The Weekend Wanderer: 4 June 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.


violent world“15 Prayers for a Violent World” – W. David O. Taylor in Christianity Today: “It’s tempting to shut down emotionally in light of all of this violence. It’s tempting to give into despair. ‘So goes the world,’ we might say, wishing it were otherwise but feeling powerless to make a difference. It’s tempting to distract ourselves with busywork or to reach for spiritual platitudes to numb the pain. ‘Let go and let God.’ ‘God works in mysterious ways.’ ‘Heaven’s our real home.’ But our world is a violent one and the Bible does not allow us to ignore its violence or to explain it away with tidy theological slogans. It asks us to face our world squarely, together, and, where needed, to yell our rage to God. The Bible invites us to get angry at God, because he can handle all our bitter, angry tears and curses. And such words need to be said out loud, because that’s partly how we keep the chaos of violence from taking root in our own hearts. As I write in my book on the psalms, there is no faithful prayer in Israel’s official book of worship, the Psalter, that trivializes evil, no genuine faith that ignores the destructive powers of sin, and no true witness that turns a blind eye to the violence of our world. It is for this reason that we turn to the psalms for guidance in times such as these, for they show us what we can—and indeed should—be praying in a violent world. But a question remains: How exactly do we pray in the aftermath of such violence? What words of lament can we put on our lips that make sense of the senseless? To what could the whole people of God possibly say “amen” in light of the corrosive power of hate that allows neighbor to irrationally kill neighbor? What do an exhausted and dispirited people say to God at such a time? These questions are, of course, far from easy to answer, but over the past couple of years I have attempted to give language to such matters in the form of Collect Prayers—in the hopes that they might prove useful, and perhaps comforting, to people who face the terrors and traumas of violent activities in one form or another.”


An-Old-Course-in-a-Country-New-980x551“An Old Course in a Country New: Political theology between quietism and theocracy” – James Mumford in Comment: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That, all too often, has been the fate of political theology. Theology in the contemporary West has faced two main reproaches. First, that any kind of engagement in politics betrays theocratic pretensions. Second, that Christianity is fundamentally quietist—that is, always acquiescing to the status quo. Consider the public reputation of Christianity when it comes to two particular areas of life. First, on matters of gender and sexuality, progressives fear that imposing arcane regulations derived from ancient sex codes on the modern world will restrict human liberty. As the public debates over gay marriage in the early 2000s clearly demonstrated, painting the traditional Christian position on the goods of marriage as fundamentally parochial aided the cause of changing marriage laws in Western countries. The mere impression that the theological convictions of the few could rule the many undermined efforts to show how the traditional definition of marriage emerged from multiple thick traditions of thought and practice. This is the theocratic suspicion. But it’s quite the opposite with the environmental movement. When it comes to the effort to stave off climate disaster, the common perception is not that Christianity is too political but that it is not political enough. Christianity has been criticized for being too otherworldly to care about the fate of the planet. This is the quietist charge. So the two charges make opposing claims. The second reverses the first. The first insists theology stay out of politics and mind its own business. The second rebukes theology for having stayed out of politics and minded its own business. Theology is damned if it does politics, damned if it doesn’t.”


060122cap-haitian“For better or for worse, the church is keeping Haiti afloat” – Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “When societies lack good governance and social stability, churches and clergy often fill in the gaps. In some cases, notably in modern Africa, church leaders can become something like kingmakers. In the Western Hemisphere, the nation of Haiti exemplifies the pivotal role of Christian churches in politics. The nation was born in the 1790s from the incredible turmoil of the great revolt of an enslaved population and the decades of war and devastation that followed. Famously, Haiti has always re­tained its African religious heritage in the form of vodun, but the great majority of the people also asserted their faithful Catholic roots. Most recently, evangelical and Pentecostal churches have boomed, partly as a consequence of the new forms of faith Haitian migrants encountered when they set up homes in US cities such as Boston and Miami. Today, Protestants (mainly evangelicals) make up some 30 percent of the country’s 11 million people, compared to 55 percent Catholic and 10 percent nones.”


politics poisoned church“How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church: The movement spent 40 years at war with secular America. Now it’s at war with itself.” – Tim Alberta in The Atlantic: “‘Before I turn to the Word,’ the preacher announces, ‘I’m gonna do another diatribe.’ ‘Go on!’ one man yells. ‘Amen!’ shouts a woman several pews in front of me. Between 40 minutes of praise music and 40 minutes of preaching is the strangest ritual I’ve ever witnessed inside a house of worship. Pastor Bill Bolin calls it his ‘diatribe.’ The congregants at FloodGate Church, in Brighton, Michigan, call it something else: ‘Headline News.’ Bolin, in his mid-60s, is a gregarious man with thick jowls and a thinning wave of dyed hair. His floral shirt is untucked over dark-blue jeans. ‘On the vaccines …’ he begins. For the next 15 minutes, Bolin does not mention the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, or the life everlasting. Instead, he spouts misinformation and conspiratorial nonsense, much of it related to the ‘radically dangerous’ COVID-19 vaccines. ‘A local nurse who attends FloodGate, who is anonymous at this time—she reported to my wife the other day that at her hospital, they have two COVID patients that are hospitalized. Two.’ Bolin pauses dramatically. ‘They have 103 vaccine-complication patients.’ The crowd gasps.”


Davud Whyte“David Whyte: Seeking Language Large Enough” – Krista Tippett interviews philosopher-poet David Whyte in On Being: “It has ever and always been true, David Whyte reminds us, that so much of human experience is a conversation between loss and celebration. This conversational nature of reality — indeed, this drama of vitality — is something we have all been shown, willing or unwilling, in these years. Many have turned to David Whyte for his gorgeous, life-giving poetry and his wisdom at the interplay of theology, psychology, and leadership — his insistence on the power of a beautiful question and of everyday words amidst the drama of work as well as the drama of life. The notion of “frontier” — inner frontiers, outer frontiers — weaves through this hour. We surface this as a companion for the frontiers we are all on just by virtue of being alive in this time.”


bookandbouquetembed“Is Reading Fiction a Waste of Time?” – Kathleen A. Mulhern in Plough: “For the last decade, I’ve been teaching Christian formation at a seminary, and part of the instruction has included a justification of the whole concept of formation, which has not been a common term in many evangelical circles. If I were to switch to talking about “discipleship,” evangelical minds might move into the ordinary grooves: Bible study, evangelism, small groups, intercessory prayer. For decades, this simple and tidy list of spiritual practices, which revolve around church and home, made up the evangelical’s limited arsenal for Christian living. When Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline was first published in the late 1970s, however, a whole new menu of practices – foreign to the evangelical world for the most part but rooted in ancient rhythms – triggered an awareness of possibilities to make the spiritual life deeper and richer. At seminary today we continue to engage in this ressourcement, the recovery of historical ways of thought and practice. Alongside this ecclesial archaeology, however, we need to tackle the marked differences between ancient disciplines and the modern world. Twenty-first-century technology, lifestyles, and societal norms have made spiritual disciplines of any kind more daunting, more squeezed, more focused on productivity and information management. There is no time to waste. Which is why the idea of making a new spiritual discipline for the twenty-first century, one that has no measurable effect while demanding a great deal of time, seems counterintuitive.”


Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Chelsey Scott], “Psalm 46,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 13 November 2021

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 the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Pakistan psalms“Special Psalms Help Pakistani Christians with Persecution, Pandemic, and Disunity” – Yousaf Sadiq in Christianity Today: “As Christians observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) this month, many will place high on their prayer list the nation of Pakistan, ranked the fifth most difficult place in the world to follow Jesus. Yet amid the prejudice, discrimination, and persecution faced by believers there, many Pakistani Christians have a unique resource to draw upon at the heart of their worship: contextualized psalms. A century ago, the Book of Psalms was translated into Pakistan’s predominant language, Punjabi, in versified form. Commonly referred to as the Punjabi Zabur, these poetic metrical songs can unequivocally be regarded as the most accustomed, read, sung, recited, and memorized part of Scripture by the body of Christ in Pakistan. Corporate worship within Pakistani churches (which are overwhelmingly ethnically Punjabi) is considered incomplete if the Zabur are excluded. As the deepest expression of indigenous Christianity, they can rightly be viewed as the heart of Christian worship in Pakistan and have given its believers an unrivaled familiarity with the Book of Psalms.”


Beth-Moore-2“Beth Moore: What Galatians Tells Us About How to Confront Church Leaders” – Jessica Lea at Church Leaders: “Challenging other church leaders, says author and Bible teacher Beth Moore, can be grief-inducing and painful, but Scripture shows us that there are times to do so. ‘I don’t like being at odds with people that I love so much, those that have been my peers, my co-laborers,’ said Moore. ‘I hate that. I hate it. But there are times when leaders do have to say to other leaders, “Wait, this doesn’t seem in step with the gospel.”‘ In January, Beth Moore released Now That Faith Has Come: A Study of Galatians, which she co-authored with her daughter, Melissa. In an interview on the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast, Moore shared how the book of Galatians provides a framework for some decisions she has made recently, including her choice to leave the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)….In March 2021, Beth Moore announced that she was leaving the SBC, saying at the time, ‘I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don’t identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven’t remained in the past.’  Moore explained in the interview that her decision to leave came from ‘facing up to the fact that somehow, I no longer belong. And, you know, it began instantly with speaking out back in the fall of 2016. It was overnight.’ Moore drew criticism in 2016 for calling out Christian leaders who supported former president Donald Trump, even after tapes were leaked in which Trump used lewd language to brag about assaulting women.”


chinachurch0719_hdv“China’s Unrelenting Efforts to Abolish Christianity Continue with Surveillance of Clergy to Ensure Loyalty” – Andrea Morris at CBN News: “A report issued by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) outlines strict measures being taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which aims to oppress religious minorities. The measures, which went into effect on May 1, are a part of a series of newly issued regulations that add to the revised 2018 Regulations on Religious Affairs (RRA). Clergy members from all of China’s five state-sanctioned religious groups — Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association — will be subjected to rigorous monitoring and surveillance by CCP. “Article 3 of the Measures requires clergy — among other demands — to support the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule, the Chinese socialist political system, and the CCP’s ‘sinicization of religion’ policy, effectively imposing a political test to ensure clergies’ loyalty to the CCP,” the USCIRF report reads. The new regulations also ban government-sanctioned churches from interfering in any concerns with education or the daily activities of citizens.”


temple-lachish-416x275“Hezekiah’s Religious Reform—In the Bible and Archaeology – David Rafael Moulis at Biblical Archaeology Society: “One of the most significant changes in the religious life of ancient Israel occurred during the reign of the Judahite king Hezekiah, in the late eighth century B.C.E. The Hebrew Bible provides us with this image: ‘He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole (asherah). He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it’ (2 Kings 18:4). In doing so, explains the Bible, the faithful king Hezekiah simply ‘did what was right in the sight of the Lord.’ But was Hezekiah really motivated only by ‘the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses’? What was his reform like on the ground?”


2992“Gardens of Eden: the church forests of Ethiopia – a photo essay” – Kieran Dodds in The Guardian: “South of the Sahara, and just north of the Great Rift Valley in landlocked Ethiopia, the Blue Nile flows from Lake Tana, the largest lake in the country. Radiating out from the sacred source is a scattering of forest islands, strewn across the dry highlands like a handful of emeralds. At the heart of each circle of forest, hunkered down under the ancient canopy and wrapped in lush vegetation, are saucer-shaped churches – otherworldly structures that almost seem to emit a life force. And in a sense they do. Ethiopia is one of the fastest expanding economies in the world today and the second most populous country in Africa. The vast majority of people live in rural areas, where the expansion of settlements and agriculture is slowly thinning the forest edge by cattle and plough. Over the past century, 90% of Ethiopia’s forests have been lost. In Amhara province, the only remaining native forests are those that surround the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church buildings.”


Petrusich-WendellBerry-2“Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse: Twenty-seven propositions about global thinking and the sustainability of cities” – This is a throwback to 1991 from Wendell Berry in The Atlantic: “The question before us, then, is an extremely difficult one: How do we begin to remake, or to make, a local culture that will preserve our part of the world while we use it? We are talking here not just about a kind of knowledge that involves affection but also about a kind of knowledge that comes from or with affection—knowledge that is unavailable to the unaffectionate, and that is unavailable to anyone as what is called information….What, for a start, might be the economic result of local affection? We don’t know. Moreover, we are probably never going to know in any way that would satisfy the average dean or corporate executive. The ways of love tend to be secretive and, even to the lovers themselves, somewhat inscrutable.”



Music: Interim, “Breathe.”

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 August 2021

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 the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“‘They Cannot Burn Jesus Out of Me’: Mozambique Pastors Minister to Survivors of Violent Insurgency” – Stefani McDade in Christianity Today: “Back in April, when armed men began attacking his village in the middle of the night, a pastor of a local church in northern Mozambique woke his family to flee. He took his two older sons and his wife took their two younger sons. In the midst of chaos and confusion, shouting and shooting, they escaped in two different directions. The pastor and his sons hid in the surrounding bush all night before returning to the village, near the town of Palma, to look for the rest of their family. The next morning, he found their hut caved in and the remains of his four-year-old son, who had been beheaded by the attackers. All he and his sons could do was dig a hole in the ground to bury the young boy’s body and weep together. To this day, his wife and second-youngest son are still missing.”


“The Best C. S. Lewis Book You’ve Never Read” – Jeremy Larson reviews Michael Ward’s new guide to reading C. S. Lewis Abolition of Man at The Gospel Coalition: “C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, first published in 1943, begins with a related question: Should a comment about the sublimity of a waterfall be seen as an expression of a subjective opinion or as an appropriate feeling that aligns with reality? Abolition was one of Lewis’s favorites among his works and it has been ranked as one of the top five nonfiction books (in English) of the 20th century. Yet Abolition remains difficult reading for many people, leading some to wish for a guide. Michael Ward (author of Planet Narnia) has written such a book to help readers: After Humanity: A Guide to C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.”


“4 Stats That Will Change the Way You Pastor” – From CT Creative Studio: “Casey Cleveland, lead pastor of The Avenue Church in Delray, Florida, has a hunch. ‘I’m catching the vibe that people want the church to be the church,’ he says. ‘Even for those who don’t understand theology—the world is asking us to step into being the church.’ Cleveland isn’t the only one catching the vibe. New research from Barna and Gloo shows that people across the country have expectations for the churches in their communities. Even those who haven’t darkened the door of a church in decades have thoughts about the church’s role in society.”


“Ignorant, but curious” – Austin Kleon at his blog: “‘What if you played an ignorant guy who was actually curious?’ is how the actor Jason Sudeikis explains his approach to his character, Ted Lasso.1 It’s a method of acting, but it could be a method of life. (A method we’ve covered before: ‘Teach your tongue to say I don’t know’ and ‘learn to play the fool.’) The method is perhaps best summarized by Mike Monteiro: ‘The secret to being good at anything is to approach it like a curious idiot, rather than a know-it-all genius.’ The ‘curious idiot’ approach can serve you well if you can quiet your ego long enough to perform it.”


“Bookworms can ‘read’ people, too” – Mary Ellen Gabriel at UW College of Letters & Science: “More than any other genre, fiction is the realm of emotion. “Getting lost in a story” means entering a world we don’t want to leave, where we are fully absorbed not only in the actions of the characters, but also in their thoughts, feelings and motivations. Throughout the experience, readers pass through their own emotion states, triggered by the words and phrases. Now it appears that this rich, often fraught, journey of the imagination—so often considered a solitary pleasure—is good training for reading the emotions of people in real life. A new study by a team of psychology researchers at UW-Madison provides important new insight into a likely causal link between reading fiction and emotion recognition, combining behavioral experiments with methods from the digital humanities to show that exploring the mental states of fictional characters helps people recognize emotion expression in other human beings.”


“Astronomy Photographer of the Year shortlist” – From the Royal Museums Greenwich: “The shortlisted images from 2021’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed. The largest astrophotography competition in the world, Astronomy Photographer of the Year showcases the very best space photography from a global community of photographers. Now in its 13th year, the competition received a staggering 4,500-plus entries, submitted from 75 countries worldwide. Check out an incredible selection of the shortlisted images below.”


Music: Vikingur Ólafsson, “Badzura: Muse d’eau,” from Reflections Pt. 3 / RWKS.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 May 2021

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 the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Marva Dawn“Remembering Marva Dawn, a Saint of Modern Worship” – I first encountered the writings of Marva Dawn while preparing for ministry at Northern Theological Seminary. That is also where I also first heard her in person at a conference organized by Bob Webber, a friend and mentor during those days before Bob’s passing in 2007. Her books Sexual Character, Truly the Community, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, and Keeping the Sabbath Wholly have influenced me significantly. Here is a tribute to Marva Dawn by Mike Cosper at Christianity Today. “When a mentor saw me struggling with worship in our fledging church plant, he handed me a copy of Marva Dawn’s Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship in this Urgent Time. I wondered what a Lutheran and a lover of historic worship practices would have to say to a congregation whose traditions came more from indie rock shows than any church.”


refugee resettlement“Biden raises refugee ceiling, and faith-based groups brace for rebuilding work” – From Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins at Religion News: “Faith-based refugee resettlement groups are celebrating President Joe Biden’s decision to raise the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. for the remainder of the federal fiscal year to 62,500, even as they acknowledge that they need to rebuild their capacity after years of cuts under the previous administration. The announcement from the Biden White House comes after significant pushback from the faith-based groups that form the backbone of the nation’s refugee resettlement program after the president signed a memorandum last month aimed at speeding up refugee admissions that did not touch the historic low set by former President Donald Trump.”


Fleming Rutledge“The Body of Christ in an Empire of Lies” and “On writing political sermons” – In these two posts, seasoned pastor and theologian, Fleming Rutledge, offers some pointed and poignant advice to pastors for the current moment. Rutledge is perhaps best known for her masterful work, The Crucifixion: Understanding the death of Jesus Christ, which has won acclaim from across the theological spectrum (see this, this, or this). Whether you agree or disagree with her, Rutledge’s commentary and advice in these posts is worth reading and grappling with, something I continue to do as a pastor and preacher in these divisive and challenging days.


madmenThe Spirituality of Solitude: In the Poverty of Solitude All Riches Are Present” – Ben Self at Mockingbird: “In a post a couple weeks ago, I used the paintings of Edward Hopper to suggest that there is an important difference between loneliness and solitude, and that despite our understandable exhaustion with the loneliness of these times, we may strangely come to miss certain aspects of solitude when this pandemic is over. But what is it, more specifically, we might miss?…On the one hand, we most naturally try to remedy the pain of being alone — our loneliness — through contact with others. But paradoxically, we also seek to remedy that same basic pain — but the pain of being separate from God — through solitude, separation from others. Thus, it is our very loneliness that can drive us both into the arms of others and away from others into solitude, to spaces where we might be ‘alone with the Alone.'”


Barons - memory reading“Why we remember more by reading – especially print – than from audio or video” – Linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron in The Conversation: “During the pandemic, many college professors abandoned assignments from printed textbooks and turned instead to digital texts or multimedia coursework. As a professor of linguistics, I have been studying how electronic communication compares to traditional print when it comes to learning. Is comprehension the same whether a person reads a text onscreen or on paper? And are listening and viewing content as effective as reading the written word when covering the same material? The answers to both questions are often ‘no,’ as I discuss in my book How We Read Now, released in March 2021. The reasons relate to a variety of factors, including diminished concentration, an entertainment mindset and a tendency to multitask while consuming digital content.”


kovacs-1“Underwater Photos Taken During Blackwater Dives Frame the Atlantic Ocean’s Stunning Diversity” – Grace Ebert at Colossal: “After sunset, self-taught photographer Steven Kovacs plunges into the open ocean around Palm Beach to shoot the minuscule, unassuming creatures floating in the depths. He’s spent the last eight years on blackwater dives about 730 feet off the eastern coast of Florida in a process that ‘entails drifting near the surface at night from 0 to 100 feet over very deep water.’ Often framing species rarely seen by humans, Kovac shoots the larval fish against the dark backdrop in a way that highlights the most striking aspects of their bodies, including wispy, translucent fins, iridescent features, and bulbous eyes.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Solar. & I. Erickson), “By Your Side”

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 May 2021

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 the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


“Died: C. René Padilla, Father of Integral Mission” – Here is David C. Kirkpatrick at Christianity Today remembering a leading missiologist of the last century: “C. René Padilla, theologian, pastor, publisher, and longtime staff member with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, died Tuesday, April 27, at the age of 88. Padilla was best known as the father of integral mission, a theological framework that has been adopted by over 500 Christian missions and relief organizations, including Compassion International and World Vision. Integral mission pushed evangelicals around the world to widen their Christian mission, arguing that social action and evangelism were essential and indivisible components—in Padilla’s words, ‘two wings of a plane.'” You may also appreciate the further article: “Leaders and Friends Remember C. René Padilla.”


“Despite multiracial congregation boom, some Black congregants report prejudice” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service reporting on a recent study by Barna and the Racial Justice and Unity Center: “Most practicing Christians believe the church can enhance race relations in this country by welcoming people of all races and ethnicities, new research finds. But 29% of Black practicing Christians say they have experienced racial prejudice in multiracial congregations, compared to about a tenth who report such an experience in monoracial Black churches. And a third of Black Christians say it is hard to gain leadership positions in a multiracial congregation. The new report, released Wednesday (April 28) by Barna Group and the Racial Justice and Unity Center, examines the views of what researchers call ‘practicing Christians,’ people who self-identify as Christians, say their faith is very important to them and say they attended worship in the past month.”


“How Quebec went from one of the most religious societies to one of the least”– Church historian Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “Religious Americans sometimes look nervously at the rapid secularization of European nations and wonder if something similar could happen to them. The last decade has witnessed a notable drift to the secular in the United States, measured for instance by the substantial rise in nones, those who reject any religious affiliation. Meanwhile, the current pandemic will assuredly have wide-ranging effects on institutions of all kinds. But we don’t have to look as far away as Europe for an example of a quite sudden and irrevocable decline of religious faith and practice and the general re­placement of old congregations by new populations. To see just how speedily an old religious order can collapse, look no further than the Canadian province of Quebec.”


pastors read“Why Pastors Should Read Literature” –  Karen Swallow Prior at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “It’s always seemed strange to me that reading good literary works—poetry, drama, short stories, novels—is something that needs defending, particularly among Christians. After all, most people seem to understand (even if we don’t make time to do it often) why we visit art galleries, attend symphonies, and go to plays….But the truth is that we are made of words, by words, and for words. Immersing ourselves in beautiful words (even if only for a few precious minutes most or a few days) is like getting a burst of oxygen in air-deprived lungs. Most of us live and work in polluted environments. We are surrounded by words of anguish, anger, anxiety, and—most of all—efficiency. Literary language, on the other hand, is evocative, rich, resonant, and inviting.”


“A Law of Deceleration: How I dumped the internet and learned to love technology again”  – Paul McDonnold at Plough: “The monster had taken over my work life, home life, and many of the spaces in between. My one-time enchantment was now disgust, and in 2019 I decided to disconnect, or at least pull way back. As much as possible, I began reading and writing with paper and pen instead of pixels. I dropped my home broadband service. My only personal internet came from a smartphone, which had a 3-gigabyte monthly limit. Beyond that, I used public wi-fi at the library. Email became a once-a-day thing, and I stopped scanning Google News. I let my Facebook page languish for weeks, then months. Then I deleted it. My life decelerated, and time seemed to expand. I was able to do more, read more, and think more. And I felt better. But with so many people still paying near-constant obeisance to digital screens, I also began to feel like I was in a science fiction movie – the only human who had snapped out of the monster’s malevolent hypnosis. Then Covid-19 hit, and I had to make some concessions to the monster.”


friendship“Friendship is a place of sacrifice—and sanctification” – Eve Tushnet at America reviews a recent book on friendship: “There is a way of praising friendships that unintentionally undermines them. We often picture friendship as our refuge—romantic relationships bring drama, work brings hassle, family is chaos, but with friends you can relax. You’re understood. Friendship is ‘The Golden Girls,’ where every tiny comic tiff is resolved by the end of the half-hour. Friendship is sweet because friendship is easy. Friendship is safe, because friendship is too small to really hurt you. This is not the only Christian model for friendship. It isn’t even the most obvious Christian model. The greatest friendships in the Bible are sites of sacrifice. Jonathan, having made a covenant of friendship with David, gladly sacrifices personal safety, his relationship with his father and the kingship. Jesus identifies friendship with discipleship and with his own sacrifice for us on the cross, in Jn 15:13-15 (of course it’s in John, the Gospel of the “beloved disciple”): ‘No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ That model, in which friendship can be the site of our sanctification because it is a site of sacrifice, animates much of St. Aelred’s dialogues, Spiritual Friendship.”


Music: U2, “The Troubles,” Songs of Innocence