Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


In Uncategorized on June 2, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I am, undeniably, an unreliable blogger. But it seems at the moment this place has my attention again.

I’ve updated the links page today–it’s now reorganized and has a few additions. Cleaning it up has inspired me to look for more online examples of global culture that suit me. I’ll see what I can come up with.

To my horror, I have also just created a twitter account (@worldreading) and linked it to the bottom of this blog. I’ll use it to post quick links to articles that catch my attention–a much faster and more useful version of the “Now Skimming” posts.

That’s all for now. More posts soon, perhaps.


The World (Cup)

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 at 9:31 pm

This is the most magnificent example of global culture. I can’t let it pass without note–I love it.

Another Postcard from Tomorrow Square

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Recently I was delighted to hear James Fallows speak on “China’s Emergence” at a local symposium on opportunities for commerce in China. He gave a very tight and helpful summary of recent trends and was just as dapper, even, and insightful in person as he comes across in print and blog. His talk outlined aspects of China he found surprising during his recent three-year stay and a few policy implications of those surprises, and he ended with an entreaty to the college students in the audience. To those students, who will soon emerge into “real” world careers, he said this (this should be considered a paraphrase from the notes I took):

Increasingly Americans are studying Chinese and that is absolutely a good thing. I wish I had learned it earlier and I have always been thankful for the Mandarin abilities that I have. But more than learning Chinese, if you are a college student today, looking ahead to a career as a leader in global business, more important than speaking Chinese is the need to have Americans spend enough time in China, with Chinese, and in China-influenced spheres that they feel comfortable with a world in which China plays a major part. Feeling frightened, holding uninformed fears of China’s rise, will only distort and limit our future. Make China a comfortable part of your mental map, of your world, so you don’t feel threatened by it but are interested in it. The more comfortable we can become with China as it emerges, the better we will all be.

I wanted to hug him. This is my ardent hope for my own congregation. Fallows put it perfectly.

This sentiment and priority, which resonates so fundamentally with me, might be an unusual one for a church. On its face, I suppose it isn’t particularly spiritual or even ecclesial. Why do I care whether my congregation members, not just in their actions or their vacations or their relationships, but deep down in their own mental landscape, recognize a land called China and the people who call it their home? Becoming “comfortable with a world in which China plays a major part” is not only prudent, it’s also reflective of the type of cosmopolitanism I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Is cosmopolitanism a Biblical posture, and what are its salient features? What would be the implications of Christian cosmopolitanism for discipleship and the church? I may use this space to write more about that soon.

a goal.

In Uncategorized on November 11, 2009 at 6:42 pm

To develop a permeating, instinctive international-Christian self-identity.

These words come from the syllabus of a global mission graduate course at a seminary to which we’re connected. I stumbled across them this fall. I like them so much, and I feel they so encapsulate the types of things that excite me in my work. I just throw them up here as a good restatement of one of my fundamental goals for our congregation.

Now Skimming These Articles

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2009 at 10:06 am


Listening to (and Saving) the World’s Languages [NYT]

The chances of overhearing a conversation in Vlashki, a variant of Istro-Romanian, are greater in Queens than in the remote mountain villages in Croatia that immigrants now living in New York left years ago….

In addition to dozens of Native American languages, vulnerable foreign languages that researchers say are spoken in New York include Aramaic, Chaldic and Mandaic from the Semitic family; Bukhari (a Bukharian Jewish language, which has more speakers in Queens than in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan), Chamorro (from the Mariana Islands), Irish Gaelic, Kashubian (from Poland), indigenous Mexican languages, Pennsylvania Dutch, Rhaeto-Romanic (spoken in Switzerland) and Romany (from the Balkans) and Yiddish.

(H/T: Close Read)

Archbishop of Canterbury on Catholic Abuse Scandals [NYT Lede Blog]

I think it’s a lesson we’ve all had to learn the hard way, really, because, I guess that for an awful lot of Christian institutions until fairly recently the default setting, it would be: ‘Got to try and hang on to the institution’s credibility.’ And, well, we’ve learned that that is damaging, it’s wrong, it’s dishonest and it requires that very hard recognition, which ought to be, ought to be natural for the Christian church, based as it is on repentance and honesty, we’ve had to learn well, honesty and truthfulness are the only way in which we can survive in any way as an institution.

At the heart of it all, a supernatural life

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2009 at 1:01 am

Let us not deceive ourselves. Everything we say about unity and mission, about drawing all nations into the one household of God, about being Christ’s witnesses and servants to the ends of the world, remains mere clap-trap—except on one condition: that there is at
the heart of it all a supernatural life lived here in this twentieth century in the form of the Holy Spirit, a life that has its roots deep down in a discipline of secret prayer and self-denial, and its fruit in a strong and cleansing charity.

—Lesslie Newbigin
“The Pattern of Christian World Mission”

The Festival of the Photograph

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2009 at 12:28 am

To see life;
to see the world;
to eyewitness great events
—to see strange things—
machines, armies, multitudes,
shadows in the jungle and on the moon;
to see man’s work—his paintings,
towers and discoveries;
to see things thousands of miles away;
things hidden behind walls and within rooms,
things dangerous to come to;
the women that men love and many children;
to see and to take pleasure in seeing;
to see and be amazed;
to see and be instructed.
—Henry Luce

The Festival of the Photograph returns to Charlottesville today. Our whole downtown walking mall has been set as a banquet table for the eyes. Giant photos of animals hang in the trees—a leopard, a falcon, a chick—prompting crouching parents raising pointing fingers to redirect the gazes of children skyward. Look—no, higher!—up there!


Yes, up in the trees and on giant erected screens, on the sides of buildings and at the Pavilion, in the theaters, in the galleries—so many galleries, galleries established and make-shift galleries created—on the backs of every camera—so many cameras!—and on every glossy printed surface—photographs.

It’s glorious.

Read the rest of this entry »


In Uncategorized on May 31, 2009 at 5:34 pm

After hibernating this blog during late winter and throughout the spring, I’m glad to say that, as of today, I’m turning attention back to “Reading the World.”

Since I last posted, a few things of personal note happened. In March, I took a remarkable two-week trip to East Asia and had my first experiences outside of America and Europe. After years of reading about globalization, about cores and peripheries, about mega-cities and global business culture, I was still unprepared for the remarkable existential similarities of life in western cities, like Chicago or, especially, London, to life in the 14-million-person city I was visiting.


I returned refreshed and energized for the transition to my new job, coordinating all international partnerships for the church at which I’ve worked for the last three years. With this change–which is still in process–has come an intensification of responsibility and thus of questions and complexities. I expect that questions that arise from my new job may begin to form more of the silent rationale for the material that makes its way to this blog.

More than ever I want to know what it means to live among a generation of self-conscious world citizens and how to channel this new reality into meaningful discipleship in the world–a discipleship marked by wise cosmopolitan habits. My hunch remains that such habits will be tied to a certain kind of curiosity, and this blog is a casual attempt to develop that curiosity and see where it leads.

(P.S. I’ve updated the ongoing post “Now Skimming These Stories“, but I have yet to figure out how to register this update on feed readers.)

What One Book Should Obama Read?

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2009 at 12:45 am

What a great question to ask twenty-five public intellectuals–and the Washington Monthly has published the responses for us!

The entries seem to fall into a few different lines of reasoning. There’s the My-Case-for-the-Most-Important-Thing-Going-on-in-the-World-Today-and-the-Thing-We-Most-Need-to-Know-About-It entries, which I like because the authors proceed to give you their recommendation for the best, most concise resource for getting caught up to speed!

There’s also a few entries from the Leadership-Lessons-from-Books-that-Avoid-Using-the-Word-“Leadership”-in-the-Title category, and the similar Historical-Moments-that-Might-be-Good-for-Someone-to-Recall-Right-Now category. Throw in Macro-Trends-in-American-Culture and Surviving-the-Great-Depression-v.20.09, and you’ve got a pretty interesting mix.

To justify sharing this on this blog, which I am trying to keep strictly on-topic, here’s the three books that caught my eye that speak to international issues and global citizenship.

The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS by Helen Epstein

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd

India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy by Ramachandra Guha (“India will have to concern the president on occasion; China will undoubtedly concern him more often, but in view of its closed political system no equivalent book could be written on China.”  Darn, I want to read that China book!)


Reminder: All books available for order from my friends at Splintered Light Bookstore.

Haitian Hope

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm

“Haitians have a destiny to suffer.” — Papa Doc

“For me, an area of moral clarity is: you’re in front of someone who’s suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act.” Paul Farmer

On New Year’s Eve, my dear friend Anna moved to Port-au-Prince for 10 weeks to assess and coordinate community health and development projects. This is Haiti’s great gain and my great loss. To borrow a metaphor from another friend: I feel very much like an organ donor. I’ve lost something I really need to someone who apparently needs it more.

As we packed and repacked suitcases full of medical supplies, we talked again about the extraordinary work of Paul Farmer‘s Partners in Health, which has inspired the imagination and actions of Anna and many others. We were both very moved by these two short clips on PiH’s work in Haiti. They are worth the 10 minutes or so apiece that they take to watch.

[60 Minute’s Introduction to PIH in Haiti]

[BZFilms: Haitian Hope]

If you haven’t read Mountains Beyond Mountains (available at Splintered Light Bookstore), make it one of your goals for 2009. You won’t be disappointed.