The Weekend Wanderer: 5 December 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.


Advent“Oh How We Need Advent (This Year More Than Most)” – A friend shared this article with me and I found it very beautiful, heart-rending, honest, and joyful all at the same time. Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year. It so so much more than a preparation for Christmas. I appreciate the way that the author, E. M. Welcher, brings together the anticipatory longing and much-needed hope of Advent so powerfully.


harvest-wheat-farmer-hand“On Being Grateful” – Thanksgiving was just a short time ago, but our need for gratitude in relation to our lives is ever-present. We know gratitude is important, but it is also not natural for us. Particularly in a year that has come to be considered one of the worst years of our lifetimes, how do we live with gratitude? Kevin Williamson wrestles with this question, touching upon memory, gratitude, suffering, and the distinctly Christian response to it all.


9 nonobvious conversation“Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations: The art of making connection even in a time of dislocation” – I’m increasingly convinced that the inability to have conversations—to truly listen to and speak with (not listen past and talk at) one another—is one of the biggest problems of our day. Here is David Brooks’ nine ways to help improve that: “After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself.”


relationship ending“‘Covid ended our marriage’: The couples who split in the pandemic” – Relational strain during the pandemic is surging, particularly in marriages, as this piece from the BBC highlights. It seems like strains or difficulties that were already present have been heightened and new challenges have emerged because of the unique situation of lockdowns, children at home for schooling, job changes or loss, and so much more. The importance of reaching out for help (such as to a counselor or local church), learning to talk well together (see the previous article by David Brooks or this one on active listening), assessing your relationship, and accessing other resources is more important than ever.


books“A Year of Reading: 2020 by John Wilson” – At First Things, John Wilson offers his characteristic wide-ranging list of recommendations for reading from the past year. While I have read a couple of the books on Wilson’s list, I found many curiosities and treasures to explore, from fiction to poetry to memoir to natural history and more. If you’re looking for something to read during the long winter, Wilson’s recommendations will likely have something for you.


Indonesia SA attacks“Indonesia attacks: Army hunts suspected militants over Christian murders” – Religious persecution is not a thing of the past. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer. “The Indonesian army has deployed a special force to hunt for suspected Islamic State-linked militants behind a deadly attack on Christians. Four Salvation Army members were killed – one of them beheaded – in an ambush on Sulawesi island on Friday. Intolerance against Indonesia’s Christian minority has been rising as the Muslim-majority country battles Islamist militancy. A church body denounced the killings as terrorism rather than a religious feud.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

[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: 4 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.


Regnerus marriage“Can the Church Save Marriage?” – The cover story in the most recent issues of Christianity Today is an attention getter. Her is Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and co-founder of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture: “According to a Census Bureau survey taken in 2018, only 35 percent of 25- to 34-year-old men were married, a precipitous and rapid plunge from 50 percent in 2005. These numbers point toward a clear and frightening trajectory: Marriage is getting rarer. Fast. Getting married is something humans have done for millennia out of economic practicality, if not out of love. Some challenges in tying the knot are old and mathematical—for example, more women are interested in matrimony than men. Others are recent and ideological, including the new norm of short-term relationships and the penchant for ‘keeping your options open.'”


Screen Shot 2020-07-02 at 10.07.19 AM“Evangelical leaders are speaking up about race — but will this new focus last?” – Adelle M. Banks at RNS: “Many prominent white evangelicals have made statements about Black lives in the weeks since the May 25 death of George Floyd, but is this new focus among white conservatives — and white Christians in general — momentary or lasting? Researchers working at the crossroads of religion and race say it’s too soon to say. But highlights of a forthcoming study, which looks at racism, biblical interpretation and church cultures, may indicate a long struggle ahead. Michael Emerson, co-author of the 2000 book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, said 2019 findings indicate “zero evidence” of a closing of the long-standing gap between how white evangelicals and Black Christians view racial inequality.


merlin_173727378_812b7d4e-3b86-4952-8daf-dc0aa7cd78e9-superJumbo“America Is Facing 5 Epic Crises All at Once” – David Brooks offers his take on five epic crises that are hitting our nation all at once related to COVID-19, race, politics, social justice, and economics. The result? “These five changes, each reflecting a huge crisis and hitting all at once, have created a moral, spiritual and emotional disaster. Americans are now less happy than at any time since they started measuring happiness nearly 50 years ago. Americans now express less pride in their nation than at any time since Gallup started measuring it 20 years ago.” What does Brooks suggest? You’ll have to read his article.


Supreme Court“Supreme Court opens door to state funding for religious schools” – From CNN: “In a ruling that will open the door to more public funding for religious education, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of parents in Montana seeking to use a state scholarship program to send their children to religious schools. The court said that a Montana tax credit program that directed money to private schools could not exclude religious schools. The 5-4 ruling was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the court’s four conservative justices. ‘A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,’ Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.”


Hagia Sophia“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque” – Turkey is debating whether to turn the architectural wonder, Hagia Sophia, which is currently a museum, back into a mosque. The structure was built in the 6th century as the seat of the Orthodox patriarchate in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Later, when the Ottoman Empire sacked Constantinople and renamed the city Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. After World War I, the modern Turkish secular state was formed and Hagia Sophia was dedicated as a museum opened to the public in 1935.  Things have been changing in Turkey and this historic site is at the center of the latest controversy, which some see as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to erase Turkey’s Christian past.


Jimmy Dunn“Rest in Peace, Jimmy” – This is probably a scholarly footnote for many people, but renowned New Testament scholar James D. G. Dunn passed away last week. Dunn is best known for his work on the Apostle Paul, ranging from outstanding commentaries to groundbreaking theological work related to Paul’s theology. Dunn’s work was pivotal in what has come to be known as the “New Perspective” on Paul. On that theme, you might enjoy this ten-minute introduction to the New Perspective on Paul by Dunn and N. T. Wright from over ten years ago. This remembrance by Scot McKnight, one of Dunn’s students and a highly-regarded New Testament scholar himself, is well worth the read.


Iowa landscape“When Dvořák Went to Iowa to Meet God: Music that gives voice to the longing for home” – I grew up in the Mississippi River Valley of Illinois, just across the river from Iowa. While everyone who lived in Illinois knew for sure that Iowa was not “heaven,” there is still something special about the wide open spaces of the Midwestern prairies. I did not know that the famed Czech composer Antonín Dvořák spent a transformative time in Iowa “When Dvořák looked over the grassland vastness of Iowa, he felt that very strange and contrary coupling of hopeful contentment and melancholy we sometimes feel on summer evenings, as the stars and cicadas both come up and the grass lets off a damp, fresh smell.”


Music: Gustavo Dudamel with Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, “Dvorak – Symphony no. 9 – 4th movement – Allegro con fuoco,” recorded at a celebration for Pope Benedict XVI.

[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: 18 April 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.


Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 2.55.43 PM“When Christ conquered Caesar” – In my message this coming weekend at Eastbrook at the beginning of our new series, “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I make reference to this article by historian Tom Howard. I think you will enjoy this contrast between the ways of Nero and the ways of the first Christians, including Howard’s description of why Christianity ultimately overcame the crumbling empire of Rome.


1162785971222092.yp1ayqnqcvsmboslolrp_height640_custom-175c2aac0b32e71fa8949771537068a468c369c3-s1500-c85“Alternative Mourning Rituals Offer Comfort And Closure During An Outbreak” – One of our ministry partners in Congo, Congo Initiative, is shaping culture in many ways, including helping people deal with grief during this challenging time. “With a team of four counselors, psychologist Noé Kasali — who heads Bethesda’s counseling program in Beni, an Ebola-affected city in the northeast of DRC — has helped ease mourning for those who have lost a loved one to Ebola. They have done this by creating new interpretations of the traditional funeral ceremonies that are a critical part of the Nande culture — the largest ethnic group in Beni — but without the body of the deceased present.”


09brooks_Sub-superJumbo-v8“The Pandemic of Fear and Agony” – David Brooks invited readers of his New York Times opinion column to send their feedback to him about how the pandemic is affecting their mental health. Reading his catalogue of selections from the 5,000+ replies he received is humbling, painful, and insightful. I would encourage you to read this just to know that you’re not alone and also to help us all become more aware of how others are struggling during these times. A pastor friend of mine commented a week ago that he thinks mental health is one of the fronts of ministry that will become front and center in the days ahead. I cannot help but agree.


cs-lewis_at_desk“C. S. Lewis’ Advice To Students During A Pandemic Will Do All Our Souls Good Right Now” – Perhaps in light of Brooks’ chronicle of our mental health challenges, we could use a good word. C. S. Lewis, although often over-quoted, provides rich wisdom and insight, which is probably why is often over-quoted. He is just so good in these times. Thanks to Joseph Griffith for his reflections on Lewis’ 1939 message “Learning in War-Time.”


dancing_skeletons-_-dance_of_death-_wellcome_l0006816-440a8388671527f09dfe71029e5941ca31dd978d-s1500-c85“When Pandemics Arise, Composers Carry On” – Or maybe we just need some good music to help us cope with the pandemic. Over the centuries, art has been of great help during times of suffering, and that is no less true in times of a pandemic. Tom Huizenga offers examples of musicians who did just that, including John Cooke, Johann Sebastian Bach, and, more recently, John Corigliano and Lisa Bielawa. You may have your own selections of music that soothe your soul in troubling times, but here are some who composed music like that for themselves and us.


20200414_CovidweeklydeathsUSv2“Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like… “ – Ari Schulman, Brendan Foht, Samuel Matlack at The New Atlantis: “Any serious attempt to put coronavirus deaths in context by comparing it to some other cause of death in a previous year must acknowledge the marked differences in the Covid-19 trend — most notably, the rapid spike in deaths that is still underway, and the wide range of uncertainty about when it will peak, how high it will peak, and whether it will peak only once. As long as the pandemic is rapidly spreading, these comparisons will be fraught. Perhaps a better way to state the danger posed by the coronavirus is just that we cannot easily compare it to any precedent in recent history. Nor do we need to dispute projections about future deaths to recognize what has happened already. Amid the statistical noise is a powerful signal. The question is whether we choose to see it.”


Church-online-marketing-featured-imageMissional vs. Attractional in the Age of COVID-19? – There was a little bit of a kerfuffle online between church leaders who could be grouped within the attractional church camp (see Carey Nieuwhof’s “Half of All Churches Are Instantly Growing. Here’s Why and Here’s What to Do“) and the missional church camp (see Mike Frost’s “Coronavirus could set the church back 25 years“). Because of online church necessitated by this moment, some are advocating more and more of this while others are wringing their hands over it. I think we all just need to admit at this point that we’re all figuring out what it means to live as the church in this new moment. The old arguments about attractional vs. missional are growing tired, in my opinion, and need to be updated into a time where we see growing opportunities and hunger for deep human connection.


Dave Dummitt family“Willow Creek names Michigan pastor David Dummitt as new leader” – Speaking of attractional versus missional debates, it was easy to miss this news in the midst of everything COVID-19. Dave Dummitt, formerly of 2|42 Community Church in Ann Arbor, was named the new Senior Pastor of Willow Creek. For those who followed the Willow Creek search process, you know that it started with scandal, was criticized from the start, stalled at least once, and finally has come to a conclusion. Regardless of how you feel about everything that has gone on, let me encourage us to pray for Dave, his family, and Willow Creek as they embark on a new chapter as a church.


Music: Wilco, “Impossible Germany,” from Sky Blue Sky

[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: 15 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.

Wright“Loving to Know” – N. T. Wright addresses the importance not only of what we know, but how we know.  Stepping into the divide between “subjective” and “objective” knowledge, Wright explores the ways in which not only his own discipline of New Testament studies has been impacted by this supposed distinction, but also our broader experience as religious beings. “The way out is an understanding of ­creation as the gift of love, to which love is the appropriate response. But we cannot reach that true understanding of ­creation by a direct approach, for it quickly leads us back to idols. We must start with the center of creation: Jesus himself.”

 

Walley, Thomas, 1817-1878; George Whitefield Preaching in Bolton, June 1750“The Political Captivity of the Faithful” – Here is Nathan Hatch, religious historian and President of Wake Forest University, on the way both conservatives and liberals are held captive to the politicization of our day. “Today, I look in vain for religious leaders whose theological convictions creatively bridge the chasm between conservative and progressive views of the world not for political reasons, but for religious ones. One regularly sees this point made about the conflation of evangelical and conservative values, but I think there is much the same pattern among mainline and progressive Christians. When mainline churches develop an agenda on social policy, it has typically gravitated to those issues, however worthy, that have been defined by others.”

 

Steve Timmis“Acts 29 CEO Removed Amid ‘Accusations of Abusive Leadership'” – It’s hard not to cry out when I read these articles, “Not again!” Lord, have mercy upon us. “As CEO of Acts 29, Steve Timmis was an effective and respected leader. During his seven years at the helm, the church planting network rebounded from the fallout around its co-founder Mark Driscoll and expanded from 300 mostly US churches to 800 around the world.A gray-haired British pastor with sharp Bible teaching and deep passion for mission, Timmis was known for the model of intensive gospel community developed at his 120-person church in the middle of England, The Crowded House. He emphasized ‘ordinary life with gospel intentionality.’ But while his international reputation grew, some who knew Timmis in his ordinary life—who prayed, fellowshipped, and evangelized with him in living rooms, offices, and pubs—saw a different side.”

 

DeGroat Narcissism“Narcissism is not a ‘leadership style'” – After that last article––and the apparent endless stream of similar stories––it’s probably as good an opportunity as ever to hear from Chuck DeGroat about narcissism in leadership. Speaking directly of Driscoll, Acts 29, and Timmis, DeGroat writes: “Let me be crystal clear: bullying, controlling, and scaring are not characteristics of any ‘leadership style’ I find worthy of ‘Christian” leadership. These descriptors do not remotely approach the character of a Jesus-following leader. These pastors described an abusive pastor and abusive culture.'”

 

Brooks - 5 lies“Five Lies Our Culture Tells: The Cultural Roots of Our Political Problems” – David Brooks addresses the deeper look at our political divides to address five core lies that our culture believes and lives by that are just, plain, wrong. Part of this material is drawn from Brooks’ book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

 

Ross Douthat“Back to the Future” – Peter Thiel reviews Ross Douthat’s new book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, which critiques our prevailing sense of inevitable progress over the years. “Douthat outlines four aspects of decadence: stagnation (technological and economic mediocrity), sterility (declining birth rates), sclerosis (institutional failure), and repetition (cultural exhaustion).” You can read a summary of Douthat’s argument in “The Age of Decadence” at his regular column in The New York Times.

 

Music: L.S.U., “Blame,” from Grace Shaker.

[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: 1 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.

 

Screen-Shot-2020-01-22-at-10.49.12-PM“A Time for Reckoning: Facing Truth on the Path to Unity”Vince Bacote, a friend and Associate Professor of Theology and the Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College, relates his journey with the theological failure of evangelicalism on issues of race. He also offers recommendations for the way forward in this present moment. “To truly move forward on the challenge of race requires a reckoning with the theological failures that impede Christian unity and which are part of the reason for not only a movement like the Nation of Islam but also the existence of what we call ‘the black church.’ A reckoning of any kind takes a strong dose of courage. The reckoning in this case means a willingness to truly look at elements that are key to a church that struggles to truly provide a foretaste of the vision in Revelation 7:9.” This is an important article in so many ways, so let me strongly encourage you to read it.

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 8.19.45 AM“Jesus Is a Jew” – New York Times columnist and author, David Brooks, reflects in Comment about the Jewishness of Jesus and what that means for Jews, Christians, and the world. While this may not seem like a novel topic, Brooks approaches it in his own insightful manner. If you’re unfamiliar with Brooks’ own spiritual journey toward Jesus, I would highly encourage you to explore his most recent books, The Road to Character and The Second Mountain. You may also enjoy an extended conversation Brooks had last year with Alan Jacobs, author and Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University.

 

Nuns WW2“Coming to Jesus” – In what is definitely a different variation on Brooks’ theme, here is Harold Braswell’s essay on the encounter with research on the hospice care of nuns, a deeply personal family memory, Jesus, and a richer Jewish faith. “Yet, two decades later, while writing my dissertation, I found myself meditating on the dying body of Christ. It was something that I had learned about over the course of my research. And, while I still didn’t ‘believe in’ Jesus, and considered myself very much to be a Jew, the practice was helping me to work through the meaning of a series of recent events that had destabilized my most fundamental sense of who I was and what I wanted to become.” Hold on for an interesting read.

 

Vision for Peace“13 Christian Takes on Trump’s Peace Plan for Israel and Palestine” – Speaking of Jesus, what it means to be Jewish, and the Holy Land, this past week, President Trump rolled out his much-anticipated peace plan for Israel and Palestine, unveiling both the pathway toward that and an actual suggested map of these new states should the pathway be reached. Christianity Today offers a very clear overview of the peace plan, with responses from Christians of various backgrounds to the specifics of the plan. I believe it is vital to hear some of these differing perspectives as we have brothers and sisters in Christ within both groups.

 

city“Man and Metropolis” – John Wilson, beloved former editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, and renowned writer about all things books, turns his attention to the topic of cities and books about cities and urbanism. “This has set me to thinking about city writing more generally, and the way in which some of the vexations of the genre present certain recurring temptations that many writers have failed to resist.” If you think about city life, the new urbanism, and the challenges of themes within such works, you may enjoy Wilson’s insights and recommendations.

 

Anker_Grossvater_erzählt_eine_Geschichte_1884-1“Rediscovering the Lost Power of Reading Aloud” – When my children were younger, many people encouraged us to read books aloud to shape their imagination, capacity for thinking, and verbal abilities. I have now objective measure on whether any of that was successful, but I do know that we have great memories of enjoying great books read-aloud together, like The Chronicles of Narnia, My Father’s Dragon, and When Marian Sang. There is a power in reading aloud that brings people together. In an excerpt from her recent book, The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud In the Age of Distraction, Meghan Cox Gurdon speaks to this reality. I cannot help but think of how this plays out beyond the family or school, such as in the gathering for public worship, but that would require another conversation.

 

Music: Yo-Yo Ma, “Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude,” from J. S. Bach – The Unaccompanied Cello Suites

[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.]