The Weekend Wanderer: 12 October 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.

Kurds Syria Trump“Christian Leaders Say Turkish Invasion Of Syria Raises Risk Of ‘Genocide'” – Some of my good friends and partners in ministry are from Syria. Walking with them through the challenges of having to flee their war-torn homeland has helped me see and hear international news even more differently than I did before. With the happenings in our politics, it is sometimes hard to remember that there are real people on the ground in Syria, and that many of them are our Christian brothers and sisters. There has already been a subtle excavation of Christian presence from the Middle East and we need to pay attention. This is more than a foreign policy issue for followers of Jesus.

 

Amman city view, in Jordan“Jordanian Evangelicals Push for Official Recognition” – As we begin our annual MissionsFest at Eastbrook Church, we’re privileged to have one of our long-time partners in ministry from Jordan, Rev. Yousef Hashweh, join us to preach during our first weekend. The church in Jordan is strong, but shrinking because of economic and political challenges. Their voice has been valued by King Abdullah, but they struggle at time to maintain that voice in the changing tides of culture. I was interested to read on Thursday about this latest move in Jordan for evangelical churches representing five denominations (Baptists, Assemblies of God, Evangelical Free, Nazarene, and Christian & Missionary Alliance) to come together to form a new Jordanian Evangelical Council.

 

J D Greear“SBC President: We Failed to Heed Victims’ Voices” – Perhaps one of the most notable issues in the North American church has been attention given to sexual abuse claims within the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the USA.  There are cases of coverups and deaf ears, leaving a dark history of regrettably unChristian behavior within the SBC.  In the midst of such darkness, I do think it is important to at least recognize that the current SBC President, J. D. Greear, appears to be trying to deal with this directly, even as there is still much work to be done.

 

92300“‘I’m a Pastor IRL'” – I may be dating myself, but I still remember when Facebook hit the scene in the midst of my years of working as a College Pastor. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but adopted it right away first as a means of communicating with students and later attempted to utilize it as a platform for ministry. It was during that same time that I began my blog here. All of these were experiments for me in utilizing new technologies as avenues for ministry to people. Some of it worked, while other parts didn’t work as well. I haven’t been on Facebook for several years now, but that’s another story. Here’s Glenn Packiam, associate senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, reflecting on some pretty significant questions. “Is there a way for us as pastors to bear God’s image in online interactions, to be a kind of icon of Christ? Let me suggest three areas to consider: identity and self (who are we?), presence and place (where are we?), and authority and power (what are we capable of?). These questions will guide us even as specific apps and devices change in the years ahead.”

 

DiklalaorEve“Israeli Photographer Brings Female Biblical Figures to Life with Magnificent Images” – “The bible has for centuries been a source of inspiration and influence for art in all its forms. The canonical collection of texts sacred to Abrahamic religions has indeed inspired some of the world’s greatest known works of art. Israeli photographer Dikla Laor has worked for six years to bring the stories of female biblical figures to life through the camera lens, embarking on a unique project to imagine these characters’ appearances, dress, and demeanor against breathtaking backdrops. Her “Biblical Women Series” includes the “first woman,” Eve, the Jewish matriarchs – Sarah, Rivka (Rebecca), Leah and Rachel – Lot’s wife, the Queen of Sheba, the prophetess Deborah, and Jezebel, among over 40 such photographs.”

 

52.large“Pluralism, Difference, and the Dynamics of Trust” – Do you ever read the news and wonder if there is any way out of the cultural divides and distrust? I do. On my more hopeful days, I believe that there are ways toward living out Christ’s kingdom in the midst of a pluralistic society that could restore hope, joy, truth, and love in peoples’ lives and the broader society. In my less hopeful days, I try not to get cynical. Underlying significant portions of this is the need for restoration of public trust. I enjoyed reading this 2017 dialogue between John Inazu, Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University, and James K. A. Smith when he was still editor at Comment. Inazu’s Confident Pluralism is on my “to read” list, and this interview encouraged me to get to it sometime soon.

 

92385“Supreme Court Cases Challenge LGBT Rights-Religious Liberty Balancing Act” – Speaking of difference and the dynamics of trust, the Supreme Court has been giving attention to the most significant case at the nexus of sexual rights and religious liberty since the 2015 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. “The United States Supreme Court was debating the meaning of the word sex on Tuesday when Chief Justice John Roberts brought up religion. He called it ‘that other concern’—religious liberty. Roberts asked: How can the government protect the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees in the workplace and the rights of religious groups to employ people who agree on issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity?”

 

N T Wright“Discerning the Dawn: History, Eschatology and New Creation” – Anytime N. T. Wright is publishes a new book, I take interest. Wright is an amazing scholar of the New Testament and Christian history. When I heard about his forthcoming book, History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology, it caught my attention because of the interesting combination of ideas. I wondered what it was about, and then I discovered that this book is drawn from Wright’s eight Gifford lectures in 2018, which are available online for viewing. If you have more time than I do, you may enjoy watching all of them.

 

Music: Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno, “An Ending (Ascent),” from Apollo – Atmospheres & Soundtracks.

[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: 6 October 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.

 

nobel prize“Nobel Peace Prize for anti-rape activists Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege” – From the BBC: “The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has gone to campaigners against rape in warfare, Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege. Ms Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi who was tortured and raped by Islamic State militants and later became the face of a campaign to free the Yazidi people. Dr Mukwege is a Congolese gynaecologist who, along with his colleagues, has treated tens of thousands of victims.” As Christianity Today reports, Dr. Mukwege is a Christian who has dedicated his career to caring for victims of rape. “If Christians do not live out the practical implications of their faith among their communities and neighbors, ‘we cannot fulfill the mission entrusted to us by Christ,’ he said at a keynote for the Lutheran World Federation last year.”

 

83718“What Tim Keller Wants American Christians to Know About Politics” – Christianity Today‘s “Quick to Listen” podcast has an interview with Tim Keller this week on the hot topic of Christian approaches to politics. “Shortly after the [Kavanaugh] hearing, a book excerpt from Tim Keller, the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, appeared in The New York Times. ‘Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics and simply “preach the Gospel,”‘ he wrote in his latest book Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy. ‘Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. … To not be political is to be political.’ But that doesn’t mean that Christians have to hold convictions about every moment of political life, said Keller.” About twenty minutes in, Keller speaks some wise words about the way in which politics can easily become our identity or are religion, and how the gospel might strengthen us within the church to have meaningful discussion about these divisive issues in order to bridge gaps.

 

merlin_144839694_a3396ea5-3907-4a24-8669-225c037f5985-superJumbo“A Complete National Disgrace” – David Brooks writes on themes of the Kavanaugh hearing, political polarization, institutional thinking, and the possibility of a way forward. “Over the past few years, hundreds of organizations and thousands of people (myself included) have mobilized to reduce political polarization, encourage civil dialogue and heal national divisions. The first test case for our movement was the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s clear that at least so far our work is a complete failure….What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life.” I do believe that  [Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this article.]

 

william-willimon“Court Preachers” – Speaking of this sort of thing, Will Willimon, professor at Duke Divinity School and co-author, with Stanley Hauerwas, of Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, writes a provocative essay against “court preachers.” What are court preachers? “Preachers attempting to ingratiate themselves with the powerful; some clergy are always willing to sacrifice the gospel in exchange for proximity to the crown.” Who might be a court preacher today? Willimon takes aim at Franklin Graham on this account, and for some good reasons, it seems. I continue to ask myself: have we lost who we are as evangelicals in this season of time, or are we trapped within the endless cycle of ideological polarization?

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 8.20.23 AM“Overcoming Our Greatest Affliction”Andy Crouch, author of such books as Culture Making and Strong and Weak, opens up an important cultural discussion for those of us naming Christ as our Lord. “We are the most powerful generation in history, but also the loneliest, most anxious, and most depressed. We’re meant to flourish in heart, soul, mind, strength, and relationship — yet culture asks us undermine our personhood to acquire power. ”

 

Stalin“Among the Disbelievers” – Gary Saul Morson, in a wide-ranging essay in Commentary, traces the ways that atheism was not just a part of Soviet communism, but “central to the Bolshevik project.” He explores the place of “ethics” within that ideology, as well as the loss and recovery of “conscience,” particularly as seen in the work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He writes: “As Richard Dawkins explains in The God Delusion: ‘What matters is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheists, but whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest evidence that it does.’ This comment displays an ignorance so astonishing that, as the Russian expression goes, one can only stare and spit.” [Thanks to Micah Mattix for sharing this in the Daily Prufrock.]

 

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“Azusa Pacific Reverses Approval for Gay Student Couples” Last week I shared an article on Azusa Pacific University’s (APU) change of stance in relation to human sexuality and, more specifically, attempting to not shine the spotlight in a discriminatory manner on same-sex attraction or those with gender dysphoria. Apparently, the board of trustees of the university weren’t asked about it, and APU has reversed course on that move after receiving severe criticism about this change.

 

83694“No Refuge: Persecuted Christians Entering US Dwindle to Record Low” – “Refugee resettlement hit a record low over the past year, with the United States taking in fewer than half the amount permitted under a reduced refugee ceiling of 45,000….Though most of the refugees welcomed over the past year are Christians, the overall drop means far fewer believers are finding refuge in the US than in prior years. In the 2018 fiscal year, 15,748 Christian refugees entered the country, a 36.4 percent decline from the previous year and a 55 percent decline from fiscal year 2016.” Of course, as the article points out at the beginning, all of this is a subset of the overall reduction of refugee resettlement both in the past year and now in the coming year.

 

merlin_141072990_3f059377-d122-45a7-ba46-95c7e81bf387-jumbo“Migrant Children Moved Under Cover of Darkness to a Texas Tent City” – “In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas. Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases. But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.”

 

83583“The Unintended Impact of The Church Planting Industry on Our Evangelistic Impact”Ed Stetzer, a seasoned church planter and trainer of church planters, reflects on some issues that have led me to pull back from modern expressions of church planting. Primarily, he begins to question one of the driving assumptions behind the modern, American church planting movement since its beginnings in the 1980s. That assumption (given to us by missiologist C. Peter Wagner): “church planting is the most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven.” Ed asks some meaningful questions, while admitting that an industry has arisen around church planting. His admissions don’t go far enough in my mind, but I still encourage you to read this essay.

 

[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: 9 June 2018

The “Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly post in which I gather a smattering of news, stories, resources, and other media you could explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

WRD-2018_WR_Homepage-Banner_1400x350.jpg“Help Refugees Rebuild Their Lives” – June 20 is World Refugee Day and many organizations are encourage people to help refugees rebuild their lives. I always like to promote the work of World Relief because as a distinctly Christian organization they approach this in a way that I believe is more coherent with our faith and wholistic in terms of care. Maybe you could join me in supporting their invaluable work here.

 

170905122613-anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown-trinidad-exlarge-169“CNN’s Anthony Bourdain dead at 61” – Sad news came in on Friday that Anthony Bourdain, famous for his work on “Parts Unknown,” passed away. I still remember watching his outstanding work in Palestine, including a visit to Gaza. From CNN: “Anthony Bourdain, the gifted chef, storyteller and writer who took TV viewers around the world to explore culture, cuisine and the human condition for nearly two decades, has died. He was 61. CNN confirmed Bourdain’s death on Friday and said the cause of death was suicide.” There are too many people tragically lost to suicide these days. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, reach out for help. Don’t try to deal with it on your own.

 

web3-father-mcgovern-france-normandy-beach-d-day-public-domain-us-army-signal-corps“D-Day, 74 years later: Remembering the heroic chaplains and priests of Normandy” – This past week we marked 74 years since D-Day. In a feature on the role of chaplains and priests at Normandy, Katherine Ruddy brings together a series of powerful images of these ministers serving in the midst of devastatingly difficult circumstances.  If you are interested in digging into this topic even more deeply, you might enjoy reading the historical work, Serving God and Country: United States Military Chaplains in World War II,  by my friend and mentor, Dr. Lyle Dorsett.

 

Alt_Immagination_Summit_2017-203“Andy Crouch and the Culture Makers” is a great look at the outstanding writings of Andy Crouch and the efforts of ‘culture making,’ or cultural transformation, that is finding a resurgence within evangelicalism these days. Giving attention to Praxis Labs and other efforts at integration of faith and work, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra highlights how certain figures are “helping to spread, as C. S. Lewis might say, a ‘good infection,’ integrating the good works to which Christ has called us with good work, well done.”

 

Pro-Life Demonstrators Face Pro-Choice Demonstrators“The Man Who Discovered ‘Culture Wars’” –  James Davison Hunter coined the phrase ‘culture wars’ in the 1980s and wrote one of the most important books on culture and faith in the last decade, To Change the World. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Hunter reflects on what has changed over the last thirty years in the culture wars.

 

82298“Christian Baker Wins Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop Case” – Speaking of culture wars, this past week baker Jack Phillips won his case that went all the way to the Supreme Court related to his refusal to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding.  The 7-2 decision avoided setting a precedent in relation to the larger issue of the intersections of faith convictions and civil rights issues, instead citing that lower state courts had demonstrated an unconstitutional hostility toward his Christian faith.  Will this help the cause of faith-based organizations or individuals? The jury is still out on that, but it is likely not a victory for religious freedom according to some.

 

merlin_136365531_4fa18cff-0fac-4c81-aa65-1ad3ae301d4b-jumbo“Family Separation at the Border” – “Even before the zero-tolerance policy was implemented, the New York Times reported that 700 children had been separated from an adult claiming to be their parent from October 2017 to April 2018. More than 100 of these children were under the age of four. These numbers have since grown exponentially. On May 23, 2018, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that 638 parents traveling with 658 children had been ‘processed for prosecution’ under the new zero-tolerance policy between May 6 and May 19, 2018. Given that the Administration has said that parents referred for prosecution will be separated from their children, the testimony means that more than 600 families have been separated under the new policy in less than two weeks.” The UN has now said these actions are illegal under international law. You may also benefit from understanding how US policies relate to those of other nations around the world.

 

take five“Famous Songs in Slightly Odd Time Signatures – A Guide to Rhythms” – Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” is one of my favorite songs of all time because it swings in the odd time signature of 5/4. If you find songs like that fascinating, you may enjoy this quirky article that looks at well-known songs in time signatures that are unique, with references to artists as disparate as Aretha Franklin, Radiohead, Björk, Genesis, and more.

 

Abridged_Pride-and-Prejudice-1240x808“Literary Classics Retold as Two-Panel Comics” – Over at Literary Hub, you can get a glimpse into the entertaining book Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t by John Atkinson. Do not use this for your high school or college literature classes because it probably will not help you.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 1.10.55 PM“Backwards commute: Car escapes traffic by driving in reverse” – And last, but not least, we must remember not to follow the example of this driver caught on camera.  Still, we can marvel at the skills of a driver so bold as to exit the highway and drive for another mile completely in reverse. There’s a future for this driver, but I am not sure what it is.

[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.]