The Weekend Wanderer: 25 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.


Lewis and Packer“Growing Young and Growing Old: The Legacies of John Lewis and J.I. Packer” – Russell Moore writes after the passing of two great figures last week: “Within a span of 24 hours, we learned of the deaths of two titanic figures—civil rights leader and United States Congressman John Lewis, and evangelical theologian J.I. Packer. Both were old—Lewis was 80 and Packer 93—but upon reflection, I couldn’t help but see each, in my own imagination, at radically different periods in life. With Lewis, I saw the smiling, young civil rights worker in the mug shot after his arrest in Mississippi. With Packer, I saw the frail, wizened theologian ambling through a library, a stack of books precariously cradled in his arms.”


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“Multiracial Congregations May Not Bridge Racial Divide” – Via NPR: “Twenty years ago, a sociologist at Rice University directed a study of efforts by white evangelical Christians to address racial inequality. Michael Emerson’s provocative conclusion, summarized in his book Divided By Faith and co-authored with Christian Smith, was that evangelicals ‘likely do more to perpetuate the racial divide than to tear it down,’ largely because they tended to worship in racially segregated congregations and viewed racial prejudice as an individual, not a societal, problem….Emerson then proposed an answer to the problem he had highlighted: If Christians of different racial backgrounds began worshipping together, he suggested, racial reconciliation could follow. In a 2004 book, United By Faith, a sequel to his earlier book, Emerson and a team of collaborators called for a new church movement.”


alan jacobs“Plurality and Unity” – From Alan Jacobs at his blog, Snakes and Ladders: “A few years ago I would have said that the greatest danger facing the Christians I know was a kind of carelessness about the truth, a shrugging at difference and disagreement; now I think it’s the opposite, a kind of premature foreclosure, which is a way of immanentizing the eschaton. Obviously in any group of people we will find both intellectual flaccidity and intellectual rigidity present, but I do think that rigidity is now in the ascendent, simply because it is in the ascendent in our ambient culture and Christians, for the most part, behave as their ambient culture behaves.”


J I Packer“6 Reasons Christians Worldwide Thank God for J.I. Packer”Ajith Fernando is one of my favorite Bible teachers and commentators. I really enjoyed his reflections on the worldwide appreciation for J. I. Packer after Packer’s passing last week. “Often when the church in the West commemorates the giants it produced, it forgets the contribution these leaders made to the church in the Global South, and the part they played in the renewal our churches are experiencing today. We have just seen the passing away of another of those giants: J. I. Packer. This is a personal reflection on his impact on my life, and I believe on the lives of many Christians in the majority world.”


Evans - systemic racism“What Is Systemic Racism (Dr. Tony Evans)” – There is a lot of discussion right now around issues of racism, sin, systemic racism, and systemic sin. This is not an easy topic to discuss but also requires a good deal of thoughtfulness in how we approach it. In this six minute video Dr. Tony Evans offers a fairly helpful look at the topic in his typically balanced manner.


what is the church?“What is ‘the Church’?” – In Comment, philosopher Peter Kreeft revisits a two-thousand-year-old question: what is “the Church”? His reflections reveal that the answer isn’t simple, which is to be expected. At the same time, Kreeft’s reflections should give us pause in this day of rethinking church and hopefully point us toward more meaningful engagement with who we are in Christ and what it means to be His people.


Music: Aretha Franklin, “Respect.”

[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: 20 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.


black anger“What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger” – Here is Esau McCaulley in The New York Times connecting the psalms and the Cross of Christ with this present moment: “For Christians, rage (Psalm 137) must eventually give way to hope (Isaiah 49). And we find the spiritual resources to make this transition at the cross. Jesus could have called down the psalms of rage upon his enemies and shouted a final word of defiance before he breathed his last. Instead he called for forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,’ he says in Luke 23.”


N T Wright“Undermining Racism: Reflections on the ‘black lives matter’ crisis” – Here is a reflection by N. T. Wright on the current crisis of racial justice. The basic summary from Tom: “The churches are in the wrong, not because they haven’t obeyed the politically correct agenda, but because they haven’t obeyed their own foundation charter.” I encourage you to dig into this insightful take from one of the best New Testament scholars and biblical theologians of our day.


Robert Larry“These Are My Reactions” – A couple weeks ago, a friend and former ministry resident at Eastbrook Church, Robert Larry, shared some of his thoughts with me on what it’s like to be a black man and Christian at this time in our nation. After sharing those thoughts with me, I asked him if he would be willing to share it with a broader audience, which he agreed to do. After yesterday’s celebration of Juneteenth, I hope Robert’s words inspire us to think, listen to one another, and grow toward greater authentic unity as the body of Christ.


alan jacobs“On Misunderstanding Critical Theory” – One of the more heated debates within the recent conversations about racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and much more relates to the domain of what is known as critical theory. Some will utilize critical theory to question some of the basic elements of societal structures, while others will criticize the use of critical theory as self-undermining and antithetical to rationality. Alan Jacobs, author of numerous books including the pertinent How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (which I highly recommend), has helpfully written about critical theory on his blog over the past month. I’d encourage you to take a read of these posts, which I found insightful:


Andrew Sullivan - debate“Is There Still Room for Debate?” – Andrew Sullivan enters into the difficult, if not disappearing ground, of public conversation over contentious issues. In past days, I have increasingly wondered if it is possible to have conversation and debates over difficult issues. It is something I have been considering deeply since reading Jacobs’ book How to Think (see above), as well as Christopher Smith’s book How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church. I ask myself both in regards to society and the church, “Do we even know how to talk anymore?” Sullivan makes an interesting attempt at addressing this flashpoint issue amidst flashpoint issues.


Supreme Court“Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ persons from employment discrimination” – There has been a lot of attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling related to employment discrimination against individuals within the LGBTQ community. Here is a quick summary from RNS on the case and ruling. You may also want to read Russell Moore’s take, “After the Bostock Supreme Court Case,” and Daniel Bennett’s take, “LGBT Rights Ruling Isn’t the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty.”


Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 6.57.24 AM“Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic” – From Christianity Today: “Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need. As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching on eschatology in lockdown. ‘The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,’ he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.”


Music: Wilco, “Love Is Everywhere,” from Ode to Joy

[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.]

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?”

 

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“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.]