The Weekend Wanderer: 11 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.


cultural-infusion-scaled“Cultural Infusion” – Caroline Stowell in The Other Journal: “One Sunday morning at my Evangelical Covenant church, the tech team projects a video interview with an Iranian woman who came to Boston for an education and ended up finding Jesus. She encourages us to reach out to those around us, because you never know when someone might be ready to hear about this hope she now has in Christ. I have tears in my eyes by the end as I think of Zahra. Zahra and I met this spring at a Cambridge community playgroup I attend with my twin three-year-old boys, Kyle and Tasman. She’s here from Iran with her two young boys while her husband studies at Harvard. One day, at a playgroup shortly after I watched the video at church, Zahra asks me what else I do with my kids during the week. I tell her about the library story time and the boys’ dance class. Then I tell her about church and the moms group I attend there on Wednesdays.  ‘Church?’ Zahra chirps at me like a startled bird. ‘Mm hmm.’ ‘Are you a Christian?’ ‘Yes,’ I say. She smiles and nods.’You are Muslim?’ I ask, trying not to gesture to the hijab that outlines the olive skin of her face. ‘Muslim? Yes,’ she says.”


Sarah Ruden - The Gospels“The Bible Made Strange: Sarah Ruden’s Four New Gospels” – Scot McKnight at Marginalia: “People think they know how a specific verse should sound. Such opinions flow freely from those who have never learned a word of the original languages. Our Bibles are so Englishy sounding, most readers think their preferred translation is the translation. Add to this that committees authorize our most common translations: the New Revised Standard, the English Standard Version, the New International Version (2011), and the Common English Bible. Authorized translations are publicized and marketed and then used in churches where they acquire sacred standing. Churlish such accusations may be, but each of these translations represents a particular tribe of Christians, and it takes no hard thinking to recognize the tribe behind each. As a sometimes preacher I learned long ago to ask which translation a church uses and go with it, for anything else leads to not-so-gentle questions about one’s orthodoxy. The only translations transcending tribalism are done by individuals, despite the obvious shortcomings of one person translating the whole Bible (Eugene Peterson’s The Message) or separate testaments.”


Roman crucifixion evidence“Best physical evidence of Roman crucifixion found in Cambridgeshire” – Jamie Grierson in The Guardian: “Found at the site of a future housing development in Cambridgeshire, the near 1,900-year-old skeleton at first did not seem particularly remarkable. Aged 25 to 35 at the time of death, the man had been buried with his arms across his chest in a grave with a wooden structure, possibly a bier, at one of five cemeteries around a newly discovered Roman settlement at Fenstanton, between Roman Cambridge and Godmanchester. But once his remains were removed to a laboratory in Bedford, a grisly discovery was made – a nail through the heel bone that experts now say is the best physical evidence of a crucifixion in the Roman world.”


biblical archaeology“How Archaeologists Are Finding the Signatures of Bible Kings, Ancient Villains, and Maybe a Prophet”– Gordon Govier at Christianity Today: “The closest I’ve ever felt to the prophet Jeremiah was sitting at the bottom of an empty cistern. About 20 years ago, I was taken to an excavated water reservoir in Jerusalem and told this could be the actual hole in Jeremiah 38:6 where the prophet was left to starve when four government officials decided they didn’t like his messages from God. I sat on a bench and looked up at the stone walls. Jeremiah sank into the mud, according to the biblical account. But maybe it wasn’t at that spot. Who’s to say it was this cistern, which was dug up in 1998, and not another one that has yet to be found? Or perhaps it will never be found. I could imagine the prophet trapped in that exact place, wondering if God would rescue him, but short of finding ‘Jeremiah’ scratched on the wall, no one could say for sure. In the time since I was there, questions have been raised about that cistern, casting doubt on its role in the Jeremiah drama. It’s not a place people visit these days. Archaeology can take you so close to the biblical world and still leave you wishing someone had left a signature.”


Old-Vintage-Books“A Year of Reading: 2021” – John Wilson in First Things: “I don’t know about you, but my sense of time has been altered—to some extent “thrown off”—by the still-unfolding pandemic. But here we are, approaching the end of another year, and according to the prescribed ritual I entered into a mildly trancelike state to think about books from 2021 that stand out. As usual, I hasten to add that if the list were made on another day, it would be at least slightly different from this one. At any given moment, even when I am not under the spell, books are jostling around in my head. I am particularly looking forward to Toya Wolfe’s novel Last Summer on State Street, coming from William Morrow in June. Just around the corner, I expect to see On the Theory of Prose, a new translation (by Shushan Avagyan) of Viktor Shklovsky’s classic (Dalkey Archive). Then there’s Adam Roberts’s new novel, coming in February in the U.K. (can it really be titled The This, purportedly with reference to Hegel?). But I mustn’t keep going down this path. There are so many books to look forward to, not to mention many more that will take me by surprise. But on with the list. As usual, the titles are (mostly) in alphabetical order; the logic of departures from that rule will be clear. The Books of the Year will come at the end.”


Middle East - disappearing Christians“A Requiem for the Disappearing Christians of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Gaza” – Tim Dowley in Christianity Today: “‘Islamic fundamentalist groups, in particular ISIS, have ravaged parts of Iraq and Syria and brought those countries’ already decimated Christian population to the verge of extinction. In Egypt, Christian Copts face legal and societal discrimination. In Gaza, which in the fourth century was entirely Christian, fewer than one thousand Christians remain.’ Sobering statistics like these set a grim backdrop for The Vanishing, war journalist Janine di Giovanni’s fearless account of what the book’s subtitle calls ‘Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets.’ There can be few better suited or equipped to tell this story than di Giovanni, who has previously reported on the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Syria and is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. The Vanishing is neither a chronological record of Christian withdrawal nor a geopolitical analysis of religious trends. Instead, di Giovanni offers a kind of requiem for a disappearing religious culture, a tale rendered all the more heart-wrenching for having been written during some of the worst months of the COVID-19 crisis.”


Music: The Porter’s Gate, “Isaiah (O Come),” Advent Songs

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 December 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.


Advent“Oh How We Need Advent (This Year More Than Most)” – A friend shared this article with me and I found it very beautiful, heart-rending, honest, and joyful all at the same time. Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year. It so so much more than a preparation for Christmas. I appreciate the way that the author, E. M. Welcher, brings together the anticipatory longing and much-needed hope of Advent so powerfully.


harvest-wheat-farmer-hand“On Being Grateful” – Thanksgiving was just a short time ago, but our need for gratitude in relation to our lives is ever-present. We know gratitude is important, but it is also not natural for us. Particularly in a year that has come to be considered one of the worst years of our lifetimes, how do we live with gratitude? Kevin Williamson wrestles with this question, touching upon memory, gratitude, suffering, and the distinctly Christian response to it all.


9 nonobvious conversation“Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations: The art of making connection even in a time of dislocation” – I’m increasingly convinced that the inability to have conversations—to truly listen to and speak with (not listen past and talk at) one another—is one of the biggest problems of our day. Here is David Brooks’ nine ways to help improve that: “After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself.”


relationship ending“‘Covid ended our marriage’: The couples who split in the pandemic” – Relational strain during the pandemic is surging, particularly in marriages, as this piece from the BBC highlights. It seems like strains or difficulties that were already present have been heightened and new challenges have emerged because of the unique situation of lockdowns, children at home for schooling, job changes or loss, and so much more. The importance of reaching out for help (such as to a counselor or local church), learning to talk well together (see the previous article by David Brooks or this one on active listening), assessing your relationship, and accessing other resources is more important than ever.


books“A Year of Reading: 2020 by John Wilson” – At First Things, John Wilson offers his characteristic wide-ranging list of recommendations for reading from the past year. While I have read a couple of the books on Wilson’s list, I found many curiosities and treasures to explore, from fiction to poetry to memoir to natural history and more. If you’re looking for something to read during the long winter, Wilson’s recommendations will likely have something for you.


Indonesia SA attacks“Indonesia attacks: Army hunts suspected militants over Christian murders” – Religious persecution is not a thing of the past. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer. “The Indonesian army has deployed a special force to hunt for suspected Islamic State-linked militants behind a deadly attack on Christians. Four Salvation Army members were killed – one of them beheaded – in an ambush on Sulawesi island on Friday. Intolerance against Indonesia’s Christian minority has been rising as the Muslim-majority country battles Islamist militancy. A church body denounced the killings as terrorism rather than a religious feud.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

[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: 28 November 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.


Thanksgiving“5 rules for better conversations around your Thanksgiving table” – Even though our Thanksgiving the holiday has passed, and even though our Thanksgiving gatherings may have looked a little different this year, these five rules for better conversation from Justin Brierley are worth considering. In fact, they might just be good rules for better conversations with people in general.


chain-light“How Grat­i­tude Breaks the Chains of Resentment” – Every once in awhile I share resources that are not new but are still worth reading. Here is an article from Henri Nouwen on gratitude that was written many years ago but may still be helpful and pertinent to us. In this time when it seems so difficult to give thanks, when our lives have been reduced and changed in more ways than we want to mention, may we learn to move toward God in gratitude instead of living in resentment.


Islam ETS“Muslims Join Evangelical Theology Conference” – “The trimmed-down 72nd annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), held virtually this week, usually welcomes up to 2,000 top scholars to present on the most salient issues facing evangelical scholarship. This year’s theme: Islam and Christianity. ‘We are called to truth, and to understanding the world around us more accurately and thoughtfully,’ said [Al] Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), who also served as ETS program chair. ‘That certainly includes our understanding of Islam, which has from the beginning represented an enormous challenge to Christian evangelism, apologetics, theology, and cultural engagement.'”


John Wilson“‘A Small Good Thing’ An Interview with John Wilson” – John Wilson’s tenure as editor for the now defunct Books and Culturwas wonderful. When that publication shut down it was a great loss. Wilson had a curiosity-sparked meandering sort of way of drawing together various interests into one place. He continues to write for First ThingsThe Englewood Review of Books, and now begins a new run as Senior Editor for The Marginalia Review of Books. Here is a little interview with Wilson by Samuel Loncar that touches on the old days of Books and Culture, as well as Wilson’s more recent endeavors.


Gospel of the Trees“Gospel of the Trees” – Alan Jacobs writes about one of his older projects that has recently gone through a major redesign and upgrade. I encourage you to take a look at it: “Ten years ago my friend Brad Cathey — a designer and the head of Highgate Creative — and I built a website called Gospel of the Trees. Here’s what it’s about: ‘The Bible is a story about trees. It begins, or nearly enough, with two trees in a garden: the Tree of Life, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The pivotal event in the book comes when a man named Jesus is hanged on a tree. And the last chapter of the last book features a remade Jerusalem: ‘In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” If you understand the trees, you understand the story.’ Brad has just redesigned the entire site, and the work he has done is fantastic.”


Music: Liturgical Folk (featuring Audrey Assad), “Our Lady Sings Magnificat,” from 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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 February 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-2020-01-22-at-10.49.12-PM“A Time for Reckoning: Facing Truth on the Path to Unity”Vince Bacote, a friend and Associate Professor of Theology and the Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College, relates his journey with the theological failure of evangelicalism on issues of race. He also offers recommendations for the way forward in this present moment. “To truly move forward on the challenge of race requires a reckoning with the theological failures that impede Christian unity and which are part of the reason for not only a movement like the Nation of Islam but also the existence of what we call ‘the black church.’ A reckoning of any kind takes a strong dose of courage. The reckoning in this case means a willingness to truly look at elements that are key to a church that struggles to truly provide a foretaste of the vision in Revelation 7:9.” This is an important article in so many ways, so let me strongly encourage you to read it.

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 8.19.45 AM“Jesus Is a Jew” – New York Times columnist and author, David Brooks, reflects in Comment about the Jewishness of Jesus and what that means for Jews, Christians, and the world. While this may not seem like a novel topic, Brooks approaches it in his own insightful manner. If you’re unfamiliar with Brooks’ own spiritual journey toward Jesus, I would highly encourage you to explore his most recent books, The Road to Character and The Second Mountain. You may also enjoy an extended conversation Brooks had last year with Alan Jacobs, author and Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University.

 

Nuns WW2“Coming to Jesus” – In what is definitely a different variation on Brooks’ theme, here is Harold Braswell’s essay on the encounter with research on the hospice care of nuns, a deeply personal family memory, Jesus, and a richer Jewish faith. “Yet, two decades later, while writing my dissertation, I found myself meditating on the dying body of Christ. It was something that I had learned about over the course of my research. And, while I still didn’t ‘believe in’ Jesus, and considered myself very much to be a Jew, the practice was helping me to work through the meaning of a series of recent events that had destabilized my most fundamental sense of who I was and what I wanted to become.” Hold on for an interesting read.

 

Vision for Peace“13 Christian Takes on Trump’s Peace Plan for Israel and Palestine” – Speaking of Jesus, what it means to be Jewish, and the Holy Land, this past week, President Trump rolled out his much-anticipated peace plan for Israel and Palestine, unveiling both the pathway toward that and an actual suggested map of these new states should the pathway be reached. Christianity Today offers a very clear overview of the peace plan, with responses from Christians of various backgrounds to the specifics of the plan. I believe it is vital to hear some of these differing perspectives as we have brothers and sisters in Christ within both groups.

 

city“Man and Metropolis” – John Wilson, beloved former editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, and renowned writer about all things books, turns his attention to the topic of cities and books about cities and urbanism. “This has set me to thinking about city writing more generally, and the way in which some of the vexations of the genre present certain recurring temptations that many writers have failed to resist.” If you think about city life, the new urbanism, and the challenges of themes within such works, you may enjoy Wilson’s insights and recommendations.

 

Anker_Grossvater_erzählt_eine_Geschichte_1884-1“Rediscovering the Lost Power of Reading Aloud” – When my children were younger, many people encouraged us to read books aloud to shape their imagination, capacity for thinking, and verbal abilities. I have now objective measure on whether any of that was successful, but I do know that we have great memories of enjoying great books read-aloud together, like The Chronicles of Narnia, My Father’s Dragon, and When Marian Sang. There is a power in reading aloud that brings people together. In an excerpt from her recent book, The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud In the Age of Distraction, Meghan Cox Gurdon speaks to this reality. I cannot help but think of how this plays out beyond the family or school, such as in the gathering for public worship, but that would require another conversation.

 

Music: Yo-Yo Ma, “Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude,” from J. S. Bach – The Unaccompanied Cello Suites

[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: 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.]