The Weekend Wanderer: 29 October 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.


Gordon Fee“Died: Gordon Fee, Who Taught Evangelicals to Read the Bible ‘For All Its Worth'” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “Gordon Fee once told his students on the first day of a New Testament class at Wheaton College that they would—someday—come across a headline saying ‘Gordon Fee Is Dead.’ ‘Do not believe it!’ he said, standing atop a desk. ‘He is singing with his Lord and his king.’ Then, instead of handing out the syllabus like a normal professor, he led the class in Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.’ Fee, a widely influential New Testament teacher who believed that reading the Bible, teaching the Bible, and interpreting the Bible should bring people into an encounter with a living God, described himself as a “scholar on fire.” He died on Tuesday at the age of 88—although, as those who encountered him in the classroom or in his many books know, that’s not how he would have described it. Fee co-wrote How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary colleague Douglas Stuart in the early 1980s. The book is now in its fourth edition and has sold around 1 million copies, becoming for many the standard text on the best way to approach Scripture. Fee also wrote a widely used handbook on biblical interpretation, several well-regarded commentaries on New Testament epistles, and groundbreaking academic research on the place of the Holy Spirit in the life and work of the Apostle Paul. ‘If you had asked Paul to define what a Christian is,’ Fee once told CT, ‘he would not have said, “A Christian is a person who believes X and Y doctrines about Christ,” but “A Christian is a person who walks in the Spirit, who knows Christ.”‘”


221020-newsmentalhealthfade“How to Read the News Without Sacrificing Your Mental Health” – Mitchell Atencio in Sojourners: “When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Daniel Burke felt overwhelmed by the pace of the news cycle. ‘The images and the stories, particularly about young children and schools … being bombarded [were overwhelming.] I have young kids and I felt pretty deeply affected by these stories,’ Burke told Sojourners. ‘The way we make news these days … it’s like a firehose … it’s really easy to become overwhelmed.’ Burke, a former religion editor at CNN and contributing editor at Tricycle, is not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Forty-two percent of people in the U.S. will ‘sometimes or often actively avoid the news,’ according to a 2022 Reuters Institute and University of Oxford report, and nearly half of those respondents said they felt the news had a negative effect on their mood. Yet the majority of people in the U.S. — 81 percent — say that news is ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ for democracy, according to Gallup and the Knight Foundation. This can be especially true for Christians who follow 20th century theologian Karl Barth’s adage to ‘take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’ If God is calling us to build more just communities, we are first called to know what is happening in those communities — and for that, we often need the work of journalists. But engaging news should not come at the expense of one’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here’s how engaging the news can be a personally and societally beneficial process.”


131502“Christians Say Sayfo Martyrs Should Get Genocide Status” – Jayson Casper in Christianity Today: “In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, evangelicals laid down their lives for their Lord. Living in Nusaybin, once home to the ancient theological school of Nisibis, they were among the firstfruits of the Sayfo (‘sword’) martyrs. Overall, modern estimates posit half a million deaths of Syriac-Aramean Christians at the hands of Turkish and Kurdish soldiers, concurrent with the Armenian genocide that claimed 1.5 million lives. Today this Christian community, still speaking the language of Jesus, seeks its own recognition. In June 1915, the Muslim-majority city—now located on Turkey’s southeastern border with Syria—had about 100 Syrian Orthodox families, and an equal number belonging to other Christian sects. The Protestants were rounded up with Armenians and Chaldeans, marched to the front of town, and shot dead. The Orthodox families were promised peace by the local leader, but 30 men fled and sought refuge in the rugged mountains. A monk, trusting authorities, led soldiers to their hideout seeking to reassure the frightened band. According to reports, along the way they turned on the monk, demanding he convert to Islam. Upon his refusal, they cut off his hands, then feet, then head. Returning to Nusaybin, the soldiers assembled the remaining Christians, leading them out of town. In joyful procession the believers sang hymns of encouragement: Soon we will be with our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Warren - angels“Praying in the Night: Our Q&A with Tish Harrison Warren” – Mockingbird interview Tish Harrison Warren for their upcoming sleep issue: “The book begins in darkness — under the fluorescent lights of a hospital room. Enduring a brutal miscarriage, Tish Harrison Warren enters what she refers to as her “dark night of the soul,” a term coined by the sixteenth-century Spanish priest and mystic Saint John of the Cross to describe a time of spiritual crisis, when God seems absent. Prayer in the Night details Warren’s journey through that night, and serves as a guide for others in the midst of it. Written in direct, accessible prose, Warren’s honesty about suffering is matched only by her enduring faithfulness through it all. Of the weeks following her miscarriage, Warren writes, ‘Unlit hours brought a vacant space where there was nothing before me but my own fears and whispering doubts.’ At such a time, especially if you’ve been raised to believe you have to come up with it on your own, prayer can seem taxing and absurd — a kind of one-sided conversation in which the person praying does all the work. In such a case, following a script written by someone else might be helpful. Warren explains: ‘When my strength waned and my words ran dry, I needed to fall into a way of belief that carried me. I needed other people’s prayers.’ Specifically, she means Compline, an age-old service of evening prayers, a portion of which goes like this: Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen. In Prayer in the Night Warren meditates on each line of this remarkable invocation.”


Cultural Humility“Cultural Humility” – B. Hunter Farrell and S. Balajiedlang Khyllep at the Renovaré Blog: “One day I had an all-day meeting at a mission hospital an hour away from the seminary where my wife, Ruth, and I worked in DR Congo. Ruth decided to visit a sick friend and invited two young Congolese boys to go with her for some fun exploring the hospital grounds. The boys seemed to enjoy the day, and at the end of the hot afternoon they sat, watching some of the hospital personnel playing tennis. One of the employees asked the boys if they would each like to have a tennis ball. The boys’ eyes lit up and they eagerly accepted. When we returned home, Ruth asked the boys if they wanted her to write their names on the balls so people would know whose they were. They did. Then seven-year-old Mikobi asked if she would write his brother Tshejo’s name on the ball too. She thought how nice that was and wrote ​Tshejo.’ Then, Mikobi asked if she would write his friend Dilunda’s name on the ball. Something stopped her in her tracks — maybe it was a fear that there would be confusion over whose ball it really was. So Ruth paused and said, ​Mikobi, this is your ball.’ He looked at her, confused, and finally said, ​Mamu, if my friends had gone on the trip wouldn’t they have gotten a ball?’


Abraham Kuyper study“Kuyper the Mystic” – Clay Cooke and Steven Garber write this 2010 article in Comment: “The truest truths are never new. And the most important questions are always the perennial ones, the ones that human beings always ask. As my favorite poet, Steve Turner, once put it: History repeats itself. Has to. Nobody listens. I am an Augustinian, and I am a Bernardian, and I am a Calvinist, and I am a Kuyperian—and in and through it all, with the Puritan Richard Baxter and the Oxbridge don C.S. Lewis, I am a mere Christian. I would not have it be any other way. What are the Confessions if not an autobiographical yearning, from the first page on, for intimacy with God? I want to know you, and be known by you. Is it possible? The story of Augustine’s first 30 years of life is one of an increasingly hard heart, knowing the truth about God and himself, but resisting its metaphysical and moral meaning. And then, strange grace, he was awakened to reality—and his vision of God and the human condition shaped the next millennia, and for many all over the world, the centuries beyond. Bernard of Clairvaux’s marinated meditations on a true love for God, moving beyond creedal orthodoxy and intellectual assent, still echo across the centuries for those with ears to hear. Calvin quoted Bernard second only to Augustine, and when he set forth one of the deepest of all truths in the first pages of the Institutes, we hear him remembering his teachers. We cannot really know ourselves unless we know God; and then he argues, the reverse is also true. Everything else grows out of that thesis. Everything. But as I am shaped by this story of Augustine, Bernard, and Calvin, I am also shaped by Kuyper.”


Music: Rich Mullins, “Growing Young,” from The World as Best as I Remember It, Volume 2

The Weekend Wanderer: 16 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.


Tower of Babel“Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid” – Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic: “What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower ‘with its top in the heavens’ to ‘make a name’ for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.

The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension. The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.”


Religion and upbringing“Trying to raise successful kids? Experts say you shouldn’t forget about faith” – Kelsey Dallas in Deseret News: “In America today, being a parent is much like being a talent manager. Moms and dads shepherd their aspiring sports star or Rhodes scholar from school to practice to private lesson, all the while looking for additional opportunities to maximize their child’s potential. ‘Parents are emphasizing personal achievement and skill-building for their kids. … They’re looking for ways to build-out a resume, whether for college or future career success,’ said Daniel Cox, director and founder of the Survey Center on American Life. As part of this push, moms and dads often deemphasize activities that don’t lead to individual acclaim, like worship services or family dinners. When you’re heavily invested in building measurable skills, you quickly run out of time to do anything else, Cox said. ‘It’s not OK anymore for kids just to hang out and goof around. They have to be learning something,’ he said. In addition to creating a lot of stressed-out kids, modern parents’ fixation on achievement is reshaping families’ relationships with organized religion. Young adults today heard less about faith from their parents during childhood than previous generations and spent less time in church, according to a new report from Cox’s survey center. These findings help explain why members of Generation Z (34%) are more likely than millennials (29%) and members of Generation X (25%) to be religiously unaffiliated. Research has long shown that the quantity and quality of childhood religious experiences predict how religious someone is as an adult, Cox said.”


Holy-Sepulchre-exterior“High-tech start for restoration of Christianity’s holiest site” – Rod Sweet in Global Construction Review: “A major restoration project at Christianity’s most hallowed place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, has begun with a high-tech start. By collecting more than 50,000 detailed images, built-environment researchers from the Politecnico di Milano have created detailed 3D models of the church’s floor ahead of the project, begun on 14 March, to conserve and restore it, conduct archeological research and install plumbing and other services at the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified and resurrected. The project, jointly funded by the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, will also evaluate the stability of the Holy Edicule, a shrine built to enclose what is considered to be Jesus’ empty tomb. Led by architect and archeologist Osama Hamdan of Jerusalem’s Al Quds University, the team collected the data between September and October 2021 using a bespoke system.” 


IMG_3289-copy-scaled“Divine Intimations: Contemporary Floral Design for Sacred Spaces” – Margaret Gardner in Image: “I sit in the pew waiting for the service to begin. Glancing from the cross to the pulpit, I am struck by the stunning tropical flower arrangement—a contemporary design of cut bamboo, protea, aspidistra, and heliconia, rising from a circle of thorny vines. Not your typical bouquet of roses or lilies, it expresses a sensibility beyond its beauty. The open mouths of the cut bamboo call out; the spiky heliconia, both erect and hanging, speak to spent blood and powerful straining upward. It’s Sunday, January 16, 2022, and the notes in the bulletin say that the flowers are given ‘to the glory of God in recognition of the January 15 birthday and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’ The symbolism of the arrangement is tangible. As a floral artist and longtime arranger for churches, I wonder about the vision behind this evocative design, and how other congregants connect with it as art. Located in a grand mid-century-modern building, my congregation is National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. As a member of the Reformed tradition, I am aware of our iconoclastic heritage and emphasis on plain style within the worship space. My previous church home, the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia, was an early nineteenth-century Protestant box of bare-bone architecture. Clear glass, no paintings on the walls, no cross in the front, a few historic tombstones embedded in the floor, it honored our forebears’ distaste for distractions from the word of God. Yet, as Reformed scholar William Dyrness has pointed out (in his works Visual Faith and Reformed Theology and Visual Culture), even John Calvin, who forbade the use of images in worship, waxed eloquent on the beauty of the natural world and the presence of God in the theater of creation. Arranged flowers seem an ideal way to bring that ‘third book’ of God into the sacred space.”


Turkey church“Despite Drop in Deportations, Turkey Still Troubles Christians” – Jayson Casper in Christianity Today: “Last year, Protestant Christians in Turkey suffered no physical attacks. There were no reported violations of their freedom to share their faith. And there was a sharp reduction in foreign missionaries denied residency. But not all is well, according to the 2021 Human Rights Violation Report, issued March 18 by the nationally registered Association of Protestant Churches (APC). Hate speech against Christians is increasing, fueled by social media. Legal recognition as a church is limited to historic places of worship. And missionaries are still needed, because it remains exceedingly difficult to formalize the training of Turkish pastors. ‘Generally there is freedom of religion in our country,’ stated the report. ‘But despite legal protections, there were still some basic problems.'”


Carl Lenz hype pastor“The rise and fall of Hillsong’s ‘hypepriests'” – Leah Payne at NBC News: “Is the era of the ‘hypepriest’ over? The ouster of pastor-turned-celebrity Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC, the controversy and legal troubles swirling around Hillsong founder Brian Houston and a recent documentary series chronicling alleged abuse in the famously famous Hillsong Church, might certainly lead some to believe that the American public has tired of expensively dressed pastors with famous friends and large social media followings. But while recent headlines have led to a precipitous decline in Hillsong USA churches, the celebrity pastor’s place in the United States is not under serious threat. At least not yet. America’s affinity for dramatic preaching, sex appeal and celebrity predates the American republic. George Whitefield was an actor in England before he crossed the pond and used his gifts for self-promotion and status as a ‘most beautiful youth’ to win young admirers and become the celebrity preacher of the colonies in the 1700s. Presbyterian Charles Finney’s worship spaces of the 1800s resembled theaters as much as they did sanctuaries, and he popularized ‘new measures’ of engagement, like emotive preaching and stirring music, which entertained and revived the spiritual feelings of the faithful. The 20th century brought enterprising American preachers new media outlets for spreading the good news. The attractiveness of the preachers — their body, voice and demeanor — often went hand in hand with their success. Hellfire and brimstone preacher Billy Sunday understood this well and had suits tailored to displayhis athletic physique. Women and men alike enjoyed his ultra-masculine preaching performances.”


Music: Sufjan Stevens, “Ah, Holy Jesus,” from Silver and Gold

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 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.


Amazing Love“Holy Week Playlist: Songs to Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Kelli Trujillo compiles a playlist with contributions from various people at Christianity Today: “Our special issue The Wondrous Cross reflects on eight pieces of music that help us enter into the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice. In addition to those songs, we’ve asked several Christian leaders—as well as some members of CT’s staff—to share their favorite pieces of music for contemplating the Cross and celebrating the Resurrection. You can listen to all of these songs on our Spotify playlist.”


Ketanji Brown Jackson“Ketanji Brown Jackson First Black Woman Confirmed to Supreme Court – Lawrence Hurley, Andrew Chung, Andrew Cowan in Sojourners: “Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court in a milestone for the United States and a victory for President Joe Biden, who made good on a campaign promise as he seeks to infuse the federal judiciary with a broader range of backgrounds. The vote to confirm the 51-year-old federal appellate judge to a lifetime job on the nation’s top judicial body was 53-47, with three Republicans – Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney – joining Biden’s fellow Democrats. A simple majority was needed, as Jackson overcame Republican opposition in a Supreme Court confirmation process that remains fiercely partisan. Jackson will take the 83-year-old Breyer’s place on the liberal bloc of a court with an increasingly assertive 6-3 conservative majority. Breyer is due to serve until the court’s current term ends – usually in late June – and Jackson would be formally sworn in after that. Jackson served early in her career as a Supreme Court clerk for Breyer.”


Recovering-Piety-980x551“Recovering Piety: The old-fashioned virtue might help renew our institutions, especially the church” – Alan Jacobs in Comment: “Sir Thomas Browne offered a warning in the seventeenth century: ‘Every man is not a proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity. Many from the ignorance of these maxims, and an inconsiderate zeal unto truth, have too rashly charged the troops of error, and remain as trophies unto the enemies of truth. A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender: ’tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace, then to hazard her on a battle.’ Some of my philosophical friends are horrified by Browne’s argument and remind me of St. Peter’s exhortation: ‘Always [be] prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15). But I would reply by noting two things: there is more than one kind of preparation, and there is more than one kind of defence. All too often Christians think of preparation for ‘making a defence’ as a matter of gathering information and training themselves in dialectical agility: anticipating arguments and coming up with clever responses to them. But the example of Joseph Knecht suggests that prayer—and contemplative prayer even more than the petitionary variety—is at least as important a mode of preparation. Indeed, I would claim that it’s more important, because in my experience it’s far less common for debating Christians to be uninformed than it is for them to be angry, truculent, and uncharitable—and to the degree that they are, they reflect a lack of preparation, a lack of piety.”


webRNS-Yelling-Argument1-1536x864“Language is hard: Are you sure they mean what you think they mean?” – Karen Swallow Prior at One Eye Squinted: “In 1712, Jonathan Swift, the Anglican clergyman most famous for his brilliant satire, published ‘A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue.’ Complaining that the English language was subject to ‘daily corruptions’ and continuous ‘abuses and absurdities,’ Swift offered a plan (perhaps facetiously) for ‘fixing our Language for ever.’ Although it would be impossible to establish a perfect English, Swift admitted, ‘I am of Opinion,’ he wrote, ‘that it is better a Language should not be wholly perfect, than that it should be perpetually changing.’ Obviously, Swift’s proposal was never implemented. Hundreds of words are added to English dictionaries every year, arising from new technologies, phenomena and trends. The number of words in English has long surpassed 1 million. Not only are new words constantly added to the language, but old words can take on new meanings, too (as anyone who’s read a quaint 19th century novel knows, for they are full of words and phrases that have less innocent meanings today). Two camps shape the field of linguistics: prescriptivism and descriptivism. A prescriptivist approach sets out the rules of grammar and usage and is concerned with how language and words should be used. A descriptivist approach, in contrast, attempts to assess and describe how language is being used. Because I teach English, I am by necessity a prescriptivist first, a descriptivist only reluctantly. It’s hard to be a prescriptivist in descriptivist world.”


_112099487_church“Sacred Space, Desecration, and Reconciliation: A Story and Some Theses”  – Brian J. Walsh in The Other Journal: “‘Brian, Shahla would like to see where we pray.’ The request wasn’t totally out of the blue. Shahla had been moved to tears a week earlier upon hearing from her friend Janice that our little group of Christians at the University of Toronto had been praying for her. An Iranian woman who had escaped the violent repression of the Islamic Revolution, Shahla had, like so many Iranian émigrés, abandoned religion. Prayer was a tool of oppression and violence in Iran, and she had found a place of safety in a decidedly secular vision of life. Nevertheless, she arrived on campus that day, and we walked down the long hallway to the chapel where the Wine Before Breakfast community gathered to worship every Tuesday morning. We looked around the space, and she noted how beautiful it was. After a few minutes, I could tell that she was ready to move on. But before Shahla and Janice left, I asked if they would come down to the chaplain’s office for a moment. I had something to give to Janice. The time in the office was also short, and the two women went on their way. An hour after they had left, Janice called. ‘Brian,’ she said, ‘This is pretty amazing. When Shahla and I left the office, she immediately told me of a dream that she had. Shahla takes dreams very seriously and often calls her sister in Iran to help her interpret them.'”


maverickcitymusic_hdv“‘All the Glory to Jesus’: Maverick City to Make History in Performance at 64th Annual Grammy Awards” – Talia Wise at CBN News: “Maverick City Music will make history at the 64th annual Grammy Awards becoming the first Christian group to perform on the grand stage in 20 years. ‘All the glory and praise goes to Jesus,’ read the group’s Instagram post. The five-time Grammy-nominated group will be the first Christian or Gospel artist to be televised during the ceremony in over 20 years as well as the first time an artist has been nominated in all four categories across the two genres. ‘Blessed is an understatement for how we feel about all #Jireh is doing in this moment – we’re making history,’ they said of their upcoming Grammy performance. ‘We truly feel that we have been placed here for such a time as this and are excited to continue to share this journey with you all!'”


Music: Fernando Jesus, “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted” from The Crucifixion of Jesus

The Weekend Wanderer: 29 January 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


173811“Mosaic made by freed slave to thank God found in Turkey’s Hatay” – Anadolu Agency in Daily Sabah: “A mosaic made by a freed slave to thank God for his emancipation was unearthed during the excavation at the 6th-century Church of the Holy Apostles in southern Hatay province. The Church of the Holy Apostles was found in an orange grove in the Arpaçiftlik neighborhood by Mehmet Keleş in 2007. After Keleş recognized historical artifacts while planting orange saplings in the grove, archaeological digs were launched in the area. With the disclosure of mosaics, animal figures, stone graves and bone remains, expert teams determined that the area was a church and its name was the Church of the Holy Apostles. While digs continue in the historical church, archaeologists have recently found an area with a mosaic. The mosaic with a peacock figure also features an inscription in which a slave thanked God after being freed.”


joy-ike-007-980x551“Grow Deep, Not Wide: The art of nurturing the life that really is life.” – Joy Ike in Comment: “This summer, while on my porch, I experienced a drive-by shooting for the first time. Germantown, my beloved neighbourhood here in Philadelphia, has probably been like most inner-city neighbourhoods this past year: destitute, depressed, run down, pressure-cooked. I live on a high-traffic street and a block or two from the dividing line of what would be considered ‘safe Germantown’ and ‘unsafe Germantown.’ On one side of my house is my neighbour, who has become a dear friend and a teammate of sorts: we hope together. On the other side is an abandoned house by the corner, and beside that, a street that has become known as the local epicentre of crime and drug dealing. We’ll call it ‘T Street.’ As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world, I’ve watched as the drug culture has slowly turned the bend and crept around my street corner, like a shadow trying to cover more territory. And this is where my pandemic story begins.”


127321“Christians Are Going Back to Church—But Maybe Not the Same One” – Melissa Morgan Kelley in Christianity Today: “Houston Northwest Church suffered heavy damage from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. By the time its flooded facilities were finally rebuilt a couple years ago, the congregation was only back at full capacity for six weeks before services were shut down by the pandemic. As the church endured one setback after another, senior pastor Steve Bezner has seen the flock ebb and flow. ‘About a third of our congregation worshiping in person are new faces,’ he said. His church currently draws 1,600 attendees each week, including several hundred viewing online—not far from its pre-pandemic weekly average of 1,700. Bezner marvels at the number of members who left during the pandemic and the number of new people who have showed up to take their place. ‘It will make you believe in the preservation of the Holy Spirit,’ the Houston pastor said. Member turnover is as common to the life cycle of a church as baptisms, weddings, and funerals. But the pandemic has accelerated people’s comings and goings and has required new strategies to welcome and assimilate new members into the church community.”


CB019074“The Gift of Being Yourself” – David G. Benner in Conversatio: “We all live life searching for that one possible way of being that carries with it the gift of authenticity. We are often most conscious of this search for identity during adolescence, when it takes front stage for most people. At this stage of life, we try on identities like clothing, looking for a style of being that fits with how we want to be seen. But long after adolescence has passed, most adults know the occasional feeling of being a fraud—a sense of not being what they pretend to be, but rather being precisely what they pretend not to be. With a little reflection, most of us can become aware of masks that we first adopted as strategies to avoid feelings of vulnerability, but which have become parts of our social self. Tragically, we settle so easily for pretense and a truly authentic self often seems elusive. There is, however, a way of being for each of us that is as natural and deeply congruent as the life of the tulip. Beneath the roles and masks lies a possibility of a self that is as distinctive as a snowflake. It is an originality that has existed since God first loved us into existence. Our true self-in-Christ is the only self that will support authenticity. It and it alone provides an identity that is eternal.”


sound of metal“Picturing Silence: Stillness in Sound of Metal” – James K. A. Smith in Image: “For me, one of the gifts of contemporary art is precisely its difficulty. A subtle blessing of such art—whether painting or poetry—is that it demands something of me, and above all it demands that I make myself available for contemplation. This is because such art does not yield easily accessible nuggets of sentiment or pleasure. But its difficulty harbors an invitation. In its refusal to be immediately available to surface attention, it suggests that I might attend to my world differently. Rather than just offering emotion or decoration or a ‘statement,’ the best contemporary art asks me to slow the frenetic pace of incessant distraction to pause and dwell. It requires a stillness that already verges on the spiritual. One of the most convicting pictures I’ve seen of such spiritual stillness was Darius Marder’s recent film, Sound of Metal. The film follows the harrowing journey of Ruben, a heavy-metal drummer who experiences catastrophic hearing loss as a young man. What is unique about the movie is its sonic environment, the way the soundtrack invites us in and out of Ruben’s own point of—not view, but hearing. The opening scene is an overwhelming, alienating wall of sound. Four minutes in, you’ll be wondering if you can stay much longer. Then, in scenes from the next morning, the world’s quiet pleasures are a chorus: the crisp, gentle tinkling of cutlery; the drip of a coffee maker; rustling sheets upon waking and the gentle intimacy of a kiss.”


smarphone dump“The people deciding to ditch their smartphones” – Suzanne Bearne at the BBC: “In a world where many of us are glued to our smartphones, Dulcie Cowling is something of an anomaly – she has ditched hers. The 36-year-old decided at the end of last year that getting rid of her handset would improve her mental health. So, over Christmas she told her family and friends that she was switching to an old Nokia phone that could only make and receive calls and text messages. She recalls that one of the pivotal moments that led to her decision was a day at the park with her two boys, aged six and three: “I was on my mobile at a playground with the kids and I looked up and every single parent – there was up to 20 – were looking at their phones, just scrolling away,” she says. “I thought ‘when did this happen?’. Everyone is missing out on real life. I don’t think you get to your death bed and think you should have spent more time on Twitter, or reading articles online.” Ms Cowling, who is a creative director at London-based advertising agency Hell Yeah!, adds that the idea to abandon her smartphone had built up during the Covid lockdowns.”


Music: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, “The Road,” The Road Original Film Score

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 October 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.


policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin-kw3ndwdf-7d312cf67d6382959ed12b355aab78f7“Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin: Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election” – John Piper, Pastor Emeritus at Bethlehem Baptist Church, set of a mild Twitter-storm when this article released because of sections like this: “this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.” Or this: “When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine. It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.” While I may disagree with certain aspects of Piper’s theology, I was encouraged by his words here that show his consistency over the years (as opposed to other evangelical leaders who have changed their approach from one President to the next) and keep us rooted in the Word of God and kingdom citizenship.


Nigeria conflict“Deaths From Nigeria Protests Now 56 With Crackdown, Amnesty Says” – We are not the only nation dealing with conflict related to political and social tensions. Nigeria, one of the most stable and robust nations in sub-Saharan Africa has trembled with protests related to police brutality in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Please pray for this situation in Nigeria, which Amnesty International now says has resulted in 56 deaths. “‘Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters,’ Isa Sanusi, a spokesman for the group in Nigeria, said in an emailed statement. ‘In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.'”


Diane Langberg“Today’s Crises Have Multiplied and Exposed Trauma: How Will the Church Respond?” – One of my biggest concerns as we head into the winter of this pandemic is how we deal with mental health challenges in this time. Diane Langberg speaks directly to that pressing challenge: “We are living in times of trauma, surrounded by confusion, threats and unrest. The COVID-19 pandemic and outcries against racial injustice profoundly impact our world, our nation, our churches, our neighborhoods and our homes. It is disruptive and unsettling. And if we’re honest, we feel vulnerable. In fact, we are vulnerable. But the threats are not merely external. We face internal threats as well. Many are anxious or depressed or grieving. Others are full of anger. There is no end in sight.”


man-2125123_1280-690x450“Bioethics must recognize ‘we are made for love and friendship,’ scholar argues” – At last part of the reason we are struggling with trauma these days is the radical changes to our relationships. This is not just an accident of human experience but a vital part of how we are made. Because God is a relational Being, He has made humans as relational beings as well. O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law and Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, argues for something similar in his his new book, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. In contrast to the prevailing hyper-individualized approach to ethics which downplays the body in relation to personal decisions, Snead calls for a recovery of the significance of embodiment in anthropology and in the realm of bioethics. This interview with Charles C. Camosy for Crux gives some insight into the direction of his argument.


Azerbaijan Armenia reconciliation“Turks and Armenians Reconcile in Christ. Can Azeris Join Them?” – The recent tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijin over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has captured our attention recently, but has a long history. When there is a long history of pain and tension, is it possible for reconciliation of relationship to happen? Jayson Casper reports on this helpful parallel of the relational healing that occurred between Turks and Armenians as an example of what could happen for Azeris and Armenians. May God help us.


Thomas Howard“Died: Thomas Howard, Author Who Said ‘Evangelical Is Not Enough'” – Thomas Howard passed away this past week. He was one of the evangelicals who walked the Canterbury Trail to Anglicanism and eventually swam the Tiber to become Roman Catholic. He told the tale in several books, most notable Evangelical Is Not Enough and Lead, Kindly Light. Along the way, Howard left us a treasure of historic recovery of liturgy and a beautiful engagement with literature that is a wonderful legacy.


Music: The Fearless Flyers, “Assassin.”

[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.]