The Weekend Wanderer: 3 October 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.


Spirituality Fetzer Institute“What Does Spirituality Mean to Us?: A study of spirituality in the United States” – A phrase I heard a lot from people when I was doing college ministry in the early 2000s was this, “I’m spiritual but not interested in religion.” That, or similar phrases like, “I like Jesus but not Christianity,” eventually became pretty common to encounter in ensuing years. But what does it mean to be spiritual or to have a spirituality? A recent study by the Fetzer Institute seeks to provide some answers to common answers to those questions within the United States. You can read a summary of the study’s aims here or explore their results here.


2020 presidential debate“Complaints on Trump’s debate performance highlight generational divide among white evangelicals” – It was difficult to miss conversation about last Tuesday’s presidential debate, even if you wanted to miss it. Proclaimed by some news outlets as the worst presidential debate in US history, the debate did little to reveal much substantive policy information from either candidate. However, responses to the debate did reveal some things, such as, according to this article, widely disparate perspectives by Christian viewers, particularly evangelicals, along generational lines.


Burkina Faso milita“Should Christians Join Burkina Faso’s Militias Against Terrorism?” – Just when you think navigating our political problems in the USA as Christians are more significant than anything, it is good at times to look at the challenges facing believers in other parts of the world. West Africa has struggled with stability for some time, but with Mali’s recent coup, Christians in Burkina Faso are considering a strange question.


leaderhip-community-ads_app-wide“The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life” – We had the amazing opportunity to host Dr. Vince Bacote of Wheaton College and the Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE) this past week at Eastbrook Church with a lecture on “The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life.” Along with his lecture, Vince graciously agreed to a follow-up Q&A with me afterwards. All of this fit within the framework of our current series on the kingdom of God. If you couldn’t be there, you can view the video for the event here.


Eritrea prisoner“Conditional release of 27 Christian prisoners” – “Christian Solidarity Worldwide has confirmed that 27 Eritrean Christians were released from Mai Serwa Prison near Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, on 4 and 8 September, possibly in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic….Tens of thousands of Eritreans are currently held without charge or trial in life threatening conditions in more than 300 sites across the country. Among those incarcerated are prisoners of conscience, some of whom have been detained for well over a decade on account of their political views or religious beliefs.


book open“Why Christians Should Care About the Novel’s Decline” – The other day, Kelly and I were trying out a few novels for upcoming read-alouds during the oncoming dark nights of autumn and winter. And then, as if on cue, Karen Swallow Prior’s review of Joseph Bottum’s recent book, The Decline of the Novel, appeared:  “For most of my life, I’ve taken my love of novels for granted. I’ve taken for granted that such a love needed no explanation or justification. But the more I’ve written in recent years about the pleasures and gifts of reading literary fiction—particularly writing about these topics in Christian spaces—the more I’ve come to see that many Christians, viewing fiction as frivolous entertainment, don’t realize the role of the novel in forming the modern world and, therefore, our sense of ourselves.”


Music: Daniel Lanois, “The Maker,” from Acadie.

[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: 19 September 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.


JI Packer politics“J.I. Packer: The Bible’s Guide for Christian Activism” – When Jim Packer passed away last month, we lost one of our greatest voices in world evangelicalism. Thankfully, Packer wrote so widely that we can still learn from his insights. Christianity Today unearthed a jewel of an essay by Packer from 1985 on how Christian faith relates to the public sphere. His words feel just as relevant today as ever.


Jamal- Dominique Hopkins“Preach What You Practice” – Here in an ongoing series called “Race Set Before Us,” Jamal-Dominique Hopkins reflects on the life and legacy of Paul King Jewett as an example of Christian leadership during this divided time. “Jewett, a renowned moral theologian, possessed a passion for promoting racial solidarity. He attended a predominantly black church, mentored black students at Fuller, became the first white board member of the National Negro Evangelical Association (currently known as the National Black Evangelical Association). He also attended the March on Washington in 1963 and the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.”


Winding river“What Kind of Turning Point?: History is an unpredictable thing. Respect it.” – I first encountered the work of Mark Noll while I was an undergraduate student at Wheaton College and he had just published his important book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll, a wise historian of Christianity and more particularly an expert on the history of evangelicalism, has a thing or two to say about making predictions about what lies ahead of us. Drawing on the work of Bruce Hindmarsh and James Davison Hunter, Noll’s wise words in Comment are well worth reading.


Barna Race Today“White Christians Have Become Even Less Motivated to Address Racial Injustice” – From Barna: “As of the July 2020 survey, practicing Christians—self-identified Christians who say their faith is very important in their lives and have attended a worship service within the past month—are no more likely to acknowledge racial injustice (43% ‘definitely’) than they were the previous summer. There is actually a significant increase in the percentage of practicing Christians who say race is ‘not at all’ a problem in the U.S. (19%, up from 11% in 2019). Among self-identified Christians alone, a similar significant increase occurs (10% in 2019, 16% in 2020).”


20200828T0945-SYRIA-TURKEY-WATER-1004324-690x450“Christians, others warn Turkey is ‘weaponizing water’ in northeast Syria” – From Crux: “Parts of Syria’s north where Kurds, Christians and Yazidis have practiced religious freedom in recent years are reportedly again under attack by mainly Turkish military and their allied Syrian Islamist fighters. The Syrian Democratic Council, which oversees the autonomous northeast of Syria, condemned Turkey’s cutting off the water supply to the area’s main city, Hassakeh, for nearly four straight weeks. Humanitarian groups have repeatedly accused Turkey of ‘weaponizing water’ since its military takeover of the region in October 2019.”


Battle of Adwa“To understand African Christianity, remember the Battle of Adwa” – Here is Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century reflecting on a key moment in Ethiopia that had great import for modern African Christianity. “The historic relationship between Christianity and imperialism naturally causes grave dilemmas for modern believers. But on at least one celebrated occasion, it was actually a great Christian army that decisively triumphed over empire—and resisted conquest for a generation. Anyone interested in the story of modern African Christianity needs to know about the Battle of Adwa.”


Bible and Rosary“Evangelicals Becoming Catholics: Former CT Editor Mark Galli” – Last week I shared about former Christianity Today editor Mark Galli converting to Catholicism. Ed Stetzer gathers together a series of reflections by various theologians, writers, and thinkers on why evangelicals might make such a move in general, including various authors such as Scott Hahn, Francis Beckwith, Douglas Beaumont, Scot McKnight. Stetzer concludes with his own reflections on Galli’s decision, both in relation to his personal friendship with Galli and as a Baptist who sees both the strengths and weaknesses of evangelicalism.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma, “Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude.”

[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: 30 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.

Screen Shot 2019-11-26 at 1.36.36 PM“The First Christian” – Some Christians, in an effort to avoid what can become an overemphasized Mariology, downplay the role of Mary in our faith. Luke’s telling of the gospel story, however, highlights Mary as an ideal picture of true Christian discipleship that all of us should look to as an example. The preeminent prayer of the life surrendered to God comes from Mary’s lips: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). Jennifer Powell McNutt and Amy Beverage Peeler’s article, “The First Christian,” offers a moving exploration of Mary as Christian exemplar.

 

Missional“Futurist Church Series :: Where is ‘Missional’ 10 Years after the ‘Conversation’ Peaked?” – The past ten to twenty years of church ministry conversation seems to have been dominated by the word “missional.” Sometimes, it seems, “missional” has become more of a buzzword than a word of substance, but it is still an important theme in the ministry of the church in a post-Christian era.  This interesting interview brings together five important voices in the early missional movement: Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, David Fitch, Brad Brisco, and Jeff Vanderstelt.

 

advent-playlist_v2-01“An Advent Playlist” – Music is one of the most powerful means for engaging in both cognitive and non-cognitive worship and spiritual formation. At one level, our conscious mind intellectually engages with the words and beauty of music. At another level, our spirit engages non-cognitively with the emotive swells of music and find that songs linger in our memory and heart beyond mere intellectual consideration of it. As we prepare for Advent, I was glad to stumble upon this curated playlist on Spotify for Advent by Victoria Emily Jones from the Art & Theology blog. There was much here that I wasn’t familiar with, which is a gift at this time of year.

 

Fred Rogers“Mr. Rogers was a televangelist to toddlers” – When I graduated from high school, I participated in a recognition banquet where each student had to name one of their heroes. I said “Mr. Rogers,” which was partly a joke but partly truth. I appreciated how Fred Rogers’ faith had shaped his life toward public witness. With all the appreciation of Rogers’ life and influence in recent years, and in the form of two recent movies, Daniel Burke’s article at CNN is a welcome testimony to a Christian life lived as a public witness toward the love and hope found in God.

 

_109823848_gettyimages-1135630791“Egyptian woman ‘wins court battle’ over unequal inheritance laws” – There is a lot of discussion these days about faith and the public square, with most of the examples coming from Western society. We often ask not only “how should Christian faith interact with politics?”, but “can Christian faith really make a difference in the public discourse?” Here is a quite different example from Egypt, where Coptic Christianity collided with Islamic Sharia Law in relation to legality of gender equity for inheritance. “A Coptic Christian woman in Egypt says she has won a legal battle to receive the same inheritance as her brothers. Under the Islamic Sharia inheritance laws the country mainly relies on, female heirs inherit half that of male relatives. Huda Nasrallah, 40, brought the case to test the legality of the statute. The human rights lawyer built her case around Christian doctrine of equal inheritance. Two courts had earlier ruled against her based on Sharia. Sharia has been used in personal status law regardless of an individual’s religion, and this verdict could set a precedent.”

 

Music: Handel’s Messiah” by Jenny & Tyler from Christmas Stories.

[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.]