The Weekend Wanderer: 11 June 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.


Spiritual-Needs-Are-Still-Needs-980x551“Spiritual Needs Are Still Needs: Compassion, trauma, and the heart of pastoral care.” – Samuel Needham in Comment: “The last time I saw my grandfather alive was in a dimly lit hospice room outside Morrow, Ohio, in February 2016. His cancer had spread further and faster than medicine could manage. Nurses made every effort to keep him comfortable, but he was in enough pain that we’d stopped praying for breakthrough healing and started praying for peace. We understood he was close to the end. My mother and I came into the room and saw him: gaunt, hairless, exhausted. Grandpa had been a farmer and engineer and soldier, a towering figure of strength and joy throughout my life, an invincible man. Seeing him on that bed, I mourned the death of the man I knew and loved while he was yet alive. As with any visit with the dying, in that room God’s grace was greater than sickness. Grandpa was lucid enough to recognize me. When his pained face broke into a remembering smile, I cried. When he asked for a good word, we prayed. When he wanted only a soothing voice, we told stories. And when he needed to rest, we left.”


Nigeria_christians“Nigeria’s Christians are relentlessly under attack” – Kunwar Khuldune Shahid in The Spectator: “Dozens of Christian worshippers, including several children, were killed in a gun raid on a church in Nigeria’s Owo town on Sunday. Initial estimates place the death toll at around least 70 parishioners but that number is set to rise, given that the church in question, St Francis Catholic Church, has one of the largest parishes in the southwestern state of Ondo. Nigeria is experiencing an epidemic of terror attacks. Over the last six months, gunmen have killed 48 in the northwestern Zamfara state, massacred over 100 villagers in Plateau state, and raided trains and buses leaving dozens dead and hundreds missing. At least 3,000 Nigerians were killed and 1,500 abducted in the first quarter of 2022 alone, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker. Most of the recent attacks are carried out by ‘bandits’: local militants that are currently spearheading Nigeria’s abduction spree. However, just as local kidnapping gangs have borrowed Boko Haram’s modus operandi to abduct schoolchildren, various militants are increasingly following the jihadist rulebook to spread terror in Nigeria.”


Lawrence+Cherono+at+Kiptagat+Training+Center,+Kiptagat,+Kenya-1_web“How Christian Faith Propels Elite Kenyan Runners To Global Success” – Dr. Robert Carle in Religion Unplugged: “Since 1988, 20 out of the 25 first-place men in the Boston Marathon have been Kenyan. Of the top 25 male record holders for the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 18 are Kenyan. Eight of the 10 fastest marathon runners in history are Kenyan, and the two outliers are Ethiopian. The fastest marathon time ever recorded was Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge’s in the 2018 Berlin Marathon. The fastest women’s marathon ever recorded was Kenyan Bridgid Kosgei’s in the Chicago Marathon. Three-quarters of these Kenyan champions come from the Kalenjin ethnic minority, which has only 6 million people, or 0.06% of the global population. The Kalenjin live in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Iten, a town that sits on the edge of the valley at 7,000 feet above sea level, is nicknamed the City of Champions. ‘If you look at it statistically, it sort of becomes laughable,’ said David Epstein, a former senior writer at Sports Illustrated. ‘There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in marathons. There were 32 Kalenjin who did it in October of 2011.’ American journalists have been fascinated by Kalenjin runners for decades, and their explanations for Kenyan dominance in running have included training, culture, biology and diet. However, one factor remains little explored or understood in media coverage: The spiritual lives of the Kalenjin runners have received scant attention.”


32telushkinaroundthecircle“The Apocalyptic Visions of Wassily Kandinsky” – Shira Telushkin in Plough: “There is a moment, as one rounds the final span of the four-level exhibit of Wassily Kandinsky’s works at the Guggenheim in New York, on display through September 2022, where the art gives way to an almost transgressive sense of intimacy. The exhibit, Around the Circle, is hung in reverse chronological order: We begin at the end, with the artist’s final years in 1940s Paris. The show then winds upward through two world wars, the Russian Revolution, his drawings, sketches, the writings on theory and art. As we move back through time, the works start to come into focus, the abstract lines and circles turning back into legible shapes and forms. A house suddenly comes into view as one finally reaches the beginning of the 1910s, his earliest period. A few paces later there are men and women unambiguously conversing over a picnic. Perpendicular to this painting is a train, pumping a recognizable pillar of steam through clearly discernible mountains. We have wound back to Kandinsky’s first forays into painting, the start of his experiments with color and texture and light. After nearly seventy works of nuanced spiritual abstraction, these early works hold an almost childlike wonder, so straightforward and requiring no translation. They are still impressionistic, almost dreamlike in their blurred silhouettes and textured brushstrokes of primary colors, but they feel personal, stripped of those outer layers of meaning and symbolism we have come to expect. It is as if we’ve intruded on the artist at home, unvarnished, playing around with friends and family, not suited up for serious theological debate.”


Poetry pulls the splinter outPoetry Pulls the Splinter Out” – Mike Bonikowsky in Ekstasis Magazine: “Before the poem, there is the pain. Sometimes it’s a good pain: a stab of delight, an ache of longing, a sudden blaze of joy. More often it is something else: the dull clanging alarms of anxiety, the hot tearing of rage, the long slow labour of the Maranatha agony. The pain, whatever it is, grows until it can no longer be ignored, then continues to work its way deeper until it can no longer be borne. And then something must be done about it. Somehow or other, the splinter has to come out. When I was young and knew no better, I would cut patterns on my skin and try to bleed it out. These days I’m more likely to yell at the kids or punch a hole in the drywall or lie under the covers scrolling down on my phone for hour after hour. But there is better, wiser, healthier catharsis, and its name is poetry.”


CSJ_Press_Conference_7_June_2022_(3)“Islamabad: Religious minorities demand more space in the census” – Shafique Khokhar in PIME Asia News: “Pakistan’s civil society is calling for a review of the methods used by the government to conduct censuses. During a conference organised yesterday by the Centre for Social Justice, speakers urged the Bureau of Statistics to rethink the questions in the questionnaires and count nomadic populations and other minorities (Baha’i, Kalash, Jews, Buddhists) separately, instead of grouping them all under the heading ‘others’: in this way it would be possible to account for the country’s ethnic and religious diversity and plan targeted policies. During the event, a document entitled ‘Demographic Confusion of Minorities’ was presented, which examines data from the 1981, 1998 and 2017 censuses: the demographic picture appears inconsistent and illogical, giving rise to doubts about the credibility of the statistics compiled by the government. For example, the percentage of people belonging to religious minorities, 3.32% of the total population in 1981, rose to 3.73% in 1998 and then fell to 3.52% in 2017. In absolute numbers, this amounts to 7.32 million people, including Christians (2.64 million), Hindus (3.6 million), Ahmadis (0.19 million), people of the Scheduled Castes (0.85 million) and people of ‘other’ religions (0.04 million).  Part of the inconsistencies can be explained by looking at the categories used by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra): while citizens can choose to identify themselves in one of the 18 available categories, census data limits the choice to six or at most nine categories, excluding some minorities.”


social media“Social Media That Doesn’t Shrink Your Soul?” – Jon Jordan in The Living Church: “There are lots of reasons to be wary of social media, and there is no shortage of opinions currently being published about a certain billionaire’s looming purchase of a certain network. While I have plenty of opinions on that matter, I will refrain from sharing any of them here because, at the end of the day, this purchase matters very little. There is a far graver issue at hand when it comes to our relationship with social media. Virtues are moral muscles that, like our physical muscles, are either strengthened or given to atrophy every single day. Thousands of small, daily thoughts, actions, and reactions become engrained habits, which mold us into who we are becoming. When we exercise temperance — our moral ‘no’ muscle — on small things like passing on dessert, skipping meat on Fridays, or leaving the phone turned off for an hour around dinnertime, we are actually strengthening our ability to say ‘no’ when it matters most. When we exercise courage — our moral ‘yes’ muscle — by saying ‘yes’ to a neighbor in need despite the inconvenience, or when we read stories of those who say ‘yes’ even when it is unpopular or dangerous to do so, we are actually strengthening our own ability to say ‘yes’ when it matters most. This is how moral formation works, and we ignore the virtues to our collective peril.”


Music: Donny McClurkin with Richard Smallwood, “Total Praise,” from Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

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

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.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 December 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.

candlelight“Advent begins in the dark” – Fleming Rutledge is one of the most astute preachers and pastoral theologians in America today. Her book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus, was not only one of the most celebrated books of 2017, but an insightful and accessible approach to the center of our faith. Here is Rutledge with a brief, poetic prayer for Advent.

 

burkina-faso2“Five boys and pastor among 14 Christians shot dead in Burkina Faso church massacre” – Nothing reminds us so much of how Advent begins in the dark and how God comes into our darkness than reading about the persecuted church. What sadness struck me this week when I read about this terrible tragedy in the beleaguered church in Burkina Faso. Read this and pray. Also, consider praying for other brothers and sisters in the countries where believers are most persecuted around the world.

 

Trump Holds Campaign Event in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania“The Crisis of American Christianity, Viewed From Great Britain” – When you find the air so thick from charged political rhetoric that you can no longer tell what is really going on, it is sometimes helpful to get a perspective from outside the environment. Here is British theologian and New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, commenting on the current crisis in American Christianity within the charged political atmosphere of our days.

 

Wayne Grudem“Wayne Grudem Changes Mind About Divorce in Cases of Abuse” – To outsiders, this may seem like non-news, but for those within evangelicalism, this is at least somewhat noteworthy. Wayne Grudem is an acclaimed evangelical theologian, careful biblical scholar, and conservative complementarian through and through. He has wanted to avoid lax allowances for divorce in the past to the degree that his statements have supported spouses staying within abusive marriages. At the recent Evangelical Theological Society meetings, Grudem strongly reversed his views on divorce in cases of abuse. This is a welcome change, if not a little late in my mind, particularly in the era of #MeToo and #ChurchToo.

 

Potted "family-tree"“The New Kinship Engineering” – What are we to make of our newfound powers through scientific breakthroughs brought together with our newly asserted freedom from shared ethical frameworks? The questions and debates are nearly never-ending, but this article by Brendan Foht highlights what may seem like an extreme example to wake us up to the need for careful thinking. “The willingness of the fertility industry to use experimental technologies like three-parent IVF to satisfy the kinship desire of prospective parents, even when it means putting the health of children at risk, bodes ill for how they will use the even more powerful technologies of genetic engineering now on the horizon.”

 

Unrendered image of The Lord's Prayer. Taken with Canon Powershot G3“Seeing the Lord Behind the Lord’s Prayer” – Wesley Hill wrote a volume in Lexham Press’ recent series on Christian Essentials. The entire series looks excellent, although I have not had the chance to read them yet. Here is a review of Hill’s volume on the Lord’s Prayer by Tina Boesch. Of all the things you could give as a gift to family and friends this Christmas, Hill’s book looks to be a worthy option.

 

Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming,” from Songs for Christmas

[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.]