The Weekend Wanderer: 7 December 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.

candlelight“Advent begins in the dark” – Fleming Rutledge is one of the most astute preachers and pastoral theologians in America today. Her book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus, was not only one of the most celebrated books of 2017, but an insightful and accessible approach to the center of our faith. Here is Rutledge with a brief, poetic prayer for Advent.

 

burkina-faso2“Five boys and pastor among 14 Christians shot dead in Burkina Faso church massacre” – Nothing reminds us so much of how Advent begins in the dark and how God comes into our darkness than reading about the persecuted church. What sadness struck me this week when I read about this terrible tragedy in the beleaguered church in Burkina Faso. Read this and pray. Also, consider praying for other brothers and sisters in the countries where believers are most persecuted around the world.

 

Trump Holds Campaign Event in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania“The Crisis of American Christianity, Viewed From Great Britain” – When you find the air so thick from charged political rhetoric that you can no longer tell what is really going on, it is sometimes helpful to get a perspective from outside the environment. Here is British theologian and New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, commenting on the current crisis in American Christianity within the charged political atmosphere of our days.

 

Wayne Grudem“Wayne Grudem Changes Mind About Divorce in Cases of Abuse” – To outsiders, this may seem like non-news, but for those within evangelicalism, this is at least somewhat noteworthy. Wayne Grudem is an acclaimed evangelical theologian, careful biblical scholar, and conservative complementarian through and through. He has wanted to avoid lax allowances for divorce in the past to the degree that his statements have supported spouses staying within abusive marriages. At the recent Evangelical Theological Society meetings, Grudem strongly reversed his views on divorce in cases of abuse. This is a welcome change, if not a little late in my mind, particularly in the era of #MeToo and #ChurchToo.

 

Potted "family-tree"“The New Kinship Engineering” – What are we to make of our newfound powers through scientific breakthroughs brought together with our newly asserted freedom from shared ethical frameworks? The questions and debates are nearly never-ending, but this article by Brendan Foht highlights what may seem like an extreme example to wake us up to the need for careful thinking. “The willingness of the fertility industry to use experimental technologies like three-parent IVF to satisfy the kinship desire of prospective parents, even when it means putting the health of children at risk, bodes ill for how they will use the even more powerful technologies of genetic engineering now on the horizon.”

 

Unrendered image of The Lord's Prayer. Taken with Canon Powershot G3“Seeing the Lord Behind the Lord’s Prayer” – Wesley Hill wrote a volume in Lexham Press’ recent series on Christian Essentials. The entire series looks excellent, although I have not had the chance to read them yet. Here is a review of Hill’s volume on the Lord’s Prayer by Tina Boesch. Of all the things you could give as a gift to family and friends this Christmas, Hill’s book looks to be a worthy option.

 

Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming,” from Songs for Christmas

[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: 13 October 2018

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.

 

1536560855288“Chinese officials burn bibles, close churches, force Christian to denounce faith amid ‘escalating’ crackdown” – This was shared with me by a friend directly connected to the situation of the house church in China. President Qi has increasingly put pressure on religious groups, particularly the underground church, as he seeks to reestablish a more pure communist agenda in China. What is new here is the aggressive measures being taken, including against the “Three-Self Church,” which is the government-approved church.

 

LX7EOIGOEQI6RI7GITNKHU263Y“October 12 Update on the Release of Pastor Andrew Brunson” – On Friday international news reports indicated that a Turkish court ruled today to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained for the past two years and has been remanded to house arrest since July due to health concerns. Following this case over the past two years, it is clear that Brunson has been a pawn used in the midst of political tensions between Turkey and the United States. Throughout his detainment, he has claimed he is innocent of the charges that he is somehow connected to organizations working against the Turkish government.

 

83523“A Dying Child and a Living Hope” – When Kelly and I went through the painful experience of a miscarriage, I pulled a book off my shelf that a friend had once bought for me called The Shaming of the Strong by Dr. Sarah Williams, a professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. A couple of days ago, I read on Christianity Today that Dr. Williams has released a new book, which looks to be either a revision of the earlier book or a reappraisal of her own journey through carrying a child, Cerian, whom doctors told her would die upon birth. Aaron Cobb reviews that new book by Sarah Williams, Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian, showing the grace and insight that Williams brings in the valley of the shadow of death as she reflects on what it means to be human.

 

_103770368_20171028_123422“The young Americans who are bucking the divorce trend” – This should catch your attention: between 2008 and 2016 the divorce rate in the US fell by 18%, according to a study by the University of Maryland. Of course, the related fact is that marriage rates have also dropped, with millennials three times less likely to get married than their grandparents’ generation. The abstract of the study concludes with this line: “The U.S. is progressing toward a system in which marriage is rarer, and more stable, than it was in the past, representing an increasingly central component of the structure of social inequality.” Looking at five couples that span the spectrum of modern marriage relationships, a BBC reporter highlights reasons why this may be the case, including a rare, fair-minded look at Christian marriage in couple #5.

 

alan jacobs“Christianity and Resistance: An Interview with Alan Jacobs” – The Los Angeles Review of Books has a wonderful interview with Alan Jacobs about his recent book The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis. It’s no secret that I have a great admiration for Jacobs’ writing and thinking, and this interview only adds to that admiration. Setting up the interview, the interviewer writes, “That mid-20th-century moment when civilization looked into the abyss — and large portions of humanity plunged into it — seems to resonate strongly for a lot of writers and thinkers these days, and not only because of Trumpism’s neo-fascist and ‘Christian’ nationalist tendencies.”  [Thanks to Wesley Hill for sharing this article.]

 

trump-with-evangelical-leaders“‘Evangelical’ has become too political and needs to be ‘reclaimed’, says WEA head” – The ongoing debate about what the word ‘evangelical’ means and whether it is still a helpful term rose to the surface in recent comments by the General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, Bishop Efraim Tendero. This dovetails with a recent report that nearly 40 evangelical leaders came out with a statement against Donald Trump and the Alt-Right, in light of many contested surveys that say 80% of white evangelical voters supported Donald Trump. A wide-ranging group of authors wrestled with that question in the book Still Evangelical?: Insiders Reconsider Political, Social, and Theological Meaning, published by InterVarsity Press.

 

John-Lennox“Should We Fear Artificial Intelligence?” is a lecture given as part of the “Trending Questions” series of the Zacharias Institute by Dr. John Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and an Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. Lennox digs into some of the most pertinent questions related to AI today, touching upon the domains of science, philosophy, ethics, and theology. This is a long video, but you can skip ahead of the introduction to Dr. Lennox’s lecture directly at 18′ 23″. [Thanks to Jeff Davis for sharing this link with me.]

 

he held radical light.jpgHe Held Radical Light – Image Journal, in their latest email update, reviews Christian Wiman’s latest book. “This slim new volume of essays on art, death, and eternity, demands to be read with a level of focused attention that is hard for me to come by these days, but it repays the effort. Picking up where My Bright Abyss left off, it’s a chain of essays about contemporary poets, including A.R. Ammons, Denise Levertov, Seamus Heaney, Susan Howe, Donald Hall, and many others, in which Wiman probes his own youthful desire to write ‘a poem that would live forever’—a wish intensified by his battle with cancer. That goal might seem ludicrous, if Wiman were not so self-aware, so sincere, and such a thirsty reader of poems. As it is, the idea of such a poem, possible or not, feels worthy of every attention.”

 

Orlean-LibrariesAnd since we’re on the topic of books, why not travel through memory and the stacks of the public library with Susan Orlean in her wonderfully written essay, “Growing Up in the Library,” over at The New Yorker. As a chronic reader who spends time at our local library every week, and as one taken to the library as a child by my parents who continues that legacy with my own children, I resonate with Orlean’s first lines: “I grew up in libraries, or at least it feels that way.” [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.]

Broken and Weak

PH03548I

[I wrote this article for Relevant Magazine’s online edition a few years back. It is no longer available online, so I am re-posting it here.]

I have a friend who is in the midst of a separation from his wife. He’s hurting. We were talking in another friend’s kitchen tonight about all that is going on in his life.

There are the practical things about the separation: phone calls with lawyers, figuring out the timing of who has the kids at what time, and looking for a temporary place to live.

Then, there are the relationships with others around them. How do you re-approach your own parents and in-laws in this sort of situation? What happens with the relationships in a small group when both people are involved in it? They are trying to figure out who their support network is, when everything is so intertwined.

At the core is their relationship with one another. Do they want to work this out or not? What if they don’t even agree about that? What if he’s blown it too many times? What if she’s hardened toward him? What happens when the pain traces back through years and multiple events? Did they get married too young? What about the kids? Is there still hope?

All through the conversation, he kept breaking down in sobs of tears. It’s not too often that three grown men stand around in a kitchen drinking coffee and commiserating with tears and hugs. His shoulders shake. His face scrunches up in anguish. His lips quiver. The end of his nose is pinky-red and moist. He’s a mess. And the outside is nothing compared to all that is within.

I try to listen. I really care. What would I do in his place? What if Kelly and I were there? My God, are we headed there? What would keep us from the same spot in two more years?

My friend is broken? It’s sad and difficult to see. I never enjoy seeing someone in this state. It’s not pretty or neat. It’s not controllable. It’s not one of those places any of us ever imagines ourselves in when we’re asked to think about who we’d like to be or what we’d like to be doing in five or ten years.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” we’re asked. Would we ever answer, “Ruined”?

I hate being weak. For me, the only thing worse than seeing another person being broken is to be broken myself. I like to portray the image that all is well at all times and in all ways.

“How are you, Matt?” someone might ask.
“Fine,” I casually offer in response.
“Fine?” they ask quizzically.
“Really, good,” I elaborate mildly.
“Good?” they query me again.
“I am doing quite well,” I firmly conclude.

It really doesn’t matter what’s going on in my life at all. The portrayal tends toward automatic similarity.

I hate being weak. But the awful truth is that I hate being weak before others more than being weak itself. Even if I feel shattered, God forbid that I should have to talk with someone else about it. “We just don’t do that!” reverberates in my head for some reason. “It’s not our way. We are above that.”

Somewhere along the way I learned this avoidance of any appearance of weakness. “All is well. All matter of things is well. And even if they’re not, you’d better not tell.”

So, I stand in the kitchen with my broken friend: nose dripping, eyes watery, hands wringing, not knowing what to do, where to go, how to do anything. In his anguish, he’s trying to run to Jesus daily and be held there.

I keep thinking of the words of a psalm:

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:18).

Perhaps my friend is in the best place he could possibly be right now with God, himself, his marriage, his kids, and everything else.

Broken and weak.

Learning the right sacrifices of God.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine