The Weekend Wanderer: 10 October 2020

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.


read aloud“Why you should read this out loud” – When our children were young we began reading aloud to them even when they were babies, inspired by the work of Jim Trelease and Gladys Hunt. As they grew older we found that we still enjoyed reading aloud. As they have begun to leave the house we continue to read books aloud as a couple because we love enjoying a good book or article together. Recent research suggests that reading aloud might not only be good with others but also on our own.


image 1 - COVID-19“N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann look to the Bible for wisdom during the pandemic” – When two wise and seasoned students of the Scriptures write about how to think Christianly about the pandemic it is worth paying attention. Both N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann are renowned biblical scholars of the New Testament and Old Testament respectively and both have written about recent works, God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath (Wright) and Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty (Brueggemann) that Jason Mahn helpfully reviews in The Christian Century.


Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill“Book review: The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill. By Robyn Wrigley-Carr – Evelyn Underhill is one of those unique authors from an earlier era whose writings continue to have relevance in our own day and time. Perhaps best known for her important work Mysticism, Underhill moved from an open-ended psychological spirituality to a deeper yet more rooted approach to the spiritual life  as evidenced by her works Worship and Concerning the Inner Life. Underhill’s words continue to speak to us today about prayer and also have set the stage for evangelical engagement with spiritual formation and spiritual direction. With a notable preface by Eugene Peterson, Robyn Wrigley-Carr’s recent work The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill is a work I look forward to reading and is worth paying attention to.


Ravi Zacharias“New sexual misconduct claims surface about Ravi Zacharias” – There are certain stories I hate to mention but still know it is important to discuss because it shines the light on paying attention to and overcoming the dark side of ministry. This is one of those stories. Just five months ago we marked the passing of Ravi Zacharias, who has been Recent reports, however, show that Zacharias may have been involved in questionable activities, which are now being investigated by his own ministry, his denomination, and others. Stories like this remind us both to be aware of human failings, even in our heroes, and to guard the weak from being misused by those who hold power.


For the Health“For the Health of the Nation: A Call to Civic Responsibility” – The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and World Relief issued a joint statement and sign-on letter built upon an earlier work of the NAE called “For the Health of the Nation.” This latest efforts seeks to promote faithful, evangelical, civic engagement and a biblically-balanced agenda as Christians seek to commit to the biblical call to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. I encourage you to read and explore the website which has a number of very helpful resources.


Time Distortion“Why Our Sense of Time is Distorted During the Pandemic” – Here is an enlightening interview with Dr. E. Alison Holman by Jamie Aten, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, about why we often feel like we’re in a time warp during the pandemic. “Altered perceptions of time and its passing are common experiences of people facing trauma, as trauma can peel away the façade of the future, and interrupt the flow of time. This creates perceptual distortions such as feeling like time has stopped or that everything is in slow motion, experiencing a sense of timelessness, confusing the order of time and days, and perceiving a foreshortened future. My research suggests that these changes in perceptions of time and our views of the future may have significant implications for our health and well-being.”


Jefferson Bible“‘The Jefferson Bible’ Review: The Gospel, Sans Miracles” – Many have heard of Thomas Jefferson’s famous editing of the Bible, in which he rearranged portions of the New Testament into something radically different with Jesus less as a Savior than an insightful teacher. He called this project “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” but kept it secret out of fear that his work would be too controversial. With “his scrapbook of New Testament excerpts, the third president offered a dramatic revision of Christian tradition. The New Testament presented ‘the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man,’ he recognized, even if he hoped to sharpen those qualities by means of redaction.


Music: Johannes Brahms, “Piano Quartet No.1 in g minor, Op.25 4. Rondo alla zingarese: Presto” performed by Paul Huang, Jung Yeon Kim, Ole Akahoshi, and Jessica Osborne at the Seoul Arts Center

[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 October 2020

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.


Spirituality Fetzer Institute“What Does Spirituality Mean to Us?: A study of spirituality in the United States” – A phrase I heard a lot from people when I was doing college ministry in the early 2000s was this, “I’m spiritual but not interested in religion.” That, or similar phrases like, “I like Jesus but not Christianity,” eventually became pretty common to encounter in ensuing years. But what does it mean to be spiritual or to have a spirituality? A recent study by the Fetzer Institute seeks to provide some answers to common answers to those questions within the United States. You can read a summary of the study’s aims here or explore their results here.


2020 presidential debate“Complaints on Trump’s debate performance highlight generational divide among white evangelicals” – It was difficult to miss conversation about last Tuesday’s presidential debate, even if you wanted to miss it. Proclaimed by some news outlets as the worst presidential debate in US history, the debate did little to reveal much substantive policy information from either candidate. However, responses to the debate did reveal some things, such as, according to this article, widely disparate perspectives by Christian viewers, particularly evangelicals, along generational lines.


Burkina Faso milita“Should Christians Join Burkina Faso’s Militias Against Terrorism?” – Just when you think navigating our political problems in the USA as Christians are more significant than anything, it is good at times to look at the challenges facing believers in other parts of the world. West Africa has struggled with stability for some time, but with Mali’s recent coup, Christians in Burkina Faso are considering a strange question.


leaderhip-community-ads_app-wide“The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life” – We had the amazing opportunity to host Dr. Vince Bacote of Wheaton College and the Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE) this past week at Eastbrook Church with a lecture on “The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life.” Along with his lecture, Vince graciously agreed to a follow-up Q&A with me afterwards. All of this fit within the framework of our current series on the kingdom of God. If you couldn’t be there, you can view the video for the event here.


Eritrea prisoner“Conditional release of 27 Christian prisoners” – “Christian Solidarity Worldwide has confirmed that 27 Eritrean Christians were released from Mai Serwa Prison near Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, on 4 and 8 September, possibly in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic….Tens of thousands of Eritreans are currently held without charge or trial in life threatening conditions in more than 300 sites across the country. Among those incarcerated are prisoners of conscience, some of whom have been detained for well over a decade on account of their political views or religious beliefs.


book open“Why Christians Should Care About the Novel’s Decline” – The other day, Kelly and I were trying out a few novels for upcoming read-alouds during the oncoming dark nights of autumn and winter. And then, as if on cue, Karen Swallow Prior’s review of Joseph Bottum’s recent book, The Decline of the Novel, appeared:  “For most of my life, I’ve taken my love of novels for granted. I’ve taken for granted that such a love needed no explanation or justification. But the more I’ve written in recent years about the pleasures and gifts of reading literary fiction—particularly writing about these topics in Christian spaces—the more I’ve come to see that many Christians, viewing fiction as frivolous entertainment, don’t realize the role of the novel in forming the modern world and, therefore, our sense of ourselves.”


Music: Daniel Lanois, “The Maker,” from Acadie.

[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: 4 April 2020

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.


Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral Webcasts Sunday Mass Due To Coronavirus“Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To” – NT Wright’s essay in Time speaks to how lacking most answers are right now and how important it is to recover one of the most biblical responses to a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic. “Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, ‘Why?’ and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.”


116514“Arab Christians Have Lost Easter Before. Here’s What They Learned” – Our church has good friends around the globe, many of whom are in the Middle East: Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and more. The instability of the region during many years caused disruption of worship services and fellowship that have parallels to our present moment with the COVID-19 pandemic. This article from Christianity Today reflects largely on the Coptic and Maronite Christian realities and what we might be able to learn from it.


Anti-Asian Racism“Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19” – My wife, Kelly, and I were talking with a dear friend from Asia who related to us some of the ways prejudice against Asians is rising in our country, including recent anti-Chinese graffiti at the UW-Madison campus. In talking with another friend living in the Middle East, I heard about similar things happening there. As Christians, we must unequivocally stand against this sort of thing. I was glad to hear the Asian-American Christian Collaborative drafted this “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19.”


Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 11.12.55 AM“Pregnant in a Pandemic: Coping and Hoping” – Betsy Childs Howard: “A month ago, my mind was filled with the normal concerns of a first-time mom anticipating birth. What did I need to buy for the baby? What should I take to the hospital, and how would I get there? Who would be available from our family to help me after the birth, and when should they arrive? Then we all became aware of COVID-19, and I realized the remaining weeks of my pregnancy would be far from normal.”


ap_20089618290522_custom-4f7db72fa3acfc7d781ba78ee98ab2da873fd7a9-s1500-c85“States Consider Whether Religious Services Qualify As ‘Essential'” – After the arrest of controversial evangelist and pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for resisting state guidelines for public health during this pandemic, states around the country continue to debate whether to consider religious services as “essential” or not. South Korea has wrestled with this as one cult group became the source of a major outbreak and the government is considering legal action against those who defy public health guidelines . Regardless of the governmental orders, the joint statement by the NAE and Christianity Today (which I posted here last week) offers some guidance on how to think about whether to cancel or not cancel services. That being said, in the midst of a clear global health emergency, we have to wrestle with what it means to love God with all of who we are while also loving our neighbor. I would like to suggest that foolishness in regards to public health is neither honoring to God nor loving to our neighbor. If we’re honest this is less about cancelling than about retooling in a time of crisis so as to love God and love our neighbors well.


richc“Rich Christians in an Age of Coronavirus”Matt Soerens of World Relief takes Ron Sider’s old book title, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and applies it to the current moment and the expected stimulus Americans will receive from the government. In a time when so many needs loom large, Soerens asks, how then should we live, as rich Christians in an age of coronavirus? What would happen if we offered our portion of the stimulus to help those in need?


Stone Churches Ethiopia“Dreams of Stone: Searching for paradise in Ethiopia’s rock churches” – This is not your typical look at churches as Ishion Hutchinson, a Rastafarian from Jamaica, experiences the ancient Christian tradition in Ethiopia. Sometimes it’s good to see your own tradition through different eyes. “As we neared Biete Medhane Alem, a service was underway; the sounds of Geez, the ancient Ethiopic liturgical language, resonated through the mighty stone pillars that greeted me before the structure itself—an auditory monument, the presence of numinous poetry, an intimation of the enormous space before me, undulating and wide….as I turned a corner, I saw the praying people. Robed splendidly, mostly in white shawls, the supplicants shuttled through the rock passages.”


Old-Vintage-Books“Why Pastors Should Be Good Readers” – Here is Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College and former Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, speaking to the reading life of pastors. While studying with Phil’s father, Leland Ryken, at Wheaton College, I made the life-changing decision to become an English major instead of a Bible major as an undergrad. Of course, after college I went on to receive the MDiv degree with all the Bible and theology classes necessary. However, I am so glad I made that decision in my earlier studies.


 

Music: Fernando Ortega, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” from Hymns and Meditations

[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 help me think more deeply and broadly.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 February 2020

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.

 

Screen-Shot-2020-01-22-at-10.49.12-PM“A Time for Reckoning: Facing Truth on the Path to Unity”Vince Bacote, a friend and Associate Professor of Theology and the Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College, relates his journey with the theological failure of evangelicalism on issues of race. He also offers recommendations for the way forward in this present moment. “To truly move forward on the challenge of race requires a reckoning with the theological failures that impede Christian unity and which are part of the reason for not only a movement like the Nation of Islam but also the existence of what we call ‘the black church.’ A reckoning of any kind takes a strong dose of courage. The reckoning in this case means a willingness to truly look at elements that are key to a church that struggles to truly provide a foretaste of the vision in Revelation 7:9.” This is an important article in so many ways, so let me strongly encourage you to read it.

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 8.19.45 AM“Jesus Is a Jew” – New York Times columnist and author, David Brooks, reflects in Comment about the Jewishness of Jesus and what that means for Jews, Christians, and the world. While this may not seem like a novel topic, Brooks approaches it in his own insightful manner. If you’re unfamiliar with Brooks’ own spiritual journey toward Jesus, I would highly encourage you to explore his most recent books, The Road to Character and The Second Mountain. You may also enjoy an extended conversation Brooks had last year with Alan Jacobs, author and Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University.

 

Nuns WW2“Coming to Jesus” – In what is definitely a different variation on Brooks’ theme, here is Harold Braswell’s essay on the encounter with research on the hospice care of nuns, a deeply personal family memory, Jesus, and a richer Jewish faith. “Yet, two decades later, while writing my dissertation, I found myself meditating on the dying body of Christ. It was something that I had learned about over the course of my research. And, while I still didn’t ‘believe in’ Jesus, and considered myself very much to be a Jew, the practice was helping me to work through the meaning of a series of recent events that had destabilized my most fundamental sense of who I was and what I wanted to become.” Hold on for an interesting read.

 

Vision for Peace“13 Christian Takes on Trump’s Peace Plan for Israel and Palestine” – Speaking of Jesus, what it means to be Jewish, and the Holy Land, this past week, President Trump rolled out his much-anticipated peace plan for Israel and Palestine, unveiling both the pathway toward that and an actual suggested map of these new states should the pathway be reached. Christianity Today offers a very clear overview of the peace plan, with responses from Christians of various backgrounds to the specifics of the plan. I believe it is vital to hear some of these differing perspectives as we have brothers and sisters in Christ within both groups.

 

city“Man and Metropolis” – John Wilson, beloved former editor of the now defunct Books & Culture, and renowned writer about all things books, turns his attention to the topic of cities and books about cities and urbanism. “This has set me to thinking about city writing more generally, and the way in which some of the vexations of the genre present certain recurring temptations that many writers have failed to resist.” If you think about city life, the new urbanism, and the challenges of themes within such works, you may enjoy Wilson’s insights and recommendations.

 

Anker_Grossvater_erzählt_eine_Geschichte_1884-1“Rediscovering the Lost Power of Reading Aloud” – When my children were younger, many people encouraged us to read books aloud to shape their imagination, capacity for thinking, and verbal abilities. I have now objective measure on whether any of that was successful, but I do know that we have great memories of enjoying great books read-aloud together, like The Chronicles of Narnia, My Father’s Dragon, and When Marian Sang. There is a power in reading aloud that brings people together. In an excerpt from her recent book, The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud In the Age of Distraction, Meghan Cox Gurdon speaks to this reality. I cannot help but think of how this plays out beyond the family or school, such as in the gathering for public worship, but that would require another conversation.

 

Music: Yo-Yo Ma, “Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude,” from J. S. Bach – The Unaccompanied Cello Suites

[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: 14 September 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.

Jarrid Wilson“Pastor, author and mental health advocate Jarrid Wilson dies by suicide” – This was probably one of the toughest news articles for me to read this past week. This was too reminiscent of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein‘s death about a year ago. As a pastor for nearly two decades, I find the uptick in pastors taking their life through suicide very difficult to handle. At the most basic level, this is just plain sad for the individual, their family, their church, and those influenced by their ministry. At a personal level, I know the strain and pressure that pastors deal with in ministry, and the very real times where the pressure feels like something you can no longer handle. Ed Stetzer does a good job of responding to this at The Exchange (“A Pastor Dies By Suicide: Three Things We All Need to Know”). You could support Wilson’s family in a tangible way here. I tweeted on Wednesday: “Life is fragile.  People need God, but people also need other people. Love those around you. If you are struggling, reach out for help.  Don’t go it alone.  The journey of life is not easy.” If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please talk with someone you know about this or reach out for help to the suicide prevention lifeline (1-800-273-8255). As the people of God, we have to engage with even the darkest issues of mental health together. This is at least one aspect of what it means to ” Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

 

91774“Celebrate Sexual Ethics. Don’t Apologize for Them.” – Andrea Palpant Dilley: “Over the last five years, an increasing number of believers have changed their stance on sexual ethics and slipped from the grounded banks of orthodoxy into the current of the times. Several public figures, in particular, have come out as ‘affirming’ and brought thousands with them. Those of us with a historic, biblical view feel at times defensive or discouraged, and our posture—quite understandably—is one of ‘holding our ground’ against theological erosion. In the midst of this tumult, we risk losing sight of what the church has to offer: not just a critique of false teaching (although that’s needed) but an alternative model, a bold vision of how orthodoxy enables deep, well-ordered love. As we encourage others to ‘stay on the bank,’ we have the privilege of pointing them toward a picture that reveals God’s purpose for human sexuality.”

 

Education“Rotten STEM: How Technology Corrupts Education” – Analyzing the role of technology is a hot topic, but here is a thoughtful, if not harsh, reading of technology and education in the US from Jared Woodard. “The U.S. education system spent more than $26 billion on tech­nology in 2018. That’s larger than the entire Israeli military budget. By one estimate, annual global spending on technology in schools will soon total $252 billion. To hear presidents and prime ministers tell it, this spending is laudable and even necessary to reduce inequality and prepare a workforce ready to compete in the global economy. But the technology pushed into schools today is a threat to child development and an unredeemable waste. In the first place, technology exacerbates the greatest problem of all in schools: confusion about their purpose. Education is the cultivation of a person, not the manufacture of a worker. But in many public school districts we have already traded our collective birthright, the promise of human flourishing, for a mess of utilitarian pottage called ‘job skills.’ The more recent, panicked, money-lobbing fetish for STEM is a late realization that even those dim promises will go unmet.”

 

6667“Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound” – On a related point, here is Maryanne Wolf reflecting on technology’s effect on reading and attention: “Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don’t read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds. Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain’s ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing – a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.”

 

92032“What 1619 Means for Christian History” – A few weeks ago The New York Times released their monumental effort “The 1619 Project.” Regardless of whether one agrees with the goal of the project, this important cannot – and should not – be ignored. In Christianity Today‘s “Quick to Listen” podcast, Michael A. G. Haykin joins Morgan Lee and Mark Galli “to discuss the genesis of the church’s views on slavery, how the missions movement affected the slave trade, and the role of the Quakers in pricking the Protestant conscience on this atrocity.”

 

Jerry Falwell Politico“‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence” – There is probably no religious leader as tightly connected to Donald Trump as Jerry Falwell, Jr., who serves as the president and chancellor at Liberty University. This piece gets inside the feelings around Falwell in at least some areas of the school. “At Liberty University, all anyone can talk about is Jerry Falwell Jr. Just not in public. ‘When he does stupid stuff, people will mention it to others they consider confidants and not keep it totally secret,’ a trusted adviser to Falwell, the school’s president and chancellor, told me. ‘But they won’t rat him out.’ That’s beginning to change.”

 

Petrusich-WendellBerry-2“Going Home with Wendell Berry: The writer and farmer on local knowledge, embracing limits, and the exploitation of rural America” – Wendell Berry is one of the finest writers of our era, bringing a combination of artistry, love, and prophetic zeal to his poetry, fiction, and essays. If you’ve never read his work, let me commend Jayber Crow or What Are People For? as good starting points. In this article in The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich interviews Berry about his writing, his decision to return to Kentucky, human freedom and limits, agriculture, and much more.

 

Music: Jóhann Jóhannsson, “A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder,” from Orphée.

[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.]