Distracted and Divided from the Good Life

Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

In an article entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, Nicholas Carr wrote:

Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do.[1]

Studies have actually shown that not only are we becoming more distracted these days, but the power of distraction and multi-tasking are making us less productive in our work, more anxious, struggling with relationship-building, and often more lonely.[2]

Our Problem: Distracted from the Good Life

Our problem with distraction is that it divides us up, confuses us, and leads us away from life at its best. While we have more information than ever before, tremendous amounts of technology with greater capacities than ever before, and greater ease in life than ever before, we are simultaneously struggling as much as ever – if not more – with attaining to the good life.

The good life is that life the we would like to live; the life that we most desire and long for. Unfortunately, the good life seems to be slipping through our grasp even as we have more access to information and ease than ever before.

I’d like to take us some initial exploration of what it means to live life at its best; that is, how do we attain the life we really desire? This will require some degree of self-awareness. We will need to know our own selves well, and what is hindering us from the good life. Specifically, we will need to give attention to distraction, both the distractions that come from outside us and the distractions that come from inside of us

It will also require some God-awareness. Awareness of God is the key to the good life, specifically how to move from division to unity – or integrity – as people. Let’s look at Psalm 86:11:

Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart
to revere your name.

Beginning with awareness of God will help us access the good life. Increasing our awareness of God as revealed in the Scripture, and preeminently in Jesus Christ, will lead us into transformative understanding of some basic truths. First, the good life is what we were made for. We were created by God, both individually and as the human race, for His good pleasure and for experiencing the good life with Him. Second, the only way to enter into the good life is through right connection with God. That right connection with God requires that our hearts that are focused upon Him through faith in Jesus Christ, and undivided by both inner and outer distractions. The good life requires undivided hearts with God. Over the next few weeks, i will spend some time here at the blog exploring these themes. I invite you to join me in that exploration.

 


[1] Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, The Atlantic, July/August 2008, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/; accessed January 3, 2019.

[2] Eric Westervelt, “Learning in the Age of Digital Distraction,” NPR, November 5, 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/05/498477634/learning-in-the-age-of-digital-distraction; accessed January 3, 2019; and Harriet Griffey, “The Lost Art of Concentration: Being Distracted in a Digital World,” The Guardian, October 14, 2018,  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/14/the-lost-art-of-concentration-being-distracted-in-a-digital-world; accessed January 3, 2019.

 

 

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 January 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.

View More: http://thejoesphotos.pass.us/anyabwilefamily“Diverse Theologians to Read in 2019”Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor at Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition, offers a great resource for those trying to broaden the voices of their theological conversation partners. “Recently a brother on Twitter asked if I could recommend some orthodox theologians from around the world that he could read in 2019. It’s not the first time I’ve gotten such a request. So I thought I’d put together a short list of theologians and leaders from differing ethnic backgrounds for those who may be interested to diversify their reading lists.”

 

Screen Shot 2019-01-02 at 1.14.18 PMThe Tech-Wise Family Challenge – Without a doubt, the best book that I have read related to living a healthy life as a family in the digital age is The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch. If you have not read it, I would strongly encourage you to do so. Because of this, I was thrilled to hear about Barna Group partnering with Crouch to offer a 21-day Tech-Wise Family Challenge that begins this coming Monday, January 7. Find out more about it here.

 

uganda peace“Risking Peace: How Religious Leaders Ended Uganda’s Civil War” – At Commonweal, David Hoekema writes about the influence of religious leaders in shaping peace for the end of the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government. “Far less known—scarcely mentioned in news reports—was the formation of an alliance of religious leaders in the darkest period of the conflict. Overcoming centuries of mistrust and disagreement, the Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim communities of the Acholi region joined forces to help relieve suffering caused by the violence and to bring government and rebel leaders to the negotiating table. Their work bears witness to the transforming power of interfaith collaboration and to the ability of local communities in Africa to resolve a seemingly intractable conflict.”

 

Jerry Falwell Jr“Jerry Falwell Jr. can’t imagine Trump ‘doing anything that’s not good for the country’ – In an interview with Joe Heim in The Washington Post, Jerry Falwell, Jr., speaks out in favor of Donald Trump in a way that is worth paying attention to because his justification is theologically questionable. Falwell credits his ongoing support for President Trump as based on Trump’s success in business and that we need a President “to run the country like a business.” While that could be true, Falwell  goes on to dismiss the importance of character in public leaders and downgrades the importance of caring for the poor. Citing a simplistic approach to two kingdoms theology, Falwell says: “In the heavenly kingdom the responsibility is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. In the earthly kingdom, the responsibility is to choose leaders who will do what’s best for your country.” Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist Pastor, offered a scathing critique of Falwell’s statement that is worth pondering.

 

85735“Building on the Black Church’s Bible Legacy” – “African Americans have held tight to their Bibles over the years. Amid cultural shifts in beliefs and reading habits, their demographic consistently outranks other racial groups for their reliance on the Word. Last year, the American Bible Society (ABS) once again named African Americans ‘the most Bible engaged in the US.'”

 

dante inferno online“An Illustrated and Interactive Dante’s Inferno: Explore a New Digital Companion to the Great 14th-Century Epic Poem” – I guess you could be wasting your time playing Fortnite, so why not explore Dante’s Inferno? “The online, interactive companion to the Inferno you see screen-shotted here does not attempt to join their ranks. Its charming, children’s-book-graphic visual presentation takes a G-rated approach, ditching accurate human anatomy and horrific violence for a cartoonish video game romp through hell that makes it seem like a super fun, if super weird, place to visit. Created by Alpaca, an Italian design cooperative, and design studio Molotro, the tool aims to be ‘a synsemic access point to Dante’s literature, aiding its study.'”

 

Thomas Merton“Thomas Merton, the Monk Who Became a Prophet” – In The New Yorker, Alan Jacobs offers a wonderful reflection on the life of Thomas Merton, that quirky, most-popular monk of the twentieth-century. “Merton lived the public world, the world of words and politics, but knew that living in it had killed him. (‘Thomas Merton is dead.’) He sought the peace of pure and silent contemplation, but came to believe that the value of that experience is to send us back into the world that killed us. He is perhaps the proper patron saint of our information-saturated age, of we who live and move and have our being in social media, and then, desperate for peace and rest, withdraw into privacy and silence, only to return. As we always will.”

 

85769“Billy Graham, Eugene Peterson, and Other Evangelicals Lost This Year” –  Christianity Today highlights some of the most notable figures in the evangelical world that died in this past year. While most of us probably heard of the deaths of Billy Graham and Eugene Peterson, we may not have known about the passing of James Earl Massey, Bob Buford, George Lindbeck, and others on this list.

 

book open“10 Novels Every Pastor Should Read” – I stumbled upon this article by Kolby Kerr and liked it right away. Here he offers an apologetic for reading fiction for pastors that is winsome and clear, while also offering a very energizing list of suggested reading for pastors. There were a few on this list that I haven’t read, and so I look forward to exploring them. There were some missing that I would have included, but such is the subjectivity of book lists. Some may not know that the reason I studied English Literature as an undergrad was because of my calling toward pastoral ministry. I could not have been more happy for the education that I received and the way it has shaped my life and vocation.

 

PNG.jpegWhich country has the most languages?” – The BBC reports: “Papua New Guinea has about eight million people, but more than 800 languages. The oldest ones, in the Papuan group, date back tens of thousands of years. So why are there so many languages in this mountainous island country?”

 

[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: 22 December 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.

apocalypse“Why Apocalypse is Essential to Advent” – I am just concluding a long preaching series on the book of Daniel at Eastbrook Church entitled, “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith.” Moving through the entire book this Fall brought the apocalyptic visions of the second half of the book into alignment with the season of Advent. I have not had a better preparation for Advent than this in a long time. Because of all that, I really could not agree more with Fleming Rutledge in this excellent essay over at Christianity Today.

 

cherries“Grace” – Over at First Things you will find a beautiful, narrative reflection on grace and Advent by Patricia Snow. It begins: “On a hazy afternoon in late May 1986, I wait, as I wait every weekday afternoon in a parking lot in Branford, Connecticut, for my son to be dismissed from school. While I wait, I listen to Ceci, another mother new to the school, whose son is in my son’s class. She is telling me about her car.”

 

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

“Detention of 100 Christians raises concerns about religious crackdown in China” – The intense pressure by the Chinese government continues to be felt by minorities of all types, and specifically upon individual Christians and church communities. This latest report, occurring last weekend, highlights the ways that President Xi is ratcheting up control to degrees that have not been experienced for quite some time. Religious freedom is a real issue in many parts of the world and Christians must be aware of the present challenges. One church in China is responding more vocally than normal to this challenging situation: “‘Faithful disobedience’: An influential house church in China responds to a wave of police detentions.”

 

Beth Moore“Max Lucado Reveals Past Sexual Abuse at Evangelical #MeToo Summit” – An important event took place last week in Wheaton, IL, related to the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. “Today, [Beth] Moore joined major evangelical leaders—including Australian evangelist Christine Caine, bestselling author and San Antonio pastor Max Lucado, and Seattle pastor Eugene Cho—for a Billy Graham Center event called Reflections: A GC2 Summit on Responding to Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Violence. The event represents the largest inter-denominational response to sex abuse since #MeToo took off last fall.”

 

merlin_147632778_6dffd07c-9d53-48f3-b187-adaaca0217c5-superJumbo“Internet Church Isn’t Really Church” – In case you weren’t clear on what church is, Laura Turner writes to at least help you understand that online church isn’t really church. Of course, this is in part a response to Judah Smith’s launching of a church app for personal, online worship, but that is merely the latest iteration of something that has been happening for years now. Turner writes: “This, then, is the beauty of the church: not that it is perfect or convenient or fits easily into my life but that without it, my life would be deficient. I could still believe in God without the church, could celebrate Christmas without it, or go once a year. But I don’t believe I would truly be a Christian without the real, in-person, Sunday morning church.”

 

hillsong worship“Where next for contemporary worship music?” – Speaking of modern afflictions of church, here is Madeleine Davies’ exploration of the history of worship music and the challenges that it faces today. This is not a short read, which means that it is really worth reading. I would encourage you to take the time to read through this piece and reflect on what worship really means and how music is or is not a part of that.

 

Marsh-and-Fannie-300x225.jpg“Charles Marsh Delivers DuBose Lectures at Sewanee University” – At the end of November Dr. Charles Marsh, professor of religious studies and director of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia, delivered the DuBose Lectures. His topics bring within their range some of my own greatest areas of interest: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his ‘religionless’ Christianity, civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so much more. I have not listened to the lectures in their entirety, but hope to do so soon.

 

Vitamin waterVitamin Water will pay you big bucks to give up your phone for a year – Armed with $100,000 offer and a lie detector test, Vitamin Water is reaching out to see if anyone could really go for an entire year without their smart phone. I’m tempted to go for this, but not sure I could complete all the requirements in the fine print since I preach from an iPad on weekends as a way to avoid using paper notes each weekend. Maybe you could do it!

[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.]

Wendell Berry on the wisdom of simplicity

Here is Wendell Berry in The Hidden Wound (Boston: Houston Mifflin, 1970), pages 100-101:

I am far from conceding anything to those who assume that the poor or anyone else can be improved by recourse to that carnival of waste and ostentation and greed known as “our high standard of living.” As Thoreau so well knew, and so painstakingly tried to show us, what a man most needs is not a knowledge of how to get more, but a knowledge of the most he can do without, and of how to get along without it. The essential cultural discrimination is not between having and not having or haves and have-nots, but between the superfluous and the indispensable. Wisdom, it seems to me, is always poised upon the knowledge of minimums; it might be thought to be the art of minimums. Granting the frailty, and no doubt the impermanence, of technology as a human contrivance, the man who can keep a fire in a stove or on a hearth is not only more durable, but wiser, closer to the meaning of fire, than the man who can only work a thermostat.

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 December 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.

jo saxton“Calling Versus Narcissism” – In this ten-minute message given at Q Ideas, Jo Saxton reflects on the slight difference between calling and narcissism. Building off of the myth of Narcissus and the contemporary discussion of the narcissistic personality disorder, Saxton speaks to Christians about how we can view calling through the eyes of God, and authentically position our service for the good of others.

 

Jean Pierre Gatera“He Led Churches in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. Now He Waxes Floors” – You will be moved by this powerful account of Jean Pierre Gatera, a bivocational pastor in the US, who is also a refugee. He spent 20 years in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya, where he pastored several congregations.

 

85361“US Missionary Killed by ‘World’s Most Isolated’ Tribe” – “A 26-year-old American missionary was killed on a remote island off the coast of India, where he attempted to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world. All Nations, a Christian missions agency based in the US, confirmed that John Allen Chau traveled to North Sentinel Island after years of study and training to evangelize its small indigenous population, who remain almost entirely untouched by modern civilization.” You can read the BBC’s initial report here and updates on attempts to retrieve Chau’s body here. You can find out more about the Sentinelese people here. This also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the way that we tell missionary stories. Read Lucy Austen’s article on this dilemma, “From Jim Elliot to John Allen Chau: The Missionary-Martyr Dilemma,” over at Christianity Today.

 

img_3744_slide-6b53600232d81844eff1806355dec33c4a5e739f-s1500-c85“In Iraq, A Race To Protect The Crumbling Bricks Of Ancient Babylon” – In the midst of our series on the book of Daniel at Eastbrook Church, I have spent quite a bit of time researching the history of ancient Babylon. NPR reports here on the challenges of preserving that cultural history as a result of the conflicts that have raged in the midst of Iraq over the past ten years and more.

 

luke-palmer-305434-unsplash.jpg“How to experience the Bible in a digital world” – “Spark and Echo, cofounded in 2010 by the composer Jonathan Roberts and the actor and musician Emily Clare Zempel, aims to “illuminate” every single verse of the King James Bible by the year 2030. The way it works is this: Patrons contribute funding and have a chance to mark with a ‘spark’ particular verses they would like to see ‘echoed’ by an artist, writer or musician. Then, the program commissions—and pays for—an original work based on those verses.”

 

Old-Vintage-Books“8 Works of Fiction Every Christian Should Read”Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well, shares eight fiction books that every Christian should read. You will find treasures from Charlotte Bronte, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Flannery O’Connor, and Charles Dickens, as well as a few surprises. This is a fantastic list worth taking a look at for your Christmas list or just for adding to your to-read list for 2019.

 

christopher tolkien“The Steward of Middle-Earth” – Speaking of good literature, you might enjoy Hannah Long‘s fascinating reflection on the work of Christopher Tolkien, son of J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. “In 1975, Christopher Tolkien left his fellowship at New College, Oxford, to edit his late father’s massive legendarium. The prospect was daunting. The 50-year-old medievalist found himself confronted with 70 boxes of unpublished work. Thousands of pages of notes and fragments and poems, some dating back more than six decades, were stuffed haphazardly into the boxes. Handwritten texts were hurriedly scrawled in pencil and annotated with a jumble of notes and corrections. One early story was drafted in a high school exercise book.”

 

Andy Crouch“Tech Wise”Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making and The Tech-Wise Family, speaks at Menlo Church about what he calls “the upgrader’s dilemma.” What is that? That dilemma is the simultaneous reality that even as technology is progressing through upgrades that astound us, other things in our world and our lives do not feel like they are progressing at all, but might be getting worse. Crouch explores the possibility that the very things that are progressing are contributing to our failure to progress in other areas.

 

151103120643-italian-elderly-man-exlarge-169“Drug overdoses, suicides cause drop in 2017 US life expectancy; CDC director calls it a ‘wakeup call'” – “Life expectancy in the United States declined from 2016 to 2017, yet the 10 leading causes of death remained the same, according to three government reports released Thursday. Increasing deaths due to drug overdoses and suicides explain this slight downtick in life expectancy, the US Centers for Disease Control says. Overdose deaths reached a new high in 2017, topping 70,000, while the suicide rate increased by 3.7%, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports.” If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please don’t delay in reaching out for help. Find support resources here.

 

[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: 25 August 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.

 

16601.31670“Meet Presbyterian America’s First Licensed Black Preacher: No Happy Ending and a Warning for Today” – Darryl Williamson shares the atypical story of John Chavis, an 18th century black man who became the Presbyterian Church’s first licensed black preacher in what became the United States of America. His life experiences highlight the racial wrestling at the heart of our nation’s birth, as well as the conflicted legacy that Christianity has in “the new world.” While not engaging with some of the deeper structural issues at play, Williamson’s introduction to Chavis is worth a read.

 

library“Advice to My Former Freshman Self” – Although published awhile back, Jordan Hylden’s advice to his college freshman self is still as helpful and illuminating as ever. This is a good article to pass along to college students you know as they launch into life at university, regardless of where they find themselves. It reminds me of a list I have been building to share with my own son, Isaiah, as he begins his freshman year of college this coming week.

 

clergy collar“Statement of Catholic Theologians, Educators, Parishioners, and Lay Leaders on Clergy Sexual Abuse in the United States” – There is a grassroots movement within the Roman Catholic church responding with angst to the recent report of the Pennsylvania Attorney General about the prevalence of sexual abuse in dioceses of that State. “The document chronicles, with nauseating clarity, seven decades of clergy sexual abuse and systematic cover-ups by bishops and others in positions of power. The report comes in the wake of last months’ revelations of decades of sexual predation by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and in the long shadow of the sexual abuse crisis in Boston and beyond….Today, we call on the Catholic Bishops of the United States to prayerfully and genuinely consider submitting to Pope Francis their collective resignation as a public act of repentance and lamentation before God and God’s People.” Pope Francis has also written a letter responding to this situation, which you can read here.

 

Silhouette of a boy making Photos with smart phone“Phones Are Changing the Texture of Family Life” – The other day I told my son that I wanted to blow up all mobile phones. He actually agreed with me. Over at The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker reports on why we may have agreed based upon a recent, national Pew Research Survey that evaluates screen time and device distractions. “Ninety-five percent of Americans ages 13 to 17 have a smartphone or access to one, and nearly half report using the internet “almost constantly….Parents and teens alike felt that phones were encroaching on everyday interactions. Seventy-two percent of parents in the survey said that their teenagers were “sometimes” or “often” distracted by their phones during conversations. More interestingly, though, roughly half of teens felt the same way about their parents. The fact that this dynamic of distraction runs both ways is only just starting to get attention.”

 

82943“Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoers” – This news report hit at the end of July, but I still wanted to share it. It’s worth reflecting on what this says about our local churches and American Protestant Christianity. “About a third of Protestant churchgoers say their congregation teaches that God will bless them if they donate money. Two-thirds say God wants them to prosper. One in 4 say they have to do something for God to receive material blessings in return. Those are among the key findings of a new study on ‘prosperity gospel’ beliefs from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month.”

 

unite-the-right“Lived Theology a Year After Charlottesville” – The Project on Lived Theology under the direction of Charles Marsh at the University of Virginia put together an outstanding bibliography of articles following the tensions one year ago in Charlottesville. There are news pieces, theological reflections, summaries of religious responses, and forthcoming books about how the tensions in Charlottesville relate to the both the racial tensions and religious self-understanding of Christianity in America. It’s worth perusing this interesting collection.

 

Screen-Shot-2018-08-21-at-12.04.42-PM-554x419“For Millennial Conservatives, the Enemy is Us” – Rod Dreher vents his thoughts about conservatism mixed with generational theory. Like others, such as Alan Jacobs, I am a strong critic of generational thinking. Many times, it is perfectly useless. At other times, it is used as an excuse to blow off the thoughts of others who are “outdated.” Still at other times, it is used as a way to give oneself the platform of being “a spokesperson for my generation.” All that put aside, Dreher offers some insights for conservatives, with a few asides on Christianity, on the place in which they find themselves in this era.

 

SEVENTH SEAL, THE (1957)“Oh Lord, Why Did You Forsake Ingmar Bergman?: Reflections on a master at 100” – As the film world celebrates what would have been Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman’s 100th birthday, I can tell there are going to be some outstanding reviews of his work. Nathan Shields offers a unique perspective on Bergman’s films as haunted by Lutheran faith even after Bergman declared himself an atheist. His films are, essentially, religious in nature, not merely philosophical, and it is this religious tension that often makes his films so powerful.

 

gray“Ode to Gray” – In light of discussing Bergman, this is as good a time as any to share Meghan Flaherty’s “Ode to Gray.” I have a confession: gray is one of my two favorite colors. Flaherty gives us a reason to feel good about gray. “I’m drawn to gray, as to a dream, but not to any old gray. Not storm-cloud gray or corporate monolith. I prefer tranquil gray: the undyed wool of sheep in rain, the mood inside a Gerhard Richter painting, the mottle of an ancient cairn. I don’t mean any one gray either but the entire underrainbow of the world, the faded rose and sage and caesious. Liard, lovat, perse. The human eye perceives five hundred—not a mere fifty—shades of gray. Paul Klee called it the richest color: the one that makes all the others speak.”

 

[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: 28 July 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.

 

82813“Do Church Plants Drive Neighborhood Change?: Why gentrification seems to correlate with the opening of new urban congregations” – Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast recently featured a conversation between José Humphreys, associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and associate theology editor Caleb Lindgren. Topics include “the catalysts behind church plants entering under-resourced neighborhoods, what separates church plants from the storefront churches, and if people should move into the neighborhoods in which they worship.”

 

merlin_141183912_74bede79-04fa-4d49-9a84-12478039e11d-superJumbo“The Quiet Death of Racial Progress” – Social commentator David Brooks reevaluates the idea that we are making racial progress in America. He writes: “The deeper I dug into the evidence, the more I came to doubt the idea that we are still making progress on race. For every positive statistic indicating racial reconciliation, there was one indicating stagnation or even decay….We’ve fallen into a bogus logjam in which progressives emphasize systems of oppression and conservatives emphasize cultural norms. Both critiques are correct. If we’re going to do something about this appalling retrogression on race, we probably need to be radical on both ends.”

 

Oswald ChambersA friend from church shared this article by Patricia Raybon on racial tensions entitled “The Dead White Man Who Could Fix Our Race Problem: Oswald Chambers.” Drawing from Oswald Chambers’ life and ministry, Raybon highlights four key insights from Chambers that are relevant today for race relations in the church and our culture.

 

flag“State of the Nation”John Wilson, in his column at First Things, addresses the current challenges in our divided nation, particularly the immigration debate. “This reluctance to offer shelter, very much at odds with America’s self-image, has not been characteristic of our entire history, but it hasn’t been limited to a handful of episodes either. We should be honest about that. To do so doesn’t require us to agree with those who are saying that the US today is a ‘hellish dystopia.'”

 

US-Mexico-border-fence-at-beach-in-Tijuana-e1530628968728Taking this a little further, Alan Cross pointedly addresses the realities of the current immigration debate and Christian faith in “Migration, Security, and the Witness of the Church.”  He writes: “People all over the world are engaged in spiritual conversations about the value of human life, what it means to live in community, and who they really are. The church must speak into that biblically, not first as citizens of their nation-state, but as the people of God.” Cross offers specific attention to the recent Southern Baptist resolution on immigration as one way forward on this contentious issue.

 

Attendees of the Qingdao International Beer Festival taking a selfie with a smartphone, Shandong province, China, August 2015“In the Depths of the Digital Age” by Edward Mendelson is a review of six books on technology and the digital age from a couple of years ago with invaluable insight. By engaging with the thoughts of the authors, Mendelson offers a series of profound questions and reflections on the realities of contemporary life, touching upon topics including surveillance, the pace of life, solitude, reading, polarization, anxiety, and changing social mores. Technology is one of the most important areas of discipleship in our current era, so we do well to understand the variety of issues at stake. [Thanks to Alan Jacobs for sharing this article.]

 

2018_3-summer_auden_02Since Edward Mendelson is the literary executor of W. H. Auden, this seems like as good a time as any to share Danny Heitman‘s essay, “The Messy Genius of W. H. Auden: A disheveled poet crafted verse of exquisite order.” Auden is one of those writers who has intrigued me since my days as an undergrad and for whom my admiration has grown as I have read his work more widely, including his expansive collection of essays, forewords and afterwords. Heitman writes: “Auden’s personal contradictions make him a difficult man to fathom. His poems, like the poet himself, can defy easy understanding, too.” That could be said of many writers, but Heitman’s exploration of Auden’s messiness is delightful.

[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.]