The Weekend Wanderer: 10 August 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.

Donna Barrett“Groundbreaking Vote” – “Delegates at the 2019 General Council returned Assemblies of God General Secretary Donna L. Barrett [to her post]….The election marked the first time a woman has been elected to a national office by a General Council vote in the 105-year history of the U.S. Assemblies of God….Barrett, 59, came into office in June 2018 by a vote of the Executive Presbytery. She received a standing ovation after the outcome announcement.” More info here: “Assemblies of God Elects First Woman to Top Leadership Team.”

 

Birmingham stained glass.jpg“Who’s Afraid of Social Justice” – Brian Dijkema at Comment relates his apology for the biblical calling to justice. “You can work very, very hard to downplay the host of scriptural references to justice, and the thread of justice that appears to run from the book of Genesis to Revelation, and which is captured in Reformed and small-c catholic confessions. You can ignore it; you can pretend it’s not there; you can attempt to blunt the sharpness of God’s Word; you can attempt to douse the holy fire that accompanies the execution of justice in Scripture, or to mute the strain and anguish of the voices in Scripture that cry out for justice. But after all of your efforts, justice will still be there in the embrace of peace, ready to be picked up by the downtrodden who read God’s Word; ready to convict the tyrant who is confronted by God’s Word; ready to lull those of us sitting comfortably on our dragon hoard of wealth to obey God’s command; ready to provide us with hope and encouragement.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 12.44.05 PM“America’s gun problem, explained” – After the shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, everyone’s attention was turned toward the violence in our nation. Many, including clergy, linked these hate crimes with white nationalism. However, it returns us to the divisive dialogue around gun violence and legislation in the United States. Both this article from Vox and a companion piece at CNN (“How US gun culture compares with the world”) help examine statistics and data related to gun violence, hate crimes, and comparison with international approaches to guns. Regardless of your politics, this is worth the read.

 

Toni Morrison“Remembering the Peerless Toni Morrison” – If you’ve never read anything by Toni Morrison, you should do so within the year. I first read her in a literature class in college, and my wife regularly taught Beloved in her high school literature classes. “Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and peerless American author, died on Monday at the age of 88. Since the publication of her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, Morrison has been established as one of the most powerful and distinct voices in literature, a lyrical chronicler and witness to the African American experience. Her 1987 novel, Beloved, the story of a former enslaved person who is haunted by the child she killed, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and was named the best work of American fiction of the late 20th century by The New York Times in 2006.”

 

91627“Bonhoeffer Convinced Me to Abandon My Dream” – Many of you know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my (dead) theological mentors and heroes. His statements on the church in Life Together revolutionized my cynicism. Here is Chase Replogle with a deeper dive into Bonhoeffer’s statements that challenged him to abandon his wish dreams to embrace the church that God had placed right in front of him. Pastors, take heed.

 

Upstart Kitchen“UpStart Kitchen Hopes To Boost Milwaukee Food Entrepreneurs” – Here’s some local news from Milwaukee about an exciting new initiative arising from the efforts of some friends. “There’s a new effort underway to help low and moderate-income food entrepreneurs in Milwaukee. UpStart Kitchen is an incubator kitchen set to open late summer in the Sherman Park neighborhood. It’s a shared, commercial kitchen space for chefs and caterers with dreams of opening or expanding their food businesses. It also has services to help the businesses get off the ground.”

 

Terry Gross 1991“Fresh Air Archive” – After 40 years of the NPR show Fresh Air, the entire archive of Terry Gross’ interviews have been archived and made available to listeners. Regardless of your perspective or politics, you cannot deny that Gross is an incredibly gifted interviewer with a probing curiosity that helps open up her guests. You might enjoy listening to her interview with cartoonist Charles Schulz (of “Peanuts” fame). She has also interviewed a number of Christian thinkers over the years, including Francis Collins, Richard Cizik, Al Mohler, Jim Wallis, Jerry Falwell, Peter Gomes, and more.

 

semicolon“The Birth of the Semicolon” – I don’t know why these sort of things interest me, but they do. “The semicolon was born in Venice in 1494. It was meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon, and this heritage was reflected in its form, which combines half of each of those marks. It was born into a time period of writerly experimentation and invention, a time when there were no punctuation rules, and readers created and discarded novel punctuation marks regularly.”

Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, “Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis,” conducted by Andrew Davis and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at Gloucester Cathedral.

[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.]

Next Steps after “A Wake Up Call to Live the Dream”

MLK-Gathering-Ads_App-Wide.pngLast night, we had the immense privilege of hosting an event at Eastbrook Church put on by the Milwaukee Declaration group entitled “A Wake Up Call to Live the Dream.” It was an amazing multi-ethnic gathering of believers from congregations around the city and suburbs of Milwaukee. At the end of the night, we provided some possible next steps. Since some folks have asked me about that resource list, I am posting it to my blog below.Read More »

The Warmth of Other Suns (Book Reflections)

The Warmth of Others SunsWhen I was at a gathering with ministry leaders focused on the multi-ethnic church over a year ago, Professor Soong-Chan Rah recommended that anyone wanting to better understand the historical background of race relations in the United States should read Isabel Wilkerson‘s book The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.  I finished the book awhile ago, but am only now sharing some of my reflections after reading the book.

In the book, Wilkerson traces the waves of African-American moving from the Southeastern United State to the Northeast, Midwest, and West between 1915 and 1970. While doing so, Wilkerson adeptly interweaves sociological analysis and personal narratives to portray a powerfully intimate and wide-reaching view of this movement. The title of the book is taken from the words of Richard Wright, author of Native Son, in his memoir Black Boy, where he writes:

I was leaving the South
to fling myself into the unknown…
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in alien soil,
to see if it could grow differently,
if it could drink of new and cool rains,
bend in strange winds,
respond to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, to bloom

While I would recommend the book to anyone, I want to highlight three ways in which the book impacted me, both as a reader and a Caucasian pastor working in a multi-ethnic, urban setting in Milwaukee.

1. Better understanding of Jim Crow era: While I understood the historical and legal aspects of the Jim Crow era to a certain degree, this book helped me by personalizing those realities through the stories of three people making their way from the deep south to other parts of the country during the great migration.

2. Better understanding of my own setting, Milwaukee, which continues to be one of the most segregated cities in the USA. Milwaukee is a beautiful city, yet it is still deeply shaped by segregation by ethnicity, which was greatly impacted by the Jim Crow era and the great migration. Milwaukee continues to feel the painful impact of ethnic divisions, which are reinforced by numerous individual and systemic forms of prejudice.

3. Increased empathy for the way in which individuals, families, and generations are affected by prejudice.  Even though my grandparents and great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Europe, their and my place in society was not nearly as painfully limited as those who suffered through the slavery era, Jim Crow era, and even today. When I sit with my friend Michael or Walter and hear their stories – and the stories of their forebears – this book has helped me to see with new eyes and feel with new empathy what they face.

There is so much more that I could say, but I’d encourage you to read this book for your own sake and for the sake of our cities and nation today.

A Call to Prayer and Forging a Way Forward

On Monday morning, December 22, I had a meeting scheduled with a group of five pastors (three African-American pastors and two Caucasian pastors) to discuss how we might stand together in the midst of the racial tensions in Milwaukee. Ironically, as we were walking into the meeting, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office announced that there would be no charges in the Dontre Hamilton shooting case. This quickly changed the agenda and sense of urgency within our meeting.

The Dontre Hamilton case has added to the stream of cases, particularly over the past year, which raises questions about systemic issues of racial disparities in the implementation of justice in our nation. Along with the well-known cases of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York, the shooting of Dontre Hamilton increases the subtle sense that something is amiss in the way African-American men, even if committing crimes, are experiencing the implementation of justice in our nation. This is a complex situation that is bigger than just one element, whether law enforcement, educational opportunities, employment possibilities, or more.

I have talked with many individuals over the past few weeks who are trying to understand exactly what happened, what the meaning of this outcome is, and how we should respond as Christians in the face of these challenging times. As a pastor of a multiethnic church here in Milwaukee, I believe that the strongest witness happens when we journey together across our diverse backgrounds into a learning process that involves listening, speaking, and some very healthy reflection. Regardless of your opinions on the above matters, as followers of Jesus Christ we must approach these issues based upon God’s Word in the Scriptures.

A clear biblical response to this situation is to grieve. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We should mourn with the family of Dontre Hamilton, who lost a loved one in a way that no one would ever desire. Regardless of our ethnicity, we should mourn together as one with the African-American community who sense that things are not as they should be. Regardless of our opinions, we should mourn for the tragic killing of two police officers in New York City in an apparent act of vengeance for the outcome of the Eric Garner case. Regardless of our politics, we should mourn over our own city which ranks so highly in ethnic segregation, poverty, violent crime, racial disparities for incarceration, and more. A healthy biblical response is to grieve about this local situation in Milwaukee, as well as the situation that is shaking our nation.Read More »

Statistics on the US and Milwaukee

This past weekend in my message at Eastbrook Church entitled, “More,” I mentioned some statistics about the state of Christianity in the United States and also some statistics about Milwaukee. I am including those statistics here, along with the source for each, as a few people asked me for the specifics.

The United States:

  • Less than 20% attend church regularly
  • 50% of churches didn’t add one new person through conversion last year
  • 43,000 people are leaving every week
  • 100 years ago: 28 churches/10,000 people; Today: 11 churches/10,000 people
  • (source for above, Dave and Jon Ferguson, Exponential, page 14)

Milwaukee:

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