The Weekend Wanderer: 19 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


Ukraine rubble“Wartime Prayers of Ukraine’s Evangelicals” – Jayson Casper in Christianity Today: “The Ukrainian church needs support. But so do the individuals who shepherd the body of Christ. Often they are lost behind the headlines and statistics of war. Even their quotes fail to convey the full depth of their struggle. Christianity Today asked Ukrainian evangelical leaders to help readers enter their war-torn world by sharing a glimpse of it. Each provided a Bible verse that has proven meaningful for perseverance, prayer requests for both concrete personal needs and more profound spiritual longings, and a referral to how readers can get involved.”


webRNS-kyiv-tv-tower1“Catholic theologians question the morality of Ukraine’s violent resistance” – Thomas Reese in Religion News Service: “The response of Catholic moral theologians to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been universally negative. ‘The war in Ukraine is a spiritual, human and ecological catastrophe,’ said Eli S. McCarthy, a peace activist at Georgetown University’s Justice and Peace Studies, in a recent email to me. The view is shared by Catholic pacifists as well as followers of the just war theory. There is no justification for the invasion, they agree. The fighting should stop, and the Russian troops should go home. Where Catholic moralists begin to disagree is on what means are appropriate in responding to the invasion. Peace advocates like McCarthy believe that a violent response will make matters worse. He bemoans the fact that ‘we have failed to adequately train people in nonviolent conflict, resistance and civilian-based defense.’…But pacifists aren’t the only ones questioning an armed response to the Russian invasion. The just war theory has never supported fighting a war, even a defensive war, if there is no chance of winning.”


Ambivalent Embodiment“Lenten Privations?” – Scott Cairns in The HuffPost Blog: “I, too, used to puzzle over the idea of “giving up” one thing or another for Lent. Having been brought up within a community of folks whose sense of who they were (Baptists of an exceedingly fundamental sort) was not nearly as strong as their sense of who they weren’t (Catholics), I hadn’t been offered much of an explanation along the way. More recently, having followed my heart to the East (specifically, the very Jewish-inflected early Church of Eastern Christian Orthodoxy), I’ve found a good bit more help in understanding the double whammy of self-deprivation and almsgiving. In that tradition, the period of Great Lent is certainly a period of fasting and self-examination, but it is no less a period of turning one’s attention from oneself to others. That is to say, the fathers and mothers of the Church have constructed an efficacious ascetical program that precludes eating meat and dairy for the duration, but they have coupled that program of self-constraint with an insistence upon giving to those in need….Fair to say, nothing about the Orthodox way is solely a matter of turning away (from sin, bad habits, or certain foods), but is necessarily a matter of turning toward Christ. One finds, as it happens, that when one turns toward Christ, the particulars of sin, etc., are relegated to being behind him. The point here is that the energy of saying “no” to one thing or another is far less efficacious than the energy of saying “yes” to something (Someone) more desirable.”


“Holy Sepulchre Church pavement restoration allows first-time excavation” – Judith Sudilovsky in The Jerusalem Post: “An archaeological study of the floor under the Church of the Holy Sepulchrewill be possible for the first time, after a two-year undertaking to repair and restore its pavement stones got underway in an inaugural ceremony on Monday. This is the second phase of restoration work in the church following the restoration of the Edicule in 2016-2017, revered by Christians as the tomb of Jesus, which was directed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and conducted by an interdisciplinary team from the National Technical University of Athens. The current work is being conducted under the direction of the Custody of the Holy Land in cooperation with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Armenian Patriarchate, the three historical guardians of the Church, according to the 1852 Status Quo agreement that solidified the territorial division among the Christian communities in the church and other holy Christian sites.”


“As Fewer Americans Attend Church, Can Coffee Shops Fill the Void?” – Dora Mekouar in Voice of America: “Churches and other houses of worship have historically played critical social and political functions in American society. But fewer people are attending religious services, and the decline of churches and other houses of worship threatens to leave a void that could potentially be filled by coffee shops. ‘For so much of American history, the church has really been — or their congregations have really been — essential, providing an unheralded role in providing cohesion and connectedness in communities … encouraging civic engagement and political participation,’ says Daniel Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. ‘It was not happenstance or luck that the civil rights movement emerged out of the church,’ Cox says. ‘And you see that cross-culturally … whether it’s in predominantly white rural communities, in the suburbs, wherever, churches have historically been really, really important.'”


128121“10 Biblical Terms I Wish Christians Had in English” – Jost Zetzsche in Christianity Today: “You’ve probably read the articles about foreign-language words that don’t have an immediate counterpart in English. As a German, I immediately think of schadenfreude, that apparently untranslatable term for, well, schadenfreude—the guilty joy you feel in someone else’s misfortune. Kudos to you virtuous native English speakers for not having your own word for that smug feeling. Other foreign words are also woven seamlessly into daily life, like the Swedish ombudsman, the Finnish sauna, or the Italian pizza. There are many others, of course, especially in a language like English that derived its uncommonly large dictionary from the treasure chests of many languages. Then there are the words that haven’t made it into the English dictionary yet, though they’ve achieved notoriety as beautiful but untranslatable terms. (As a translator, I’ll add that “untranslatable” isn’t exactly true. It’s just that we don’t have a word-to-word equivalent.) This includes terms like Danish hygge, which alludes to a sense of cozy comfort in the company of others, or the Finnish sisu, the concept of hidden inner strength in times of adversity. These words enrich how we view the world and offer insights about their cultures of origin. (Again, I apologize for schadenfreude!) What if we could similarly peel back linguistic barriers to see how other languages and cultures view God through the language they use? For almost five years I’ve been collecting and curating data about how languages around the world translate the Bible in different and often insightful ways. Here are a few examples of words I wish we had in English to understand and communicate with God more deeply.”


Music: Max Richter, “On the Nature of Daylight,” from The Blue Noteboks

Scott Cairns, “Idiot Psalms” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Scott Cairns’ poem “Idiot Psalms.” Scott Cairns is a contemporary American poet with nine poetry collections, who also is a librettist, memoirist, and translator. Cairns is the program director of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA in Creative Writing program.


1   

A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by Jew’s harp.

O God Belovéd if obliquely so, 
                     dimly apprehended in the midst 
                     of this, the fraught obscuring fog   
                     of my insufficiently capacious ken,   
                     Ostensible Lover of our kind—while 
                     apparently aloof—allow 
                     that I might glimpse once more 
                     Your shadow in the land, avail 
                     for me, a second time, the sense 
                     of dire Presence in the pulsing 
                     hollow near the heart.   
Once more, O Lord, from Your enormity incline 
                     your Face to shine upon Your servant, shy 
                     of immolation, if You will. 

                                     2   

A psalm of Isaak, accompanied by baying hounds.

O Shaper of varicolored clay and cellulose, O Keeper 
                     of same, O Subtle Tweaker, Agent 
                     of energies both appalling and unobserved,   
                     do not allow Your servant’s limbs to stiffen 
                     or to ossify unduly, do not compel Your servant   
                     to go brittle, neither cramping at the heart,   
                     nor narrowing his affective sympathies 
                     neither of the flesh nor of the alleged soul. 
Keep me sufficiently limber that I might continue 
                     to enjoy my morning run among the lilies   
                     and the rowdy waterfowl, that I might 
                     delight in this and every evening’s intercourse   
                     with the woman you have set beside me. 
Make me to awaken daily with a willingness 
                     to roll out readily, accompanied 
                     by grateful smirk, a giddy joy,   
                     the idiot’s undying expectation,   
                     despite the evidence. 

                                     3 

A psalm of Isaak, whispered mid the Philistines, beneath the breath.

Master both invisible and notoriously   
                     slow to act, should You incline to fix   
                     Your generous attentions for the moment 
                     to the narrow scene of this our appointed 
                     tedium, should You—once our kindly 
                     secretary has duly noted which of us 
                     is feigning presence, and which excused, which unexcused, 
                     You may be entertained to hear how much we find to say 
                     about so little. Among these other mediocrities, 
                     Your mediocre servant gets a glimpse of how 
                     his slow and meager worship might appear 
                     from where You endlessly attend our dreariness. 
Holy One, forgive, forgo and, if You will, fend off   
                     from this my heart the sense that I am drowning here   
                     amid the motions, the discussions, the several 
                     questions endlessly recast, our paper ballots. 

                                     4   

Isaak’s penitential psalm, unaccompanied.

Again, and yes again, O Ceaseless Tolerator 
                     of our bleaking recurrences, O Forever Forgoing   
                     Foregone (sans conclusion), O Inexhaustible, 
                     I find my face against the floor, and yet again 
                     my plea escapes from unclean lips, and from a heart 
                     caked in and constricted by its own soiled residue. 
You are forever, and forever blessed, and I aspire 
                     one day to slip my knot and change things up, 
                     to manage at least one late season sinlessly, 
                     to bow before you yet one time without chagrin.


Previous poems in this series:

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 October 2021

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 linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Ed Stetzer“When will Christians learn from the unending engagement cycle of evangelicalism and race?” – Ed Stetzer in USAToday: “As the executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, one of my joys is leading people through our museum. Filled with historical artifacts and pictures, it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness. One of my favorite pictures is of Billy Graham standing next to Martin Luther King Jr. I start by telling people how Graham took down segregation ropes for his meetings in the South. But the story doesn’t stop there. Historian Grant Wacker notes that as the civil rights movement intensified, Graham distanced himself from King by attempting to chart a moderate path. Decades later, Graham himself would speak of his lack of engagement in the civil rights movement as one of his great regrets. This same story of engagement, retreat and regret has come to define an evangelical culture that is bigger than Billy Graham. For more than a century, the broader evangelical movement has been in a cycle of engagement when opportunities arise, retreat when pressures and obstacles intensify, and regret at the failure to achieve any lasting change. Worse, the burden of this regret too frequently falls on evangelicals of color, as they are left abandoned only to be greeted with new promises next cycle.”


1067980“Donetsk: Three Protestant churches banned” – Felix Corley at Forum 18: “The unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, has this summer banned three Protestant churches. One of the churches appears still able to meet for worship as it tries to gain registration. The rebel entity’s latest Religion Law change restricts registered religious associations’ activities to “participants and/or members”. In June the Culture Minister ordered musical and other artistic institutions to display lists of banned books & organisations.”


Biopolitics“‘Biopolitics’ Are Unavoidable” – Matthew Loftus at Mere Orthodoxy: “In the struggle to fight COVID-19, terms like ‘public health’ and ‘community health’ have been bandied about in an attempt to describe the ways in which our health as individuals is not dependent on ourselves alone. Wendell Berry says: ‘I believe that the community — in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures — is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.’ Berry’s statement speaks to our intuition that not only our individual activities, but also the health of the people, animals, plants, microbes, air, water, and soil around us all affect our health and we in turn affect them. As often as modern human beings would like to think of themselves as autonomous agents who determine their own bodily destinies, the reality is that the only appreciable limit to our contingency is how many things around us we can name. From this observation about the nature of our bodies we can move to a theological understanding of health.”


GettyImages-1234554084-e1628612279165“The Bible and COVID Vaccines” – Mark Talbot at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “Does the Bible offer us any insight into whether we should take the COVID vaccine? I think it does when we think through the implications of the early chapters of Genesis. Right before God made the first human beings, he declared why he was making them: ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’ (Gen. 1:26). God made us to be his earthly images who would represent him by ruling wisely and lovingly over the rest of creation. Then, immediately after making our first parents, he gave them what is often called the creation mandate; namely, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). God, as the psalmist puts it, gave the earth to us (see Ps. 115:16). We are meant to rule over it by exercising dominion over the animals and subduing whatever needs to be subdued.”


typewriter“5 Contemporary Poets Christians Should Read” – Mischa Willett at The Gospel Coalition: “I’m always a little sad after a poetry reading when someone comes up and tells me they’re ‘really into Christian poets,’ and when I ask excitedly ‘which ones?’ they rattle off a short list that ends with Gerard Manley Hopkins or George Herbert. Not that those poets aren’t required reading—absolute masters of the form and of the heart’s hows—but because there is so much good crop still being pulled from the fertile fields of theologically inflected verse. I always wish I carried around a backpack full of books by Mark Jarman, or Jennifer Maier, or Dana Gioia, to thrust into their readerly hands, beaming, ‘It’s still happening!’ It would be a kind of ministry, edifying the body thus. Here then is my own short list of contemporary poets of faith Christians should read.”


Justice Songs“Why Don’t We Sing Justice Songs in Worship?” – Michael J. Rhodes in Christianity Today: “In 2018, an unusual Bible made national news. Published in 1807, the so-called ‘Slave Bible’ offered Caribbean slaves a highly edited edition of the KJV. The editors presumably cut out parts of Scripture that could undermine slavery or incite rebellion. If you want a pro-slavery Bible, it’s unsurprising you’d get rid of the exodus story or drop Paul’s declaration that in Christ ‘there is … neither slave nor free’ (Gal. 3:28). But why did the creators of the ‘Slave Bible’ cut out the Book of Psalms? After all, the portions that tend to be well known and well-loved draw our minds toward well-tended sheep sitting by quiet waters. Yet upon closer inspection, Psalms is obsessed with the Lord’s liberating justice for the oppressed. And because the book offers us prayers and songs, it doesn’t just tell us how to think about justice—it offers us scripts to practice shouting and singing about it. But when I recently took a quick look at the lyrics of the first 25 songs listed in the ‘CCLI Top 100′ worship songs reportedly sung by churches and compared them to the way the Psalms sing about justice, I realized that we don’t necessarily follow that script.”


Music: Tim Hughes, “God of Justice,” Holding Nothing Back.