The Weekend Wanderer: 18 September 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.


“Expect No Ethnic Majority in 2065 America. How Can Churches Fight Fear and Embrace Diversity Now?”Suzanna Edwards at The Better Samaritan: “If you think the U.S. is a melting pot now, just wait another 30 years. By 2065, the White demographic will cease to be the majority, and no single race or ethnicity will constitute a majority. For many people in the current majority, this statistic is cause for fear. But if we let go of our fear and embrace diversity, we will not only be better off, but we will look more like the kingdom God will raise up in glory. The New Samaria, or ‘Samerica,’ as author Alejandro Mandes refers to it, represents the increasingly multiethnic population in the United States. That’s what he unpacks in Embracing the New Samaria (NavPress, 2021), with the goal ‘to help Christian leaders learn to see, love, reach, and ultimately be the New Samaria in a way that brings true transformation to our churches and communities’. Mandes guides readers through each of these steps, providing his own perspective as a non-White evangelical and allowing readers to expand their own views regarding multiethnic communities. Each chapter concludes with a reflection section, complete with challenging questions, spiritual exhortations, and recommended action items.”


american-bible-society-german-bible-large“Bring Your Bible to Class — or Church” – Wesley Hill at The Living Church: “As I prepare to begin my 10th year as a seminary professor, I’m going to begin the biblical capstone class I’ll be teaching by recommending that my students consider taking up a habit they’re likely unfamiliar with: bringing an actual, physical, printed-and-bound Bible to class. My reason for the recommendation isn’t just about nostalgia, though I did grow up carrying a Bible to church each Sunday. The first Bible I recall as being “my Bible” (the possessive pronoun being a piece of Christian-speak that seems to have burrowed its way into the instinctive vocabulary of the faithful) was the Youthwalk edition of the New International Version, given to me by my parents while I was still in middle school. I liked the swath of deep purple that stood out on the cover, but I don’t recall reading it much, aside from thumbing through it to find isolated verses, old favorites that I had already memorized, or gathered that I ought to have memorized. It wasn’t until I was in high school, when I acquired a faux-leather-bound study edition of the New King James Version, that I started reading larger chunks of Scripture, often while sitting at church when I grew bored with the sermon. That’s how I learned my way around the Bible, stringing the verse-pearls I already knew onto a more extensive narrative, historical, and theological thread.”


Workplace spirituality“Why Intel and other top companies make room for religion in the office” – Kelsey Dallas at Deseret News: “Intel has been a star in the technology world for nearly half a century. One secret to its success is a little more spiritual than you might have guessed, according to CEO Pat Gelsinger. In a recorded message that will play during an international conference on business and religion this week, Gelsinger highlights the competitive advantage that comes from building a culture that celebrates personal faith alongside other employee traits. At Intel, workers are free to ‘bring their entire self’ to the office, he says. ‘When we take into account everyone’s nuanced differences, we put our organizations in a position to capture truly sustainable business advantages,’ Gelsinger says. Intel put itself in that position in part by enabling employees to form resource groups based on religion, says Sandra Rivera, the organization’s former chief people officer and current executive vice president, in the same video. Currently, Intel has seven such groups, including one for atheists and agnostics, she says.”


Ambivalent Embodiment“Ambivalent Embodiment: Lessons from pastors’ work in the pandemic” – Peter Hartwig in Comment: “‘There’s something funny about the term embodiment, in the sense that it’s already an abstraction,’ says Dr. Elizabeth Powell. ‘By saying “yes I’m going to write or think about embodiment” it’s already saying we’re in a position in which we look at our bodies,’ as opposed to being in our bodies. She makes a good point, the irony of which is nearly tragic. Embodiment is the term we have come up with to refer to the fact that we human beings experience our lives and our selves through our bodies. Everything we do involves our bodies in one way or another. The creation of art, the completion of work, even the generation of thought all require a body. So, too, our bodies are our way of interacting with the world around. No relationship or interaction we have happens without our bodies; they are just about the most concrete, practical, down-to-earth thing about us. So when I said yes, I’m going to write and think about embodiment, I figured I would need an anchor, something to keep me out of the clouds of theory and speculation. Who better to anchor me than pastors? After all, it has been pastors who have faced the pandemic head-on.”


Walter Wangerin, Jr.“Philip Yancey: My Benediction to the Beloved Storyteller, Walter Wangerin Jr.” – Philip Yancey at Christianity Today: “Last week, Walter Wangerin Jr. passed away, and a unique voice fell silent. His wife Thanne (short for Ruth Anne), his family, and a few close friends from Valparaiso University were with him when he died. I first encountered Walter as a speaker at a conference in which we both participated. A slender man with a handsome, angular face and a shock of dark hair, he stalked the stage like a Shakespearean actor. I thought of the accounts of Charles Dickens sitting onstage in the great halls of England, reading his stories to a mesmerized audience. Yet Wangerin was neither reading nor sitting. He was performing in the purest sense of the word, weaving stories and concepts together in erudite prose, directing our minds and emotions much as a conductor directs an orchestra’s sounds—now meditative and melodic, now electrifying and bombastic. We got to know each other mainly through the Chrysostom Society, a group comprising 20 or so writers of faith. Walt usually sat quietly on the margins, stroking his then-shaven chin while observing everything around him with piercing blue eyes. He rarely showed emotion, and when he spoke, he acted as a peacemaker, calming the heated arguments that sometimes emerged from the gaggle of writers. A pastor by profession and calling, he seemed thrilled simply to be in the company of writers.”


Little Miriam RESIZE“In Golan Heights landscapes, photographer reimagines biblical women’s stories” – Nadja Sayej reviews Women of the Bible by Dikla Laor in National Catholic Reporter: “So often when many of us think of women in the Bible, Eve comes to mind. But who else? A self-published photography book, aptly called Women of the Bible, by photographer Dikla Laor, celebrates dozens of biblical women and aims to shine a light on the important roles that biblical matriarchs played in the holy texts. ‘While biblical women have been instrumental to the foundations of human history, the details of their lives are hazy and their voices unclear, often glazed over in stories that are so dear to our hearts,’ Laor told me. ‘The unsung power of the women from the beginning of time is a story begging to be told.’ Placing biblical women center stage in biblical history is part of the approach for the recreated scenes.”


Music: Third Coast Percussion, “Niagara,” from Paddle to the Sea.

The Weekend Wanderer: 28 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.


“What ‘Jesus Wept’ Means for Manhood” – Richard Mouw at Christianity Today: “Conversations in the public square of late have ranged from biblical masculinity to gender roles in the church. We need these debates, and I am a willing participant in those arguments. But for me, the topics have a personal connection to memories about tears—both my own and the tears of Jesus. I was 12 years old when my paternal grandfather died, and when I stood in front of his coffin, I received a memorable—but as I now see it, toxic—lesson in what it means to be a ‘masculine’ Christian. Our extended family was gathered at the funeral home the evening before the day of the memorial service, and my parents encouraged me to approach the coffin to ‘say your goodbyes to Grandpa.’ When I did so, I started to sob. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, the strong grip of a favorite uncle who was a construction worker. He leaned over and said softly in my ear, ‘Chin up, soldier. Men don’t cry!’ That image of the Christian man as a warrior facing the challenges of life bravely and without tears stayed with me.”


“The Livelihood of Cairo’s Poorest” – “It has been 35 years since Maggie Gobran abandoned a successful marketing career and an esteemed professorship to care for the poorest of the poor in Egypt. Though she has been named one of the BBC’s 100 most influential women of 2020 and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize more than a half dozen times, the only accolade she cherishes is a nickname the children gave her many years ago: Mama Maggie. ‘In 1985 when I first visited these places, I was sick from the smell. And I think my soul was sick, asking how come we live so comfortable life and they don’t find even a cup of cold, clean water?’ she says. ‘Then we started to ask God, “If you are merciful, God, how come you allow all this misery in this life?”‘ God seems to have answered: How do you?”


“The Whole World Smells Like That to Me: Learning to love like Jesus on the Bowery, Manhattan’s boulevard of broken dreams” – Jim Cymbala at Plough: “I  have always felt that the ultimate spiritual deception we can experience as believers in Jesus is to emphasize our relationship with God, with little concern for the less fortunate around us. That was exactly the problem in ancient Israel when the prophet Isaiah lifted his voice on behalf of the living God:

They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. … They ask me to take action on their behalf pretending they want to be near me. “We have fasted before!” they say. “Why aren’t you impressed?” … No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those that need them. … Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness. … You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” (Isaiah 58, NLT)

Those words have challenged me throughout the years I have pastored in the inner city of downtown Brooklyn. But it hasn’t always been easy to put them into practice.”


Rise & Fall of Mars Hill“Unintended consequences of failure porn” – Liam Thatcher at his blog: “I’m seven episodes into The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill and my feelings are more mixed than before. Not particularly towards the podcast itself. I have some questions about particular editorial choices in the more recent episodes, but I still feel it’s an important project, generally well-executed, and a valuable though painful listen. But I am increasingly perturbed by the cult following that is developing around it. The drooling anticipation that fills my Twitter timeline ahead of each episode. The cries of ‘I can’t wait’, or ‘I need the next episode NOW!’ The eager anticipation of what new controversies the next installment may unveil. The plethora of mocking memes that get shared after each installment.”


“Unmarried Sex Is Worse Than You Think” – Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra and Collin Hansen at The Gospel Coalition: “Americans talk a lot about sex. Anyone would think they’re having a lot of it. After all, some behaviors our society used to affirm without question—getting married, staying faithful, even going to church—all seem like they’d put a damper on an exciting romantic life. And the behaviors now espoused—free sex, with anyone, at any time (as long as there’s consent)—seem like they’d lead to nonstop, uninhibited hookups. Instead, the opposite has happened. Young people are having less sex—and are less happy—than the married, churchgoing generation before them.”


“Architectural Shots Frame the Stately Modern Designs of Churches Across Europe” – Grace Ebert at Colossal: “French photographer Thibaud Poirier continues his Sacred Spaces series by capturing the modern architecture of dozens of temples across Europe. Similar to earlier images, Poirier uses the same focal point of the front pulpit and pews in all of the photographs, allowing easy comparisons between the colors, motifs, and structural details of each location. ‘I selected these spaces for the use of original materials, modern for their time in sacred architecture, like steel, concrete, as well as large aluminum and glass panels,’ he tells Colossal. Because travel has been limited due to COVID-19, Poirier has mostly visited 20th- and 21st-century churches in France, Germany, and the Netherlands for Sacred Spaces II, although he plans to expand his range in the coming months.”


Music: Big Red Machine, “New Auburn,” live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 July 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.


Keller - Sabbath Wisdom“Wisdom and Sabbath Rest” – Tim Keller at Redeemer City to City: “Leadership is stewardship—the cultivation of the resources God has entrusted to us for his glory. The Sabbath gives us both theological and practical help in managing one of our primary resources: our time. In Ephesians 5, Paul invokes the biblical concept of wisdom:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

— Ephesians 5:15–17

The King James Version translates verses 15 and 16 as, ‘walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’ Living wisely (or circumspectly) is to a great degree a matter of how we spend our time.”


Burge - Mainline & Evangelical demography“Mainline Protestants Are Still Declining, But That’s Not Good News for Evangelicals” – Ryan P. Burge in Christianity Today: “Religious demography is a zero-sum game. If one group grows larger that means that other groups must be shrinking in size. So that rise in the nones is bad news for churches, pretty much across traditions. When you sort Christians by denomination, mainline Protestants are continuing to show significant decline. By their own membership tallies, mainline denominations are showing drops of 15 percent, 25 percent, and even 40 percent over the span of the last decade. There is little room for triumph on the evangelical side; their numbers are slipping too. Examining these two traditions, though, shows us two different stories about how their churches are losing members and could offer a trajectory for what the American religious landscape will look like in the future.”


nubian_church“Ruins of Monumental Church Linked to Medieval Nubian Kingdom Found in Sudan” – Livia Gershon at Smithsonian Magazine: “Archaeologists in northern Sudan have discovered the ruins of a cathedral that likely stood as a seat of Christian power in the Nubian kingdom of Makuria 1,000 years ago. As the Art Newspaper’s Emi Eleode reports, the remains, discovered in the subterranean citadel of Makuria’s capital city, Old Dongola, may be the largest church ever found in Nubia. Researchers say the structure was 85 feet wide and about as tall as a three-story building. The walls of the cathedral’s apse—the most sacred part of the building—were painted in the 10th or early 11th century with portraits believed to represent the Twelve Apostles, reports Jesse Holth for ARTnews.”


sliwka-fig-6“The Painter & The Preacher: Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity and Savonarola’s Sermons” – Jennifer Sliwka at The Brooklyn Rail: “On February 7, 1497 the Piazza della Signoria, the civic heart of the city of Florence, erupted into flames as piles of artworks, books, mirrors, fine clothes, and musical instruments were stacked high and lit on fire. Known as the Bonfire of the Vanities, these pyres were the result of years of preaching by the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola who petitioned Florentine citizens to sacrifice all objects that might tempt one to sin, to redress what he deemed the corrupt and vice-ridden aspects of their lives….Savonarola criticised pagan and mythological artworks in particular. One of the many artists specialising in these genres was Sandro Botticelli, perhaps best known for his poetic mythological paintings of beautiful lithe goddesses in the Primavera (Springtime) and the Birth of Venus (late 1470s–early 1480s), painted for the Renaissance palaces and villas of Florence’s elite. Less well known are his smaller religious ‘Savonarolan’ works from the 1490s, such as the so-called Mystic Nativity (1500), arguably the most personal, complex, enigmatic, and powerful of all his works.”


Snyder - Embodiment's GraceEmbodiment’s Grace: Recovering the gifts of human finitude” – Anne Snyder at Comment: “Summer is a time portal. Every July at the local ice cream counter I hear a child chirp a request that echoes something of my own from earlier innocence: ‘Dad, I’d like the super-size whippy dip, dunked in fudge, caramel, all the fixings. Trust me, I can handle it.’ The magic of anticipating a supreme level of sugary joy never fails to bring a smile. Kids generally don’t appreciate the value of limits. Most if not all of what is great in a child’s mind is something huge, more, whatever that alluring curiosity is beyond the parental boundary. Limits are something we learn to respect, typically by experiencing the consequences of exceeding them.”


Bob Dylan gospel“A Closer Look at Bob Dylan’s Confounding and Compassionate Christian Trilogy” – Timothy Bracy at Inside Hook: “Following the gender-fluid liberations of glam, the volatile excesses of The Who and Led Zeppelin and the high-voltage course correction of punk, it was not so easy to shock rock ‘n’ roll audiences in 1979. They’d seen and done a lot in that decade — things you can’t unsee. Bob Dylan had helped it all along — the tip of the spear in so many vanguard movements, two decades spent subverting expectations, coloring outside the lines and constantly moving the goalposts. But his newest gambit wasn’t like any of the others before. In 1979, the world was introduced to Bob Dylan: Born-Again Christian. Now that was surprising.”


Music: Bob Dylan, “When You Gonna Wake Up” (Live), from Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, volume 13.

Enrique Simonet, He Wept Over It

Enrique_Simonet_-_Flevit_super_illam_1892.jpg
Enrique Simonet, Flevit super illam; oil on canvas; 1892.

On Fridays, I post a work of art that has caught my interest. Since January, these posts are themed around the Minor Prophets, with occasional extras, such as this one about Jesus looking over Jerusalem before the triumphal entry.

Previous posts in this series: