The Weekend Wanderer: 25 April 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


116902“We May Be ‘Safer at Home.’ But Many At-Risk Kids Aren’t” – Here’s Chris Palusky, President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services: “While most children in the country are dealing with the frustrations of missing their friends, a hiatus in sports seasons, and closed playgrounds, others worry about the very real possibility of homelessness, abuse, or neglect. Most of all, they face the fear and uncertainty of wondering if they are alone. This is a fear no child should ever endure. As we stay home to protect the medically fragile and elderly, we can’t forget this other highly vulnerable group. I won’t parse words: The number of children in foster care will dramatically increase because of the coronavirus pandemic.”


Beaty-GettyImages-1215355325-780-x-508“NYC Medical Ethicist: It’s Time We Learned to Talk about Death” – Katelyn Beaty in Religion & Politics: “Lydia Dugdale, director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at Columbia University, is perhaps prepared more than most to face death….In addition to her medical degree from the University of Chicago, she earned a master’s in ethics from Yale Divinity School, and she co-directed the Program for Medicine, Spirituality, and Religion at Yale School of Medicine. Dugdale has also spent more than a decade recovering ancient wisdom from the tradition of Ars Moriendi, which translated from the Latin means ‘the art of dying.’ Beginning in the fourteenth century, as the bubonic plague ravaged Western Europe, the Ars Moriendi was a handbook on how to prepare for death. ‘A central premise [of the handbook] was that in order to die well, you had to live well,’” writes Dugdale in a new book, The Lost Art of Dying. ‘Part of living well meant anticipating and preparing for death within the context of your community over the course of a lifetime.'”


Kidd - tactile religion“Tactile Religion in a Time of Pandemic” – Here is Thomas Kidd, author of the recent acclaimed book, Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis, on the impact of the pandemic on tactile aspects of our religious gatherings, such as hand-shakes, hugs, and passing the peace. “Whenever we are able to go back to some sort of normalcy, I don’t see those contact rituals coming back until an effective COVID-19 vaccine is available (sometime in 2021, Lord willing). That will mean that church will remain strange, because tactile religion is such a common feature of Christianity that we don’t notice it until it is gone.”


Kierkegaard Harpers“Difficulties Everywhere” – My first exposure to Søren Kierkegaard that I remember was through my sister-in-law’s brother, who was the same age as me and obsessed with the Danish philosopher when we met during our college years. It was only later that I really came to appreciate Kierkegaard’s unique approach to faith and Christianity, as well as being credited as the founder of existentialist philosophy. Kierkegaard is perhaps best known for advocating the ‘leap of faith,’ a phrase he never formally used, which refers to moving beyond mere rational understanding by engaging the will and trust in the crisis of decision-making and living. Christopher Beha’s review of Clare Carlisle’s Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard is well worth the read as a minor introduction to Kierkegaard.


Austin Kleon prayer“On praying, whether you believe or not” – I have really enjoyed Austin Kleon’s work on creativity. A fun father-son highlight for me with one of my kids this past year was seeing Kleon when he visited Milwaukee and gave a lecture at Boswell Books. In this post, Kleon reflects on prayer from a very interesting perspective. Describing it as “the best proselytizing I ever heard”, he shares Mary Karr‘s advice on prayer: “Why don’t you pray for 30 days and see if your life gets better?” I think you’ll enjoy Kleon’s thoughts here, regardless of whether you believe or not.


Ideas_Art-Crisis-Productivity-200020298-001-“Productivity Is Not Working” – Our culture is frenetically busy and often assesses value based in terms of what we can produce. The nature of our faith reminds us that we are more than what we do, but we still wrestle with it. In WIRED magazine, Laurie Penny offers a refreshingly honest depiction of how the pandemic heightened her struggle with the need to produce. “There has always been something a little obscene about the cult of the hustle, the treadmill of alienated insecurity that tells you that if you stop running for even an instant, you’ll be flung flat on your face—but the treadmill is familiar. The treadmill feels normal. And right now, when the world economy has jerked to a sudden, shuddering stop, most of us are desperate to feel normal.”


AP-immigration-trump-cf-170126_12x5_1600“World Relief on the White House’s Proposed Immigration Restrictions: ‘This Is Unacceptable'” – Some of you may know that, after a short stint working at a bookstore, I began my working career with World Relief, working with the Africa Regional Director for several years. I am aware that a lot of attention has been given to the topic of immigration in recent years with vastly different opinions on the topic. However, I do agree with President of World Relief, Scott Arbeiter, who writes: “World Relief is supportive of the administration’s efforts to manage and prevent the further spread of COVID-19, but urges the government to reconsider measures that contradict both public health advice and the principles on which the U.S. is formed.”


Gerhard Richter: <i>Birkenau</i> (installation view), 2014“The Master of Unknowing” – Two years ago, when Kelly and I traveled to London in celebration of our twentieth wedding anniversary, we meandered our way through many of the museums in the city. While visiting the Tate Modern, we stumbled into a room displaying the work of Gerhard Richter. I wasn’t familiar with Richter’s work, but it was stunning in person. I enjoyed reading more about Richter and his work in this feature by Susan Tallman in The New York Review of Books. One quotation from Richter just captured me: “It is my wish, to create a well-built, beautiful, constructive painting. And there are many moments when I plan to do just that, and then I realize that it looks terrible. Then I start to destroy it, piece by piece, and I arrive at something that I didn’t want but that looks pretty good.”


 

Music: Ludovico Einaudi, “Night,” from Elements

[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: 23 November 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

PastorJayandDerrick“A Tale of Two Churches” – I heard about this story from someone who described it as the most powerful story about Christianity so far this year. I wasn’t sure what that meant until I read this piece about two churches that merged together in the midst of great conflict. It is most definitely worth a read, and particularly moving, especially in our divided days.

 

Kidd - Who Is an Evangelical“‘Who Is An Evangelical?’ Looks At History Of Evangelical Christians And The GOP” – I was driving in the car the other day when I caught this piece on NPR on the nature of evangelicalism. I didn’t know who the interviewee was until the end of the piece when NPR’s Audie Cornish thanked Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University and author of the recent book Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis. Kidd offers a balanced and insightful approach to what is often a simplistic political trope but is really much more diverse and complicated than often thought. You can read a review of his book here.

 

5944.large“How Garbage Collectors Can Refresh Our Theology” – Here’s Gustavo H. R. Santos at Comment helping us reframe vocation: “Our churches are full of both professionals and working-class labourers, so if we want to teach about work from a biblical perspective as part of our discipleship, we need a theology infused with a broader paradigm of labour. The experience of millions from the working class teaches us that being who Christ calls us to be doesn’t depend on the job we have. They remind us that we can’t control our circumstances and that faithfulness is more important than performance. So the question becomes, Are we willing to listen to what their lives are telling us? The ancient story of Ruth the Moabite might help improve our hearing.”

 

113985“Pastors & Burnout: A Personal Reflection” – Every pastor, as well as many others in serving professions, deal with the dangers of burnout. I have, and I have talked to many other pastors who have as well. Scott Nichols offers his perspective as a pastor who has served for over thirty years in three different churches. I appreciate the practicality of Nichols’ list, including things like staying active and cultivating friendships, because, in my experience, pastors have a tendency to over-spiritualize their burnout.  One of the areas I wish he would have addressed was the darker motivations that potentially lead us as pastors toward burnout, but this article is still worth the read.

 

Richard-Mouw-Missiology-Lecture“A ‘Middle Way’: Lessons for Faithfulness in the Public Square” – It is difficult to ignore all the noise in the political world these days, and it can leave us either wanting to retreat entirely or to becoming so sucked into it that little else receives attention. What does it mean as Christians to engage in the public square? Well, right on time, Richard Mouw, former President of Fuller Seminary, offers a suggestion about a “middle way” on this.

 

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 12.28.19 PM“Vexed and Troubled Englishmen: How should we remember the Puritans?” – The name “puritan” has received such a bad name in recent days, largely because of misunderstandings of what the name means and what the original intent of the Puritans as a group truly was. Andrew Delbanco reviews Daniel T. Rodger’s book, As a City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon, which focuses on John Winthrop’s speech “A Model of Christian Charity.” “Rodgers’s book is not only a close reading of the reception and history of Winthrop’s speech but also a rescue operation for Puritanism itself.”

 

Music: DJ Shadow featuring Nils Frahm, “Scars,” from Ghost in the Shell (Music Inspired By the Motion Picture)

[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 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.

 

BRAZIL-LGBT-EVANGELICAL-CHURCHEvangelical Has Lost Its Meaning” – Ever since the last presidential election, there have been debates about the meaning of the word ‘evangelical.’ Books have been written not merely about the history of the movement and meaning of the word, but, more recently, whether the word has any continue relevance (watch for the forthcoming book edited by historians Mark Noll, David Bebbington, and George Marsden, Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be). I think, in many ways, the central question is whether the word ‘evangelical’ has any shared meaning that communicates broadly, as it did in the past. I doubt that it does, and here is Alan Jacobs to make a much more convincing case than I could about that as he reviews Thomas S. Kidd’s recent book, Who Is an Evangelical? The History of a Movement in Crisis. You may also enjoy Christianity Today‘s recent “Quick to Listen” podcast with editor Mark Galli, “So, What’s an Evangelical?” and The Englewood Review of Books booklist “Evangelicalism – Ten Books for Assessing its Present and Future.”

 

Bible translation“Why it matters if your Bible was translated by a racially diverse group”Esau McCaulley, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, engages with whether the make-up of Bible translation committees is important or not. “As a New Testament scholar, I’ve discovered that people of color and women have rarely led or participated in Bible translation. On one hand, this doesn’t trouble me much. It is hard to mess up the story of the Exodus, distort the message of the prophets or dismantle the story of Jesus. It is all there in every English translation. On the other, I believe it matters who translates the Bible, and that more diverse translation committees could inspire fresh confidence among Christians of color. Such a translation would allow black Christians and others to ‘know with certainty the things that you have been taught’ (Luke 1:4).”

 

1_0rZWywtB3AYoRJVH08RUbQ“Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group” – When I read this article I was simultaneously disappointed and not surprised. These issues are so very difficult to navigate, and few are doing it well. Every majority culture leader/pastor needs to pay attention to what Andre Henry is saying as he recounts his negative experiences as an editor at Relevant. “RELEVANT remains without excuse for the patterns of tokenization of black people and fetishization of racial justice efforts that characterize their work, and the harm it has caused to Black people within and outside of the organization. As long as they refuse to acknowledge this about their praxis, they’ll remain an unsafe environment for Black people and a collaborator in the racist status quo while giving themselves credit for being an ally.” You can also read Relevant‘s response here and a summary of related news gathered by Religion News Service.

 

Visual Commentary on ScriptureVisual Commentary on Scripture – I was talking after our worship services this past weekend with an artist within our church about some of the images I use while preaching, which are often taken from paintings on themes somewhat related to the passage from which I am preaching. Not too long ago, I came across The Visual Commentary on Scripture, which is a fascinating resource “that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries.” Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

 

5YQEW5F6EBGR7L5MJG7QRUYI4A“Wheaton College students sue city, say rights to free speech, religious liberty were violated by guards booting them from Millennium Park, restricting access” – When I was an undergrad at Wheaton College, I decided to join in with a team of students sharing their faith in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. This team was led by a group of students with a passion to share Christ in a loving yet clear way with others. One of them was my wife, Kelly, who challenged me then (and still does today) to let the passion I had for Christ make its way out of my mouth through spiritual conversations. With all the conversation about the loss of evangelistic zeal in the North American church today, I was surprised on several fronts to read this Chicago Tribune story of Wheaton College students sharing their faith at Millennium Park in Chicago and also the free speech lawsuit that has arisen around them being asked to not share in the park. This isn’t just about religious groups, but also pertains to political groups and the like. It does raise the question of the nature of free speech in contemporary democratic societies. I also can’t help but think of the fascinating tradition of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park.

 

2019-09-19-hui-crackdown-efeng-04_custom-008e193490d162aa9422f4172aaf25de549fbd52-s1400-c85“‘Afraid We Will Become The Next Xinjiang’: China’s Hui Muslims Face Crackdown” – Religious freedom in democratic societies seems lightweight compared to what happens in non-democratic societies. If you have not paid attention to the intensification of pressure on religious minorities in China, let me urge you to start paying attention. This latest NPR piece focuses on minority Hui Muslims, and is an echo of the efforts brought against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and Christians throughout the country.

 

18.large“Seeing the Beauty of Dappled Things: Gerard Manley Hopkins” – Confession: my favorite poet of all time is Gerard Manley Hopkins. I appreciate the poetry of so many other poets that I hate to mention them by name here, but I find myself returning to Hopkins again and again. Perhaps that’s because my first reading of his poetry in high school startled me awake to literature and faith with such vibrant metaphors, skipping rhythms, and striking imagery. I hope that you enjoy as much as I did reading this 2017 article by physician Raymond C. Barfield on how Hopkins’ poetry enabled him to see the beauty of God’s world with fresh eyes.

 

songbird-domain“North America Has Lost More Than 1 in 4 Birds in Last 50 Years, New Study Says” – John Stott, the renowned Bible teacher and author, enjoyed birds for their own sake and as teachers of theological truths. In his most unique book, The Birds, Our Teachers: Essays in Orni-theology, Stott takes the reader on an adventure inside his own wonder and theological reflection over the variegated beauty of birds. In his own inimical way, Stott was attempting to live out what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Consider the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). But today we have to consider this startling news:  a recent study records a drastic decrease in bird population in North America. As stewards of the earth, we should be concerned. As those who enjoy this world charged with God’s grandeur, we should be grieved.

 

Music: Charlie Parker, “Ornithology,” from the original motion picture soundtrack for Bird.

[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.]