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.

The Weekend Wanderer: 25 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.


abortion ruling“Dobbs decision and the fall of Roe is met with rejoicing, dismay from faith groups” – Bob Smietana in Religion News Service: “After nearly 50 years, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, is no more. In a 6-3 decision Friday (June 24), the Supreme Court overruled both Roe, decided in 1973, and a 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the constitutional right to abortion. The ruling came in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged a Mississippi law that imposed strict restrictions on abortion. ‘Abortion presents a profound moral question,’ the Supreme Court ruled. ‘The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives.’ The Dobbs decision has been anticipated since May, when an early draft of the ruling was leaked to Politico. Friday’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion was met with both rejoicing and dismay by faith leaders, who have been loud voices on either side of the abortion debate since before Roe.”


Dates“Charlie Dates to Succeed Retiring Chicago Megachurch Pastor; Will Lead 2 Churches” – Sarah Einselen at The Roys Report: “Nationally known pastor Rev. Charlie Dates is set to succeed Rev. James Meeks next year as senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church—one of Chicago’s biggest megachurches. Meeks, a former state senator, founded Salem Baptist 38 years ago. He announced Sunday he’ll preach his last sermon to the 10,000-member church on January 8, 2023. The 65-year-old has been a pastor for 42 years and said he feels like he’s “got 42 more years in me.’ But Meeks added he’s learned from King David’s life ‘when it’s time to come off the battlefield.’ ‘It’s time for Salem to move forward,” he told his congregants. ‘It’s time for Salem to have younger leadership . . . We need new ideas. We need new opportunities. And God has blessed us with our own son’ as the church’s next pastor. Dates, 41, is senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church—a position he’ll keep, despite assuming the pastorate at Salem. In a video message to Progressive, Dates said the two churches will stay distinct, though he’ll pastor them both.”


Leithart progress“Radical Hope: When worlds die, we need something sturdier than the myth of technological and social progress” – Peter Leithart in Plough: “The year 2020 came down like the wolf on the fold. Then came 2021. And 2022. It feels like ‘the end of the world as we know it.’ It feels like an apocalypse. It may be one. Worlds do die. Historians and junior high students debate the precise end of the Roman Empire and whether it should be described as a ‘fall,’ but no one doubts the Roman Empire now lies peacefully in the graveyard of history. Remnants of medieval life persist in our world, more than we realize, but we no longer live medievally. Worlds can disappear speedily. Less than a month after the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, France’s National Constituent Assembly abolished feudalism and the mandatory tithe, shattering the foundations of medieval order and slashing the alliance between the French monarchy and the Catholic Church that began with Clovis’s baptism in the early sixth century. Within two years, the royal family fled the palace and early in 1793 Louis XVI was executed. More recently: the world that existed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine is gone, a memory of the age of American unipolarity and what was in retrospect a shockingly fragile European peace. The change was rapid and distinct: the week after the invasion, one felt a nostalgia for a stable geopolitical order that simply didn’t exist anymore. Once it was destabilized, its former stability in retrospect looks illusory.”


harmful social media“How Harmful Is Social Media?” – Gideon Lewis-Kraus in The New Yorker: “In April, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published an essay in The Atlantic in which he sought to explain, as the piece’s title had it, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid.” Anyone familiar with Haidt’s work in the past half decade could have anticipated his answer: social media. Although Haidt concedes that political polarization and factional enmity long predate the rise of the platforms, and that there are plenty of other factors involved, he believes that the tools of virality—Facebook’s Like and Share buttons, Twitter’s Retweet function—have algorithmically and irrevocably corroded public life. He has determined that a great historical discontinuity can be dated with some precision to the period between 2010 and 2014, when these features became widely available on phones….These are, needless to say, common concerns. Chief among Haidt’s worries is that use of social media has left us particularly vulnerable to confirmation bias, or the propensity to fix upon evidence that shores up our prior beliefs. Haidt acknowledges that the extant literature on social media’s effects is large and complex, and that there is something in it for everyone. On January 6, 2021, he was on the phone with Chris Bail, a sociologist at Duke and the author of the recent book ‘Breaking the Social Media Prism,’ when Bail urged him to turn on the television. Two weeks later, Haidt wrote to Bail, expressing his frustration at the way Facebook officials consistently cited the same handful of studies in their defense. He suggested that the two of them collaborate on a comprehensive literature review that they could share, as a Google Doc, with other researchers. (Haidt had experimented with such a model before.) Bail was cautious. He told me, ‘What I said to him was, “Well, you know, I’m not sure the research is going to bear out your version of the story,” and he said, “Why don’t we see?”‘”


The Convivial Society“Trading Solitude for Loneliness” – L. M. Sacasas in The Convivial Society: “We live in a world of pervasive connection but also rising rates of loneliness. How do we make sense of this state of affairs? I suspect there are a few answers that may come readily to mind, particularly if you already take a dim view of social media. But I’m intrigued by a certain possibility that had not occurred to me until recently. As I’ve thought about loneliness and digital networks over the years, I’ve done so in conversation with the work of the 20th century political theorist, Hannah Arendt. For one thing, I think Arendt was right about the political stakes. Loneliness and isolation, she argued, were the seedbeds of totalitarianism….But Arendt also helps us distinguish among a variety of experiences that may bear a surface resemblance. Loneliness, for example, is to be distinguished from solitude, and solitude is essential to thought.”


webRNS-Gallup-God1“Poll: Americans’ belief in God is dropping” – Yonat Shimron at Religion News Service: “Belief in God has been one of the strongest, most reliable markers of the persistence of American religiosity over the years. But a new Gallup Poll suggests that may be changing. In the latest Gallup Poll, belief in God dipped to 81%, down 6 percentage points from 2017, and the lowest since Gallup first asked the question in 1944. Even at 81%, Americans’ belief in God remains robust, at least in comparison with Europe, where only 26% said they believed in the God of the Bible, and an additional 36% believe in a higher power, according to a 2018 Pew poll. Throughout the post-World War II era, an overwhelming 98% of U.S. adults said they believed in God. That began to fall in 2011, when 92% of Americans said they believed in God and, in 2013, went down again to 87%. The latest decline may be part of the larger growth in the number of Americans who are unaffiliated or say they have no religion in particular. About 29% of Americans are religious ‘nones’ — people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. ‘Belief is typically the last thing to go,’ said Ryan Burge, assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. ‘They stop attending, they stop affiliating and then they stop believing.'”


Music: Sandra McCracken (ft. All Sons & Daughters), “Trinity Song” (Live), originally from God’s Highway

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

Malcolm Guite, “Our Mother-tongue Is Love” – A Sonnet for Pentecost

Here is Malcolm Guite’s poem for Pentecost Sunday, “Our Mother-tongue is Love.” This sonnet is taken from Guite’s book Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year. Malcolm Guite is an Anglican priest, poet, and songwriter, who served as a Life Fellow and chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge.


Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire,air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother-tongue is Love, in every nation.


You can hear a recording of Malcolm Guite reading this poem here.

The Weekend Wanderer: 4 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.


violent world“15 Prayers for a Violent World” – W. David O. Taylor in Christianity Today: “It’s tempting to shut down emotionally in light of all of this violence. It’s tempting to give into despair. ‘So goes the world,’ we might say, wishing it were otherwise but feeling powerless to make a difference. It’s tempting to distract ourselves with busywork or to reach for spiritual platitudes to numb the pain. ‘Let go and let God.’ ‘God works in mysterious ways.’ ‘Heaven’s our real home.’ But our world is a violent one and the Bible does not allow us to ignore its violence or to explain it away with tidy theological slogans. It asks us to face our world squarely, together, and, where needed, to yell our rage to God. The Bible invites us to get angry at God, because he can handle all our bitter, angry tears and curses. And such words need to be said out loud, because that’s partly how we keep the chaos of violence from taking root in our own hearts. As I write in my book on the psalms, there is no faithful prayer in Israel’s official book of worship, the Psalter, that trivializes evil, no genuine faith that ignores the destructive powers of sin, and no true witness that turns a blind eye to the violence of our world. It is for this reason that we turn to the psalms for guidance in times such as these, for they show us what we can—and indeed should—be praying in a violent world. But a question remains: How exactly do we pray in the aftermath of such violence? What words of lament can we put on our lips that make sense of the senseless? To what could the whole people of God possibly say “amen” in light of the corrosive power of hate that allows neighbor to irrationally kill neighbor? What do an exhausted and dispirited people say to God at such a time? These questions are, of course, far from easy to answer, but over the past couple of years I have attempted to give language to such matters in the form of Collect Prayers—in the hopes that they might prove useful, and perhaps comforting, to people who face the terrors and traumas of violent activities in one form or another.”


An-Old-Course-in-a-Country-New-980x551“An Old Course in a Country New: Political theology between quietism and theocracy” – James Mumford in Comment: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That, all too often, has been the fate of political theology. Theology in the contemporary West has faced two main reproaches. First, that any kind of engagement in politics betrays theocratic pretensions. Second, that Christianity is fundamentally quietist—that is, always acquiescing to the status quo. Consider the public reputation of Christianity when it comes to two particular areas of life. First, on matters of gender and sexuality, progressives fear that imposing arcane regulations derived from ancient sex codes on the modern world will restrict human liberty. As the public debates over gay marriage in the early 2000s clearly demonstrated, painting the traditional Christian position on the goods of marriage as fundamentally parochial aided the cause of changing marriage laws in Western countries. The mere impression that the theological convictions of the few could rule the many undermined efforts to show how the traditional definition of marriage emerged from multiple thick traditions of thought and practice. This is the theocratic suspicion. But it’s quite the opposite with the environmental movement. When it comes to the effort to stave off climate disaster, the common perception is not that Christianity is too political but that it is not political enough. Christianity has been criticized for being too otherworldly to care about the fate of the planet. This is the quietist charge. So the two charges make opposing claims. The second reverses the first. The first insists theology stay out of politics and mind its own business. The second rebukes theology for having stayed out of politics and minded its own business. Theology is damned if it does politics, damned if it doesn’t.”


060122cap-haitian“For better or for worse, the church is keeping Haiti afloat” – Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “When societies lack good governance and social stability, churches and clergy often fill in the gaps. In some cases, notably in modern Africa, church leaders can become something like kingmakers. In the Western Hemisphere, the nation of Haiti exemplifies the pivotal role of Christian churches in politics. The nation was born in the 1790s from the incredible turmoil of the great revolt of an enslaved population and the decades of war and devastation that followed. Famously, Haiti has always re­tained its African religious heritage in the form of vodun, but the great majority of the people also asserted their faithful Catholic roots. Most recently, evangelical and Pentecostal churches have boomed, partly as a consequence of the new forms of faith Haitian migrants encountered when they set up homes in US cities such as Boston and Miami. Today, Protestants (mainly evangelicals) make up some 30 percent of the country’s 11 million people, compared to 55 percent Catholic and 10 percent nones.”


politics poisoned church“How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church: The movement spent 40 years at war with secular America. Now it’s at war with itself.” – Tim Alberta in The Atlantic: “‘Before I turn to the Word,’ the preacher announces, ‘I’m gonna do another diatribe.’ ‘Go on!’ one man yells. ‘Amen!’ shouts a woman several pews in front of me. Between 40 minutes of praise music and 40 minutes of preaching is the strangest ritual I’ve ever witnessed inside a house of worship. Pastor Bill Bolin calls it his ‘diatribe.’ The congregants at FloodGate Church, in Brighton, Michigan, call it something else: ‘Headline News.’ Bolin, in his mid-60s, is a gregarious man with thick jowls and a thinning wave of dyed hair. His floral shirt is untucked over dark-blue jeans. ‘On the vaccines …’ he begins. For the next 15 minutes, Bolin does not mention the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, or the life everlasting. Instead, he spouts misinformation and conspiratorial nonsense, much of it related to the ‘radically dangerous’ COVID-19 vaccines. ‘A local nurse who attends FloodGate, who is anonymous at this time—she reported to my wife the other day that at her hospital, they have two COVID patients that are hospitalized. Two.’ Bolin pauses dramatically. ‘They have 103 vaccine-complication patients.’ The crowd gasps.”


Davud Whyte“David Whyte: Seeking Language Large Enough” – Krista Tippett interviews philosopher-poet David Whyte in On Being: “It has ever and always been true, David Whyte reminds us, that so much of human experience is a conversation between loss and celebration. This conversational nature of reality — indeed, this drama of vitality — is something we have all been shown, willing or unwilling, in these years. Many have turned to David Whyte for his gorgeous, life-giving poetry and his wisdom at the interplay of theology, psychology, and leadership — his insistence on the power of a beautiful question and of everyday words amidst the drama of work as well as the drama of life. The notion of “frontier” — inner frontiers, outer frontiers — weaves through this hour. We surface this as a companion for the frontiers we are all on just by virtue of being alive in this time.”


bookandbouquetembed“Is Reading Fiction a Waste of Time?” – Kathleen A. Mulhern in Plough: “For the last decade, I’ve been teaching Christian formation at a seminary, and part of the instruction has included a justification of the whole concept of formation, which has not been a common term in many evangelical circles. If I were to switch to talking about “discipleship,” evangelical minds might move into the ordinary grooves: Bible study, evangelism, small groups, intercessory prayer. For decades, this simple and tidy list of spiritual practices, which revolve around church and home, made up the evangelical’s limited arsenal for Christian living. When Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline was first published in the late 1970s, however, a whole new menu of practices – foreign to the evangelical world for the most part but rooted in ancient rhythms – triggered an awareness of possibilities to make the spiritual life deeper and richer. At seminary today we continue to engage in this ressourcement, the recovery of historical ways of thought and practice. Alongside this ecclesial archaeology, however, we need to tackle the marked differences between ancient disciplines and the modern world. Twenty-first-century technology, lifestyles, and societal norms have made spiritual disciplines of any kind more daunting, more squeezed, more focused on productivity and information management. There is no time to waste. Which is why the idea of making a new spiritual discipline for the twenty-first century, one that has no measurable effect while demanding a great deal of time, seems counterintuitive.”


Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Chelsey Scott], “Psalm 46,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2