The Weekend Wanderer: 17 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.


“One million hours of prayer for Olympic host Japan” – Emily Anderson in Eternity: “Christians in Japan are asking the world for one million hours of prayer for their nation throughout the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Japan 1 Million is led by the Japan international Sports Partnership (JiSP) and Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA). They are calling on churches, individuals and families across the world to unite in prayer for Japan as it takes centre stage from the Opening Ceremony on Friday, 23 July. ‘What a gift to Japan from the global Church – one million hours of prayer for God’s Glory to fall upon our land,’ said JiSP leader Pastor Keishi Ikeda. When it comes to the good news of Christianity being spread, Japan is the second largest un-reached people group in the world. Less than one per cent of its 126 million population attend church.”


Rene Magritte - The Lovers (detail)“Why We Confess: From Augustine to Oprah” – Elizabeth Bruenig in The Hedgehog Review: “Confession, once rooted in religious practice, has assumed a secular importance that can be difficult to describe. Certainly, confessional literature is everywhere: in drive-by tweets hashtagged #confessanunpopularopinion, therapeutic reality-television settings, tell-all celebrity memoirs, and blogs brimming with lurid detail set to endless scroll. Public confession has become both self-forming and culture-forming: Although in some sense we know less about each other than ever, almost every piece of information we do learn is an act of intentional or performative disclosure. It’s easy to chalk up this love of confessional literature to the seemingly modern impulse to overshare, but public confession itself has an ancient history.”


Jesus-Way“Truth, Justice, and the Jesus Way” – This is an older post from Eugene Peterson at the Renovare blog: “Jesus’ metaphor, kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is king. If Christ is king, every thing, quite literally, every thing and every one, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-oriented to a way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus. A total renovation of our imagination, our way of looking at things — what Jesus commanded in his no-nonsense imperative, ‘Repent!’ — is required. We can — we must! — take responsibility for the way we live and work in our homes and neighborhoods, workplaces and public squares. We can refuse to permit the culture to dictate the way we go about our lives.”


“In Kenya, faith groups work to resettle youth returning from al-Shabab” – Fredrick Nzwili in Religion News Service: “In Kenya’s coastal region, interfaith efforts to slow down or end youth recruitment into the militant Islamist group al-Shabab are gaining progress, with some recruits abandoning the extremist group’s training grounds in Southern Somalia to return home. The group — al-Qaida’s affiliate in East Africa — had stepped up secret recruitments in the coastal and northeastern regions since 2011, when the East African nation’s military entered southern Somalia. The radicalized youth, many of them younger than 30, were often sent across the border to train as jihadists. But now, the activity has slowed down, partly due to efforts by the interfaith groups. More than 300 such youths who had traveled to Somalia for training as jihadists had been rescued and brought back to the country.”


Henri, Vincent and Me“Henri, Vincent, and Living in the World with Kindness” – Joseph Johnson in Englewood Review of Books: “Carol Berry first met Henri Nouwen in the bookstore at Yale Divinity School back in the 1970’s. As she recounts in her moving (and brief) book, Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh, he initially appeared like “a man dressed in a well-worn, baggy, moth-eaten sweater with a woolen scarf around his neck” (4). Though Nouwen may have looked like a disheveled, older student, he was actually teaching at Yale at the time, and Berry was deeply moved while sitting in on Nouwen’s lecture on Vincent van Gogh and the nature of the compassionate life. Nouwen is known by many as a deeply kind Catholic spiritual writer, and for me, his writings—and especially letters—have been a real gift. Nouwen felt a deep connection with van Gogh as a fellow wounded healer who desired to connect with other and provide them with comfort, and he worked hard to share this connection with his students (8). As Berry puts it, the hope was that, “Through Vincent’s story, through the parable of his life, we were to come closer to an understanding of what it meant to be a consoling presence” (52). Her book aims for a similar purpose.”


“Sierra Leonean evangelicals approach death penalty abolition process with caution” – Jonatán Soriano in Evangelical Focus: “Pressure from the international community and, above all, NGOs has led to a massive process of abolition of the death penalty in Africa. In 2016, Guinea took this step, joining Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo. In 2018 it was Burkina Faso. In 2019 Equatorial Guinea announced an abolitionist bill, and in 2020 Chad removed capital punishment from its legal system. This year Malawi declared it unconstitutional. As among several sectors of society, within the evangelical sphere in Sierra Leone, abolition is viewed differently.”


Music: Vigilantes of Love, “Skin,” from Blister Soul.

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”

The Weekend Wanderer: 3 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.


“Millions skipped church during pandemic. Will they return?” – David Sharp in APNews: “With millions of people having stayed home from places of worship during the coronavirus pandemic, struggling congregations have one key question: How many of them will return? As the pandemic recedes in the United States and in-person services resume, worries of a deepening slide in attendance are universal. Some houses of worship won’t make it. Smaller organizations with older congregations that struggled to adapt during the pandemic are in the greatest danger of a downward spiral from which they can’t recover, said the Rev. Gloria E. White-Hammond, lecturer at the Harvard Divinity School and co-pastor of a church in Boston. On the Maine coast, the pandemic proved to be the last straw for the 164-year-old Waldoboro United Methodist Church. Even before COVID-19 swept the world, weekly attendance had dipped to 25 or 30 at the white-clapboard New England church that could hold several hundred worshippers. The number further dwindled to five or six before the final service was held Sunday, said the Rev. Gregory Foster. The remaining congregants realized they couldn’t continue to maintain the structure, and decided to fold the tent, Foster said.”


Discipleship in the Age of Conspiracy Theories“Discipleship in the Age of Conspiracy Theories: How Church Leaders Can Nurture the Evangelical Mind”
– Ed Stetzer and Andrew MacDonald in the NAE’s Evangelicals: “In the quarter-century since Mark Noll famously pointed out that the scandal of the evangelical mind was that there was not much of an evangelical mind, many church leaders have dedicated considerable time and effort to addressing the problem. The results of this effort have been mixed at best. As Noll acknowledged recently, he was ‘more optimistic, though not overwhelmingly so.’ Despite the quality work done in evangelical seminaries and universities as well as significant published work by evangelical thinkers across disciplines, recent events suggest that the evangelical mind in its totality seems be continuing its decline. The past few years have been a painful reminder of the consequences of this decline as we’ve witnessed the growing popularity of conspiracy theories in our churches. While we have taught our people to serve, evangelize, worship and lead, too frequently our pragmatism limits our commitment to discipling our people to think well (Romans 12:2). The result is that a disturbing number of our people — and more than a few pastors — have been ensnared by conspiratorial leaders.”


“Nepal Churches Struggle to Serve as COVID-19 Kills 100+ Pastors” – Surinder Kaur in Christianity Today: “Congregations in Nepal are reeling after a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases this spring threw the Himalayan nation into chaos, overflowing hospitals and crematoriums and leaving the national army to deal with 100 bodies a day in the Kathmandu Valley alone. The Nepali church has lost more than 130 pastors during a second wave of the pandemic that has pushed reported cases past 635,000 and confirmed deaths past 9,000. Half of those cases and two-thirds of those deaths have been tallied since April. ‘In the month of May, pastors were dying almost every day,’ said B. P. Khanal, a pastor, theologian, and leader of the Janajagaran Party Nepal. ‘I have never seen something like that.'”


“The Books Are Already Burning” – Abigail Shrier in Bari Weiss’ Common Sense newsletter: “One hundred and forty-six people in Halifax, Nova Scotia wait on a list to borrow a library book. A question hangs over them: Will activists let them read it? The book is mine Irreversible Damage — and it is an investigation of a medical mystery: Why is the number of teenage girls requesting (and obtaining) gender reassignment skyrocketing in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia and Europe? In Great Britain, it’s up 4,400% over the last decade.  Though it shouldn’t be, this has become a highly controversial area of inquiry. The book is an exploration of why so many girls would, in such a short timeframe, decide they are transgender. And it raises questions about whether they’re getting appropriate medical treatment. The book is not about whether trans people exist. They do. And it is not about adults who elect to medically transition genders. As I have stated endlessly in public interviews and in Senate testimony, I fully support medical transition for mature adults and believe that transgender individuals should live openly without fear or stigma. Yet since publication, I have faced fierce opposition — not just to the ideas presented, challenged, or explored — but to the publication of the book itself. A top lawyer for the ACLU called for it to be banned. Powerful organizations like GLAAD have lobbied against it and pressured corporations — Target and Amazon among others — to remove Irreversible Damage from their virtual shelves.”


waider-3-640x960@2x“Sweltering Photos Capture the Charred and Molten Rock Rippling Down from an Icelandic Volcano” – This feature on Jan Erik Waider’s photography from volcanic activity in Iceland is well worth a look, as is his other work at Northland Landscapes. “Whether shooting in the harsh snowy regions of Greenland or on the basalt-lined waters of Iceland’s Stuðlagil canyon, Jan Erik Waider highlights the textures and fleeting shapes of the earth’s landscapes. His photographs often isolate monumental subject matter like glaciers and deep, rocky canyons in a way that makes the abstracted forms appear like mysterious, otherworldly environments, an approach he continues in his recent LAVA series.”


Multiethnic Church“Five Types of Multicultural Churches: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated” – Bob Whitesel in The Journal for the Academy of Intercultural Church Research: “This article puts forth a comprehensive and reconciliation-based paradigm through which to view multicultural congregations as one of five models or types. It updates the historical categories of Sanchez, adds contemporary models and then evaluates each through a 10-point grid of: nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation. The five models are: 1) the asset sharing Multicultural Alliance, 2) the collaborative Multicultural Partnership, 3) the asymmetrical Mother-Daughter model, 4) the popular Blended approach and 5) the Cultural Assimilation model. The result is a comprehensive five-model paradigm that includes an assessment of each model’s potential for spiritual and intercultural reconciliation.”


Music: Sting, “Fragile,” from …Nothing Like the Sun

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 June 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.


K Shaped Recovery“After the K-shaped Recovery” – Here is Andy Crouch from the 2021 Praxis Redemptive Imagination Summit: “To begin, consider a simple thought, counter-intuitive in one sense and almost indisputable in another sense: In all likelihood, in the history of the 2020s, Covid-19 will be a footnote. When our great-grandchildren think about the 2020s, they will probably remember the pandemic just as little as we—until last March—remembered the Spanish Flu when we thought about the 1920s. Pandemics and other natural disasters are rarely history-shaping events by themselves. Instead, natural disasters accelerate and intensify cultural realities and trends. This is why we wrote last year that the lasting ‘ice age,’ the long-term effects of Covid-19, would be more about economy than epidemiology. The little ice age would not so much be the twelve to eighteen months of pandemic ‘winter’ itself, but the dislocation and social change that would be left behind. Today we see three major dislocations, not caused by the pandemic but accelerated by it, that will shape the horizon of redemptive action in the next decade.”


The Louvre Museum Reoppens To The Public - Paris

“New Louvre Director to Resurrect Plans for Long-Debated Byzantine and Coptic Art Department” – Alex Greenberger in ARTnews: “In one of her first moves as the newly appointed president of the Louvre, Laurence des Cars plans to formally launch a department devoted to Byzantine and Coptic art at the Paris museum. If that department comes to fruition, it would signify a break with the Louvre’s current president, Jean-Luc Martinez, who had deemed its formation unnecessary, and a willingness to expand the ways the museum presents religious art. ‘It is a magnificent collection that deserves a department in its own right,’ des Cars said in an interview with the French radio station France Inter. In 2014, Martinez called the department ‘not an emergency.’ At the time, the Louvre owned 10,000 Coptic objects and 1,000 Byzantine artworks, according to a report by the French Roman Catholic newspaper La Croix. At the time, just 750 of those 11,000 works were on display, and it has historically been difficult to view them together in one designated space.”


Tulsa Church“Hundreds gather at historic Tulsa church’s prayer wall” – Peter Smith at APNews: “Hundreds gathered Monday for an interfaith service dedicating a prayer wall outside historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood on the centennial of the first day of one of the deadliest racist massacres in the nation. National civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Barber, joined multiple local faith leaders offering prayers and remarks outside the church that was under construction and largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area. Estimates of the death toll range from dozens to 300.”


_118666319_darkenergymap“New dark matter map reveals cosmic mystery” – From Pallab Ghosh at BBC News: “An international team of researchers has created the largest and most detailed map of the distribution of so-called dark matter in the Universe. The results are a surprise because they show that it is slightly smoother and more spread out than the current best theories predict. The observation appears to stray from Einstein’s theory of general relativity – posing a conundrum for researchers. The results have been published by the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration. Dark Matter is an invisible substance that permeates space. It accounts for 80% of the matter in the Universe. Astronomers were able to work out where it was because it distorts light from distant stars. The greater the distortion, the greater the concentration of dark matter. Dr Niall Jeffrey, of École Normale Supérieure, in Paris, who pieced the map together, said that the result posed a ‘real problem’ for physics.”


primary_the-tree-of-life-37“Terrence Malick and the Christian Story” – In research for something entirely different I came across this 2016 article by David Roark at RogerEbert.com on the film-making of Terrence Malick: “Wherever one lands on the polarizing style of Terrence Malick, no one would deny the spiritual gravitas of his work—cinema obsessed with and overwhelmed by the mystical and the metaphysical. As much as has been said and written about Malick, there still remains debate and confusion around the spirituality of his films. In attempting to mine meaning from his work, folks continue to land all over the map, seeing him as everything from a pantheist to an agnostic. The sense of mystery is compounded because Malick is an artist before he is a theologian or philosopher, and because he hasn’t given an interview about his own films since 1979.  All that said, I believe Malick’s cinema is not vaguely or ambivalently religious or spiritual but is, in fact, distinctly and explicitly Christian.”


Laos“Christian pastor in Laos will avoid jail if he promises not to preach for a year” – This puts perspective on the problems I face after preaching certain sermons. “A Christian pastor, held in police detention in the Southeast Asian country of Laos for a year, has been spared jail after he was made to sign documents swearing not to preach until 2022. A court convicted Sithon Thippavong, 35, in April of “disrupting unity” and “creating disorder” after he was found to have held church services in Savannakhet province without government permission. The church leader, who started his ministry among villagers in southern Savannakhet in 2011, was arrested on 15th March, 2020.”


Music: Solar., “Lost in My Mind”