The Weekend Wanderer: 6 August 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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


im-591119“Pope’s Canada Visit Highlights Complex Relationship Between Catholicism and Indigenous Cultures” – Francis X. Rocca in The Wall Street Journal: “Pope Francis’s visit to Canada, which he has described as a penitential pilgrimage, took a more celebratory turn on Tuesday [of last week] when he presided at Mass in an Edmonton stadium and took part in a traditional lakeside ceremony with indigenous Catholics. Although organizers of the papal visit and the pope himself have made it clear that its purpose is to apologize for Catholics’ role in what Francis called government-sponsored ‘projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation,’ his second full day in the country highlighted a more harmonious legacy of the church’s relationship with indigenous Canadians. On Monday, the pope apologized repeatedly for Catholic participation in the country’s system of residential schools which, for more than a century, assimilated indigenous children to white culture. On Tuesday, he pointed to the church’s practice of presenting its teachings in forms compatible with local cultures.”


Nicky and Pipa Gumbel“Nicky Gumbel’s Fitting Farewell to HTB Church: ‘The Best Is Yet to Come'” – Krish Kandia in Christianity Today: “What does a lifetime of fruitful public ministry look like? Last Sunday, Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) tried to answer this question in a video montage marking the end of Nicky Gumbel’s 46 years of leadership at the London multisite church. Images of people whose lives had been impacted by the senior pastor and author flashed across the screen as one incredible statistic after another scrolled past: 30 million people introduced to the Christian faith through the Alpha Course, across 140 countries and 170 languages; 2 million people fed spiritually by a Bible reading app; and 2 million meals delivered during the pandemic from HTB alone. The July 24 video was a fitting homage to a nowadays unusual career, spanning almost five decades in the same congregation. It is rare in Anglican churches in the United Kingdom for a trainee leadership position to last more than the minimum requirement of three years, with many moving regularly to the next parish. But Nicky sat under the tutelage of HTB’s then senior leader, bishop Sandy Millar, for 19 years. He was 49 years old when he took over the church, and admitted to uncertainty about it all—feeling both too young and too old to do so.”


081022green-church“What does it mean to be a green church during a climate crisis?” – Anna Woofenden in The Christian Century: “At Presbyterian-New England Congrega­tional Church in Saratoga Springs, New York, environmental sustainability is woven into every aspect of church life, from how the church is heated to what happens at coffee hour to the content of sermons to what products are purchased for events. Being a green church has become a way of life, not an issue to be debated. The pastor, Kate Forer, said that church members began this work several years ago by exploring together a series of questions that helped them to connect the dots between their actions and the entire network of creation. Where does our electricity come from? Are there opportunities for us to buy renewable energy, as a congregation and as individuals? If not, how can we as a church work to make those available? What are we doing with our trash? Are there ways to reduce our trash and increase our recycling and composting? What about transportation to church?…Such questions became powerful guides as the congregation navigated the choices and actions they were taking as a community. While people were generally supportive of the idea of being more environmentally active and sustainable, the work limped along for several years as they did a little here and a little there.”


Screen Shot 2022-07-29 at 2.05.26 PM“Are Humans Naturally Good or Evil?” – Chinese house church pastor Yang Xibo in Plough: “Sin is sly and will hide itself. If we ask why there is so much injustice in the world – massacres, war, corruption, and bribery – many people will answer without hesitation, ‘Generally people are good except for a handful of scumbags.’ Consequently, they take away judgment. In fact, this neglects sin. Communism and Marxism teach that only a few people are evil, and they become capitalists who take control over the economy. As long as we can get rid of these few, most people are intrinsically good and the world will become better as human good exceeds human evil. We all subconsciously believe this story, but what happened when the people were granted authority in China? No one wanted to work for the common good. As a result, China’s economy crashed, because people are selfish, and they would rather put more effort into taking care of their own fields than communal ones. The Bible says all have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and the heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). Without being taught, the intention of a person’s heart is evil from youth (Gen. 8:21). Humanists and anthropologists often consider humans to be good, because without God that is the only hope they have. They cannot accept or bear the fact that humankind is evil. Yet such hope has been shown to be bankrupt in history.


Timeline of African American Music“Timeline of African American Music: 1600-Present” – Dr. Portia K. Maultsby and colleagues at Carnegie Hall website: “From the drumbeats of Mother Africa to the work songs and Spirituals created in a new land, a path can be traced to the blues, gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, and hip-hop expressions of African Americans that are celebrated throughout the world. The Timeline of African American Music represents decades of scholarship conducted and led by Dr. Portia K. Maultsby, a pioneer in the study of African American music, as well as the contributions of numerous scholars. From the earliest folk traditions to present-day popular music, the timeline is a detailed view of the evolution of African American musical genres that span the past 400 years. This celebration of African American musical traditions reveals the unique characteristics of each genre and style, while also offering in-depth studies of pioneering musicians who created some of America’s most timeless artistic expressions.”


mechanization and monoculture“Mechanization and Monoculture: Why eliminating the unpredictable leads to unintended consequences” – Alan Jacobs in The Hedgehog Review: “Near the end of his brilliant memoir Tristes Tropiques, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss describes his visits to various rum distilleries in the Caribbean:

In Martinique, I had visited rustic and neglected rum-distilleries where the equipment and the methods used had not changed since the eighteenth century. In Puerto Rico, on the other hand, in the factories of the company which enjoys a virtual monopoly over the whole of the sugar production, I was faced by a display of white enamel tanks and chromium piping. Yet the various kinds of Martinique rum, as I tasted them in front of ancient wooden vats thickly encrusted with waste matter, were mellow and scented, whereas those of Puerto Rico are coarse and harsh.

Meditation on this contrast leads Levi-Strauss to a more general insight:

We may suppose, then, that the subtlety of the Martinique rums is dependent on impurities the continuance of which is encouraged by the archaic method of production. To me, this contrast illustrates the paradox of civilization: Its charms are due essentially to the various residues it carries along with it, although this does not absolve us of the obligation to purify the stream. By being doubly in the right, we are admitting our mistake. We are right to be rational and to try to increase our production and so keep manufacturing costs down. But we are also right to cherish those very imperfections we are endeavouring to eliminate. Social life consists in destroying that which gives it its savour.

A melancholy reflection, to be sure—but perhaps not an inevitable one. The Puerto Rican rum industry observed by Levi-Strauss is a clear example of what happens when, as Sigfried Giedion put it in his still-essential book from 1948, Mechanization Takes Command, mechanization conquests more and more dimensions of human existence: agriculture, food production, bathing and washing. He even has a chapter on how mass-produced furniture changes our very posture.”


Music: The War on Drugs, “Pain,” from A Deeper Understanding

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 July 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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


authority-980x551“Authority Is Dead, Long Live Authority” – Cassandra Nelson in Comment: “Ten years ago, I was a graduate student studying English literature. Hopefully enough time has now passed to safely confess that I had no idea what I was doing as a teacher in grad school. When undergraduates came to my office hours, we would talk for a while about books on the syllabus, or books off the syllabus, or sometimes a different subject entirely. A few came regularly. Their faces remain vivid in my mind, along with my own mild bafflement after our conversations. What do they want?, I used to wonder at the close of office hours. And do I ever supply it?  Gradually, a calling began to come into focus. I finished my PhD and spent three years teaching literature and composition at the United States Military Academy. But even then, it was still possible to become flummoxed. The last course I taught at West Point was a remedial intro class in the summer. One day our discussion centred on Tobias Wolff’s ‘Bullet in the Brain,’ a short story about an ill-tempered book critic named Anders who is shot in the head during a bank robbery. In the story, the omniscient narrator follows the bullet’s path through Anders’s brain as it sets off ‘a crackling chain of ion transports and neuro-transmissions through synapses containing memories of important moments in his life. Debate veered from the text for a moment when a cadet wondered aloud whether so much of one’s life could actually flash before one’s eyes in the midst of a seemingly instantaneous death. ‘Ma’am,’ he asked, ‘is that really how it happens?’  For a moment I was taken aback. What surprised me wasn’t the number of faces that turned in my direction, but rather the way their expressions implied I might genuinely know the answer.”


Ron Sider CT“Died: Ron Sider, Evangelical Who Pushed for Social Action” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “Ronald J. Sider, organizer of the evangelical left and author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, died on Wednesday at 82. His son told followers that Sider had suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest. For nearly 50 years, Sider called evangelicals to care about the poor and see poverty as a moral issue. He argued for an expanded understanding of sin to include social structures that perpetuate inequality and injustice, and urged Christians to see how their salvation should compel them to care for their neighbors. ‘Salvation is a lot more than just a new right relationship with God through forgiveness of sins. It’s a new, transformed lifestyle that you can see visible in the body of believers,’ he said. ‘Sin is a biblical category. Given a careful reading of the world and the Bible and our giving patterns, how can we come to any other conclusion than to say that we are flatly disobeying what the God of the Bible says about the way he wants his people to care for the poor?’ Sider was a key facilitator of the born-again left that emerged in the 1970s but lived to see American evangelicals largely turn away from concerns about war, racism, and inequality. He continued to speak out, however, and became, as a Christianity Today writer once described it, the ‘burr in the ethical saddle’ of the white evangelical horse.”


Hama_chiesa.jfif“Two people killed in a drone attack during church inauguration in Hama province” – Asia News Agency: “Two people were killed and 12 injured in yesterday’s drone attack against a church in Suqaylabiyah, a town in the central Syrian province of Hama. A large crowd of worshippers and many government officials were in attendance of the inauguration of Hagia Sophia Church, named after the monumental Byzantine Basilica in Istanbul that was turned again into a mosque a few years ago. A video of the incident shows a drone with an explosive charge crashing near the church during the celebrations, killing and wounding people. The terrorist action was blamed on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group backed by Turkey that still controls large areas in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia, the last pocket of armed opposition to the government of Bashar al Assad eleven years since the start of Syria’s civil war.”


hiddenlife4“Terrence Malick and the Question of Martyrdom” – David Michael in Plough: “In a rare public appearance to discuss his 2016 documentary, Voyage of Time, the director Terrence Malick remarked that he had “lately repented [of] the idea” of working without a script. The comment was in reference to his last three films, the so-called Weightless Trilogy (To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, and Song to Song), which had split critics and been skewered for their unstructured narrative and improvised dialogue. “The last picture we shot, and we’re now cutting, went back to a script that was very well ordered.” His comment made headlines across the internet, where writers speculated that the new film might prove a return to form for the auteur behind Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The Tree of Life, for which he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. A Hidden Life tells the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector who was imprisoned and eventually executed for refusing to swear the oath of allegiance to Hitler and fight for the Nazis. It is a masterpiece.”


superpowers instruments“We Don’t Need Superpowers. We Need Instruments.” – Andy Crouch in The Praxis Journal: “Technology is a major part of the story we are living in and responsible for as redemptive entrepreneurs. Many members of our community work directly in tech ventures, and more broadly, we all depend on technology in our professional and personal lives. And yet technology prompts a great deal of ambivalence even in those who build it and benefit from it. Many of us sense, at the very least, that we need to be thoughtful and intentional about the devices and systems we are building and adopting—that technology is not in fact “neutral” but can sometimes actively undermine human flourishing, even when in other cases it seems to bring great benefits. The moment you question any given technological development, though, you run into a powerful implicit idea, an idea whose ability to impede healthy thinking and reflection is matched only by how totally it is taken for granted most of the time. It is the belief that the story of technology fundamentally advances along one single line from ‘primitive’ to ‘advanced.’…I think this assumption is mistaken.”


glen-carrie-oHoBIbDj7lo-unsplash“Poetry and the Art of Naming” – Abram Van Engen in Reformed Journal: “In the beginning was the Word. So begins the gospel of John. And so, according to John, begins everything. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and he did so in and through Jesus, who acted as language. The Word. God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. A spoken word and something new. In using language to create, God begins the world in relation. For all language—spoken or written or otherwise employed—comes from a prior relation and extends a new one. Language does not and cannot develop in a vacuum. Isolation never made a single word. Instead, every word signals a community, some relation to another. As each word is spoken or written or in some other way sent out into the world, it reaches for a listener, a reader, a person to respond. Words come from society and go out from individuals in attempts to communicate and connect. In the process, they create. Poetry dwells in words. It uses, as its tool and medium, the words that others have made and use every day for countless tasks other than poetry. As W.H. Auden noted long ago, ‘It is both the glory and the shame of poetry that its medium is not its private property, that a poet cannot invent his words and that words are products, not of nature, but of a human society which uses them for a thousand different purposes.’ For Auden, though, that shared medium served as a constant reminder that the poet is never alone: ‘however esoteric a poem may be,’ he added, ‘the fact that all its words have meanings which can be looked up in a dictionary makes it testify to the existence of other people. Even the language of Finnegans Wake was not created by Joyce ex nihilo; a purely private verbal world is not possible.'”


Music: The National, “Runaway” (Live Uncut), recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 15, 2010, originally from High Violet.