The Weekend Wanderer: 22 August 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.


Last week I took a break from “The Weekend Wanderer” as I spent a few days away with my family in northern Wisconsin. I never checked my email once and never went online throughout that time away, which was one of the greatest head-clearing moments I’ve had all summer. I hope you can make space to do that sometime as well. You will not regret it, even if you never leave your home. Of course, the moment I returned and opened my email the floods returned, but there was still value in getting to dry ground for short while to remember what life can be like.


renee-fisher-N7oCVnnhgCA-unsplash“A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory” – Tim Keller has put together a pretty striking series of articles featured in Gospel in Life, Redeemer Churches & Ministries’ Quarterly Newsletter. The series features two earlier articles, “The Bible and Race” and “The Sin of Racism,” and promises one further article on “Justice in the Bible.” This third in the series explores the wide ranging conceptions of justice in the broader culture, offering biblical responses to each coupled with some further attention to the hot topic of critical theory as part of a discussion. The entire series is well worth the read.


7_9076_HARPERS_0920_p063_02“Nonconforming” – Here’s Laurent Dubreuil in Harper’s Magazine about the challenges and inanities of identity politics: “Whereas identity politics, as theorized four decades ago, aimed to liberate the oppressed and to oppose American capitalism, its main form today is more invested in changing the direction of domination and in multiplying restrictions. It is the social order of the day, its rhetoric ubiquitous in the neurotic centers of the American economy (universities, the media, the tech sector). Under this regime, identities, once affirmed, are indisputable. If I say, ‘As an x, I think. . . ,’ I am no longer voicing an opinion that can be evaluated or critiqued within a shared space of discourse; I am merely saying what I am. If you disagree with me, you may trace everything I say back to my identity before availing yourself of corresponding counterarguments: you say a because you are an x, but I am a y and I therefore believe in b. Such identities, I insist, are not emancipatory, neither at the psychological nor at the political level. We all should have the right to evade identification, individually and collectively.”


love politics church“20 Quotes on Loving Church Members with Different Politics” – Matt Smethurst shares 20 quotes from Jonathan Leeman and Andy Naselli’s new booklet, How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics? (Crossway, 2020). Here’s one example to get you thinking: “The gospel does not automatically resolve all our wisdom-based political judgments in the here and now. It helps us love and forbear with one another amid those different wisdom-based judgments. It creates unity amid diversity, not uniformity.”


800“Christian groups unveil new criminal justice reform push” – From the Associated Press: “A coalition of Christian groups including the Church of God in Christ and the National Association of Evangelicals is launching a new criminal justice reform push that seeks to rally believers behind policing changes grounded in biblical principles. Set to be announced Wednesday, the Prayer & Action Justice Initiative has its roots in a campaign started in the aftermath of the coronavirus to help save small churches at risk of closing, with top contributors to that work now channeling their energy toward the criminal justice project. It is expected to include prayer gatherings, nonviolent protests and policy advocacy — all aimed at advancing the cause of racial equity in the justice system.”


Hagia Sofia mosque“The end of secularism is nigh: The West’s ability to market this culturally conditioned assumption is dying – Here comes Tom Holland to alert us to what we should already know about the declining influence of secularism around the world. Holland highlights how this is seen in recent startling changes taken by Prime Minister Modi in India and President Erdogan in Turkey. This “should serve as a wake-up call to the West that it is not only its financial, economic and military muscle that is currently atrophying. So too is its ability to market its culturally conditioned assumptions as universal.”


Rick Love“He Loved Muslims Because He Loved Jesus. The Bible Showed Him How.” – Joseph Cummings remembers Rick Love, former international director of Frontiers and founder of Peace Catalyst, who passed away on December 29 after complications of cancer: “Rick Love loved Jesus above all else. He loved the Bible as God’s Word. Rick’s love for Jesus led him to love Muslims. But his love for Scripture eventually changed his mind about how to love Muslims.”


Music: Sigur Rós, “Glósóli,” from Takk

[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 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: 2 May 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.


Zoom drain“The reason Zoom calls drain your energy” – Those of us participating in online web conference calls know that feeling of coming to the end of the day and wondering what happened. We didn’t really do that much, but we feel so drained. Is it because we are staring at screens for so long, because of bad body posture, or something else? That is exactly what Manyu Jiang explores in this very helpful and timely article.


Body of Work“A Body of Work” – If that previous article struck a chord with you, then you should really read Dr. Curt Thompson’s reflections on the same topic, but with additional theological and spiritual perspectives on life with God within the body with insights from interpersonal neurobiology. “The fact that our bodies do so much work that we do not consciously regulate reminds us that they are not mere extensions of our ‘real’ selves, as if who we really are is reducible to some private, internal collection of thoughts and emotions. That notion is a product of modernity, which would have us believing that our bodies, like the rest of creation, are things that we own, and therefore things we can manipulate for our own purposes, rather than gifts that we have been given to steward without our having any say in the matter. Gifts whose mere presence in the world are able to offer light and healing without our even being aware of it—until we no longer have access to that very presence.” If there is a must-read article in this edition of “The Weekend Wanderer” it is probably this one.


Trump-Evangelical-GettyImages-1192031829-780-x-508“Who Defines Evangelicalism? An Interview with Mark Noll” – I know, I know, you may be tired of articles about the definition of evangelicalism, but this one is different. This interview of Mark Noll by Eric Miller involves one of the preeminent historians of evangelicalism in this much-discussed subject while also addressing a recent book he helped to edit on the topic, Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be.. Noll was a history professor and authored the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind when I was a student at Wheaton College, before he went on to teach at Notre Dame. There are few voices on evangelical history so respected in the broader culture and within evangelicalism as Noll.


Bruce Fields“Remembering Bruce Fields” – I did not know Bruce Fields personally, but I wish that I did after reading this remembrance from my friend, Vince Bacote. “Though he is no longer with us, there is still much to learn from him. Bruce was a highly reflective and humble man. He had tremendous knowledge but his discourse never laid an emphasis on how much he knew. Rather, what I picked up from him was a perpetual state of inquiry. He never hesitated to share his convictions but seemed aware that there was always much more to be known; he wanted to tread the academic path with curiosity, always seeking to learn more. He had a learner’s mindset and patience with the process.”


117097“How I Cured My Monday Hangover and Summer Slump” – A lot of pastors take Monday off to rest after a full weekend of ministry. I tried that for awhile, but found that I usually spent most Mondays rethinking everything from the weekend of ministry, leaving me with a distinctly sour state of mind. Before the pandemic, Friday was my usual day off, helping me feel like I had more of a normal weekend. Now, nothing is really normal, so we may need other help. I enjoyed J. R. Briggs’ reflections on natural body rhythms, seasons, and how that impacts our lives.


Screen Shot 2020-05-01 at 1.51.52 PM“Where to Look for New Life” – Wesley Hill writes a beautiful reflection on Holy Week, Easter, the New Testament, Philippians, and the kingdom of God in the midst of the pandemic. “According to the New Testament, the inbreaking kingdom of God isn’t only discernible in the moments of sunshine — the moments when the blind receive sight, the lepers are cleansed, and the poor have good news preached to them. It is equally discernible when those who face evil’s icy blasts are not undone by them but press through them in the power of Jesus’s indestructible risen life.”

 


 

Music: Jonathan McReynolds, “Make Room,” from Make Room

[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: 21 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.

President Trump“Trump Should Be Removed from Office” – Christianity Today, the flagship publication for evangelicalism, broke the internet on Thursday when this article was released by its editor-in-chief, Mark Galli. While admitting that the opposing political party has had it in for President Trump since his election, CT is unequivocal: “But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.” This is consistent with CT‘s earlier critique of both Presidents Nixon and Clinton during times of crisis. Galli was interviewed about the Op Ed by CNN (“Christianity Today calls for Trump’s Removal from Office“) and Emma Green in The Atlantic (“How Trump Lost an Evangelical Stalwart“).  Rod Dreher at The American Conservative also weighed in (“Christianity Today Anathematizes Trump“). 

 

_110191848_mediaitem110191845“Citizenship Amendment Act: India PM Modi appeals for calm as protests grow” – In the midst of our own political turmoil in the United States, it may be hard to pay attention to other areas, but let me urge some attention to the situation in India. There, Prime Minister Modi’z government has put forward a citizenship amendment which “allows non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, who entered India illegally, to become citizens,” but restricts this for those of Muslim background. The religious aspects of this amendment have led to fierce uprisings and international outcry about persecution of religious minorities. While different in politics and context, this echoes concerns that have arisen over China’s treatment of religious minorities as well.

 

featured640px“The Digital Pulpit: A Nationwide Analysis of Online Sermons” – The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life released a “computational analysis of nearly 50,000 sermons…across major Christian traditions” from churches’ online presences this past week. “The median sermon scraped from congregational websites is 37 minutes long. But there are striking differences in the typical length of a sermon in each of the four major Christian traditions analyzed in this report: Catholic, evangelical Protestant, mainline Protestant and historically black Protestant.” As the primary preacher for four weekend services each weekend, with the goal of 35 minutes per message, I found this analysis fascinating. A summary of news report on the Pew Research Center’s analysis is found in “How long is the sermon? Study ranks Christian churches.”

 

Pope Francis“Pope lifts ‘pontifical secret’ rule in sex abuse cases” – One of the biggest global crises of the last decade in ecclesial discussions has to be the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church, as well as others. This has left craters of pain and echoes of hypocrisy in individual churches, as well as church fellowships throughout various nations. In many cases, investigation of these cases has been limited by pontifical secrecy, a concept established to protect sensitive information that was broadened to shield information in judicial circumstances. Pope Francis’ declaration this past Tuesday removed such shielding so that appropriate information sharing can allow investigations to move forward. “‘Certain jurisdictions would have easily quoted the pontifical secret … to say that they could not, and that they were not, authorised to share information with either state authorities or the victims,’ Archbishop Scicluna said. ‘Now that impediment, we might call it that way, has been lifted, and the pontifical secret is no more an excuse.'”

 

Interior St Margaret Mary Catholic Church“Millennials Are Leaving Religion And Not Coming Back” – There has been a tremendous amount of discussion around the shifting landscape in North America in relation to religion and emerging generations. Particularly in regards to millennials (those between ages 23 and 38), there is a recognition that increasingly percentages affiliate with no religion (“religious nones” – although some dispute this phrase) versus specific religious affiliation, whether Christianity or something else. One driving assumption that has given religious leaders comfort is the idea that one day these irreligious folks will return to church when the time is right or the need arises; often connected to when they have children. However, this comforting idea does not seem to be. As this article shared by a friend suggests, “there’s mounting evidence that today’s younger generations may be leaving religion for good.”

 

92301“Leith Anderson Has Bright Hopes for the Next Decade of Ministry” – The outgoing President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) reflects on major themes of the coming decade of Christian ministry. Some of his reflections are more factual, related to shifting demographics in our country, while others are more optimistic predictions of what lies ahead for the Christian church. Reading this article together with the previous one on religiously unaffiliated offers a healthy dialogue with differing perspectives on similar themes.

 

Music: Robbie Seay Band, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Come Thou Fount),” from December, vol 2 – Songs for Advent

[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: 23 November 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.

PastorJayandDerrick“A Tale of Two Churches” – I heard about this story from someone who described it as the most powerful story about Christianity so far this year. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I read this piece about two churches that merged together in the midst of great conflict. It is most definitely worth a read, and particularly moving, especially in our divided days.

 

Kidd - Who Is an Evangelical“‘Who Is An Evangelical?’ Looks At History Of Evangelical Christians And The GOP” – I was driving in the car the other day when I caught this piece on NPR on the nature of evangelicalism. I didn’t know who the interviewee was until the end of the piece when NPR’s Audie Cornish thanked Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and author of the recent book Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis. Kidd offers a balanced and insightful approach to what is often a simplistic political trope but is really much more diverse and complicated than often thought. You can read a review of his book here.

 

5944.large“How Garbage Collectors Can Refresh Our Theology” – Here’s Gustavo H. R. Santos at Comment helping us reframe vocation: “Our churches are full of both professionals and working-class labourers, so if we want to teach about work from a biblical perspective as part of our discipleship, we need a theology infused with a broader paradigm of labour. The experience of millions from the working class teaches us that being who Christ calls us to be doesn’t depend on the job we have. They remind us that we can’t control our circumstances and that faithfulness is more important than performance. So the question becomes, Are we willing to listen to what their lives are telling us? The ancient story of Ruth the Moabite might help improve our hearing.”

 

113985“Pastors & Burnout: A Personal Reflection” – Every pastor, as well as many others in serving professions, deal with the dangers of burnout. I have, and I have talked to many other pastors who have as well. Scott Nichols offers his perspective as a pastor who has served for over thirty years in three different churches. I appreciate the practicality of Nichols’ list, including things like staying active and cultivating friendships, because, in my experience, pastors have a tendency to over-spiritualize their burnout.  One of the areas I wish he would have addressed was the darker motivations that potentially lead us as pastors toward burnout, but this article is still worth the read.

 

Richard-Mouw-Missiology-Lecture“A ‘Middle Way’: Lessons for Faithfulness in the Public Square” – It is difficult to ignore all the noise in the political world these days, and it can leave us either wanting to retreat entirely or to becoming so sucked into it that little else receives attention. What does it mean as Christians to engage in the public square? Well, right on time, Richard Mouw, former President of Fuller Seminary, offers a suggestion about a “middle way” on this.

 

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 12.28.19 PM“Vexed and Troubled Englishmen: How should we remember the Puritans?” – The name “puritan” has received such a bad name in recent days, largely because of misunderstandings of what the name means and what the original intent of the Puritans as a group truly was. Andrew Delbanco reviews Daniel T. Rodger’s book, As a City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon, which focuses on John Winthrop’s speech “A Model of Christian Charity.” “Rodgers’s book is not only a close reading of the reception and history of Winthrop’s speech but also a rescue operation for Puritanism itself.”

 

Music: DJ Shadow featuring Nils Frahm, “Scars,” from Ghost in the Shell (Music Inspired By the Motion Picture)

[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.]