The Weekend Wanderer: 24 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.


policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin-kw3ndwdf-7d312cf67d6382959ed12b355aab78f7“Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin: Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election” – John Piper, Pastor Emeritus at Bethlehem Baptist Church, set of a mild Twitter-storm when this article released because of sections like this: “this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.” Or this: “When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine. It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.” While I may disagree with certain aspects of Piper’s theology, I was encouraged by his words here that show his consistency over the years (as opposed to other evangelical leaders who have changed their approach from one President to the next) and keep us rooted in the Word of God and kingdom citizenship.


Nigeria conflict“Deaths From Nigeria Protests Now 56 With Crackdown, Amnesty Says” – We are not the only nation dealing with conflict related to political and social tensions. Nigeria, one of the most stable and robust nations in sub-Saharan Africa has trembled with protests related to police brutality in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Please pray for this situation in Nigeria, which Amnesty International now says has resulted in 56 deaths. “‘Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters,’ Isa Sanusi, a spokesman for the group in Nigeria, said in an emailed statement. ‘In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.'”


Diane Langberg“Today’s Crises Have Multiplied and Exposed Trauma: How Will the Church Respond?” – One of my biggest concerns as we head into the winter of this pandemic is how we deal with mental health challenges in this time. Diane Langberg speaks directly to that pressing challenge: “We are living in times of trauma, surrounded by confusion, threats and unrest. The COVID-19 pandemic and outcries against racial injustice profoundly impact our world, our nation, our churches, our neighborhoods and our homes. It is disruptive and unsettling. And if we’re honest, we feel vulnerable. In fact, we are vulnerable. But the threats are not merely external. We face internal threats as well. Many are anxious or depressed or grieving. Others are full of anger. There is no end in sight.”


man-2125123_1280-690x450“Bioethics must recognize ‘we are made for love and friendship,’ scholar argues” – At last part of the reason we are struggling with trauma these days is the radical changes to our relationships. This is not just an accident of human experience but a vital part of how we are made. Because God is a relational Being, He has made humans as relational beings as well. O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law and Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, argues for something similar in his his new book, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. In contrast to the prevailing hyper-individualized approach to ethics which downplays the body in relation to personal decisions, Snead calls for a recovery of the significance of embodiment in anthropology and in the realm of bioethics. This interview with Charles C. Camosy for Crux gives some insight into the direction of his argument.


Azerbaijan Armenia reconciliation“Turks and Armenians Reconcile in Christ. Can Azeris Join Them?” – The recent tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijin over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has captured our attention recently, but has a long history. When there is a long history of pain and tension, is it possible for reconciliation of relationship to happen? Jayson Casper reports on this helpful parallel of the relational healing that occurred between Turks and Armenians as an example of what could happen for Azeris and Armenians. May God help us.


Thomas Howard“Died: Thomas Howard, Author Who Said ‘Evangelical Is Not Enough'” – Thomas Howard passed away this past week. He was one of the evangelicals who walked the Canterbury Trail to Anglicanism and eventually swam the Tiber to become Roman Catholic. He told the tale in several books, most notable Evangelical Is Not Enough and Lead, Kindly Light. Along the way, Howard left us a treasure of historic recovery of liturgy and a beautiful engagement with literature that is a wonderful legacy.


Music: The Fearless Flyers, “Assassin.”

[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: 11 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.


Churches reopening“Churches, Coronavirus, and The New York Times” – Earlier this week The New York Times published an article with this title “Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Cases.” The lede said, “The virus has infiltrated Sunday services, church meetings and youth camps. More than 650 cases have been linked to reopened religious facilities.” Now, at first blush you may say, “Oh my, how could churches be so foolish!” But then, without diminishing how serious everything is, you may stop and consider 650 cases across 50 states with total cases of more than 65,000 in the nation and say, “What a minute. Do these statistics really support the claim being made?” And then you might read this article by Ed Stetzer, former head of LifeWay Research and Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, and you reassess everything.


Supreme Court“What the Ministerial Exception Will Mean for Religious Employers” – Very significant rulings have come out of the Supreme Court in this past month. Several in the past week and a half have made significant impact in relation to religion in America, and this week brought a decision that put debate around religious liberty squarely at the center. “The Supreme Court defended religious liberty on Wednesday, bolstering and broadening the so-called ‘ministerial exception.’ In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that the Constitution protects the freedom of religious organizations to hire and fire employees who play a vital role in fulfilling their religious mission.”


harps“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” – This letter published in Harper’s seemed to cause quite a stir online this past week. While not at first glance related to faith and culture, it actually is about a certain kind of faith and culture. There is a clash of ideologies in our public sphere that is bringing a strange alliance of different groups. Here, artists and intellectuals as varied as Wynton Marsalis, Malcolm Gladwell, J. K. Rowling, and Salman Rushdie came together to sign onto a letter calling for the respect of free speech and the open exchange of information and ideas in a culture that is often aimed at cancelling and public shaming. A friend pointed me to Fredrik deBoer’s assessment of this called “Ending the Charade,” which is brief and will get you thinking. Also, at the Convivial Society, L. M. Sacasas directs our attention to the way that digital media plays into this debate in “The Material Sources of Free Speech Anxieties.”


Asian American Collaborative“Asian American Community Tackles Anti-Blackness In Chicago” – Last week, community members from the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC) marched from Chinatown to Bridgeport to fight anti-Blackness. WBEZ in Chicago interviews Ray Chang, the President of the Asian American Christian Collaborative and also the Ministry Associate for Discipleship in the Chaplain’s Office at Wheaton College. You can listen to the thirteen-minute interview at the link above, but also find out more about this even at the website for the AACC here.


Mel Lawrenz“Working Through Traumatic Loss and Grief: Interview with Dr. Mel Lawrenz on his new book, A Chronicle of Grief – When I moved to Milwaukee, I served as the college pastor at Elmbrook Church for five years. Mel Lawrenz was the Senior Pastor of Elmbrook at that time, and his daughter, Eva, was part of the college ministry I served. I still remember hearing the shocking news that Eva passed away unexpectedly in 2017 at the age of 30. Mel had written previously about grief and trauma, but when I received a copy of his book, A Chronicle of Grief, I knew it would be more personal and powerful. Here is an interview of Mel by Jamie Aten, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute.


AP-immigration-trump-cf-170126_12x5_1600“Evangelical group writes to Trump urging him not to end DACA” – “A group of Evangelical leaders are writing to President Trump this week to urge him to reconsider plans to resubmit a filing to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Seven religious leaders encouraged the president to leave DACA in place until Congress passes legislation that permanently protects Dreamers, the young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. The Hill reported this week that Trump is expected to refile paperwork this week to end DACA.”


monreale“Rehabilitating the Quadriga” – This may seem a little off the beaten path, but I came across this 2013 article by Peter Leithart on rehabilitating the Quadriga, while writing a book review that I hope will come out this fall. The Quadriga is the fourfold sense of Scriptural interpretation with roots in the early church fathers: literal sense, allegorical/theological sense, tropological/moral sense, and anagogical/eschatological sense. While usually discredited in discussions of modern models of biblical interpretation, there is a movement afoot to recover figural or allegorical reading of Scripture, not in the sense of fanciful readings, but in the sense of regaining the theological meaning inherent within the literal reading of Scripture. Leithart does a good job of summarizing it all.


Ennio Morricone“Ennio Morricone’s life in pictures” – Okay, we are all over the place today, but if you did not hear that Ennio Morricone passed away, you should stop for a moment and take a look at this quick summary of his life in pictures. Famous for writing the scores for “spaghetti westerns” directed by Sergio Leone, such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars, Morricone continued to work on film scores, including those with more overtly religious themes. He received numerous Oscar nominations for his film scores, including that for The Mission, which was sometimes described as nearly overwhelming the movie in its power.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile, “Scarcely Cricket,” from Not Our First Goat Rodeo.

[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 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.


George Floyd gospel legacy“George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston” – Kate Shellnut at Christanity Today: “The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a ‘person of peace’ ushering ministries into the area. Before moving to Minneapolis for a job opportunity through a Christian work program, the 46-year-old spent almost his entire life in the historically black Third Ward, where he was called ‘Big Floyd’ and regarded as an ‘OG,’ a de-facto community leader and elder statesmen, his ministry partners say.”


AND legacy“Statement from The AND Campaign on Racialized Violence in America” – “We mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives due to racialized violence. The grief of their loved ones is our grief and we share in their agony. The riots in Minneapolis are not to be glorified or romanticized, but we must realize that they are a product of a riotous and unjust system. The disorder began when a man’s rights were violated and his life was taken. American racism was rioting against the people long before they took to the streets. We must condemn and address the cause before we can appropriately address the broken reaction.”


DallasWillard-sm

“Becoming The Kinds of Leaders Who Can Do The Job” – Here is some wisdom from Dallas Willard published in 1999, later compiled into a chapter in Renewing the Christian Mind, that connects with the call to spiritual and moral leadership in this moment. “We had read all of Dallas’ books and been deeply impacted by them—not least by his latest, The Divine Conspiracy. But Brian had just finished presenting some thoughts on new models of leadership—leaders marked not so much by conquest and technique, but by spiritual goodness and wisdom. And so we sat there, slumped pensively in our chairs, until someone finally said, ‘Dallas…please talk to us about how we become those kind of people.’ So, during a break, Dallas began listing some of his thoughts on a whiteboard. And then in his gracious, careful way, he challenged us to become the kind of leaders this world so desperately needs. The following is some of what he told us.”


Grief Comes to Church“Letting Grief Come to Church” – Whether we know it or not, we are all grieving different losses that the pandemic has brought into our lives. What does it mean to allow space for grief in the church and how might that help us experience release and healing in our lives? Clarissa Moll writes about this for CT Pastors, sharing five ways we can welcome what may feel unwelcome once the doors reopen at our churches.


Supreme Court Church“Supreme Court, in 5-4 Decision, Rejects Church’s Challenge to Shutdown Order”New York Times: “The Supreme Court on Friday turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority. ‘Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,’ Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling.”


balcony church“Balcony church gains popularity in Kenya amid pandemic” – I always enjoy creativity in how churches gather people or reach out to people. Here is one that I have never heard of that seems well-suited for this time of the pandemic, flowing from a children’s outreach in Nairobi, Kenya. “Machira has taken his ‘Balcony to Balcony’ service on the road since Kenya’s first case was found in mid-March. It has become quite popular, the preacher at the All Saints Cathedral of the Anglican Church of Kenya said.”


Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral Webcasts Sunday Mass Due To Coronavirus

“Seeking to Understand the Rise, Fall, and Loss of Young Pastors” –  Robert Stewart writes at Chuck DeGroat’s blog about a serious and hard topic. “At least (five) high profile young pastors of whom I’m aware have taken their lives during these past twelve months alone. As painful as this topic is to discuss I believe that we absolutely must force ourselves to do so if we’re ever understand what’s going on here. We shouldn’t be trying to address this crisis until we better understand all the cultural, characterological, spiritual, and biological issues which influence it. After the space shuttle Challenger disaster stunned the world in 1986 all shuttle flights were grounded until the underlying cause (defective “o-rings” in the right side solid rocket booster) could be understood and resolved. Seven astronauts died unnecessarily in that incident. Almost that many young pastors (or maybe more) have died in this past year. And, the many opinions about why don’t add up to any real comprehension which could guide us towards life saving solutions. It just seems unconscionable to continue on as usual amid the carnage. So, how might we begin the quest to understand and solve this crisis with an inquiry as focused and complete as the one which solved the riddle of the Challenger?”


 

Music: Common Hymnal (featuring Dee Wilson),Rose Petals,” from Common Hymnal

[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: 9 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.


Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 10.42.06 AM“The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK” – Seriously, you have to watch this video. I know, when someone says that, you may be skeptical like me, but do yourself a favor and watch the beauty of various churches of various denominations across the UK coming together to sing a blessing over their nation. You may also enjoy hearing this interview with Tim Hughes, writer of the well-known song “Here I am To Worship,” about the project.


singing“German churches stopped singing to prevent virus’s spread. Should Americans clam up, too?” – Speaking of singing…I had a conversation with a group of pastors about what congregational gatherings would be like after the pandemic. To be honest, it was a bit of an unsettling conversation because we jointly realized that a good deal of what we experience as corporate worship would be changed by physical distancing, mask-wearing, and the necessary precautions of cleaning before and after services in all spaces. Then I read this article, and it really made me consider something else: should we sing corporately when we first regather or not?


Ahmaud Arbery“Ahmaud Arbery, the Killing of Whiteness, & the Preservation of Black Lives in America” – I remember talking with my friend, Bishop Walter Harvey, in the midst of our work with The Milwaukee Declaration about what it means for someone who is white to see the world in the way someone does who is black. Of course, you cannot do that entirely, but we agreed that at least part of that new sort of vision is when you feel the fear for each other’s children’s safety in walking down the street or when your heart drops as you see another black life taken. This last week brought that home to me again with the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The concept of whiteness is much debated, but I will go on record in saying what should be obvious: white supremacy and racism have no place in Christianity or Christ’s Church, and should be opposed in the broader culture. Why? Because each and every person is made in God’s image and valuable in God’s sight, but also because God makes space for “every nation, tribe, people and language” equally before the throne of God for eternity (Revelation 7:9-10) that should be imaged forth now on earth (Galatians 3:28). There is equal ground before the Cross of Christ and in the family of God. It is difficult to put into words, but I urge you to read this article by Celucien L. Joseph at The Witness. You may also benefit from reading Russell Moore’s “The Killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the Justice of God” and Andrew MacDonald’s “Don’t Look Away: Why Ahmaud Arbery’s Tragedy Must Be Addressed Head On.”


Pakistan sewer cleaners“Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply” – “Before Jamshed Eric plunges deep below Karachi’s streets to clean out clogged sewers with his bare hands, he says a little prayer to Jesus to keep him safe. The work is grueling, and he wears no mask or gloves to protect him from the stinking sludge and toxic plumes of gas that lurk deep underground. ‘It is a difficult job,’ Mr. Eric said. ‘In the gutter, I am often surrounded by swarms of cockroaches.’ After a long day, the stench of his work lingers even at home, a constant reminder of his place in life. ‘When I raise my hand to my mouth to eat, it smells of sewage,’ he said. A recent spate of deaths among Christian sewer cleaners in Pakistan underscores how the caste discrimination that once governed the Indian subcontinent’s Hindus lingers, no matter the religion.”


Thomas Lynch“Death Without Ceremony: We need time and space to grieve. The pandemic denies us this.” – American poet, essayist, and undertaker, Thomas Lynch, at The Atlantic: “Faith, we are told, inoculates against fear. We are all in this together, the president says. I wonder. Though I was named after my father’s dead uncle, my faith has been shaken into a provisional pose. Rather than serve a bishop or church, I chose, like my father, ‘to serve the living by caring for the dead.’ Some days it seems obvious that a loving God’s in charge; others it seems we are entirely alone.”


117211“Letter Writing Isn’t a Lost Art in Egypt. It’s an Ancient Ministry.” – I was beginning to write an article on the pastoral ministry of letter writing, when I stumbled upon this article about the ancient and present ministry of letter writing in the Egyptian Coptic church. “In his rural New Jersey home, Wafik Habib carefully laid out his letter collection before us, now more than a half century old. Handwritten by the late Bishop Samuel to the physician, they represented the bishop’s pastoral care to a nascent diaspora Christian community started in 1950s North America. We could sense the bishop’s presence in the words of comfort and exhortation set to pen and paper.”


black hole“Astronomers Discover the Closest Known Black Hole” – Since I was a young child, I have been fascinated by astronomy. Black holes are one of those most fascinating objects, not only because of the 1979 Disney movie, but because of the fascinating impact black holes have on space and time. Now astronomers have discovered the closest known black hole to our solar system. “The pair of stars in a system called HR 6819 is so close to us that on a clear night in the Southern Hemisphere, a person might be able to spot them without a telescope. What that stargazer wouldn’t see, though, is the black hole hiding right there in the constellation Telescopium. At just 1,000 light-years away, it is the closest black hole to Earth ever discovered, and it could help scientists find the rest of the Milky Way’s missing black holes.


ECPAChristianBookAward“Christian Book Awards 2020” – The Christian Book Awards for 2020 were announced this past week. I was not familiar with most of the titles, other than Harold L. Senkbeil’s The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s HeartThe book of the year award went to Mark Vroegop’s Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, which is an important topic that many of us are talking about right now.


Music: Cannonball Adderley Quintet, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”

[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.]

Lamenting Our Losses: three vital parts of lament in the pandemic

lament.001

I was talking with a friend the other day about some of the changes we have experienced during the pandemic. Some of them were simple—activities we could no longer enjoy or places we could no longer visit—and others were more complex—missed milestones in our lives, friends and family members suffering with sickness, and concerns about the future.  Maybe you have had conversations like that recently as well. I certainly hope so because one of the most important things we can do in this time of the pandemic is to lament our losses. 

lamet 003Lament is commonly defined as “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” Within Scripture lament has the added significance of mingling our grief and sorrow with prayer as we bring it into the presence of God. Lament takes up a considerable amount of space in the Bible, from the psalms of lament to the Hebrew prophets to the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane and more. I often distinguish between complaint and lament by saying that with complaint we practice the presence of our problems, but with lament we practice the presence of God while simultaneously bringing our problems to Him. Complaint lives in agony with the self. Lament lives in agony with God. Each and every one of us needs lament these days. Let me suggest three parts of lament that are vital during this time of the pandemic.

The first is to name our losses. At a spiritual retreat I attended not too long ago, participants were asked to write a list of losses we had experienced in the past year. It was illuminating for me to write down things, whether small or large, I perceived as losses. When I read the list later, I realized some things that seemed small initially had become larger over time, occupying a lot of my background attention in life. Until I named those losses it was difficult for me to deal with them or let them go. Consider the words of the psalmist in Psalm 73 where inner troubles stewed until a name was given to the real source of trouble, both internally and externally.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalm 73:2-3)

So, let me ask us: have we named our losses? Have we written them down, given a name to  them, or voiced them aloud as a loss to ourselves or others? We cannot lament without naming our losses.

The second vital aspect of lament is to grieve our losses. For some of us, this can be particularly difficult. My Scandinavian upbringing has taught me how to work hard and persevere in trials, but it has not always helped me to grieve things appropriately. Grieving was something that I had to learn how to do. Grieving is an essential part of lament. As mentioned above, lament gives space for passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Think about David grieving the disastrous death of Saul and Jonathan at the hands of the Philistines.

A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen! (2 Samuel 1:19)

Here is the anointed of God, a mighty warrior, a man after God’s own heart, lifting up loud cries of grief over the loss of a dear friend and the untimely ruin of a ruler. What about us? What are our losses? Have we given expression through grief about these things? If not, our souls become a cesspool of hidden pain and difficulty often leading to bitterness and anger.

lament.002The third vital aspect of lament is to bring our losses to God. You may think this last point is obvious, but I have found over the years that this more difficult than we might expect. One the one hand, we find it easy to linger in our troubles. We readily practice the presence of our problems to the point that they become a sort of sick companion. But lament is not about lingering alone in our griefs. Psychology without acknowledgment of God often becomes narcissistic. On the other hand, those of us familiar with the church seem to find it easiest to be happy or joyful in the presence of God instead of giving voice to our griefs and angst. A quick search through the most popular worship songs today reveals very few songs of authentic angst and pain brought into God’s presence. Spirituality without space for lament quickly becomes superficial. Consider with me the book of Habakkuk, where the prophet meets with God again and again in his pain and complaint.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Habakkuk 1:2; 2:1)

Habakkuk shows us what true lament looks like, when trouble and pain is named, grieved, and expressed in the presence of God.

Friends, I find it hard to express how important it is that we recover lament today. I am sure each that every one of us could fairly quickly make a long list if we tried to name our losses. However, I am less confident we are truly making space in life to grieve our losses and to do so in the presence of God. I worry for all of us that without lament the deep places of our souls will fill with bitterness and anger, and that such foul waters, undrained, will spring out into our lives and those around us when we least expect it causing great ruin. May God help us to lament!