“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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.
“The Field Is the World” – John-Paul Heil in Comment: “I kneel down in the dirt and pick up a freshly overturned clod that has fallen out of the post digger. The clod is thick, the size of a small can of soup. At the top is loam, brown and well-hydrated organic matter formed from digested compost. Halfway down, the clod turns a brownish red, the colour of dried blood, as the loam blends into the Penn-channery silt topsoil that makes this place ‘farmland of statewide importance.’ Though it doesn’t look it, this clod came from three years of work regenerating this soil’s nutrients. My volunteer, Teresa (whose name is not really Teresa), a first-grader with thick, Coke-bottle glasses who’s about an inch shorter than her classmates, looks with pride on her work as I hold up the clod to show the rest of her class. Teresa does not know it, but she has dug deep enough with the post digger to expose the wound healing underneath this hard-won good soil. It’s the beginning of summer in the middle of a global pandemic, and I am standing at the end of a crop row helping a group of six-year-olds plant seasonal crops at Good Soil Farm, LLC, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Teresa’s group has eleven, one-third of the students visiting the farm today from a local Catholic school. The second group is on the field’s far side with Stephen McGinley, the farm’s founder, visiting sheep and chickens put out to pasture. His wife, Casey-Mae, the farm’s only other employee, is reading Aesop’s pastoral fables to the third group. Although it’s so near the end of the school year and despite having to wear face masks on a humid, eighty-five-degree day, the children are enthusiastic. They ask questions about farming the entire time I’m with them; some are so insightful that I have difficulty thinking of an answer. Teresa’s teacher remarked earlier that this is their year’s most literal field trip. By summer’s end, over one hundred children will have visited the farm as part of this program.”
“A Roadmap for Spiritual Formation” – Robert Mulholland at The Transforming Center‘s “Beyond Words” blog: “Spiritual formation has become one of the major movements of the late twentieth century. Spiritualities of all varieties have emerged on the landscape of our culture—Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Zen, various Eastern meditation techniques, New Age spirituality and a confusing welter of cults, to say nothing of chemically induced alterations of consciousness. In the face of a radical loss of meaning, value and purpose engendered by a largely materialistic, hedonistic, consumer society, human hearts are hungering for deeper realities in which their fragmented lives can find some measure of wholeness and integrity. They are seeking deeper experiences with God through which their troubled lives can find meaning, value, purpose and identity. The Christian community, which should have been a clear voice of liberation and wholeness in the wilderness of human bondage and brokenness, has too often been merely an echo of the culture, further confusing those on a wandering and haphazard quest for wholeness. A multitude of Christian ‘gurus’ have emerged who promise their followers life, liberty and the perfection of happiness. Superficial pop spiritualities abound, promising heaven on earth but producing only failure and frustration for those genuinely hungering and thirsting after God. Much contemporary Christian spirituality tends to view the spiritual life as a static possession rather than a dynamic and ever-developing growth toward wholeness in the image of Christ. ”
“Disembodied Worship?: How Posture Impacts Spiritual Experience” – Annelise Jolley at the Templeton Foundation blog: “The past two-plus pandemic years have shifted everything, church included. Churches initially scrambled to live-stream their services, with many now comfortably settled into hybrid formats for the long term. Physical church attendance is down compared to pre-pandemic levels, but many people who formerly sat side-by-side on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays are still joining together to worship—they’re just doing it remotely. A recent Pew report found that as many as 21 percent of worshipers still substitute virtual attendance for in-person worship. The Christian Barna Group reported similar findings: one in five Christian adults primarily tunes in to services online, with one in four mixing online and in-person worship. There are many upsides to the rise of virtual church. At the top of the list: protecting the vulnerable and immune-compromised. Services have become more accessible and therefore more inclusive, particularly for people who have difficulty leaving their homes due to physical, transportation, and time constraints. At the bottom of the list ranks convenience—both a blessing and a curse in our era of instant gratification. On the flip side, something essential is lost when congregants only congregate remotely. Beyond social engagement and deepened relationships, believers miss out on embodied worship: that vital experience of corporate, physical posturing.”
“How the World Lost Its Story” – An article from 1993 by Robert W. Jenson in First Things: “It is the whole mission of the church to speak the gospel. As to what sort of thing “the gospel” may be, too many years ago I tried to explain that in a book with the title Story and Promise, and I still regard these two concepts as the best analytical characterization of the church’s message. It is the church’s constitutive task to tell the biblical narrative to the world in proclamation and to God in worship, and to do so in a fashion appropriate to the content of that narrative, that is, as a promise claimed from God and proclaimed to the world. It is the church’s mission to tell all who will listen, God included, that the God of Israel has raised his servant Jesus from the dead, and to unpack the soteriological and doxological import of that fact. That book, however, was directed to the modern world, a world in which it was presumed that stories and promises make sense. What if these presumptions are losing hold? I will in this essay follow the fashion of referring to the present historical moment as the advent of a “post modern” world, because, as I am increasingly persuaded, the slogan does point to something real, a world that has no story and so cannot entertain promises. Two preliminary clarifications are, however, needed.”
“The best microscope photos of 2022 reveal a hidden world of dino-bone crystals, human tongue bacteria, and slime mold” – Morgan McFall-Johnsen in Business Insider: “Nikon’s Small World competition recognizes the best microscope photographs of the year. Microscopy is an art and a science, revealing the alien beauty of the hidden world all around us. Scientists, artists, and enthusiasts from all over the world submit their painstakingly crafted photos of cells, nerves, micro crystals, mold, and tiny creatures like this anemone larva. The 2022 winners include a stack of moth eggs, a flowery sea of colon cells, and bacteria coating a human tongue cell. This year, Grigorii Timin won first place by stitching together hundreds of images to reveal the nerves, bones, tendons, ligaments, and blood cells in the 3-millimeter-wide hand of a gecko embryo.”
“When Culture Wars Go Way Too Far” – David French at “The French Press” in The Dispatch: “Last month The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg published a fascinating interview with Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid. The entire interview is worth reading—especially if you have interest in Israeli politics and the prospects for Middle East peace—but two sentences from the prime minister stood out as particularly insightful. ‘Everybody is stuck in this left-versus-right traditional dynamic,’ he said. ‘But today, all over the world, it’s centrist versus extremist.’ I wanted to stand up and cheer. Now, to be clear, this is a strange position for me. I’ve always been conservative. In the left versus right context, I’ve always considered myself a man of the right—the Reagan right. But when the extremes grow more extreme, and the classical liberal structure of the American republic is under intellectual and legal attack, suddenly I’m an involuntary moderate. So, for example, I’m a person who believes in the traditional Christian doctrines of marriage and sexual morality. I don’t believe in sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. I don’t agree that trans men are ‘men’ or that trans women are ‘women,’ and while I strive to treat every person I encounter with dignity and respect, I don’t use preferred pronouns because their use is a form of assent to a system of belief to which I don’t subscribe. That makes me pretty far right, correct? Not when the right gets authoritarian or closes its mind and heart to the legacy of real injustice. I’m apparently the conservative movement’s foremost defender of the civil liberties of drag queens. I’m constantly decried as ‘woke’ in part because I don’t discard all of the relevant insights gained from critical race theory, I strongly oppose efforts to ‘ban’ CRT, and also because I believe in multigenerational institutional responsibility to ameliorate the enduring harm caused by centuries of racial oppression. The through line is pretty simple. I’m both a traditionally orthodox Christian and a strong believer in classical liberalism, pluralism, and legal equality. I’m a believer in those political values because I’m a traditionally orthodox Christian. I want to create and sustain the kind of republic that was envisioned by George Washington at his best, a place where ‘Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid.'”
Music: Kevin Prosch, “Even So Come” (Live), from A Live Night of Worship