The Weekend Wanderer: 26 November 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.


featured-deeper-journey“The Deeper Journey for Leaders: From the False Self to the True Self” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., in Beyond Words – The Transforming Center blog: “Once I asked the pastor of a large, vigorous, dynamic, growing church with a strong emphasis on the deeper life in Christ—a church that confirmed fifty to seventy-five new members each week—where these people were coming from.  His response surprised me.  He told me almost all of these people had begun their journey in Christ in an even larger, more vigorous, more dynamic church whose worship was leading-edge contemporary, whose focus was strongly charismatic and whose corporate life centered in highly emotional expressions of faith in God. These people would stay in that church for about two to three years and then the novelty and excitement would become ritualized and dry for them.  They began to hunger, in his words, ‘for something deeper.’  They began to sense there was more to the Christian life. You may have felt the same thing and asked yourself, Isn’t there more to the Christian life than being active in a Christian community, affirming a certain set of beliefs, adopting a particular behavior pattern?   The answer is Yes. The ‘more’ is the journey from living out one’s false self to living as our true self in Christ—a self that is deeply centered in and utterly abandoned to God.”


5acd2ae5-9c6f-4a8c-ad81-89f8608d9ce9“The State of the Multiethnic Church Movement: Glimpses of the future from Dallas and Indianapolis” – David Swanson in his Occasional Newsletter: “Last week was full of travel. It started with a flight to Dallas for the Mosaix Conference, an every-three-year gathering focused on the multiethnic church. I’ve attended many of these conferences over the years and am always impressed how the organizers, led by Pastor Mark DeYmaz, manage to include so many different practitioners, academics, and other advocates for multiethnic ministry. If there was one theme which raised to the surface for me at this year’s event, it was the role of BIPOC leaders in the multiethnic movement. While not a new theme, it was emphasized by many of the speakers from the main stage. The one workshop I was able to attend was led by Dr. Oneya Okuwobi, professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Okuwobi’s research focuses on the impact of multiethnic churches (often white-led) on leaders and staff of color. It’s not a pretty picture! Dr. Okuwobi detailed the cost extracted from most of the leaders of color whom she interviewed. Having to navigate church cultures which value them mostly for their representation rather than for the experiences and expertise they bring is exhausting. It is demoralizing coming to realize that what these churches said about their goals for justice and reconciliation are nowhere near their intentions.”


Michael Gerson“Opinion Michael Gerson followed his faith — and America was better for it” – Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post: “One of the biblical injunctions sometimes cited by Michael Gerson, who died Thursday at the age of 58 after a long battle with cancer, comes from the New Testament book of Colossians: ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ That advice works not only for Christian believers such as he was, but also in the sometimes brutal political world in which he made his mark. He was a presidential speechwriter whose own words were, indeed, singularly seasoned and notably full of grace. For the past 15 years, he enriched the pages of this newspaper as a columnist for the Opinions section. But civility, as Mike also noted, does not preclude tough-mindedness. Nor should it be mistaken for a lack of principles or perspective. His own were rooted in the faith that fueled and defined his involvement with politics, and he was scorching in his assessment of his fellow evangelicals when theirs took what he saw as a more cynical turn. In a September essay, he wrote these supposedly conservative Christians ‘have broadly chosen the company of Trump supporters who deny any role for character in politics and define any useful villainy as virtue. In the place of integrity, the Trump movement has elevated a warped kind of authenticity — the authenticity of unfiltered abuse, imperious ignorance, untamed egotism and reflexive bigotry. This,’ Mike wrote, ‘is inconsistent with Christianity by any orthodox measure.'”


therapyoffice.jpeg“Is Therapy the Cure?: The therapist’s chair could be replacing our community and the pulpit.” – Cali Yee at Mockingbird: “Christmas in 2018 was one of the worst Christmases to date. My older sister and I were in a heated (but frosty) old western standoff. It wasn’t quite unlike that one scene in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — where the camera zooms in on Clint Eastwood’s face as he stares down his opponents. As all fights are, it was a competition of who was in the right and who was in the wrong. The real kicker didn’t come until she calmly (bitingly) suggested, ‘I really think you should be going to therapy.’  To which I hurled (screamed) back, ‘You think I should be going to therapy?!? YOU should be going to therapy, you, you, you — ‘ I can’t quite remember how it ended, or what unfortunate nickname I gave her, but I do know that it made for one awkward Christmas dinner. In my family, talk of mental illness and therapy wasn’t common. Therapy wasn’t frowned upon, but it certainly wasn’t praised either. And as you can see in the interaction between my sister and me, the need for therapy was like a silly insult, a weapon of sorts, something you said when you wanted to hurt someone.As the dy-stigmatization of mental illness continues to move at a rapid pace, it appears that going to therapy has taken on a different meaning. It is no longer a weapon, brandished to insult or shame. It has become a crown, adorned by those who pursue their ‘best self,’ or a moral obligation, required on a twenty-something’s dating profile. Of course, this is not the case with all generations and cultures. But the dialogue about how everyone should be going to therapy has certainly increased.”


Wingfeather_BoxSet_View_3_01“The Gospel in Wingfeather” – Thomas M. Ward in Plough: “Originally published between 2009 and 2014, Andrew Peterson’s four-book Wingfeather Saga was already popular within the evangelical world when it was re-released in 2020 by Penguin Random House. Since then, its popularity has surged, and it is now poised to break into the mainstream – thanks in part to a successful Angel Studios crowdfunding campaign which will put the books on screen as an animated TV series. Somehow, I hadn’t heard of the series until last year, when it started circulating among my kids’ circles of friends. Then a strangely enthusiastic recommendation from a friend and fellow dad (and professor of literature) finally prompted me to read the books. I didn’t know what I was in for. I was prepared to enjoy a good yarn and have something to talk to the kids about; I was not prepared to find such a believable depiction of love for one’s enemies and such heartbreaking reflection on the cost of redemption. I don’t say this lightly: I don’t think children’s literature has achieved the theological depth of Wingfeather since the Chronicles of Narnia.”


Waverly Abbey yew“Ancient yew in ruined Surrey abbey crowned UK tree of the year” – Patrick Barkham in The Guardian: “A gnarled yew whose twisted trunk has been growing for more than half a millennium has been crowned tree of the year. The roots of the yew snake around the ruins of Waverley Abbey in Surrey, which was the first monastery founded in Britain by the Cistercian religious order in 1128. The ancient tree, which won 16% of the total votes in the popular Woodland Trust competition, beat the spectacular ‘portal tree’ in Midlothian (11%), a rowan shaped like an archway. The Waverley Abbey yew will go on to represent the UK in the European tree of the year contest, with its success highlighting the unique wealth of ancient yews in the country. The Ancient Yew Group has identified 978 ancient or veteran yews (more than 500 years old) in England and 407 in Wales; France has 77, while Germany and Spain have only four each. Scotland is home to the Fortingall yew, estimated to be about 3,000 years old and the oldest yew in Britain.”


Music:The Porter’s Gate, “Isaiah (O Come),”Advent Songs

The Weekend Wanderer: 19 November 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.


Landscape“The Roof Always Caves In: Why there is nothing wrong with being doomed.” – Kate Bowler in Comment: “It was in the cowboy days of subprime mortgage lending and a bank was dumb enough to give me money to purchase a bungalow in Durham, North Carolina. I was a twenty-five-year-old graduate student in religion, and my husband and I had recently moved from Canada, where our credit scores were purely hypothetical and the meagre stipend that I received for teaching, researching, and correctly pronouncing Kierkegaard’s name to my classmates (no, look, it’s more like Kierkegore) had really only furnished us with friend-making stories about the time we got vitamin deficiencies and all the skin on my husband’s hands inexplicably peeled off. But we had a house we couldn’t afford, which was still a treat, and the previous owner had left not only a bright green mini-golf carpet in the living room but an entire Elvis Presley tribute in what later would become our guest room. There was a shed in the backyard with all kinds of promise—a simple peaked structure that was two floors high and lined with thick white oak. It had been a carpenter’s workshop for the owner who had built the main house and even bothered to line the edges of the property with elegant masonry quarried from the same blueish gray stone that makes Duke University look like Duke University. But the problem with the shed was the crater, where the roof had sunk so low that termites and wet wood were threatening to pull the whole thing down. We tried to prop it up as best we could—beams here, brackets there—but the only real solution would be a religious one.”


Makoto Fujimura“Makoto Fujimura Awarded Kuyper Prize” – Emily Belz at Christianity Today: “Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary named artist Makoto Fujimuraas its 2023 Kuyper Prize winner, which is named for Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper, who argued that art was vital to renewing God’s world. Fujimura is the first visual artist to receive the prize, which Calvin has given out annually since 1998. On Tuesday when Calvin announced the prize, Fujimura was in the middle of a private meeting with Pope Francis. A Japanese American and Christian, Fujimura has always related Reformed theology about renewal to his work. He practices kintsugi, taking broken pottery and restoring it with precious metals. He also practices the Japanese technique of nihonga, painting with pulverized minerals that in his work symbolize brokenness and renewal. He has long talked about a framework of ‘culture care’ as opposed to ‘culture wars.’ ‘As Christ followers, we are called to the work of renewal,’ said Jul Medenblik, president of Calvin Theological Seminary in a statement about the prize. ‘What Fujimura is doing through his work is reminding us of the Kuyperian perspective that “The final outcome of the future … is not the merely spiritual existence of saved souls, but the restoration of the entire cosmos, when God will be all in all in the renewed heaven on the renewed earth.”‘”


ddaba2f3-3fb6-4b58-a5c7-c533973e7d2e-AP_Immigration_Border_Crossings“Evangelical voters want the broken immigration system fixed. Will GOP leaders listen?” – Daniel Darling in USA Today: “A record number of migrants – border agents recorded 2.4 million encounters – crossed the U.S.-Mexican border illegally in fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30. Americans are increasingly frustrated with the Biden administration’s hapless border policy. It’s a top issue as voters go to the polls Tuesday in the midterm elections. Evangelicals are among the most influential of those voters and, in new data from Lifeway Research, they told pollsters that they’d like the nation’s leaders to stop posturing and start acting to fix a clearly broken system. Among the evangelicals polled, 71% said it is imperative for Congress to pass immigration reform. What do evangelicals want in a reform package?

►92% demand legislation that supports the rule of law.

►90% say policy should ensure secure national borders.

►94% say it should be fair to taxpayers.

►78% would support legislation that would both increase border security and establish a rigorous process to earn legal status and apply for citizenship.”


wendellberrysocial2“Media-Friendly Sins of Other People” – Jeffrey Bilbro in Plough: “Wendell Berry’s new book The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice covers many topics: family history, the Civil War, racism, the nature of good work. But, odd though it may seem, at its heart is an entire chapter about sin. Berry suggests that beneath all the political vitriol and public condemnation of people who don’t share our views lies a distorted understanding of sin. He offers an older, broader conception of sin that might enable us to debate contentious public questions honestly while still loving those with whom we strenuously disagree. The public certainly retains a keen sense that some actions and attitudes are wrong, and public figures often condemn particular offenses with totalizing ferocity. As Berry notes, the ‘old opposition to sin’ remains, but he worries we have narrowed the acts that count as sin. He warns that ‘nothing more reveals our incompleteness and brokenness as a public people than our self-comforting small selection of public sins.’ There are a few egregious ‘media-friendly sins’ that provoke ‘vehement public antipathy,’ but as long as we manage to refrain from committing one of those, we can feel pretty good about ourselves. Different political or cultural groups might have different lists of unforgivable sins, but the narrowness of the list – and the resulting self-congratulatory feeling most of us maintain – is widespread. Sure, we may be guilty of run-of-the-mill venial sins that everyone slips into, but we’ve avoided thosemortal sins: we haven’t said the n-word or applied blackface or had an abortion or sexually harassed someone.”


Cancel Luther Calvin“Should We Cancel Luther and Calvin?” – N. T. Wright in Christianity Today: “Cancel culture knows no bounds, even historical ones. Based on some un-Christlike writings by Protestant reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther—along the lines of burning heretics—there have been some recent discussions about “cancelingthese paragons of church history. The debates sound similar to conversations we’ve had about secular historical figures being canceled for owning slaves, for example. Unfortunately, it seems every generation of Christian leaders and teachers has had its own problems and blind spots. We should seize these opportunities for self-reflection, to determine if we ourselves might have similar weaknesses. In 200 or 300 years (if there are still 200 or 300 years of history left ahead of us!), what are we going to look back on as seriously problematic? It’s only recently that most Christians I know have given up smoking, for instance. There have been great social changes since the 16th century, a time when most Christian leaders considered burning heretics an acceptable practice. In their view, heresy on key issues of the faith was such a serious problem that genuine apostates could not be allowed to live and had to be put to death as a lesson to others. I live in the middle of Oxford, a few hundred yards down the street from the Memorial to the Martyrs Ridley and Latimer, who were burned at the stake in the 1550s. Those were terrible times. We look back and say, ‘How could they possibly have done that out of misplaced zeal and loyalty to God and the gospel? What was that about?'”


TASS_20426370“How Russia’s War in Ukraine Has Impacted its Christian Image” – Ryan Bauer in The Moscow Times: “Over the past decade, the Russian government has taken pains to present itself as a bastion of Christianity and traditional values. The Kremlin has used this image of religiosity and its close relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church as a mechanism to promote its interests domestically, as well as cultivate ties with similarly fundamentalist-minded supporters abroad. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, however, there have been noticeable cracks in the receptivity of this messaging strategy. Traditional religious allies of Russia in the West have begun speaking out against the war and, in particular, the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of it. This recent trend of criticism, and declining global support for both Moscow and the Church, presents a significant and under-appreciated challenge for Russia’s ability to promote its interests and influence. In the U.S., Russia has long garnered support from various groups and figures in America’s conservative Christian communities. In these communities, Putin and the Church have successfully cast themselves as champions of Christian values, willing to do battle with what many parishioners perceive as a moral decay in the West. Russian propaganda has bolstered this perception, as well as the supposed danger of liberalism pushed by Western governments, which Russia portrays as a threat to conservative ideals.”


Music: U2, “Grace,” from All That You Can’t Leave Behind