The Weekend Wanderer: 15 January 2022

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


webRNS-Eastbrook-Refugees4-011022-1536x982“At Milwaukee church, refugees find welcome from a less suspicious time” – Here is Bob Smietana at Religion News Service with a feature on the church where I serve, Eastbrook Church: “Asher Imtiaz is the kind of person who always seems to be wandering into a great story. Like the time in 2017, when the Pakistani American computer scientist and documentary photographer walked into a Target in Nebraska and ended up being invited to a wedding thrown by Yazidi refugees from the Middle East. Imtiaz had gone to Nebraska to shoot pictures of life in small-town America in the age of Trump, far from the country’s urban centers. Among his portfolio from the time is another Yazidi family, dressed in patriotic garb and heading to a Fourth of July picnic. ‘I went to see America and found these new Americans,’ said Imtiaz at a coffee shop on the north side of Milwaukee last year. Imtiaz fits right in at Eastbrook Church, a multi-ethnic congregation where he serves as a volunteer leader at an outreach ministry for international students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus nearby.”


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“Pakistan’s top court grants bail to Christian facing blasphemy charge” – In Light for the Voiceless News: “The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision to grant bail to a Christian accused of blasphemy should give hope to others facing the charge, according to a prominent lawyer. Saif ul Malook welcomed the court’s ruling on Jan. 6 that Nadeem Samson should be released on bail. ‘It is a very important ruling, the first in the judicial history of Pakistan,’ the lawyer said in a video call reported by the Jubilee Campaign, a nonprofit promoting human rights. Samson, identified as a Catholic by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), was arrested in 2017 and imprisoned in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, after a property dispute. He was charged with insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. The 42-year-old’s supporters believe that he was falsely accused of the crime, which is punishable by death in Pakistan, an Islamic republic in South Asia with a population of almost 227 million people. Malook, who represented Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother acquitted of blasphemy in 2018, petitioned the Supreme Court at a hearing on Jan. 5 to break with the practice of denying bail to people accused of blasphemy.”


3326“From respair to cacklefart – the joy of reclaiming long-lost positive words” – Susie Dent in The Guardian: “‘Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them’: words of positivity from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. But how many of us really dwell on the upside of life, as opposed to its mad, bad, seamy side? It’s unsurprising that we have lost some of our joie de vivre in the past few years – finding sparkle amid the grey has become distinctly difficult. But a riffle through a historical dictionary suggests that it’s always been this way, and at heart we’ve long been a pessimistic lot. Linguistically, as in life, our glass is usually half-empty. Usually – but not always. In recent times I’ve made it a mission to highlight a category of English that linguists fondly call “orphaned negatives”. These are the words that inexplicably lost their mojo at some point in the past, becoming a sorry crew of adjectives that includes unkempt, unruly, disgruntled, unwieldy and inept. Yet previous generations had the potential to be kempt, ruly, wieldy, ept and – most recently thanks to PG Wodehouse – gruntled. Some were even full of ruth (compassion), feck (initiative) and gorm (due care and attention). Now is surely the time to reunite these long-lost couples. It may not work for everything – there is no entry (yet) for ‘shevelled’ or ‘combobulated’, but Mitchell airport in Milwaukee has gloriously provided its passengers with a ‘recombobulation area’ in which to release some of the tension of air travel.”


alan jacobs“formation and martyrdom” – Alan Jacobs at his blog, Snakes and Ladders: “The question then is: How to form Christians in such a way that they are capable of undergoing martyrdom? (In any of its forms: red, green, or white.) I am convinced that this is indeed a matter of cultivating the proper practices – which include words and deeds alike, by the way, or rather speech and writing understood asdeeds: as Newbigin goes on to say, the fact that the witness of the martyrs was so exceptionally powerful does not abrogate the need for faithful preaching – indeed, faithful preaching was surely one of the means by which the martyrs were formed: ‘The central reality is neither word nor act, but the total life of a community enabled by the Spirit to live in Christ, sharing his passion and the power of his resurrection. Both the words and the acts of that community may at any time provide the occasion through which the living Christ challenges the ruling powers. Sometimes it is a word that pierces through layers of custom and opens up a new vision. Sometimes it is a deed which shakes a whole traditional plausibility structure. They mutually reinforce and interpret one another. The words explain the deeds, and the deeds validate the words.’  Preaching and praise, fasting and penitence, reading and serving – all are core practices of the Church.”


Human-as-Gift-Nick-Spencer-980x551“Human as Gift” – Nick Spencer in Comment: “Admit it, if only quietly and to yourself. You have, in those quieter moments of your life, daydreamed about what people will say of you at your funeral. Or, at least, what you would like them to say. Chances are, you don’t want the priest or next of kin to utter the words, “She managed her portfolio of shares with extreme diligence,” or “He spent long hours in the office but did at least achieve a bit of work-life balance with some amazing holidays in the Caribbean.” You want to be remembered for what matters. We all do. Death mercilessly cuts through the moral fog of living. Few people want to be memorialized for the stuff they had or the leisure they enjoyed, in spite of the fact that we spend so much of our time on earth pursuing these things and then talking about then. We want our funeral eulogy to be positive—obviously—but positive about the right things.”


Tombs of the kings Jerusalem“The Tomb of the Kings in Jerusalem” – Marek Dospěl in Biblical Archaeology Society: “There is no shortage of controversial sites and monuments in Israel. Among the less well known to visitors to Jerusalem is the so-called Tomb of the Kings which remains highly controversial in two aspects: its original purpose and the site’s current ownership. The Tomb of the Kings is an ancient funerary monument located about a half mile north of the Old City walls. The tomb complex, almost entirely carved out of natural rock, consists of a monumental staircase, a spacious courtyard, an imposing portico, and a maze of subterranean passages and chambers that could have held up to 50 burials. There are ancient ritual baths (mikva’ot) at the foot of the staircase. Despite its traditional name, however, the tomb did not serve as the final resting place of the kings of ancient Israel or Judah. The scholarly consensus has long been that the Tomb of the Kings was the family tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene, a first-century convert to Judaism who moved to Jerusalem from her original home in Adiabene, an ancient kingdom in what is today northern Iraq.”


Music: U2, “White as Snow,” No Line on the Horizon

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 April 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.


“How I’m Talking to My Kids About the Derek Chauvin Verdict” – Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, in The New York Times: “So we wade into the troubled waters. I let them all know that there is no escape from these issues. There is no place to hide. There is no world where they can live, learn, fall in and out of love, other than the one they inhabit. A basic teaching of Christianity is that humans are capable of profound and confounding evil. That is not a truth that exists only outside the students. It also exists within them. They must see the world for what it is. Then they must get about the work of living in a world that too often devalues Black and brown lives. There have been and will be times when that disregard will stun them to silence. In those moments, they may be able to lift only half-coherent prayers and laments to God.”


My Dream, My Taste“My Dream, My Taste” – I hope you enjoy this short film by Emily Downe that explores the nature of what it means to be human and how we have become confused about that in our contemporary milieu. This film is based on an audio clip from episode 50 of The Sacred podcast with Professor Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. The film brings us into the world of a young girl who, in pursuit of her dreams, ends up detached from others and the world around her.


Simone Weil“The Great Unsettling: Simone Weil and the need for roots” – Paul Kingsnorth writes on the need for roots and the great unsettling we are experiencing in our world: “Though there has never been a human culture that is anything but flawed, all lasting human cultures in history have been rooted. That is to say, they have been tied down by, and to, things more solid, timeless and lasting than the day-to-day processes of their functioning, or the personal desires of the individuals who inhabit them. Some of those solid things are human creations: cultural traditions, a sense of lineage and ancestry, ceremonies designed for worship or initiation. Others are non-human: the natural world in which those cultures dwell, or the divine force that they – always, without fail – worship and communicate with in some form. We need these roots. We need a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than us, across both space and time, and we underestimate that need at our peril….When a plant is uprooted, it withers and then dies. When the same happens to a person, or a people, or a planetful of both, the result is the same. Our crisis comes, I think, from our being unable to admit what on some level we know to be true: that we in the West are living inside an obsolete story. Our culture is not in danger of dying; it is already dead, and we are in denial.”


“Reconciliation Is Spiritual Formation: A framework for organizational practice” – David M. Bailey in Comment: “This past Christmas, my wife Joy and I hired my fourteen-year-old nephew to do some housecleaning and put up our Christmas tree. All was routine, when out of the blue, a loud crash reverberated through the walls. My nephew ran to the other room to see what it was before casually walking back out. Joy looked up and asked him, “What was it?” He answered nonchalantly, ‘Oh, something fell.’ ‘Well did you pick it up?’ Joy asked. ‘No,’ he responded, ‘I wasn’t the one that made it fall.’ When it comes to the issue of race in America, there are many people who see the evidence of something fallen and broken, and their response is to look at it, turn around, and say, ‘I’m not to blame, so I’m not going to take any responsibility for it.’ Others, upon awakening to the visible and less visible realities of inequity, quickly become overwhelmed. They recognize that the problems of race were created over a 350-year period before our government said, ‘It’s illegal to continue in this way.’ They can only respond with the question, ‘What in the world can I do?'”


Nabil Habashi Salama“ISIS Executes Christian Businessman Kidnapped in Egypt’s Sinai” – Jayson Casper at Christianity Today: “The Islamic State has claimed another Christian victim. And Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has won another martyr. ‘We are telling our kids that their grandfather is now a saint in the highest places of heaven,’ stated Peter Salama of his 62-year-old father, Nabil Habashi Salama, executed by the ISIS affiliate in north Sinai. ‘We are so joyful for him.’ The Salamas are known as one of the oldest Coptic families in Bir al-Abd on the Mediterranean coast of the Sinai Peninsula. Nabil was a jeweler, owning also mobile phone and clothing shops in the area. Peter said ISIS targeted his father for his share in building the city’s St. Mary Church.”


Embodied - Spinkle“Embodied: Transgender Identities, the Church and What the Bible Has to Say” – Robert S. Smith reviews Preston Sprinkle’s new book Embodied at Themelios: “Of all the recent evangelical engagements with the questions raised by transgender experience, Preston Sprinkle’s Embodied is, arguably, the most comprehensive, penetrating and compelling. The book not only addresses the cultural, medical, psychological and social angles of the trans phenomenon, but also includes several chapters of incisive biblical exposition and valuable theological exploration (plus 43 pages of endnotes). Although not without the occasional inconsistency, Embodied is marked by a powerful commitment to biblical truth matched by an equally strong concern for real people. Accordingly, the work is set in a decidedly pastoral frame and is marked by a deeply compassionate tone throughout.”


Music: Leslie Odom, Jr., “Speak Now,” One Night in Miami: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

What Happens When Christians Aren’t Afraid of Death?

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Some of the most striking stories of the early church after the New Testament come from times of persecution by the Roman Empire. In North Africa, the church was strong, but suffered greatly.

In the early 3rd century in present day Tunisia, a noblewoman, Perpetua, who was a Christian, refused to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor. That oath implied not only allegiance to the emperor over any other loyalty, but also acknowledged him as a kind of god. Perpetua’s commitment to Jesus as Lord and God flew in the face of that oath, leading her to a radical decision, which came at the price of her life. She and her household servant, Felicitas, both of whom were committed followers of Jesus refused to take the oath. They ended up being thrown into prison and then cast in the gladiatorial ring with wild animals who quickly overcame them, tearing them to pieces. They chose that horrific fate rather than forsake their faith in Jesus Christ.

How could these women be so unafraid of death? When we largely seem motivated by avoidance of death and suffering, what was it that could set them free from the fear of death?

I don’t believe it was because death was less scary to them, or that they were so much more courageous than the average person. Instead, there was a greater reality, something that seemed even stronger in their eyes, which overpowered the all-consuming fear of death. That overpowering reality is Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So many of us live our lives afraid of pain and the finality that is death. Others of us scurry through life knowing we won’t get another chance, feeling the urgency of our days. We all live under a universal death-sentence where the question is not “if” we’re going to die, but “when” will we die. Death tries to keep us in its grip, apart from God’s best for us as human beings.

But it is not the end of the story.

The resurrection of Jesus tells us that the power of evil and the prison of sin have been overcome. Even more we are told that the sting of death has been destroyed by Jesus Christ at the Cross. Paul the Apostle, wrote about that in this way in a letter to an early church in the city of Corinth:

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

The empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection tell us there is hope in the midst of death. We do not have to live in fear of death because Jesus could not be held back by death. It is not His Master, but rather He is the Master of all things.

Death is not the end of Jesus’ story. And, by faith in Jesus, death does not have to be the end of our story.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 December 2018

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.

85262“John the Baptist Points to the Real Hope of Advent” – Fleming Rutledge reflects on how both Advent and John the Baptist are apparently out of touch with the cultural currents that surround Christmas. Connecting with the longing for Jesus to come as Judge, “John does not proclaim Jesus as a captivating infant smiling benevolently at groups of assorted rustics, potentates, and farm animals. Instead, he cries out, ‘He who is coming after me is mightier than I. . . . His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:11–12).” Her entire article is compelling. [Thanks to David Bier for sharing this with me.]

 

brunson22a“‘A living martyr’” – World Magazine names Andrew Brunson as their “Daniel of the year,” following accusations against him in Turkey and his recent release from imprisonment.  “Jailed in October 2016 and subsequently charged with espionage and terrorism, Andrew Brunson found himself catapulted to the center of global headlines and U.S.-Turkey relations. Norine, jailed briefly then released, never left Turkey, knowing she might not be allowed to return to support her husband. Now they were home to family and friends.”

 

Mar Mattai Monastery Iraq“The Vanishing: The plight of Christians in an age of intolerance” – Janine di Giovanni reports on something that many of us have been highlighting for the past few years: the excavation of a persecuted Christian minority from the Middle East. “The Christians here have endured invasions by Persians, Kurds, and Turks, but they have recovered after each persecution. This is, in part, their tradition: they believe in their sacred right to their land. . . . The persecution of Christians in Iraq began as early as the thirteenth century. But in recent years it has reached a tipping point, setting off a mass exodus. In 2002, when I was living in Baghdad, six months before the US invasion, there were nearly 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Today there are between 250,000 and 300,000 left, according to Samuel Tadros, a fellow at the Hudson Institute.” You may also want to read this recent, similar statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury: “Christians on brink of extinction in Middle East, warns Archbishop of Canterbury.”

 

2013_9-16-The-Russian-Orthodox-Church“Israel expropriates almost 70 acres of Catholic Church property” – On a related topic, The Middle East Monitor reports: “Israel’s occupation authorities expropriated almost 70 acres of Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley and West Bank on Tuesday, Shehab news agency has reported. The land is owned by the Roman Catholic Church — the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem — in the villages of Bardala and Tayaseer near the West Bank city of Tubas and in the Jordan Valley respectively.” Is it for security or settlements? Either way, the church just lot its property to the state.

 

A Uyghur woman walks pass a statue of Mao Zedong in the“The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam” – On a related topic, in The New York Times Review of Books, Ian Johnson offers an extended reflection on Islam in China, with particular attention to the Uighurs in northwest China. He also gives some helpful reflections on why China has struggled to accept Christianity, as well as other religions viewed as subversive.

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 11.36.26 AM“All the presidents at the Bush funeral service together recited this core prayer. Except one.” – There was a little kerfuffle in the Twitter-sphere when people noticed that President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump did not recite the Apostles Creed after the homily during George H. W. Bush’s funeral at the National Cathedral. Michelle Boorstein offers an even-handed reflection on the history and significance of the Apostles Creed, and also why the Trumps did not recite it during the service. You can also read my article about why we now recite the Apostles Creed when taking communion at Eastbrook Church.

 

pexels-photo-684387“The Dominant Approach to Leadership in the Church and Why Jesus Means to Upend It”Kyuboem Lee over at Missio Alliance: “There’s a reason many pastors feel used and abused—they’ve been living as cogs in the wheels of the Church Industrial Complex (as my friends JR and Dan White say in their book, Church as Movement). What is the remedy? It’s certainly not trying harder to keep the machine going. Jesus said there is a different kingdom—and a different way of governing, or leading. A different theology of power for a different kingdom. And out of it, a different way of structuring ourselves as society or organization or community. The greatest in this society will be the servant of all.”

 

civil war“Battle Lines: Recovering the profound divisions that led to the Civil War” – Numerous people have recommended that I read Andrew Delbanco’s The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War. I haven’t had the chance to get there yet, but a tantalizing appetizer came this past week in Gordon Wood’s in-depth review of both Delbanco’s book and Sean Wilentz’s No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding. The review sends you deep into the history of slavery in our country to some profound wrestling with what was really going on.

 

3309“Unknown John Donne manuscript discovered in Suffolk” – This might just be the English-major in me, or it might be the poetry lover in me, but I found this article about a recently discovered manuscript of John Donne’s poetry fascinating. Donne is that well-known 17th-century love poet, who eventually became an Anglican priest and metaphysical poet. “A previously unrecorded handwritten manuscript of John Donne’s poetry has been found in a box at an English country house in Suffolk. Dating back 400 years, the bound collection was kept for at least the last two centuries at Melford Hall in Suffolk.”

[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 December 2018

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.

jo saxton“Calling Versus Narcissism” – In this ten-minute message given at Q Ideas, Jo Saxton reflects on the slight difference between calling and narcissism. Building off of the myth of Narcissus and the contemporary discussion of the narcissistic personality disorder, Saxton speaks to Christians about how we can view calling through the eyes of God, and authentically position our service for the good of others.

 

Jean Pierre Gatera“He Led Churches in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. Now He Waxes Floors” – You will be moved by this powerful account of Jean Pierre Gatera, a bivocational pastor in the US, who is also a refugee. He spent 20 years in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya, where he pastored several congregations.

 

85361“US Missionary Killed by ‘World’s Most Isolated’ Tribe” – “A 26-year-old American missionary was killed on a remote island off the coast of India, where he attempted to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world. All Nations, a Christian missions agency based in the US, confirmed that John Allen Chau traveled to North Sentinel Island after years of study and training to evangelize its small indigenous population, who remain almost entirely untouched by modern civilization.” You can read the BBC’s initial report here and updates on attempts to retrieve Chau’s body here. You can find out more about the Sentinelese people here. This also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the way that we tell missionary stories. Read Lucy Austen’s article on this dilemma, “From Jim Elliot to John Allen Chau: The Missionary-Martyr Dilemma,” over at Christianity Today.

 

img_3744_slide-6b53600232d81844eff1806355dec33c4a5e739f-s1500-c85“In Iraq, A Race To Protect The Crumbling Bricks Of Ancient Babylon” – In the midst of our series on the book of Daniel at Eastbrook Church, I have spent quite a bit of time researching the history of ancient Babylon. NPR reports here on the challenges of preserving that cultural history as a result of the conflicts that have raged in the midst of Iraq over the past ten years and more.

 

luke-palmer-305434-unsplash.jpg“How to experience the Bible in a digital world” – “Spark and Echo, cofounded in 2010 by the composer Jonathan Roberts and the actor and musician Emily Clare Zempel, aims to “illuminate” every single verse of the King James Bible by the year 2030. The way it works is this: Patrons contribute funding and have a chance to mark with a ‘spark’ particular verses they would like to see ‘echoed’ by an artist, writer or musician. Then, the program commissions—and pays for—an original work based on those verses.”

 

Old-Vintage-Books“8 Works of Fiction Every Christian Should Read”Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well, shares eight fiction books that every Christian should read. You will find treasures from Charlotte Bronte, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Flannery O’Connor, and Charles Dickens, as well as a few surprises. This is a fantastic list worth taking a look at for your Christmas list or just for adding to your to-read list for 2019.

 

christopher tolkien“The Steward of Middle-Earth” – Speaking of good literature, you might enjoy Hannah Long‘s fascinating reflection on the work of Christopher Tolkien, son of J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. “In 1975, Christopher Tolkien left his fellowship at New College, Oxford, to edit his late father’s massive legendarium. The prospect was daunting. The 50-year-old medievalist found himself confronted with 70 boxes of unpublished work. Thousands of pages of notes and fragments and poems, some dating back more than six decades, were stuffed haphazardly into the boxes. Handwritten texts were hurriedly scrawled in pencil and annotated with a jumble of notes and corrections. One early story was drafted in a high school exercise book.”

 

Andy Crouch“Tech Wise”Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making and The Tech-Wise Family, speaks at Menlo Church about what he calls “the upgrader’s dilemma.” What is that? That dilemma is the simultaneous reality that even as technology is progressing through upgrades that astound us, other things in our world and our lives do not feel like they are progressing at all, but might be getting worse. Crouch explores the possibility that the very things that are progressing are contributing to our failure to progress in other areas.

 

151103120643-italian-elderly-man-exlarge-169“Drug overdoses, suicides cause drop in 2017 US life expectancy; CDC director calls it a ‘wakeup call'” – “Life expectancy in the United States declined from 2016 to 2017, yet the 10 leading causes of death remained the same, according to three government reports released Thursday. Increasing deaths due to drug overdoses and suicides explain this slight downtick in life expectancy, the US Centers for Disease Control says. Overdose deaths reached a new high in 2017, topping 70,000, while the suicide rate increased by 3.7%, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports.” If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please don’t delay in reaching out for help. Find support resources here.

 

[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.]