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: 9 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.


Amazing Love“Holy Week Playlist: Songs to Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Kelli Trujillo compiles a playlist with contributions from various people at Christianity Today: “Our special issue The Wondrous Cross reflects on eight pieces of music that help us enter into the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice. In addition to those songs, we’ve asked several Christian leaders—as well as some members of CT’s staff—to share their favorite pieces of music for contemplating the Cross and celebrating the Resurrection. You can listen to all of these songs on our Spotify playlist.”


Ketanji Brown Jackson“Ketanji Brown Jackson First Black Woman Confirmed to Supreme Court – Lawrence Hurley, Andrew Chung, Andrew Cowan in Sojourners: “Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court in a milestone for the United States and a victory for President Joe Biden, who made good on a campaign promise as he seeks to infuse the federal judiciary with a broader range of backgrounds. The vote to confirm the 51-year-old federal appellate judge to a lifetime job on the nation’s top judicial body was 53-47, with three Republicans – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney – joining Biden’s fellow Democrats. A simple majority was needed, as Jackson overcame Republican opposition in a Supreme Court confirmation process that remains fiercely partisan. Jackson will take the 83-year-old Breyer’s place on the liberal bloc of a court with an increasingly assertive 6-3 conservative majority. Breyer is due to serve until the court’s current term ends – usually in late June – and Jackson would be formally sworn in after that. Jackson served early in her career as a Supreme Court clerk for Breyer.”


Recovering-Piety-980x551“Recovering Piety: The old-fashioned virtue might help renew our institutions, especially the church” – Alan Jacobs in Comment: “Sir Thomas Browne offered a warning in the seventeenth century: ‘Every man is not a proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity. Many from the ignorance of these maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal unto truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as trophies unto the enemies of truth. A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender: ’tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace, then to hazard her on a battle.’ Some of my philosophical friends are horrified by Browne’s argument and remind me of St. Peter’s exhortation: ‘Always [be] prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15). But I would reply by noting two things: there is more than one kind of preparation, and there is more than one kind of defence. All too often Christians think of preparation for ‘making a defence’ as a matter of gathering information and training themselves in dialectical agility: anticipating arguments and coming up with clever responses to them. But the example of Joseph Knecht suggests that prayer—and contemplative prayer even more than the petitionary variety—is at least as important a mode of preparation. Indeed, I would claim that it’s more important, because in my experience it’s far less common for debating Christians to be uninformed than it is for them to be angry, truculent, and uncharitable—and to the degree that they are, they reflect a lack of preparation, a lack of piety.”


webRNS-Yelling-Argument1-1536x864“Language is hard: Are you sure they mean what you think they mean?” – Karen Swallow Prior at One Eye Squinted: “In 1712, Jonathan Swift, the Anglican clergyman most famous for his brilliant satire, published ‘A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue.’ Complaining that the English language was subject to ‘daily corruptions’ and continuous ‘abuses and absurdities,’ Swift offered a plan (perhaps facetiously) for ‘fixing our Language for ever.’ Although it would be impossible to establish a perfect English, Swift admitted, ‘I am of Opinion,’ he wrote, ‘that it is better a Language should not be wholly perfect, than that it should be perpetually changing.’ Obviously, Swift’s proposal was never implemented. Hundreds of words are added to English dictionaries every year, arising from new technologies, phenomena and trends. The number of words in English has long surpassed 1 million. Not only are new words constantly added to the language, but old words can take on new meanings, too (as anyone who’s read a quaint 19th century novel knows, for they are full of words and phrases that have less innocent meanings today). Two camps shape the field of linguistics: prescriptivism and descriptivism. A prescriptivist approach sets out the rules of grammar and usage and is concerned with how language and words should be used. A descriptivist approach, in contrast, attempts to assess and describe how language is being used. Because I teach English, I am by necessity a prescriptivist first, a descriptivist only reluctantly. It’s hard to be a prescriptivist in descriptivist world.”


_112099487_church“Sacred Space, Desecration, and Reconciliation: A Story and Some Theses”  – Brian J. Walsh in The Other Journal: “‘Brian, Shahla would like to see where we pray.’ The request wasn’t totally out of the blue. Shahla had been moved to tears a week earlier upon hearing from her friend Janice that our little group of Christians at the University of Toronto had been praying for her. An Iranian woman who had escaped the violent repression of the Islamic Revolution, Shahla had, like so many Iranian émigrés, abandoned religion. Prayer was a tool of oppression and violence in Iran, and she had found a place of safety in a decidedly secular vision of life. Nevertheless, she arrived on campus that day, and we walked down the long hallway to the chapel where the Wine Before Breakfast community gathered to worship every Tuesday morning. We looked around the space, and she noted how beautiful it was. After a few minutes, I could tell that she was ready to move on. But before Shahla and Janice left, I asked if they would come down to the chaplain’s office for a moment. I had something to give to Janice. The time in the office was also short, and the two women went on their way. An hour after they had left, Janice called. ‘Brian,’ she said, ‘This is pretty amazing. When Shahla and I left the office, she immediately told me of a dream that she had. Shahla takes dreams very seriously and often calls her sister in Iran to help her interpret them.'”


maverickcitymusic_hdv“‘All the Glory to Jesus’: Maverick City to Make History in Performance at 64th Annual Grammy Awards” – Talia Wise at CBN News: “Maverick City Music will make history at the 64th annual Grammy Awards becoming the first Christian group to perform on the grand stage in 20 years. ‘All the glory and praise goes to Jesus,’ read the group’s Instagram post. The five-time Grammy-nominated group will be the first Christian or Gospel artist to be televised during the ceremony in over 20 years as well as the first time an artist has been nominated in all four categories across the two genres. ‘Blessed is an understatement for how we feel about all #Jireh is doing in this moment – we’re making history,’ they said of their upcoming Grammy performance. ‘We truly feel that we have been placed here for such a time as this and are excited to continue to share this journey with you all!'”


Music: Fernando Jesus, “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted” from The Crucifixion of Jesus

The Weekend Wanderer: 26 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


127791“The Stunning Humility of God” – Fernando Ortega in Christianity Today: “Many times I’ve stared at Titian’s famous painting “Christ on the Way to Calvary,” which depicts Simon of Cyrene as he helped Jesus carry the cross up the hill to Golgotha. In the painting, it looks as though there is some kind of communication happening between the two—Christ sorrowfully glancing up over his left shoulder and Simon gazing down with kindness at the face of Jesus. What would I have said were I in Simon’s shoes? Maybe it would have been something along the lines of ‘Ah, holy Jesus, how have you offended, that mortal judgement has on you descended.’  The other day, as I was driving my 12-year-old daughter Ruby to school, we saw a weather-beaten woman sitting at the top of the freeway exit, begging for money in the Albuquerque sun. I said to Ruby, ‘That’s Jesus right there.’ ‘What do you mean?’ she asked. I explained how Christ continually identified himself with the downtrodden and marginalized in the world—with beggars, lepers, tax collectors, harlots, thieves—with the ‘least of these,’ according to the society of his day. She still looked at me quizzically. Thrilled to have gained her attention on the subject, I said, ‘The humility of God is a pearl of great beauty in this desolate world.'”


623afa7e567af_humanrightscouncilCropped“Since summer 2021, ‘thousands of Afghans who espoused the Christian faith are hiding in fear'” – Evangelical Focus – Europe: “The Geneva office of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) was present in the 49th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The evangelical body representing 600 million Christian worldwide has been working for a long time in the issue of religious freedom for faith minorities. Addressing the situation of Afghanistan, the WEA alarmed on 8 March in a joint statement with the Baptist World Alliance and The Jubilee Campaign that ‘religious minorities in Afghanistan are threatened. Thousands of Afghans who espoused the Christian faith are hiding in fear since August of last year.’ They called on the Office of the High Commissioner for human Rights to ‘closely monitor’ the situation or religious minorities. ‘We look forward to working with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. We recommend to maintain a strong human rights pillar of the United Nations Assistance Mission to support the Special Rapporteur in continued monitoring of human rights, specifically women and minorities rights.'”


RNSHILLSONGABUSE101714“Hillsong pastor Brian Houston resigns after revelations of indiscretions with women” – Roxanne Stone at Religion News Service: “Less than a week after the Hillsong board released a statement revealing its cofounder, Brian Houston, had sent inappropriate text messages to a staff member and spent time in a woman’s hotel room, the board of the global megachurch has announced the longtime global senior pastor has resigned. In a statement posted on its website Wednesday (March 23), the board said it had accepted Houston’s resignation and acknowledged ‘there will be much emotion at this news.’ Houston, 68, a New Zealand native, founded Hillsong Church with his wife Bobbie in the suburbs of Sydney in 1983. The Pentecostal powerhouse now boasts 30 locations around the world, with an average global attendance of 150,000 weekly. Hillsong’s music program has produced some of the most popular worship songs used in evangelical churches around the world, including ‘Oceans,’ ‘What a Beautiful Name,’ and ‘Shout to the Lord.'”


medicalgraphembed“Will Technology Enhance or Deplete Relationships?” – Matthew Loftus in Plough Quarterly: “If you’ve been to the doctor’s office lately, you probably only had the good fortune to look into your doctor’s eyes for a few seconds in a brief respite between her feverish note-taking on a swivel screen. In the past decade, all medical practitioners in the United States have been forced to switch from paper charts to electronic medical records (EMRs), a technology designed primarily for the purposes of billing. EMRs give little added value to clinicians, and they don’t help patients very much either; they increase medical professionals’ workload, while decreasing their face-to-face time with patients. These systems have been imposed with little care for their impact on the practice of healthcare. I work in a hospital in East Africa, and the EMRs we use there are much like those used in the Baltimore hospital where I completed my residency, only less functional. In the country where I serve, politicians run campaigns promising “a laptop for every child in school” when many of these same children do not have running water at home. There is a painful irony in this mindless celebration of technology. Tamara Winter describes this phenomenon as ‘mimetic misdirection,’ a stubborn belief that the accoutrements of successful development (highways, flashy buildings, digital technology) will be the means by which a country will be uplifted. Suckered by the promise of progress, administrators in hospitals where electricity is unreliable and computers are scarce have bought the lie that an EMR is better than a paper system, and have installed a ‘solution’ that creates more problems than it solves.”


Jewish Minyan“Jews say making daylight saving time permanent threatens morning prayer” – Michele Chabin at Religion News Service: “American Jews say they were blindsided by the U.S. Senate’s lightning-fast passage of a bill to make daylight saving time year-round and intend to fight it. The Sunshine Protection Act, which passed the Senate on March 15, will make it nearly impossible for Jews to pray communally in the morning, Jewish advocates say, and still get to work or school on time during the winter months. According to Jewish law, morning prayers must take place after the sun rises. Daylight saving time, which currently begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November, extends darkness on late-winter mornings. ‘It will affect our religious life, our professional life and our family life,’ said Rabbi Abba Cohen, vice president for government affairs for Agudath Israel of America. ‘If congregational and personal prayers begin after 8 in the morning, how will people get to work at 9 a.m. or earlier?'”


rubble-demolished-building-construction-waste-37283447“Some Parts of Evangelicalism Do Not Need To be Deconstructed … They Need To Be Destroyed!” – Michael F. Bird in Word from the Bird: “Jonathan Leeman – a nice guy I’ve interacted with – has an article on Defending Sound Doctrine Against the Deconstruction of American Evangelicalism over at 9Marks. In a nutshell, Leeman rejects the complaint that Christian doctrine, evangelical doctrine, is culturally conditioned and self-interested. Some people, realizing this situatedness and self-interest have been led to question, doubt, re-think, and ‘deconstruct’ their faith. Now, deconstruction is the latest fad, and deconstructing can mean leaving evangelicalism for liturgical churches or else leaving the Christian faith altogether. I have mixed feelings about this. First, I believe in evangelical doctrine, but…we need to be very self-aware of how much of our theology is truly biblical and catholic and how much of our theology is a product of our own perspective, position, and the prevailing philosophy of the day…. Second, some people are wrestling with doubt, regret, and wondering if their whole faith was tied to their social location, inheriting a conservative culture from their parents, a faith that made use of Jesus rather than actually following Jesus.”


Music:Alister Fawnwoda, Suzanne Ciani, Greg Leisz, “Leopard Complex,” from Milan

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 February 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


Want less - Brooks“How to Want Less: The secret to satisfaction has nothing to do with achievement, money, or stuff” – Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic: “I glanced into my teenage daughter’s bedroom one spring afternoon last year, expecting to find her staring absentmindedly at the Zoom screen that passed for high school during the pandemic. Instead, she was laughing uproariously at a video she had found. I asked her what she was looking at. ‘It’s an old man dancing like a chicken and singing,’ she told me. I came over to her laptop, not being above watching someone making an idiot of himself for 15 seconds of social-media fame. What I found instead was the septuagenarian rock star Mick Jagger, in a fairly recent concert, croaking out the Rolling Stones’ megahit ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’—a song that debuted on the charts when I was a year old—for probably the millionth time. An audience of tens of thousands of what looked to be mostly Baby Boomers and Gen Xers sang along rapturously. ‘Is this serious?’ she asked. ‘Do people your age actually like this?’ I took umbrage, but had to admit it was a legitimate question. ‘Kind of,’ I answered. It wasn’t just the music, or even the performance, I assured her. To my mind, the longevity of that particular song—No. 2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s original list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’—has a lot to do with a deep truth it speaks. As we wind our way through life, I explained, satisfaction—the joy from fulfillment of our wishes or expectations—is evanescent. No matter what we achieve, see, acquire, or do, it seems to slip from our grasp.”


Abraham and Isaac“An Unlikely Meditation on Modern Happiness: Rereading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling – Ryan Kemp in The Hedgehog Review: “On the one hand, Fear and Trembling is a literary masterpiece. It showcases Kierkegaard at the height of his rhetorical powers. He paints Abraham’s trial in such vivid color that the reader feels anew the real tragedy of his ordeal. In addition to the poetic force of his writing, Kierkegaard is a subtle philosopher, a supreme ironist, evident in the way he deftly teases out the implications of Abraham’s status as the ‘father of faith.’ He argues that if Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac is truly praiseworthy—as each of the great Abrahamic religions assumes—then faith involves a ‘teleological suspension of the ethical.’ The person of faith must be prepared to put the commands of God above the demands of ethics. This last point is what makes contemporary interest in Fear and Trembling so surprising. It’s not just that Kierkegaard paints a stark picture of what Christian faith demands; it’s the fact that he cares to discuss the topic at all. One can scarcely imagine a subject less interesting to the contemporary reader (at least the sort who would think to pick up a work of nineteenth-century Danish philosophy) than a serious, often abstruse, discussion of the meaning of faith. So why do modern readers keep returning to this bizarre little book?


Non-reactive-Leadership-980x551“Non-reactive Leadership: Lessons from René Girard and St. Ignatius of Loyola” – Dave Hillis in Comment: “There is a line in the film Gladiator that has come to inspire my days. It’s spoken early in the picture, soon after the victory of Maximus Decimus Meridius in Germania and shortly before the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Aware of his son’s incapacity to succeed him as leader, the emperor asks Maximus to take his place as lord protector of Rome. Maximus balks at the request, wherein the two begin a discussion of the city itself: what it was, what it had become, and what it could be. Marcus Aurelius, aware that without some decisive action Rome will not make it through the winter, expresses his thoughts to Maximus: ‘There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish; it was so fragile.’ The choice of leadership—how each one of us leads and who we gravitate toward to lead us—is of subtle but critical importance. Will we choose leadership that is muscular and gratuitous? Or will we choose leadership that is deeply centred and divinely choreographed? Non-reactive leadership is a paradigm that helps answer this question. In the words of Robert Terry, non-reactive leadership ‘is the courage to call forth authentic action in the commons.’ What follows is a portrait of its cast.”


Priest with old Bible on black background, closeup

“Pastors serve as primary source of mental health care for Black, Latino congregants” – Amy McCaig in Rice News: “A new study of Black and Latino Christians found they often turn to their pastors for mental health care or information on mental health resources, even when those clergy feel ill-equipped to offer help or advice. ‘Where Would You Go? Race, Religion, and the Limits of Pastor Mental Health Care in Black and Latino Congregations’ includes information from focus groups with 14 pastors and interviews with 20 congregants from Black and Latino churches in Houston. The interviews explored how church members make decisions about where to seek mental health care or direct others for help. Dan Bolger from Rice University and Pamela Prickett from the University of Amsterdam authored the study, which appeared in a recent edition of the journal Religions. Bolger said that while Black and Latino church members both sought mental health care from pastors, the motivation for seeking pastoral counsel varied between the two ethnic groups. Black congregants sought pastors over medical professionals because of stigma surrounding mental health issues in the broader community. Latinos, on the other hand, sought counseling from their pastors primarily due to stigma within their church.”


alan jacobs“The Year of Repair” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “One year and one day ago, I wrote: “I declare 2021 The Year of Hypomone.” As you’ll see if you read that post, hypomone is a New Testament word meaning “patient endurance,” and I hope we have all learned a few things about endurance in the past … well, two years. But endurance is not enough. Today I say: I declare 2022 The Year of Repair.  This is the year when we must turn our attention not to innovation or disruption or any of the other cool buzzwords, but to fixing the shit that needs fixing. As Steven J. Jackson has shown in an absolutely seminal essay, our situation requires ‘broken world thinking,’ and broken world thinking leads to an imperative of repair. We will look unflinchingly at what is broken. We will repent of and ask forgiveness for our role in the breaking. We will scout the landscape for the tools of repair, and be especially attentive to what we have discarded, what we have labeled as refuse. We will therefore practice ‘filth therapy.’


primopiano_14126“ASIA/PAKISTAN – Christians united in prayer: guaranteeing the protection of religious minorities” – Agenzia Fides: “‘The brutal attack on Anglican pastors, which took place in Peshawar on January 30, shook the entire Christian community in Pakistan. We strongly condemn the brutal murder of Reverend William Siraj. All of us Christians in Pakistan are united with the Anglican Church of Pakistan and with the families of the late Pastor William Siraj, and Pastor Patrick Naeem, wounded in this attack’, is what Msgr. Benny Mario Travas, Archbishop of Karachi told Fides. Two unidentified men on a motorbike opened fire on Anglican Pastors at the All Saints Church in Peshawar as they were leaving the church after Sunday liturgy. Pastor William Siraj, assistant pastor, was killed instantly and Pastor Patrick Naeem was wounded by a bullet, he is now out of danger Calling on the entire Christian community in Pakistan to unite in prayer for the deceased and wounded priests, Archbishop Travas said: ‘I appeal to the government of Pakistan to take immediate and serious action against this incident, arresting the aggressors and working for the peace and security of all religious minorities living in Pakistan.'”


Music: All Sons & Daughters, “Rest in You,” from Poets & Saints

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 February 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


Mission Nexus - Black Missionary Heroes“Black History Month Devotional Series: Black Missionary Heroes – Past and Present – Missio Nexus: “In celebration of Black History Month this devotional plan gives insight into the contributions made by African Americans Missionaries throughout history leading to present day. These unsung heroes of faith have discipled nations, planted churches, and preached the gospel under the most adverse conditions. Read their stories and the passages of scripture that highlight their faith and commitment in creating gospel movements within neighborhoods and nations. These profiles and devotionals are provided by Ambassadors Fellowship Inc. and the National African American Missions Council.”


00Syria-Christians-02-superJumbo“‘Now There Is No One’: The Lament of One of the Last Christians in a Syrian City” – Hwaida Saad, Asmaa al-Omar and Ben Hubbard in The New York Times: “On Christmas Day, Michel Butros al-Jisri, one of the last Christians in the Syrian city of Idlib, didn’t attend services, because the Islamist rebels who control the area had long since locked up the church. Nor did he gather with friends and relatives to celebrate around a tree because nearly all of his fellow Christians have either died or fled during Syria’s 10-year civil war. Instead, Mr. al-Jisri said, he went to the city’s Christian cemetery, which no one uses anymore, to sit among the graves of his forebears and mark the day quietly, by himself. ‘Who am I going to celebrate the holiday with? The walls?’ he asked. ‘I don’t want to celebrate if I am alone.’ Mr. al-Jisri, who is 90, stooped and almost deaf but still fairly robust, is a living relic of one of the many formerly vibrant Christian communities in the Middle East that appear headed for extinction. Communities across the Middle East and North Africa — some of which trace their roots to Christianity’s early days — have been struggling for decades with wars, poverty and persecution. A British government report in 2019 found that Christians in the Middle East and North Africa had fallen to less than 4 percent of the population from more than 20 percent a century ago.”


henry-nouwen“Attentiveness, Prayer, and Solitude in Community: What are the spiritual practices that keep a community and its members alive?” – Henri J. M. Nouwen in Plough: “How do we put into place the disciplines that are required to turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, whether for individuals or communities? The core word is attentiveness. Be attentive, be alert, be awake. Be ready. Listen. The discipline is to be attentive to where conversion is needed. It’s not just an outer call; it comes from within. How can we stay in touch with the longing, with the desire for conversion? A lot of people I know have no desire to be converted whatsoever. The fact that you want to be converted is in itself a sign that there is something you long for that you know you are missing. And if you really do live the tension, you are living in a state of longing. If you don’t have any tension, if you don’t have any longing, you become like many people who finally end up flat and bored. Routine is all there is. Nothing excites me. Nothing really gives me life. And a lot of people live like that. So be attentive. Attentiveness is the inner goal of conversion. It has to do with attentiveness to the voice of God in your life of prayer.”


Van Gogh - The Sower“Van Gogh’s God” – Peter J. Leithart in First Things: “As I wound my way through the immersive Beyond Van Gogh exhibit at the Birmingham Jefferson County Civic Center a few days after Christmas, a question kept nagging. What did Vincent see when he gazed at the world? What experiences or ideas lurk behind his swirling skies, his screaming colors, his darkly outlined but often featureless human figures? At times, I thought I caught hints of terror in the desperation of his empty Night Café (1888) and the nightmarish flickering of trees. Vincent was institutionalized more than once. Are his paintings projections of inner turbulence?  Not according to the painter. In letters, Van Gogh claimed he tried to capture the incandescent beauty of nature, radiant with a glory beyond nature. But even a modestly theological description of Van Gogh’s work will provoke protests. After theological training and a stint ministering among the poor, Vincent turned from the Dutch Calvinism of his parents. He abandoned the church after his pastoral call wasn’t renewed, scorned the religious art of his contemporaries, and almost never painted biblical scenes.”


127563“Miracles Don’t Violate the Laws of Nature” – Craig Keener in Christianity Today: “Why do many people embrace a worldview that won’t even consider evidence for miracles? Sometimes they assume that science opposes miracles, but that assumption goes back not to scientific inquiry itself but to an 18th-century philosopher. Knowingly or unknowingly, many people have followed the thesis of Scottish skeptic David Hume (1711–1776). Hume was probably the most prominent philosopher of his generation, and surely the most influential from his time on subsequent generations. He wrote on a wide variety of topics, sometimes very insightfully but sometimes (as with his ethnocentric approach to history) in ways that would not be accepted today. Hume’s intellectual stature, earned from other works, eventually lent credibility to his 1748 essay on miracles. In this essay, Hume dismisses the credibility of miracle claims, appealing to ‘natural law’ and uniform human experience. Although an appeal to natural law might sound scientific, Hume was not a scientist; in fact, some of his views on causation would make scientific inquiry impossible. Hume’s essay on miracles also contradicts his own approach to discovering knowledge. Moreover, Hume’s essay has generated serious intellectual counterarguments since the time it was first published. One of these counterarguments was history’s first public use of Bayes’ theorem, today an essential staple in statistics.”


chamber-church-by-buro-ziyu-zhuang-qingdao_dezeen_2364_col_19-852x1278“White-metal fins form abstract exterior of Büro Ziyu Zhuang’s Chamber Church” – Alyn Griffiths in de zeen: “German-Chinese architecture practice Büro Ziyu Zhuang has completed a church in Qingdao, China, featuring walls and a tower made from dozens of spaced-out aluminium ribs. Büro Ziyu Zhuang designed the Chamber Church as part of Chinese property developer Sunac’s Aduo Town project in the Qingdao Zangma Mountain Tourism Resort. The church is positioned at the edge of a public plaza connecting it with other nearby amenities. When viewed from the plaza, the forested mountains form a dramatic natural backdrop. The architects claimed that the building combines a religious experience with secular attitude, explaining that the church ‘aims to create a spatial container that both respects the past and looks towards the future.'”


Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Molly Parden], “Psalm 126,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2