The Weekend Wanderer: 30 July 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 these articles but have found them thought-provoking.


authority-980x551“Authority Is Dead, Long Live Authority” – Cassandra Nelson in Comment: “Ten years ago, I was a graduate student studying English literature. Hopefully enough time has now passed to safely confess that I had no idea what I was doing as a teacher in grad school. When undergraduates came to my office hours, we would talk for a while about books on the syllabus, or books off the syllabus, or sometimes a different subject entirely. A few came regularly. Their faces remain vivid in my mind, along with my own mild bafflement after our conversations. What do they want?, I used to wonder at the close of office hours. And do I ever supply it?  Gradually, a calling began to come into focus. I finished my PhD and spent three years teaching literature and composition at the United States Military Academy. But even then, it was still possible to become flummoxed. The last course I taught at West Point was a remedial intro class in the summer. One day our discussion centred on Tobias Wolff’s ‘Bullet in the Brain,’ a short story about an ill-tempered book critic named Anders who is shot in the head during a bank robbery. In the story, the omniscient narrator follows the bullet’s path through Anders’s brain as it sets off ‘a crackling chain of ion transports and neuro-transmissions through synapses containing memories of important moments in his life. Debate veered from the text for a moment when a cadet wondered aloud whether so much of one’s life could actually flash before one’s eyes in the midst of a seemingly instantaneous death. ‘Ma’am,’ he asked, ‘is that really how it happens?’  For a moment I was taken aback. What surprised me wasn’t the number of faces that turned in my direction, but rather the way their expressions implied I might genuinely know the answer.”


Ron Sider CT“Died: Ron Sider, Evangelical Who Pushed for Social Action” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “Ronald J. Sider, organizer of the evangelical left and author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, died on Wednesday at 82. His son told followers that Sider had suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest. For nearly 50 years, Sider called evangelicals to care about the poor and see poverty as a moral issue. He argued for an expanded understanding of sin to include social structures that perpetuate inequality and injustice, and urged Christians to see how their salvation should compel them to care for their neighbors. ‘Salvation is a lot more than just a new right relationship with God through forgiveness of sins. It’s a new, transformed lifestyle that you can see visible in the body of believers,’ he said. ‘Sin is a biblical category. Given a careful reading of the world and the Bible and our giving patterns, how can we come to any other conclusion than to say that we are flatly disobeying what the God of the Bible says about the way he wants his people to care for the poor?’ Sider was a key facilitator of the born-again left that emerged in the 1970s but lived to see American evangelicals largely turn away from concerns about war, racism, and inequality. He continued to speak out, however, and became, as a Christianity Today writer once described it, the ‘burr in the ethical saddle’ of the white evangelical horse.”


Hama_chiesa.jfif“Two people killed in a drone attack during church inauguration in Hama province” – Asia News Agency: “Two people were killed and 12 injured in yesterday’s drone attack against a church in Suqaylabiyah, a town in the central Syrian province of Hama. A large crowd of worshippers and many government officials were in attendance of the inauguration of Hagia Sophia Church, named after the monumental Byzantine Basilica in Istanbul that was turned again into a mosque a few years ago. A video of the incident shows a drone with an explosive charge crashing near the church during the celebrations, killing and wounding people. The terrorist action was blamed on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group backed by Turkey that still controls large areas in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia, the last pocket of armed opposition to the government of Bashar al Assad eleven years since the start of Syria’s civil war.”


hiddenlife4“Terrence Malick and the Question of Martyrdom” – David Michael in Plough: “In a rare public appearance to discuss his 2016 documentary, Voyage of Time, the director Terrence Malick remarked that he had “lately repented [of] the idea” of working without a script. The comment was in reference to his last three films, the so-called Weightless Trilogy (To the Wonder, Knight of Cups, and Song to Song), which had split critics and been skewered for their unstructured narrative and improvised dialogue. “The last picture we shot, and we’re now cutting, went back to a script that was very well ordered.” His comment made headlines across the internet, where writers speculated that the new film might prove a return to form for the auteur behind Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The Tree of Life, for which he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. A Hidden Life tells the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector who was imprisoned and eventually executed for refusing to swear the oath of allegiance to Hitler and fight for the Nazis. It is a masterpiece.”


superpowers instruments“We Don’t Need Superpowers. We Need Instruments.” – Andy Crouch in The Praxis Journal: “Technology is a major part of the story we are living in and responsible for as redemptive entrepreneurs. Many members of our community work directly in tech ventures, and more broadly, we all depend on technology in our professional and personal lives. And yet technology prompts a great deal of ambivalence even in those who build it and benefit from it. Many of us sense, at the very least, that we need to be thoughtful and intentional about the devices and systems we are building and adopting—that technology is not in fact “neutral” but can sometimes actively undermine human flourishing, even when in other cases it seems to bring great benefits. The moment you question any given technological development, though, you run into a powerful implicit idea, an idea whose ability to impede healthy thinking and reflection is matched only by how totally it is taken for granted most of the time. It is the belief that the story of technology fundamentally advances along one single line from ‘primitive’ to ‘advanced.’…I think this assumption is mistaken.”


glen-carrie-oHoBIbDj7lo-unsplash“Poetry and the Art of Naming” – Abram Van Engen in Reformed Journal: “In the beginning was the Word. So begins the gospel of John. And so, according to John, begins everything. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and he did so in and through Jesus, who acted as language. The Word. God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. A spoken word and something new. In using language to create, God begins the world in relation. For all language—spoken or written or otherwise employed—comes from a prior relation and extends a new one. Language does not and cannot develop in a vacuum. Isolation never made a single word. Instead, every word signals a community, some relation to another. As each word is spoken or written or in some other way sent out into the world, it reaches for a listener, a reader, a person to respond. Words come from society and go out from individuals in attempts to communicate and connect. In the process, they create. Poetry dwells in words. It uses, as its tool and medium, the words that others have made and use every day for countless tasks other than poetry. As W.H. Auden noted long ago, ‘It is both the glory and the shame of poetry that its medium is not its private property, that a poet cannot invent his words and that words are products, not of nature, but of a human society which uses them for a thousand different purposes.’ For Auden, though, that shared medium served as a constant reminder that the poet is never alone: ‘however esoteric a poem may be,’ he added, ‘the fact that all its words have meanings which can be looked up in a dictionary makes it testify to the existence of other people. Even the language of Finnegans Wake was not created by Joyce ex nihilo; a purely private verbal world is not possible.'”


Music: The National, “Runaway” (Live Uncut), recorded at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 15, 2010, originally from High Violet.

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 February 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


Want less - Brooks“How to Want Less: The secret to satisfaction has nothing to do with achievement, money, or stuff” – Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic: “I glanced into my teenage daughter’s bedroom one spring afternoon last year, expecting to find her staring absentmindedly at the Zoom screen that passed for high school during the pandemic. Instead, she was laughing uproariously at a video she had found. I asked her what she was looking at. ‘It’s an old man dancing like a chicken and singing,’ she told me. I came over to her laptop, not being above watching someone making an idiot of himself for 15 seconds of social-media fame. What I found instead was the septuagenarian rock star Mick Jagger, in a fairly recent concert, croaking out the Rolling Stones’ megahit ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’—a song that debuted on the charts when I was a year old—for probably the millionth time. An audience of tens of thousands of what looked to be mostly Baby Boomers and Gen Xers sang along rapturously. ‘Is this serious?’ she asked. ‘Do people your age actually like this?’ I took umbrage, but had to admit it was a legitimate question. ‘Kind of,’ I answered. It wasn’t just the music, or even the performance, I assured her. To my mind, the longevity of that particular song—No. 2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s original list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’—has a lot to do with a deep truth it speaks. As we wind our way through life, I explained, satisfaction—the joy from fulfillment of our wishes or expectations—is evanescent. No matter what we achieve, see, acquire, or do, it seems to slip from our grasp.”


Abraham and Isaac“An Unlikely Meditation on Modern Happiness: Rereading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling – Ryan Kemp in The Hedgehog Review: “On the one hand, Fear and Trembling is a literary masterpiece. It showcases Kierkegaard at the height of his rhetorical powers. He paints Abraham’s trial in such vivid color that the reader feels anew the real tragedy of his ordeal. In addition to the poetic force of his writing, Kierkegaard is a subtle philosopher, a supreme ironist, evident in the way he deftly teases out the implications of Abraham’s status as the ‘father of faith.’ He argues that if Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice Isaac is truly praiseworthy—as each of the great Abrahamic religions assumes—then faith involves a ‘teleological suspension of the ethical.’ The person of faith must be prepared to put the commands of God above the demands of ethics. This last point is what makes contemporary interest in Fear and Trembling so surprising. It’s not just that Kierkegaard paints a stark picture of what Christian faith demands; it’s the fact that he cares to discuss the topic at all. One can scarcely imagine a subject less interesting to the contemporary reader (at least the sort who would think to pick up a work of nineteenth-century Danish philosophy) than a serious, often abstruse, discussion of the meaning of faith. So why do modern readers keep returning to this bizarre little book?


Non-reactive-Leadership-980x551“Non-reactive Leadership: Lessons from René Girard and St. Ignatius of Loyola” – Dave Hillis in Comment: “There is a line in the film Gladiator that has come to inspire my days. It’s spoken early in the picture, soon after the victory of Maximus Decimus Meridius in Germania and shortly before the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Aware of his son’s incapacity to succeed him as leader, the emperor asks Maximus to take his place as lord protector of Rome. Maximus balks at the request, wherein the two begin a discussion of the city itself: what it was, what it had become, and what it could be. Marcus Aurelius, aware that without some decisive action Rome will not make it through the winter, expresses his thoughts to Maximus: ‘There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish; it was so fragile.’ The choice of leadership—how each one of us leads and who we gravitate toward to lead us—is of subtle but critical importance. Will we choose leadership that is muscular and gratuitous? Or will we choose leadership that is deeply centred and divinely choreographed? Non-reactive leadership is a paradigm that helps answer this question. In the words of Robert Terry, non-reactive leadership ‘is the courage to call forth authentic action in the commons.’ What follows is a portrait of its cast.”


Priest with old Bible on black background, closeup

“Pastors serve as primary source of mental health care for Black, Latino congregants” – Amy McCaig in Rice News: “A new study of Black and Latino Christians found they often turn to their pastors for mental health care or information on mental health resources, even when those clergy feel ill-equipped to offer help or advice. ‘Where Would You Go? Race, Religion, and the Limits of Pastor Mental Health Care in Black and Latino Congregations’ includes information from focus groups with 14 pastors and interviews with 20 congregants from Black and Latino churches in Houston. The interviews explored how church members make decisions about where to seek mental health care or direct others for help. Dan Bolger from Rice University and Pamela Prickett from the University of Amsterdam authored the study, which appeared in a recent edition of the journal Religions. Bolger said that while Black and Latino church members both sought mental health care from pastors, the motivation for seeking pastoral counsel varied between the two ethnic groups. Black congregants sought pastors over medical professionals because of stigma surrounding mental health issues in the broader community. Latinos, on the other hand, sought counseling from their pastors primarily due to stigma within their church.”


alan jacobs“The Year of Repair” – Alan Jacobs at Snakes and Ladders: “One year and one day ago, I wrote: “I declare 2021 The Year of Hypomone.” As you’ll see if you read that post, hypomone is a New Testament word meaning “patient endurance,” and I hope we have all learned a few things about endurance in the past … well, two years. But endurance is not enough. Today I say: I declare 2022 The Year of Repair.  This is the year when we must turn our attention not to innovation or disruption or any of the other cool buzzwords, but to fixing the shit that needs fixing. As Steven J. Jackson has shown in an absolutely seminal essay, our situation requires ‘broken world thinking,’ and broken world thinking leads to an imperative of repair. We will look unflinchingly at what is broken. We will repent of and ask forgiveness for our role in the breaking. We will scout the landscape for the tools of repair, and be especially attentive to what we have discarded, what we have labeled as refuse. We will therefore practice ‘filth therapy.’


primopiano_14126“ASIA/PAKISTAN – Christians united in prayer: guaranteeing the protection of religious minorities” – Agenzia Fides: “‘The brutal attack on Anglican pastors, which took place in Peshawar on January 30, shook the entire Christian community in Pakistan. We strongly condemn the brutal murder of Reverend William Siraj. All of us Christians in Pakistan are united with the Anglican Church of Pakistan and with the families of the late Pastor William Siraj, and Pastor Patrick Naeem, wounded in this attack’, is what Msgr. Benny Mario Travas, Archbishop of Karachi told Fides. Two unidentified men on a motorbike opened fire on Anglican Pastors at the All Saints Church in Peshawar as they were leaving the church after Sunday liturgy. Pastor William Siraj, assistant pastor, was killed instantly and Pastor Patrick Naeem was wounded by a bullet, he is now out of danger Calling on the entire Christian community in Pakistan to unite in prayer for the deceased and wounded priests, Archbishop Travas said: ‘I appeal to the government of Pakistan to take immediate and serious action against this incident, arresting the aggressors and working for the peace and security of all religious minorities living in Pakistan.'”


Music: All Sons & Daughters, “Rest in You,” from Poets & Saints

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 February 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


Mission Nexus - Black Missionary Heroes“Black History Month Devotional Series: Black Missionary Heroes – Past and Present – Missio Nexus: “In celebration of Black History Month this devotional plan gives insight into the contributions made by African Americans Missionaries throughout history leading to present day. These unsung heroes of faith have discipled nations, planted churches, and preached the gospel under the most adverse conditions. Read their stories and the passages of scripture that highlight their faith and commitment in creating gospel movements within neighborhoods and nations. These profiles and devotionals are provided by Ambassadors Fellowship Inc. and the National African American Missions Council.”


00Syria-Christians-02-superJumbo“‘Now There Is No One’: The Lament of One of the Last Christians in a Syrian City” – Hwaida Saad, Asmaa al-Omar and Ben Hubbard in The New York Times: “On Christmas Day, Michel Butros al-Jisri, one of the last Christians in the Syrian city of Idlib, didn’t attend services, because the Islamist rebels who control the area had long since locked up the church. Nor did he gather with friends and relatives to celebrate around a tree because nearly all of his fellow Christians have either died or fled during Syria’s 10-year civil war. Instead, Mr. al-Jisri said, he went to the city’s Christian cemetery, which no one uses anymore, to sit among the graves of his forebears and mark the day quietly, by himself. ‘Who am I going to celebrate the holiday with? The walls?’ he asked. ‘I don’t want to celebrate if I am alone.’ Mr. al-Jisri, who is 90, stooped and almost deaf but still fairly robust, is a living relic of one of the many formerly vibrant Christian communities in the Middle East that appear headed for extinction. Communities across the Middle East and North Africa — some of which trace their roots to Christianity’s early days — have been struggling for decades with wars, poverty and persecution. A British government report in 2019 found that Christians in the Middle East and North Africa had fallen to less than 4 percent of the population from more than 20 percent a century ago.”


henry-nouwen“Attentiveness, Prayer, and Solitude in Community: What are the spiritual practices that keep a community and its members alive?” – Henri J. M. Nouwen in Plough: “How do we put into place the disciplines that are required to turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, whether for individuals or communities? The core word is attentiveness. Be attentive, be alert, be awake. Be ready. Listen. The discipline is to be attentive to where conversion is needed. It’s not just an outer call; it comes from within. How can we stay in touch with the longing, with the desire for conversion? A lot of people I know have no desire to be converted whatsoever. The fact that you want to be converted is in itself a sign that there is something you long for that you know you are missing. And if you really do live the tension, you are living in a state of longing. If you don’t have any tension, if you don’t have any longing, you become like many people who finally end up flat and bored. Routine is all there is. Nothing excites me. Nothing really gives me life. And a lot of people live like that. So be attentive. Attentiveness is the inner goal of conversion. It has to do with attentiveness to the voice of God in your life of prayer.”


Van Gogh - The Sower“Van Gogh’s God” – Peter J. Leithart in First Things: “As I wound my way through the immersive Beyond Van Gogh exhibit at the Birmingham Jefferson County Civic Center a few days after Christmas, a question kept nagging. What did Vincent see when he gazed at the world? What experiences or ideas lurk behind his swirling skies, his screaming colors, his darkly outlined but often featureless human figures? At times, I thought I caught hints of terror in the desperation of his empty Night Café (1888) and the nightmarish flickering of trees. Vincent was institutionalized more than once. Are his paintings projections of inner turbulence?  Not according to the painter. In letters, Van Gogh claimed he tried to capture the incandescent beauty of nature, radiant with a glory beyond nature. But even a modestly theological description of Van Gogh’s work will provoke protests. After theological training and a stint ministering among the poor, Vincent turned from the Dutch Calvinism of his parents. He abandoned the church after his pastoral call wasn’t renewed, scorned the religious art of his contemporaries, and almost never painted biblical scenes.”


127563“Miracles Don’t Violate the Laws of Nature” – Craig Keener in Christianity Today: “Why do many people embrace a worldview that won’t even consider evidence for miracles? Sometimes they assume that science opposes miracles, but that assumption goes back not to scientific inquiry itself but to an 18th-century philosopher. Knowingly or unknowingly, many people have followed the thesis of Scottish skeptic David Hume (1711–1776). Hume was probably the most prominent philosopher of his generation, and surely the most influential from his time on subsequent generations. He wrote on a wide variety of topics, sometimes very insightfully but sometimes (as with his ethnocentric approach to history) in ways that would not be accepted today. Hume’s intellectual stature, earned from other works, eventually lent credibility to his 1748 essay on miracles. In this essay, Hume dismisses the credibility of miracle claims, appealing to ‘natural law’ and uniform human experience. Although an appeal to natural law might sound scientific, Hume was not a scientist; in fact, some of his views on causation would make scientific inquiry impossible. Hume’s essay on miracles also contradicts his own approach to discovering knowledge. Moreover, Hume’s essay has generated serious intellectual counterarguments since the time it was first published. One of these counterarguments was history’s first public use of Bayes’ theorem, today an essential staple in statistics.”


chamber-church-by-buro-ziyu-zhuang-qingdao_dezeen_2364_col_19-852x1278“White-metal fins form abstract exterior of Büro Ziyu Zhuang’s Chamber Church” – Alyn Griffiths in de zeen: “German-Chinese architecture practice Büro Ziyu Zhuang has completed a church in Qingdao, China, featuring walls and a tower made from dozens of spaced-out aluminium ribs. Büro Ziyu Zhuang designed the Chamber Church as part of Chinese property developer Sunac’s Aduo Town project in the Qingdao Zangma Mountain Tourism Resort. The church is positioned at the edge of a public plaza connecting it with other nearby amenities. When viewed from the plaza, the forested mountains form a dramatic natural backdrop. The architects claimed that the building combines a religious experience with secular attitude, explaining that the church ‘aims to create a spatial container that both respects the past and looks towards the future.'”


Music: Bifrost Arts [feat. Molly Parden], “Psalm 126,” from He Will Not Cry Out: Anthology of Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Vol. 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 11 December 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.


cultural-infusion-scaled“Cultural Infusion” – Caroline Stowell in The Other Journal: “One Sunday morning at my Evangelical Covenant church, the tech team projects a video interview with an Iranian woman who came to Boston for an education and ended up finding Jesus. She encourages us to reach out to those around us, because you never know when someone might be ready to hear about this hope she now has in Christ. I have tears in my eyes by the end as I think of Zahra. Zahra and I met this spring at a Cambridge community playgroup I attend with my twin three-year-old boys, Kyle and Tasman. She’s here from Iran with her two young boys while her husband studies at Harvard. One day, at a playgroup shortly after I watched the video at church, Zahra asks me what else I do with my kids during the week. I tell her about the library story time and the boys’ dance class. Then I tell her about church and the moms group I attend there on Wednesdays.  ‘Church?’ Zahra chirps at me like a startled bird. ‘Mm hmm.’ ‘Are you a Christian?’ ‘Yes,’ I say. She smiles and nods.’You are Muslim?’ I ask, trying not to gesture to the hijab that outlines the olive skin of her face. ‘Muslim? Yes,’ she says.”


Sarah Ruden - The Gospels“The Bible Made Strange: Sarah Ruden’s Four New Gospels” – Scot McKnight at Marginalia: “People think they know how a specific verse should sound. Such opinions flow freely from those who have never learned a word of the original languages. Our Bibles are so Englishy sounding, most readers think their preferred translation is the translation. Add to this that committees authorize our most common translations: the New Revised Standard, the English Standard Version, the New International Version (2011), and the Common English Bible. Authorized translations are publicized and marketed and then used in churches where they acquire sacred standing. Churlish such accusations may be, but each of these translations represents a particular tribe of Christians, and it takes no hard thinking to recognize the tribe behind each. As a sometimes preacher I learned long ago to ask which translation a church uses and go with it, for anything else leads to not-so-gentle questions about one’s orthodoxy. The only translations transcending tribalism are done by individuals, despite the obvious shortcomings of one person translating the whole Bible (Eugene Peterson’s The Message) or separate testaments.”


Roman crucifixion evidence“Best physical evidence of Roman crucifixion found in Cambridgeshire” – Jamie Grierson in The Guardian: “Found at the site of a future housing development in Cambridgeshire, the near 1,900-year-old skeleton at first did not seem particularly remarkable. Aged 25 to 35 at the time of death, the man had been buried with his arms across his chest in a grave with a wooden structure, possibly a bier, at one of five cemeteries around a newly discovered Roman settlement at Fenstanton, between Roman Cambridge and Godmanchester. But once his remains were removed to a laboratory in Bedford, a grisly discovery was made – a nail through the heel bone that experts now say is the best physical evidence of a crucifixion in the Roman world.”


biblical archaeology“How Archaeologists Are Finding the Signatures of Bible Kings, Ancient Villains, and Maybe a Prophet”– Gordon Govier at Christianity Today: “The closest I’ve ever felt to the prophet Jeremiah was sitting at the bottom of an empty cistern. About 20 years ago, I was taken to an excavated water reservoir in Jerusalem and told this could be the actual hole in Jeremiah 38:6 where the prophet was left to starve when four government officials decided they didn’t like his messages from God. I sat on a bench and looked up at the stone walls. Jeremiah sank into the mud, according to the biblical account. But maybe it wasn’t at that spot. Who’s to say it was this cistern, which was dug up in 1998, and not another one that has yet to be found? Or perhaps it will never be found. I could imagine the prophet trapped in that exact place, wondering if God would rescue him, but short of finding ‘Jeremiah’ scratched on the wall, no one could say for sure. In the time since I was there, questions have been raised about that cistern, casting doubt on its role in the Jeremiah drama. It’s not a place people visit these days. Archaeology can take you so close to the biblical world and still leave you wishing someone had left a signature.”


Old-Vintage-Books“A Year of Reading: 2021” – John Wilson in First Things: “I don’t know about you, but my sense of time has been altered—to some extent “thrown off”—by the still-unfolding pandemic. But here we are, approaching the end of another year, and according to the prescribed ritual I entered into a mildly trancelike state to think about books from 2021 that stand out. As usual, I hasten to add that if the list were made on another day, it would be at least slightly different from this one. At any given moment, even when I am not under the spell, books are jostling around in my head. I am particularly looking forward to Toya Wolfe’s novel Last Summer on State Street, coming from William Morrow in June. Just around the corner, I expect to see On the Theory of Prose, a new translation (by Shushan Avagyan) of Viktor Shklovsky’s classic (Dalkey Archive). Then there’s Adam Roberts’s new novel, coming in February in the U.K. (can it really be titled The This, purportedly with reference to Hegel?). But I mustn’t keep going down this path. There are so many books to look forward to, not to mention many more that will take me by surprise. But on with the list. As usual, the titles are (mostly) in alphabetical order; the logic of departures from that rule will be clear. The Books of the Year will come at the end.”


Middle East - disappearing Christians“A Requiem for the Disappearing Christians of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Gaza” – Tim Dowley in Christianity Today: “‘Islamic fundamentalist groups, in particular ISIS, have ravaged parts of Iraq and Syria and brought those countries’ already decimated Christian population to the verge of extinction. In Egypt, Christian Copts face legal and societal discrimination. In Gaza, which in the fourth century was entirely Christian, fewer than one thousand Christians remain.’ Sobering statistics like these set a grim backdrop for The Vanishing, war journalist Janine di Giovanni’s fearless account of what the book’s subtitle calls ‘Faith, Loss, and the Twilight of Christianity in the Land of the Prophets.’ There can be few better suited or equipped to tell this story than di Giovanni, who has previously reported on the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Syria and is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. The Vanishing is neither a chronological record of Christian withdrawal nor a geopolitical analysis of religious trends. Instead, di Giovanni offers a kind of requiem for a disappearing religious culture, a tale rendered all the more heart-wrenching for having been written during some of the worst months of the COVID-19 crisis.”


Music: The Porter’s Gate, “Isaiah (O Come),” Advent Songs

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.]