“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, 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.
“Tyre Nichols police beating video prompts faith leaders to react with grief, goals” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service: “Religious leaders reacted swiftly — with legislative appeals and collective grief — to the release of video footage of police officers beating Tyre Nichols, a Black man who died days after a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. Church of God in Christ Presiding Bishop J. Drew Sheard, whose historically Black denomination has its headquarters in Memphis, issued a statement Friday (Jan. 27) addressing the ‘shocking death’ of Nichols, a 29-year-old FedEx worker who died on Jan. 10 in a local hospital. ‘We understand the frustration and outrage of citizens at the brutal nature of the death of yet another Black man by those committed to serve and protect,’ Sheard said in comments released in writing and via video. ‘Our heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.’ He said his denomination commends the police department’s quick termination of officers involved in the beating and the “appropriate charges” filed against them. We unequivocally applaud the daily commitment of most police officers and appreciate their willingness to put their lives on the line,’ Sheard added. ‘However, we cannot ignore that many individuals have experienced unjust targeting, humiliation, loss of physical freedom, physical harm, and even death at the hands of relatively few officers.'”
“When Magical Realism Confronts Reality – Confronting the unknown in the world of surgery” – Christopher Hartnick in Comment: “Why no one tried to pull the gnarled pine branch out from where it stuck in young Phillip’s ear remains a mystery to me. And as it turned out, a very lucky mystery. Many people had the opportunity to do so before I first met eight-year-old Phillip and his mother, Martha, in the pre-op suite of the hospital where I work. Phillip and his brother Jack had been playing catch on the beach near their home. Jack threw a long, perfect spiral. Phillip rotated and dashed full speed to catch his brother’s toss. He was so focused on the downward arcing football that he never even saw the pine tree he ran straight into, one of whose branches impaled itself into his ear. Jack told his mother Martha, then others, then me later on, of the scream Phillip made upon the branch’s entry, the loud thwack of his body hitting the tree straight on, then the sight of Phillip reflexively breaking the branch off that connected him to the tree and falling to the ground. Jack ran to his brother and saw Phillip crying in pain, blood pooling down from his ear, and the stick sticking almost two inches out from his bleeding ear. Imagining how much pain it would cause his brother, he couldn’t bring himself to pull the stick out. He called Martha, who came running down the beach and promptly began to sob when she saw her two sons, and Phillip in such pain. She, like Jack, simply did not know what to do. She called 9-1-1, and the EMS team arrived several minutes later. Upon arrival, the two paramedics told Martha they had never seen a stick stuck so deep. As the bleeding diminished, and Jack seemed stable though still in great pain, they also made the choice to leave it alone, and brought Jack and Martha into the hospital where I first met them. What struck me on meeting Phillip for the first time was just how normal he appeared given that he had a significantly sized tree branch piercing deep inside his ear. I knew that if the branch had entered just a few inches above it would have entered into his brain and his predicament would be far different. A few inches lower and it would have cut his facial nerve, paralyzing that side of his face. He could open and close his mouth. He even seemed to be able to hear. So where exactly had it travelled?”
“‘He Gets Us’ organizers hope to spend $1 billion to promote Jesus. Will anyone care?” – Bob Smietana in Religion News Service: “The first time she saw an ad for ‘He Gets Us,’ a national campaign devoted to redeeming the brand of Christianity’s savior, Jennifer Quattlebaum had one thought on her mind. Show me the money. A self-described ‘love more’ Christian and ordinary mom who works in marketing, Quattlebaum loved the message of the ad, which promoted the idea that Jesus understands contemporary issues from a grassroots perspective. But she wondered who was paying for the ads and what their agenda was. ‘I mean, Jesus gets us,’ she said. ‘But what group is behind them?’ For the past 10 months, the ‘He Gets Us’ ads have shown up on billboards, YouTube channels and television screens — most recently during NFL playoff games — across the country, all spreading the message that Jesus understands the human condition. The campaign is a project of the Servant Foundation, an Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit that does business as The Signatry, but the donors backing the campaign have until recently remained anonymous — in early 2022, organizers only told Religion News Service that funding came from ‘like-minded families who desire to see the Jesus of the Bible represented in today’s culture with the same relevance and impact He had 2000 years ago.'”
“To One Kneeling Down No Word Came” – Jonathan Chan in The Yale Logos: “For the last four years, I have been haunted by the voice of R. S. Thomas. An Anglican priest who tended to a parish in Wales, Thomas was also a poet. His poems have stood as lodestones in the corners of my mind each time I have prayed, or sat down to write a poem of my own. Thomas’ poems are characteristically spare, suspicious of certainty, hostile to mechanisation, and filled with the ache of doubt. One would consider this curious considering Thomas’ vocation: as a priest, he had to model piety to a congregation of farmers and labourers. The notion of ‘toil’ was never far from their minds. And to Thomas, for whom romanticized visions of a pastoral life were broken down by the desolation and uncouthness that awaited him in the Welsh countryside, like the work of his congregants, prayer too turned into a kind of toil. Prayer, that old paradox, that ancient discipline. Thomas’ life was beset by a number of alienations. Chief of which was a radical alienation from God. In his poem ‘The Other’, Thomas describes God as ‘that other being who is awake, too, / letting our prayers break on him’. And yet, Thomas also found himself alienated from a kind of ethnic or cultural identity. Thomas was Welsh. He was born, raised, and educated in Wales. He railed against the materialism of the English, whom he saw as the colonisers of his homeland, culpable for the land acquisition and industrialisation that alienated so many like him. However, he only came to learn the Welsh language at the age of 30. Educated in English and Latin for most of his life, his learning of Welsh came too late for him to ever hope to write poetry in it. It seemed that he would continue in this bind, on one hand, haunted by the pastoral idealization of Wales in the English imagination, on the other, only being able to rail against it through the language of the forces he detested.”
“Comforting the Comfortable: The Indiscriminate and Unwavering Mercy of God” – Todd Brewer in Mockingbird: “Nearing the completion of my Phd studies, I approached my usual supervisory meeting with an urgent and slightly unusual query: should I take a church job at St. WhatsHisName? The Gospel of Thomas translations were put on hold and the merits of the job description were weighed approvingly (there would be flexibility for me to prepare for my impending thesis defense). Even so, I remained apprehensive. What the church lacked in diversity, it more than made up for in wealth, liberal theology, and suburban self-importance. Could I stomach the country club Bible studies led by John Shelby Spong?, I asked not-so rhetorically. After a few moments in thought, my advisor’s raised eyebrows gave way to a narrow resoluteness. ‘Those kind of churches need the gospel, too,’ he replied. I took the job the next day. The idea that everyone needs the gospel is one that most Christians would broadly agree with. ‘For us and our salvation he came down from heaven,’ as the Nicene Creed says. But that initial unanimity soon fragments once the radical implications of such an idea are parsed. Forgiveness and grace for everyone? Even ‘those people’? While Christianity might affirm in theory the ubiquity of divine mercy for everyone, exceptions to the universality of the gospel are readily adopted by even its most ardent defenders.”
“Report: Jean Vanier’s L’Arche Hid ‘Mystical-Sexual’ Sect for Decades” – Kate Shellnut in Christianity Today: “Two years after abuse allegations against L’Arche’s late founder Jean Vanier were made public, an investigation shows the secret was ‘carefully maintained for decades.’ From the famous Christian community he developed in Trosly-Breuil, France, the Catholic theologian and leader perpetuated a hidden ‘mystical-sexual’ sect. Over a nearly 70-year period, Vanier violated at least 25 women—all of them adults without disabilities—during prayer and spiritual devotion. The results of the two-year investigation, commissioned by L’Arche in 2020, were released in an 868-page report on Monday. A half dozen of Vanier’s victims spoke up for the first time following his death in 2019 at age 90. An interdisciplinary team of scholars consulted 1,400 private letters of Vanier’s, including hundreds from a secret folder. They interviewed 89 people, including eight of Vanier’s victims. L’Arche became well-known and spread around the world as an organization bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities.”
Music: Marian Anderson, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child”