The Weekend Wanderer: 18 December 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.


Warren - angels“The Cosmos Is More Crowded Than You Think” – Tish Harrison Warren in Christianity Today: “For close to 15 years, I forgot about the existence of angels. I didn’t exactly decide I no longer believed in them. I simply didn’t think about them, and if I ever did, it was a passing thought about how corny the depiction of angels usually is. I rediscovered angels by putting a baby to sleep at night. When my first child was a newborn, I realized one night, to my surprise, that without really noticing I had developed a habit of asking God to send his angels to protect her. Back then I worked at Vanderbilt University and became a regular at a Greek Orthodox cafe and bookstore near campus. I loved its quiet beauty, its ancient books, and its veggie chili. I got to know Father Parthenios, an Antiochian priest, and his wife (known to all as simply ‘Presbytera,’ or ‘priest’s wife’), who ran the place together. One afternoon, late in my pregnancy, Presbytera handed me an icon of an angel and told me it was for the new baby. I appreciated her kindness but wasn’t particularly spiritually moved. I’m a Protestant, after all. At the time I felt no particular skepticism toward icons or angels, but I didn’t feel a deep connection either. Still, I hung the tiny wooden icon on my daughter’s wall.”


Jesus_Christmas“Christmas Celebrates a Historical Event, Americans Say” – Aaron Earles at LIfeway Research: “Christmas is a celebration of a real event, according to most Americans. Just don’t expect them to know exactly why Jesus was born and came to earth. A new study from Lifeway Research finds close to 3 in 4 Americans believe Jesus was born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. Even more say Jesus is the son of God the Father, but less than half believe Jesus existed prior to being born on that first Christmas. ‘Most Americans consider Jesus’ birth a historical fact,’ said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. ‘It can be easy to only evaluate Jesus like you would any other historical figure—thinking about when He lived and what He did. However, the Bible also describes Jesus in a way that one must evaluate who you believe He was. Most Americans believe His origin was from God the Father, but half as many believe He existed before His birth.'”


CT Book Awards 2022“Christianity Today’s 2022 Book Awards” – Compiled by Matt Reynolds at Christianity Today: “As a books editor for a Christian magazine, I think I’m contractually obligated, every so often, to mention that verse from Ecclesiastes about there being no end to the making of books (12:12). (Though I can’t help wondering whether an updated version might instead remark on the relentless production of podcasts, that contemporary magnet for ‘everyone and their cousin’ barbs.) The ‘making of books’ verse carries the same world-weary tone that pervades much of Ecclesiastes. And we have to admit some truth here. Consider the investment of mind, body, and soul involved in writing books few may read or remember, and ask yourself: Why do so many people, across so many eras and cultures, willingly empty themselves in this way? Even so, you’ll never catch Christianity Today pronouncing ‘Vanity of vanities’ upon the whole book-making enterprise. Recall that God himself speaks to us through a book—as does the author of Ecclesiastes. Sometimes, you can’t tell the truth about the world with anything less.”


dietrich-bonhoeffer“Bonhoeffer on Holy Weakness and the Victory of the Suffering God” – Chris E. W. Green in The Intersection Journal: “One Sunday evening in the late Spring or early Summer of 1934 Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered a sermon to St John’s German Evangelical Reformed Church in London, one of two small Lutheran congregations he pastored at the time. He spoke in English because many of his younger parishioners were not fluent in German, and he took as his text one of the most familiar passages in the New Testament: ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me’ (2 Cor. 12:9). Bonhoeffer’s sermon began with what could easily have been taken as an unnecessarily philosophical question: ‘What is the meaning of weakness in this world?’ But if anyone considered the question too academic, Bonhoeffer quickly broke the illusion, insisting that ‘our whole attitude toward life, toward humanity and God depends on the answer to this problem.'”


30williamsembed“The Hidden Costs of Prenatal Screening” – Sarah C. Williams in Plough: “The ultrasound technician put her hand on my arm and said the words every expectant mother hopes she will never hear: ‘I’m afraid there is something wrong with the baby.’ Within an hour it was clear that a skeletal dysplasia would claim my daughter’s life either at birth or shortly after. It was also clear that everyone expected me to have a termination. Hardly anyone in Western culture disputes the wisdom of prenatal screening. It is a practice that most of us take for granted. But what are the long-term effects? As a social practice, prenatal screening is framed as morally neutral. Scans are voluntary. It is the informed and consenting parents who decide how to act on the basis of the information they receive. At twenty weeks there were only two things I knew about my daughter, both of them scientifically derived facts: her physical abnormality and her biological sex. These facts were discovered simultaneously in a routine scan in which only two questions were asked as if they were of primary importance: Does this child have a healthy body, and is this child male or female?”


wildfire“A World Ablaze, Caught by AP Photographers in 2021″ – The Associated Press: “‘Some say the world will end in fire,’ wrote the poet Robert Frost — and for much of 2021, Associated Press photographers captured scenes of a world ablaze, amid rumblings of ruin. In New Delhi, a man sprints amid the funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims — too many fires, too much heat, too many victims. On a beach near the village of Limni, Greece, the horizon is lit by the flames of wildfires raging across the eastern Mediterranean. And at La Palma in the Canary Islands, the inferno is in the Cumbre Vieja volcano. But more than 10,000 million cubic meters of ash turn the world into a negative, with black ash taking the place of white snow. Not all of the combustion is so literal.”


Kentucky church tornado“In tornado’s wake, a church and pastor turn to God, service” – Holly Meyer in The Associate Press: “After riding out the violent tornado that devastated their town in a tunnel under their church, the Rev. Wes Fowler and his family emerged to devastation stretching for blocks: Crackling power lines, piles of rubble and calls for help they couldn’t pinpoint in the darkness. Later, safe back at home, his daughter had a question that left him stumped: ‘My little girl asked me, “Why would God let this happen?”‘ said Fowler, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Mayfield. While he believes God did allow the tornado to happen, he had no answer as to why the western Kentucky community where he was baptized, grew up and chose to raise his family wasn’t spared from the Friday night storms that left dozens dead and communities reeling across at least five states. But he felt he knew what to do next: glorify God amid the suffering, and serve those in need.”


Music: J.S. Bach, “Schwingt freudig euch empor,” Cantata BWV 36 / Part 1,  John Eliot Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

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: 11 May 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly 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.

Asia Bibi“Asia Bibi Finally Leaves Pakistan for Canada” – For those of you who follow cases related to religious freedom, the ongoing legal issues of Asia Bibi in Pakistan seem to have come to a close. “In Pakistan’s most-watched persecution case, Bibi spent more than eight years in prison on blasphemy charges and faced the death penalty. After she was exonerated last year, she could not live freely in her home country since she was at risk of attacks by rogue clerics calling for vigilante justice; more than 50 people charged with blasphemy have been murdered there. Bibi, now in her 50s, is a mother of five, and two of her daughters had already moved to Canada for asylum.”

 

webRNS-White-Supremacy-Opeds1-050130-990x557“Why white nationalism tempts white Christians” – Here is Jemar Tisby, once again cutting into one of the raging sores of contemporary evangelicalism in the racial and political spheres. “Troublesome though it may be, Christians must contend with these twin facts: White nationalism is on the rise, and white Christians are susceptible to this ideology….Too often Christian individuals and institutions act as if general statements condemning bigotry and saccharine assertions of racial and ethnic equality are sufficient to combat white nationalism. They are not. White nationalists engage in sustained and sophisticated recruiting and propaganda tactics to advance their agenda.”

 

Jean Vanier“Jean Vanier: Founder of L’Arche dies aged 90” – “The son of a Canadian diplomat, Jean Vanier embarked upon a naval career that saw him serve during the World War Two. But in 1950 he resigned his commission saying that he wanted ‘to follow Jesus’. He studied theology and philosophy, completing his doctoral studies on happiness in the ethics of Aristotle. He became a teaching professor at St Michael’s College in Toronto. During the Christmas holidays of 1964, he visited a friend who was working as a chaplain for men with learning difficulties just outside Paris. Disturbed by conditions in which 80 men did nothing but walk around in circles, he bought a small house nearby and invited two men from the institution to join him. L’Arche – the Ark – was born.” More at the L’Arche website.

 

Rachel Held Evans“Rachel Held Evans, Voice of the Wandering Evangelical, Dies at 37” – “Rachel Held Evans, a best-selling author who challenged conservative Christianity and gave voice to a generation of wandering evangelicals wrestling with their faith, died on Saturday at a hospital in Nashville. She was 37. Her husband, Daniel Evans, said in a statement on her website that the cause was extensive brain swelling. During treatment for an infection last month, Ms. Evans began experiencing brain seizures and had been placed in a medically induced coma.”

 

Warren Wiersbe“Died: Warren Wiersbe, Preachers’ Favorite Bible Commentator – “Bible teacher, pastor, and preacher Warren Wiersbe died Thursday at age 89, leaving an impressive legacy of teaching, preaching, and mentoring countless pastors. Through his lessons, broadcasted sermons, and over 150 books, he resourced the church to better read and explain the Bible. In a tribute, grandson Dan Jacobsen recalled how pastors often tell him, ‘There’s not a passage in the Bible I haven’t first looked up what Wiersbe has said on the topic.'”

 

18 paintings“18 Paintings Christians Should See” – Brett McCracken assembles an all-star group of Christian artists, art appreciators, art professors, and art curators to recommend visual art that Christians should be familiar with. This article, and its companion pieces, reminds me of a book I enjoyed reading this past summer, Terry Glaspey’s 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film.

 

burger-king-store“The Banality of the F-Bomb” – At The National Review, Heather Wilhelm addresses cultural change through the lens of the F-Bomb. “Today, as [Larry] King himself has noted, the F-bomb — once known as the ultimate forbidden verbal lightning bolt, the Utterance That Must Not Be Named, or at least the word of last resort to use when you’re really hopelessly mad — might as well be growing out of random cracks in the sidewalk. In 2019, the F-word is a throwaway. It is a sneeze. It is as common as dandelion fluff.”

 

J S Bach“Reveling in Hope” – Wesley Hill writes about the power of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor. “For part of my sabbatical this year, I spent a few weeks in England, and when I saw that the New Cambridge Singers and the Cambridge Baroque Camerata would be performing Bach’s last triumphant masterwork in the vast, dim, Oxford Movement-inspired chapel at St. John’s College, I knew I would not miss it. Much as I have loved listening to John Eliot Gardiner and the late Sir Georg Solti’s recordings over the years — solemnly authentic and brightly fleet, respectively — hearing this music performed live in a space where I had knelt for Evensong on previous days was a privilege not to be forgotten.”

 

Music: After Wesley Hill’s essay, it seems fitting to share John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Mass in B Minor. Here it is: “Bach Messe h-moll BWV 232 Mass B minor Sir 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: 23 February 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.

Richard Mouw“Richard Mouw Wrestles with Evangelicalism, Past and Present”Richard Mouw, is an elder statesman of evangelicalism, serving as an editor for numerous journals and a past president of Fuller Theological Seminary. Coming from the Reformed wing of evangelicalism, Mouw has been a strong voice for cultural engagement over the years. Tish Harrison Ward reviews his book, Restless Faith: Holding Evangelical Beliefs in a World of Contested Labels, at Christianity Today. “The book wrestles with questions of identity: What is this ever-changing movement called ‘evangelicalism?’ How do we deal with conflict over the meaning of this term and over the direction of the movement itself? And should we even use the ‘E-word’ anymore?”

 

science of miracles“The Science of Miracles” – Barbara Bradley Hagerty explores the science of miracles in this fascinating article that gives ample space for further consideration of how the science of faith and the faith of science interact. “But does that mean transcendent experiences are only a physiological event? Or, is this how the brain is wired to connect with a dimension of reality that our physical senses cannot perceive — in other words, does the brain activity reflect an encounter with the divine? I want to propose that how you come down on this issue depends on whether you think of the brain as a CD player or a radio.” You’ll have to read the rest of the article to discover what she means. [Thanks to Danny Clayton for sharing this article with me.]

 

89402“Our Churches Are Either Sacramental or Charismatic” – Andrew Wilson makes a case for the complementary value of both sacramental and charismatic traditions coming together in local churches. “There are, in other words, churches that are eucharistic and churches that are charismatic (as well as a good many churches that are neither). So it is interesting that the New Testament church about whose corporate worship we know the most, namely the church in Corinth, was both. The Corinthians were apparently unaware that those two strands of Christian worship were incompatible, and they happily (if somewhat erratically) pursued sacramental and spiritual gifts at the same time.”  Given my roots both in Anglicanism and the charismatic renewal, I have a lot of sympathy for Wilson’s case here and in his book Spirit and Sacrament.

 

89467“Making the Liturgy Sing a New Song” – “In 2015, when retired Anglican priest Nelson Koscheski shared one of his religious poems with the young music director at his Anglican church in Dallas, he never expected the poem to become a folk song. Koscheski thought the poem, which is about the Transfiguration, might make a good hymn, but would probably end up like most of his others—glanced at perfunctorily and then disregarded. But the music director, Ryan Flanigan, was so moved by the poem’s beauty that he set it to a simple folk tune, which he incorporated into the church’s Transfiguration Day service.”

 

new tolkien film“‘Tolkien’ Trailer: Fox Searchlight Biopic Stars Nicholas Hoult As ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Author” – In case you didn’t know about it, there is forthcoming biographical movie on the life of J. R. R. Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. “The biopic follows the author through a hardscrabble childhood, into the battlefields of WWI and through the corridors of academia where he studied linguistics but eventually became a historian of the unreal.”

 

maxresdefault“Historic Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse begins” – “Pope Francis began an unprecedented summit in Rome to confront the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal by saying that Catholics are not looking for simple condemnation, but concrete actions. ‘In the face of this scourge of sexual abuse perpetrated by men of the church to the detriment of minors, I thought I would summon you, the Pope told the nearly 200 Catholic leaders gathered in Vatican City, so that all together we may lend an ear and listen to the Holy Spirit … and to the cry of the small who are asking for justice.'”

 

JDG SBC.jpeg“Southern Baptists should investigate churches that cover up abuse, says SBC president” – “J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the denomination’s Executive Committee should immediately investigate 10 churches named in a report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, including Second Baptist in Houston — one of the largest churches in the SBC. If any churches were found to have covered up abuse and refused to mend their ways, Greear told a gathering of Southern Baptist leaders on Monday (Feb. 18), then the convention should consider removing them from the denomination, a process known as ‘disfellowshipping.'”

 

weiss-wh-auden“Why W.H. Auden Hated His Most Famous Political Poems” – W. H. Auden is one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, and also one of the most interesting essayists of his time. Late in his life, Auden revised many of his poems, redacting some parts of his work that he thought no longer worthy of being read. In this essay, Michael Weiss explores why Auden negatively assessed his early political poetry.

 

16-HammondBrochure-featured“‘Hearing’ the Hammond Organ” – On the lighter and musical side of things, how about the Hammond Organ. “The Hammond Organ was the first electronic musical instrument to become commercially successful. Just two years after it went on sale in 1935, major radio stations and Hollywood studios, hundreds of individuals, and over 2,500 churches had purchased a Hammond. The instrument had a major impact on the soundscape of both popular and religious musical life in the U.S., but it has been largely ignored by electronic music historians.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing these last two articles in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244), performed by Sir John Eliot Gardiner & The English Baroque Soloists.

[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.]