The Weekend Wanderer: 17 August 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.

Marty Sampson“What could have helped Marty Sampson’s faith” – Some of you may have heard that Marty Sampson, well-known as a worship leader and song writer with Hillsong United and Hillsong Young & Free, announced that he is departing from his Christian faith. After pointing to the string of failures in ministry leaders and sharing some of his own doubts, Sampson says multiple times, “No one talks about it.” Aside from the fact that a lot of people talk about it, this raises multiple issues about the theological vacuity of much of evangelicalism, the inability of many churches to give space and guidance to people in moments of questioning or doubt, and also the lack of long-term growth mindset that gives space for ups and downs in much hyped-up contemporary worship-experience churches. Australian missiologist Michael Frost offers some meaningful insights in this article, with reference to the life of Thomas Merton: “In our information-drunk, effectiveness-addicted culture, finding genuine truth happens through the life-tested skill of gathering what is needed to sustain faith without killing faith in the gathering.”

I’d also encourage you to read Russell Moore’s article, “When Someone You Admire Abandons the Faith.He writes, “The Internet is atwitter with opinions on all of that, from atheists, from Christians, and everyone in between. As sad as I am about all of this, I can’t help but think about lots of people I’ve known, many of whom would never make headlines, who just, sometimes very quietly, walked away from the faith. ” Along with that, David French’s article on this issue, “Another Pop-Culture Christian Loses His Faith,” in National Review is painfully relevant: “I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.”

 

J D Vance Catholic“J.D. Vance Becomes Catholic” – At another point in the faith journey continuum, there is this news. J. D. Vance wrote the book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis as a reflection on social challenges in our country, the struggle to find stability in life, and what it means to become a good person in spite of a difficult family upbringing. The book became a New York Times bestseller and is being made into a movie directed by Ron Howard. Rod Dreher reported this past week that Vance has converted to Roman Catholicism. Vance comments: “one of the things I love about Catholicism is that it’s very old. I take a longer view….The hope of the Christian faith is not rooted in any short-term conquest of the material world, but in the fact that it is true, and over the long term, with various fits and starts, things will work out.”

 

91727“Preaching Against Racism Is Not a Distraction from the Gospel” – Here is Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College: “In light of recent gun violence, some of which appears to be racially motivated, the church’s response to racial controversy is once again in the spotlight. We have to ask ourselves: What will our testimony be? What do we do when violent events occur with such startling frequency that we don’t know what to do or what to say? How do know when it is wise to be silent or when it is necessary to speak? Pastors, in particular, have to ask: How do we use the pulpit to preach against racism?”

 

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“Does Your Preaching Touch Politics?” – And if that raised some questions about how the pulpit should engage with current issues, here is a 2008 article featuring Mark Dever, Adam Hamilton, Joel Hunter, and Efrem Smith on how they preach on political issues. While some aspects of it show their age, as we continue in a divisive climate in our society, advice from these seasoned pastors is worth the read.

 

NewYorker_Mosquito_Vertical_v5“How Mosquitoes Changed Everything” – We all dislike mosquitoes, but now there is an assembly of their great impact on human civilization. “Winegard finds first-person descriptions of death and suffering caused by mosquito-borne diseases in many eras. Florence Nightingale called the Pontine Marshes, near Rome, ‘the Valley of the Shadow of Death’; a German missionary visiting the southern United States wrote that it was ‘in the spring a paradise, in the summer a hell, and in the autumn a hospital’; a Mayan survivor of post-Columbus epidemics remembered, ‘Great was the stench of death. . . . All of us were thus. We were born to die!’ And yet human beings lived with, and died from, mosquito-borne diseases for thousands of years without understanding how they were reaching us. Not until the end of the nineteenth century was it scientifically established that mosquitoes transmitted malaria. Before then, the miasma theory, holding that fevers travelled independently, through fetid environments, held sway, reflected in the very word ‘malaria’: we thought we were the victims of ‘bad air.’ That these tiny biting insects might be affecting our lives so profoundly was a leap beyond imagining.”

 

_108333557_overallwinner_matbeetson_watermarked“In pictures: Australian Geographic’s photo prize winners” – The world is a beautiful place, and there are many parts to it that we will never be able to see in person. Thankfully, there are skilled photographers who can share unique views of God’s good creation with great skill and from fascinating angles.

 

bach-manuscript-well-tempered-clavier-prelude-no-1-1414409439-1-600x452“The Prelude” – Here’s Austin Kleon combatting violence with Bach. “I thought today that I was going to sit down and blog about violence, about how hard I am trying to cleanse my house of violence, how violence is not just guns and bombs and knives and fists, but how many kinds of touch can be violent, how words can be violent, how you can stab your salad violently….The only thing I feel like I can do is make my home a haven, a place where we celebrate things of beauty and rationality and love and peace. Bach’s music is one of those things.”

 

Music: J. S. Bach, “The Goldberg Variations,” performed by Glenn Gould (1955).

[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.]

Emanuel, Charleston, Forgiveness and the Future

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Last night I had the chance to view Emanuel, a documentary directed by Brian Ivie (The Dropbox), about the shooting on June 17, 2015, at Emanuel A. M. E. Church in Charleston, SC, in which 9 people died. I attended with one of my sons, and we participated in a talk-back after the movie to reflect and process what we had seen.

For me, the movie highlighted three things that are part of my own journey and also things I hope to continue working on:

  1. The power of forgiveness – The documentary focuses largely on the power of forgiveness in the lives of those who lost loved ones through this trauma. On the one hand, there is the power of forgiveness to release the one who inflicted wrong into the hands of God but also the power of forgiveness to release ourselves from bitterness. This is no simplistic journey, but overall I felt the film did a good job of showing how there is spiritual strength that gives us the ability to forgive, but also how everyone processes forgiveness differently and according to different timelines. As followers of Jesus who live in light of God’s forgiveness through the Cross, we know the power of forgiveness. As Célestin Musekura says: “Because of this divine act, the Christian model of forgiveness stresses the granting of unconditional forgiveness to those who cause injury, pain and suffering in this life.”
  2. The need for racial healing – At various points during the film, attention is given to the racialized history of Charleston and the United States. Charleston served as a hub for the slave trade in colonial America and South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union in what led to the Civil War.By interspersing these hard realities, we are reminded of the need for racial understanding and healing in the midst of the contemporary moment in our nation. From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Oakland to Milwaukee, we cannot ignore that slavery, “America’s original sin,” has left a legacy of racial inequality, pain, and violence that cannot be ignored. We need to take steps forward both in facing into the realities that are here, as well as cultivating both personal and institutional healing of racism.
  3. The importance of stopping racial violence before it starts – While the documentary did not directly address ways to stop racial violence before it starts, it hinted at the reality that a wayward, lonely young man found a narrative of white supremacy that filled the gap of meaning and belonging in his life. This grabbed my attention as I considered afterwards how we might work intentionally on stopping racial violence before it starts. Where are those at the fringes of society who find belonging in sickened narratives of prejudice, injustice, and violence? How do we find them and interrupt their stories with grace, love, and shalom from God? While not easy to address, it is vital that we work as a society, as the church, and as Christians to overcome both the fruits and the roots of racial violence.

For the past six years, I have worked across racial lines with other pastors on developing ways to make a difference in our city through The Milwaukee Declaration and other organizationsEmanuel reminded me that in stepping forward with this work there is great challenge and greater hope, great darkness and greater light.

Just this morning I came across an excerpt from journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes‘ recently released account of the atrocity in Charleston in her book Grace Will Lead Us Home.  There, Hawes relates how after the atrocity, Reverend Kylon Middleton, an African American pastor and husband of one of those killed, was invited to a historically white congregation to preach.

Middleton had grown up in this city, a divided one, and knew well the significance of a black pastor in a white pulpit. He approached with a ready step. When he got there, he beamed. “I never imagined in a million years coming to Second Presbyterian Church!” Sunday, he noted, remained the most segregated day of the week.

But why? They all served the same Christian God, the same one who’d brought them all together here tonight.

“Faith becomes the equalizer!”

In many ways, this was the most important change in race relations to come from the shooting. Friendships and familiarity had been born, especially within the Holy City’s largely segregated churches.

May God give us grace to step forward with such grace before more violence happens and before wounds overflow into riots, that we might meet at the foot of the Cross where healing, humility, understanding, and forgiveness can be found.

 


 

Emanuel is in theaters for a limited time. If you want to see it, there are still showings for Wednesday, June 19.

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 March 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.

jenson how the world.jpeg“How the World Lost Its Story” –  In this article published in 1993, theologian Robert Jenson, who died in 2017, reflects on the ways in which the great story of God builds meaning into the church living in the postmodern world. While the article is more than twenty-five years old, it still speaks with power. “So how, with respect to ‘story,’ must the church’s mission now be conducted?…The obvious answer is that if the church does not find her hearers antecedently inhabiting a narratable world, then the church must herself be that world.”

 

108.thumbA Damnable Shame– Mark Mulder reflects in Comment Magazine on the church’s complicity in racism with reference to Jemar Tisby’s recent book The Color of Compromise. “Tisby’s volume offers a striking distillation of how the church in America has consistently demonstrated both tacit and explicit support for a racialized society. Though he describes the American church’s history with race as no less than a ‘horror,’ Tisby also insists that ‘to look away’ has become untenable. Hopefully, many people who care about the church will read The Color of Compromise and remember that Tisby’s book is ‘not about discrediting the church or Christians.’ Rather, they will notice its lineage with those who ‘speak the truth in love.’ True reckoning for the church on issues of race undoubtedly includes detailed retelling of disquieting truths that echo into the twenty-first century.”

 

jesus-in-the-garden“Lent Doesn’t Make Sense When Incarnation > Salvation” – Over at Mockingbird, John Zahl writes about the ways in which Lent is tied in not merely with the theology of the incarnation, but also with a good theology of salvation. “Today it seems most voices in the Church (at least the one to which I belong) seek to advocate a message about the human self that aligns almost exactly with the shallow philosophies proffered in any issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Cue the preacher who interprets loving your neighbor as yourself as being about, well, loving yourself. Under the auspices of ‘Incarnational’ language, the individual is deified. The true self is equated with the divine, and this is assumed to be a profound approach, and not that of every Montessori teacher/college drop-out. God-as-self is the most basic (#Basic) and misleading path in the world. The pursuit of it is the pursuit of self-interest: spirituality without humility. The assumption seems to be: ‘I must increase so that God might increase””

 

T S Eliot“Listen to T.S. Eliot Reflect on Poetry” – “On December 4, 1950, two years after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, T.S. Eliot stood behind a lectern in the Kaufmann Concert Hall at the 92nd Street Y and read some of his best work in front of hundreds of people. Now the whole world can relive that moment: The 92nd Street Y has unearthed a never-before-heard recording ahead of a listening event on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. celebrating the Unterberg Poetry Center’s 80th anniversary.”

 

89946“Court Overturns Atheist Victory Against Pastors’ Best Benefit” – “For the second time, a popular tax break for pastors has been judged permissible under the US Constitution, despite efforts by an atheist legal group to prove otherwise. Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s 2017 ruling that the Clergy Housing Allowance violates the First Amendment. Offered only to ‘ministers of the gospel,’ the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy, CT previously reported. GuideStone Financial Resources has called it the “‘most important tax benefit available to ministers.'”

 

Music: “The Lord God Bird,” Sufjan Stevens, 2005.

 

[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: 16 February 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.

Jemar Tisby“This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church” – In the first of two articles on issues of race and the church in this week’s edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” I’m sharing Jemar Tisby’s reflections on the ways in which the church often ignores current challenges around issues of ethnicity, racism, and inequality. Tisby is an important voice in Christianity on racial issues today, advocating for engagement with these challenging issues in his recent book, The Color of Compromise, and over at The Witness. Just before I published this edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” Tisby was featured in an interview with Wesley Hill at Comment Magazine entitled “The Future of Church-Race Relations” that is well worth the read.

 

Roger E Olson.jpg“Is Evangelicalism White?” – The second article on this topic is by theologian and church historian, Roger E. Olson. In this essay, Olson makes a case that contemporary equation of evangelicalism with whiteness within news and sociology misses the point of a more nuanced discussion of evangelicalism from unique viewpoints of spiritual-theological ethos and sociological-religious movement.

 

Oneya Okuwobi“‘Everything that I’ve Done Has Always Been Multiethnic’: Biographical Work among Leaders of Multiracial Churches” – On a related theme, Oneya Okuwobi recently published a journal article on biographical work with pastors of multiethnic churches. She write: “I find that pastors of multiracial churches pattern their biographies after two predominant formula stories, laying claim to being people who are experienced with diversity and/or experienced with racial injustice. These formula stories reveal institutionalized understandings of biographies acceptable for pastors of multiracial churches that cut across denominational lines. The biographies of these leaders also reveal a shift toward diversity and away from recognition of racial injustice that has implications for the racial structure.”

 

89461“Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Gospel of Shame-Free Sexuality”Wesley Hill reviews Nadia Bolz-Weber’s latest book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. Bolz-Weber is an iconoclastic Lutheran pastor who has been a spokesperson for progressive Christianity. While I’m sympathetic to some of her statements about fundamentalist Christianity, Hill’s even-handed and clear assessment of this book is worth reading. If you prefer a more blunt, but honest and accurate, assessment of Bolz-Weber, let me refer you to Rod Dreher’s “Sex & the Single Pastor.”

 

Barna_2019_RevivingEvangelism_charts_v1“Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong” – A new study by the Barna Group and commissioned by Alpha USAReviving Evangelism, highlights some disappointing yet unsurprising trends in contemporary North American Christianity. The trend that has made the most headlines (see “Half of Millennial Christians Say It’s Wrong to Evangelize” in Christianity Today) is the identification that, while prepared to share their faith, most millennial Christians are unsure of whether evangelism is something they should do at all. The chart I post on the right highlights how this is a progression of something that has been developing in earlier generations as well.

 

Michael Green“Alister McGrath: Michael Green Taught Me the Importance of Evangelism” – Since we’re on the topic of evangelism, I hope you enjoy this personal reflection by Alister McGrath on the life and legacy of Michael Green, one of the greatest champions for evangelism in the late 20th century. I first encountered Green’s work through a class with one of my mentors, Dr. Lyle Dorsett, entitled “Jesus and Evangelism.” Green is perhaps best known for two of his books, Evangelism in the Early Church and I Believe in the Holy Spirit, although he wrote many more. You will not have wasted your time if you read those great books, and if you put them into practice in your own life.

 

tell-your-children“Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence”Alex Berenson, former New York Times reporter and author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, summarizes some of the mains strands of his exploration within that book in this relatively brief essay. This is particularly relevant because as the rise in marijuana usage combines with efforts at legalization that do not always tell the whole story about the impact of marijuana on the human body and mind, let alone society as a whole.

 

endpapers“Hold the front pages: meet the endpaper enthusiasts” – Now for something a little lighter. Enjoy this article focusing on the beauty of endpapers in book publishing.  “In a small sanctuary from world events, book lovers gather to sigh over the most beautiful decorative pages and compare techniques.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

Music: “Everlasting God” by William Murphy.  [Thanks to Gabriel Douglas for sharing this link with me.]

 

[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: 29 December 2018

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.

iranian christians“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” – NPR reports on something that has been tracked by religious news agencies for awhile. “In Turkey and across the Middle East and Europe, evangelical Christians are converting Muslim refugees eager to emigrate to the West. The refugees in Turkey escaped Iran, where conversion to anything but Islam is illegal. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iran. Those considered part of the native Christian communities are permitted to practice their religion with restrictions, but a Muslim converting to Christianity is considered an apostate. The Iranian government jails converts, especially those who proselytize. The authorities see it as a Western plan to turn Iranians against Islam and the Islamic regime, according to converts in Turkey.”

 

iweslej001p1“Counsel for preachers (and other Christians)” – Over at his blog, Alan Jacobs shares some penetrating insight from John Wesley on how preachers should approach life and preaching. What’s his advice? Read more to shape your faith and skill as a preacher. “What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarcely ever knew a Preacher read so little. And, perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with daily meditation and daily prayer.”

 

Griswold-The-Other-Evangelicals“Evangelicals of Color Fight Back Against the Religious Right” – Evangelicalism is changing in more ways than one. In The New Yorker, Eliza Griswold reports on one of the most significant changes. “In the United States, evangelicalism has long been allied with political conservatism. But under Trump’s Presidency right-wing political rhetoric has become more openly racist and xenophobic. In evangelical circles, hostility toward people of color is often couched in nostalgia for the simpler days of nineteen-fifties America….The growing number of evangelicals of color have begun pushing in earnest for more of a political voice in the church.”

 

persectued church 2018“The 10 Most-Read Stories of the Persecuted Church” – Christianity Today gathers together their 10 most-read stories related to the persecuted church in 2018. Ranging from Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey to Indonesian churches blasted by a family of suicide bombers, from North Korea’s decision to free American Christians and Leah Sharibu’s inspiration of Nigerian believers, and so much more. If you aren’t familiar with these stories, you should be.

 

hang christians“Jeremy Hunt orders global review into persecution of Christians” – On a related note, UK Foreign Secretary is calling for a global review of persecution of Christians. “The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has ordered an independent, global review into the persecution of Christians of all nationalities amid claims that not enough is being done to defend the rights of nearly 200 million Christians at risk of persecution today. The unprecedented Foreign Office review will be led by the Bishop of Truro, Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, and will make recommendations on the practical steps the government can take to better support those under threat.”

 

baby feet.jpeg“The Case Against CRISPR Babies” – Nicanor Austriaco at First Things: “A few days after Thanksgiving, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui shocked the global community by announcing that he had created the world’s first gene-edited, designer babies—twin girls named Lulu and Nana. The two ‘CRISPR babies’ had been born a few weeks earlier to their HIV-positive father Mark and his wife, Grace. Many scientists expressed anger and frustration at the announcement. U.S. National Institutes of Health Director, Francis Collins, described Jiankui’s work as a ‘profoundly unfortunate,’ ‘ill-considered,’ ‘unethical,’ ‘scientific misadventure’ that ‘flout[ed] international ethical norms.'”

[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: 3 November 2018

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.

181029081322-rabbi-myers-super-tease“A rabbi says he first thought gunfire was the sound of a fallen metal coat rack. Then he saw people running.” – Here are some comments from the rabbi at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. I grieve with the victims of this attack, as well as for their families and all others affected. May God bring true shalom into the midst of this situation, as well as our nation, and may we join God in bringing it. This continues to raise questions about gun control in the US and how religious institutions should respond to violence.

 

_104109439_mediaitem104109431“Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row” – The BBC reports on a case that is relevant for discussions of religious freedom. While religious freedom is not only relevant for Christians, this case is, as the article indicates, a landmark ruling in Pakistan. “A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarised the nation. Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours. She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement. The landmark ruling has already set off violent protests by hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws.”

 

Email_FRutledge_20160105MM_0207“Ruminations: The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone” – Fleming Rutledge’s outstanding book The Crucifixion may eventually become even better. How? By her promise to include reflections on James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree as an afterword if there is ever a second edition. “Indeed, had I read Cone’s book while I was still writing The Crucifixion, I would have given significant space to the similarities of lynching and crucifixion because they give emphasis to the argument I have made that shame, humiliation, degradation, obscenity, and dehumanizing were an essential aspect of the way Jesus died. Cone has produced a work that is suffused with a sense of the shame and humiliation of black life in America (‘abused and trampled down’), while yet remaining triumphant over it.”

 

merlin_145504593_9adb15b8-15bb-4d26-af07-ed6521876393-superJumbo“‘God Is Going to Have to Forgive Me’: Young Evangelicals Speak Out” – This appeared in The New York Times on Thursday: “The role of evangelical Christianity in American politics has been a hotly discussed topic this year, intersecting with front-burner issues like immigration, the Supreme Court and social justice. Often the loudest evangelical voices are white, male and … not young. With just days left before the midterm elections — two years after President Trump won the White House with a record share of white, evangelical support — we asked young evangelicals to tell The Times about the relationship between their faith and their politics.”

 

84140“Jan Peterson: My Life as a Pastor’s Wife” – Eugene Peterson’s wife, Jan, reflects on what her life was like as a pastor’s wife. In the midst of her beautiful reflections, adapted from her new book Becoming Gertrude: How Our Friendships Shape Our Faith, she writes: ” I’m well aware that being a pastor’s wife brings with it a lot of demands and a lot of time spent serving others. But the amazing thing about service is that it rarely returns void, even if we don’t see the end results ourselves….May we all have the desire to serve God in that spirit. Fiat mihi—may it be unto me. Amen.”

 

84155“James MacDonald Sues Critics After 2,000 Leave Harvest Bible Chapel” – I’ve heard of church divisions getting bad, but this definitely takes it to a higher level than anything I’ve encountered before. “Pastor James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel filed a lawsuit this month against two ex-members and former Moody Radio host Julie Roys, accusing them of spreading false information about the Chicago-area megachurch’s financial health and leadership. The main targets of the church’s defamation complaint are Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant, who together run the blog The Elephant’s Debt. The site has culled stories of alleged mismanagement at Harvest since 2012, including claims of as much as $70 million in mortgage debt and a lack of accountability from its elder board.”

 

white-evangelicals“Most White Evangelicals Say Immigration, Increasing Racial Diversity, Harms America” – Can somebody help me understand this better? “A little over a week before the 2018 midterm elections, the Public Religion Research Institute on Monday released its 9th annual American Values Survey. The research shows that white evangelical Protestants are at odds with all other identified religious groups on many questions relating to immigration, race, the #MeToo movement and President Donald Trump.”

 

czesaw-miosz“An Approval of Being” – Here’s an old treasure of an article, as Robert Faggen interviews Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz in Books and Culture in 1997. Milosz won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980, and was one of the outstanding literary voices of the 20th century. I couldn’t get over this statement: “I have lived in apocalyptic times, in an apocalyptic century. To live through the Nazi and Communist regimes in Poland was quite a task. And, indeed, there is a whole literature of the twentieth century that is deeply apocalyptic. My work to a large extent belongs to that stream of catastrophist literature that attempts to overcome despair.”

[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.]

Bonhoeffer’s Theological Shift in Harlem

Bonhoeffer_Union_ClassLast night, I finished reading Reggie Williams‘ thought-provoking book, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance. This was an outstanding read and would easily fit within my top five recommended reads about the life and work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I hope to reflect a bit further on the book soon, but I wanted to share this extended reflection by Williams from one of the final chapters of the book here.

The hermeneutical process that was set in motion by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s formative German nationalist environment had been disrupted by immersion in a different community. During the Harlem Renaissance and at the beginning of the Great Depression, Bonhoeffer entered into the ‘church of the outcast of America’ in Harlem. He came to Harlem not as the professor come to give oppressed people The benefit of his knowledge; Bonhoeffer allowed himself to be vulnerable in the Harlem community, which was very different from his own German one, by an incarnational practice. In Harlem he learned from Powell’s ministry and was exposed to a black dialectical ecclesiology and to Powell’s interpretation of a model church community. That encounter exposed the limitations of Bonhoeffer’s _Volk_-centered loyalties, making him vulnerable to the influence of a different worldview and opening him up to important revisions in his faith. When Bonhoeffer shared with his friend Myles Horton the interrupting ‘Amens’ and ‘Hallelujahs’ that he experienced in the Abyssinian church service, Myles was surprised by the different demeanor that his German friend exhibited. It was the different Bonhoeffer, in the year following his encounter with black Baptists, whose piety sometimes appeared ‘too fervent’ to his students. One of Bonhoeffer’s Berlin students recalled the directness and ‘simplicity’ with which Bonhoeffer ‘asked us whether we loved Jesus.’ That different Bonhoeffer was the one who would later speak out against Nazi racism and become the celebrated author of Creation and Fall, Life Together, Discipleship, and Ethics. [Reggie Williams, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2014), pp. 105-106.]