The Weekend Wanderer: 23 January 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.


Francis Collins Templeton Prize“Dr. Francis Collins | A Christian Perspective on the COVID Vaccines” – I have received a number of questions from Christians about how to think about the COVID vaccines that are being developed. I am thankful I can lean upon the wisdom and insights of medical personnel within our own congregation, as well as those who operate in a larger sphere, such as Dr. Francis Collins. Collins serves as the director of the National Institutes of Health and is also a committed Christian. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this conversation between Dr. Collins and NAE President Walter Kim. If you want to dig deeper into this topic, you may also benefit from the Christian Medical & Dental Associations’ “Navigating Vaccine Ethics” and updates from the Roman Catholic Church in “US Bishops further clarify Church’s position on Covid-19 vaccine.”


Giboney peacemaking“Only Biblical Peacemaking Resolves Racial and Political Injustice” – Here is Justin Giboney at Christianity Today: “Some assume peacemaking requires inactivity or silence in the face of disorder and injustice. But true peace is not passive quiet or the absence of action or the silence of indifference. Biblical peace is shalom, meaning completeness, well-being, and right relationship with God and each other. Silence or inaction amid grave partiality and inequality is not peace. When we mute the poor or rob the victim of voice, we deny peace. Gaslighting or shushing the suffering perverts the wholeness and fulfillment Christianity demands….No other group is better situated to bring healing to this land than the church. There are Bible-believing Christians on both sides of the political spectrum, and outside of politics we have a lot in common. We’re stuck with one another for good. We need each other. It’s time to set our partisan hang-ups aside, make peace, and do justice.”


Cordoba“God’s many mansions: a guide to the world’s greatest churches” – While I might be one of the first to debate whether the word ‘church’ really refers to the people of God or to buildings, it is difficult not to be fascinated by the wonders of ecclesial architecture throughout church history. In The Spectator, Christopher Howse reviews Allan Doig’s forthcoming book A History of the Church through Its Buildings. Doig includes such treasures as “Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba among 12 examples of magnificent church architecture.”


Rosen - technosolutionism“Technosolutionism Isn’t the Fix: Whether a crisis of public health or public safety, is the best response increased surveillance?” – In The Hedgehog Review, Christine Rosen grapples with how the pandemic has eased us into a welcoming of technology into our lives in ways that may not be good. Addressing “technosolutionism,” the notion that engineered solutions should be prioritized in solving human problems, Rosen writes: “It was the very swiftness and uncritical enthusiasm with which Americans embraced an ‘easy’ technological solution to a complicated problem that suggests that we are becoming increasingly comfortable with technosolutionism, and not just during times of crisis. Such acquiescence seems understandable at such times, when uncertainty prevails, but as we continue to struggle to find our bearings, it is worth considering the significant choices we have already made with regard to technological problem-solving, and begin to contend with the consequences.”


Wilderness“Wilderness Perspective: A monastic ethos for a militant age” – I read this article back in December but returned to it this past week in relation to a recent message on John the Baptist and the wilderness (“The Voice of One Calling Out“). I have often reflected on what God has to teach us in the wilderness of our lives, and am reflecting more recently on what God may need to teach the church more broadly through the wilderness. Patrick Pierson reflects on this at the individual level in conversation with Thomas Merton in this essay in Comment that offers some interesting points, including this: “withdrawal is not an end in itself, but rather an indispensable means for more truly loving our neighbour as ourself.”


Church Our Lady Mary Zion Axum Ethiopia“Hundreds reportedly dead after massacre at Oriental Orthodox church in Ethiopia” – Meanwhile, in another part of the world: “At least 750 people are reported dead after an attack on an Oriental Orthodox church in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to a European watchgroup. On Jan. 9, the Europe External Programme with Africa reported that the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, about 80 miles west of Adigrat, had been attacked, and that hundreds of people who hid inside were brought out to the front square and shot to death. According to Church Times UK, the attack was carried out by Ethiopian government troops and Amhara militia from central Ethiopia. At least 1,000 people were estimated to be hiding in the church at the time of the attack. Locals have said they believe the church was targeted by raiders of the lost ark. The church is thought to contain the original Ark of the Covenant, a sacred golden chest first mentioned in the book of Exodus.”


Music: I. Erickson [featuring Jpk.], “Flowers (Jpk. Remake).”

The Continuing Relevance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

On this day celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to remind us of one of the most significant writings by Martin Luther King, Jr., his letter from a Birmingham jail. Written after King’s arrest, along with 50 others, on April 12, 1963, as part of the Birmingham Campaign to shine a spotlight on the racist treatment suffered by African Americans in one of the most segregated cities in America. Letter from a Birmingham jail is a direct response to criticism that King and the protestors received from religious leaders through an open letter in a local newspaper.

While there is much that could be said about MLK as a leader, orator, pastor, and husband, I want to encourage us to read or listen to the letter (roughly an hour long as read by King). The issues he addresses continue to be important for our day and time as we wrestle with how our faith relates to the public sphere, just and unjust laws, consideration of how our Christian faith moves us to action or to wait, and what it means to lives as kingdom citizens while seeking to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24).

Here are a striking excerpt from the letter:

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

You may also want to explore more of King’s writings, sermons, and speeches through the compilation work A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2003).

The Weekend Wanderer: 22 August 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.


Last week I took a break from “The Weekend Wanderer” as I spent a few days away with my family in northern Wisconsin. I never checked my email once and never went online throughout that time away, which was one of the greatest head-clearing moments I’ve had all summer. I hope you can make space to do that sometime as well. You will not regret it, even if you never leave your home. Of course, the moment I returned and opened my email the floods returned, but there was still value in getting to dry ground for short while to remember what life can be like.


renee-fisher-N7oCVnnhgCA-unsplash“A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory” – Tim Keller has put together a pretty striking series of articles featured in Gospel in Life, Redeemer Churches & Ministries’ Quarterly Newsletter. The series features two earlier articles, “The Bible and Race” and “The Sin of Racism,” and promises one further article on “Justice in the Bible.” This third in the series explores the wide ranging conceptions of justice in the broader culture, offering biblical responses to each coupled with some further attention to the hot topic of critical theory as part of a discussion. The entire series is well worth the read.


7_9076_HARPERS_0920_p063_02“Nonconforming” – Here’s Laurent Dubreuil in Harper’s Magazine about the challenges and inanities of identity politics: “Whereas identity politics, as theorized four decades ago, aimed to liberate the oppressed and to oppose American capitalism, its main form today is more invested in changing the direction of domination and in multiplying restrictions. It is the social order of the day, its rhetoric ubiquitous in the neurotic centers of the American economy (universities, the media, the tech sector). Under this regime, identities, once affirmed, are indisputable. If I say, ‘As an x, I think. . . ,’ I am no longer voicing an opinion that can be evaluated or critiqued within a shared space of discourse; I am merely saying what I am. If you disagree with me, you may trace everything I say back to my identity before availing yourself of corresponding counterarguments: you say a because you are an x, but I am a y and I therefore believe in b. Such identities, I insist, are not emancipatory, neither at the psychological nor at the political level. We all should have the right to evade identification, individually and collectively.”


love politics church“20 Quotes on Loving Church Members with Different Politics” – Matt Smethurst shares 20 quotes from Jonathan Leeman and Andy Naselli’s new booklet, How Can I Love Church Members with Different Politics? (Crossway, 2020). Here’s one example to get you thinking: “The gospel does not automatically resolve all our wisdom-based political judgments in the here and now. It helps us love and forbear with one another amid those different wisdom-based judgments. It creates unity amid diversity, not uniformity.”


800“Christian groups unveil new criminal justice reform push” – From the Associated Press: “A coalition of Christian groups including the Church of God in Christ and the National Association of Evangelicals is launching a new criminal justice reform push that seeks to rally believers behind policing changes grounded in biblical principles. Set to be announced Wednesday, the Prayer & Action Justice Initiative has its roots in a campaign started in the aftermath of the coronavirus to help save small churches at risk of closing, with top contributors to that work now channeling their energy toward the criminal justice project. It is expected to include prayer gatherings, nonviolent protests and policy advocacy — all aimed at advancing the cause of racial equity in the justice system.”


Hagia Sofia mosque“The end of secularism is nigh: The West’s ability to market this culturally conditioned assumption is dying – Here comes Tom Holland to alert us to what we should already know about the declining influence of secularism around the world. Holland highlights how this is seen in recent startling changes taken by Prime Minister Modi in India and President Erdogan in Turkey. This “should serve as a wake-up call to the West that it is not only its financial, economic and military muscle that is currently atrophying. So too is its ability to market its culturally conditioned assumptions as universal.”


Rick Love“He Loved Muslims Because He Loved Jesus. The Bible Showed Him How.” – Joseph Cummings remembers Rick Love, former international director of Frontiers and founder of Peace Catalyst, who passed away on December 29 after complications of cancer: “Rick Love loved Jesus above all else. He loved the Bible as God’s Word. Rick’s love for Jesus led him to love Muslims. But his love for Scripture eventually changed his mind about how to love Muslims.”


Music: Sigur Rós, “Glósóli,” from Takk

[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: 20 June 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.


black anger“What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger” – Here is Esau McCaulley in The New York Times connecting the psalms and the Cross of Christ with this present moment: “For Christians, rage (Psalm 137) must eventually give way to hope (Isaiah 49). And we find the spiritual resources to make this transition at the cross. Jesus could have called down the psalms of rage upon his enemies and shouted a final word of defiance before he breathed his last. Instead he called for forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,’ he says in Luke 23.”


N T Wright“Undermining Racism: Reflections on the ‘black lives matter’ crisis” – Here is a reflection by N. T. Wright on the current crisis of racial justice. The basic summary from Tom: “The churches are in the wrong, not because they haven’t obeyed the politically correct agenda, but because they haven’t obeyed their own foundation charter.” I encourage you to dig into this insightful take from one of the best New Testament scholars and biblical theologians of our day.


Robert Larry“These Are My Reactions” – A couple weeks ago, a friend and former ministry resident at Eastbrook Church, Robert Larry, shared some of his thoughts with me on what it’s like to be a black man and Christian at this time in our nation. After sharing those thoughts with me, I asked him if he would be willing to share it with a broader audience, which he agreed to do. After yesterday’s celebration of Juneteenth, I hope Robert’s words inspire us to think, listen to one another, and grow toward greater authentic unity as the body of Christ.


alan jacobs“On Misunderstanding Critical Theory” – One of the more heated debates within the recent conversations about racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and much more relates to the domain of what is known as critical theory. Some will utilize critical theory to question some of the basic elements of societal structures, while others will criticize the use of critical theory as self-undermining and antithetical to rationality. Alan Jacobs, author of numerous books including the pertinent How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (which I highly recommend), has helpfully written about critical theory on his blog over the past month. I’d encourage you to take a read of these posts, which I found insightful:


Andrew Sullivan - debate“Is There Still Room for Debate?” – Andrew Sullivan enters into the difficult, if not disappearing ground, of public conversation over contentious issues. In past days, I have increasingly wondered if it is possible to have conversation and debates over difficult issues. It is something I have been considering deeply since reading Jacobs’ book How to Think (see above), as well as Christopher Smith’s book How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church. I ask myself both in regards to society and the church, “Do we even know how to talk anymore?” Sullivan makes an interesting attempt at addressing this flashpoint issue amidst flashpoint issues.


Supreme Court“Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ persons from employment discrimination” – There has been a lot of attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling related to employment discrimination against individuals within the LGBTQ community. Here is a quick summary from RNS on the case and ruling. You may also want to read Russell Moore’s take, “After the Bostock Supreme Court Case,” and Daniel Bennett’s take, “LGBT Rights Ruling Isn’t the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty.”


Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 6.57.24 AM“Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic” – From Christianity Today: “Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need. As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching on eschatology in lockdown. ‘The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,’ he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.”


Music: Wilco, “Love Is Everywhere,” from Ode to Joy

[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: 13 June 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.


Dr. Tony Evans“Dr. Tony Evans Speaks From His Heart About Social Injustice” – One of the most respected African-American voices in evangelicalism is Dr. Tony Evans. His preaching and teaching ministry has blessed thousands over the years. I would encourage you to take fifteen minutes to watch this important word from Dr. Evans as he talks about four area of the cultural pandemic that we need to step forward into as Christians today. He touches upon a wide range of topics, including prayer, protest, individual responsibility, systemic racism, working for the gospel, working for kingdom transformation, and so much more.


Charlie Dates“I Can’t Breathe” – If you’re not familiar with Charlie Dates, the Senior Pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, IL, I encourage you to get to know him. Dates holds a PhD in Historical Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is a widely-respected speaker on various topics. The Center for Pastor Theologians shared a powerful sermon he preached at Progressive Baptist on May 31 entitled “I Can’t Breathe.”


Tisby familial grief“The Familial Language of Black Grief” – Jemar Tisby’s book The Color of Compromise is one of my must-read books on racial justice in America. I had the chance to hear Tisby speak last Fall on his book and related topics at Wheaton College, which I’ve posted about elsewhere. He writes “Notions of family saturate the black freedom struggle in all of its aspects, especially the threat of police brutality. Under the constant surveillance, suspicion, and violence of law enforcement in America, black people share a kinship of calamity. A brotherhood and sisterhood of suffering. Like any family, it is not something we choose. This sense of solidarity through hardship is forced on us by the oppression we endure.”


Tom Holland - Dominion“A non-Christian’s argument for Christianity’s positive influence” – “Tom Holland has a grand thesis. He explores it with energy, ad­vances it with panache, and pulls it off with a flourish. His lively and absorbing project is at once a serviceable church history, a studied engagement with Christianity’s finest and darkest hours, and a compelling argument. The argument goes as follows: Chris­tianity brought something new and unique into the world; that quality in its various manifestations—notably deep respect for the weak, the suffering, and the vulnerable and a sense of the validity of every human life—remains deeply imbued in Western culture; and it is expressed as powerfully today by those who claim to have rejected Christian truth claims as by Christians themselves.”


Lawrence Aker III - preaching on race“Preaching on Race: Why We Can’t Wait” – In early May I was able to participate in a seminar with Preaching Today called “Pivoting Your Summer Preaching Series”
With Lawrence Aker III and Matt Woodley. I was so thankful to read this article from Lawrence on the necessity of preaching on race. I would add that we should not only preach on race in this moment, but throughout our ministry and in many seasons of the life of the church.


landing-faithful-justice“Resources for Faithful Justice” – InterVarsity Press is offering a number of amazing resources for free right now on their website. Please take a look at and take advantage of this unique offer. “IVP is grateful for the prophetic voices of our authors who share their stories, educate us when we are uninformed, and challenge us with the truth. Learn from these books as we pursue justice, wholeness, and racial righteousness in our homes, churches, and communities. You can also read our commitment to amplifying voices of color. To start reading right away, you can choose one ebook from this page to download for free. IVP will continue to pay the full royalties to the authors of these important books.”


Tim Keller“Tim Keller Asks for Prayers for Pancreatic Cancer” – “Tim Keller asked followers for prayer as he begins chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. The popular Christian author and pastor announced the news of his diagnosis in an update on Instagram and Twitter Sunday morning. ‘Less than three weeks ago I didn’t know I had cancer,’ wrote Keller. ‘Today I’m headed to the National Cancer Institute at the [National Institutes of Health] for additional testing before beginning chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer next week in New York City.'”


 

Music: Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On,” from What’s Going On

[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.]