The Weekend Wanderer: 18 April 2020

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


Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 2.55.43 PM“When Christ conquered Caesar” – In my message this coming weekend at Eastbrook at the beginning of our new series, “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I make reference to this article by historian Tom Howard. I think you will enjoy this contrast between the ways of Nero and the ways of the first Christians, including Howard’s description of why Christianity ultimately overcame the crumbling empire of Rome.


1162785971222092.yp1ayqnqcvsmboslolrp_height640_custom-175c2aac0b32e71fa8949771537068a468c369c3-s1500-c85“Alternative Mourning Rituals Offer Comfort And Closure During An Outbreak” – One of our ministry partners in Congo, Congo Initiative, is shaping culture in many ways, including helping people deal with grief during this challenging time. “With a team of four counselors, psychologist Noé Kasali — who heads Bethesda’s counseling program in Beni, an Ebola-affected city in the northeast of DRC — has helped ease mourning for those who have lost a loved one to Ebola. They have done this by creating new interpretations of the traditional funeral ceremonies that are a critical part of the Nande culture — the largest ethnic group in Beni — but without the body of the deceased present.”


09brooks_Sub-superJumbo-v8“The Pandemic of Fear and Agony” – David Brooks invited readers of his New York Times opinion column to send their feedback to him about how the pandemic is affecting their mental health. Reading his catalogue of selections from the 5,000+ replies he received is humbling, painful, and insightful. I would encourage you to read this just to know that you’re not alone and also to help us all become more aware of how others are struggling during these times. A pastor friend of mine commented a week ago that he thinks mental health is one of the fronts of ministry that will become front and center in the days ahead. I cannot help but agree.


cs-lewis_at_desk“C. S. Lewis’ Advice To Students During A Pandemic Will Do All Our Souls Good Right Now” – Perhaps in light of Brooks’ chronicle of our mental health challenges, we could use a good word. C. S. Lewis, although often over-quoted, provides rich wisdom and insight, which is probably why is often over-quoted. He is just so good in these times. Thanks to Joseph Griffith for his reflections on Lewis’ 1939 message “Learning in War-Time.”


dancing_skeletons-_-dance_of_death-_wellcome_l0006816-440a8388671527f09dfe71029e5941ca31dd978d-s1500-c85“When Pandemics Arise, Composers Carry On” – Or maybe we just need some good music to help us cope with the pandemic. Over the centuries, art has been of great help during times of suffering, and that is no less true in times of a pandemic. Tom Huizenga offers examples of musicians who did just that, including John Cooke, Johann Sebastian Bach, and, more recently, John Corigliano and Lisa Bielawa. You may have your own selections of music that soothe your soul in troubling times, but here are some who composed music like that for themselves and us.


20200414_CovidweeklydeathsUSv2“Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like… “ – Ari Schulman, Brendan Foht, Samuel Matlack at The New Atlantis: “Any serious attempt to put coronavirus deaths in context by comparing it to some other cause of death in a previous year must acknowledge the marked differences in the Covid-19 trend — most notably, the rapid spike in deaths that is still underway, and the wide range of uncertainty about when it will peak, how high it will peak, and whether it will peak only once. As long as the pandemic is rapidly spreading, these comparisons will be fraught. Perhaps a better way to state the danger posed by the coronavirus is just that we cannot easily compare it to any precedent in recent history. Nor do we need to dispute projections about future deaths to recognize what has happened already. Amid the statistical noise is a powerful signal. The question is whether we choose to see it.”


Church-online-marketing-featured-imageMissional vs. Attractional in the Age of COVID-19? – There was a little bit of a kerfuffle online between church leaders who could be grouped within the attractional church camp (see Carey Nieuwhof’s “Half of All Churches Are Instantly Growing. Here’s Why and Here’s What to Do“) and the missional church camp (see Mike Frost’s “Coronavirus could set the church back 25 years“). Because of online church necessitated by this moment, some are advocating more and more of this while others are wringing their hands over it. I think we all just need to admit at this point that we’re all figuring out what it means to live as the church in this new moment. The old arguments about attractional vs. missional are growing tired, in my opinion, and need to be updated into a time where we see growing opportunities and hunger for deep human connection.


Dave Dummitt family“Willow Creek names Michigan pastor David Dummitt as new leader” – Speaking of attractional versus missional debates, it was easy to miss this news in the midst of everything COVID-19. Dave Dummitt, formerly of 2|42 Community Church in Ann Arbor, was named the new Senior Pastor of Willow Creek. For those who followed the Willow Creek search process, you know that it started with scandal, was criticized from the start, stalled at least once, and finally has come to a conclusion. Regardless of how you feel about everything that has gone on, let me encourage us to pray for Dave, his family, and Willow Creek as they embark on a new chapter as a church.


Music: Wilco, “Impossible Germany,” from Sky Blue Sky

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 February 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.

The Course - Jessica Bruah“The Cancer Chair: Is suffering meaningless?” – Christian Wiman, American poet and Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature at Yale Divinity School, writes about his journey with cancer and questions about the meaning of suffering. Always an astute craftsman of words (if you haven’t read My Bright Abyss, do yourself a favor and read it sometime soon!), Wiman brings together reflections on his own cancer, the book of Job, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Albert Camus, and the Cross of Christ.

 

0_DydTubCNbDSFL-mb“From the Abundance of the Heart” – Alan Jacobs shares an essay on a topic that more of us should think about, particularly in the social media era: the power of our words. Relating an experience of giving a lecture based on an essay he had written but not yet published, Jacobs encountered the sourness of his words as they came out of his mouth, bringing a sense of conviction about the fact that these were both his words and words of which he did not approve at the same. There are some interesting insights here about the words of Jesus: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

 

Vector picture of Human Evolution“What If We Don’t Have to Choose Between Evolution and Adam and Eve?” – When I was working as a college pastor in the early 2000s, we conducted a teaching series called “Hot Topics,” where we engaged with controversial issues facing students in relation to faith. One of those topics that continues to be hotly debated in certain circles is the relationship between creation and evolution. Just this past year, S. Joshua Swamidass, a computational biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, published The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry in an attempt to change the terms of the debate. His book is up for a Reader’s Choice Award at InterVarsity Press. Here’s an interview with Swamidass about his book and his thought-provoking claims.

 

Dorothy Sayer mystery“‘No Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition or Mumbo Jumbo’: Dorothy L Sayers and the Detection Club” – Dorothy Sayers, one of the most incisive writers and thinkers of her era, is perhaps known best today for her connection to the Inklings, a group of writer including J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Christians may know her for her radio play, The Man Born to Be King, or The Mind of the Maker, but Sayers was well-known for her mystery-writing with the Lord Peter Wimsey novels. Sayers founded the Detection Club to support mystery writing, and it apparently still exists today. Who knew?

 

rohr_edit“Richard Rohr Reorders the Universe” – These days I cannot seem to take more than a few steps within Christian circles without someone mentioning Richard Rohr. He is one of those authors whose influence looms large for those who are seeking to reengage with faith and spirituality in an ecclesially disillusioned age. There are certain impulses about Rohr that I appreciate, some theological moves that deeply concern me, and a few other things about him that just drive me nuts. Love him or hate him, you have to reckon with Richard Rohr in discussions of faith today. Back in July, I shared Matthew Milliner’s helpful “field guide” to Rohr, and just this week Eliza Griswold offered a more personal look Rohr and his influence in North America today.

 

Steve Gillen“Willow Creek’s interim pastor to step down as church drops top candidates to fill Hybels’ shoes” – Speaking of ecclesial disillusionment, Willow Creek continues to reel after the leadership crisis surrounding misconduct accusations against former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. After the top two candidates for filling the Senior Pastor role were released by Willow Creek, Steve Gillen, Willow’s acting senior pastor, tendered his resignation effective March 17 because of the protracted nature of the search. Looming in the background are recent accusations that Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, an influential founder of Willow Creek and mentor to Bill Hybels, has also been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct both at Willow Creek and during his time at Wheaton College. May God purify His church and have mercy upon His people.

 

Music: Asgeir, “Until Daybreak,” from Bury the Moon

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 21 September 2019

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

 

article_5d72a06785e29“Catholicism Made Me Protestant” – After college I worked in a Roman Catholic books and church supply store for about nine months. As I learned to navigate the store and its contents, I also went on a journey of exploring the historic roots of the Christian faith. More than once since those days, I have searched out Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as possibilities of getting to the bottom of the nature of authority within the church. Each time I have gained deeper appreciation for voices from earlier eras of the history of the church, while also returning to my Protestant roots stronger for the exploration.  Onsi A. Kamel offers an essay at First Things that echoed some aspects of my own search: “Catholicism had taught me to think like a Protestant, because, as it turned out, the Reformers had thought like catholics. Like their pope-aligned opponents, they had asked questions about justification, the authority of tradition, the mode of Christ’s self-gift in the Eucharist, the nature of apostolic succession, and the Church’s wielding of the keys. Like their opponents, Protestants had appealed to Scripture and tradition. In time, I came to find their answers not only plausible, but more faithful to Scripture than the Catholic answers, and at least as well-represented in the traditions of the Church.”

 

Judgment Day Florence Cathedral“Is the ‘final judgment’ really final?” – It would be difficult to not hear some rumblings about David Bentley Hart’s new book, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation. Hart is a rough and tumble essayist and author, whose recent translation of the New Testament spurred a critical exchange between Hart and N. T. Wright, as well as some appreciative yet critical comments from Alan Jacobs about one of Hart’s bad intellectual habits. This latest book has already generated a lot of conversations, but is essentially an argument against the church’s reliance on a form of Augustine’s thinking and for a form of Gregory of Nyssa’s thinking on salvation and hell. The Christian Century provides this excerpt from Hart’s book for engagement. Douglas Farrow’s review in First Things is not all that appreciative of Hart’s thinking in the book, but engaging with Hart’s theological project at some level is necessary work for pastors and Christian leaders.

 

Willow Creek jd word cloud“Willow Creek, What’s a Pastor?” – I have been on a journey of recovery in pastoral ministry for the last year or two. It has led me toward rediscovering what it means to be a pastor by listening to voices like Eugene Peterson and John Chrysostom, as well as exploring the dark side of leadership and what keeps ministry resilient. After serving within it for the past fifteen plus years, I am questioning nearly every aspect of non-denominational, evangelical, megachuch Christianity in North America. The flagship church for that is Willow Creek, who is now searching for a new Senior Pastor. I have some sadness for how Willow has taken so much flak in these days, but not enough sadness to avoid pointing out that most of the historically essential work of the pastor is really not present in the job description they have put forward for this role. Scot McKnight says it with much better clarity than me in this article.

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?“When Philip K. Dick turned to Christianity” – Most fans of science fiction know that the movies Blade Runner (1982) and the recent sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017) were inspired by Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I was surprised to read this article in Salon a few months back about Dick’s turn toward Christianity shortly before his surge to fame within 1960s counterculture. While he didn’t stick with the church in its institutional form, his turn toward faith did, apparently, shape his later outlook and writings.

 

0_omPrFdurOKV3rsyv“A Radical Guide to Spending Less Time on Your Phone” – Those closest to me know that I’ve been on a multi-year journey to shed much of my closeness to my smartphone, some forms of technology, and social media. The most recent version of that is a project I affectionately call “the dumbest smartphone in the universe,” which is an attempt to radically simplify the apps available on my smartphone. Someday, maybe I’ll blog about it, but in the meantime read Ryan Holiday’s article which echoes many of the changes I’ve made.

 

William Blake“A blockbuster show at Tate Britain gives William Blake his due” – Two summers ago, my wife and I had the chance to get away to London for a week as part of celebrating twenty years of marriage. While there, we returned to places we had visited years ago when we both participated in a summer study program. Seeing works of revered artists in Tate Britain and Tate Modern was a highlight. While we saw many of William Blake’s drawings and etchings, this new show sounds like a delightful look at his work.

 

Music: Daniel Lanois, “The Maker,” from Acadie.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 1 June 2019

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

religious freedom“Rethinking the History of Religious Freedom” – Church historian Robert Louis Wilken offers this helpful essay on religious freedom at First Things. “What is missing in these accounts is the contribution of Christianity. Many believe that Christianity is inescapably intolerant, and that only with the decline of religious faith in western society did liberty of conscience take root. But a more careful examination of the historical record shows that Christian thinkers provided the intellectual framework that made possible the rise of religious freedom.”

 

catechesis.jpeg“Catechesis for a Secular Age by Timothy Keller with James K. A. Smith” – Catechesis  is the process of introducing new converts or those preparing for baptism or confirmation to the essential teaching of Christ and the apostles, usually with the help of a catechism. There has been increasing attention given to the need for catechesis within the church across a wide spectrum of traditions or denominations. In this 2017 article, Jamie Smith interviews Tim Keller about the need for catechesis in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has dubbed “a secular age.”

 

can we believe“Can We Believe?: A personal reflection on why we shouldn’t abandon the faith that has nourished Western civilization” – Speaking of a secular age, here is Andrew Klavan’s personal reflection on the inadequacy of the Enlightenment narrative and the need for something beyond that like Christian faith. This meandering journey takes him into the prevalence of unbelief in the contemporary era and into the necessity of belief for the fabric of morality and society. Along the way, Klavan touches upon the work of Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Marcello Pera, Steven Pinker, Yuval Noah Harari, and many more. He writes: “The point of this essay is not to argue the truth of Christianity. I argue only this: the modern intellectual’s difficulty in believing is largely an effect created by the overwhelming dominance of the Enlightenment Narrative, and that narrative is simplistic and incomplete.”

 

books“Thirty Years, Thirty Books | Fiction: The Pleasures of Obsolescence” – As part of their celebration of the one-hundredth issue and thirtieth anniversary of Image Magazine, the editors asked a poet, novelist, and essayist to offer their top ten works in their area over the past thirty years. Melissa Range offers a list related to poetry in “Poetry: A Word We Have Not Heard.” Christopher Beha offers his list of novels in “Fiction: The Pleasures of Obsolescence.”  Morgan Meis offers a list of essays in “Love, Hate, and Digestion: A Miscellany.”

 

54258“Farewell Franchise Ministry” – There are moments as a pastor where you feel out of sync with the surrounding ministry culture. Multisite is one of those areas for me where incarnational theology seems at odds with the prevailing model of multisite through video venues. We have been discussing at Eastbrook whether it’s possible to move into a more incarnational family of churches model within urban environments; something we affectionately refer to as missional multisite, although I don’t really love that terminology any longer. I know there are churches that have done so, and now here is another.

 

New_Life_Church_Aerial_Photo“Megachurches Discovering Liturgy & Traditional Christianity?” – In light of the previous article, Gene Veith’s recent post about evangelical megachurches moving toward liturgy and Christian tradition makes sense. Veith’s post is a response to Anna Keating’s article for America, entitled Why Evangelical megachurches are embracing (some) Catholic traditions. Veith corrects some misunderstandings of Keating’s article, while providing some background on why churches like New Life Church, The Village Church, and Willow Creek are now integrating ancient Christian practices and liturgy into their church life.

 

Music: Nils Frahm, “All Melody,” from the album All Melody.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 March 2019

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

5491.thumb“The Future of Church-Race Relations” – I mentioned this interview of Jemar Tisby by Wesley Hill in passing last weekend, but returned to it again this week. I just cannot recommend it enough. Speaking of his book, The Color of Compromise, Tisby says in this interview: “Part of the genesis of this book was going to spaces where very well-meaning Christians would say, ‘Yes, we’re for racial reconciliation, yes we’re for diversity,’ but then not much would change….We have to take this as a foundational problem in the church and in the nation. I hope that the book will help to convey the urgency of the racial issues in America.” I couldn’t agree more.

 

Joseph Kim“How I Escaped from North Korea” – This testimonial from Joseph Kim gives an inside look at the challenges of life in North Korea, and the powerful role of Chinese Church in shining the light of Christ within that land. “In some ways, I imagine growing up in North Korea is like growing up anywhere else. I had a father and mother who rarely failed to show me love, and my older sister looked after me constantly. I caught dragonflies with friends and waited with excitement for cartoons to come on TV. Then, in 1995, the worst of the Great Famine descended on the land, and the privileges of my childhood were stripped away…”

 

tim-keller“Tim Keller on Changing the Culture without Being Colonized by It” – In this brief video, Tim Keller talks about the difference between pre-Christian, Christendom, and post-Christian contexts. “The West has taken over a lot of Christian ideas but taken them to an extreme. So, for example, the importance of human rights and doing justice has been turned into an extreme individualism. Because of these overlaps, a Christian can easily fall into getting co-opted by that individualism.”

 

89653“United Methodists Vote to Keep Traditional Marriage Stance” – “After days of passionate debate, deliberation, and prayer—and years of tension within the denomination—The United Methodist Church (UMC) voted Tuesday to maintain its traditional stance against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy, bolstered by a growing conservative contingent from Africa.” You can also read a more detailed log of what was actually up for debate and what was actually passed at the 2019 General Convention at John Lomperis’ blog.

 

anger“Anger Can Be Contagious – Here’s How To Stop The Spread” – Allison Aubrey explores the power of anger and how easy it spreads. “Even if you’re not aware of it, it’s likely that your emotions will influence someone around you today. This can happen during our most basic exchanges, say on your commute to work. ‘If someone smiles at you, you smile back at them,’ says sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University. ‘That’s a very fleeting contagion of emotion from one person to another.’ But it doesn’t stop there. Emotions can spread through social networks almost like the flu or a cold. And, the extent to which emotions can cascade is eye-opening.”

 

moral outrage“The Case for Being Skeptical of Moral Outrage” – On that same theme, Scott Koenig talks about healthy skepticism related to moral outrage. “Moral outrage is the powerful impulse we feel to condemn bad behavior, and it serves the important role of holding wrongdoers accountable and reinforcing social norms. Yet moral outrage, at least on Twitter and other similar platforms, appears no more effective at reinforcing social norms than it is at driving people to theatrically overreact to the behavior of strangers. After all, it’s hard to see how things like doxxing minors or throwing shaving blades down the toilet, in protest of an earnest Gillette ad on “toxic masculinity,” help uphold ethical standards.”

 

89493“Get Close to Refugees, and Let Love Grow” – Kelley Nikondeha reviews two new books on connecting with refugees, You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us by Kent Annan and Once We Were Strangers: What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor by Shawn Smucker. She writes: “We not only need but also want to have better conversations about immigrants. We want to hear the clear instruction of Scripture regarding refugees. We want the opportunity to wrestle together about how to welcome strangers, even as we remain vigilant about possible dangers.”

 

Bill Hybels

“Willow Creek Investigation: Allegations Against Bill Hybels Are Credible” – Here’s an update at Christianity Today on a story that I’ve been following in regards to Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. “An independent investigation has concluded that the sexual harassment allegations that led to Bill Hybels’s resignation last year are credible, based on a six-month investigation into the claims against the senior pastor and into Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) and the Willow Creek Association (WCA).” You can read the entire 17-page report here.

 

mix tape“It’s cool to spool again as the cassette returns on a wave of nostalgia” – Those of us who are old enough may remember making mix tapes for friends back in the day. Well, the word on the street is that cassettes are making a comeback. “The cassette, long consigned to the bargain bin of musical history, is staging a humble comeback. Sales have soared in the last year – up 125% in 2018 on the year before – amounting to more than 50,000 cassette albums bought in the UK, the highest volume in 15 years.” Is this for real? Maybe.

 

Music: Ólafur Arnalds performing on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert.

[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.]