The Weekend Wanderer: 11 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.


Spiritual-Needs-Are-Still-Needs-980x551“Spiritual Needs Are Still Needs: Compassion, trauma, and the heart of pastoral care.” – Samuel Needham in Comment: “The last time I saw my grandfather alive was in a dimly lit hospice room outside Morrow, Ohio, in February 2016. His cancer had spread further and faster than medicine could manage. Nurses made every effort to keep him comfortable, but he was in enough pain that we’d stopped praying for breakthrough healing and started praying for peace. We understood he was close to the end. My mother and I came into the room and saw him: gaunt, hairless, exhausted. Grandpa had been a farmer and engineer and soldier, a towering figure of strength and joy throughout my life, an invincible man. Seeing him on that bed, I mourned the death of the man I knew and loved while he was yet alive. As with any visit with the dying, in that room God’s grace was greater than sickness. Grandpa was lucid enough to recognize me. When his pained face broke into a remembering smile, I cried. When he asked for a good word, we prayed. When he wanted only a soothing voice, we told stories. And when he needed to rest, we left.”


Nigeria_christians“Nigeria’s Christians are relentlessly under attack” – Kunwar Khuldune Shahid in The Spectator: “Dozens of Christian worshippers, including several children, were killed in a gun raid on a church in Nigeria’s Owo town on Sunday. Initial estimates place the death toll at around least 70 parishioners but that number is set to rise, given that the church in question, St Francis Catholic Church, has one of the largest parishes in the southwestern state of Ondo. Nigeria is experiencing an epidemic of terror attacks. Over the last six months, gunmen have killed 48 in the northwestern Zamfara state, massacred over 100 villagers in Plateau state, and raided trains and buses leaving dozens dead and hundreds missing. At least 3,000 Nigerians were killed and 1,500 abducted in the first quarter of 2022 alone, according to the Nigeria Security Tracker. Most of the recent attacks are carried out by ‘bandits’: local militants that are currently spearheading Nigeria’s abduction spree. However, just as local kidnapping gangs have borrowed Boko Haram’s modus operandi to abduct schoolchildren, various militants are increasingly following the jihadist rulebook to spread terror in Nigeria.”


Lawrence+Cherono+at+Kiptagat+Training+Center,+Kiptagat,+Kenya-1_web“How Christian Faith Propels Elite Kenyan Runners To Global Success” – Dr. Robert Carle in Religion Unplugged: “Since 1988, 20 out of the 25 first-place men in the Boston Marathon have been Kenyan. Of the top 25 male record holders for the 3,000-meter steeplechase, 18 are Kenyan. Eight of the 10 fastest marathon runners in history are Kenyan, and the two outliers are Ethiopian. The fastest marathon time ever recorded was Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge’s in the 2018 Berlin Marathon. The fastest women’s marathon ever recorded was Kenyan Bridgid Kosgei’s in the Chicago Marathon. Three-quarters of these Kenyan champions come from the Kalenjin ethnic minority, which has only 6 million people, or 0.06% of the global population. The Kalenjin live in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Iten, a town that sits on the edge of the valley at 7,000 feet above sea level, is nicknamed the City of Champions. ‘If you look at it statistically, it sort of becomes laughable,’ said David Epstein, a former senior writer at Sports Illustrated. ‘There are 17 American men in history who have run under 2:10 in marathons. There were 32 Kalenjin who did it in October of 2011.’ American journalists have been fascinated by Kalenjin runners for decades, and their explanations for Kenyan dominance in running have included training, culture, biology and diet. However, one factor remains little explored or understood in media coverage: The spiritual lives of the Kalenjin runners have received scant attention.”


32telushkinaroundthecircle“The Apocalyptic Visions of Wassily Kandinsky” – Shira Telushkin in Plough: “There is a moment, as one rounds the final span of the four-level exhibit of Wassily Kandinsky’s works at the Guggenheim in New York, on display through September 2022, where the art gives way to an almost transgressive sense of intimacy. The exhibit, Around the Circle, is hung in reverse chronological order: We begin at the end, with the artist’s final years in 1940s Paris. The show then winds upward through two world wars, the Russian Revolution, his drawings, sketches, the writings on theory and art. As we move back through time, the works start to come into focus, the abstract lines and circles turning back into legible shapes and forms. A house suddenly comes into view as one finally reaches the beginning of the 1910s, his earliest period. A few paces later there are men and women unambiguously conversing over a picnic. Perpendicular to this painting is a train, pumping a recognizable pillar of steam through clearly discernible mountains. We have wound back to Kandinsky’s first forays into painting, the start of his experiments with color and texture and light. After nearly seventy works of nuanced spiritual abstraction, these early works hold an almost childlike wonder, so straightforward and requiring no translation. They are still impressionistic, almost dreamlike in their blurred silhouettes and textured brushstrokes of primary colors, but they feel personal, stripped of those outer layers of meaning and symbolism we have come to expect. It is as if we’ve intruded on the artist at home, unvarnished, playing around with friends and family, not suited up for serious theological debate.”


Poetry pulls the splinter outPoetry Pulls the Splinter Out” – Mike Bonikowsky in Ekstasis Magazine: “Before the poem, there is the pain. Sometimes it’s a good pain: a stab of delight, an ache of longing, a sudden blaze of joy. More often it is something else: the dull clanging alarms of anxiety, the hot tearing of rage, the long slow labour of the Maranatha agony. The pain, whatever it is, grows until it can no longer be ignored, then continues to work its way deeper until it can no longer be borne. And then something must be done about it. Somehow or other, the splinter has to come out. When I was young and knew no better, I would cut patterns on my skin and try to bleed it out. These days I’m more likely to yell at the kids or punch a hole in the drywall or lie under the covers scrolling down on my phone for hour after hour. But there is better, wiser, healthier catharsis, and its name is poetry.”


CSJ_Press_Conference_7_June_2022_(3)“Islamabad: Religious minorities demand more space in the census” – Shafique Khokhar in PIME Asia News: “Pakistan’s civil society is calling for a review of the methods used by the government to conduct censuses. During a conference organised yesterday by the Centre for Social Justice, speakers urged the Bureau of Statistics to rethink the questions in the questionnaires and count nomadic populations and other minorities (Baha’i, Kalash, Jews, Buddhists) separately, instead of grouping them all under the heading ‘others’: in this way it would be possible to account for the country’s ethnic and religious diversity and plan targeted policies. During the event, a document entitled ‘Demographic Confusion of Minorities’ was presented, which examines data from the 1981, 1998 and 2017 censuses: the demographic picture appears inconsistent and illogical, giving rise to doubts about the credibility of the statistics compiled by the government. For example, the percentage of people belonging to religious minorities, 3.32% of the total population in 1981, rose to 3.73% in 1998 and then fell to 3.52% in 2017. In absolute numbers, this amounts to 7.32 million people, including Christians (2.64 million), Hindus (3.6 million), Ahmadis (0.19 million), people of the Scheduled Castes (0.85 million) and people of ‘other’ religions (0.04 million).  Part of the inconsistencies can be explained by looking at the categories used by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra): while citizens can choose to identify themselves in one of the 18 available categories, census data limits the choice to six or at most nine categories, excluding some minorities.”


social media“Social Media That Doesn’t Shrink Your Soul?” – Jon Jordan in The Living Church: “There are lots of reasons to be wary of social media, and there is no shortage of opinions currently being published about a certain billionaire’s looming purchase of a certain network. While I have plenty of opinions on that matter, I will refrain from sharing any of them here because, at the end of the day, this purchase matters very little. There is a far graver issue at hand when it comes to our relationship with social media. Virtues are moral muscles that, like our physical muscles, are either strengthened or given to atrophy every single day. Thousands of small, daily thoughts, actions, and reactions become engrained habits, which mold us into who we are becoming. When we exercise temperance — our moral ‘no’ muscle — on small things like passing on dessert, skipping meat on Fridays, or leaving the phone turned off for an hour around dinnertime, we are actually strengthening our ability to say ‘no’ when it matters most. When we exercise courage — our moral ‘yes’ muscle — by saying ‘yes’ to a neighbor in need despite the inconvenience, or when we read stories of those who say ‘yes’ even when it is unpopular or dangerous to do so, we are actually strengthening our own ability to say ‘yes’ when it matters most. This is how moral formation works, and we ignore the virtues to our collective peril.”


Music: Donny McClurkin with Richard Smallwood, “Total Praise,” from Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 April 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.


128862“As for Me and My Household, We’ll Resist Mammon” – Andy Crouch in Christianity Today: “Several friends helped my wife, Catherine, and me move into our first apartment, down and then up two steep and narrow sets of stairs. Three items seemed almost impossible to get up those stairs: a fragile old chest of drawers my wife had inherited from her grandmother, a queen-sized box spring, and an unfathomably heavy sofa bed. We christened them the Ordeal of Delicacy, the Ordeal of Dimension, and the Ordeal of Strength. Twenty years later we remember those ordeals; the friends who cheerfully endured them with us, sweating and swearing on a hot June day; and the sense of relief when we managed to overcome each one. A few years later, it was time to move again when my wife took the job she has held ever since. This time, the college that hired her covered the moving costs. The professional movers went through the same ordeals on our behalf that our friends had gone through a few years before—sweating and likely swearing as well—but I certainly cannot remember their names, or even a hint of their faces. They were paid, fairly, to do a fair job. And once the job was done, they were gone. This is the power of money: It allows us to get things done, often by means of other people, without the entanglements of friendship.”


The Convivial Society“On Twitter, Briefly” – L. M. Sacasas at The Convivial Society: “Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself, ‘I wonder what Sacasas makes of all this Twitter business?’ In truth, I don’t actually believe any of you have been thinking any such thing. Nonetheless, I have been thinking a bit about Twitter, if for no other reason than to reconsider my own use of the platform. So here you go, in no particular order, a few thoughts … some mine, some not.

1. Twitter is the only social media platform I use, and I’ve long characterized my use of it as a devil’s bargain. The platform has benefitted me in certain ways, but this has come at a cost. The benefits and costs are what you would expect. I’ve made good connections through the platform, my writing has garnered a bit more of an audience, and I’ve encountered the good work of others. On the other hand, I’ve given it too much of my time and energy, and I’m pretty sure my thinking and my writing have, on the whole, suffered as a consequence. Assuming I’m right in my self-assessment, that’s too high of a price, is it not? The problem, as I’ve suggested before, is that the machine requires too much virtue to operate, and, frankly, I’m not always up to the task.

2. And yet, to return to the other side of the ledger, the human connections are real and meaningful. A few months back, someone I’ve known on Twitter for years lost their father. I’ve know this person only as an avatar and occasional strings of text, but I was genuinely saddened by his loss and felt it keenly. Chiefly, I regretted that I could not offer more than my own string of text in support. And, so it is with more than a few others. Over time, occasional interactions and mutual awareness amounts to something. My sense of these Twitter-based friendships, if I may call them that, is not that they are inauthentic or inferior, but only that they are incomplete….”


repair-and-remain1-980x551“Repair and Remain: How to do the slow, hard, good work of staying put.” – Kurt Armstrong in Comment: “I’ve never had anything like a real career, only a long and varied string of jobs. I grew up working on the family farm, and then had jobs as a roofer, a groundskeeper at a rural hospital, and a mineral-bagging-machine operator in an unheated feed mill one frigid Manitoba winter. I spent a year as a photographer and store manager in a tiny portrait studio just as digital cameras were beginning to consign film cameras to obsolescence. I worked for three years as a barista at one of Vancouver’s top-rated independent coffee shops. I’ve been a magazine editor, a sessional lecturer in a couple of liberal arts schools, a glazier’s assistant, a mason tender, a plumber’s labourer, and a daycare worker. One winter I lived in a simple little cabin—no plumbing, no electricity—and I made homemade soap over a wood stove and sold it at craft sales. In my twenties and thirties I spent many of my summers planting close to half a million trees on countless logging clear-cuts between Hyder, Alaska, and Dryden, Ontario. And for twelve years now I’ve had a hybrid operation, juggling a one-man autodidact home-repair business and part-time lay ministry at a little Anglican church in Winnipeg. My basic MO in both roles is simple: repair and remain.”


Restoration of the Church

“The Decline and Renewal of the American Church: Part 3 – The Path to Renewal” – Tim Keller at Life in the Gospel: “What is wrong with the American Church and how can its life and ministry be renewed? To answer this, I wrote two articles looking at the decline of the church, limiting myself to Protestantism, though recognizing that the Catholic church is facing its own waning. In this article and the next, however, I would like to map out a possible way forward to renewal and new growth.  Basically—we need a revival that only God can provide, and a new movement to capture the fruit of that revival for the renewal of the American church. Revivals are periods of great spiritual awakening and growth. In revivals ‘sleepy’ and lukewarm Christians wake up, nominal Christians get converted, and many skeptical non-believers are drawn to faith. In Europe and North America there were significant revivals in the 1740s, the 1830s, and the late 1850s. The 1857 revival began in lower New York City and is often called ‘the Fulton Street Revival.’ By one account, during a period of about 2 years, about 10% of the population of Manhattan was converted and joined the city’s churches. In the Welsh revival of 1904, it is estimated that 150,000 people, or 7.5% of the nation’s population, were converted and came into Protestant churches. [1] Looking back further for revivals, historians point to the monastic movements that transformed Europe, and the Lutheran Pietist and Moravian movements. More recently there have also been major revivals in East Africa, Korea, as well as many more localized revivals.”


afghan-town-IMB-1024x683“USCIRF report: Religious liberty falters in Afghanistan” – Tom Strode in Baptist Press News: “The Taliban’s return to control of Afghanistan headlined the examples of religious freedom deteriorating in multiple countries last year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in its annual report issued April 25. For the first time in more than two decades, USCIRF – a bipartisan panel established by federal law in 1998 – recommended Afghanistan’s inclusion on a list of the world’s most egregious violators of the right to believe and practice faith. The commission last urged the U.S. State Department to designate Afghanistan as a ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) in 2001, shortly before the Taliban was removed from power. Religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan ‘went into an immediate and disastrous downward spiral following the full U.S. withdrawal in August 2021 and the immediate takeover by the Taliban,’ USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said during an online news conference. ‘[T]he Taliban’s return to power has had an immediate, chilling impact on religious freedom and on the broader human rights environment.’ Afghanistan is one of 15 countries USCIRF recommended to the State Department in its 2022 report for CPC designation. CPCs are governments the State Department determines are guilty of ‘systematic, ongoing [and] egregious violations’ of religious liberty. USCIRF also called for the State Department to place 12 countries on its Special Watch List (SWL), a category reserved for governments that meet two of the three criteria of the ‘systematic, ongoing [and] egregious’ standard.”


main-v01-18-1536x1024“Supreme Court tackles case about praying football coach” – Jessica Gresko at Religion News Service: “A coach who crosses himself before a game. A teacher who reads the Bible aloud before the bell rings. A coach who hosts an after-school Christian youth group in his home. Supreme Court justices discussed all those hypothetical scenarios Monday while hearing arguments about a former public high school football coach from Washington state who wanted to kneel and pray on the field after games. The justices were wrestling with how to balance the religious and free speech rights of teachers and coaches with the rights of students not to feel pressured into participating in religious practices. The court’s conservative majority seemed sympathetic to the coach while its three liberals seemed more skeptical. The outcome could strengthen the acceptability of some religious practices in the public school setting.”


Music: Sons of Korah, “Psalm 131,” from Resurrection.

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 April 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.


Tower of Babel“Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” – Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic: “What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower ‘with its top in the heavens’ to ‘make a name’ for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.

The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension. The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.”


Religion and upbringing“Trying to raise successful kids? Experts say you shouldn’t forget about faith” – Kelsey Dallas in Deseret News: “In America today, being a parent is much like being a talent manager. Moms and dads shepherd their aspiring sports star or Rhodes scholar from school to practice to private lesson, all the while looking for additional opportunities to maximize their child’s potential. ‘Parents are emphasizing personal achievement and skill-building for their kids. … They’re looking for ways to build-out a resume, whether for college or future career success,’ said Daniel Cox, director and founder of the Survey Center on American Life. As part of this push, moms and dads often deemphasize activities that don’t lead to individual acclaim, like worship services or family dinners. When you’re heavily invested in building measurable skills, you quickly run out of time to do anything else, Cox said. ‘It’s not OK anymore for kids just to hang out and goof around. They have to be learning something,’ he said. In addition to creating a lot of stressed-out kids, modern parents’ fixation on achievement is reshaping families’ relationships with organized religion. Young adults today heard less about faith from their parents during childhood than previous generations and spent less time in church, according to a new report from Cox’s survey center. These findings help explain why members of Generation Z (34%) are more likely than millennials (29%) and members of Generation X (25%) to be religiously unaffiliated. Research has long shown that the quantity and quality of childhood religious experiences predict how religious someone is as an adult, Cox said.”


Holy-Sepulchre-exterior“High-tech start for restoration of Christianity’s holiest site” – Rod Sweet in Global Construction Review: “A major restoration project at Christianity’s most hallowed place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, has begun with a high-tech start. By collecting more than 50,000 detailed images, built-environment researchers from the Politecnico di Milano have created detailed 3D models of the church’s floor ahead of the project, begun on 14 March, to conserve and restore it, conduct archeological research and install plumbing and other services at the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified and resurrected. The project, jointly funded by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, will also evaluate the stability of the Holy Edicule, a shrine built to enclose what is considered to be Jesus’ empty tomb. Led by architect and archeologist Osama Hamdan of Jerusalem’s Al Quds University, the team collected the data between September and October 2021 using a bespoke system.” 


IMG_3289-copy-scaled“Divine Intimations: Contemporary Floral Design for Sacred Spaces” – Margaret Gardner in Image: “I sit in the pew waiting for the service to begin. Glancing from the cross to the pulpit, I am struck by the stunning tropical flower arrangement—a contemporary design of cut bamboo, protea, aspidistra, and heliconia, rising from a circle of thorny vines. Not your typical bouquet of roses or lilies, it expresses a sensibility beyond its beauty. The open mouths of the cut bamboo call out; the spiky heliconia, both erect and hanging, speak to spent blood and powerful straining upward. It’s Sunday, January 16, 2022, and the notes in the bulletin say that the flowers are given ‘to the glory of God in recognition of the January 15 birthday and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ The symbolism of the arrangement is tangible. As a floral artist and longtime arranger for churches, I wonder about the vision behind this evocative design, and how other congregants connect with it as art. Located in a grand mid-century-modern building, my congregation is National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. As a member of the Reformed tradition, I am aware of our iconoclastic heritage and emphasis on plain style within the worship space. My previous church home, the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, was an early nineteenth-century Protestant box of bare-bone architecture. Clear glass, no paintings on the walls, no cross in the front, a few historic tombstones embedded in the floor, it honored our forebears’ distaste for distractions from the word of God. Yet, as Reformed scholar William Dyrness has pointed out (in his works Visual Faith and Reformed Theology and Visual Culture), even John Calvin, who forbade the use of images in worship, waxed eloquent on the beauty of the natural world and the presence of God in the theater of creation. Arranged flowers seem an ideal way to bring that ‘third book’ of God into the sacred space.”


Turkey church“Despite Drop in Deportations, Turkey Still Troubles Christians” – Jayson Casper in Christianity Today: “Last year, Protestant Christians in Turkey suffered no physical attacks. There were no reported violations of their freedom to share their faith. And there was a sharp reduction in foreign missionaries denied residency. But not all is well, according to the 2021 Human Rights Violation Report, issued March 18 by the nationally registered Association of Protestant Churches (APC). Hate speech against Christians is increasing, fueled by social media. Legal recognition as a church is limited to historic places of worship. And missionaries are still needed, because it remains exceedingly difficult to formalize the training of Turkish pastors. ‘Generally there is freedom of religion in our country,’ stated the report. ‘But despite legal protections, there were still some basic problems.'”


Carl Lenz hype pastor“The rise and fall of Hillsong’s ‘hypepriests'” – Leah Payne at NBC News: “Is the era of the ‘hypepriest’ over? The ouster of pastor-turned-celebrity Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC, the controversy and legal troubles swirling around Hillsong founder Brian Houston and a recent documentary series chronicling alleged abuse in the famously famous Hillsong Church, might certainly lead some to believe that the American public has tired of expensively dressed pastors with famous friends and large social media followings. But while recent headlines have led to a precipitous decline in Hillsong USA churches, the celebrity pastor’s place in the United States is not under serious threat. At least not yet. America’s affinity for dramatic preaching, sex appeal and celebrity predates the American republic. George Whitefield was an actor in England before he crossed the pond and used his gifts for self-promotion and status as a ‘most beautiful youth’ to win young admirers and become the celebrity preacher of the colonies in the 1700s. Presbyterian Charles Finney’s worship spaces of the 1800s resembled theaters as much as they did sanctuaries, and he popularized ‘new measures’ of engagement, like emotive preaching and stirring music, which entertained and revived the spiritual feelings of the faithful. The 20th century brought enterprising American preachers new media outlets for spreading the good news. The attractiveness of the preachers — their body, voice and demeanor — often went hand in hand with their success. Hellfire and brimstone preacher Billy Sunday understood this well and had suits tailored to displayhis athletic physique. Women and men alike enjoyed his ultra-masculine preaching performances.”


Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Ah, Holy Jesus,” from Silver and Gold

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 March 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 the articles


030922iona-aerial“Iona was once the beating heart of Celtic Christianity” – Kenneth Steven at The Christian Century: “For me, pilgrimage begins with the Isle of Iona. I started going there with my parents in the earliest days of childhood. We traveled from the heart of landlocked Perthshire: as the crow flies it’s a couple of wing beats to Iona, while by car it involved a two-hour journey west to Oban, a ferry to the Isle of Mull, a long and beautiful drive across that island, and then a second short ferry crossing to Iona. In those days a small passenger ferry took pilgrims to Iona; I had the sense of reaching the outer edge of some tectonic plate or even the edge of the world. I felt, doubtless like tens of thousands of Iona pilgrims each year, that I had gone back in time. Iona was a place of remoteness and quiet, little changed, I imagined, from the island Columba found when he landed in the sixth century. I felt its isolation when I walked alone to Sandeels Bay in the middle of the island’s east coast or when I battled against the omnipresent winds to the south end of Iona and St. Columba’s Bay. Despite roads and telephones, this was still the Iona the saint had come to find and from which he and his followers had gone out with the Christian story.”


274810155_245611617777589_5201497153106588650_n-750x375“How the Ukraine war is dividing Orthodox Christians” – Jonathan L. Zecher at The Conversation: “There is a famous tale within Russian Orthodox Christianity that goes like this: In the 16th century, Ivan IV – the Terrible, arguably the first Tsar of Russia – sought to extend his power and sent men to ravage those towns that had not submitted to him. At that time, Basil, a “fool for Christ”, came and offered him a gift of raw meat. It was Great Lent, the time when Christians fast from meat and dairy foods in preparation for Good Friday and Easter, and Ivan said that as an Orthodox Christian he would not eat meat. Basil responded: you drink the blood of humans, why not eat meat? Ivan was shocked and repented his violence, and called off those attacks. When it comes to Russian ambitions, not much has changed since Ivan’s days, except the range and power of the weapons. But the current war has an important religious dimension, because both sides of the conflict are not merely Christian, they are members of the same church, sharing a thousand years of religious history. Today, 71% of Russians and 78% of Ukrainians identify as Orthodox Christians. In fact, until 2019, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) was part of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP), and many parishes remain there (UOC-MP), in conflict with a self-governing Orthodox Church of Ukraine (UCO).”


31crosbyembed“Is Congregational Singing Dead?: It’s time to make church music weird again” – Benjamin Crosby in Plough: “It is easy to assume that congregational singing has always been a part of Christian worship. Indeed, if anything it has something of an old-fashioned air at present, conjuring up seemingly timeless images of dusty, yellowed hymnals, of the old mainline church in the center of town, of Garrison Keillor paeans to the Lutherans of Lake Wobegon. But of course, none of those images are in fact timeless, and congregational song has a quite precise history: like the hymnal, the mainline churches, and Lutherans, congregational singing is a product of the Protestant Reformation. Today, however, the practice of congregational singing in church is threatened by a sea change in how people relate to music outside of church. All is not lost, however: the church, if it commits to the weirdness of congregational singing, might work to rebuild a culture of communal music-making within and outside the church, use that culture to invite people into the church, and – most importantly – continue to offer psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Almighty God.”


128038“Can China’s New Regulations Really Stop Evangelism on the Internet?” – Sean Cheng at Christianity Today: “China’s new internet regulations went into effect March 1, laying out broad restrictions on religious communication, teaching, and evangelism. The new rules put into writing unofficial penalties that some Christians already faced for their online activity, so Chinese believers aren’t sure how the rules will be implemented and how much it could hamper missions. The regulations were announced at the end of last year by China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) and allow only religious groups with government approval to share information on the internet. According to the new Measures on the Administration of Internet Religious Information Services:

Organizations and individuals must not proselytize online and must not carry out religious education or training, publish preaching, or repost or link to related content; must not organize the carrying out of religious activities online; and must not broadcast religious rites … through means such as text, images, audio, or video either live or in recordings.

On February 28, the Chinese government issued a press release answering questions about the new regulation, stating the government ‘will have close and thorough cooperation to ensure the implementation of the measures.’  How will the implementation of these new measures affect the use of the internet for evangelism and mission by Chinese Christians? Will Christians in China no longer be able to do anything online? As the new measures come into force during the ongoing pandemic, where will the internet mission of Chinese churches in China and overseas now go? CT Asia editor Sean Cheng interviewed several Chinese pastors and Christians (for security reasons, the names of Christians in China are pseudonyms).”


Curry_web_003“Episcopal Bishop Curry says ‘more to do’ as poll shows Christians viewed as hypocrites” – Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service: “Ask a Christian to describe other Christians and the answers likely will be ‘giving,’ ‘compassionate,’ ‘loving’ and ‘respectful.’ Ask a non-Christian, on the other hand, and the more likely descriptors you’ll get for Christians are ‘hypocritical,’ ‘judgmental’ and ‘self-righteous.’ Non-Christians are also far more likely to say Christians do not represent the teachings of Jesus. Those are the results of a new survey conducted by the Episcopal Church, released Wednesday (March 9), that illustrates stark differences between how Christians and non-Christians view Christianity in the United States. ‘There is a disconnect between the reality of Jesus and the perceived reality of Christians,’ said Bishop Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church….Closing the gap between people’s perceptions of Jesus and their perceptions of his followers will take a ‘new Reformation,’ according to Curry — one that includes not only ‘re-presenting’ a Christianity that he believes looks more like Jesus to the rest of the world, but also better formation of Christians around Jesus’ teachings and way of life. ‘The church has got a lot more to do, which is a good thing,’ he said.”


Wendell Berry - New Yorker“Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age” – Dorothy Wickenden in The New Yorker: “Hidden in the woods on a slope above the Kentucky River, just south of the Ohio border, is a twelve-by-sixteen-foot cabin with a long front porch. If not for the concrete pilings that raise the building high off the ground, it would seem almost a living part of the forest. Readers around the world know the ‘long-legged house’ as the place where Wendell Berry, as a twenty-nine-year-old married man with two young children, found his voice. As he explained in his essay by that name, he built the cabin in the summer of 1963—a place where he could write, read, and contemplate the legacies of his forebears, and what inheritance he might leave behind.  The cabin began as a log house built by Berry’s great-great-great-grandfather Ben Perry, one of the area’s first settlers, and it lived on as a multigenerational salvage operation. In the nineteen-twenties, with the original house in disrepair, Wendell’s bachelor great-uncle Curran Mathews painstakingly took apart what remained and used the lumber to make a camp along the Kentucky River, where he could escape ‘the bounds of the accepted.’ Wendell, ‘a melancholic and rebellious boy,’ found peace in the tumbledown camp, even though it flooded every time the river overflowed. Eventually, it became uninhabitable, and he pried off some poplar and walnut boards to use in building his own cabin, on higher ground—a ‘satisfactory nutshell of a house,’ he wrote. Standing on its long legs, it had ‘a peering, aerial look, as though built under the influence of trees.'”


Music: Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno, “An Ending (Ascent),” from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 March 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 the articles


Wars-and-Peace-980x551“Wars and Peace: Reflections on Ukraine in the blur of past and present” – Irena Dragaš Jansen in Comment: “My family and I survived a war. Our storytelling always falls on either side of the great divide: before or after the war. Some years have passed since the war in Croatia and Bosnia, and yet that war has become as much a part of our life as anything else that has formed us: loves and losses, joys and sorrows, goodbyes and hellos. It can seem like only a memory. Except that it is not.When the war in Ukraine slowly crept up and then exploded one week ago, I was instantly overwhelmed by a flood of memories. The high-pitched noise of an incoming missile. The air-raid sirens. The feeling of helplessness at the sound of a low-flying fighter plane. Hiding in the basement during bombing. Our family fleeing and becoming refugees. The fear. The unknown. The chaos. But trauma is not just a memory; it is also a reaction. My body has gone back in time in recent days: the knot in the stomach, the urge to vomit, the burst of tears, the muscle tensing at a sudden noise, the heart-rate increase at the sound of a plane. I appear to be sitting in my Virginia home, peaceful, quiet. But I am not here. I am in Croatia, and it is the 1990s. I am also in Ukraine, and it is 2022.”


126706“Iran’s House Churches Are Not Illegal, Says Supreme Court Justice” – Jayson Casper at Christianity Today: “Update (Mar. 1, 2022): The nine converts are officially acquitted. Branch 34 of the Tehran Court of Appeals agreed with the reasoning of the Supreme Court judge who ruled last November that the preaching of Christianity does not amount to acting against Iran’s national security. On Monday, judges Seyed Ali Asghar Kamali and Akbar Johari accepted the converts’ lawyer’s testimony that their house church was ‘in accordance with the teachings of Christianity,’ where they are taught to live in ‘obedience, submission, and support of the authorities.’ The precedent is strong, said Mansour Borji, advocacy director for Article 18, because the judges extensively outlined nine reasons in the acquittal, in line with the Iranian constitution and Islamic tradition. But it may take time until the ruling becomes normative. One of the nine, Abdolreza Ali-Haghnejad, is already back in jail on a six-years-old separate charge of propagating Christianity, for which he was previously acquitted. And two others, Behnam Akhlaghi and Babak Hosseinzadeh, who made video appeals for freedom of worship, were charged with a separate crime of propaganda against the state. Iranian Christians welcome the verdict, said Borji, but remain wary.”


Ray Bakke“Remembering Dr. Ray Bakke” – At Northern Seminary News: “Northern Seminary mourns the loss of a visionary Pastor, author, and innovative educator, Dr. Ray Bakke who died Friday, February 4, after suffering from cancer. He was preceded in death by his wife Corean and adopted son Brian Davis who died in 2018. He is survived by two sons, Brian and Woody, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Dr. Bakke was Professor of Ministry at Northern Seminary from 1979-1989 and was founding president of International Urban Associates and Bakke Graduate University. Ray and Corean trained and mentored generations of global pastoral leaders. His footprint is literally felt across God’s kingdom….At Northern, McCormick, and Bakke Graduate University, he trained students to carry out that vision. Emeritus Professor of Ministry Dr. Robert Price studied urban ministry under Ray Bakke at Northern before joining our faculty. Dr. Price notes, ‘He was an amazing urban ministry pioneer and theologian. He also taught church history without notes! God used Ray’s mentoring to change my life and ministry along with countless others all over the world. One word to describe his ministry: prodigious.'”


2998382014“Rain Exposes 1,600-year-old Marble Column in Ashdod Dunes” – Ruth Schuster in Haaretz: “It’s been raining cats and dogs in Israel, leading to flash flood warnings and exposing a large ancient marble column in the dunes of Ashdod. The column was noticed by Ashdod municipal inspectors Itai Dabush and Sagiv Ben Gigi during a recent routine patrol in the dunes. They called the find into the city municipal hotline, which then called the Israel Antiquities Authority. Avi Levy, Ashkelon archaeologist with the IAA, suggests the column may have come from the splendid early Byzantine basilica discovered in Ashdod Yam in 2017. That extraordinary edifice may be the reason why Ashdod Yam appears on the Madaba Map, a sixth-century mosaic of the Holy Land – in fact, the earliest known map of the Holy Land, Levy says. The map was part of an ornate church floor in Jordan. The Madaba Map, itself discovered in 1884, shows for instance the church of the Theotokos in Jerusalem, which was dedicated in the year 542, but no buildings in the city postdating the year 570. Scholars therefore believe the mosaic was created before 570.”


Martin-Heidegger-2048x1024“The Destructive Impact of Cultural Heideggerianism” – David P. Goldman in Law & Liberty: “The Irish critic Vivian Mercier famously called Waiting for Godot a play in which nothing happens twice. The same might be said of Martin Heidegger’s career in philosophy. In this case, to be sure, ‘Nothing’ is a loaded word, but more on that later. Heidegger was the only philosopher of the first rank to support Hitler, a position he never retracted. Was Heidegger a great philosopher? Samuel Johnson’s quip comes to mind: ‘The part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.’ From St. Augustine (as the great Thomist Etienne Gilson observed), Heidegger took the idea that time is not a succession of moments but a superposition of memory and anticipation. From Kierkegaard he borrowed the concept of dread, acknowledged in a single begrudging footnote. From his teacher Edmund Husserl he grasped the concept of ‘adopted intentionality’; our knowledge of objects is conditioned by their purpose. And now we learn from Peter Hanly how deeply Heidegger drew from the poisoned well of German Romanticism. Eric Voegelin, Ralph McInerny, and other critics abhorred Heidegger as a Gnostic, a purveyor (in Voegelin’s words) of ‘a purported direct, immediate apprehension or vision of truth without the need for critical reflection; the special gift of a spiritual and cognitive elite.’ This interpretation gains credence, albeit unintentionally, from Peter Hanly’s study of Heidegger and the Romantic visionary Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772-1801). Gnosticism re-entered Western thought through the circle of Romantics at Jena in the late 1790s, including Ludwig Tieck and the brothers Friedrich and August Wilhelm Schlegel. Despite his early death, Novalis remained enormously influential. ”


022322cairo-islamic-study“The Dominican friars whose library is transforming Islamic studies” – David Hoekema in The Christian Century: “Almost a hundred years ago, Antonin Jaussen, a Dominican friar, was sent to Cairo to set up a small priory. The plan was for him to establish a center of study in Egyptian archaeology. But Jaussen persuaded his superiors that the brothers who came to Egypt should instead focus primarily on Islamic studies. In 1953 the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies (known by its French acronym, IDÉO) was formally established. It remains a community of Dominican friars. Today that little corner of Cairo, a garden in the midst of a bustling city, has become one of the world’s foremost sites for Islamic studies—and an important catalyst for Muslim-Christian dialogue. Its aim is to track down, acquire, and catalog every available source, published or in manuscript, related to Islamic theology and philosophy in its first thousand years.”


Music: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, “Stratus,” from Ears