The Weekend Wanderer: 14 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.

01Warren-jumbo“Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit?: Face Into the Darkness” – Advent is one of the most necessary seasons of the church calendar. It helps us from the pervasive consumerism and triviality in our culture related to Christmas. Advent gives us space to reflect, to prepare, to call out to God, and, as I’ve written elsewhere, to recover the wonder of Christmas. Here is Tish Harrison Warren writing in The New York Times about her own journey with Advent: “To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime.”

 

Ethiopia archaeology“Church Unearthed in Ethiopia Rewrites the History of Christianity in Africa” – “In the dusty highlands of northern Ethiopia, a team of archaeologists recently uncovered the oldest known Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa, a find that sheds new light on one of the Old World’s most enigmatic kingdoms—and its surprisingly early conversion to Christianity. An international assemblage of scientists discovered the church 30 miles northeast of Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom, a trading empire that emerged in the first century A.D. and would go on to dominate much of eastern Africa and western Arabia. Through radiocarbon dating artifacts uncovered at the church, the researchers concluded that the structure was built in the fourth century A.D., about the same time when Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christiantiy in 313 CE and then converted on his deathbed in 337 CE. The team detailed their findings in a paper published today in Antiquity.

 

a-hidden-life“Vatican Holds Private Screening of Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life'” – I know you’re probably getting ready to see Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker, but let me present a cinematic alternative. One of the most intriguing and moving films I have ever seen is Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011). Since that time, I have delved into Malick’s other films, which are a one-of-a-kind experience of stream-of-consciousness and imagistic cinematography, laden with nature and themes of transcendence. Tree of Life engages with themes of nature and grace, which recur in some of his more recent films, although without the same effectiveness, in my opinion. Malick’s most recent film, A Hidden Life, focuses on the centers on the real-life story of Franz Jägerstätter, and debuted on December 13 (although it is very difficult to find a local viewing because of limited release).  Malick’s first film since 2007, it is reputed to be one of his most powerful, engaging deeply with themes of politics and faith. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Vatican requested a private viewing of the film, which the notoriously reclusive Malick actually attended.

 

Gerald_Hughes,_Cleveland_School_Teacher,_Leads_the_Lee_Heights_Community_Church_(Cleveland,_Ohio)_Congregation_in_Song,_1960_(16458543170)“American Salvation: The Place of Christianity in Public Life” – The conversation about faith and the public square, which Malick’s film raises, is one of the most pressing conversations in our contemporary American context. Should the church engage or withdraw from politics? Whould the church subvert or transform culture? What does it mean to engage with these questions at all? Albert J. Raboteau, professor emeritus of religion at Princeton University, and a convert from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy, weaves an interesting tapestry around this discussion, engaging with the American civil rights movement, early Christian political dissent, sacramental theology, and much more.

 

114259“Solar Light of the World: Evangelicals Launch Global Clean Energy Campaign” – “Through a campaign called Project 20.’25, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has set out to get 20 percent of its members to convert fully to clean energy by 2025. This fall, the global network announced its partnership with Smart Roofs Solar Inc. Together they will help universities, health care facilities, and churches looking to adopt clean power, including offering guidance for local suppliers and providing financing options. The renewable energy initiative builds on the WEA’s efforts to promote creation care, said Chris Elisara, director of the WEA Creation Care Task Force.”

 

Madeleine L' Engle“Ready for Silence” – Poetry helps us encounter the familiar in a fresh way through rich use of language that makes what we already know become unfamiliar and new. Madeleine L’Engle, perhaps best known for her novel, A Wrinkle in Time, and related books, offers us a poem, “Ready for Silence,” that helps us re-approach Advent and the Christmas Story.

 

booksBest Books of 2019 – This is the time of the year that “best of 2019” lists of all sorts arise. I haven’t assembled my own list like this yet, but may do something like that in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, here are a few lists about the best books or reads from 2019 that you might enjoy: Christianity Today‘s “2020 Book Awards,” John Wilson’s “A Year of Reading: 2019,” Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed Books of the Year 2019” (including a most disappointing book of 2019), Russell Moore’s “My Favorite Books of 2019,” The Englewood Review of Books‘ “Advent Calendar 2019 – Best Books of the Year for Christian Readers!,” “The Gospel Coalition 2019 Book Awards,” The New York Times‘ “Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019,” and LitHub‘s compilation of best of lists in “The Ultimate Best Books of 2019 List,”

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (BWV 62), from Bach: Cantatas – Advent (John Eliot Gardiner)

[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: 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: 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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 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.

92466“The Necessary Partnership of Truth and Charity” – When difficult issues arise within the faith, you may hear people say, “You need more grace!”, or, “We’ve lost the truth here!” Usually, there is some truth in both statements. However, grace and truth are not a polarity, but two aspects of the character of God that necessarily fit together. Often, we likely misunderstand somehow what grace and truth mean in a specific circumstance or particular issue. Tish Harrison Warren aptly writes here about the partnership of truth and charity.

 

Screen Shot 2019-11-15 at 9.53.06 AM“Amusing Ourselves to Death: Huxley vs Orwell” – Growing up, I heard often about George Orwell’s 1984, first from my older brother and then through my studies. When my own sons reached high school, it was one of the optional books for reading, and I remember more than a few conversations about the dark, post-apocalyptic world Orwell conjured into the imagination through that book. Neil Postman‘s 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death makes the case that Orwell’s imaginary is less true to our current life than Aldous Huxley’s apparently more absurd Brave New World. I increasingly agree with that assessment. Here’s a comparative cartoon crash-course in both novels and what they say about our world.

 

Philip Jenkins“The 2010s: A Decade in Faith?Baylor professor of the history of religion and author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins, reflects on the most meaningful issues or changes in the church in the 2010s. Referencing issues within the United States and world Christianity, Jenkins shares his insights launching off from the questions: “So what will future scholars of Christianity highlight when they write the history of the 2010s? What tremors reshaped the landscape of faith?” This is well worth the read.

 

AND Campaign 2020“The AND Campaign: 2020 Statement on the Presidential Campaign” – Someone from my congregation shared this resource for me and it caught my attention for several reasons. First, here is an effort to stand within historic Christianity that also grapples with various social issues that are at play within the United States. Second, it is an interesting engagement with the political issues of our faith, something we all are going to grapple with in the next two years. Third, it represents a multi-ethnic approach to these issues which is sadly missing in much church engagement with politics.

 

Sandra McCracken“Hymn-writer Sandra McCracken: Worship music should focus less on emotion, more on community” – When I first became a follower of Jesus, the Senior Pastor at my home church invited me to “lead worship” on piano at Sunday night services utilizing contemporary worship music and praise choruses. There wasn’t a lot to work with, but I pulled in songs from the Vineyard or Maranatha, as well as reworked versions of hymns. Now, there is more music than we know what to do with, sustaining an entire industry of worship music. Some of it is helpful, but there are huge gaps. Sandra McCracken highlights one of those gaps in this interview.

 

Music: Sandra McCracken, “We Will Feast in the House of Zion,” from Psalms.

[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.]

A Prayer of Billy Graham for the Nation

billy graham profile.jpg

Our Father and Our God, we praise You for Your goodness to our nation, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve. Yet we know all is not right with America. We deeply need a moral and spiritual renewal to help us meet the many problems we face. Convict us of sin. Help us to turn to You in repentance and faith. Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace. We pray today for our nation’s leaders. Give them the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it. You have said, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” May this be a new era for America, as we humble ourselves and acknowledge You alone as our Savior and Lord. This we pray in Your holy name, Amen.

By Billy Graham, American evangelist.

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 July 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.

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This past week, I was in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin with my family at Fort Wilderness, where I had the privilege of serving as a speaker for one of their family camps. It was a wonderful time with others from various parts of the country, enjoying God’s stunning creation, building relationships, and walking through the book of Ruth. Hopefully you could visit Fort Wilderness sometime. I don’t think you would be disappointed. In the midst of a full week, with spotty internet connection (thankfully!), I had less opportunity to read online and, because of that, “The Weekend Wanderer” is a bit shorter this week.

 

6-classical-“6 Works of Classical Music Every Christian Should Know”Jeremy Begbie, professor of theology at Duke and specialist on the interface between theology and the arts, offers a primer on classical music for Christians. “Music can be a remarkable index of the profoundest impulses and stirrings of a culture—impulses and stirrings that are often theologically charged. What, then, of classical music in particular? Strictly speaking, ‘classical music’ is the music of a fairly brief era (roughly, the second half of the 18th century), but the term is commonly used to refer to the whole stream of music associated with European concert and operatic culture, emerging around 1600. Sometimes called ‘art music,’ it’s generally regarded as there to be listened to, not just heard….And the Christian can ask a further question: ‘What might I learn theologically from what’s going on here?'”

 

authentic“Authenticity under Fire: Researchers are calling into question authenticity as a scientifically viable concept” – Everyone wants to be “real.” What does it mean, however, to be “real” or “authentic,” and is it a concept that can actually be measured? Scott Barry Kaufman reports on recent research calling into question the concept of authenticity. “Authenticity is one of the most valued characteristics in our society. As children we are taught to just ‘be ourselves’, and as adults we can choose from a large number of self-help books that will tell us how important it is to get in touch with our ‘real self’. It’s taken as a given by everyone that authenticity is a real thing and that it is worth cultivating. Even the science of authenticity has surged in recent years, with hundreds of journal articles, conferences, and workshops. However, the more that researchers have put authenticity under the microscope, the more muddied the waters of authenticity have become. Many common ideas about authenticity are being overturned. Turns out, authenticity is a real mess.”

 

US-MEXICO-BORDER-IMMIGRATION-MIGRANTS“Christ in the Camps: Migrant children are suffering. Christians need to help.” – “I humbly reach out to the only faction of Americans I know of who have the ear of the administration and who care about children: my brothers and sisters in Christ who attend evangelical churches. It seems clear that we are in the midst of a profound humanitarian crisis and that children are being forced to suffer in terrible ways. Maybe it was never supposed to be this way; maybe the system just got overwhelmed. But this is a disaster. Children are programmed to think that any separation from a parent or a caregiver is a life-or-death situation. I keep imagining one of these children having a dream that he’s home, with his mother and brothers and sisters, but then waking up to see he’s still in a terrible place. If evangelical Christians stood up for these children, things could change in the camps very quickly.”

 

5758.social“Citizens Aren’t Just Born. They’re Formed” Kevin den Dulk at Comment: “My university (yes: by press time Calvin College will be a university) recently crafted an ‘educational framework.’ Its purpose, as I understand it, is to ‘operationalize’ our primary mission. Three of its four categories of goals—’faith,’ ‘learning,’ and ‘vocation’—are standard fare for an institution of both higher learning and Christian persuasion. While the fourth category—’citizenship’—has a less obvious connection to mission, the thrust of the other three lead in its direction. A Christian university committed to learning and vocation ought to educate for citizenship, a calling none of us can escape. At least that’s my reading as a civic educator.”

Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn_1974b“Solzhenitsyn: Politics and the Ascent of the Soul” – I have returned to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn again and again in the past few years. His insights are poignant and soulful in a secular age. Here’s Daniel J. Mahoney reflecting on the enduring legacy of Solzhenitsyn.  “As we rapidly move along in the twenty-first century, [Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn, chronicler of the fate of the soul under both ideological despotism and, increasingly, a soft and relativistic democracy, very much remains our contemporary: a true friend of ‘liberty and human dignity,’ as Tocqueville put it, and a partisan of the human soul imparted to us by a just and merciful God.”

 

return to shire alan lee“Unscoured”Alan Jacobs wrote an alternative ending to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which he shared at his blog. It is, well…worth reading.

 

Music: Asgeir, “Underneath It,” from Afterglow.

[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.]