“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.
“Pastor of church ordered to close receives suspended sentence and fine in Algeria” – From Evangelical News – Europe: “Less than a week after a a court in Algeria ordered pastor Rachid Seighir’s church to close, a judge in handed him a one-year suspended sentence and a fine for “shaking the faith” of Muslims with Christian literature at his bookstore, sources said. Pastor Seighir’s Oratoire Church building in the city of Oran was one of three ordered to be sealed in western Algeria’s Oran Province on Wednesday (June 2). On Sunday (June 6) he and bookstore salesman Nouh Hamimi were sentenced to one-year suspended sentences and a fine of 200,000 dinars (US$1,494) in a ruling on their appeal of a prior sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dinars (US$3,745).”
“Anti-Racism in the Church” – NT Wright wrote this originally in The Spectator in March and it was reposted here: “Douglas Murray complains that the C of E has embraced the ‘new religion’ of anti-racism (‘The C of E’s new religion’, 20 March). But the truth, which neither he nor the church seems to have realised, is that the ‘anti-racist’ agenda is a secular attempt to plug a long-standing gap in western Christianity. The answer is to recover the full message, not to bolt on new ideologies. The earliest Christian writings insist that in the Messiah ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek’. The book of Revelation envisages Jesus’s followers as an uncountable family from every nation, tribe, people and language. At the climax of his greatest letter, St Paul urges Christians to ‘welcome one another’ across all social and ethnic barriers, insisting that the church will thereby function as the advance sign of God’s coming renewal of all creation.”
“Youth Pastors and Parents Cross Wires on the Core Purpose of Church” – Lyman Stone interviews sociologist Christian Smith in Christianity Today: “How religious mothers and fathers balance their children’s growing autonomy with robust discipleship is the topic of a new book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, by Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and Amy Adamczyk, professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York (CUNY).”
“The Questions Concerning Technology” – L. M. Sacasas in The Convivial Society email newsletter: “I then went on to produce a set of 41 questions that I drafted with a view to helping us draw out the moral or ethical implications of our tools. The post proved popular at the time and I received a few notes from developers and programmers who had found the questions useful enough to print out post in their workspaces….This is not, of course, an exhaustive set of questions, nor do I claim any unique profundity for them. I do hope, however, that they are useful, wherever we happen to find ourselves in relation to technological artifacts and systems. At one point, I had considered doing something a bit more with these, possibly expanding on each briefly to explain the underlying logic and providing some concrete illustrative examples or cases. Who knows, may be that would be a good occasional series for the newsletter. Feel free to let me know what you think about that.”
“Ten Commandments for Tech” – Continuing the technology theme, here is Amy Crouch in Comment: “Our tech devices are designed to make life easier, but maybe ease isn’t what we need. They’re designed to captivate us, but maybe we need time to look up and around. Silicon Valley’s technologies promised a revolution in speed and convenience, and they certainly delivered. Yet it’s starting to look like those were the wrong promises. 24/7 communication and distraction haven’t relieved us from stress, boredom, or loneliness. As our lives become increasingly mediated by algorithms and machines, tech designers need to rethink those promises. The following “ten commandments” suggest a way of designing that is centred not on ease or distraction, but flourishing. Perhaps we don’t need greater convenience in our communities and callings. Perhaps instead we need help to venture further on the straight-and-narrow path of righteousness.”
“Arrival and Annihilation: Cinematic Reimaginings of the Resurrection of the Body” – Here is Jon Coutts writing in The Other Journal about two science fiction movies and their reapproaching of what resurrection means: “When we think of the so-called afterlife, we cannot help but use our imaginations. As a young child in church, I imagined an unending hymn-sing or an eternity spent floating suspended in the clouds. To me, the thought of ceaseless heaven was terrifying. And since then, I’ve received no help from the idealized projections of near-death-experience literature or from popular renditions like The Good Place. Even in its light-heartedness, the NBC sitcom could find no better ending than a get-out-of-the-afterlife-free option that’s triggered once perpetual self-satisfaction wears into infinite tedium.”
“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.even sharing it with someone who you know struggles in this way.
“Suffering and Glory: Meditations on Holy Week and Easter” – Here is a great resource for Holy Week and Easter to encourage us in our faith: “How does Jesus’ triumphal entry and his cleansing of the temple speak to critical cultural issues today? What does Christ’s prayer in the garden teach us about suffering and submission? How can Christ’s journey to the cross help us learn to die to ourselves? In Suffering & Glory: Meditations on Easter and Holy Week, a book co-published by Christianity Today and Lexham Press, we feature some of the best Holy Week and Easter articles from the last half-century of Christianity Today magazine. Here is a sampling of some of the articles featured in Suffering & Glory. May these reflections help you draw ever closer to Christ as you journey with him to the cross and rejoice at the empty tomb.”
“A Country With No Name: Living in Liminal Spaces” – Here is Prasanta Verma, a friend and congregant at Eastbrook Church, sharing her experiences: “We were out on the softball field for recess. In the outfield, no one else could hear our conversation, well out of earshot from the teacher on duty. It was another typical hot, sunny, Southern day, and I could feel the red clay burning like hot coals beneath my feet. My classmate turned to me, hatred and bitterness seething in her eyes. ‘Go back to Indiana, or wherever it is you came from!’ she hissed. Sound travels faster in humid air, stinging the ears more quickly than normal. I said nothing in response, but knew what she meant. Her use of the name of a state, Indiana, instead of the name of the country, India, made the meaning undeniably clear. My family was, as far as we were aware, the only Indian family within a 45-mile radius, and my classmate had never met (or presumably seen) anyone else before from the far-off land of ‘Indiana’.”
“The Atlanta massacre is yet another reminder we desperately need race-conscious discipleship” – Ray Chang of Wheaton College at RNS: “My phone started lighting up with notifications. By now, when this happens, it’s usually because an incident involving race has occurred. As I picked up my phone, I saw the words, ‘8 shot dead in Atlanta.’ My stomach dropped. All I could say to myself was: ‘Lord, have mercy. Not again. No more.’ At the start of the pandemic, anyone who had even a basic understanding of how race functions in society knew the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump would lead to discrimination, targeting and violence against Asian Americans. This is why we at the Asian American Christian Collaborative wrote the ‘Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19.’ As we watched the number of incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate, we knew that we were about to see another spike of anti-Asian racism. What we hoped was for efforts like ours to get the church to speak up against anti-Asian racism.”
“Flannery O’Connor’s Grotesque Grace” – Karen Swallow Prior at Think Christian on a recently-released documentary on the work and influence of author Flannery O’Connor, which you can view here: “Nearly nine years in the making, Flannery—a prize-winning documentary on the Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor, debuting in virtual-cinemas July 17—couldn’t come at a better time….O’Connor—who lived from 1925 to 1964, dying of lupus at age 39—experienced ‘the best of times’ and ‘the worst of times’ in modern American history. Accordingly, one of the documentary’s strengths is placing O’Connor’s life and work squarely within the context of the mid-twentieth century crises that informed and defined her writing: the impact of World War II on Americans here at home, the rapidly changing roles for women, the challenge of the Civil Rights movement, and the growth of material prosperity along with an accompanying decline in spiritual richness. Flannery rightly makes O’Connor’s theology of grace and her commitment to the life of the church central, yet portrays these subjects in broad strokes that likely reflect the views of its directors and backers.”
“What John Stott Learned about Theology from Bird-Watching” – John Stott, the renowned Bible teacher and author, enjoyed birds for their own sake and as teachers of theological truths. In his most unique book, The Birds, Our Teachers: Essays in Orni-theology, Stott takes the reader on an adventure inside his own wonder and theological reflection over the variegated beauty of birds. In his own way, Stott was attempting to live out what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Consider the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). I came across this article by Tim Chester offering his take on this uniqueness in Stott while preparing my own message for this weekend from this same text.
“A Shadow of Your Future Self” – Friend and former colleague David Seemuth writes very personally about resurrection, mental illness, and true hope at NT Wright Online: “For as long as I can remember, my mother struggled with mental illness. Back when I was a young boy, they called the malady ‘manic-depressive disorder’. In the 1960s, the treatment regimen was harsh, given the lack of appropriate medications to deal with the illness. The approach would later be regarded as somewhat cruel and barbaric . Later, the understanding of the illness and treatment protocol changed. My mother was labeled ‘bi-polar’. Fortunately, better treatments were developed that helped her live a fruitful life….As my own theological studies progressed in my adult life, I understood that the hope of a Resurrection Body and a New Heaven and a New Earth, renewed by the Risen Christ, was my true hope. My mother, who trusted in Jesus as her Lord, will be raised up again, but with a renewed mind, no longer tortured by her illness.”
When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “Family Tree,” which is the first part of an extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew and focused on Matthew, chapters 1-2.
Bibliography for “Family Tree” [Gospel of Matthew, part 1]
Darrell L. Bock. Luke 1:1-9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994.
Jeannine K. Brown and Kyle Roberts. Matthew. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 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.
“Why you should read this out loud” – When our children were young we began reading aloud to them even when they were babies, inspired by the work of Jim Trelease and Gladys Hunt. As they grew older we found that we still enjoyed reading aloud. As they have begun to leave the house we continue to read books aloud as a couple because we love enjoying a good book or article together. Recent research suggests that reading aloud might not only be good with others but also on our own.
“New sexual misconduct claims surface about Ravi Zacharias” – There are certain stories I hate to mention but still know it is important to discuss because it shines the light on paying attention to and overcoming the dark side of ministry. This is one of those stories. Just five months ago we marked the passing of Ravi Zacharias, who has been Recent reports, however, show that Zacharias may have been involved in questionable activities, which are now being investigated by his own ministry, his denomination, and others. Stories like this remind us both to be aware of human failings, even in our heroes, and to guard the weak from being misused by those who hold power.
“For the Health of the Nation: A Call to Civic Responsibility” – The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and World Relief issued a joint statement and sign-on letter built upon an earlier work of the NAE called “For the Health of the Nation.” This latest efforts seeks to promote faithful, evangelical, civic engagement and a biblically-balanced agenda as Christians seek to commit to the biblical call to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. I encourage you to read and explore the website which has a number of very helpful resources.
“Why Our Sense of Time is Distorted During the Pandemic” – Here is an enlightening interview with Dr. E. Alison Holman by Jamie Aten, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, about why we often feel like we’re in a time warp during the pandemic. “Altered perceptions of time and its passing are common experiences of people facing trauma, as trauma can peel away the façade of the future, and interrupt the flow of time. This creates perceptual distortions such as feeling like time has stopped or that everything is in slow motion, experiencing a sense of timelessness, confusing the order of time and days, and perceiving a foreshortened future. My research suggests that these changes in perceptions of time and our views of the future may have significant implications for our health and well-being.”
“‘The Jefferson Bible’ Review: The Gospel, Sans Miracles” – Many have heard of Thomas Jefferson’s famous editing of the Bible, in which he rearranged portions of the New Testament into something radically different with Jesus less as a Savior than an insightful teacher. He called this project “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” but kept it secret out of fear that his work would be too controversial. With “his scrapbook of New Testament excerpts, the third president offered a dramatic revision of Christian tradition. The New Testament presented ‘the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man,’ he recognized, even if he hoped to sharpen those qualities by means of redaction.
When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share the resources I used to help me study and prepare my sermons. Here is the second of two bibliographies for our recently completed series, “The Kingdom of God” (you can find the first one here). This bibliography has a backstory.
Before the pandemic we had a two-week series entitled “Faith and Politics” on the schedule with guest speakers NT Wright and Vince Bacote. As an extension site for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School we worked on a wraparound class for that series and I helped develop the first bibliography and reading list for that class, which was the genesis for what I’m sharing below.
As the pandemic accelerated, NT Wright was unable to travel in April (we rescheduled him for 2021) and we delayed the series on politics. I eventually re-worked the two week series on faith and politics into a broader five-week series on the kingdom of God. Thankfully, we were still able to have Vince Bacote join us and you can watch his lecture, as well as a follow-up Q&A, here: “The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life.”
It should go without saying that I do not agree with the perspective shared within all of these works. However, many of them which I disagree with are still important for any discussion of faith and politics.
Bibliography for “Faith and Politics”
Augustine.City of God. Edited and translated by R. W. Dyson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. (1278 pages – Augustine’s magisterial exploration of the relationship between the city of God and the city of earth)
Robert Benne. Good and Bad Ways to Think About Religion and Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. (120 pages – written out of frustration with current failures of thinking, Benne offers some core convictions about Christian political engagement and how that should shape public policy and political action)
________, ed. Five Views on the Church and Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. (240 pages – part of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, this book offers outlines of political thought from Anabaptist, African America, Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed perspectives, with responses to each outline by others)
Gregory A. Boyd. The Myth of a Christian Nation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. (207 pages – written around the 2004 election, Boyd’s central thesis is “a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry”)
John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007. (1059 pages – Calvin’s treatment of law and government were defining for Protestant theology since his time)
D. A. Carson. Christ and Culture Revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. (255 pages – an evangelical New Testament scholar offers a revision of Niebuhr’s typology of Christian cultural engagement with a chapter on church and state)
Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Jesus for President. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. (355 pages – the authors offer a progressive evangelical theology that critiques American Christianity’s subjugation to empire)
Andy Crouch. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013. (284 pages – while not strictly about politics, Crouch offers a modern approach to broader cultural engagement for evangelicals)
Patrick J. Deneen. Why Liberalism Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019. (264 pages – an evaluation of why liberalism – in contrast to communism and fascism – is the only remaining viable ideology of the 20th century, but also how inherent features of the success of liberalism are generating its own failure)
Jacques Ellul. The Subversion of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. (222 pages – Ellul was an influential and iconoclastic 20th century thinker, and this book specifically looks at the deviation between the life of the Church and the teachings of Jesus)
________. Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018. (238 pages – a historian’s evaluation of factors, particularly a politics of fear, that contributed to 80% of white evangelicals voting for Donald Trump)
Frances Fitzgerald. The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. (740 pages – a Pulitzer-prize winning historian offers an insightful history of how evangelicalism has shaped American culture and politics)
George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee, eds. Christian Political Witness. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014. (240 pages – a collection of essays on biblical, historical and theological proposals for thinking responsibly about the intersection of church and state in the contemporary cultural situation)
Martin Luther King, Jr. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2003. (736 pages – a collection of the most important writings and speeches by the premier leader of the American civil rights movement, including his invaluable “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”)
Richard J. Mouw. Political Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973. (111 pages – Mouw reflects on the inadequacies of separatism and activism, while also pointing to an alternative of appropriate political engagement as part of the evangelistic – outward – activity of the church)
Reinhold Niebuhr. Major Works on Religion and Politics. Library of America. New York: Library of America, 2015. (850 pages – Niebuhr was one of the premier thinkers of the early 20th century and his political thought continues to influence writers and practitioners, including Barack Obama)
H. Richard Niebuhr. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper & Row, 1951. (259 pages – this classic work provided the most enduring typology for evaluating Christian engagement with culture since its publication)
Mark A. Noll. God and Race in American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 2008. (226 pages – the premier historian of American evangelicalism evaluates the way that religion and race have factored into American politics)
Oliver O’Donovan. The Desire of Nations: Rediscovering the roots of political theology. New York: Cambridge U. P., 1996. (304 pages – a work of systematic Christian political thought, combining Biblical interpretation, historical discussion of the Western political and theological tradition, theoretical construction and critical engagement with contemporary views)
C. C. Pecknold. Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010. (196 pages – a brief guide to the history of Christianity and politics, showing how early Christianity reshaped the Western political imagination with its new theological claims about eschatological time, participation, and communion with God and neighbor)
Elizabeth Phillips. Political Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Continuum Boos, 2012. (208 pages – This is a concise and accessible advanced introduction which distinguishes various approaches to political theology, and which explores several of the central issues addressed in political theologies)
James K. A. Smith. Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2017. (256 pages – the third part of Smith’s cultural liturgies series offers an Augustinian model for engaging the current political situation in our culture that is rooted in worship)
Howard Thurman. Jesus and the Disinherited. Boston: Beacon Press, 1976. (128 pages – demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised because of Jesus entrance into the pain of the oppressed)
Tom Wright. God in Public: How the Bible speaks truth to power today. London: SPCK, 2016. (190 pages – a little known work of NT Wright that, while somewhat English in application, offers an approach to biblical theology that throws fresh light on political and ethical problems of our day)