Monday, March 20, 2023

"The Wolf in Their Pockets" by Chris Martin

When pastors or priest look out at their congregations each Sunday, do they think about how the social internet has changed the people in front of them? For that matter, do they think about how the social internet has changed themselves? 

Chris Martin has some answers to those questions, and it’s not welcome news. In The Wolf in Their Pockets: 13 Ways the Social Internet Threatens the People You Lead, he methodically examines all the ways the internet affects people, from the perspective of what it means for church leadership. And it’s not much of a reach to say that what he says applies to anyone in a position of leadership – including business, government, non-profits, and education.


Martin works at Moody Publishers as a content marketing editor and a consultant in social media, marketing, and communications. He has a deep background in social media and digital content strategy. He perhaps best known for his blog, Terms of Service (and his book of the same title) where he writes thoughtfully and with great insight about topics as diverse as the metaverse, TikTok, Wordle, and the impact of social media on society and culture.


The Wolf in Their Pockets begins with a summary of how social media changes us. We usually find ourselves in either uncritical embrace or passive ignorance, he writes. He argues for the need to move to something of a middle position, what he calls “international engagement,” in which we engage thoughtfully and carefully.


Chris Martin

The chapters that follow explain how that intentional engagement might happen, and how church leaders can facilitate that. Dethrone entertainment. Recover purpose. Build friendships (and not virtual ones). Reorder priorities. Foster discernment. Seek humility. And more.


Take the chapter on fostering discernment as an example. When Martin asked a number of church leaders a rather neutral-sounding question, “Can you tell me how you have seen social media affect people at your church?,” the common response was about discernment – and how the lack of it leads people to accept and believe in untruths about current events (also known as fake news). Lest you think this is only affecting conservative churches, it’s equally applicable to more liberal churches as well.


What’s beyond Martin’s purpose here, but perhaps we can convince him to address it on his Substack site, is what happens when the traditional media exacerbate that lack of discernment – when opinion masquerades as news, when significant stories aren’t covered, and when a media narrative quickly emerges and dominates journalists’ understanding. The problem of discernment is not only a problem of social media; social internet sites can explode the problem at warp speed. 


The Wolf in Their Pockets isn’t an all-encompassing treatise of how to address the effects of social media on church congregations (and their leaders). But it is an important first step in how to understand the problem to begin with, and it offers practical advice to help church leaders recognize and deal with the impacts.




Terms of Service: The Real Costs of Social Media by Chris Martin

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Not what you do

After Galatians 3:1-9

It is said

that policy is

what you do,

not what you say.

True enough,

except when it

comes to the hope

we have. It’s not

what we do, not

our works, or deeds, 

no matter how

spectacular they

might be. And it’s

not what we say,

no matter how

eloquent, how

insightful, how


Instead, it’s 

what we believe.

Policy is what

we believe.



Photograph by Kyle Glenn via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Saturday Good Reads - March 18, 2023

In 1964, one of the most famous, or notorious, pieces of British criticism was published in New Statesman. It was entitled “The Menace of Beatlism,” and, yes, it was about the four singers from Liverpool. George Case at Quillette points out that Johnson didn’t really say much about the Beatles; he reserved his gunpowder for the cult of celebrity that politicians and the Beatles’ handlers were trying to exploit. In a very strange way, Johnson saw what was coming.  

Alexander Larman at The Spectator wonders about why we know relatively little about the life of J.R.R. Tolkien. The last family-sanctioned biography was by Humphrey Carpenter in 1977. Other biographers have tried to gain the cooperation of the family but failed. Carpenter was the last biographer to be given access to Tolkien’s papers.


One of the most unsettling things I’ve read in the New Testament is the diet of John the Baptist – locusts and wild honey. Perhaps it’s the idea of crunching down on large bugs and wondering where that honey came from that leaves me feeling queasy. Mitch Chase at Biblical Theology, however, says there’s an Old Testament connection, and it provides a different perspective on John’s purpose and ministry. 


More Good Reads


American Stuff


A Most Sincere and Active Friend: Thomas Shipley is the most famous abolitionist you've never heard of – Elliott Drago at The Jack Miller Center.


American Refugee Camp in Civil War Kentucky Destroyed: Camp Nelson Catastrophe – Patrick Young at The Reconstruction Era.




The Burning Bush – Graham Pardun at Sabbath Empire.


Life and Culture


The coming fight over the government’s surveillance powers – Peter Van Buren at The Spectator.


Writing and Literature


Writing in the South – About Southern Women – Kristen Bird at CrimeReads.


Deconstructing with Silas Marner – Elizabeth Stice at Mere Orthodoxy.


William Golding and the curse of the dream – Samuel Mace at The Critic Magazine.


The Death and Immortality of Mortal Men in “The Lord of the Rings” – Jacqueline Wilson at Mere Orthodoxy. 


Life and Culture


Who will stand against progress? – Paul Kingsnorth at UnHerd.


The Church. The State. And a Holy War – Heather Robinson at The Free Press.




Reclaiming the Culture – Greg Doles at Chasing Light.


50 Thoughts on Preaching – Jared Wilson at For the Church.




The costs of war: Providing military assistance to Ukraine may be the right thing to do, but it’s not cheap – Phillippe Lemoine at The Critic Magazine.


The Puzzle of Putin's Popularity – Gulnaz Sharafutdinova at Church Life Journal.


Yevgeny Prigozhin: are the Wagner Group founder’s days numbered? – Mark Galeotti at The Spectator.


Orange Blossom Special – Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

 Painting: Portrait of the Singer Felia Litvinne, oil on canvas by Alexei Harlamov (1868-1925)

Friday, March 17, 2023

Looking for the Poetry in Vermeer, a Blockbuster of an Art Exhibition

The hottest ticket on the planet right now isn’t a Taylor Swift concert or the March Madness Final 4. It’s the Vermeer exhibition in Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum has gathered together 28 of the 37 known Vermeers (four are lost; one was stolen in 1990) into one exhibition (Feb. 10 – June 4). Never have so many of the Dutch painter’s works been gathered together in one place.


But don’t buy your plane tickets for Amsterdam. The exhibition is sold out. And don’t rush to the museum’s online gift shop or Amazon to buy the English-language edition of the catalog; it’s sold out as well; Amazon is taking pre-orders for a new edition available in May. (The museum does has the French and Dutch editions available, however.)

To continue reading, please see me post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Painting: A View of Delft, oil on canvas, by Johannes Vermeer.

The promise

After Galatians 2:15-21

We embrace the law,

its familiar lines and

contours providing 

comfort and assurance

in a world often gone

mad. And yet our hope,

our inheritance, is not

by law but by a promise,

the promise made

to the offspring. Yet

the law does not 

contradict the promise,

nor does it codify

the promise. Rather,

it points.


Photograph by Kaleb Tapp via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

"She" by Pete Brassett

Detective Inspector James Munro works in London. He was a few months from retirement from the police force in Scotland when his wife was killed by arson in their home – revenge from a villain Munro had apprehended. Unable to stay in Scotland and setting his retirement plans aside, he headed south. 

He’s been assigned a new detective sergeant, D.S. Charlotte West. His experience is matched only by her inexperience, and yet they find ways to work together on a particularly challenging case.


A man has gone missing. He worked at a local pub, and he never missed a day. But now he’s been gone a week, without a word. 


Munro and West look into it, and even visit his home. But there are precious few leads, other than he’d been seen with a petite woman in a cardigan and knitted cap. 


Pete Brassett

Munro often works by instinct; in fact, he comes to rely on it. He and West return to the man’s home, and this time they find him – chopped into pieces and hidden behind a false panel. Now it’s a murder investigation, one that gets complicated by a second body being found.


She by Pete Brassett is the first in the Munro & West mystery series, and the author lets the reader know early on what’s happening. That’s because chapters alternate between the investigation and the musings of one of the killers involved. Far from giving the story away, Brassett makes it more terrifying, building up suspense through the very end of the book.


Brassett, a native Scot, has published 10 novels in the Munro and West series, as well as a number of general fiction and mystery titles. 


She is a psychological mystery, unsettling as it climbs inside the mind of a killer who looks at brutal serial deaths without remorse, all the while knowing that the murders are flat-out wrong.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

“Contemners and Serpents: The James Wilson Family Civil War Correspondence”

James and Eliza Wilson were Presbyterian missionaries to India, including what is now Pakistan, from 1834 to 1852. Their five children, four sons and a daughter, were born there. Both James and Eliza were from Pennsylvania, and most of their families were in Ohio and Indiana. Eliza’s sister married a man who became a successful planter in Georgia and occupied a place at the top of the social hierarchy there. 

When they left for mission service, partisan feeling in the United States could run high – for example, the 1824 presidential election between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was bitterly contested and controversial. But what had not yet emerged was what would become the defining, and intractably dividing, issue of the 1850s and 1860s – slavery. When they returned in 1852, the United States seemed a very different place, one that was increasingly not united. 

To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.