The Weekend Wanderer: 14 December 2019

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.

01Warren-jumbo“Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit?: Face Into the Darkness” – Advent is one of the most necessary seasons of the church calendar. It helps us from the pervasive consumerism and triviality in our culture related to Christmas. Advent gives us space to reflect, to prepare, to call out to God, and, as I’ve written elsewhere, to recover the wonder of Christmas. Here is Tish Harrison Warren writing in The New York Times about her own journey with Advent: “To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime.”

 

Ethiopia archaeology“Church Unearthed in Ethiopia Rewrites the History of Christianity in Africa” – “In the dusty highlands of northern Ethiopia, a team of archaeologists recently uncovered the oldest known Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa, a find that sheds new light on one of the Old World’s most enigmatic kingdoms—and its surprisingly early conversion to Christianity. An international assemblage of scientists discovered the church 30 miles northeast of Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom, a trading empire that emerged in the first century A.D. and would go on to dominate much of eastern Africa and western Arabia. Through radiocarbon dating artifacts uncovered at the church, the researchers concluded that the structure was built in the fourth century A.D., about the same time when Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christiantiy in 313 CE and then converted on his deathbed in 337 CE. The team detailed their findings in a paper published today in Antiquity.

 

a-hidden-life“Vatican Holds Private Screening of Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life'” – I know you’re probably getting ready to see Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker, but let me present a cinematic alternative. One of the most intriguing and moving films I have ever seen is Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011). Since that time, I have delved into Malick’s other films, which are a one-of-a-kind experience of stream-of-consciousness and imagistic cinematography, laden with nature and themes of transcendence. Tree of Life engages with themes of nature and grace, which recur in some of his more recent films, although without the same effectiveness, in my opinion. Malick’s most recent film, A Hidden Life, focuses on the centers on the real-life story of Franz Jägerstätter, and debuted on December 13 (although it is very difficult to find a local viewing because of limited release).  Malick’s first film since 2007, it is reputed to be one of his most powerful, engaging deeply with themes of politics and faith. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Vatican requested a private viewing of the film, which the notoriously reclusive Malick actually attended.

 

Gerald_Hughes,_Cleveland_School_Teacher,_Leads_the_Lee_Heights_Community_Church_(Cleveland,_Ohio)_Congregation_in_Song,_1960_(16458543170)“American Salvation: The Place of Christianity in Public Life” – The conversation about faith and the public square, which Malick’s film raises, is one of the most pressing conversations in our contemporary American context. Should the church engage or withdraw from politics? Whould the church subvert or transform culture? What does it mean to engage with these questions at all? Albert J. Raboteau, professor emeritus of religion at Princeton University, and a convert from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy, weaves an interesting tapestry around this discussion, engaging with the American civil rights movement, early Christian political dissent, sacramental theology, and much more.

 

114259“Solar Light of the World: Evangelicals Launch Global Clean Energy Campaign” – “Through a campaign called Project 20.’25, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has set out to get 20 percent of its members to convert fully to clean energy by 2025. This fall, the global network announced its partnership with Smart Roofs Solar Inc. Together they will help universities, health care facilities, and churches looking to adopt clean power, including offering guidance for local suppliers and providing financing options. The renewable energy initiative builds on the WEA’s efforts to promote creation care, said Chris Elisara, director of the WEA Creation Care Task Force.”

 

Madeleine L' Engle“Ready for Silence” – Poetry helps us encounter the familiar in a fresh way through rich use of language that makes what we already know become unfamiliar and new. Madeleine L’Engle, perhaps best known for her novel, A Wrinkle in Time, and related books, offers us a poem, “Ready for Silence,” that helps us re-approach Advent and the Christmas Story.

 

booksBest Books of 2019 – This is the time of the year that “best of 2019” lists of all sorts arise. I haven’t assembled my own list like this yet, but may do something like that in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, here are a few lists about the best books or reads from 2019 that you might enjoy: Christianity Today‘s “2020 Book Awards,” John Wilson’s “A Year of Reading: 2019,” Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed Books of the Year 2019” (including a most disappointing book of 2019), Russell Moore’s “My Favorite Books of 2019,” The Englewood Review of Books‘ “Advent Calendar 2019 – Best Books of the Year for Christian Readers!,” “The Gospel Coalition 2019 Book Awards,” The New York Times‘ “Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019,” and LitHub‘s compilation of best of lists in “The Ultimate Best Books of 2019 List,”

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (BWV 62), from Bach: Cantatas – Advent (John Eliot Gardiner)

[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: 17 August 2019

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.

Marty Sampson“What could have helped Marty Sampson’s faith” – Some of you may have heard that Marty Sampson, well-known as a worship leader and song writer with Hillsong United and Hillsong Young & Free, announced that he is departing from his Christian faith. After pointing to the string of failures in ministry leaders and sharing some of his own doubts, Sampson says multiple times, “No one talks about it.” Aside from the fact that a lot of people talk about it, this raises multiple issues about the theological vacuity of much of evangelicalism, the inability of many churches to give space and guidance to people in moments of questioning or doubt, and also the lack of long-term growth mindset that gives space for ups and downs in much hyped-up contemporary worship-experience churches. Australian missiologist Michael Frost offers some meaningful insights in this article, with reference to the life of Thomas Merton: “In our information-drunk, effectiveness-addicted culture, finding genuine truth happens through the life-tested skill of gathering what is needed to sustain faith without killing faith in the gathering.”

I’d also encourage you to read Russell Moore’s article, “When Someone You Admire Abandons the Faith.He writes, “The Internet is atwitter with opinions on all of that, from atheists, from Christians, and everyone in between. As sad as I am about all of this, I can’t help but think about lots of people I’ve known, many of whom would never make headlines, who just, sometimes very quietly, walked away from the faith. ” Along with that, David French’s article on this issue, “Another Pop-Culture Christian Loses His Faith,” in National Review is painfully relevant: “I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.”

 

J D Vance Catholic“J.D. Vance Becomes Catholic” – At another point in the faith journey continuum, there is this news. J. D. Vance wrote the book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis as a reflection on social challenges in our country, the struggle to find stability in life, and what it means to become a good person in spite of a difficult family upbringing. The book became a New York Times bestseller and is being made into a movie directed by Ron Howard. Rod Dreher reported this past week that Vance has converted to Roman Catholicism. Vance comments: “one of the things I love about Catholicism is that it’s very old. I take a longer view….The hope of the Christian faith is not rooted in any short-term conquest of the material world, but in the fact that it is true, and over the long term, with various fits and starts, things will work out.”

 

91727“Preaching Against Racism Is Not a Distraction from the Gospel” – Here is Esau McCaulley, assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College: “In light of recent gun violence, some of which appears to be racially motivated, the church’s response to racial controversy is once again in the spotlight. We have to ask ourselves: What will our testimony be? What do we do when violent events occur with such startling frequency that we don’t know what to do or what to say? How do know when it is wise to be silent or when it is necessary to speak? Pastors, in particular, have to ask: How do we use the pulpit to preach against racism?”

 

91744

“Does Your Preaching Touch Politics?” – And if that raised some questions about how the pulpit should engage with current issues, here is a 2008 article featuring Mark Dever, Adam Hamilton, Joel Hunter, and Efrem Smith on how they preach on political issues. While some aspects of it show their age, as we continue in a divisive climate in our society, advice from these seasoned pastors is worth the read.

 

NewYorker_Mosquito_Vertical_v5“How Mosquitoes Changed Everything” – We all dislike mosquitoes, but now there is an assembly of their great impact on human civilization. “Winegard finds first-person descriptions of death and suffering caused by mosquito-borne diseases in many eras. Florence Nightingale called the Pontine Marshes, near Rome, ‘the Valley of the Shadow of Death’; a German missionary visiting the southern United States wrote that it was ‘in the spring a paradise, in the summer a hell, and in the autumn a hospital’; a Mayan survivor of post-Columbus epidemics remembered, ‘Great was the stench of death. . . . All of us were thus. We were born to die!’ And yet human beings lived with, and died from, mosquito-borne diseases for thousands of years without understanding how they were reaching us. Not until the end of the nineteenth century was it scientifically established that mosquitoes transmitted malaria. Before then, the miasma theory, holding that fevers travelled independently, through fetid environments, held sway, reflected in the very word ‘malaria’: we thought we were the victims of ‘bad air.’ That these tiny biting insects might be affecting our lives so profoundly was a leap beyond imagining.”

 

_108333557_overallwinner_matbeetson_watermarked“In pictures: Australian Geographic’s photo prize winners” – The world is a beautiful place, and there are many parts to it that we will never be able to see in person. Thankfully, there are skilled photographers who can share unique views of God’s good creation with great skill and from fascinating angles.

 

bach-manuscript-well-tempered-clavier-prelude-no-1-1414409439-1-600x452“The Prelude” – Here’s Austin Kleon combatting violence with Bach. “I thought today that I was going to sit down and blog about violence, about how hard I am trying to cleanse my house of violence, how violence is not just guns and bombs and knives and fists, but how many kinds of touch can be violent, how words can be violent, how you can stab your salad violently….The only thing I feel like I can do is make my home a haven, a place where we celebrate things of beauty and rationality and love and peace. Bach’s music is one of those things.”

 

Music: J. S. Bach, “The Goldberg Variations,” performed by Glenn Gould (1955).

[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.]