The Weekend Wanderer: 7 May 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.


128209“As Pastoral Credibility Erodes, How Can We Respond?” – Glenn Packiam in Christianity Today: “Pastors do not hold the place of community esteem they once did. According to Barna’s State of Pastors report (2017), only about one in five Americans thinks of a pastor as very influential in their community, and about one in four doesn’t think they’re very influential or influential at all. The truth is, influential or not, many Americans don’t want to hear what pastors have to say. In 2016, Barna found that only 21 percent of Americans consider pastors to be ‘very credible’ on the ‘important issues of our day.’ Even among those Barna defined as evangelicals, the number only rises to slightly over half. Think about it: Nearly half of American evangelicals don’t see their pastors as being an authoritative voice for navigating current affairs. In a new study Barna and I did in 2020 for my book The Resilient Pastor, we learned that the picture might be getting worse. Only 23 percent of Americans said they ‘definitely’ see a pastor as a ‘trustworthy source of wisdom.’ Even among Christians, that number only rises to a mere 31 percent. Less than a third of Christians said they ‘definitely’ consider a pastor a ‘trustworthy source of wisdom.’ As you might expect, a mere 4 percent of non-Christians think of pastors in this way. That’s a pretty bleak picture.”


Supreme Court view“Overturning Roe v. Wade inches us back toward the arc of justice” – Karen Swallow Prior at Religion New Service: “Everywhere I look today — social media, news outlets, my email — people are discussing the SCOTUS leak. As a pro-life activist my whole adult life, I never thought I’d live to see the end of Roe v. Wade, if that’s what this is. Yet for me and others who recognize children in the womb as human persons whose lives are deserving of legal protection, overturning Roe doesn’t go far enough. The end of Roe will not bring back the millions of lives lost, heal the women and men and families harmed, or repair the damage done to our nation and our political life. But it is a step in the right direction. I really didn’t expect to see Roe overturned in my lifetime, but I always hoped. I know we can do better than abortion for women and children — and if Roe is overturned, we will have more than ever both the opportunity and the obligation to do so. Roe v. Wade forced abortion on the nation by inventing a ‘right’ to abortion on demand that was novel, unprecedented and unfounded on any common understanding of human life and human dignity. The most bizarre mental and linguistic gymnastics developed around this newly constructed constitutional right in order to justify, rationalize and shield ourselves from the obvious fact that abortion unjustly ends the life of a human being.”


candlelight“The Perpetual Flame of Devotion: How can we learn to pray in a way that pleases God? And what stands in the way?” – Richard Foster in Plough Quarterly: “By means of prayer we are learning to burn the perpetual flame of devotion on the altar of God’s love. I say “learning” because there is nothing automatic or instantaneous about this way of praying. Now, three great movements characterize Christian prayer. Each is distinct from the others but overlaps and interacts with the others. The first movement in prayer involves our will in interaction and struggle with God’s will. We ask for what we need – or what we want. Often what we want exceeds what we need, and our wants can be easily influenced by ego and greed. Most certainly, a substantial part of our inner struggle in this movement involves our own human rebellion and self-centeredness. But not always. Think of Abraham struggling to offer up Isaac. Or think of Job struggling to relinquish all human attachments. Or think of Paul struggling with a “thorn in the flesh” and learning that God’s grace is sufficient for him and that God’s power is made perfect in weakness….In time, we come into a second movement in prayer: the release of our will and a flowing into the will of the Father. Here we are learning to walk with God day by day. We are learning the contours of God’s character. And we are learning simple love for Jesus. Finally, we find ourselves entering into the third movement, what the great ones in the way of Christ have called “union with God” and the bringing of the will of the Father upon the face of the earth. Here we learn not only to love God, but also to love God’s ways.”


A Jacobs - not a server“You Are Not a Server: Nor are you finalizable” – Alan Jacobs in The Hedgehog Review: “That human beings understand themselves in terms of their dominant technologies has become a commonplace. Indeed, one could say that it was already a commonplace roughly 2,500 years ago, when the Psalmist wrote,

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.

So it is natural and indeed inevitable that we today think of our brains as computers, even though that is an inaccurate and woefully inadequate model. But I would like to suggest that, because there are many kinds of computers that perform widely varied functions, we should be more specific. I believe that we have been trained by social media to use our brains as servers—as machines designed to receive requests and respond to them according to strict instructions.”


D27017 Alexis and Prof. Watt 3-31-22“Afghan refugees start a new journey at UWM” – We’re glad to be connected to this. Kathy Quirk in UWM Report: “As they waited in their bus at the airport in Kabul last August, Samira and her friends kept watch out the windows in case someone might be approaching the bus with a bomb. That was just one moment in a long, harrowing journey from Afghanistan to Milwaukee for a group of young women now enrolled in UW-Milwaukee’s Intensive English Program. (Because of the risk of retribution against family members who remain in Afghanistan, this story is using only their first names and photos that don’t show their faces.) The young women, mostly ages 18-23, are part of a group of 147 students from the Asian University for Women (AUW) who fled Afghanistan together. Following a stay at Fort McCoy, a group of eight started class at UWM in January. Samira, the ninth young woman, is the sister of one of the UWM students. She is taking classes remotely at Arizona State University, but is thinking of doing graduate work at UWM. The younger students hope to stay and continue their undergraduate work at the university in the fall.”


Francis and Kirill“Pope Francis warns pro-war Russian patriarch not to be ‘Putin’s altar boy'” – Delia Gallagher at CNN: “Pope Francis warned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become “Putin’s altar boy,” he said in an interview this week. In his strongest words to date against the pro-war Patriarch, Francis also slammed Kirill for endorsing Russia’s stated reasons for invading Ukraine. ‘I spoke to him for 40 minutes via Zoom,’ the Pope told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday. ‘The first 20 minutes he read to me, with a card in hand, all the justifications for war. I listened and told him: I don’t understand anything about this,” said the Pope. ‘Brother, we are not clerics of state, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus. The Patriarch cannot transform himself into Putin’s altar boy,’ the Pope said. Francis said the conference call with Kirill took place on March 16, and that both he and the Patriarch had agreed to postpone a planned meeting on June 14 in Jerusalem.”


03.27-2-Men-Fishing“The New Testament Picture of Discipleship” – Dallas Willard at Renovare: “Evangelicalism always looks to the Bible as the point of reference from which concepts are defined, practices legitimated, and principles adopted. So we must ask what can be made of discipleship and of the disciple of Jesus as seen in the life of the New Testament. Indeed, as it turns out, the New Testament ​disciple’ is by no means a peculiarly ​’Christian’ innovation. The disciple is one aspect of the progressive and massive decentralization of Judaism that began with the destruction of the first Temple (588 BC) and the Babylonian exile, and proceeds through the dispersal of the Jewish people among the nations that followed the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. During this period the synagogue emerges as the center of the local Jewish communities, devotion to the Torah becomes the focus of the synagogue, and the rabbi or ​’great one’ stood forth in the role of interpreter of Torah: ‘By degrees, attachment to the law sank deeper and deeper into the national character…. Hence the law became a deep and intricate study. Certain men rose to acknowledged eminence for their ingenuity in explaining, their readiness in applying, their facility in quoting, and their clearness in offering solutions of, the difficult passages of the written statutes.’ The rabbi with his coterie of special students was a familiar feature of Jewish religious practice by the time of Jesus.”


Music: Sandra McCracken, “We Will Feast,” from Steadfast (Live).

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 January 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 the articles


63737“The Danger of Preaching Without Jesus” – Pete Scazzero at Preaching Today: “To preach and teach in the name of Jesus is one of the greatest privileges in the world. What makes it particularly dangerous, however, is how easy it is to preach for Jesus without Jesus. I know this only too well. I was in my early years as a Christian when I first came to grips with the sad truth that God appeared to use prominent Christian leaders whose relationship with Jesus was either nonexistent or seriously underdeveloped. It was a discovery that left me confused and disoriented. Yet, after decades in ministry, I am no longer so confused. Why? Because I have experienced to some degree what it’s like to be one of those leaders. I have prepared and preached sermons without thinking about or spending time with Jesus. I know the experience of doing good things that helped a lot of people while being too busy in my own whirlwind of leadership worries to be intimately connected to Jesus.”


St Basil the Great“Naked We Came: From the sermon ‘I Will Tear Down My Barns,’ on Luke 12:16–21” – St. Basil the Great in Comment: “‘But whom do I treat unjustly,’ you say, ‘by keeping what is my own?’ Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all in common—this is what the rich do. They seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, so no one would be poor, and no one would be in need. Did you not come forth naked from the womb, and will you not return naked to the earth? Where then did you obtain your belongings? If you say that you acquired them by chance, then you deny God since you neither recognize your Creator, nor are you grateful to the One who gave these things to you.”


silence-in-worship“A worship practice Zoom can’t replicate” – Chris Palmer in The Christian Century: “I’m a relatively new pastor, and most of my clerical life—all but two months—has been spent in the grip of the COVID pandemic. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit trying to mitigate the suspicions of corporate bodies in physical space. Are you sure this will give people six feet of distance? Looking at the numbers, should we delay the sacrament again this week? These past months have also revealed the fragile core of the church’s life together. The nation has moved through cultural upheaval that demands the intimacy of proximity, and yet it has been nearly impossible to gather together. I’ve seen cruel words in emails that I never believed Christians could write. I’ve heard pastors, the progenitors of flourishing ministries, detail their excitement thinking about a career change. It’s hard to imagine that there’s no connection between the physical distance and the disenchantment of our time. Much of our nation’s religious practice has migrated online. Facebook has been partnering with a variety of denominations, including my own, to develop digi­tal spaces for online worshipers. How are we being formed by these technologies? What do they make possible, and what do they make impossible? While many have debated the blessings and woes of digital worship, few have discussed the role of silence. Silence cuts against the grain of disembodied online chatter. A shared, instructive silence is one thing I’m convinced that Zoom cannot facilitate, not even with the mute button.”


hill_complex_render_2“Unearthing the Truth: A Zimbabwean archaeologist reimagines the story of a momentous African civilisation” – In The Economist: “in its prime, from around 1200 to 1550, Great Zimbabwe was home to about 10,000 people. The state covered 1,779 acres, more than twice the area of New York’s Central Park. unesco, the un’s cultural body, declared it a world heritage site in 1986. At independence in 1980 Robert Mugabe renamed Rhodesia Zimbabwe (roughly “house of stone”) after the site. Yet it is far less visited, or understood, than Machu Picchu, say, or Egypt’s pyramids. One scholar has made it his life’s work to show how Great Zimbabwe was the foremost example of a precolonial sub-Saharan African state. Shadreck Chirikure was born in 1978, some 60km from Great Zimbabwe in Gutu, a town in eastern Zimbabwe. At school he learned little about the site. His first visit was as a student, aged 22. He has since made up for lost time. A renowned archaeologist, Mr Chirikure is a professor at the University of Cape Town and the University of Oxford. He has worked across Africa. But he is always drawn back home.”


Pope Francis - pets“Opting for pets over children is selfish and ‘takes away our humanity,’ says Pope Francis” – Joshua Berlinger at CNN: “Pope Francis has criticized couples who choose to have pets instead of children as selfish, arguing that their decision to forgo parenthood leads to a loss of ‘humanity’ and is a detriment to civilization. The Pope made the comments Wednesday while speaking to a general audience about Saint Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. Francis was lauding Joseph’s decision to bring up Jesus as ‘among the highest forms of love’ when he veered into the topic of adoption and orphaned children today. He then turned his focus on couples that opt for animals instead of children. ‘We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats … Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children,’ the Pope said.”


ridley-8-scaled“In ‘Wild Design,’ Vintage Illustrations Expose the Patterns and Shapes Behind All Life on Earth” – Grace Ebert at Colossal: “Focusing on the patterns and shapes that structure the planet, a new book published by Princeton Architectural Press explores the science behind a trove of organically occurring forms. Wild Design: Nature’s Architects by author Kimberly Ridley pairs dozens of vintage illustrations—spot the work of famed German biologist Ernst Haeckel among them—with essays detailing the function of the striking phenomena, from the smallest organisms to the monumental foundations that extend across vast swaths of land. These structures are simultaneously beautiful and crucial to life on Earth and include the sprawling mycelium networks connecting life above and below ground, the papery, hexagonal cells comprising honeycomb, and a spider’s funnel-like web tailored to trap its prey.”


Music: Chris Thile, “Ecclesiastes 2:24,” Laysongs

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 March 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.


26librescoembed“Dependence: Toward an Illiberalism of the Weak” – Leah Libresco Sargeant in Plough Quarterly: “Our physical weakness is a training ground for our struggles with moral weakness. There is no physical infirmity we can endure that is more humiliating than our susceptibility to sin. The elderly woman with tremors that leave her unable to lift her cup to her lip is not, in the final sense, weaker than any vigorous young man who finds he must echo Paul and admit, ‘For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do’ (Rom. 7:19). There is a blessing in the inescapability of physical weakness that breaks our pride. Sister Teresa de Cartagena, a fifteenth-century Cistercian nun from Spain, wrote; Arboleda de los enfermos (Grove of the Infirm) as a spiritual reflection on her own deafness. Sister Teresa writes: ‘Divine generosity invites all to this blessed feast, but suffering grabs the infirm by their cloak and makes them enter by force.'”


iraq christian pope“Pope’s risky Iraq trip aims to boost Christians” – Nicole Winfield in AP News: “Pope Francis is pushing ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite rising coronavirus infections, hoping to encourage the country’s dwindling number of Christians who were violently persecuted during the Islamic State’s insurgency while seeking to boost ties with the Shiite Muslim world. Security is a concern for the March 5-8 visit, given the continued presence of rogue Shiite militias and fresh rocket attacks. Francis, who relishes plunging into crowds and zipping around in his popemobile, is expected to travel in an armored car with a sizeable security detail. The Vatican hopes the measures will have the dual effect of protecting the pope while discouraging contagion-inducing crowds.”


AND Campaign“And Campaign to Add 13 New Chapters During Pandemic” – Jacqueline J. Holness in Christianity Today: “The And Campaign—the organization rallying urban Christians to ‘faithful civic engagement’—is on track to quadruple its size in the span of a year, with chapters launching in three Southern cities in 2020 and scheduled to launch in another 10 cities in the first half of 2021. Last year’s convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and political and racial unrest in the United States catapulted organizations like the And Campaign, which were already addressing these complex issues, to a new level of prominence.”


Gentle and Lowly“What the Success of Gentle and Lowly Reveals About Our View of God’s Love” – Samuel Jones at The Gospel Coalition: “I’ve had numerous conversations about Gentle and Lowly, often with friends and family members who have a similar heritage within evangelicalism. We all read Ortlund’s case that our sins and struggles, far from repelling Jesus, draw him closer to us. We realized this was not our predominant conception of Jesus. Yet few books are as packed with Scripture or as conversant with great saints as Gentle and Lowly. This is not innovative theology or a feel-good devotional. While reading the book I repeatedly thought, This can’t be right; this has to be a postmodern view of Jesus. Then I’d realize the statement was a passage from Scripture or a Puritan such as Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, or John Bunyan. The Bible teaches that this is really how Jesus relates to those he has redeemed. Our Christian forebears believed it and taught it.”


head in hands“Beyond Pornography: Spiritual Formation Studied in a Particular Case” – One of the most pervasive temptations I encounter in my ministry as a pastor is pornography. The accessibility of pornography has led many people into the imprisonment of this temptation. While many think this is only a problem for men, studies have shown this is not true. I have seen many attempts to deal with pornography not really bring freedom in peoples’ lives, but actually lead to increased guilt and sometimes increased hiding. Dallas Willard offers one of the most fruitful approaches to spiritual growth, outlined very clearly in his book Renovation of the Heart, and here applied to the temptation of pornography. I heartily recommend reading and re-reading this one, or even sharing it with someone who you know struggles in this way.


WV Gaza“A World Vision Employee Is Still Awaiting Fair Trial in Israel” – Ken Chitwood in Christianity Today: “Every day, at least once and sometimes more, Khalil el-Halabi logs on to Twitter and posts pictures, videos, and appeals on behalf of his son Mohammad. Tagging people he believes might come to his aid—human rights lawyers, politicians, and journalists—he calls for justice and mercy. On January 4, he posted, ‘To our Israeli neighbours. My son will be brought to court for the 154th time Tuesday facing a charge he has not committed without any credible evidence.’ He closed the tweet with a quote from Amos 5:24: ‘Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.'”


Music: Bob Dylan, “Not Dark Yet,” from Time Out of Mind.

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 February 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.


Modernist Churches in Chicago“The Bold Architecture of Chicago’s Black Churches” – Daniel Hautzinger at WTTW: “Most people probably imagine a particular archetype when they think of a church: an imposing stone edifice or white clapboard building, a towering steeple, stained glass. But what about an old hat factory with glass block windows? That’s First Church of Deliverance in Bronzeville. Converted into a church in 1939 by Walter Thomas Bailey, Illinois’s first licensed African American architect, and the Black structural engineer Charles Sumner Duke, the building is clad in cream-colored terra cotta with horizontal red and green accents. Bailey and Duke doubled the width of the factory and added a second floor while remaking the interior into a stylish sanctuary, with a cross on the ceiling illuminated by colored lights and Art Deco touches. Two Art Moderne towers that flank the entrance were added in 1946 by the firm Kocher Buss & DeKlerk. Not for nothing does Open House Chicago call it ‘undoubtedly one of the most unique [churches] in Chicago.'”


Hymns-in-a-Womans-Life-1-270x250“Hymns in a Woman’s Life” – Drew Bratcher reflects on his grandmother’s life and the hymns she loved: “Among the first songs I remember hearing are the hymns my great-grandmother sang: ‘I’ll Fly Away,’ ‘Do Lord,’ ‘I Am Bound for the Promised Land.’ Doubtless I had heard other hymns before these, and still others with greater frequency, but to this day when I think of hymns, it is my great-grandmother who comes to mind. Her name was Elmay (pronounced ‘Elmy’). She lived in a holler in West Virginia, on land owned by the company for which my great-grandfather dug coal. We would see them twice, maybe three times, a year, once at their house on Thanksgiving, and at least once at my grandparents’ place in Nashville, where they visited for a couple of weeks each summer.”


Church of the Immaculate Conception“For Iraqi priest, pope’s visit raises hope of restored trust between Christians and Muslims” – From Claire Giangravé at  Religion News Service: “In Iraq, the birthplace of Abraham, the patriarch of three major faiths, religion has rarely so divided the country, and Christians, descendants of one of their faith’s oldest communities, feel more threatened than they have in living memory. The Rev. Karam Qasha, a parish priest of the Chaldean Catholic Church of St. George in Telskuf, in northern Iraq, is among those hoping Pope Francis can mend the “broken trust” between the country’s Christians and Muslims and give courage to frightened Christians. Francis will visit Iraq March 5-8, making good on St. John Paul II’s attempt to travel to Iraq in 2000 when failed negotiations with the government of Saddam Hussein prevented John Paul from visiting.”


COVID-19 and faith“Pew: How COVID-19 Changed Faith in 14 Countries” – FromJeremy Weber at Christianity Today: “Today, the Pew Research Center released a study on how COVID-19 affected levels of religious faith this past summer in 14 countries with advanced economies: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. ‘In 11 of 14 countries surveyed, the share who say their religious faith has strengthened is higher than the share who say it has weakened,’ noted Pew researchers. ‘But generally, people in developed countries don’t see much change in their own religious faith as a result of the pandemic.'”


alan jacobs“Katharsis Culture” – Here’s Alan Jacobs with a helpful reframing of the many discussions of cancel culture: “A great many people have criticized the use of the term ‘cancel culture,’ but have done so for different reasons. One group of people simply wants to deny that cancellation is a widespread phenomenon; others are aware that something is going on but don’t think that ‘cancellation’ is the right way to describe it. I myself don’t have a problem with the use of the phrase, but I think there are more accurate ways of describing the very real phenomenon to which that phrase points. I think the two key concepts for understanding what is happening are katharsis and broken-windows policing.”


Music: Aklesso, “Wilderness,” from My Life is a Beautiful Mess