The Weekend Wanderer: 17 October 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


IDOP“International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians” – There is occasional conversation about persecution of Christians within the United States. While I agree that there is opposition to Christianity in North America, I usually turn my attention elsewhere to see true persecution. Sunday, November 1, is the international day of prayer for persecuted Christians, and I would encourage you to get involved with this important time of awareness and intercessory prayer, as well as continue to be engaged in an ongoing manner with this important cause.


Villados book review“The Antidote to Spiritual Shallowness Isn’t ‘Believing Harder,’ but Going Deeper” – I’ve been looking forward to reading Rich Villodas’ new book, The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus. Villodas is the Lead Pastor at New Life Fellowship in New York, where Pete Scazzero was the former Lead Pastor, and has brought together spiritual formation practices within a multi-ethnic urban church in ways that I admire. As I wait to get to Villodas’ book in my to-read pile, here is a helpful review of the book by Rebecca Toscano for Christianity Today.


C Beha - index“Cracks of faith in the secular self” – Speaking of my to-read pile, here is a review by Joshua Hren of another book, Christopher Beha’s The Index of Self-Destructive Acts. Beha’s book was long-listed for the National Book Award for fiction, and it has been recommended to me by a number of people from various places. I look forward to reading it even more after reading this review.


fracture in the stonewall“A Fracture in the Stonewall” – Carl R. Trueman in First Things: “As Best hints in the article, the addition of the T to the LGB was not a natural marriage for precisely the reason he now finds Stonewall’s stance to be problematic. Trans groups rejected the importance of biological sex. It was not a positive philosophy that brought them into the coalition but rather a shared opposition to heteronormativity. The same also applies to the Q. The LGBTQ+ alliance is thus an alliance forged on the belief that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”


C S Lewis“C.S. Lewis, ‘Transposition’, and the philosophy of mind” – C. S. Lewis is one of the most beloved authors of the 20th century for his wide-ranging work from children’s fiction to Christian apologetics. Lewis is more than that, though. He was a poet and an expert on medieval and renaissance literature. Here in The Critic, Sean Walsh makes a case for recovering Lewis’ work as a philosopher as well.


Sergey Gorshkov - Hugging Tiger“Hidden camera’s hugging tiger wins wildlife photo award” – Perhaps this is something for the lighter side of things, but I appreciate the way these award-winning photographers display the wonders of creation that many of us rarely see. Take a moment to peruse these photos and thank God for the wonderful and intricate beauty of His glorious world.


Music: Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge, “Bone Collector,” Mount Royal.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 July 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


George Yancey“Not White Fragility, Mutual Responsibility” – The pressing conversations related to race in America eventually turn toward the topics of white privilege and white fragility. The most well-known resource on the latter is Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. The conversation about this topic feels largely over, yet here is George Yancey calling for a reassessment. If you’re not familiar with Yancey, he is a professor of sociology at Baylor University who has done a tremendous amount of work on race relations as an African American Christian, including writing both popular and academic books. Yancey has developed a model for race relations that move beyond colorblindness and anti-racism. Please read this important article.


J I Packer“J. I. Packer, ‘Knowing God’ Author, Dies at 93” – I still remember reading J. I. Packer’s book Knowing God for the first time while a freshman in college in a discipleship group. The basic walk through the character of God was my first exposure to the writings of J. I. Packer, who became a trusted theological voice in my life with books like Evangelism and the Sovereignty of GodConcise Theology, and Keep in Step with the Spirit. I was sad to read early this morning that Packer died yesterday at the age of 93, but was thoroughly blessed by Leland Ryken’s moving remembrance and reflection on his life.


Walter Kim“The Long Obedience of Racial Justice: To bear the image of God is a declaration of dignity that challenges power” – Christianity Today is hosting a great series of posts on race and faith called “The Race Set Before Us.” Walter Kim, recently appointed President of the National Association of Evangelicals, offers his unique perspective in one of the most recent posts here. “Our identity as humans is based on being made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). More than a premise for discussion, to be made in God’s image is a declaration of dignity and a prophetic challenge to power.”


cancel culture“10 Theses About Cancel Culture” – Here’s Ross Douthat in The New York Times with his ten sweeping theses about cancel culture. Love it or hate it, it is hard to avoid the topic. Douthat takes an able swing at helping us understand what’s really going on with cancel culture. “‘Cancel culture’ is destroying liberalism. No, cancel culture doesn’t exist. No, it has always existed; remember when Brutus and Cassius canceled Julius Caesar? No, it exists but it’s just a bunch of rich entitled celebrities complaining that people can finally talk back to them on Twitter. No, it doesn’t exist except when it’s good and the canceled deserve it. Actually, it does exist, but — well, look, I can’t explain it to you until you’ve read at least four open letters on the subject. These are just a few of the answers that you’ll get to a simple question — ‘What is this cancel culture thing, anyway?’ — if you’re foolish enough to toss it, like chum, into the seething waters of the internet. They’re contradictory because the phenomenon is complicated — but not complicated enough to deter me from making 10 sweeping claims about the subject.” If you have a hard time getting through the NYT paywall, you can also read it here.


statue removal“American History Is Not Canceled” – Has there ever been so many statues falling in a nation as now? In light of Ross Douthat’s comments about cancel culture, we may wonder if all this statue removal is just another aspect of cancel culture. Or is it something else aimed at reevaluation of what we celebrate?  Thomas S. Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and author of Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis, addresses the recent very public debate about symbols—statues, plaques, and flags—and what it means to consider this from the perspective of our faith and the broader background of American history.


Religious violence India“Hate and Targeted Violence Against Christians in India” – While most of the news coming from India these days focuses on either trends with COVID-19 or tensions along the border with Pakistan or China, other things continue to happen. A friend shared this report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India about recent uptick in religious violence against Christians in India during the first six months of 2020. “A lynching, community ostracization and concerted efforts to stop worship and gospel-sharing, mark the 135 cases registered by the EFI in the first six momentous and eventful months of 2020. ”


W1899-1-1-pma“The Million Masks of God: Henry Ossawa Tanner and the Art of Sympathy” – I thought I had posted this essay from Nathan Beacom awhile back when I first read it, but realized I had not. Henry Ossawa Tanner’s art is some of the most beautiful I have encountered, but his story is piercing. “Crucified on his own easel, Henry Tanner lay on the pavement on a cool Philadelphia evening. A clique of students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts had tied the young painter, their only black peer, to his equipment and thrown him in the street….What struck Tanner most deeply about racism (he told a friend that a brief encounter on the street would nag at him for weeks) was the conflict it presented with his certainty that, like anyone else, he was a son of God. Race hatred (as he called it) was not just a personal attack, but an affront to divine justice. In a quiet way, his art was subverting the impulse to dehumanize by proclaiming in paint the dignity of the human person.”


South Africa Hostage Church“South African church attack: Five dead after ‘hostage situation'” – I thought that church conflict was sometimes intense, but this takes it to an entirely different level. Is this what happens when power and influence become central in the life of a church? I’m not sure, but I can pray, “Lord, have mercy.” “Five people have been killed after attackers stormed a South African church, reportedly amid an argument over its leadership. South African police said they had rescued men, women and children from a ‘hostage situation’ on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Saturday morning. They have also arrested at least 40 people, and seized dozens of weapons.”


Music: Radiohead, “Daydreaming,” from A Moon Shaped Pool.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 6 June 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Esau McCaulley“A Nation on Fire Needs the Flames of the Spirit” – One of the voices I would encourage you to listen to very closely in this moment is that of Dr. Esau McCaulley, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. Here is a recent sermon he delivered on Pentecost that ties together the fires of the Holy Spirit and the fires of the current protests. You may also enjoy Ed Stetzer’s 4-part interview with him here:


vidar-nordli-mathisen“5 Ways Your Predominantly White Church Can Work for Racial Justice and Reconciliation” – From Pastor Rich Villodas of New Life Fellowship in New York City: “As a pastor of color who leads a very multi-ethnic and multi-cultural church, I often get asked by other pastors and leaders around the country how white, homogeneous churches can embody the gospel’s claim that a new communal identity is possible in a setting not given to reconciliation. I want to suggest that while not every church is going to reflect multi-ethnicity, predominantly white churches in predominantly white neighborhoods can still do their part in connecting the gospel to race.”


Chotiner-FrustrationBehindProtests“Bryan Stevenson on the Frustration Behind the George Floyd Protests” – Some of you may be familiar with the book or movie Just Mercy, featuring the work of Bryan Stevenson, a civil-rights lawyer and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.  Here is an interview with him by Isaac Chotiner helping explain what is going on underneath the protests happening around our cities and nation. He says: “We need to reckon with our history of racial injustice. I think everything we are seeing is a symptom of a larger disease.”


LCMS Black Clergy Caucus“Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Black Clergy Caucus Statement on George Floyd” – My maternal grandmother always prayed that I would become a minister in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. She would often mention to me as I was in training for ministry, “The Lutheran Church could use some nice young ministers.” Because of that, I’ve always had a fondness for the LCMS which fits quite well with being here in Milwaukee where I currently serve in a non-denominational church (sorry, grandmother!). I must confess I did not know there was a black clergy caucus for the LCMS rooted in the south. This statement by that group in relation to the killing of George Floyd captured my attention.


Armenian_woman_kneeling_beside_dead_child_in_field“What Turkey Did to Its Christians” – Gabriel Said Reynolds at Commonweal: “A traveler in Ottoman Turkey in the mid-nineteenth century would have discovered a robust and diverse Christian presence of different denominations and ethnicities, including Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians. There were between 3 and 4 million Christians in what is now Turkey—around 20 percent of the total population. They were spread throughout the area, from Thrace in the northwest to the far-eastern regions of Anatolia beyond Lake Van, where Armenians likely outnumbered Turks. By 1924, through three successive waves of massacre, deportation, abduction, and forced conversion, Christians had been reduced to 2 percent of Turkey, and almost all who remained would depart in the following decades.”


President Trump Bible“American Bible Society leader: Don’t use the Bible as a political ‘prop'” – The Bible has served as an important symbol in many contexts beyond the church from swearing oaths in court to public readings of Scripture at ceremonies. This is because the Bible holds words that are powerful for our souls and meaningful in the public consciousness. This last week President Trump received a lot of attention for using the Bible in a photo shoot at St. John’s Church near the White House. Here are a few other reactions at various points along the opinion spectrum from evangelist Franklin Graham,  presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael Curry, and Kate Shellnutt’s reporting on the range of Christian responses to the event. Regardless of your opinion, this is probably the top news story featuring the Bible in the past week, and also raises significant questions about the interface of faith and the public square.


family“Facing A Crisis Of Family Formation” – From Yuval Levin, author of The Fractured Republic and A Time to Build: “The idea that the family is an institution at all is hard to deny and yet difficult to comprehend. This is in part because the family occupies a distinct space between two meanings of the term “institution.” It is not an organization exactly, but neither is it quite a practice or a set of rules or norms. In a sense, the family is a collection of several institutions understood in this latter way—like the institution of marriage and the institution of parenthood. The family arranges these institutions into a coherent and durable structure that is almost a formal organization. It resists easy categorization because it is primeval. The family has a legal existence, but it is decidedly pre-legal. It has a political significance, but it is pre-political too. It is pre-everything.


Greek Orthodox“Greek Orthodox Church rules yoga is ‘incompatible’ with Christianity” – In other news, here is this from another part of the world. From time to time, I am asked interesting questions as a pastor about what I think about certain issues, popular practices, or cultural phenomena. These issues can be tricky to speak to because of the nuances of applying Scripture to contemporary issues. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. This one caught my eye as the Greek Orthodox Church reacted to yoga during the pandemic.


 

Music: Common Hymnal (featuring Dee Wilson),Rose Petals,” from Common Hymnal

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 May 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 10.42.06 AM“The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK” – Seriously, you have to watch this video. I know, when someone says that, you may be skeptical like me, but do yourself a favor and watch the beauty of various churches of various denominations across the UK coming together to sing a blessing over their nation. You may also enjoy hearing this interview with Tim Hughes, writer of the well-known song “Here I am To Worship,” about the project.


singing“German churches stopped singing to prevent virus’s spread. Should Americans clam up, too?” – Speaking of singing…I had a conversation with a group of pastors about what congregational gatherings would be like after the pandemic. To be honest, it was a bit of an unsettling conversation because we jointly realized that a good deal of what we experience as corporate worship would be changed by physical distancing, mask-wearing, and the necessary precautions of cleaning before and after services in all spaces. Then I read this article, and it really made me consider something else: should we sing corporately when we first regather or not?


Ahmaud Arbery“Ahmaud Arbery, the Killing of Whiteness, & the Preservation of Black Lives in America” – I remember talking with my friend, Bishop Walter Harvey, in the midst of our work with The Milwaukee Declaration about what it means for someone who is white to see the world in the way someone does who is black. Of course, you cannot do that entirely, but we agreed that at least part of that new sort of vision is when you feel the fear for each other’s children’s safety in walking down the street or when your heart drops as you see another black life taken. This last week brought that home to me again with the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The concept of whiteness is much debated, but I will go on record in saying what should be obvious: white supremacy and racism have no place in Christianity or Christ’s Church, and should be opposed in the broader culture. Why? Because each and every person is made in God’s image and valuable in God’s sight, but also because God makes space for “every nation, tribe, people and language” equally before the throne of God for eternity (Revelation 7:9-10) that should be imaged forth now on earth (Galatians 3:28). There is equal ground before the Cross of Christ and in the family of God. It is difficult to put into words, but I urge you to read this article by Celucien L. Joseph at The Witness. You may also benefit from reading Russell Moore’s “The Killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the Justice of God” and Andrew MacDonald’s “Don’t Look Away: Why Ahmaud Arbery’s Tragedy Must Be Addressed Head On.”


Pakistan sewer cleaners“Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply” – “Before Jamshed Eric plunges deep below Karachi’s streets to clean out clogged sewers with his bare hands, he says a little prayer to Jesus to keep him safe. The work is grueling, and he wears no mask or gloves to protect him from the stinking sludge and toxic plumes of gas that lurk deep underground. ‘It is a difficult job,’ Mr. Eric said. ‘In the gutter, I am often surrounded by swarms of cockroaches.’ After a long day, the stench of his work lingers even at home, a constant reminder of his place in life. ‘When I raise my hand to my mouth to eat, it smells of sewage,’ he said. A recent spate of deaths among Christian sewer cleaners in Pakistan underscores how the caste discrimination that once governed the Indian subcontinent’s Hindus lingers, no matter the religion.”


Thomas Lynch“Death Without Ceremony: We need time and space to grieve. The pandemic denies us this.” – American poet, essayist, and undertaker, Thomas Lynch, at The Atlantic: “Faith, we are told, inoculates against fear. We are all in this together, the president says. I wonder. Though I was named after my father’s dead uncle, my faith has been shaken into a provisional pose. Rather than serve a bishop or church, I chose, like my father, ‘to serve the living by caring for the dead.’ Some days it seems obvious that a loving God’s in charge; others it seems we are entirely alone.”


117211“Letter Writing Isn’t a Lost Art in Egypt. It’s an Ancient Ministry.” – I was beginning to write an article on the pastoral ministry of letter writing, when I stumbled upon this article about the ancient and present ministry of letter writing in the Egyptian Coptic church. “In his rural New Jersey home, Wafik Habib carefully laid out his letter collection before us, now more than a half century old. Handwritten by the late Bishop Samuel to the physician, they represented the bishop’s pastoral care to a nascent diaspora Christian community started in 1950s North America. We could sense the bishop’s presence in the words of comfort and exhortation set to pen and paper.”


black hole“Astronomers Discover the Closest Known Black Hole” – Since I was a young child, I have been fascinated by astronomy. Black holes are one of those most fascinating objects, not only because of the 1979 Disney movie, but because of the fascinating impact black holes have on space and time. Now astronomers have discovered the closest known black hole to our solar system. “The pair of stars in a system called HR 6819 is so close to us that on a clear night in the Southern Hemisphere, a person might be able to spot them without a telescope. What that stargazer wouldn’t see, though, is the black hole hiding right there in the constellation Telescopium. At just 1,000 light-years away, it is the closest black hole to Earth ever discovered, and it could help scientists find the rest of the Milky Way’s missing black holes.


ECPAChristianBookAward“Christian Book Awards 2020” – The Christian Book Awards for 2020 were announced this past week. I was not familiar with most of the titles, other than Harold L. Senkbeil’s The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s HeartThe book of the year award went to Mark Vroegop’s Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, which is an important topic that many of us are talking about right now.


Music: Cannonball Adderley Quintet, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 22 February 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

92299“Polyamory: Pastors’ Next Sexual Frontier” – Here’s a topic you may not have thought we would have been talking about in the church, but Preston Sprinkle and Branson Parler help us consider an issue pastors may encounter more in days to come. “For many Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. But it is much more common than some people think, and it’s growing in popularity. According to one estimate, ‘as many as 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships involving consensual nonmonogamy,’ which is about the same percentage as those who identify as LGBTQ. A recent study, published in a peer-reviewed journal, found that 20 percent of Americans have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship at least once in their life. Another survey showed that nearly 70 percent of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24 and 35 believe that polyamory is okay, even if it’s not their cup of tea. And perhaps most shocking of all, according to sociologist Mark Regnerus in Cheap Sex, roughly 24 percent of church-going people believe that consensual polyamorous relationships are morally permissible.”


Burkina Faso attack“Gunmen massacre 14 Christians during Protestant service in Burkina Faso” – If you haven’t paid attention to the religious tensions in the West African nation of Burkina Faso in recent years, this is a good time to pay attention. There have been increasing attacks against Christians by Islamic militants, including this past week. “Gunmen launched yet another attack on a church service in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, killing 14 people and wounding several others in the small eastern town of Hantoukoura. Sunday’s massacre follows attacks by radical Islamist insurgents on military posts, a mining convoy and places of worship in the restive countryside that the army has struggled to contain. The assailants fled on motorbikes after spraying bullets into the Protestant congregation, authorities said.”


Fasting“The Most Neglected Spiritual Discipline” – I have a love-hate relationship with fasting. I love it because when I fast I encounter my self-will and find ways to meet God in that place in a very tangible way. I hate it because…I encounter my self-will and, let me be honest, I just get downright hangry. With some slight exceptions, I have found that difficulties with a spiritual practice often mean that we really need it. However, as we draw near to the beginning of Lent, Thomas Christianson’s exploration of the significance of this spiritual practice is right on time.


115488“We Need to Read the Bible Jesus Read” – As I continue preaching through a series on the minor prophets at Eastbrook Church, I am reminded of just how significant the larger biblical context is for our understanding of the nature of Jesus as Messiah, the kingdom of God, the gospel, and so much more. In this article Brent A. Strawn, Professor of Old Testment at Duke Divinity School, explains why the Hebrew Bible is so important for us to understand as Christians.


Russell Moore“Trump critic Russell Moore, ERLC to face scrutiny by Southern Baptists” – “The Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee will launch a task force to examine the activities of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the convention’s public policy organization headed by the theologian and author Russell Moore. Southern Baptist leaders fear controversy over Moore could lead to a drop in donations. Moore, 48, who has been president of the ERLC since 2013, has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump since the president began campaigning for the White House. In 2016, Moore called Trump ‘an arrogant huckster’ and wrote an essay for the National Review citing ‘Trump’s vitriolic — and often racist and sexist — language about immigrants, women, the disabled and others.’ In response, Trump attacked Moore on Twitter, calling him ‘a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for.’ The same tweet called Moore a ‘nasty guy with no heart!'”


1776“Sorry, New York Times, But America Began in 1776” – One of the most notable journalistic achievements of 2019 was that of the New York Times‘ “1619 project.” It would be mild to say that project generated a lot of conversation about both the content of the project and the nature of the journalistic approach. Now, this past week saw the launch of a non-partisan black-led response to the “1619 Project” called “1776.” Wilfrid Reilly, a participant in “1776,” outlines the three core goals of this response project: “(1) rebutting some outright historical inaccuracies in the 1619 Project; (2) discussing tragedies like slavery and segregation honestly while clarifying that these were not the most important historical foundations of the United States; and (3) presenting an alternative inspirational view of the lessons of our nation’s history to Americans of all races.”


Flannery O'Connor“Flannery O’Connor’s Good Things” – When I was in college, my wife, Kelly, took a class on the writings of two southern novelists I knew very little about at that time: Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy. I am forever grateful that she took that class and patiently introduced me to these two authors, who have become a couple of treasured voices in my life. James Matthew Wilson introduces us to a recently edited collection of O’Connor’s previously unpublished letters, including some with Walker Percy, that is aptly titled Good Things Out of Nazareth.


Music: Herbie Hancock, “Watermelon Man” (1962), from Takin’ Off

[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.]