The Weekend Wanderer: 4 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.


Regnerus marriage“Can the Church Save Marriage?” – The cover story in the most recent issues of Christianity Today is an attention getter. Her is Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and co-founder of the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture: “According to a Census Bureau survey taken in 2018, only 35 percent of 25- to 34-year-old men were married, a precipitous and rapid plunge from 50 percent in 2005. These numbers point toward a clear and frightening trajectory: Marriage is getting rarer. Fast. Getting married is something humans have done for millennia out of economic practicality, if not out of love. Some challenges in tying the knot are old and mathematical—for example, more women are interested in matrimony than men. Others are recent and ideological, including the new norm of short-term relationships and the penchant for ‘keeping your options open.'”


Screen Shot 2020-07-02 at 10.07.19 AM“Evangelical leaders are speaking up about race — but will this new focus last?” – Adelle M. Banks at RNS: “Many prominent white evangelicals have made statements about Black lives in the weeks since the May 25 death of George Floyd, but is this new focus among white conservatives — and white Christians in general — momentary or lasting? Researchers working at the crossroads of religion and race say it’s too soon to say. But highlights of a forthcoming study, which looks at racism, biblical interpretation and church cultures, may indicate a long struggle ahead. Michael Emerson, co-author of the 2000 book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, said 2019 findings indicate “zero evidence” of a closing of the long-standing gap between how white evangelicals and Black Christians view racial inequality.


merlin_173727378_812b7d4e-3b86-4952-8daf-dc0aa7cd78e9-superJumbo“America Is Facing 5 Epic Crises All at Once” – David Brooks offers his take on five epic crises that are hitting our nation all at once related to COVID-19, race, politics, social justice, and economics. The result? “These five changes, each reflecting a huge crisis and hitting all at once, have created a moral, spiritual and emotional disaster. Americans are now less happy than at any time since they started measuring happiness nearly 50 years ago. Americans now express less pride in their nation than at any time since Gallup started measuring it 20 years ago.” What does Brooks suggest? You’ll have to read his article.


Supreme Court“Supreme Court opens door to state funding for religious schools” – From CNN: “In a ruling that will open the door to more public funding for religious education, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of parents in Montana seeking to use a state scholarship program to send their children to religious schools. The court said that a Montana tax credit program that directed money to private schools could not exclude religious schools. The 5-4 ruling was penned by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the court’s four conservative justices. ‘A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,’ Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.”


Hagia Sophia“Hagia Sophia: Turkey delays decision on turning site into mosque” – Turkey is debating whether to turn the architectural wonder, Hagia Sophia, which is currently a museum, back into a mosque. The structure was built in the 6th century as the seat of the Orthodox patriarchate in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Later, when the Ottoman Empire sacked Constantinople and renamed the city Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. After World War I, the modern Turkish secular state was formed and Hagia Sophia was dedicated as a museum opened to the public in 1935.  Things have been changing in Turkey and this historic site is at the center of the latest controversy, which some see as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to erase Turkey’s Christian past.


Jimmy Dunn“Rest in Peace, Jimmy” – This is probably a scholarly footnote for many people, but renowned New Testament scholar James D. G. Dunn passed away last week. Dunn is best known for his work on the Apostle Paul, ranging from outstanding commentaries to groundbreaking theological work related to Paul’s theology. Dunn’s work was pivotal in what has come to be known as the “New Perspective” on Paul. On that theme, you might enjoy this ten-minute introduction to the New Perspective on Paul by Dunn and N. T. Wright from over ten years ago. This remembrance by Scot McKnight, one of Dunn’s students and a highly-regarded New Testament scholar himself, is well worth the read.


Iowa landscape“When Dvořák Went to Iowa to Meet God: Music that gives voice to the longing for home” – I grew up in the Mississippi River Valley of Illinois, just across the river from Iowa. While everyone who lived in Illinois knew for sure that Iowa was not “heaven,” there is still something special about the wide open spaces of the Midwestern prairies. I did not know that the famed Czech composer Antonín Dvořák spent a transformative time in Iowa “When Dvořák looked over the grassland vastness of Iowa, he felt that very strange and contrary coupling of hopeful contentment and melancholy we sometimes feel on summer evenings, as the stars and cicadas both come up and the grass lets off a damp, fresh smell.”


Music: Gustavo Dudamel with Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, “Dvorak – Symphony no. 9 – 4th movement – Allegro con fuoco,” recorded at a celebration for Pope Benedict XVI.

[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.]

Amos [God in the Ruins]

God in the Ruins Series GFX_App SquareThis past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our series on the minor prophets, “God in the Ruins,” by turning attention to the prophet Amos. Amos is best-known for his strong words about justice and righteousness, and his stinging rebuke of the people of Israel, particularly their leaders.

Unlike many other minor prophets, Amos has a clearly-defined vocation as a shepherd (Amos 1:1) and dresser of sycamore-fig trees (7:14). He was likely a wealthy land-owner who does not serve as a prophet beyond a short period of time. Even though he was from the southern kingdom of Judah in the vicinity of Tekoa, just south of Jerusalem, Amos prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel at the height of its economic prosperity and political power around 760 BC.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series on the minor prophets here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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The Weekend Wanderer: 10 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.

Donna Barrett“Groundbreaking Vote” – “Delegates at the 2019 General Council returned Assemblies of God General Secretary Donna L. Barrett [to her post]….The election marked the first time a woman has been elected to a national office by a General Council vote in the 105-year history of the U.S. Assemblies of God….Barrett, 59, came into office in June 2018 by a vote of the Executive Presbytery. She received a standing ovation after the outcome announcement.” More info here: “Assemblies of God Elects First Woman to Top Leadership Team.”

 

Birmingham stained glass.jpg“Who’s Afraid of Social Justice” – Brian Dijkema at Comment relates his apology for the biblical calling to justice. “You can work very, very hard to downplay the host of scriptural references to justice, and the thread of justice that appears to run from the book of Genesis to Revelation, and which is captured in Reformed and small-c catholic confessions. You can ignore it; you can pretend it’s not there; you can attempt to blunt the sharpness of God’s Word; you can attempt to douse the holy fire that accompanies the execution of justice in Scripture, or to mute the strain and anguish of the voices in Scripture that cry out for justice. But after all of your efforts, justice will still be there in the embrace of peace, ready to be picked up by the downtrodden who read God’s Word; ready to convict the tyrant who is confronted by God’s Word; ready to lull those of us sitting comfortably on our dragon hoard of wealth to obey God’s command; ready to provide us with hope and encouragement.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 12.44.05 PM“America’s gun problem, explained” – After the shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, everyone’s attention was turned toward the violence in our nation. Many, including clergy, linked these hate crimes with white nationalism. However, it returns us to the divisive dialogue around gun violence and legislation in the United States. Both this article from Vox and a companion piece at CNN (“How US gun culture compares with the world”) help examine statistics and data related to gun violence, hate crimes, and comparison with international approaches to guns. Regardless of your politics, this is worth the read.

 

Toni Morrison“Remembering the Peerless Toni Morrison” – If you’ve never read anything by Toni Morrison, you should do so within the year. I first read her in a literature class in college, and my wife regularly taught Beloved in her high school literature classes. “Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and peerless American author, died on Monday at the age of 88. Since the publication of her debut novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970, Morrison has been established as one of the most powerful and distinct voices in literature, a lyrical chronicler and witness to the African American experience. Her 1987 novel, Beloved, the story of a former enslaved person who is haunted by the child she killed, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, and was named the best work of American fiction of the late 20th century by The New York Times in 2006.”

 

91627“Bonhoeffer Convinced Me to Abandon My Dream” – Many of you know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my (dead) theological mentors and heroes. His statements on the church in Life Together revolutionized my cynicism. Here is Chase Replogle with a deeper dive into Bonhoeffer’s statements that challenged him to abandon his wish dreams to embrace the church that God had placed right in front of him. Pastors, take heed.

 

Upstart Kitchen“UpStart Kitchen Hopes To Boost Milwaukee Food Entrepreneurs” – Here’s some local news from Milwaukee about an exciting new initiative arising from the efforts of some friends. “There’s a new effort underway to help low and moderate-income food entrepreneurs in Milwaukee. UpStart Kitchen is an incubator kitchen set to open late summer in the Sherman Park neighborhood. It’s a shared, commercial kitchen space for chefs and caterers with dreams of opening or expanding their food businesses. It also has services to help the businesses get off the ground.”

 

Terry Gross 1991“Fresh Air Archive” – After 40 years of the NPR show Fresh Air, the entire archive of Terry Gross’ interviews have been archived and made available to listeners. Regardless of your perspective or politics, you cannot deny that Gross is an incredibly gifted interviewer with a probing curiosity that helps open up her guests. You might enjoy listening to her interview with cartoonist Charles Schulz (of “Peanuts” fame). She has also interviewed a number of Christian thinkers over the years, including Francis Collins, Richard Cizik, Al Mohler, Jim Wallis, Jerry Falwell, Peter Gomes, and more.

 

semicolon“The Birth of the Semicolon” – I don’t know why these sort of things interest me, but they do. “The semicolon was born in Venice in 1494. It was meant to signify a pause of a length somewhere between that of the comma and that of the colon, and this heritage was reflected in its form, which combines half of each of those marks. It was born into a time period of writerly experimentation and invention, a time when there were no punctuation rules, and readers created and discarded novel punctuation marks regularly.”

Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, “Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis,” conducted by Andrew Davis and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at Gloucester Cathedral.

[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: 16 February 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.

Jemar Tisby“This Black History Month, don’t pretend racism has disappeared from the church” – In the first of two articles on issues of race and the church in this week’s edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” I’m sharing Jemar Tisby’s reflections on the ways in which the church often ignores current challenges around issues of ethnicity, racism, and inequality. Tisby is an important voice in Christianity on racial issues today, advocating for engagement with these challenging issues in his recent book, The Color of Compromise, and over at The Witness. Just before I published this edition of “The Weekend Wanderer,” Tisby was featured in an interview with Wesley Hill at Comment Magazine entitled “The Future of Church-Race Relations” that is well worth the read.

 

Roger E Olson.jpg“Is Evangelicalism White?” – The second article on this topic is by theologian and church historian, Roger E. Olson. In this essay, Olson makes a case that contemporary equation of evangelicalism with whiteness within news and sociology misses the point of a more nuanced discussion of evangelicalism from unique viewpoints of spiritual-theological ethos and sociological-religious movement.

 

Oneya Okuwobi“‘Everything that I’ve Done Has Always Been Multiethnic’: Biographical Work among Leaders of Multiracial Churches” – On a related theme, Oneya Okuwobi recently published a journal article on biographical work with pastors of multiethnic churches. She write: “I find that pastors of multiracial churches pattern their biographies after two predominant formula stories, laying claim to being people who are experienced with diversity and/or experienced with racial injustice. These formula stories reveal institutionalized understandings of biographies acceptable for pastors of multiracial churches that cut across denominational lines. The biographies of these leaders also reveal a shift toward diversity and away from recognition of racial injustice that has implications for the racial structure.”

 

89461“Nadia Bolz-Weber’s Gospel of Shame-Free Sexuality”Wesley Hill reviews Nadia Bolz-Weber’s latest book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. Bolz-Weber is an iconoclastic Lutheran pastor who has been a spokesperson for progressive Christianity. While I’m sympathetic to some of her statements about fundamentalist Christianity, Hill’s even-handed and clear assessment of this book is worth reading. If you prefer a more blunt, but honest and accurate, assessment of Bolz-Weber, let me refer you to Rod Dreher’s “Sex & the Single Pastor.”

 

Barna_2019_RevivingEvangelism_charts_v1“Almost Half of Practicing Christian Millennials Say Evangelism Is Wrong” – A new study by the Barna Group and commissioned by Alpha USAReviving Evangelism, highlights some disappointing yet unsurprising trends in contemporary North American Christianity. The trend that has made the most headlines (see “Half of Millennial Christians Say It’s Wrong to Evangelize” in Christianity Today) is the identification that, while prepared to share their faith, most millennial Christians are unsure of whether evangelism is something they should do at all. The chart I post on the right highlights how this is a progression of something that has been developing in earlier generations as well.

 

Michael Green“Alister McGrath: Michael Green Taught Me the Importance of Evangelism” – Since we’re on the topic of evangelism, I hope you enjoy this personal reflection by Alister McGrath on the life and legacy of Michael Green, one of the greatest champions for evangelism in the late 20th century. I first encountered Green’s work through a class with one of my mentors, Dr. Lyle Dorsett, entitled “Jesus and Evangelism.” Green is perhaps best known for two of his books, Evangelism in the Early Church and I Believe in the Holy Spirit, although he wrote many more. You will not have wasted your time if you read those great books, and if you put them into practice in your own life.

 

tell-your-children“Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence”Alex Berenson, former New York Times reporter and author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence, summarizes some of the mains strands of his exploration within that book in this relatively brief essay. This is particularly relevant because as the rise in marijuana usage combines with efforts at legalization that do not always tell the whole story about the impact of marijuana on the human body and mind, let alone society as a whole.

 

endpapers“Hold the front pages: meet the endpaper enthusiasts” – Now for something a little lighter. Enjoy this article focusing on the beauty of endpapers in book publishing.  “In a small sanctuary from world events, book lovers gather to sigh over the most beautiful decorative pages and compare techniques.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in The Daily Prufrock.]

 

Music: “Everlasting God” by William Murphy.  [Thanks to Gabriel Douglas for sharing this link with me.]

 

[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: 15 September 2018

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.

 

The head pastor of the Zion church in Beijing Jin Mingri poses for picures in the lobby of the unofficial Protestant "house" church in Beijing“China outlaws large underground Protestant church in Beijing” – Those connected to the church in China are aware that the government has been putting increasing pressure on churches in China. This latest news is one more example of that. “Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated ‘illegal promotional materials’, amid a deepening crackdown on China’s ‘underground’ churches.” See Christianity Today‘s helpful write-up about this here.

 

O6THYFTPZII6NGJ7OPDJHKEYEA“John MacArthur’s ‘Statement on Social Justice’ Is Aggravating Evangelicals” according to Christianity Today‘s “Quick to Listen” podcast. And they’re not alone, as is evidenced by a lot of mainstream attention to “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel” authored by John MacArthur and others (see last week’s “Weekend Wanderer” for more info). In one of his columns this week at The Washington Post, Michael Gerson writes in response to the statement that “Christians are suffering from complete spiritual blindness.”  Over at the Missio Alliance blog, Dennis Edwards posted a two-part response to the statement. I keep intending to write something on this, but have not had the time to get there this week. However, I did mention in my message last weekend at Eastbrook Church that the church should be a kingdom-oriented community that is so heavenly minded that we are more earthly good than anyone else.

 

girl-1192032_1280“Gen Z’s Biggest Legacy: Has Social Media Hacked a Generation?” – Rachel Seo, a sophomore at UC San Diego, reflects on social media’s impact on her generation. “There is research now that, in addition to paralleling with my own experiences, reveals the darker effects of social media, most particularly its long-lasting impact on Gen Z. Did anyone predict the impact of how a few apps could lead my generation into a mental health crisis? Could anyone have predicted it? Or, perhaps more hauntingly, did some people know about the potential effects that it would have on others—and simply not care enough to share?”

 

religious-father-praying-with-children“How parents act on their religious beliefs linked to the onset of atheism in their children” – A recent study at Religion, Brain & Behavior (“Predicting age of atheism: credibility enhancing displays and religious importance, choice, and conflict in family of upbringing“), highlights the fact that the credibility in the way parents live out their faith directly influences the way in which their children lean toward atheism. Eric Dolan writes of the study: “People tend to become atheists at a younger age when their religious parents talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, according to new research published in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior. The study provides evidence that exposure to religiously-motivated actions plays an important role in the onset of atheism.”

 

virtues“Why You Can’t Name the Virtues” – Speaking of credibility in our faith, Karen Swallow Prior writes about the moral vacuum, not just in terms of action, but in terms of character formation. This is basically an excerpt from her book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life in Great Books, which was just released. She writes: “For the past several decades, American evangelicalism has been concerned about morality—and for good reason. Sexual promiscuity, pornography, abortion, divorce, materialism, racism, and countless other ills so permeate our culture—even among the churched—that they seem to be the rule rather than the exception. But moral choices flow from moral character. Perhaps if we wish to reform morality, we should turn more attention to the formation of character.”

 

24f547f8af102a02576ce0a9d5d7bda6“When the Ship Has Sailed: Alan Jacobs on Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis” – Alan Jacobs’ new book, The Year of Our Lord 1943, explores the inheritance of the Christian intellectual tradition in the middle of the twentieth century, weaving together the life and thought of W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil.Whether you have or have not read the book, you will likely enjoy this interview with Jacobs by Robert L. Kehoe III at The Point in which they discuss various strands of Jacobs’ argument in the book, with a few loose ends in greater depth, including a few last words about Jacques Ellul.

 

perfect storm“Leadership’s Perfect Storm” – Steve Smith of Potter’s Inn reflects on the leadership failures in the evangelical church, giving attention to four main forces that he finds most concerning in today’s realm of leadership: “a success intoxicated leadership culture; the cult of emphasizing leadership gifts and skills rather than integrity and character; unchecked power in positions of leadership; and the unchecked speed and busyness in the life of a leader.” This is definitely worth a read, and has wider application than simply in the church. [Thanks to Tom Keppeler for sharing this article.]

 

power“Confronting the Toxic Power in Me: High-profile stories of fallen pastors can distract us from ourselves or hold up a mirror to our souls” – This article pairs well with Steve Smith’s above, this time giving attention to our own selves. If you ever read articles about the failure of leaders and say, “I would never do that,” then you are deceiving yourself in some way. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel offer a very meaningful look at power and the ways in which we all can deceive ourselves. I remember the words of an older Christian who, in the midst of a discussion about temptation, said to me: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” May we let God’s grace into our lives in ever-more transforming ways.

 

alan lee“Making fantasy reality: Alan Lee, the man who redrew Middle-earth” – With the release of the latest posthumous collection of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories from Middle-Earth, The Guardian offered a nice interview with Alan Lee. Lee’s illustrations of Tolkien’s world are so closely linked with the works themselves that his vision of Middle Earth was one of the greatest inspirations for the film adaptations, aside from Tolkien’s own illustrations.

 

sub“Eerie photos show dilapidated relics of the Soviet era” – When I saw some of these photos, my mind spun around in all sorts of combinations of post-apocalyptic movies with some tinges of science fiction. If that’s your sort of thing, you should spend some time browsing through this unique photo collection. “Many of the areas where the photos were taken were inaccessible during the Soviet era, as they contained classified technology. They depict monuments, factories, military bases and various kinds of vehicles and technology, most in an advanced state of decay.”

 

[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.]