The Weekend Wanderer: 23 November 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.

PastorJayandDerrick“A Tale of Two Churches” – I heard about this story from someone who described it as the most powerful story about Christianity so far this year. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I read this piece about two churches that merged together in the midst of great conflict. It is most definitely worth a read, and particularly moving, especially in our divided days.


Kidd - Who Is an Evangelical“‘Who Is An Evangelical?’ Looks At History Of Evangelical Christians And The GOP” – I was driving in the car the other day when I caught this piece on NPR on the nature of evangelicalism. I didn’t know who the interviewee was until the end of the piece when NPR’s Audie Cornish thanked Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and author of the recent book Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis. Kidd offers a balanced and insightful approach to what is often a simplistic political trope but is really much more diverse and complicated than often thought. You can read a review of his book here.


5944.large“How Garbage Collectors Can Refresh Our Theology” – Here’s Gustavo H. R. Santos at Comment helping us reframe vocation: “Our churches are full of both professionals and working-class labourers, so if we want to teach about work from a biblical perspective as part of our discipleship, we need a theology infused with a broader paradigm of labour. The experience of millions from the working class teaches us that being who Christ calls us to be doesn’t depend on the job we have. They remind us that we can’t control our circumstances and that faithfulness is more important than performance. So the question becomes, Are we willing to listen to what their lives are telling us? The ancient story of Ruth the Moabite might help improve our hearing.”


113985“Pastors & Burnout: A Personal Reflection” – Every pastor, as well as many others in serving professions, deal with the dangers of burnout. I have, and I have talked to many other pastors who have as well. Scott Nichols offers his perspective as a pastor who has served for over thirty years in three different churches. I appreciate the practicality of Nichols’ list, including things like staying active and cultivating friendships, because, in my experience, pastors have a tendency to over-spiritualize their burnout.  One of the areas I wish he would have addressed was the darker motivations that potentially lead us as pastors toward burnout, but this article is still worth the read.


Richard-Mouw-Missiology-Lecture“A ‘Middle Way’: Lessons for Faithfulness in the Public Square” – It is difficult to ignore all the noise in the political world these days, and it can leave us either wanting to retreat entirely or to becoming so sucked into it that little else receives attention. What does it mean as Christians to engage in the public square? Well, right on time, Richard Mouw, former President of Fuller Seminary, offers a suggestion about a “middle way” on this.


Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 12.28.19 PM“Vexed and Troubled Englishmen: How should we remember the Puritans?” – The name “puritan” has received such a bad name in recent days, largely because of misunderstandings of what the name means and what the original intent of the Puritans as a group truly was. Andrew Delbanco reviews Daniel T. Rodger’s book, As a City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon, which focuses on John Winthrop’s speech “A Model of Christian Charity.” “Rodgers’s book is not only a close reading of the reception and history of Winthrop’s speech but also a rescue operation for Puritanism itself.”


Music: DJ Shadow featuring Nils Frahm, “Scars,” from Ghost in the Shell (Music Inspired By the Motion Picture)

[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.]

Cleanliness Next to Godliness?


When I was very young, so I have been told, I was one of those children who hated having stuff stuck to my hands. I’m sure there’s a deeper meaning there (where’s Freud when you need him?), but as I passed through adolescence into adulthood, I have become one of those “shower every day” type of people.  There’s nothing like waking up and washing off that dank sleep smell and bed head to get a start into the day, in my opinion.

All of us have most likely heard the old addage “cleanliness is next to godliness.” But we are surprised to discover that this little proverb is not from the Bible, but first appeared in English in the writings of Francis Bacon. Yet, in more ways than one, we have imbibed this proverb and made it part of the warp and woof of our religious understanding of life.

Lauren Winner, one of the most thoughtful authors in evangelical Christianity these days, recently wove together a review of three different books on the history of the idea of cleanliness for Christianity Today. Now, you may not immediately sense the need to understand the history of the idea of ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’, but hold on a moment.

In looking at these books, Winner specifically brings into focus the religious understanding of cleanliness through the past two-thousand years of Christianity in quick strokes. She then brings us some challenging words on our own understanding of cleanliness and how it ties in with stewardship of the earth.

Winner is by no means advocating a strict environmentalism, but she does present some important concerns about our motivations for cleanliness.  She also builds upon the Puritan connections between baptism and cleanliness. Our baptismal life – “buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4) – must also invade our hygienic life:

there might be a connection between bodily cleanliness and baptism ought to include our remembering that we become washed in baptism not so that we can stand around preening with other clean people, but so that we can go forth into a world where the clean and the unclean are sometimes quite inseparable…

perhaps that is one way for 21st-century Christians to connect our baptisms with our evening baths—by recognizing the intersection of our hygiene and our stewardship of the planet, and perhaps cutting out a few of those baths as an expression of the very baptisms that bathing can recall.

I found Winner’s comments insightful and thought-provoking for me personally, as well as for the life of the church.

What do you think: is cleanliness next to godliness for you?