The Weekend Wanderer: 19 September 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.


JI Packer politics“J.I. Packer: The Bible’s Guide for Christian Activism” – When Jim Packer passed away last month, we lost one of our greatest voices in world evangelicalism. Thankfully, Packer wrote so widely that we can still learn from his insights. Christianity Today unearthed a jewel of an essay by Packer from 1985 on how Christian faith relates to the public sphere. His words feel just as relevant today as ever.


Jamal- Dominique Hopkins“Preach What You Practice” – Here in an ongoing series called “Race Set Before Us,” Jamal-Dominique Hopkins reflects on the life and legacy of Paul King Jewett as an example of Christian leadership during this divided time. “Jewett, a renowned moral theologian, possessed a passion for promoting racial solidarity. He attended a predominantly black church, mentored black students at Fuller, became the first white board member of the National Negro Evangelical Association (currently known as the National Black Evangelical Association). He also attended the March on Washington in 1963 and the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.”


Winding river“What Kind of Turning Point?: History is an unpredictable thing. Respect it.” – I first encountered the work of Mark Noll while I was an undergraduate student at Wheaton College and he had just published his important book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll, a wise historian of Christianity and more particularly an expert on the history of evangelicalism, has a thing or two to say about making predictions about what lies ahead of us. Drawing on the work of Bruce Hindmarsh and James Davison Hunter, Noll’s wise words in Comment are well worth reading.


Barna Race Today“White Christians Have Become Even Less Motivated to Address Racial Injustice” – From Barna: “As of the July 2020 survey, practicing Christians—self-identified Christians who say their faith is very important in their lives and have attended a worship service within the past month—are no more likely to acknowledge racial injustice (43% ‘definitely’) than they were the previous summer. There is actually a significant increase in the percentage of practicing Christians who say race is ‘not at all’ a problem in the U.S. (19%, up from 11% in 2019). Among self-identified Christians alone, a similar significant increase occurs (10% in 2019, 16% in 2020).”


20200828T0945-SYRIA-TURKEY-WATER-1004324-690x450“Christians, others warn Turkey is ‘weaponizing water’ in northeast Syria” – From Crux: “Parts of Syria’s north where Kurds, Christians and Yazidis have practiced religious freedom in recent years are reportedly again under attack by mainly Turkish military and their allied Syrian Islamist fighters. The Syrian Democratic Council, which oversees the autonomous northeast of Syria, condemned Turkey’s cutting off the water supply to the area’s main city, Hassakeh, for nearly four straight weeks. Humanitarian groups have repeatedly accused Turkey of ‘weaponizing water’ since its military takeover of the region in October 2019.”


Battle of Adwa“To understand African Christianity, remember the Battle of Adwa” – Here is Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century reflecting on a key moment in Ethiopia that had great import for modern African Christianity. “The historic relationship between Christianity and imperialism naturally causes grave dilemmas for modern believers. But on at least one celebrated occasion, it was actually a great Christian army that decisively triumphed over empire—and resisted conquest for a generation. Anyone interested in the story of modern African Christianity needs to know about the Battle of Adwa.”


Bible and Rosary“Evangelicals Becoming Catholics: Former CT Editor Mark Galli” – Last week I shared about former Christianity Today editor Mark Galli converting to Catholicism. Ed Stetzer gathers together a series of reflections by various theologians, writers, and thinkers on why evangelicals might make such a move in general, including various authors such as Scott Hahn, Francis Beckwith, Douglas Beaumont, Scot McKnight. Stetzer concludes with his own reflections on Galli’s decision, both in relation to his personal friendship with Galli and as a Baptist who sees both the strengths and weaknesses of evangelicalism.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma, “Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude.”

[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: 4 April 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.


Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral Webcasts Sunday Mass Due To Coronavirus“Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To” – NT Wright’s essay in Time speaks to how lacking most answers are right now and how important it is to recover one of the most biblical responses to a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic. “Rationalists (including Christian rationalists) want explanations; Romantics (including Christian romantics) want to be given a sigh of relief. But perhaps what we need more than either is to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is what happens when people ask, ‘Why?’ and don’t get an answer. It’s where we get to when we move beyond our self-centered worry about our sins and failings and look more broadly at the suffering of the world.”


116514“Arab Christians Have Lost Easter Before. Here’s What They Learned” – Our church has good friends around the globe, many of whom are in the Middle East: Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and more. The instability of the region during many years caused disruption of worship services and fellowship that have parallels to our present moment with the COVID-19 pandemic. This article from Christianity Today reflects largely on the Coptic and Maronite Christian realities and what we might be able to learn from it.


Anti-Asian Racism“Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19” – My wife, Kelly, and I were talking with a dear friend from Asia who related to us some of the ways prejudice against Asians is rising in our country, including recent anti-Chinese graffiti at the UW-Madison campus. In talking with another friend living in the Middle East, I heard about similar things happening there. As Christians, we must unequivocally stand against this sort of thing. I was glad to hear the Asian-American Christian Collaborative drafted this “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19.”


Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 11.12.55 AM“Pregnant in a Pandemic: Coping and Hoping” – Betsy Childs Howard: “A month ago, my mind was filled with the normal concerns of a first-time mom anticipating birth. What did I need to buy for the baby? What should I take to the hospital, and how would I get there? Who would be available from our family to help me after the birth, and when should they arrive? Then we all became aware of COVID-19, and I realized the remaining weeks of my pregnancy would be far from normal.”


ap_20089618290522_custom-4f7db72fa3acfc7d781ba78ee98ab2da873fd7a9-s1500-c85“States Consider Whether Religious Services Qualify As ‘Essential'” – After the arrest of controversial evangelist and pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for resisting state guidelines for public health during this pandemic, states around the country continue to debate whether to consider religious services as “essential” or not. South Korea has wrestled with this as one cult group became the source of a major outbreak and the government is considering legal action against those who defy public health guidelines . Regardless of the governmental orders, the joint statement by the NAE and Christianity Today (which I posted here last week) offers some guidance on how to think about whether to cancel or not cancel services. That being said, in the midst of a clear global health emergency, we have to wrestle with what it means to love God with all of who we are while also loving our neighbor. I would like to suggest that foolishness in regards to public health is neither honoring to God nor loving to our neighbor. If we’re honest this is less about cancelling than about retooling in a time of crisis so as to love God and love our neighbors well.


richc“Rich Christians in an Age of Coronavirus”Matt Soerens of World Relief takes Ron Sider’s old book title, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and applies it to the current moment and the expected stimulus Americans will receive from the government. In a time when so many needs loom large, Soerens asks, how then should we live, as rich Christians in an age of coronavirus? What would happen if we offered our portion of the stimulus to help those in need?


Stone Churches Ethiopia“Dreams of Stone: Searching for paradise in Ethiopia’s rock churches” – This is not your typical look at churches as Ishion Hutchinson, a Rastafarian from Jamaica, experiences the ancient Christian tradition in Ethiopia. Sometimes it’s good to see your own tradition through different eyes. “As we neared Biete Medhane Alem, a service was underway; the sounds of Geez, the ancient Ethiopic liturgical language, resonated through the mighty stone pillars that greeted me before the structure itself—an auditory monument, the presence of numinous poetry, an intimation of the enormous space before me, undulating and wide….as I turned a corner, I saw the praying people. Robed splendidly, mostly in white shawls, the supplicants shuttled through the rock passages.”


Old-Vintage-Books“Why Pastors Should Be Good Readers” – Here is Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College and former Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, speaking to the reading life of pastors. While studying with Phil’s father, Leland Ryken, at Wheaton College, I made the life-changing decision to become an English major instead of a Bible major as an undergrad. Of course, after college I went on to receive the MDiv degree with all the Bible and theology classes necessary. However, I am so glad I made that decision in my earlier studies.


 

Music: Fernando Ortega, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” from Hymns and Meditations

[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 help me think more deeply and broadly.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 November 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.

92946“The Road from Damascus: How an Evangelical Syrian Spoke at Harvard’s Commencement” – A story worth reading: “Born in Homs and an evangelical Christian, Tony Alkhoury is 1 of 450 Syrians in the US on an active student visa. In Arabic, Alkhoury’s family name means “the priest.” Currently pursuing a PhD in practical theology at Fuller Seminary, in 2016 he began a unique cross-cultural ministry adventure—at Harvard University. Through it drove the divinity student to the depths of depression, it ended with rapturous applause.”

 

03hayhoe-superJumbo“I’m a Climate Scientist Who Believes in God. Hear Me Out.” – Here is a thought-provoking OpEd by Katharine Hayhoe, professor and co-director of the Climate Center at Texas Tech University. “As I always do now when someone asks this, I explained that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally, I went on to explain why it matters: because real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering.”

 

family_flag“Evangelical Call for Restitution-Based Immigration Reform” – When I graduated from college, I worked for three years with the sub-Saharan Africa programs of World Relief. Those experiences changed my life drastically. World Relief is perhaps better known these days for their work with refugee resettlement and advocacy for immigration. I continue to be engaged with World Relief on a number of issues, including this latest effort, in partnership with the Evangelical Immigration Table, to call for restitution-based immigration reform. I urge you to read and consider backing this effort toward biblical justice and righteousness for the immigrant in our midst.

 

Screen Shot 2019-11-08 at 8.35.35 AM“Trump’s refugee cap compromises the US economy and American identity” – On a related theme, you may want to read the President of World Relief, Scott Arbeiter, speaking about the historically low numbers of refugee resettlement in our nation. “Yesterday marked the end of the first full month in decades in which the U.S. resettled zero refugees. How did this happen? At the beginning of October, the State Department unveiled the new cap for refugees in fiscal year 2020: 18,000. It’s a shockingly — and shamefully — low number, and it has not yet even been signed and put into motion to keep resettlement moving. This lapse and this number are at complete odds with the United States’ character and our historic record.”

 

John Crist“John Crist Cancels 2019 Tour Dates After Reports of Sexting, Harassment, Manipulation” – You may or may not be familiar with John Crist, a Christian and a rising star of comedy. Crist rose to fame with videos poking fun at life within the church, such as “Church Hunters” or “How It’s Made: Christian Music.” Crist was slated for a Netflix comedy special and the release of a new book in 2020, but both endeavors are on hold after Charisma’s investigative reporting revealed a sordid underbelly to Crist’s life and work. This is one more example of how we need to get real with leadership formation in the church, as well as how love, sexuality and the body are vital aspects of our discipleship. We are all broken in different ways, but Jesus invites us to more.

 

Ingmar Bergman“The Silence & Presence of God: Moviegoing with Ingmar Bergman” – Some of the most penetrating and difficult conversations I have with folks in my vocation as a pastor rotate around the silence of God. Questions arise again and again, such as, “Where is God in my loss?”, “Why doesn’t God relieve my suffering?”, or “Why don’t I seem to hear from God or sense His presence in prayer?” Simplistic answers are not very helpful in these situations. God is always with us, but sometimes we experience the silence of His presence. Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman devoted a significant amount of his work to this topic. Here is Hetty White engaging with Bergman’s work in this important aspect of the human experience of the divine.

 

Music: Lee Morgan, “The Sidewinder,” from The Sidewinder (1963).

[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: 2 November 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.

Kanye West“Kanye West, Heretic by Nature, Finds God” – Two confessions. First, I have never been a huge fan of hip hop. Sorry. My high school and college-age kids love it, but it’s not my first choice for listening. Second, one of the few exceptions to that is Kanye West’s 2008 album, 808s & Heartbreak. I enjoy listening to that album because of West’s vulnerability and the funky vibes. Last Friday, Kanye released his most recent musical project entitled Jesus is King. In a two-hour interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, West claims to have undergone a conversion to Christianity, and wants to turn his life around and tell everyone about it. He even asked those participating in the album to abstain from premarital sex during the recording process. Critics abound, but something is happening here. West has been pulling together worship services during the past year, including an Easter Sunday morning worship service at Coachella. I can’t help but think of Bob Dylan’s conversion to Christianity in the late 1970s that brought about some of the most interesting “gospel” music of that era, including albums like Slow Train Coming and live performances with a gospel choir and invitations to receive Christ. Christian hip hop star, Lecrae, shares some of his thoughts on Kanye’s album and journey with Billboard. Time will tell what all of this really means in Kanye West’s life but in the meantime we can enjoy the music.

 

Kirk Franklin“Kirk Franklin Boycotts Dove Awards for Cutting His Prayers for Black Victims” – Loving others means hearing them, even when it hurts. This is true in friendship, marriage, parenting, and with others whose situation we don’t entirely understand. Listening to others is particularly important in situations fraught with tension, even though it can be difficult and painful. When he won Dove Awards in 2016 and now in 2019 Kirk Franklin called people to prayer for the killing of African Americans within our country. Both times, TBN cut that portion of Franklin’s awards speech out of their broadcast. In response, after seeking council and addressing this with the Dove Awards committee both times, Franklin is boycotting the Dove Awards until change happens. I encourage you to watch to Franklin address this in a pair of Twitter videos, and listen to his important words: “Not only did they edit my speech, they edited the African American experience.”

 

92447“The Cautionary Tale of Jerry Falwell Jr.” – Mark Galli writes a reflection on Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his leadership at Liberty University that quickly turns into a reflection on the crisis of evangelical “leadership.” This is something I have reflected on quite a bit over the last year, but Galli pulls it all together in quick form in a way that asks what it would look like to return to biblical characteristics of leadership. Along with Galli’s important thoughts, I also sense we need to evaluate not just job descriptions, but the culture of evangelical institutions, whether schools, church, or other, and why it might be that they often produce the sort of leaders we know do not look like Christ.

 

92693“There’s No One Christian View on Turks and Kurds” – A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the tensions in northeast Syria in which I called Christians to awareness of the plight of Christians in the Middle East more broadly and this latest situation. (“Standing with Christians in Northeast Syria“). I really appreciated this recent article in Christianity Today exploring the complexity of this situation and the variety of perspectives present even in the region about how to view it. The diversity of voices invited to speak to this issue makes the article invaluable.

 

C S Lewis“When C.S. Lewis Predicted Our Doom” – If you asked me what my favorite work by C. S. Lewis is, I would tend to point to The Great DivorceMere Christianity, or The Weight of Glory (worth the cost of the book for the title essay alone). Of course, I love the Narnia books and The Screwtape Letters, but they are not really my favorite. If you were to ask the same question of my wife, Kelly, you might be surprised to hear her, a high school English teacher and spiritual mentor to many, immediately say The Abolition of Man. That book, although not always as well known to a broad audience, is Lewis’ pointed critique of modern liberal culture and the loss of a sense of humanity and virtue in an attempt to re-order the world. Matt Purple’s essay here combines a reading of The Abolition of Man in tandem with the third book in Lewis’ space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, to draw attention to his insights into the coming dystopian world.

 

Music: Vampire Weekend, “Sunflower,” (ft Steve Lacy) from Father of the Bride

[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.]

Standing with Christians in Northeast Syria

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As we watch the tensions unfurl in northeast Syria, we need to stand with Christians in that area.

While we can debate the wisdom of foreign policy decisions within our current administration and the shame of turning away from the Kurds who were the tip of the spear in our military endeavors against ISIS, we cannot ignore that turning a blind eye to this situation is forsaking our brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you are confused by the current events in northeast Syria, take three minutes to watch this basic overview from the BBC.

Farah Najjar reports (“Civilians displaced in Turkey’s Syria offensive fear for future”):

There are nearly five million people in the northeast region, including hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Syrians who fled government-led offensives in other parts of the war-torn country, according to local officials.

The population consists of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, as well as Syriac Christians – many of whom have been quick to offer a helping hand to those fleeing the border areas.

Bassam Ishak, a Christian leader and President of the Syriac National Council of Syria, was recently interviewed by NPR about the situation (“Christian Leaders Say Turkish Invasion Of Syria Raises Risk Of ‘Genocide'”). He indicated that forty to fifty thousand Christians live in the area under attack. Continuing, he said:

“The attacks are widespread….They are targeting residential areas in Qamishli, where people of all religious backgrounds live. We think this is a message to the Kurds and Christians there to leave, so Turkey can move refugees there. We think it’s a form of ethnic cleansing.”

A friend on the ground who works with Kurdish refugees in a neighboring country told me this week that they are preparing for another 500,000 refugees to flood into their area.

Another friend who pastors in a neighboring country told me that the continuing exodus of Christians from the Middle East is related to instability caused by war, economic difficulties that particularly affect minority Christians, and targeted persecution. This is not a new situation, but something that I have called attention to for years.

May God keep us prayerful for our brothers and sisters, for prayer is always powerful and necessary. May God make us generous toward our brothers and sisters, for there are tangible needs that they will face.  But may God also raise us up as advocates for our brothers and sisters, that we might call those with power to uphold the cause of the weak and the oppressed.