The Weekend Wanderer: 13 February 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.


Iran Gospel Movements“Meet the World’s Fastest-Growing Evangelical Movement” – Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at The Gospel Coalition: “While official reports still claim that 99.4 percent of Iranians practice Islam, a 2020 survey found that just 40 percent actually identify as Muslim. An even larger number—about 47 percent—said they were ‘nones,’ atheists, spiritual, agnostic, or humanist. Another 8 percent claim Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion. And a small sliver—1.5 percent—said they were Christians. ‘About 20 years ago, the number of Christian converts from a Muslim background was between 5,000 and 10,000 people,’ Crabtree said. ‘Today that’s between 800,000 to 1 million people. That’s massive growth.’ According to Operation World, Iran has the fastest-growing evangelical movement in the world.”


The Black Church“The Black Church: This is our story – this is our song” – I just saw this new series premiering from PBS: “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song is a moving four-hour, two-part series from executive producer, host and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, that traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power. The documentary reveals how Black people have worshipped and, through their spiritual journeys, improvised ways to bring their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, while translating them into a form of Christianity that was not only truly their own, but a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was found in their ancestors’ enslavement across the Middle Passage.” Trailer here.


Hershel Shanks“Died: Hershel Shanks, Editor Who Saved Biblical Archaeology from Academics” – Daniel Silliman at Christianity Today: “Hershel Shanks, the founder and longtime editor of Biblical Archaeology Reviewdied on Friday at the age of 90….The biggest test of Shanks’s clout in the field came in the early 1990s, when he decided it was time to make the Dead Sea Scrolls widely available. Though the texts had been discovered in the 1940s, only bits and pieces had been shown to the public—or even to other scholars. The academics in charge of the study of the scrolls were carefully guarding them until their own extensive research was published….Shanks thought this was dumb and persuaded Abegg to let him publish the ‘bootleg’ version of the scrolls that Abegg had reconstructed by computer from a concordance of Dead Sea Scrolls words that was assembled in the late 1950s but kept secret outside of a small group of specialists.”


Kathleen Norris - Retreat“How to Retreat When We Can’t Go to Retreats” – Here is renowned author Kathleen Norris: “For years in America, the retreat centers sponsored by churches and monasteries have been booked up well in advance. People recognize that they need the chance to enter into silence and live for a while in a place where the day is centered on prayer and contemplation. They need the music, art, and conversation that programs at these facilities provide. These centers are often found in places of great natural beauty, encouraging guests to take time to enjoy and praise God’s creation as they hike a trail or swim in a river. I doubt that anyone expected 2020 would be the year when we were all suddenly plunged into a forced retreat in our own homes. “


evangelical Myanmar“After Military Coup, It’s ‘Time to Shout’ for Myanmar Evangelicals” – Kate Shellnutt at Christianity Today: “Evangelical pastors in Myanmar have taken to the streets alongside their Buddhist neighbors in the week since a military takeover, believing that God is on the people’s side and praying desperately for him to bring justice. Amid nationwide internet and phone shutdowns, some churches gathering online due to the pandemic couldn’t connect to worship together last weekend, the first Sunday since the coup in the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma. Hundreds of displaced Christians have been physically blocked out of their towns due to travel restrictions and roadblocks.”


Music: Lachrimae” by John Dowland performed by Christopher Morrongiello, filmed in the Chapel from Le Château de la Bastie d’Urfé at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 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.


Chadwick Boseman“Chadwick Boseman: Man of faith in real life, ‘Black Panther’ on screen” – This past week brought news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Boseman, best known for his portrayal of the title character of Marvel’s Black Panther, also portrayed Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall in feature films. “From the impression he left on a pastor of his youth to his own words at the 2018 commencement of Howard University, his alma mater, Boseman demonstrated a Christian life that included service, overcoming stereotypes and a desire to depict strong characters.”


Elon Musk Neuralink pig“Human Interests and Technological Systems” – What happens when human life serves technology more than technology serves human life? L. M. Sacasas critiques a recent display of apparent technological ingenuity by Elon Musk to raise significant questions about human life and technology. “Who is being plugged in to what? Or, to put it another way, who is the dominant partner, the computer or the brain? Are we plugging into a system that will serve our ends, or are we being better fitted to serve the interests of the technological system.”


Congregation at church praying

“1 in 5 churches facing permanent closure within 18 months due to COVID-19 shutdowns: Barna president” – Many churches have been detrimentally impacted by COVID-19, whether in the loss of church members, the inability to meet in person, or financial difficulties. In an interview with NPR, David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, predicts that 1 in 5 churches could face permanent closure in the next year and a half because of shutdowns related to COVID-19.


vocation“Vocation in a Time of Precedented Uncertainty” – Here’s Noah Toly speaking about vocation in Comment:  “Even if ‘unprecedented’ is overused, the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the containment and mitigation measures put in place to check the spread of the disease have been extraordinarily disruptive, destroying lives, upending livelihoods, and clouding the future with uncertainty. Among the many casualties of these current risks and future uncertainties is sure-footed conviction about our vocations. Why would we continue to invest time and attention in the same things that captured our imaginations before the pandemic? Where does our work fit into questions about the future of the global economy, the possibility of environmental integrity, the pace of scientific discovery, or the scale of global charitable giving?


iran“Researchers Find Christians in Iran Approaching 1 Million” – While not the first to report the news of the growth of Christianity in Iran, what is perhaps most interesting is that this latest research about the growth of christianity in Iran is from a non-faith-based perspective. With government statistics showing the traditional Armenian and Assyrian Christians in Iran number 117,700, ” a new survey of 50,000 Iranians—90 percent residing in Iran—by GAMAAN, a Netherlands-based research group, 1.5 percent identified as Christian.” This data extrapolates out to over 750,000 people in the total population of Iran.


Music: Max Richter, “Mercy,” from Voices.

[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 January 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.

114587“After Soleimani’s Death, Iran’s Christians Brace for ‘Tsunami of Disaster and Opportunity'” – Last week, most of the international attention was on the events and rising tensions between the US and Iran. One of the questions that rose in my mind immediately was, “What does this mean for the astounding movement of God, brining many Persian-background people to Christ both inside and outside Iran?” Well, it seems from this report by Christianity Today, it brings both potential disaster and opportunity. I hope you will join me both in reading this article and praying for our brothers and sisters.

 

journal-fountain-pen“In-Depth Answers to Ten Big Questions About Spiritual Formation” – When I first surrendered my life to Christ, I pored over Scripture and any writer I could find who helped me understand the life with God better. I was so hungry for God that anything someone else recommended would immediately become a part of my discipleship practice or reading.  I encountered Christ through the charismatic movement and so one influential stream of my spiritual life was charismatic Christianity. However, I grew up in a Presbyterian church so another one of the influential streams of my spiritual life was very Word-centered. Sometimes, these streams seemed to run in opposite directions, but when they converged it was a beautiful thing. It was Richard Foster, and those working with him with Renovaré, who first helped me see how valuable it could be to have different streams of Christian tradition come together in our lives as part of an overall spiritual formation trajectory with God. This article hosted at Dallas Willard’s website talks about the nature of spiritual formation in the Christian life around ten big questions we grapple with on that topic. Some of this may seem a bit dated, but it is still helpful in considering what is important in our growth with the Triune God.

 

Notre Dame“Notre Dame Cathedral ‘not saved yet’ and still at risk of collapse” – One of the biggest stories of last year in terms of architecture and church life was the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in April 2019, as well as the billions of euros pledged to rebuilt it. This past week, however, the French general, Jean-Louis Georgelin,  assigned to oversee the task of rebuilding said, “The cathedral is still in a state of peril.”

 

114509“United Methodist Church Announces Proposal to Split Over Gay Marriage” – Another monumental story in religion around the world came in March 2019, when the global gathering of the United Methodist Church, in a highly conflicted vote, affirmed the traditional view of marriage. Since that vote, discussions have arisen to part ways between the more progressive western church and the more traditional church in the rest of the world. This past week, plans emerged for a mutually agreed upon parting of ways that has widespread support from all parties, at least preliminarily, with more details to emerge on January 13. So long to the “United” Methodist Church as fault lines emerge in various denominational bodies over these sorts of issues.

 

Lois Irene Evans“Funeral of Lois Evans, wife of Tony Evans, set for their Dallas church” – Lois Evans, wife of Bible teacher and pastor Tony Evans, passed away on December 30 after being diagnosed with biliary cancer. Lois Evans was married to Tony Evans for 49 years and was the founder of Pastors’ Wives Ministry, author of many books, and leader of Christian ministry in various settings. The celebration of Lois’ home-going is viewable online here, including many moving tributes and worship led by Kirk Franklin.

 

rabbi-chaim-rottenberg“Rabbi who survived machete attack has a unifying message” – From CNN: “The New York rabbi who survived an attack at his home during Hanukkah urged people to put aside differences and ‘work side by side to eradicate hatred.’ Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, leader of Congregation Netzach Yisroel, made his first public comments since the December 28 attack during a celebration on the seventh day of Hanukkah in the hamlet of Monsey. Five people were injured, including his son.”

 

Music: Donny McClurkin with Richard Smallwood, “Total Praise,” from Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

[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: 5 October 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.

guyger-hugging-01-abc-jt-191002_hpMain_4x3_992“Extraordinary act of mercy: Brother of Botham Jean hugs and forgives Amber Guyger after 10-year sentence imposed” – Forgiveness is complicated and powerful. There has been a lot of discussion around Brandt Jean’s response to Amber Guyger, but there is no doubt that it is powerful to see the extension of forgiveness to an offender. We saw something similar to this after the shooting of nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Different people respond in different ways. Justice is required because all lives are equally valuable as made in the image of God. We must admit that justice and forgiveness apply in overlapping arenas of the public square and interpersonal relationships. Justice and forgiveness do not exist in an “either/or” dilemma perpetually at odds with one another. We must continue to debate the appropriate and equitable application of justice in these situations. We must also continue to learn more about forgiveness until we see the Author of forgiveness face to face.

 

SheepAmongWolvesII_6.16.1“Iran has world’s ‘fastest-growing church,’ despite no buildings – and it’s mostly led by women: documentary” – A friend passed this article along to me about a new documentary, Sheep Among Wolves, exploring the dramatic growth of Christianity in Iran. This dynamic growth is fueled by discipleship and not by structures. I have had the privilege of talking with movement leaders in this part of the world, as well as with the Iranian diaspora, and it is fascinating to hear about this surging work of God. While I haven’t watched the nearly two-hour documentary yet, I look forward to doing so.

 

Ghostly figure leaving the interior of Sanahin Monastery, Debed Canyon, Armenia“Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why?” – One of the biggest discussions amongst religious folks these days is the decline of religion in America, particularly Christianity, and the rise of what is known as the “religious nones.” I am increasingly convinced that this at least partially a result and symptom of (manipulative?) messaging in the public square more than it is about theology and decline in religious desire. Derek Thompson writes: “Religion has lost its halo effect in the past three decades, not because science drove God from the public square, but rather because politics did. In the 21st century, ‘not religious’ has become a specific American identity—one that distinguishes secular, liberal whites from the conservative, evangelical right.” Now, that will make you stop and think for awhile. You will wonder to yourself, “Is that true?” And you will read the news, and you will say, “That may just make sense.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 11.06.51 AM“InterVarsity can require its leaders to be Christian, judge rules” – In a headline that seems obvious, we return again to the contested crossroads of faith and the public square, this time in relation to student groups on university campuses. If fraternities and sororities can choose for their participants to be only men or women (which is already debated), can social or religious groups not also limit their members based on affiliation? Thankfully, a judge in Iowa used some basic common sense here in relation to a lawsuit filed by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship against the University of Iowa. One could ask the searching question, “Why would someone want to be part of the leadership of a group that stands for something they disagree with?” The answer to that may lead us into deeper questions about hidden motivations and some aspects of the entire contemporary social project aimed at eliminating all limits and differences between individuals and groups.

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-03 at 11.19.16 AM“The Miracle of Canticle – I don’t remember when I first read Walter Miller’s post-apocalyptic novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, but I do remember not wanting to put it down. What was it that captivated me within this quirky series of three novellas depicting a world ravaged by war and scavenging for lost knowledge and wisdom? Was it the central role some aspect of faith plays in the form of a resourceful monastery at the heart of all three stories? Was it the author’s ability to weave together meaningful conversation about reason, faith, war, and loss in the midst of fascinating science fiction that feels contemporary? It’s still hard for me to put my finger on it, but as the work celebrates sixty years since publication, I don’t mind joining Daniel Kennelly in savoring it again.

 

Music: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” from Ella and Louis.

[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.]