The Weekend Wanderer: 1 May 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.


“Died: C. René Padilla, Father of Integral Mission” – Here is David C. Kirkpatrick at Christianity Today remembering a leading missiologist of the last century: “C. René Padilla, theologian, pastor, publisher, and longtime staff member with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, died Tuesday, April 27, at the age of 88. Padilla was best known as the father of integral mission, a theological framework that has been adopted by over 500 Christian missions and relief organizations, including Compassion International and World Vision. Integral mission pushed evangelicals around the world to widen their Christian mission, arguing that social action and evangelism were essential and indivisible components—in Padilla’s words, ‘two wings of a plane.'” You may also appreciate the further article: “Leaders and Friends Remember C. René Padilla.”


“Despite multiracial congregation boom, some Black congregants report prejudice” – Adelle M. Banks at Religion News Service reporting on a recent study by Barna and the Racial Justice and Unity Center: “Most practicing Christians believe the church can enhance race relations in this country by welcoming people of all races and ethnicities, new research finds. But 29% of Black practicing Christians say they have experienced racial prejudice in multiracial congregations, compared to about a tenth who report such an experience in monoracial Black churches. And a third of Black Christians say it is hard to gain leadership positions in a multiracial congregation. The new report, released Wednesday (April 28) by Barna Group and the Racial Justice and Unity Center, examines the views of what researchers call ‘practicing Christians,’ people who self-identify as Christians, say their faith is very important to them and say they attended worship in the past month.”


“How Quebec went from one of the most religious societies to one of the least”– Church historian Philip Jenkins in The Christian Century: “Religious Americans sometimes look nervously at the rapid secularization of European nations and wonder if something similar could happen to them. The last decade has witnessed a notable drift to the secular in the United States, measured for instance by the substantial rise in nones, those who reject any religious affiliation. Meanwhile, the current pandemic will assuredly have wide-ranging effects on institutions of all kinds. But we don’t have to look as far away as Europe for an example of a quite sudden and irrevocable decline of religious faith and practice and the general re­placement of old congregations by new populations. To see just how speedily an old religious order can collapse, look no further than the Canadian province of Quebec.”


pastors read“Why Pastors Should Read Literature” –  Karen Swallow Prior at The Center for Pastor Theologians: “It’s always seemed strange to me that reading good literary works—poetry, drama, short stories, novels—is something that needs defending, particularly among Christians. After all, most people seem to understand (even if we don’t make time to do it often) why we visit art galleries, attend symphonies, and go to plays….But the truth is that we are made of words, by words, and for words. Immersing ourselves in beautiful words (even if only for a few precious minutes most or a few days) is like getting a burst of oxygen in air-deprived lungs. Most of us live and work in polluted environments. We are surrounded by words of anguish, anger, anxiety, and—most of all—efficiency. Literary language, on the other hand, is evocative, rich, resonant, and inviting.”


“A Law of Deceleration: How I dumped the internet and learned to love technology again”  – Paul McDonnold at Plough: “The monster had taken over my work life, home life, and many of the spaces in between. My one-time enchantment was now disgust, and in 2019 I decided to disconnect, or at least pull way back. As much as possible, I began reading and writing with paper and pen instead of pixels. I dropped my home broadband service. My only personal internet came from a smartphone, which had a 3-gigabyte monthly limit. Beyond that, I used public wi-fi at the library. Email became a once-a-day thing, and I stopped scanning Google News. I let my Facebook page languish for weeks, then months. Then I deleted it. My life decelerated, and time seemed to expand. I was able to do more, read more, and think more. And I felt better. But with so many people still paying near-constant obeisance to digital screens, I also began to feel like I was in a science fiction movie – the only human who had snapped out of the monster’s malevolent hypnosis. Then Covid-19 hit, and I had to make some concessions to the monster.”


friendship“Friendship is a place of sacrifice—and sanctification” – Eve Tushnet at America reviews a recent book on friendship: “There is a way of praising friendships that unintentionally undermines them. We often picture friendship as our refuge—romantic relationships bring drama, work brings hassle, family is chaos, but with friends you can relax. You’re understood. Friendship is ‘The Golden Girls,’ where every tiny comic tiff is resolved by the end of the half-hour. Friendship is sweet because friendship is easy. Friendship is safe, because friendship is too small to really hurt you. This is not the only Christian model for friendship. It isn’t even the most obvious Christian model. The greatest friendships in the Bible are sites of sacrifice. Jonathan, having made a covenant of friendship with David, gladly sacrifices personal safety, his relationship with his father and the kingship. Jesus identifies friendship with discipleship and with his own sacrifice for us on the cross, in Jn 15:13-15 (of course it’s in John, the Gospel of the “beloved disciple”): ‘No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ That model, in which friendship can be the site of our sanctification because it is a site of sacrifice, animates much of St. Aelred’s dialogues, Spiritual Friendship.”


Music: U2, “The Troubles,” Songs of Innocence

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 January 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.


Francis Collins Templeton Prize“Dr. Francis Collins | A Christian Perspective on the COVID Vaccines” – I have received a number of questions from Christians about how to think about the COVID vaccines that are being developed. I am thankful I can lean upon the wisdom and insights of medical personnel within our own congregation, as well as those who operate in a larger sphere, such as Dr. Francis Collins. Collins serves as the director of the National Institutes of Health and is also a committed Christian. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this conversation between Dr. Collins and NAE President Walter Kim. If you want to dig deeper into this topic, you may also benefit from the Christian Medical & Dental Associations’ “Navigating Vaccine Ethics” and updates from the Roman Catholic Church in “US Bishops further clarify Church’s position on Covid-19 vaccine.”


Giboney peacemaking“Only Biblical Peacemaking Resolves Racial and Political Injustice” – Here is Justin Giboney at Christianity Today: “Some assume peacemaking requires inactivity or silence in the face of disorder and injustice. But true peace is not passive quiet or the absence of action or the silence of indifference. Biblical peace is shalom, meaning completeness, well-being, and right relationship with God and each other. Silence or inaction amid grave partiality and inequality is not peace. When we mute the poor or rob the victim of voice, we deny peace. Gaslighting or shushing the suffering perverts the wholeness and fulfillment Christianity demands….No other group is better situated to bring healing to this land than the church. There are Bible-believing Christians on both sides of the political spectrum, and outside of politics we have a lot in common. We’re stuck with one another for good. We need each other. It’s time to set our partisan hang-ups aside, make peace, and do justice.”


Cordoba“God’s many mansions: a guide to the world’s greatest churches” – While I might be one of the first to debate whether the word ‘church’ really refers to the people of God or to buildings, it is difficult not to be fascinated by the wonders of ecclesial architecture throughout church history. In The Spectator, Christopher Howse reviews Allan Doig’s forthcoming book A History of the Church through Its Buildings. Doig includes such treasures as “Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the mosque-cathedral of Cordoba among 12 examples of magnificent church architecture.”


Rosen - technosolutionism“Technosolutionism Isn’t the Fix: Whether a crisis of public health or public safety, is the best response increased surveillance?” – In The Hedgehog Review, Christine Rosen grapples with how the pandemic has eased us into a welcoming of technology into our lives in ways that may not be good. Addressing “technosolutionism,” the notion that engineered solutions should be prioritized in solving human problems, Rosen writes: “It was the very swiftness and uncritical enthusiasm with which Americans embraced an ‘easy’ technological solution to a complicated problem that suggests that we are becoming increasingly comfortable with technosolutionism, and not just during times of crisis. Such acquiescence seems understandable at such times, when uncertainty prevails, but as we continue to struggle to find our bearings, it is worth considering the significant choices we have already made with regard to technological problem-solving, and begin to contend with the consequences.”


Wilderness“Wilderness Perspective: A monastic ethos for a militant age” – I read this article back in December but returned to it this past week in relation to a recent message on John the Baptist and the wilderness (“The Voice of One Calling Out“). I have often reflected on what God has to teach us in the wilderness of our lives, and am reflecting more recently on what God may need to teach the church more broadly through the wilderness. Patrick Pierson reflects on this at the individual level in conversation with Thomas Merton in this essay in Comment that offers some interesting points, including this: “withdrawal is not an end in itself, but rather an indispensable means for more truly loving our neighbour as ourself.”


Church Our Lady Mary Zion Axum Ethiopia“Hundreds reportedly dead after massacre at Oriental Orthodox church in Ethiopia” – Meanwhile, in another part of the world: “At least 750 people are reported dead after an attack on an Oriental Orthodox church in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to a European watchgroup. On Jan. 9, the Europe External Programme with Africa reported that the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, about 80 miles west of Adigrat, had been attacked, and that hundreds of people who hid inside were brought out to the front square and shot to death. According to Church Times UK, the attack was carried out by Ethiopian government troops and Amhara militia from central Ethiopia. At least 1,000 people were estimated to be hiding in the church at the time of the attack. Locals have said they believe the church was targeted by raiders of the lost ark. The church is thought to contain the original Ark of the Covenant, a sacred golden chest first mentioned in the book of Exodus.”


Music: I. Erickson [featuring Jpk.], “Flowers (Jpk. Remake).”

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 January 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.


Screen Shot 2021-01-07 at 1.03.39 PM“Faith leaders react to mob at Capitol with prayers, calls for end to violence” – Wednesday was one of the most unsettling days in our nation’s life that I can remember since 9/11. The breaching of the Capitol building by armed protestors sent shivers into the national consciousness in an already stressful and divided time. How did faith leaders around the nation respond? Here is a summary compiled by Religion New Service that spans the spectrum of beliefs and perspectives.


beyondW-epiphany21-2“An Unexpected Epiphany” – Ruth Haley Barton is an insightful Christian leader integrating spiritual formation with our leadership. Her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership is one of my favorites on spiritual leadership, drawing upon the life of Moses as a guide for us. In a recent post, Ruth brought together some powerful reflections on leadership and the season of Epiphany, something I read only after I had already drawn a similar connection but toward different ends in my post yesterday. She writes: “Leadership matters. Transforming leadership matters. Untransformed leadership is dangerous and destructive in the extreme.” This statement summarizes much of what she is trying to get at, but the entire blog post is worth reading.


Anne Snyder - Sowing for Trust“Sowing for Trust” – Here is Anne Snyder writing an editorial at Comment: “We are living through times that often feel like one long commentary on Joni Mitchell’s line ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.’ From quotidian encounters on the street to public sacraments, hospitality in the flesh to basic truth-telling from our leaders, it is not the sophisticated accoutrements of an advanced civilization that have screamed in their absence, but rather the rudimentary things. The things we ordinarily take for granted, the ‘essential’ and the core. As I write in the twilight of this most revealing year, there is one societal staple that is tremoring with a particular foreboding: trust. Trust in other people, trust in institutions, trust in the future, trust in a shared story of hope.”


MakoQuote“Theology of Making” – While working on a book review for Makoto Fujimura’s latest book Art and Faith: A Theology of Making (Yale University Press 2021), I stumbled across this wonderful film series by Windrider Productions that brings to life much of what is on the page in Fujimura’s book. I hope you’ll take a few moments to watch some of the thought-provoking video shorts on this site that reflect on the intersection of biblical theology and aesthetics through the work of Mako Fujimura, as well as other artists and theologians.


Dadivank Monastery in Nagorno-Karabakh“6 Christian Sites Armenia Fears It Has Lost to Azerbaijan” – Christina Maranci offers this beautiful and informative photo essay in Christianity Today related to Christian historic sites in question after the recent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. “In less than seven weeks of war last fall, fighting over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, known to Armenians as Artsakh, cost thousands of lives and created tens of thousands of refugees. It also left a wealth of Christian monuments in the balance. Below, a photo slideshow of the six sites most at risk as their final status and access is still being negotiated. But first, a summary of why Armenians fear the fate of their heritage.”


A Jacobs tech critique“From Tech Critique to Ways of Living” – One of the greatest challenges of our day is how to navigate the ever-increasing influence of technology in our lives. Much of it we are simply not aware of, or have become so quickly accustomed to that we rarely think of what we are sacrificing in order to give space to it. There are many who have raised concerns about technology and its subtle power in our life, urging us to resist or re-approach it in some way; voices like Neil Postman, Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Albert Borgmann, and others. In this valuable essay in The New Atlantis, Alan Jacobs summarizes what he describes as “the Standard Critique of Technology” before charting another way that we might critically approach and live with technology based on the work of Yuk Hui and his proposal regarding cosmotechnics.


Music: The Stance Brothers, “Resolution Blue,” from We Jazz Records 7″ Singles Box / Vol. 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 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.


Chadwick Boseman“Chadwick Boseman: Man of faith in real life, ‘Black Panther’ on screen” – This past week brought news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Boseman, best known for his portrayal of the title character of Marvel’s Black Panther, also portrayed Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall in feature films. “From the impression he left on a pastor of his youth to his own words at the 2018 commencement of Howard University, his alma mater, Boseman demonstrated a Christian life that included service, overcoming stereotypes and a desire to depict strong characters.”


Elon Musk Neuralink pig“Human Interests and Technological Systems” – What happens when human life serves technology more than technology serves human life? L. M. Sacasas critiques a recent display of apparent technological ingenuity by Elon Musk to raise significant questions about human life and technology. “Who is being plugged in to what? Or, to put it another way, who is the dominant partner, the computer or the brain? Are we plugging into a system that will serve our ends, or are we being better fitted to serve the interests of the technological system.”


Congregation at church praying

“1 in 5 churches facing permanent closure within 18 months due to COVID-19 shutdowns: Barna president” – Many churches have been detrimentally impacted by COVID-19, whether in the loss of church members, the inability to meet in person, or financial difficulties. In an interview with NPR, David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group, predicts that 1 in 5 churches could face permanent closure in the next year and a half because of shutdowns related to COVID-19.


vocation“Vocation in a Time of Precedented Uncertainty” – Here’s Noah Toly speaking about vocation in Comment:  “Even if ‘unprecedented’ is overused, the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the containment and mitigation measures put in place to check the spread of the disease have been extraordinarily disruptive, destroying lives, upending livelihoods, and clouding the future with uncertainty. Among the many casualties of these current risks and future uncertainties is sure-footed conviction about our vocations. Why would we continue to invest time and attention in the same things that captured our imaginations before the pandemic? Where does our work fit into questions about the future of the global economy, the possibility of environmental integrity, the pace of scientific discovery, or the scale of global charitable giving?


iran“Researchers Find Christians in Iran Approaching 1 Million” – While not the first to report the news of the growth of Christianity in Iran, what is perhaps most interesting is that this latest research about the growth of christianity in Iran is from a non-faith-based perspective. With government statistics showing the traditional Armenian and Assyrian Christians in Iran number 117,700, ” a new survey of 50,000 Iranians—90 percent residing in Iran—by GAMAAN, a Netherlands-based research group, 1.5 percent identified as Christian.” This data extrapolates out to over 750,000 people in the total population of Iran.


Music: Max Richter, “Mercy,” from Voices.

[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: 21 September 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.

 

article_5d72a06785e29“Catholicism Made Me Protestant” – After college I worked in a Roman Catholic books and church supply store for about nine months. As I learned to navigate the store and its contents, I also went on a journey of exploring the historic roots of the Christian faith. More than once since those days, I have searched out Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as possibilities of getting to the bottom of the nature of authority within the church. Each time I have gained deeper appreciation for voices from earlier eras of the history of the church, while also returning to my Protestant roots stronger for the exploration.  Onsi A. Kamel offers an essay at First Things that echoed some aspects of my own search: “Catholicism had taught me to think like a Protestant, because, as it turned out, the Reformers had thought like catholics. Like their pope-aligned opponents, they had asked questions about justification, the authority of tradition, the mode of Christ’s self-gift in the Eucharist, the nature of apostolic succession, and the Church’s wielding of the keys. Like their opponents, Protestants had appealed to Scripture and tradition. In time, I came to find their answers not only plausible, but more faithful to Scripture than the Catholic answers, and at least as well-represented in the traditions of the Church.”

 

Judgment Day Florence Cathedral“Is the ‘final judgment’ really final?” – It would be difficult to not hear some rumblings about David Bentley Hart’s new book, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. Hart is a rough and tumble essayist and author, whose recent translation of the New Testament spurred a critical exchange between Hart and N. T. Wright, as well as some appreciative yet critical comments from Alan Jacobs about one of Hart’s bad intellectual habits. This latest book has already generated a lot of conversations, but is essentially an argument against the church’s reliance on a form of Augustine’s thinking and for a form of Gregory of Nyssa’s thinking on salvation and hell. The Christian Century provides this excerpt from Hart’s book for engagement. Douglas Farrow’s review in First Things is not all that appreciative of Hart’s thinking in the book, but engaging with Hart’s theological project at some level is necessary work for pastors and Christian leaders.

 

Willow Creek jd word cloud“Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?” – I have been on a journey of recovery in pastoral ministry for the last year or two. It has led me toward rediscovering what it means to be a pastor by listening to voices like Eugene Peterson and John Chrysostom, as well as exploring the dark side of leadership and what keeps ministry resilient. After serving within it for the past fifteen plus years, I am questioning nearly every aspect of non-denominational, evangelical, megachuch Christianity in North America. The flagship church for that is Willow Creek, who is now searching for a new Senior Pastor. I have some sadness for how Willow has taken so much flak in these days, but not enough sadness to avoid pointing out that most of the historically essential work of the pastor is really not present in the job description they have put forward for this role. Scot McKnight says it with much better clarity than me in this article.

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?“When Philip K. Dick turned to Christianity” – Most fans of science fiction know that the movies Blade Runner (1982) and the recent sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017) were inspired by Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I was surprised to read this article in Salon a few months back about Dick’s turn toward Christianity shortly before his surge to fame within 1960s counterculture. While he didn’t stick with the church in its institutional form, his turn toward faith did, apparently, shape his later outlook and writings.

 

0_omPrFdurOKV3rsyv“A Radical Guide to Spending Less Time on Your Phone” – Those closest to me know that I’ve been on a multi-year journey to shed much of my closeness to my smartphone, some forms of technology, and social media. The most recent version of that is a project I affectionately call “the dumbest smartphone in the universe,” which is an attempt to radically simplify the apps available on my smartphone. Someday, maybe I’ll blog about it, but in the meantime read Ryan Holiday’s article which echoes many of the changes I’ve made.

 

William Blake“A blockbuster show at Tate Britain gives William Blake his due” – Two summers ago, my wife and I had the chance to get away to London for a week as part of celebrating twenty years of marriage. While there, we returned to places we had visited years ago when we both participated in a summer study program. Seeing works of revered artists in Tate Britain and Tate Modern was a highlight. While we saw many of William Blake’s drawings and etchings, this new show sounds like a delightful look at his work.

 

Music: Daniel Lanois, “The Maker,” from Acadie.

[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.]