The Weekend Wanderer: 8 October 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.


10 Ways Pastors Wellbeing“Ten Ways Pastors Prioritize Wellbeing” – Nilwona Nowlin at the CCDA blog: “The 2022 National Conference is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to start thinking more about our theme, wellbeing. We thought this would be a great opportunity to hear from some of the shepherds among us. I asked a simple question of them-What are 5 ways you prioritize wellbeing? As I collected their responses, I observed an interesting pattern. One person broke down their practices into three categories: mental/emotional wellness, physical wellness, and spiritual wellness. While the others didn’t explicitly mention these categories, their responses easily fell into the boxes.  As I sat with these responses, a passage from the Gospels came to mind: ‘. . . you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30, NRSV). These words are also captured in Luke 10:27 and Matthew 22:37. The original text Jesus is quoting is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, known as the Shema. Some might translate these areas as: heart = emotional, soul = spiritual, and mind/strength = physical. Whichever way you might view the categories, the idea is that we are to love God with our whole, entire selves. It helps to think holistically because there is a lot of overlap between the three areas.”


webRNS-Kuttab-Oped2-100422“Growing pains for Arab evangelical Christians in the Middle East” – Daoud Kuttab at Religion News Service: “It may surprise many who think of the Middle East as an island of Israeli Jews surrounded by Muslims that in many Arab states, evangelical Christians are growing in numbers and power. At the same time, this minority is facing pressure, both from the Muslim majority and from other Christians. A Sept. 26–28 meeting of the Middle East and North Africa Evangelical National Councils, held at the Ajloun Baptist Center north of Jordan’s capital, Amman, was the most representative event since MENA, the newest regional branch of the World Evangelical Alliance, was set up in 2018. Among the delegates were senior leaders serving some 600 million evangelicals from across the region. The World Evangelical Alliance secretary general, Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher, attended from Germany. The news from individual delegates was mixed. Bassem Fekry, a representative of the Egyptian Fellowship, said Christians in his country — about 20 million in all, according to Fekry, of whom it’s estimated about 3 million are evangelicals — have gotten a boost from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who has begun a process to officially recognize church buildings as sacred spaces — a designation not all enjoy. Fekry is helping about 1,500 churches make adjustments to receive coveted government recognition.”


fire“The West is homeless:  We’re no longer willing to sacrifice our desires” – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd: “I was chatting to the log man as we unloaded chunks of dried beech into my driveway from his trailer. Usually he brings me ash, but ash is becoming harder to find now that ash dieback disease, imported into Ireland from Europe, is killing many of the nation’s trees. Our little home plantation, laid down five or six years ago, is not yet mature enough to keep us going for the whole winter, and we need help to make up the shortfall. So, beech it is this year. ‘Not easy to get it now though,’ he said to me, as we threw the logs into the growing pile. ‘And there’s a lot of demand this year. Everyone’s worried about the winter.’ Given the likely lack of Russian gas across Europe, people are getting nervous and stockpiling heating fuel before autumn. We’ve been stocking up on winter logs this way for years. But the log man knows that his days of delivering little loads of cut timber to households like ours are probably numbered. ‘I’ll just keep going till they tell me to stop,’ he said. ‘It’ll happen soon enough.’ The Irish government is currently campaigning against households which burn turf or wood, the former on the grounds of CO2 emissions, and the latter on the grounds of air quality. As ever, the campaign is driven from Dublin, and mostly takes Dublin sensibilities into account. Rural households in Ireland have been burning turf and wood forever, with little significant impact on ‘air quality’ — or at least, no impact comparable to that which Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ modernisation has had. Suddenly, though, the media is full of scientists armed with studies demonstrating how getting a fire going in your cottage in winter will lead to cancer and lung disease on a widespread scale. This new tilt against household fireplaces is not just an Irish phenomenon: it is suddenly popping up everywhere.”


chick-fil-a-logo-vector“Blue Laws, Boycotts, and Chick-Fil-A: To our modern (capitalist) eyes, sabbath appears wasteful and inefficient. But perhaps that’s the point.” – Todd Brewer at Mockingbird: “When I worked at a coffee shop chain, we always knew when the ‘JW rush’ would happen. Like clockwork, every Sunday a desolate dining room would instantly transform into the cacophony of a wedding reception. The line of customers clad in suits and ties or dresses and hats would snake out the door as soon as the Kingdom Hall next door emptied. The coffee shop counter only spanned less than three feet, but it created a chasm between two vastly different kinds of people. On the one side were faithful customers; on one side were workers. The saved and the damned. The employees could scarcely cross the counter and convert while still remaining employees. For their part, the Jehovah’s Witnesses did not actually witness where they ate. It was an arrangement of mutual benefit. Food and drinks would be served, money exchanged hands, and one side of the counter would burn in hell for an eternity. Had the well-dressed coffee patrons ventured to the nearest fast-food chicken retailer, they would have been disappointed to find an empty store. Chick-fil-A is known for many things: chicken sandwiches, boycotts, and being closed on Sundays. At the estimated cost of a billion dollars of revenue a year, every store across the company shuts its doors on the first day of the week because, in the words of the company’s founder, ‘Closing our business on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is our way of honoring God and showing our loyalty to Him.” Whatever one may think of the place derisively known by some as ‘Christian Chicken’ (and the holier-than-thou possibilities cannot be denied) their refusal to make their employees break the sabbath is at least admirable.”


Lentz-GettyImages-479623478780x508-1“Christians Love a Comeback Story. Too Often It’s Cheap Grace.” – Katelyn Beaty in Religion & Politics: “For the first time in nearly two years, Carl Lentz, former pastor of Hillsong New York, recently shared an update. ‘It’s been a challenging road but we are alive, we are at peace and thanks to the grace of God we are TOGETHER,’ he posted on social media alongside several family portraits. That day, his wife posted the same photos. Laura Lentz said that the couple has reinvested in their marriage, despite her husband’s affair—and what other church leaders later called ‘moral failures’—that led to Lentz’s firing from Hillsong in 2020. ‘I look forward to sharing our story … and I think it’s going to help a lot of people,’ she wrote. She expressed gratitude that Carl ‘humbled himself’ and ‘has kept quiet’ publicly. Despite increased pressure post-#metoo for public figures to permanently leave the spotlight, it’s surprisingly easy to return to it. Louis CK is currently on another comedy tour. Bill O’Reilly started his own news site shortly after Fox fired him. Kevin Spacey has a couple of smaller films set to release. Bill Clinton never really left the spotlight, nor did Donald Trump. Anthony Wiener is back with a podcast. Barring jailtime, if you have enough fans and financial backing from well-networked friends, you’ll find that the path back to prominence is pretty straight. But disgraced Christian leaders arguably have an even easier time returning to the spotlight than do their mainstream counterparts. That’s because Christians—their primary supporters and audience—believe in grace and forgiveness. That’s kind of their whole thing. Many evangelicals can’t resist a charismatic leader with an amazing redemption story to share or sell.”


rapture anxiety“For some Christians, ‘rapture anxiety’ can take a lifetime to heal” – AJ Willingham at CNN: “Thirteen-year-old April Ajoy had a sense something wasn’t right. It was quiet in her Dallas house. Too quiet. Her brothers were gone. Her parents were gone. On her parents’ bed, a pile of her mother’s clothes signaled something terrifying. Ajoy’s mind began churning, trying to remember, trying to make plans. When was the last time she had sinned? Should she refuse the mark of the beast? At least, she thought, if she was put to the guillotine during the time of tribulation, it would be a quick death. From the moment they are old enough to understand, millions of people raised in certain Christian communities are taught that the rapture is something that can happen at any time. Though there are different schools of thought as to how such an event would go, the basic idea is the same: Righteous Christians ascend into heaven, while the rest are left behind to suffer. However it happens, it is something to be both feared and welcomed, to be prayed about and prepared for every moment of a believer’s life. Ajoy grew up in an evangelical church, surrounded by constant reminders that the rapture was just around the corner. She was taught to never sin, since it could be the very last thing she did before Jesus returned to Earth. Dramatic rapture-themed books and movies, created as fiction, were presented as real glimpses into the end of the world. ‘When i was probably 8 or 9, I remember my brothers and I spending a good 30 minutes looking out into the sky,’ Ajoy tells CNN. ‘We took turns counting down from 10, and in that time, we were convinced Jesus would come back.’ Now 34, Ajoy is one of a growing network of ‘exvangelicals’ who have removed themselves from what they now view as the damaging beliefs of some evangelical, Pentecostal and Baptist churches. She runs a popular TikTok account discussing faith and, among other things, the effects of traumatic religious experiences that can last for years – even a lifetime.”


Music: Andrew Peterson and Friends, “In the Night,” recorded live near Laity Lodge

Too Long Delayed?: Kenneth Bailey on the parable of the young women in Matthew 25

This past Sunday in my message, “Keep Your Lamps Lit,” I mentioned some insights from Kenneth E. Bailey about the parable of the ten young women and their lamps related to the wedding banquet. If you’re not familiar with Bailey’s work, particularly his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies on the Gospels, I strongly recommend you take a look.

Bailey, a New Testament scholar who lived most of his life in the Middle East, describes the scene of Jesus’ parable in this way:

The scene focuses on preparations for a wedding banquet that is to take place in the home of the groom. A great crowd of family and friends fills the house and pours out into the street in front of the dwelling. As the crowd is gathering, the groom and several close friends are making their way to the home of the bride, which is assumed to be across town or in a nearby village. From there the groom collects his bride and escorts her back to his family home, where the crowd awaits and the marriage feast will be held….When she [the bride] was ready, she would be placed on the back of a riding animal, and the groom, with his friends, would form a disorganized, exuberant parade. This happy group would take the longest possible route back to the groom’s home deliberately, wandering through as many streets of the village as possible so that most of the populace could see and cheer them as they passed. 

“In traditional village life in the Middle East, weddings would take place during the seven months of the hot and cloudless summer. At the groom’s home some of the crowd would therefore wait in the street as they anticipate the arrival of the meandering wedding party.”[1]


[1] Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 271-272.

Left Behind?: R. T. France on the rapture in Matthew 24

This past Sunday in my message, “The Unknown Hour,” I made a side comment about verses 40-41 and the rapture. The verses are:

“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (Matthew 24:40-41)

I basically said that while some take Jesus’ teaching in these verses to refer to the rapture, a close reading of this specific text doesn’t really support that. In case someone had further questions about this, I thought I’d share the wise words of biblical scholar R. T. France on these verses in his wonderful commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.

What could be more normal and unthreatening than working on the farm or grinding grain? Yet in those routine situations there will be a sudden crisis which will result in one being ‘taken’ while the other is left behind. But where are the unlucky (or lucky?) ones ‘taken’ and for what purpose? The verb is paralambanō rather than a simple lambanō, and if the compound is more than just a stylistic variation, it might be understood to mean ‘take to oneself’ (as in 1:20; 17:1; 18:16; 20:17). If the passive verbs are understood as ‘divine passives,’ that would mean the God has taken selected people to himself, leaving the rest to continue their life on earth. Some have therefore suggested that this passages speaks of a ‘rapture’ of the faithful to heaven before judgment falls on the earth. This is not the place to investigate the complex dispensational scheme which underlies this nineteenth-century theory, but it should be noted that insofar as this passage forms a basis for that theology, it rests on an uncertain foundation. We are not told where or why they are ‘taken,’ and the similar sayings in vv. 17-18 about people caught out in the course of daily life by the Roman advance presupposed a situation of threat rather than of rescue; to be ‘taken’ in such circumstances would be a negative experience, and Matthew will use paralambanō in a similarly threatening context in 27:27. The verb itself does not determine the purpose of the ‘taking,’ and it could as well be for judgment (as in Her 6:11) as for refuge. In the light of the preceding verses, when the Flood ‘swept away’ the unprepared, that is probably the more likely sense here.

The different fates of two apparently similar people (as also the different fates of Noah and his contemporaries) raise the issue of ‘readiness’: what is it that will determine who is and who is not ‘taken’? The example of Noah suggests that it is not purely arbitrary, and the rest of the discourse will explore the basis of the division between the saved and the lost, which reaches its climax in the separation of good and bad in the judgment scene in 25:31-46. For the moment saved and lost live and work together (as in the parable of the weeds, 13:30), but when ‘that day’ domes, the separation will be made and will be final.

R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 940-941.