The Weekend Wanderer: 1 October 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.


18warren-image-superJumbo“Our Memory Is Flawed. Luckily, God’s Isn’t.” – Tish Harrison Warren in The New York Times: “In August, my sister and I took my mom on a trip to Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. It’s a special place to my mom. She and my late father went there for their honeymoon over five decades ago, and she’s been back many times since. There’s a particular restaurant where she likes to get shrimp bisque. She likes the cheery sea wall and the chocolate shop downtown. But mostly she wants to watch the waves and the children playing along the shore. It was a good trip, but Mom will probably not remember any of it. Even now, just a few weeks later, she may have already forgotten that it happened. Mom is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. She knows who we are and remembers everyone’s names. She can tell you who her third-grade teacher was, but not what happened a week ago or a month ago or 10 minutes ago. For me, being with her is like looking through a camera coming in and out of focus. At times, things blur, go soft and fuzzy. She’s quiet and distant and seems to fade. And then, boom, a moment later, she seems like the mother I once knew. Laughing, opinionated, witty. She was an incredibly competent, accomplished and driven woman. She started a small business and became mayor of her little town, and I wonder in the months and years to come what she will continue to remember about her life, about who she used to be.”


Brother Andrew“Died: Brother Andrew, Who Smuggled Bibles into Communist Countries” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “Anne van der Bijl, a Dutch evangelical known to Christians worldwide as Brother Andrew, the man who smuggled Bibles into closed Communist countries, has died at the age of 94. Van der Bijl became famous as ‘God’s smuggler’ when the first-person account of his missionary adventures—slipping past border guards with Bibles hidden in his blue Volkswagen Beetle—was published in 1967. God’s Smuggler was written with evangelical journalists John and Elizabeth Sherrill and published under his code name ‘Brother Andrew.’ It sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages. The book inspired numerous other missionary smugglers, provided funding to van der Bilj’s ministry Open Doors, and drew evangelical attention to the plight of believers in countries where Christian belief and practice were illegal. Van der Bijl protested that people missed the point, however, when they held him up as heroic and extraordinary. ‘I am not an evangelical stuntman,” he said. “I am just an ordinary guy. What I did, anyone can do.'” You may also want to visit Open Doors’ website remembering Brother Andrew’s legacy here.


MIA“How M.I.A. Found Jesus” – Tyler Huckabee at Relevant: “‘It’s an interesting time for a Brown person to turn up in America and say, “Look, there’s truth in Christianity.”‘ Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam isn’t giving an understatement. The hip-hop icon known as M.I.A.’s reflections are unspooling at a pace you might call slow and steady. She chooses her language carefully, owning her own discomfort a number of times. While she’s known for her high tempo, energetic delivery as M.I.A., in conversation she’s precise, open, vulnerable and a little cautious. There are moments when she takes so long in choosing the right word that I almost wonder if our connection got lost. But her carefulness is understandable. She’s still a little new at being a Christian, and she hasn’t talked about it on the record very much. Until now. ‘When I’m confused about it, I’ll share my confusion,’ she says. ‘But if I’m clear about it, and you catch me on a clear day, then I will be more clear. And right now I think the only clear thing I can say is that even when I had no belief in Jesus Christ and Christianity, and even when I was 100 percent comfortable in Hinduism, it was a Christian God that turned up to save me,’ she says. “And I think there is truth in that.'”


Young Google Workers

“In ‘Work Pray Code,’ author Carolyn Chen reflects on what happens when we worship work” – Stefano Kotsonis and Meghna Chakrabarti from On Point at WBUR: “Sociologist Carolyn Chen studied Silicon Valley and discovered that tech firm culture had become a kind of religion. ‘The workplace was the last meaningful institution standing,’ she says. ‘It was an institution that offered the best means for meaning, identity, belonging and purpose.’ In return for their workers’ devotion, companies take care of their every need. ‘It’s very easy to drink the Kool-Aid, as it were,’ Jessica Dai says. ‘It’s very easy to be sucked into, Oh, just do all of the things that have been planned out for you.’ Today, On Point: What happens when work is like a religion, and the workplace the only community? ‘The flip side of that is public brokenness, where you have people withdrawing from the political system, disengagement from the public. That is a public problem,’ Chen adds.”


word-image-1“The Mega Church Born Again” – Matthew Milliner in Mere Orthodoxy: “I arrived in the Thessaloniki airport and passed by the customs office, its door casually propped open, and saw everything I had come to Greece to avoid: a framed reproduction of Warner Sallman’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed American Jesus, testimony to the global reach of that thing we call evangelicalism. I had come to escape all that, to experience the power of ancient icons, and the cheap reproduction in the airport portrait told me that if that was my objective, I had better move fast. So I attacked the storied city of Thessaloniki with my feet. I was less an evangelical now than I was a jet-setting grad student with a modest research budget, and I was on a mission. Just outside the hotel where I stashed my bag was an ancient Roman agora. I was not interested in the Romans, however, but in those they killed. A block north I visited the spacious basilica of the early Christian martyr St. Demetrios, a son of senatorial privilege whose Christian faith, legend tells us, earned him a spear in the gut. I had been in many an American megachurch, and the basilica of St. Demetrios was the early Christian equivalent, accommodating the influx that came with an increasingly fashionable faith. The five-aisles of the church mirrored the five-aisled modern highways that accommodate traffic congestion today.”


johnnycashembed2“An Interview with Johnny Cash” – In Plough Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio shares an interview from 1972, in which Johnny Cash talks about faith and music – and then breaks into song: “Pioneering interviewer Ken Myers, whose Mars Hill Audio Journal was being circulated on audiotape long before the concept of the podcast was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, recently offered us at The PloughCast the opportunity to share with our listeners an extraordinary piece of history: his very first interview, which he did backstage at a concert near the University of Maryland, where he was still going, in 1972. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ken Myers, interviewing Johnny Cash. ‘Johnny Cash: I’ve been through a lot in my time, and I always knew that God was saving me for something special. I believe we’re doing that work right now.  Ken Myers: In the fall of 1972, not long after Cash kicked his nearly fatal amphetamine habit and his career rebounded as yet another generation took a liking to his music, I had an opportunity to interview Johnny Cash. It was the very first interview I ever did. I was nineteen, and I just started a Christian radio program on the campus station. I thought it would give the show a boost to feature interviews with some celebrities, and Cash, who had sung gospel music all of his life, had recently been collaborating with Billy Graham and with Campus Crusade for Christ. He and June Carter Cash were performing not far from where I went to school.'”


Music: Johnny Cash, “Amazing Grace

World Watch List 2022

Open Doors released the World Watch List 2022, a resource developed “to track and measure the extent of persecution in the world.” Open Doors has been tracking religious persecution of Christians since the 1970s and their approach to the work is well-informed and reliable. Religious persecution affects many religious groups and not just Christians. Still, there has been widespread recognition over the past few years that religious persecution of Christians is on the rise globally.

You can see an infographic of the list below and can read the entire report here.

Here are a few highlights within the overall trends on this year’s list:

  • The Top 10 countries where Christians face the most pressure and violence in the reporting period of the World Watch List 2022 are, in order: Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India.
  • Afghanistan is now in the #1 position, displacing North Korea, which held that position for the past decade and more
  • In just the last year, there have been:
    • Over 360 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
    • 5,898 Christians killed for their faith
    • 5,110 churches and other Christian buildings attacked
    • 6,175 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned
  • • 3,829 Christians abducted

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 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.


Sebastian Kim“Democracy, ‘The Problem of Minorities,’ and the Theology of the Common Good” – In this brief, but informative essay, Sebastian Chang Hwan Kim, Academic Dean for the Korean Center and Robert Wiley Professor of Renewal and Public Life at Fuller School of Theology, offers a helpful exploration of theology for the common good. Engaging with other prevalent theologies for public engagement, Kim suggest some meaningful ways in which we as Christians can step into the public sphere for the good of all without relinquishing our theological footing.


Praying for the World“Prayers and Praises from the World’s Hardest Places to Be a Christian” – Just over two weeks ago, Open Doors released their annual “World Watch List,” which tracks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to follow Jesus. I strongly encourage you to explore the amazing resource that Open Doors has assembled there, but also want to encourage you to take a look at this resource from Christianity Today. Here, CT has assembled both praises and prayers not merely for that part of the world but from believers in many of those countries. This is a very helpful resource for intercessory prayer for the world.


wayne

Jesus and John Wayne – a series of reviews” – One of the most thought-provoking religious books of the past year is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. The title itself may either draw you in or frustrate you, but the book has sent ripples through the church. It was through church historian John Fea that I first heard about a series of reviews of the book at the Mere Orthodoxy website. If you’re interested in the book (love it or dislike it) or if you’ve never heard of the book, consider reading this series of reviews for appreciative, reflective, and critical responses, often intermixed in each essay:


Wintering“How ‘Wintering’ Replenishes” – In this interview by Krista Tippett from On Being, Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times speaks to something many of us have felt in this past year of trials and challenges. Here’s the description from On Being: “In so many stories and fables that shape us, cold and snow, the closing in of the light — these have deep psychological as much as physical reality. This is “wintering,” as the English writer Katherine May illuminates in her beautiful, meditative book of that title — wintering as at once a season of the natural world, a respite our bodies require, and a state of mind. It’s one way to describe our pandemic year: as one big extended communal experience of wintering. Some of us are laboring harder than ever on its front lines and also on its home front of parenting. All of us are exhausted. This conversation with Katherine May helps.”


Jefferson Bible Jesus“What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus” – Vinson Cunningham offers an insightful review of Peter Manseau’s The Jefferson Bible: A Biography in The New Yorker, touching upon not only Jefferson, but also Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Howard Thurman: “Jefferson, meanwhile, was mulling a book project. He imagined it as a work of comparative moral philosophy, which would include a survey of ‘the most remarkable of the ancient philosophers,’ then swiftly address the ‘repulsive’ ethics of the Jews, before demonstrating that the ‘system of morality’ offered by Jesus was ‘the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught.’ This sublimity, however, would need to be rescued from the Gospels, which were—as Jefferson put it in a letter to the English chemist, philosopher, and minister Joseph Priestley—written by ‘the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him.'”


Music: Víkingur Ólafsson, “Philip Glass: Études, No. 2,” from Glass Piano Works | recorded at the Yellow Lounge

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 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.


patient endurance“Word for the year: patient-endurance” – Ian Paul at Psephizo: “Last week, in our mid-week church group, we were reflecting on what God has been teaching us during 2020. Various people shared experiences, and particular biblical passages or verses—but one person shared a word, not from Scripture, but from reflection on the year and a sense of what God was forming in this person, and the word was ‘resilience’….We don’t find the term ‘resilience’ in the New Testament, but we do find an important term that carries many of the same ideas, and which has a particular importance in the context of Christian discipleship. The term is ὑπομονή (hypomone)….It thus combines ideas of endurance, patience, and courage, and is translated in various way in ETs, including ‘endurance’, ‘steadfastness’, and (my favourite) ‘patient endurance’.”


Members of the audience react as U.S. President Trump delivers remarks at an Evangelicals for Trump Coalition Launch at the King Jesus International Ministry in Miami

“‘How Did We Get Here?’ A Call For An Evangelical Reckoning On Trump” – A friend shared with me this interview with Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College by NPR. “As fallout continues from the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, Ed Stetzer, head of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, has a message for his fellow evangelicals: It’s time for a reckoning. Evangelicals, he says, should look at how their own behaviors and actions may have helped fuel the insurrection. White evangelicals overwhelmingly supported President Trump in the 2020 election.”


World Watch List 2021“Open Doors’ 2021 watch list highlights impact of COVID-19 on religious persecution worldwide” – “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a number of existing problems: political divides, inequities, conspiracy theories. It also has exposed religious persecution in a number of countries, according to Open Doors. In India, the Christian watchdog organization said 80% of Christians who received pandemic aid from its partner organizations reported they’d been turned away from other food distribution points because of their faith. Others reported they’d been passed over for employment. Some had walked miles and hidden their religious affiliation in order just to get food, it said.”


ERLC abortion pill“Explainer: The Supreme Court reinstates abortion pill restriction – Here’s an explainer from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission on an abortion debate issue addressed by the Supreme Court this past week. “The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted the application for stay presented by the Trump Administration and reinstated requirements for women seeking medical abortion pills to first visit a doctor’s office or clinic. The decision was split 6-3, with the liberal justices in the dissent.”


A bas-relief depicting the sack of Jerusalem on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum, constructed in 82 CE

“What Happened at Masada?” – James Romm reviews two new books on Masada at The New York Review of Books: “The historian Steve Mason has called The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus ‘perhaps the most influential non-biblical text of Western history.’ This may seem a surprising choice. Written in Greek around 75 AD, the war it describes—the Judaean revolt against Roman rule that began in 66 and largely ended in 70 after huge losses, including the destruction of much of Jerusalem and the tearing down of its Temple—hardly seems today to be ‘the greatest not only of wars of our own times, but of all those we have ever heard of,’ as Josephus claims in his opening words. Yet the work continues to fascinate, especially now that thorny questions have emerged concerning its account of the war’s coda in the year 74: the mass murder-suicide of nearly a thousand Jews who resided on the fortified hill of Masada, just before it was captured by the Romans.”


Loretta Ross“What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?” – I am convinced that we no longer know how to talk to one another. A friend shared this article with me and I found it thought-provoking within the current retributive cycle of our culture of vengeance and public shaming. “‘I am challenging the call-out culture,’ Professor Ross said from her home in Atlanta…’I think you can understand how calling out is toxic. It really does alienate people, and makes them fearful of speaking up.’ That perspective has made Professor Ross, 67, an unlikely figure in the culture wars. A radical Black feminist who has been doing human rights work for four decades, she was one of the signatories of a widely denounced letter in Harper’s Magazine, for which she herself was called out.”


Music: Max Richter, “On the Nature of Daylight,” from The Blue Notebooks.

The Weekend Wanderer: 17 October 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.


IDOP“International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians” – There is occasional conversation about persecution of Christians within the United States. While I agree that there is opposition to Christianity in North America, I usually turn my attention elsewhere to see true persecution. Sunday, November 1, is the international day of prayer for persecuted Christians, and I would encourage you to get involved with this important time of awareness and intercessory prayer, as well as continue to be engaged in an ongoing manner with this important cause.


Villados book review“The Antidote to Spiritual Shallowness Isn’t ‘Believing Harder,’ but Going Deeper” – I’ve been looking forward to reading Rich Villodas’ new book, The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus. Villodas is the Lead Pastor at New Life Fellowship in New York, where Pete Scazzero was the former Lead Pastor, and has brought together spiritual formation practices within a multi-ethnic urban church in ways that I admire. As I wait to get to Villodas’ book in my to-read pile, here is a helpful review of the book by Rebecca Toscano for Christianity Today.


C Beha - index“Cracks of faith in the secular self” – Speaking of my to-read pile, here is a review by Joshua Hren of another book, Christopher Beha’s The Index of Self-Destructive Acts. Beha’s book was long-listed for the National Book Award for fiction, and it has been recommended to me by a number of people from various places. I look forward to reading it even more after reading this review.


fracture in the stonewall“A Fracture in the Stonewall” – Carl R. Trueman in First Things: “As Best hints in the article, the addition of the T to the LGB was not a natural marriage for precisely the reason he now finds Stonewall’s stance to be problematic. Trans groups rejected the importance of biological sex. It was not a positive philosophy that brought them into the coalition but rather a shared opposition to heteronormativity. The same also applies to the Q. The LGBTQ+ alliance is thus an alliance forged on the belief that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”


C S Lewis“C.S. Lewis, ‘Transposition’, and the philosophy of mind” – C. S. Lewis is one of the most beloved authors of the 20th century for his wide-ranging work from children’s fiction to Christian apologetics. Lewis is more than that, though. He was a poet and an expert on medieval and renaissance literature. Here in The Critic, Sean Walsh makes a case for recovering Lewis’ work as a philosopher as well.


Sergey Gorshkov - Hugging Tiger“Hidden camera’s hugging tiger wins wildlife photo award” – Perhaps this is something for the lighter side of things, but I appreciate the way these award-winning photographers display the wonders of creation that many of us rarely see. Take a moment to peruse these photos and thank God for the wonderful and intricate beauty of His glorious world.


Music: Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge, “Bone Collector,” Mount Royal.

[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.]