The Weekend Wanderer: 24 December 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, 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.


St Nicholas tomb“Ancient Mosaics Unearthed at the Tomb of St. Nicholas, Inspiration of Santa Claus” – Francesca Aton in ARTNews: “The original stone mosaic floors were St. Nicholas—the inspiration for Santa Claus—would have stood during mass and where his tomb is located within the building, have been uncovered by archaeologists excavating the Church of St. Nicholas in Demre, Turkey. Since 1982, the church has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To access the remains of the third-century basilica below, an upper layer of Byzantine-era mosaic tiles were removed. After the older church was flooded due to rising sea levels, the current structure was erected over top its remains in the Middle Ages.’We are talking about the floor on which St. Nicholas’s feet stepped. This is an extremely important discovery, the first find from that period,’ Osman Eravşar, the head of the provincial cultural heritage preservation board in Antalya, told Demirören News Agency. Excavations at the church have been ongoing since 2017, when experts identified the seventh- or eighth-century church as St. Nicholas’s final resting place. While electronically surveying the space, experts discovered empty spaces between the floor and the foundations. The site was originally intended to be St. Nicholas’s final resting place, but Crusaders transported his bones to Bari, Italy in 1087. During the removal, they moved the empty burial chamber to a niche on the side of the chapel. ‘His sarcophagus must have been placed in a special place and that is the part with three apses covered with a dome. There we have discovered the fresco depicting the scene where Jesus is holding the Bible in his left hand and making the sign of blessing with his right hand,’ Eravşar told the Daily Sabah.”


18warren-image-articleLarge“Why I’m Giving to This Environmental Group” – Tish Harrison Warren in The New York Times: “During this season of Advent, the book of Isaiah is often read aloud in Christian liturgical churches week after week. Isaiah describes not only a spiritual salvation, where people are reconciled to God, but a renewal of the whole Earth — a ‘new heavens and new Earth.’ Isaiah envisions a planet teeming with vitality. In it, humans and animals and even predator and prey dwell in harmony with one another: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). The Anglican biblical scholar Richard Bauckham calls the visions of Isaiah an ‘ecotopia.’ Christians understand Isaiah’s prophecies as culminating in Jesus’ return, and that this vision of a restored heaven and Earth is the ultimate destiny of the universe. Still, some Christian traditions, particularly white evangelicalism, emphasize a more individualistic view of God’s work of redemption. In the evangelical church I grew up in, salvation was primarily seen as an internal, spiritual experience — getting ‘saved’ or being ‘born again’ — so that we could go to heaven when we die. In the readings of Advent, however, Isaiah shows how incomplete this view is. God’s intention, Isaiah seems to say, is not evacuation from Earth to some far away afterlife but the healing and restoration of all things, even the material world of oak trees and orangutans, jellyfish and jalapeños, mountain laurels and desert willows.”


e3749fe7-6e78-4a52-ae6e-fdc143a3559f_572x858“Jesus Creed Books of the Year” – Scot McKnight at The Jesus Creed Blog: “Somewhere between 200-300 books cross my desks per year. From these I select books that strike a chord in me or must be read because of my writing or teaching. Each year then I select one as the Jesus Creed (or Tov Unleashed) Book of the Year. But I also select some great reads that vied for the top spot. This year’s selection had great competition, but in the end this year’s selection was clearly my favorite. One reason I know this is because Kris said, ‘You didn’t stop talking about it.’ So here it is: Lisa Weaver Swartz, Stained Glass Ceilings: How Evangelicals Do Gender and Practice Power. Some of us know Southern seminary is complementarian through and through, and some of us know Asbury seminary is egalitarian. But Lisa complicates what we know by unraveling the formative stories at work on each campus. Her observations, even if a bit discomforting for some on each campus, are always charitable, fair-minded, and evidence-shaped.”


Jordan baptismal site“Jordan unveils $100 million master plan for the second millennium of Jesus’ baptism” – Daoud Kuttab at Religion News Service: ” Jordan has launched a $100 million master plan aimed at attracting 1 million Christian pilgrims to celebrations of the second millennium of the baptism of Jesus in 2030. The ambitious plan was unveiled by a not-for-profit foundation created by the Jordanian government to develop the “Bethany beyond the Jordan” area, on the east bank of the Jordan River, long venerated as the place of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. Archaeological discoveries of an ancient monastery at Al-Maghtas, Jordan, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. Samir Murad, chair of the new foundation, told Religion News Service that his group plans to provide Christians access to visit and worship at the site while respecting its integrity. ‘We wanted to provide pilgrims a chance to be able to spend quality time at the location of the baptism while respecting its spirituality and the UNESCO World Heritage Site conditions,’ said Murad.  Murad’s team rejected proposals for five-star hotels and fine dining and chose instead down-to-earth accommodations. ‘We decided on a biblical village theme that attempts to re-create a 2,000-year-old experience,’ said Murad.”


Timothy Keller (WSJ)“Revival: Ways and Means” – Tim Keller at his blog from 2011: “How do seasons of revival come? One set of answers comes from Charles Finney, who turned revivals into a ‘science.’ Finney insisted that any group could have a revival any time or place, as long as they applied the right methods in the right way. Finney’s distortions, I think, led to much of the weakness in modern evangelicalism today, as has been well argued by Michael Horton over the years. Especially under Finney’s influence, revivalism undermined the more traditional way of doing Christian formation. That traditional way of Christian growth was gradual – whole family catechetical instruction – and church-centric. Revivalism under Finney, however, shifted the emphasis to seasons of crisis. Preaching became less oriented to long-term teaching and more directed to stirring up the affections of the heart toward decision. Not surprisingly, these emphases demoted the importance of the church in general and of careful, sound doctrine and put all the weight on an individual’s personal, subjective experience. And this is one of the reasons (though not the only reason) that we have the highly individualistic, consumerist evangelicalism of today. There has been a withering critique of revivalism going on now for twenty years within evangelical circles. Most of it is fair, but it often goes beyond the criticism of the technique-driven revivalism of Finney to insist that even Edwards and the Puritans were badly mistaken about how people should embrace and grow in Christ. In this limited space I can’t respond to that here other than to say I think that goes way too far. However, this critique trend explains why there is so much less enthusiasm for revival than when I was a young minister. It also explains why someone like D.M. Lloyd-Jones was so loathe to say that there was anything that we can do to bring about revivals (other than pray.) He knew that Finney-esque revivalism led to many spiritual pathologies. Nevertheless, I think we can carefully talk about some factors that, when present, often become associated with revival by God’s blessing.”


Scouts-880x495-1“Palestinian Christians Can’t Avoid Mixing Politics With Christmas” – Judy Lash Balint in Israel Today: “On the surface, Christmas preparations are back with a vengeance in the Bethlehem area after two bleak pandemic years. In Beit Sahour, a small town that borders Bethlehem, where Christians believe the angels announced the birth of Jesus, Christmas bling adorns almost every business. Tour groups file in and out of the grounds of the Shepherd’s Field Chapel and the public Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the main square is a lively, well-attended extravaganza. But the Christians who live in the Bethlehem area under Palestine Authority (PA) rule and on the wrong side of the security barrier live complicated lives. Many of them are eager to explain their concerns at the one time of the year when the attention of the world is focused on their hilly terrain six miles south of Jerusalem. Samir Qumsieh, 74, is a well-known community leader who runs Al Mahd Nativity TV, the only Christian TV station in the Palestinian territories. In 2010, his station was closed down by the PA but subsequently allowed to reopen. In 2006, he complained of death threats and intimidation and was on the receiving end of Molotov cocktails thrown at his home. Today Qumsieh warns visiting journalists not to misquote him, since ‘it could be life-threatening.’ When young Muslims attacked a church in the town two months ago, Qumsieh says, ‘Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] sent someone and they solved it.'”


Music: Georg Friedrich Händel, “Glory to God,” from Messiah as performed by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

The Weekend Wanderer: 30 April 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.


128862“As for Me and My Household, We’ll Resist Mammon” – Andy Crouch in Christianity Today: “Several friends helped my wife, Catherine, and me move into our first apartment, down and then up two steep and narrow sets of stairs. Three items seemed almost impossible to get up those stairs: a fragile old chest of drawers my wife had inherited from her grandmother, a queen-sized box spring, and an unfathomably heavy sofa bed. We christened them the Ordeal of Delicacy, the Ordeal of Dimension, and the Ordeal of Strength. Twenty years later we remember those ordeals; the friends who cheerfully endured them with us, sweating and swearing on a hot June day; and the sense of relief when we managed to overcome each one. A few years later, it was time to move again when my wife took the job she has held ever since. This time, the college that hired her covered the moving costs. The professional movers went through the same ordeals on our behalf that our friends had gone through a few years before—sweating and likely swearing as well—but I certainly cannot remember their names, or even a hint of their faces. They were paid, fairly, to do a fair job. And once the job was done, they were gone. This is the power of money: It allows us to get things done, often by means of other people, without the entanglements of friendship.”


The Convivial Society“On Twitter, Briefly” – L. M. Sacasas at The Convivial Society: “Maybe you’ve been thinking to yourself, ‘I wonder what Sacasas makes of all this Twitter business?’ In truth, I don’t actually believe any of you have been thinking any such thing. Nonetheless, I have been thinking a bit about Twitter, if for no other reason than to reconsider my own use of the platform. So here you go, in no particular order, a few thoughts … some mine, some not.

1. Twitter is the only social media platform I use, and I’ve long characterized my use of it as a devil’s bargain. The platform has benefitted me in certain ways, but this has come at a cost. The benefits and costs are what you would expect. I’ve made good connections through the platform, my writing has garnered a bit more of an audience, and I’ve encountered the good work of others. On the other hand, I’ve given it too much of my time and energy, and I’m pretty sure my thinking and my writing have, on the whole, suffered as a consequence. Assuming I’m right in my self-assessment, that’s too high of a price, is it not? The problem, as I’ve suggested before, is that the machine requires too much virtue to operate, and, frankly, I’m not always up to the task.

2. And yet, to return to the other side of the ledger, the human connections are real and meaningful. A few months back, someone I’ve known on Twitter for years lost their father. I’ve know this person only as an avatar and occasional strings of text, but I was genuinely saddened by his loss and felt it keenly. Chiefly, I regretted that I could not offer more than my own string of text in support. And, so it is with more than a few others. Over time, occasional interactions and mutual awareness amounts to something. My sense of these Twitter-based friendships, if I may call them that, is not that they are inauthentic or inferior, but only that they are incomplete….”


repair-and-remain1-980x551“Repair and Remain: How to do the slow, hard, good work of staying put.” – Kurt Armstrong in Comment: “I’ve never had anything like a real career, only a long and varied string of jobs. I grew up working on the family farm, and then had jobs as a roofer, a groundskeeper at a rural hospital, and a mineral-bagging-machine operator in an unheated feed mill one frigid Manitoba winter. I spent a year as a photographer and store manager in a tiny portrait studio just as digital cameras were beginning to consign film cameras to obsolescence. I worked for three years as a barista at one of Vancouver’s top-rated independent coffee shops. I’ve been a magazine editor, a sessional lecturer in a couple of liberal arts schools, a glazier’s assistant, a mason tender, a plumber’s labourer, and a daycare worker. One winter I lived in a simple little cabin—no plumbing, no electricity—and I made homemade soap over a wood stove and sold it at craft sales. In my twenties and thirties I spent many of my summers planting close to half a million trees on countless logging clear-cuts between Hyder, Alaska, and Dryden, Ontario. And for twelve years now I’ve had a hybrid operation, juggling a one-man autodidact home-repair business and part-time lay ministry at a little Anglican church in Winnipeg. My basic MO in both roles is simple: repair and remain.”


Restoration of the Church

“The Decline and Renewal of the American Church: Part 3 – The Path to Renewal” – Tim Keller at Life in the Gospel: “What is wrong with the American Church and how can its life and ministry be renewed? To answer this, I wrote two articles looking at the decline of the church, limiting myself to Protestantism, though recognizing that the Catholic church is facing its own waning. In this article and the next, however, I would like to map out a possible way forward to renewal and new growth.  Basically—we need a revival that only God can provide, and a new movement to capture the fruit of that revival for the renewal of the American church. Revivals are periods of great spiritual awakening and growth. In revivals ‘sleepy’ and lukewarm Christians wake up, nominal Christians get converted, and many skeptical non-believers are drawn to faith. In Europe and North America there were significant revivals in the 1740s, the 1830s, and the late 1850s. The 1857 revival began in lower New York City and is often called ‘the Fulton Street Revival.’ By one account, during a period of about 2 years, about 10% of the population of Manhattan was converted and joined the city’s churches. In the Welsh revival of 1904, it is estimated that 150,000 people, or 7.5% of the nation’s population, were converted and came into Protestant churches. [1] Looking back further for revivals, historians point to the monastic movements that transformed Europe, and the Lutheran Pietist and Moravian movements. More recently there have also been major revivals in East Africa, Korea, as well as many more localized revivals.”


afghan-town-IMB-1024x683“USCIRF report: Religious liberty falters in Afghanistan” – Tom Strode in Baptist Press News: “The Taliban’s return to control of Afghanistan headlined the examples of religious freedom deteriorating in multiple countries last year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in its annual report issued April 25. For the first time in more than two decades, USCIRF – a bipartisan panel established by federal law in 1998 – recommended Afghanistan’s inclusion on a list of the world’s most egregious violators of the right to believe and practice faith. The commission last urged the U.S. State Department to designate Afghanistan as a ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) in 2001, shortly before the Taliban was removed from power. Religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan ‘went into an immediate and disastrous downward spiral following the full U.S. withdrawal in August 2021 and the immediate takeover by the Taliban,’ USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said during an online news conference. ‘[T]he Taliban’s return to power has had an immediate, chilling impact on religious freedom and on the broader human rights environment.’ Afghanistan is one of 15 countries USCIRF recommended to the State Department in its 2022 report for CPC designation. CPCs are governments the State Department determines are guilty of ‘systematic, ongoing [and] egregious violations’ of religious liberty. USCIRF also called for the State Department to place 12 countries on its Special Watch List (SWL), a category reserved for governments that meet two of the three criteria of the ‘systematic, ongoing [and] egregious’ standard.”


main-v01-18-1536x1024“Supreme Court tackles case about praying football coach” – Jessica Gresko at Religion News Service: “A coach who crosses himself before a game. A teacher who reads the Bible aloud before the bell rings. A coach who hosts an after-school Christian youth group in his home. Supreme Court justices discussed all those hypothetical scenarios Monday while hearing arguments about a former public high school football coach from Washington state who wanted to kneel and pray on the field after games. The justices were wrestling with how to balance the religious and free speech rights of teachers and coaches with the rights of students not to feel pressured into participating in religious practices. The court’s conservative majority seemed sympathetic to the coach while its three liberals seemed more skeptical. The outcome could strengthen the acceptability of some religious practices in the public school setting.”


Music: Sons of Korah, “Psalm 131,” from Resurrection.

Opening the Book on Prayer: Learning to Pray with the Psalms

This past Monday night for our quarterly Leadership Community gathering at Eastbrook Church, I led us in an interactive seminar on learning to pray with the psalms. A few people asked if I could upload the slide deck from the night, so I’m including that as a PDF here.

I led us in three songs, which were:

I also shared a bibliography of additional resources on the psalms, which I’m including below.


Further Reading on the Psalms

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together and The Prayerbook of the Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Volume 5. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1996.

Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner. The Book of Psalms. NICOT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014.

Timothy and Kathy Keller. The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. New York: Viking, 2015.

Derek Kidner. Psalms 1-72. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

________. Psalms 73-150. Kidner Classic Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014.

C. S. Lewis. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harper, 1958.

Eugene H. Peterson. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. New York: Harper Collins, 1989.

W. David O. Taylor. Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2020. 

N. T. Wright. The Case for the Psalms. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.

Two resources from the Bible Project (https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/psalms/) are: 

The Weekend Wanderer: 19 February 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles


pastor trauma

“I’ve Reached My Breaking Point as a Pastor” – Peter Chin in CT Pastors: “A new Barna study discovered that 38 percent of pastors have given real, serious consideration to quitting the ministry in the past year. I am one of that 38 percent. Even in the best of times, pastoral ministry has always felt like a broad and heavy calling. But the events of the past few years have made it a crushing one. The presidential election. Unrest around racial injustice. A global pandemic that has taken the lives of over 800,000 Americans. Never before had I considered health protocols in the context of the church. But today, being too strict with health guidelines might damage the well-being of the church, while being too lax might take the life of a congregant. Pastors like me have to deal with the never-ending conversation about in-person versus online services—and how to serve churchgoers without leaving behind the immunocompromised or disabled. All of this has injected a paralyzing degree of complexity and controversy into every single situation I face, every decision I make. And to make things worse, it feels as if everyone is on a hair trigger, ready to walk away at the merest hint that the church does not line up with their political or personal perspectives. Normally, pastors might rely on their personal relationships to navigate such fraught dynamics. But COVID-19 has taken that away as well, forcing us to rely on phone calls and video screens—which are no substitutes for physical presence.”


Tim Keller“Scraps of Thoughts on Daily Prayer” – Tim Keller at his blog: “There are three kinds of prayer I try to find time for every day – meditation (or contemplation), petition, and repentance. I concentrate on the first two every morning and do the last one in the evening. Meditation is actually a middle ground or blend of Bible reading and prayer. I like to use Luther’s contemplative method that he outlines in his famous letter on prayer that he wrote to his barber. The basic method is this – to take a Scriptural truth and ask three questions of it. How does this show me something about God to praise? How does this show me something about myself to confess? How does this show me something I need to ask God for? Adoration, confession, and supplication. Luther proposes that we keep meditating like this until our hearts begin to warm and melt under a sense of the reality of God. Often that doesn’t happen. Fine. We aren’t ultimately praying in order to get good feelings or answers, but in order to honor God for who he is in himself.”


126914“Learning to Love Your Limits” – An interview with Kelly M. Kapic by Erin Straza for Christianity Today: “Being human can be very frustrating. We’re always long on demands but short on time and energy. And so we redouble our efforts, searching for the magical time-management hack that will allow us to cram more life into our waking hours so that we can live the most efficient and productive life possible. Yet even as we strain against our natural limits, ultimately they cannot (and should not) be overcome, because God designed them for our good. That’s the premise underlying Covenant College theologian Kelly M. Kapic’s latest book, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News. Persuasion podcast cohost Erin Straza spoke with Kapic about the beauty of our human limits and the freedom that comes when we learn to embrace God’s design for a meaningful life.”


roots“Can You Go Home Again?” – Bill Kauffman reviews Grace Olmstead’s Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind in Modern Age: “Uprooted is the young, Idaho-bred, D.C.-area journalist Grace Olmstead’s book-length grappling with the question ‘Will I move back?’ It’s a good and thoughtful and searching book, comprising equal parts family memoir, meditation on the cause and cost and consequences of uprooting, and reportage on her native ground’s besiegement by ‘economic consolidation, suburban development, and brain drain.’ The only member of her clan who departed the Mountain Time Zone, Olmstead is acutely aware of the place she left behind, in that self-conscious way of the expatriate. Lord Acton said that exile is the nursery of nationalism, but in Uprooted Olmstead is a clear-eyed and analytical guide to her home state, oozing neither treacle nor bile.”


post-traumatic“When Jesus Doubted God: Perspectives from Calvin on Post-Traumatic Faith” – Preston Hill in The Other Journal: “The willingness to witness trauma is often autobiographical. This is true of me in my role as a professor of theology who is active in our university’s Institute of Trauma and Recovery. During my postgraduate education, I tried to stay in one lane and focus solely on Reformation theology and history. That would have been clean and tidy—theology in the academy, and trauma in the real world. But trauma and recovery has pursued me and refused to let go. No one starts from nowhere. We all carry stories that frame our daily professions and relationships. So how did I end up teaching integration of theology and psychology to trauma therapists after completing postgraduate research in John Calvin? I am still not sure. But I do know that these thought worlds, separate as they might seem, are deeply integrated in me, the person; that we cannot help but be who we are; and that there is a clear reward to integrating our professional lives with our lived experiences. A person-centered, holistic approach to life may just be what the world, divided as it is today by endless abstract classifications, is hungry for. What we may need is to encounter reality fresh and face-to-face, whether that reality is violent or beautiful.  As a professor of theology and pastoral counselor, I have had the privilege of witnessing countless students and friends share stories of surviving violence. I have also had the privilege of sharing my story with them. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I live daily with the symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) that affect every aspect of my life. Recovery has been slow and steady. The journey is long, but the friends on the road are more numerous than I had assumed, even in the academy. Indeed, it has been a privilege to research trauma with fellow survivors and witnesses who are keen to explore how theology can be reimagined in our ‘east of Eden’ world.”


The Russell Moore Show 0 David Brooks“David Brooks Wants to Save Evangelicalism” – Russell Moore interviews New York Times columnist David Brooks on The Russell Moore Show: “‘Are the times we’re living in really as crazy as they seem?’ This is the first question that Russell Moore has for David Brooks, a New York Times op-ed columnist, author, and commentator. Brooks’s recent column “The Dissenters Trying to Save Evangelicalism From Itself” details some of the unsettling, disheartening events within evangelicalism over the past few years and highlights several individuals who are trying to forge a different path. On this episode of The Russell Moore Show, Brooks and Moore discuss many types of people that ‘evangelical’ can describe. They talk about the difficulties of resisting the climate of the times. And they talk about what politics are meant to do and be.”


Music: Jon Foreman, “The House of God Forever,” from Spring and Summer

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 July 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.


Keller - Sabbath Wisdom“Wisdom and Sabbath Rest” – Tim Keller at Redeemer City to City: “Leadership is stewardship—the cultivation of the resources God has entrusted to us for his glory. The Sabbath gives us both theological and practical help in managing one of our primary resources: our time. In Ephesians 5, Paul invokes the biblical concept of wisdom:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

— Ephesians 5:15–17

The King James Version translates verses 15 and 16 as, ‘walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’ Living wisely (or circumspectly) is to a great degree a matter of how we spend our time.”


Burge - Mainline & Evangelical demography“Mainline Protestants Are Still Declining, But That’s Not Good News for Evangelicals” – Ryan P. Burge in Christianity Today: “Religious demography is a zero-sum game. If one group grows larger that means that other groups must be shrinking in size. So that rise in the nones is bad news for churches, pretty much across traditions. When you sort Christians by denomination, mainline Protestants are continuing to show significant decline. By their own membership tallies, mainline denominations are showing drops of 15 percent, 25 percent, and even 40 percent over the span of the last decade. There is little room for triumph on the evangelical side; their numbers are slipping too. Examining these two traditions, though, shows us two different stories about how their churches are losing members and could offer a trajectory for what the American religious landscape will look like in the future.”


nubian_church“Ruins of Monumental Church Linked to Medieval Nubian Kingdom Found in Sudan” – Livia Gershon at Smithsonian Magazine: “Archaeologists in northern Sudan have discovered the ruins of a cathedral that likely stood as a seat of Christian power in the Nubian kingdom of Makuria 1,000 years ago. As the Art Newspaper’s Emi Eleode reports, the remains, discovered in the subterranean citadel of Makuria’s capital city, Old Dongola, may be the largest church ever found in Nubia. Researchers say the structure was 85 feet wide and about as tall as a three-story building. The walls of the cathedral’s apse—the most sacred part of the building—were painted in the 10th or early 11th century with portraits believed to represent the Twelve Apostles, reports Jesse Holth for ARTnews.”


sliwka-fig-6“The Painter & The Preacher: Botticelli’s Mystic Nativity and Savonarola’s Sermons” – Jennifer Sliwka at The Brooklyn Rail: “On February 7, 1497 the Piazza della Signoria, the civic heart of the city of Florence, erupted into flames as piles of artworks, books, mirrors, fine clothes, and musical instruments were stacked high and lit on fire. Known as the Bonfire of the Vanities, these pyres were the result of years of preaching by the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola who petitioned Florentine citizens to sacrifice all objects that might tempt one to sin, to redress what he deemed the corrupt and vice-ridden aspects of their lives….Savonarola criticised pagan and mythological artworks in particular. One of the many artists specialising in these genres was Sandro Botticelli, perhaps best known for his poetic mythological paintings of beautiful lithe goddesses in the Primavera (Springtime) and the Birth of Venus (late 1470s–early 1480s), painted for the Renaissance palaces and villas of Florence’s elite. Less well known are his smaller religious ‘Savonarolan’ works from the 1490s, such as the so-called Mystic Nativity (1500), arguably the most personal, complex, enigmatic, and powerful of all his works.”


Snyder - Embodiment's GraceEmbodiment’s Grace: Recovering the gifts of human finitude” – Anne Snyder at Comment: “Summer is a time portal. Every July at the local ice cream counter I hear a child chirp a request that echoes something of my own from earlier innocence: ‘Dad, I’d like the super-size whippy dip, dunked in fudge, caramel, all the fixings. Trust me, I can handle it.’ The magic of anticipating a supreme level of sugary joy never fails to bring a smile. Kids generally don’t appreciate the value of limits. Most if not all of what is great in a child’s mind is something huge, more, whatever that alluring curiosity is beyond the parental boundary. Limits are something we learn to respect, typically by experiencing the consequences of exceeding them.”


Bob Dylan gospel“A Closer Look at Bob Dylan’s Confounding and Compassionate Christian Trilogy” – Timothy Bracy at Inside Hook: “Following the gender-fluid liberations of glam, the volatile excesses of The Who and Led Zeppelin and the high-voltage course correction of punk, it was not so easy to shock rock ‘n’ roll audiences in 1979. They’d seen and done a lot in that decade — things you can’t unsee. Bob Dylan had helped it all along — the tip of the spear in so many vanguard movements, two decades spent subverting expectations, coloring outside the lines and constantly moving the goalposts. But his newest gambit wasn’t like any of the others before. In 1979, the world was introduced to Bob Dylan: Born-Again Christian. Now that was surprising.”


Music: Bob Dylan, “When You Gonna Wake Up” (Live), from Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, volume 13.