The Weekend Wanderer: 9 October 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.


Ed Stetzer“When will Christians learn from the unending engagement cycle of evangelicalism and race?” – Ed Stetzer in USAToday: “As the executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, one of my joys is leading people through our museum. Filled with historical artifacts and pictures, it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness. One of my favorite pictures is of Billy Graham standing next to Martin Luther King Jr. I start by telling people how Graham took down segregation ropes for his meetings in the South. But the story doesn’t stop there. Historian Grant Wacker notes that as the civil rights movement intensified, Graham distanced himself from King by attempting to chart a moderate path. Decades later, Graham himself would speak of his lack of engagement in the civil rights movement as one of his great regrets. This same story of engagement, retreat and regret has come to define an evangelical culture that is bigger than Billy Graham. For more than a century, the broader evangelical movement has been in a cycle of engagement when opportunities arise, retreat when pressures and obstacles intensify, and regret at the failure to achieve any lasting change. Worse, the burden of this regret too frequently falls on evangelicals of color, as they are left abandoned only to be greeted with new promises next cycle.”


1067980“Donetsk: Three Protestant churches banned” – Felix Corley at Forum 18: “The unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, has this summer banned three Protestant churches. One of the churches appears still able to meet for worship as it tries to gain registration. The rebel entity’s latest Religion Law change restricts registered religious associations’ activities to “participants and/or members”. In June the Culture Minister ordered musical and other artistic institutions to display lists of banned books & organisations.”


Biopolitics“‘Biopolitics’ Are Unavoidable” – Matthew Loftus at Mere Orthodoxy: “In the struggle to fight COVID-19, terms like ‘public health’ and ‘community health’ have been bandied about in an attempt to describe the ways in which our health as individuals is not dependent on ourselves alone. Wendell Berry says: ‘I believe that the community — in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures — is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.’ Berry’s statement speaks to our intuition that not only our individual activities, but also the health of the people, animals, plants, microbes, air, water, and soil around us all affect our health and we in turn affect them. As often as modern human beings would like to think of themselves as autonomous agents who determine their own bodily destinies, the reality is that the only appreciable limit to our contingency is how many things around us we can name. From this observation about the nature of our bodies we can move to a theological understanding of health.”


GettyImages-1234554084-e1628612279165“The Bible and COVID Vaccines” – Mark Talbot at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “Does the Bible offer us any insight into whether we should take the COVID vaccine? I think it does when we think through the implications of the early chapters of Genesis. Right before God made the first human beings, he declared why he was making them: ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’ (Gen. 1:26). God made us to be his earthly images who would represent him by ruling wisely and lovingly over the rest of creation. Then, immediately after making our first parents, he gave them what is often called the creation mandate; namely, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). God, as the psalmist puts it, gave the earth to us (see Ps. 115:16). We are meant to rule over it by exercising dominion over the animals and subduing whatever needs to be subdued.”


typewriter“5 Contemporary Poets Christians Should Read” – Mischa Willett at The Gospel Coalition: “I’m always a little sad after a poetry reading when someone comes up and tells me they’re ‘really into Christian poets,’ and when I ask excitedly ‘which ones?’ they rattle off a short list that ends with Gerard Manley Hopkins or George Herbert. Not that those poets aren’t required reading—absolute masters of the form and of the heart’s hows—but because there is so much good crop still being pulled from the fertile fields of theologically inflected verse. I always wish I carried around a backpack full of books by Mark Jarman, or Jennifer Maier, or Dana Gioia, to thrust into their readerly hands, beaming, ‘It’s still happening!’ It would be a kind of ministry, edifying the body thus. Here then is my own short list of contemporary poets of faith Christians should read.”


Justice Songs“Why Don’t We Sing Justice Songs in Worship?” – Michael J. Rhodes in Christianity Today: “In 2018, an unusual Bible made national news. Published in 1807, the so-called ‘Slave Bible’ offered Caribbean slaves a highly edited edition of the KJV. The editors presumably cut out parts of Scripture that could undermine slavery or incite rebellion. If you want a pro-slavery Bible, it’s unsurprising you’d get rid of the exodus story or drop Paul’s declaration that in Christ ‘there is … neither slave nor free’ (Gal. 3:28). But why did the creators of the ‘Slave Bible’ cut out the Book of Psalms? After all, the portions that tend to be well known and well-loved draw our minds toward well-tended sheep sitting by quiet waters. Yet upon closer inspection, Psalms is obsessed with the Lord’s liberating justice for the oppressed. And because the book offers us prayers and songs, it doesn’t just tell us how to think about justice—it offers us scripts to practice shouting and singing about it. But when I recently took a quick look at the lyrics of the first 25 songs listed in the ‘CCLI Top 100′ worship songs reportedly sung by churches and compared them to the way the Psalms sing about justice, I realized that we don’t necessarily follow that script.”


Music: Tim Hughes, “God of Justice,” Holding Nothing Back.

Osip Mandelstam, “Consider the River” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Osip Mandelstam’s poem “Consider the River” from Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam translated by Christian Wiman. Osip Mandelstam was one of the most important 20th century Russian poets. Writing poetry during the Bolshevik revolution and suffering much difficulty during that time, Mandelstam eventually died from hardships he endured after being imprisoned in Soviet work camps.


Like a late gift long awaited, winter:
Personal, palpable stirrings.

I love the early animal of her,
These woozy, easy swings.

Soft atrocity, sweet fright,
As if for ravishment on first bowed and gave thanks . . .

And yet, before the forest’s clean, hewn circle of light,
Even the raven banks.

Power more powerful for its precariousness,
Blue more blue for its ghost of white:

Consider the river, its constancy, its skin of almost ice,
Like a lullaby nullified by wakefulness . . .


Previous poems in this series:

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 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.


“The Platform is Not the Person” – Scot McKnight in his TOV newsletter: “We all present ourselves to give good impressions to others. Ordinary community members want other ordinaries to think of them in positive ways. More public figures in a community do the same, sometimes with a more ramped method of image management. Teachers do this in their teaching, pastors do this from the platform and pulpit and in various communications, neighbors can be quite busy in managing what other neighbors think of them. Authors present themselves in their writings in a way that readers trust and then think of them in those terms. What about social media? Not a few critics think the whole thing is little more than image construction and management. I’m not so cynical, but let’s not be naïve: our social media is a forum of self-presentation. Let’s call all this self-presentation the platform. On the platform we create a persona, and the persona is what we want others to think of us, whether we are curating that image or not. Others generate impressions of who we are on the basis of our public presentation. Untangling persona and platform from person, personality and character require discerning eyes, wisdom, and discernment.”


green-burial“Green burial as an act of faith” – Dawn Araujo-Hawkins in The Christian Century: “Hoeltke started looking for a more Christlike alternative to conventional US burial practices—and she found it in the resurgent green or natural burial movement. Broadly speaking, green burial means caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact. That usually includes forgoing any chemical embalming, opting for a shroud or a biodegradable coffin instead of the more popular steel or fiberglass, and skipping the cement vaults that typically enclose a coffin in the ground. It can also mean being buried in a cemetery that practices land conservation efforts. And for some people, like Hoeltke, natural burial also involves a more participatory burial process: washing and dressing your loved one’s body at home, accompanying them to the grave site, physically laying them into the ground, and then fully covering their body with dirt. ‘It’s a really beautiful experience. And I know that sounds crazy, but I’ve seen the beauty of what can happen,’ Hoeltke said.”


“On Re-Reading Acts” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “I’ve been re-reading the book of Acts, and my chief response this time is: It’s wonderfully encouraging to see how bluntly and unapologetically Luke records a chronicle of confusion, ineptitude, and misdirected enthusiasm. The apostles are often a collective mess, and Luke does nothing to hide that from us. I find this strangely consoling. It’s also fascinating to note how little the apostles understand the message they been entrusted with. They know that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, and they know that the Christ’s own people rejected him and demanded his death – but beyond that they’re a little fuzzy about what the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus mean.”


faith doubt“Writing in the Sand: The Poetry of Doubt and Faith” – Christian Wiman in Plough: “A few years ago I was asked to give the convocation address at Yale Divinity School, where I have taught for the past decade. Not only did I happen to be reading George Marsden’s biography of the great eighteen-century minister and theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was both a student and tutor at Yale, but I happened to have paused at precisely the moment when Edwards himself was about to address the student body. Teaching in an institution to which I would not have been admitted as a student (bad grades, bad ‘life choices’), I was flattered by the association, and it occurred to me that many of the students in attendance might be as well. To be welcomed into a place with so much august history, so much intellectual curiosity and attainment, so many great names – surely it’s worth a moment of pride. But maybe just a moment….What I do have instead are two things. The first is a first-century Jew from Nazareth well known for his oratorical skills but nevertheless, at a crucial moment in his ministry, remaining silent and writing in the sand. It is a strange moment – and one of my very favorite stories from the New Testament. I’ll come back to that. The second thing is another form of writing in the sand: poetry.”


Wendell Berry's radical conservatism“When Losing Is Likely: Wendell Berry’s Conservative Radicalism” – Brad East in The Point: “The lesson: “cultivating our own gardens and learning the virtues we have forgotten will not suffice to save the world.” Scialabba is surely correct about that. But I think he is wrong about Berry, and in a way that opens the door to larger questions. Those questions concern the connection between public justice and private virtue—or, put differently, whether justice is at once a private and a public virtue. Furthermore, they raise an issue facing a variety of factions and social movements across the world today: namely, whether it is possible to live with integrity, not to mention a clean conscience, when the causes in which one believes and for which one advocates are likely to lose.”


Patriotism?“How Do Christian Patriots Love Their Country Well?” – David French at The Dispatch: “Yet five years later, as our nation picks up the pieces from one of the most divisive, cruel, and incompetent administrations in the modern history of the United States—one in which the pursuit of Christian power led to prominent Christian voices endorsing nation-cracking litigation and revolutionary efforts to overturn a lawful election—the Christian “deal” looks bad indeed. When push came to shove, all too often the pursuit of justice yielded to the pursuit of power. The cultural shockwaves are still being felt. They’re rearranging not just America’s political alignments but our language itself. Is “Evangelical” more of a political marker than a religious identifier? Does it even carry true religious meaning any longer?”


Music: Mordent.IO, “The Foundation”

Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is Christian Wiman’s poem “Every Riven Thing,” which is from Every Riven Thing (2011). Christian Wiman is a contemporary poet and essayist who edited Poetry (2003-2013) and serves at Yale Divinity School as Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature.


God goes, belonging to every riven thing He’s made
Sing his being simply by being
The thing it is:
Stone and tree and sky,
Man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing He’s made,
Means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
Trying to will himself into the stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing He’s made
There is given one shade
Shaped exactly to the thing itself:
Under the tree a darker tree;
Under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
The things that bring Him near,
Made the mind that makes Him go.
A part of what man knows,
Apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing He’s made.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 February 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.

The Course - Jessica Bruah“The Cancer Chair: Is suffering meaningless?” – Christian Wiman, American poet and Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature at Yale Divinity School, writes about his journey with cancer and questions about the meaning of suffering. Always an astute craftsman of words (if you haven’t read My Bright Abyss, do yourself a favor and read it sometime soon!), Wiman brings together reflections on his own cancer, the book of Job, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Albert Camus, and the Cross of Christ.

 

0_DydTubCNbDSFL-mb“From the Abundance of the Heart” – Alan Jacobs shares an essay on a topic that more of us should think about, particularly in the social media era: the power of our words. Relating an experience of giving a lecture based on an essay he had written but not yet published, Jacobs encountered the sourness of his words as they came out of his mouth, bringing a sense of conviction about the fact that these were both his words and words of which he did not approve at the same. There are some interesting insights here about the words of Jesus: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

 

Vector picture of Human Evolution“What If We Don’t Have to Choose Between Evolution and Adam and Eve?” – When I was working as a college pastor in the early 2000s, we conducted a teaching series called “Hot Topics,” where we engaged with controversial issues facing students in relation to faith. One of those topics that continues to be hotly debated in certain circles is the relationship between creation and evolution. Just this past year, S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, published The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry in an attempt to change the terms of the debate. His book is up for a Reader’s Choice Award at InterVarsity Press. Here’s an interview with Swamidass about his book and his thought-provoking claims.

 

Dorothy Sayer mystery“‘No Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition or Mumbo Jumbo’: Dorothy L Sayers and the Detection Club” – Dorothy Sayers, one of the most incisive writers and thinkers of her era, is perhaps known best today for her connection to the Inklings, a group of writer including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Christians may know her for her radio play, The Man Born to Be King, or The Mind of the Maker, but Sayers was well-known for her mystery-writing with the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Sayers founded the Detection Club to support mystery writing, and it apparently still exists today. Who knew?

 

rohr_edit“Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe” – These days I cannot seem to take more than a few steps within Christian circles without someone mentioning Richard Rohr. He is one of those authors whose influence looms large for those who are seeking to reengage with faith and spirituality in an ecclesially disillusioned age. There are certain impulses about Rohr that I appreciate, some theological moves that deeply concern me, and a few other things about him that just drive me nuts. Love him or hate him, you have to reckon with Richard Rohr in discussions of faith today. Back in July, I shared Matthew Milliner’s helpful “field guide” to Rohr, and just this week Eliza Griswold offered a more personal look Rohr and his influence in North America today.

 

Steve Gillen“Willow Creek’s interim pastor to step down as church drops top candidates to fill Hybels’ shoes” – Speaking of ecclesial disillusionment, Willow Creek continues to reel after the leadership crisis surrounding misconduct accusations against former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. After the top two candidates for filling the Senior Pastor role were released by Willow Creek, Steve Gillen, Willow’s acting senior pastor, tendered his resignation effective March 17 because of the protracted nature of the search. Looming in the background are recent accusations that Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, an influential founder of Willow Creek and mentor to Bill Hybels, has also been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct both at Willow Creek and during his time at Wheaton College. May God purify His church and have mercy upon His people.

 

Music: Asgeir, “Until Daybreak,” from Bury the Moon

[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.]