The Weekend Wanderer: 16 October 2021

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. Disclaimer: 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.


6531“India’s Christians living in fear as claims of ‘forced conversions’ swirl” – Hannah Ellis-Petersen in The Guardian: “It was a stifling July afternoon when the crowd moved into the small district of Lakholi, in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, and gathered outside the house of Tamesh War Sahu. Sahu, a 55-year-old volunteer with the Home Guard who had begun following Christianity more than five years previously, had never before had issues with his neighbours. But now, more than 100 people had descended from surrounding villages and were shouting Hindu nationalist slogans outside his front door. Sahu’s son Moses, who had come out to investigate the noise, was beaten by the mob, who then charged inside. As the men entered the house, they shouted death threats at Sahu’s wife and began tearing posters bearing Bible quotes down from the walls. Bibles were seized from the shelves and brought outside where they were set alight, doused in water and the ashes thrown in the gutter. ‘We will teach you a lesson,’ some people were heard to shout. ‘This is what you get for forcing people into Christianity.’ Sahu’s family was not the only one attacked that day. Four other local Christian households were also targeted by mobs, led by the Hindu nationalist vigilante group Bajrang Dal, known for their aggressive and hardline approach to ‘defending’ Hinduism. ‘We had never had any issue before but now our local community has turned against us,’ said Sahu.”


webRNS-Refugees-Afghanistan1-100821-768x512“How one Chicago church is stepping up to help Afghan evacuees” – Emily McFarlan Miller at Religion News Today: “When Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, fell to the Taliban in August, it didn’t take long for the ripple effects to be felt halfway around the globe in Amy Treier’s home in the Chicago suburbs. By mid-August, the local office of evangelical aid group World Relief was so overwhelmed by contributions to help Afghans arriving in the Chicago area it didn’t have the capacity to store them. Neither did Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Warrenville, Illinois, which Treier and her family attend. So Treier, a professor of political science at nearby evangelical Wheaton College, and others at Immanuel stepped up to sort and hold onto the donations until Afghans who need them arrive. Within weeks, her guest room had become a storage room. By late September, her living and dining room were starting to look more like storage as well. The donations in Treier’s home will be packaged into three welcome kits for evacuees who are being resettled by World Relief, one of nine agencies that contracts with the United States government to work with refugees in the U.S.”


First Nations art“G.K. Chesterton and the Art of the First Nations” – Matthew J. Milliner in The Hedgehog Review: “A century ago this year the British journalist G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) first visited North America, where he was received like a celebrity. He lectured to packed venues in the major cities of the East Coast, Canada, the Midwest, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Along the way he critiqued H.G. Wells’s naively optimistic view of progress as expressed in his Outline of History, which had been published the previous year in 1920. Wells saw humanity advancing beyond primitive cavemen toward a universal brotherhood (the ‘nascent Federal world State’) that surpassed traditional religion. Wells sought ‘religious emotion—stripped of corruptions and freed from its last priestly entanglements.’ Chesterton saw in such utopianism a ‘dangerously optimist’ view of history, which he believed remains ‘the first cry of Imperialism.’ So-called cavemen, for Chesterton, were not a waystation en route to modernity but were themselves a wonder, as evidenced by the inexplicable creative activity of rock art. These paintings didn’t need to be ‘explained’ with reductive theories (as they were in Chesterton’s day or ours); instead they testified to the inexplicable mystery of human consciousness itself. A century later, Chesterton’s vogue has been somewhat refreshed through the admiration of the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, but it would be hard to imagine his being received like a celebrity today by anyone but select admiring Catholics.”


https---bucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com-public-images-28d601cb-fec6-443e-b81d-2a7be461548b_1024x683“It’s Time for a Better and Smarter Alliance Against Porn” – David French in The Dispatch: “Last month I read a story that gave me a surge of cultural hope. No, strike that. It gave me another surge of cultural hope. And it made me ask a key question that afflicts more homes and more hearts than virtually any political issue that dominates the news. Is America ready for a culture change on pornography?  And that leads to a second question. Is America ready for a new alliance between feminists and Evangelicals, between left and right, to achieve that change?  The story that gave me hope came last month from New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg….Goldberg’s piece comes on the heels of a series of shattering reports that have exposed grotesque practices in the porn industry and grotesque recklessness from porn outlets.”


2021-CW-First-Baptist-Church-1-1-1536x864“Remnant of one of the oldest Black churches in US is unveiled in Virginia” – Adelle M. Banks in Religion News Service: “Archaeologists believe they have discovered the foundation of the original building of the First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the nation’s oldest Black churches. The announcement, shared first with descendants of First Baptist Church members, was officially made on Thursday (Oct. 7) by Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which runs the well-known outdoor living museum and historic district in Williamsburg. ‘The early history of our congregation, beginning with enslaved and free Blacks gathering outdoors in secret in 1776, has always been a part of who we are as a community,’ said the Rev. Reginald F. Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church, in a statement.”


social media“10 Beatitudes for the Use of Social Media” – W. David O. Taylor at Churches for the Sake of Others website: “In October 2020, less than a month away from the polarizing presidential election that haunts us still, Bishop Todd wrote me to see if I might craft a policy to offer guidance to pastors, ministry leaders and lay people around the ‘good’ use of social media. He had witnessed enough petty, cantankerous, inflammatory and divisive rhetoric across our respective communities—around topics like Christian nationalism, Critical Race Theory, Covid-19 protocols and school board policies—to feel the need to point us in a better direction. After a few initial attempts, however, I found myself giving up on the task. On the one hand, I struggled to find the right language, both surgical and sensitive, to address every possible concern and every possible context in a way that might be felt faithful for any given person’s or congregation’s ‘right’ use of social media. On the other hand, I couldn’t quite see how a policy qua policy would do much good to dissuade someone from doing whatever they pleased on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest. Letting it sit for a few weeks, I suddenly (perhaps Spirit-edly!) landed on what seemed to be a much better approach: a series of beatitudes.”


Black_hole“Wrinkles in Spacetime: The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar – Adam Rogers in Wired: “Kip Thorne looks into the black hole he helped create and thinks, ‘Why, of course. That’s what it would do.’ This particular black hole is a simulation of unprecedented accuracy. It appears to spin at nearly the speed of light, dragging bits of the universe along with it. (That’s gravity for you; relativity is superweird.) In theory it was once a star, but instead of fading or exploding, it collapsed like a failed soufflé into a tiny point of inescapable singularity. A glowing ring orbiting the spheroidal maelstrom seems to curve over the top and below the bottom simultaneously.”


Music: Hans Zimmer, “Day One,” from Interstellar: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

The Weekend Wanderer: 25 September 2021

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. Disclaimer: 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.


125581“The Afghan Immigration Crisis Is Bigger, Faster, More Traumatic. Are Ministries Ready?” – Stefani McDade at Christianity Today: “Eileen Wilson pulled up to work at the Hope Center for refugees and immigrants in Cleveland, only to find Afghan families from the surrounding area and beyond standing in line at its entrance and waiting in cars in the parking lot. Some had driven hours, even from out of state. The crowds were a spillover from an emergency legal clinic held earlier that week in partnership with Catholic Charities. They were there to get help for their family members trapped in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. Every day for weeks, Afghans have showed up at the Hope Center. They’re placed on a waiting list to be assigned a pro bono lawyer to help them file immigration paperwork for up to three family members back home.”


shang-chi-reclaim“Communal Heroism in Shang-Chi & The Legend of the 10 Rings” – Michelle Ami Reyes at The Asian American Christian Collaborative: “Family is often an afterthought in the MCU. In the movies, we are rarely introduced to a superheroes’ parents. From Captain America and Captain Marvel to Ant Man, a vast number of these individuals are disconnected from their parents, siblings, and grandparents. In the case of Tony Stark, Spiderman, Bruce Banner, and Monica Rambeau, their parents are deceased. We discover Hawkeye’s family in Avengers 2, but it is immediate (wife and kids), not generational (parents, grandparents). The list goes on. Throughout the Marvel franchise, we’ve become accustomed to the phenomena of discovered families—lone superheroes who find their people through a shared mission. The Marvel superhero paradigm has only been challenged twice: first in 2018 with the release of Black Panther and now with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Both films challenge the glorification of an all-powerful individual swooping in to save the day; the former through the power of an uncolonized African country, the latter through the strength of the Asian family.”


092221st-thomas-varanasi“The roots of India’s united churches” – Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “In the mid-20th century, ecumenism was a lively topic of debate within Protestant churches. As so often in Christian history, some of the boldest and most innovative experiments occurred on the mission frontier, in what we today call the Global South. We are approaching the 75th anniversary of a critical development in that story. When the British ruled India, they established their familiar denominations, which built churches along familiar lines. Those structures symbolized the imperial associations of the faith, in an overwhelmingly non-Christian society that was anxious to end British domination. As national independence approached in 1947, Christians faced challenging questions about their place in the emerging order.”


90“How the ‘Culture War’ Could Break Democracy” – An interview with James Davison Hunter in Politico: “In 1991, with America gripped by a struggle between an increasingly liberal secular society that pushed for change and a conservative opposition that rooted its worldview in divine scripture, James Davison Hunter wrote a book and titled it with a phrase for what he saw playing out in America’s fights over abortion, gay rights, religion in public schools and the like: ‘Culture Wars.’ Hunter, a 30-something sociologist at the University of Virginia, didn’t invent the term, but his book vaulted it into the public conversation, and within a few years it was being used as shorthand for cultural flashpoints with political ramifications. He hoped that by calling attention to the dynamic, he’d help America ‘come to terms with the unfolding conflict’ and, perhaps, defuse some of the tensions he saw bubbling. Instead, 30 years later, Hunter sees America as having doubled down on the ‘war’ part—with the culture wars expanding from issues of religion and family culture to take over politics almost totally, creating a dangerous sense of winner-take-all conflict over the future of the country.”


IC18-David-Fitch-400x400“A Different Kind of Leadership for the Church’s Future” – David Fitch at The Intersection Journal: “As evangelicalism and other movements proximate to it continue to fray and the dark underbelly is revealed, what comes next? Many are (justifiably) walking away from churches, deconstructing the christianity they received, on account of the oppressive and anti-Christic forces like racism, christian nationalism, patriarchy, and abuse being unveiled, not as side-issues, but as central to the animating life of what they knew as ‘church.’ For those who serve and lead in the wake of this mess, what could moving forward possibly mean or require? Should we walk away and let it burn? I believe that a faithful Christian witness is possible in the midst of (and perhaps because of) what is coming unraveled, but faithful witness requires a different kind of leadership.”


Myanmar Pastor“Baptist pastor shot dead amid continued attacks by the military” – From Christian Solidarity Worldwide: “A Baptist pastor was shot dead in Chin state in Myanmar/Burma on 18 September amid continued attacks by the Myanmar military on civilians in the state. Pastor Cung Biak Hum, 31, was shot by soldiers as he tried to help extinguish a blaze caused by artillery fire, which destroyed 19 homes in the Thantlang township. The Chin Human Rights Organization reported that soldiers proceeded to remove the pastor’s finger and steal his wedding ring. In response to the killing, Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar tweeted: ‘The murder of a Baptist minister and bombing of homes in Thantlang, Chin State are the latest examples of the living hell being delivered daily by junta forces against the people of Myanmar. The world needs to pay closer attention. More importantly, the world needs to act.'”


early Christian hermit grave“Possible Grave of Medieval Christian Hermit Excavated in Spain” – News release in Archaeology: “According to a statement released by the National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH), a team of researchers has excavated a rock-lined burial placed near the entrance to the San Tirso and San Bernabé Hermitage, a medieval Christian site in Ojo Guareña, a series of caves in northern Spain’s Cantabrian Mountains. Archaeologist Ana Isabel Ortega said the site has been dated to the early eighth century A.D., pushing back the founding of the hermitage by several centuries to about the time of the arrival of Islamic Moors in Spain. The burial is thought to hold the remains of one of the first Christian hermits to live an isolated life in the caves.”


Music: Michael Grigoni, “Call,” from Mount Carmel.

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: 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.]

A Prayer of Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael with children

And shall I pray Thee change Thy will my Father,
Until it be according unto mine?
But no, Lord, no, that shall never be, rather
I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.

I pray Thee hush the hurrying eager longing
I pray Thee soothe the pangs of keen desire.
See in my quiet places wishes thronging,
Forbid them, Lord, purge, though it be with fire.

And work in me to will and do Thy pleasure.
Let all within me, peaceful, reconciled,
Tarry content my Well-beloved’s leisure,
At last, at last, even as a weaned child.

By Amy Carmichael, missionary to India.