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: 5 June 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.


K Shaped Recovery“After the K-shaped Recovery” – Here is Andy Crouch from the 2021 Praxis Redemptive Imagination Summit: “To begin, consider a simple thought, counter-intuitive in one sense and almost indisputable in another sense: In all likelihood, in the history of the 2020s, Covid-19 will be a footnote. When our great-grandchildren think about the 2020s, they will probably remember the pandemic just as little as we—until last March—remembered the Spanish Flu when we thought about the 1920s. Pandemics and other natural disasters are rarely history-shaping events by themselves. Instead, natural disasters accelerate and intensify cultural realities and trends. This is why we wrote last year that the lasting ‘ice age,’ the long-term effects of Covid-19, would be more about economy than epidemiology. The little ice age would not so much be the twelve to eighteen months of pandemic ‘winter’ itself, but the dislocation and social change that would be left behind. Today we see three major dislocations, not caused by the pandemic but accelerated by it, that will shape the horizon of redemptive action in the next decade.”


The Louvre Museum Reoppens To The Public - Paris

“New Louvre Director to Resurrect Plans for Long-Debated Byzantine and Coptic Art Department” – Alex Greenberger in ARTnews: “In one of her first moves as the newly appointed president of the Louvre, Laurence des Cars plans to formally launch a department devoted to Byzantine and Coptic art at the Paris museum. If that department comes to fruition, it would signify a break with the Louvre’s current president, Jean-Luc Martinez, who had deemed its formation unnecessary, and a willingness to expand the ways the museum presents religious art. ‘It is a magnificent collection that deserves a department in its own right,’ des Cars said in an interview with the French radio station France Inter. In 2014, Martinez called the department ‘not an emergency.’ At the time, the Louvre owned 10,000 Coptic objects and 1,000 Byzantine artworks, according to a report by the French Roman Catholic newspaper La Croix. At the time, just 750 of those 11,000 works were on display, and it has historically been difficult to view them together in one designated space.”


Tulsa Church“Hundreds gather at historic Tulsa church’s prayer wall” – Peter Smith at APNews: “Hundreds gathered Monday for an interfaith service dedicating a prayer wall outside historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood on the centennial of the first day of one of the deadliest racist massacres in the nation. National civil rights leaders, including the Revs. Jesse Jackson and William Barber, joined multiple local faith leaders offering prayers and remarks outside the church that was under construction and largely destroyed when a white mob descended on the prosperous Black neighborhood in 1921, burning, killing, looting and leveling a 35-square-block area. Estimates of the death toll range from dozens to 300.”


_118666319_darkenergymap“New dark matter map reveals cosmic mystery” – From Pallab Ghosh at BBC News: “An international team of researchers has created the largest and most detailed map of the distribution of so-called dark matter in the Universe. The results are a surprise because they show that it is slightly smoother and more spread out than the current best theories predict. The observation appears to stray from Einstein’s theory of general relativity – posing a conundrum for researchers. The results have been published by the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration. Dark Matter is an invisible substance that permeates space. It accounts for 80% of the matter in the Universe. Astronomers were able to work out where it was because it distorts light from distant stars. The greater the distortion, the greater the concentration of dark matter. Dr Niall Jeffrey, of École Normale Supérieure, in Paris, who pieced the map together, said that the result posed a ‘real problem’ for physics.”


primary_the-tree-of-life-37“Terrence Malick and the Christian Story” – In research for something entirely different I came across this 2016 article by David Roark at RogerEbert.com on the film-making of Terrence Malick: “Wherever one lands on the polarizing style of Terrence Malick, no one would deny the spiritual gravitas of his work—cinema obsessed with and overwhelmed by the mystical and the metaphysical. As much as has been said and written about Malick, there still remains debate and confusion around the spirituality of his films. In attempting to mine meaning from his work, folks continue to land all over the map, seeing him as everything from a pantheist to an agnostic. The sense of mystery is compounded because Malick is an artist before he is a theologian or philosopher, and because he hasn’t given an interview about his own films since 1979.  All that said, I believe Malick’s cinema is not vaguely or ambivalently religious or spiritual but is, in fact, distinctly and explicitly Christian.”


Laos“Christian pastor in Laos will avoid jail if he promises not to preach for a year” – This puts perspective on the problems I face after preaching certain sermons. “A Christian pastor, held in police detention in the Southeast Asian country of Laos for a year, has been spared jail after he was made to sign documents swearing not to preach until 2022. A court convicted Sithon Thippavong, 35, in April of “disrupting unity” and “creating disorder” after he was found to have held church services in Savannakhet province without government permission. The church leader, who started his ministry among villagers in southern Savannakhet in 2011, was arrested on 15th March, 2020.”


Music: Solar., “Lost in My Mind”

The Weekend Wanderer: 7 March 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.

masked girl to protect herself from wuhan virus in public area“Is Your Church Ready for the Coronavirus?” – Like other pastors, I am working with my staff to make sure that our church is ready for what may come our way with COVID-19. In the midst of famous religious figures being quarantined as a result of travels outside the US, fringe religious sects being blamed for outbreaks of the virus in South Korea, and changes in methods of serving communion in Italy, it is important to come back to basics of being informed by the CDC and WHO about the actual situation with this epidemic. Beyond that, I found this article by Jamie Aten, Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute (HDI) at Wheaton College (IL), really helpful in providing a few simple things churches can do now to help prepare for any potential public health crisis.


1918 influenza“The Coronavirus Is No 1918 Pandemic” – On the other hand, here is Jeremy Brown, Director of the Office of Emergency Care Research, National Institutes of Health: “We have just commemorated the centenary of the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918, which lasted only a few months but claimed 50 million to 100 million lives worldwide, including 675,000 in the United States. That pandemic remains a benchmark, and many commentators have rushed to compare it to the current coronavirus outbreak. What’s most striking about these comparisons, though, is not the similarities between the two episodes, but the distance that medicine has traveled in the intervening century. Whatever happens next, it won’t be a second 1918.”


115085“What Martin Luther Teaches Us About Coronavirus” – In light of all of this, it’s always helpful to remember who we are as the church, sometimes by getting in touch with those from an earlier time who faced major public health challenges. “In 1527, less than 200 years after the Black Death killed about half the population of Europe, the plague re-emerged in Luther’s own town of Wittenberg and neighboring cities. In his letter ‘Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,’ the famous reformer weighs the responsibilities of ordinary citizens during contagion. His advice serves as a practical guide for Christians confronting infectious disease outbreaks today.”


Screen-Shot-2020-01-22-at-10.49.12-PM“Stepping Toward the Future”Vince Bacote, who will be joining us at Eastbrook Church on April 27 as part of our “Faith and Politics” series, concludes a series of posts related to his lectures at the Theopolis Institute on the Church and Race.  “God’s work within the church is not the neat trajectory of transformation that we prefer, but the Spirit is at work leading God’s people to:

  1. be those who look at the truth about ourselves and the world,
  2. be those who patiently engage each other and pursue mutual understanding,
  3. be those who work with imperfect concepts while learning how to pursue mission together across ethnic differences,
  4. be those who are relentless in confessing and conveying our hope that God’s kingdom and heavenly city is on the way.”

hiddenlife4“Patience: Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life – Like most of us, I enjoy watching a good movie. But there is a significant distance between the sort of basic ‘good movie’ and a good, or even great, film. One of the great filmmakers of our era is Terrence Malick, whose limited work has several times reached greatness. Some of his more recent films, particularly since The Tree of Life, have involved religious and even Christian themes. In The Point, Alan Jacobs offers insights into his early viewing of and meaningful response to Malick’s most recent film, A Hidden Life.


biker-church-4-002--650a7ee07f76ec3f7ce36b5bb2aba79c80244736-s1500-c85“Bikers Get A Bad Rep, So They Started A Church Where They Feel Welcome” – Here’s a sentence I never thought I would write. Now, let’s look at an article from NPR about a biker church that has sprung up in Bangor, Maine, to help reach those in that subgroup who are struggling to find community in Christ. “Our mission-vision behind that, originally, was to have 10,000 bikers in the Bible every week. And God said, ‘Well, that’s great. We can do that.’ But we’ve far exceeded any of those numbers. I can’t even tell you what they are today. But we are in New Zealand now. We’re in Africa. We’re in Canada. We’re all over.”


Music: U2, “Yahweh/40,” from Vertigo Tour Live in Chicago

[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: 14 December 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.

01Warren-jumbo“Want to Get Into the Christmas Spirit?: Face Into the Darkness” – Advent is one of the most necessary seasons of the church calendar. It helps us from the pervasive consumerism and triviality in our culture related to Christmas. Advent gives us space to reflect, to prepare, to call out to God, and, as I’ve written elsewhere, to recover the wonder of Christmas. Here is Tish Harrison Warren writing in The New York Times about her own journey with Advent: “To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime.”

 

Ethiopia archaeology“Church Unearthed in Ethiopia Rewrites the History of Christianity in Africa” – “In the dusty highlands of northern Ethiopia, a team of archaeologists recently uncovered the oldest known Christian church in sub-Saharan Africa, a find that sheds new light on one of the Old World’s most enigmatic kingdoms—and its surprisingly early conversion to Christianity. An international assemblage of scientists discovered the church 30 miles northeast of Aksum, the capital of the Aksumite kingdom, a trading empire that emerged in the first century A.D. and would go on to dominate much of eastern Africa and western Arabia. Through radiocarbon dating artifacts uncovered at the church, the researchers concluded that the structure was built in the fourth century A.D., about the same time when Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christiantiy in 313 CE and then converted on his deathbed in 337 CE. The team detailed their findings in a paper published today in Antiquity.

 

a-hidden-life“Vatican Holds Private Screening of Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life'” – I know you’re probably getting ready to see Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker, but let me present a cinematic alternative. One of the most intriguing and moving films I have ever seen is Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011). Since that time, I have delved into Malick’s other films, which are a one-of-a-kind experience of stream-of-consciousness and imagistic cinematography, laden with nature and themes of transcendence. Tree of Life engages with themes of nature and grace, which recur in some of his more recent films, although without the same effectiveness, in my opinion. Malick’s most recent film, A Hidden Life, focuses on the centers on the real-life story of Franz Jägerstätter, and debuted on December 13 (although it is very difficult to find a local viewing because of limited release).  Malick’s first film since 2007, it is reputed to be one of his most powerful, engaging deeply with themes of politics and faith. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Vatican requested a private viewing of the film, which the notoriously reclusive Malick actually attended.

 

Gerald_Hughes,_Cleveland_School_Teacher,_Leads_the_Lee_Heights_Community_Church_(Cleveland,_Ohio)_Congregation_in_Song,_1960_(16458543170)“American Salvation: The Place of Christianity in Public Life” – The conversation about faith and the public square, which Malick’s film raises, is one of the most pressing conversations in our contemporary American context. Should the church engage or withdraw from politics? Whould the church subvert or transform culture? What does it mean to engage with these questions at all? Albert J. Raboteau, professor emeritus of religion at Princeton University, and a convert from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy, weaves an interesting tapestry around this discussion, engaging with the American civil rights movement, early Christian political dissent, sacramental theology, and much more.

 

114259“Solar Light of the World: Evangelicals Launch Global Clean Energy Campaign” – “Through a campaign called Project 20.’25, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has set out to get 20 percent of its members to convert fully to clean energy by 2025. This fall, the global network announced its partnership with Smart Roofs Solar Inc. Together they will help universities, health care facilities, and churches looking to adopt clean power, including offering guidance for local suppliers and providing financing options. The renewable energy initiative builds on the WEA’s efforts to promote creation care, said Chris Elisara, director of the WEA Creation Care Task Force.”

 

Madeleine L' Engle“Ready for Silence” – Poetry helps us encounter the familiar in a fresh way through rich use of language that makes what we already know become unfamiliar and new. Madeleine L’Engle, perhaps best known for her novel, A Wrinkle in Time, and related books, offers us a poem, “Ready for Silence,” that helps us re-approach Advent and the Christmas Story.

 

booksBest Books of 2019 – This is the time of the year that “best of 2019” lists of all sorts arise. I haven’t assembled my own list like this yet, but may do something like that in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, here are a few lists about the best books or reads from 2019 that you might enjoy: Christianity Today‘s “2020 Book Awards,” John Wilson’s “A Year of Reading: 2019,” Scot McKnight’s “Jesus Creed Books of the Year 2019” (including a most disappointing book of 2019), Russell Moore’s “My Favorite Books of 2019,” The Englewood Review of Books‘ “Advent Calendar 2019 – Best Books of the Year for Christian Readers!,” “The Gospel Coalition 2019 Book Awards,” The New York Times‘ “Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019,” and LitHub‘s compilation of best of lists in “The Ultimate Best Books of 2019 List,”

 

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (BWV 62), from Bach: Cantatas – Advent (John Eliot Gardiner)

[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.]