henry Ossawa Tanner and the Art of Sympathy” – I thought I had posted this essay from Nathan Beacom awhile back when I first read it, but realized I had not. Henry Ossawa Tanner’s art is some of the most beautiful I have encountered, but his story is piercing. “Crucified on his own easel, Henry Tanner lay on the pavement on a cool Philadelphia evening. A clique of students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts had tied the young painter, their only black peer, to his equipment and thrown him in the street….What struck Tanner most deeply about racism (he told a friend that a brief encounter on the street would nag at him for weeks) was the conflict it presented with his certainty that, like anyone else, he was a son of God. Race hatred (as he called it) was not just a personal attack, but an affront to divine justice. In a quiet way, his art was subverting the impulse to dehumanize by proclaiming in paint the dignity of the human person.”


South Africa Hostage Church“South African church attack: Five dead after ‘hostage situation'” – I thought that church conflict was sometimes intense, but this takes it to an entirely different level. Is this what happens when power and influence become central in the life of a church? I’m not sure, but I can pray, “Lord, have mercy.” “Five people have been killed after attackers stormed a South African church, reportedly amid an argument over its leadership. South African police said they had rescued men, women and children from a ‘hostage situation’ on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Saturday morning. They have also arrested at least 40 people, and seized dozens of weapons.”


Music: Radiohead, “Daydreaming,” from A Moon Shaped Pool.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 28 September 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

 

BRAZIL-LGBT-EVANGELICAL-CHURCHEvangelical Has Lost Its Meaning” – Ever since the last presidential election, there have been debates about the meaning of the word ‘evangelical.’ Books have been written not merely about the history of the movement and meaning of the word, but, more recently, whether the word has any continue relevance (watch for the forthcoming book edited by historians Mark Noll, David Bebbington, and George Marsden, Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be). I think, in many ways, the central question is whether the word ‘evangelical’ has any shared meaning that communicates broadly, as it did in the past. I doubt that it does, and here is Alan Jacobs to make a much more convincing case than I could about that as he reviews Thomas S. Kidd’s recent book, Who Is an Evangelical? The History of a Movement in Crisis. You may also enjoy Christianity Today‘s recent “Quick to Listen” podcast with editor Mark Galli, “So, What’s an Evangelical?” and The Englewood Review of Books booklist “Evangelicalism – Ten Books for Assessing its Present and Future.”

 

Bible translation“Why it matters if your Bible was translated by a racially diverse group”Esau McCaulley, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, engages with whether the make-up of Bible translation committees is important or not. “As a New Testament scholar, I’ve discovered that people of color and women have rarely led or participated in Bible translation. On one hand, this doesn’t trouble me much. It is hard to mess up the story of the Exodus, distort the message of the prophets or dismantle the story of Jesus. It is all there in every English translation. On the other, I believe it matters who translates the Bible, and that more diverse translation committees could inspire fresh confidence among Christians of color. Such a translation would allow black Christians and others to ‘know with certainty the things that you have been taught’ (Luke 1:4).”

 

1_0rZWywtB3AYoRJVH08RUbQ“Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group” – When I read this article I was simultaneously disappointed and not surprised. These issues are so very difficult to navigate, and few are doing it well. Every majority culture leader/pastor needs to pay attention to what Andre Henry is saying as he recounts his negative experiences as an editor at Relevant. “RELEVANT remains without excuse for the patterns of tokenization of black people and fetishization of racial justice efforts that characterize their work, and the harm it has caused to Black people within and outside of the organization. As long as they refuse to acknowledge this about their praxis, they’ll remain an unsafe environment for Black people and a collaborator in the racist status quo while giving themselves credit for being an ally.” You can also read Relevant‘s response here and a summary of related news gathered by Religion News Service.

 

Visual Commentary on ScriptureVisual Commentary on Scripture – I was talking after our worship services this past weekend with an artist within our church about some of the images I use while preaching, which are often taken from paintings on themes somewhat related to the passage from which I am preaching. Not too long ago, I came across The Visual Commentary on Scripture, which is a fascinating resource “that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries.” Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

 

5YQEW5F6EBGR7L5MJG7QRUYI4A“Wheaton College students sue city, say rights to free speech, religious liberty were violated by guards booting them from Millennium Park, restricting access” – When I was an undergrad at Wheaton College, I decided to join in with a team of students sharing their faith in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. This team was led by a group of students with a passion to share Christ in a loving yet clear way with others. One of them was my wife, Kelly, who challenged me then (and still does today) to let the passion I had for Christ make its way out of my mouth through spiritual conversations. With all the conversation about the loss of evangelistic zeal in the North American church today, I was surprised on several fronts to read this Chicago Tribune story of Wheaton College students sharing their faith at Millennium Park in Chicago and also the free speech lawsuit that has arisen around them being asked to not share in the park. This isn’t just about religious groups, but also pertains to political groups and the like. It does raise the question of the nature of free speech in contemporary democratic societies. I also can’t help but think of the fascinating tradition of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park.

 

2019-09-19-hui-crackdown-efeng-04_custom-008e193490d162aa9422f4172aaf25de549fbd52-s1400-c85“‘Afraid We Will Become The Next Xinjiang’: China’s Hui Muslims Face Crackdown” – Religious freedom in democratic societies seems lightweight compared to what happens in non-democratic societies. If you have not paid attention to the intensification of pressure on religious minorities in China, let me urge you to start paying attention. This latest NPR piece focuses on minority Hui Muslims, and is an echo of the efforts brought against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and Christians throughout the country.

 

18.large“Seeing the Beauty of Dappled Things: Gerard Manley Hopkins” – Confession: my favorite poet of all time is Gerard Manley Hopkins. I appreciate the poetry of so many other poets that I hate to mention them by name here, but I find myself returning to Hopkins again and again. Perhaps that’s because my first reading of his poetry in high school startled me awake to literature and faith with such vibrant metaphors, skipping rhythms, and striking imagery. I hope that you enjoy as much as I did reading this 2017 article by physician Raymond C. Barfield on how Hopkins’ poetry enabled him to see the beauty of God’s world with fresh eyes.

 

songbird-domain“North America Has Lost More Than 1 in 4 Birds in Last 50 Years, New Study Says” – John Stott, the renowned Bible teacher and author, enjoyed birds for their own sake and as teachers of theological truths. In his most unique book, The Birds, Our Teachers: Essays in Orni-theology, Stott takes the reader on an adventure inside his own wonder and theological reflection over the variegated beauty of birds. In his own inimical way, Stott was attempting to live out what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Consider the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). But today we have to consider this startling news:  a recent study records a drastic decrease in bird population in North America. As stewards of the earth, we should be concerned. As those who enjoy this world charged with God’s grandeur, we should be grieved.

 

Music: Charlie Parker, “Ornithology,” from the original motion picture soundtrack for Bird.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 March 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly 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.

Bishop of Loughborough“Church of England to hold first service in Farsi after a huge rise in Iranian converts” – “When the Bishop of Loughborough was 13-years-old, her brother was murdered for being a Christian. Born and raised in Iran, she was forced to flee her homeland in 1980 on the grounds of religious persecution – a story that is all too familiar for many Iranian Christians. Now, as the ordained Bishop of Loughborough, the Rt Revd Guli Francis-Dehqani is leading the Church of England’s growing community of Iranians who have found a home in the Anglican church. This unprecedented shift was yesterday marked with a “historical” service at Wakefield Cathedral in Yorkshire, where the Holy Communion scripture was delivered in Persian for the first time to cater for the growing – yet traditionally unusual – new Anglican congregation.”

 

china“China official says West using Christianity to ‘subvert’ power” – From Reuters: “Western forces are trying to use Christianity to influence China’s society and even “subvert” the government, a senior official said, warning that Chinese Christians needed to follow a Chinese model of the religion. China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but since President Xi Jinping took office six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party.”

 

St-Patrick“Who was the real St Patrick: an evangelist or a tax dodger?” – “Few national saints have the global reach of Patrick: it has been calculated that church bells ring out in 800 worldwide locations to celebrate the feast day of this Roman Briton who brought Christianity to Ireland in the early 5th century. Jewish bakeries in New York sell green bagels and horses run at Cheltenham in his honour. And everyone knows the legend that he banished serpents, since no snakes exist in Ireland (the Ice Age may have helped the banishment). Patrick is legendary but he was also a real historical figure, and Roy Flechner seeks to review Patrick’s story in the light of historical evidence — examining Patrick’s own autobiographical writings, as well as other sources from archaeology and Roman and medieval texts — to make ‘educated guesses’ about Patrick’s life.”

 

reparations“The Case for Reparations” – David Brooks has come to an interesting conclusion about the tensions with ethnic tensions in our country: reparations are necessary. Admittedly, Brooks is a late convert to this point of view, which makes his article a very interesting read. Of course, he is responding to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ original article in the Atlantic of the same name, which is also worth reading.

 

article_5c847db41bee5“Evangelicals and Zen Masters” – In First Things, Matthew Milliner, associate professor of art history at Wheaton College, reflects in a beautiful personal essay on the intersections and disjunctions between Christianity and Zen Buddhism. He travels a wide stretch of roads toward his conclusion, but the journey is fascinating. Alan Jacobs writes a reflection upon and response to Milliner here, including some references to the meandering relationship that Thomas Merton had with Zen Buddhism, that is well worth reading.

 

Michael McClymond“How Universalism, ‘the Opiate of the Theologians,’ Went Mainstream” – Paul Copan interviews Michael McClymond on the nature of universalism, and how it has become so popular in mainstream thinking today, by Rob Bell’s Love Wins. McClymond’s recent book, The Devil’s Redemption, engages critically with the historical theology of universalism in Christian thought, and this interview gives a taste of McClymond’s conclusions.

 

Obscurity

“The Disturbing Temptations of Pastoring in Obscurity” – I had the opportunity to write for Christianity Today‘s CT Pastors imprint this past week. In this article, I explore the ways in which temptations to celebrity is not necessarily remedied by hiding in obscurity. I hope it’s an encouragement to other pastors. Thanks to Kyle and Andrew from CT for working with me on this.

 

Music: “Were You There?”, Marian Anderson, from Marian Anderson in Oratorio and Spiritual, volume 1 (1936).

[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: 19 January 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

china“In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture” – Lily Kuo writes this piece in The Guardian, highlighting the intensifying pressure on religious groups in China. While the crackdown involves religious minorities and ethnic minorities, Kuo focuses particularly upon Christians for this piece, which is well worth the read. One pastor quoted in this article says of the government persecution: “In this war, in Xinjiang, in Shanghai, in Beijing, in Chengdu, the rulers have chosen an enemy that can never be imprisoned – the soul of man. Therefore they are doomed to lose this war.”

 

egypt church“Militants kidnap Christian man in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula” – From The Washington Post: “Islamic militants on Thursday kidnapped a Christian man traveling in a communal taxi in the turbulent north of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, according to security officials, an incident that raises the specter of renewed attacks on minority Christians in the region after a two-year lull. The officials did not identify the man, but said police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident, killing one of them and wounding two others in a firefight, but could not free the hostage. Two policemen were also wounded in the firefight, said the officials.”

 

world watch list 2019Open Doors World Watch List 2019 – Every year, Open Doors publishes their “World Watch List,” which tracks persecution of Christians around the world. They released the 2019 World Watch List this past week, and it is interesting to find out more information about what is happening in the world related to challenges to religious freedom.

 

Martin Luther King Jr.

“Neighbors of the Dream” – I am happy to participate in The Milwaukee Declaration event this coming Monday night, January 21, entitled “Neighbors of the Dream.” This is a chance for churches around our great city of Milwaukee to stand together across racial divides in the name of Christ and for the glory of God in the unity of His church. Join us at 6:30 PM at Eastbrook for this city-wide event.

 

james macdonald“James MacDonald Takes ‘Indefinite Sabbatical’ from Harvest Bible Chapel” – Well, here is another chapter in the latest leadership challenges facing non-denominational, evangelical churches. I’ve posted about this challenge to James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel before at The Weekend Wanderer. While it’s not clear exactly what this means about MacDonald’s willingness to admit culpability, it is an expression that leadership of the family of churches sees it is time to make some change.

 

jacques_ellul“Ten Social Critics that Christians Should Be Reading” – The Englewood Review of Books offers some helpful reading suggestions, from Jacques Ellul to bell Hooks, Wendell Berry to Neil Postman, and more. “The work of social critics is vital for the health and flourishing of the church, because they remind us of the brokenness of the world and challenge us to imagine new and more healthy ways of sharing life together. Here are ten social critics whose work has been particularly helpful for me in trying to discern how to live faithfully in the twenty-first century. With each critic, I’ve included an excerpt that will serve as an introduction to that writer’s work.”

 

85847“When Great Writers Wrestle with Faith” – Speaking of reading, Jessica Hooten Wilson offers this review of Richard Harries’ new book, Haunted by Christ: Modern Writers and the Struggle for Faith, in which he explores modern writers as they wrestle with faith. “On the one hand, Christ is scary, unpursued, and ephemeral, haunting writers like a ghost. In the subtitle, though, the writers are active agents wrestling with an unknown entity, like Jacob with the angel, for the prize of faith. Harries explores both types of artists in his book, those who flee religion and those who chase it.”

 

Fort WildernessFort Wilderness Family Camps – Along with a great group of other pastors, I have the opportunity to speak at one of Fort Wilderness’ week-long family camps again this summer. Join me June 29-July 5, 2019, in the north woods of Wisconsin for a wonderful time in God’s good creation and God’s Word. If that week doesn’t work for you, check out the other family camps happening at Fort all summer long. There are still some spaces open at all of them.

 

office.jpeg“Office Devotions” – Let’s close out this edition of The Weekend Wanderer with a marvelous poem by Patrick Duddy over at First Things[Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this. in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

[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.]