Word&Way News: Dec. 29
Here’s the last weekly roundup in 2023 from Word&Way. But we’ll be back in the new year! This week at A Public Witness, we published a reflection on our work in 2023.
Top 5 at wordandway.org
Gaza Baptist Church Badly Damaged in Blast on Day After Christmas. Brian Kaylor reported on an attack against one of the few churches in the Gaza Strip.
Pope Francis Denounces the Weapons Industry as He Makes a Christmas Appeal for Peace in the World. The pope criticized “the interests and the profits that move the puppet strings of war.”
Ukraine Celebrates Christmas on Dec. 25 for the First Time, Distancing Itself from Russia. War brought a big change in the date for a holy day.
IHOPKC Cuts Ties With Mike Bickle Over ‘Inappropriate Behavior.’ Bob Smietana reported on the latest at an influential charismatic group based in Kansas City, Missouri.
Top Podcast Episodes of 2023. A countdown of the top 10 most-downloaded episodes of Dangerous Dogma in 2023.
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
Each year at Christmas, some public officials mouth off about the biblical accounts of Jesus’s birth in ways that show they don’t understand the texts. This year, none outdid the governor of Texas in demonstrating biblical illiteracy.
On Christmas Eve, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial criticizing Gov. Greg Abbott for advancing anti-refugee policies while also professing Christianity. Noting the holy family had been refugees as they fled to Egypt, the Chronicle writers lamented they are “residents of a state whose ‘ruler’ on this Christmas Eve is closer in spirit to King Herod than Jesus’s Good Samaritan.”
The piece got the governor’s attention, but not to spark a Christmas miracle moment like the redemption of Scrooge or the Grinch. Instead, he attacked the newspaper.
“Chron doesn’t know the story of Mary & Joseph. They weren’t ‘refugees’ (look up definition),” he wrote on social media. “Read Luke 2:1-10. They were ordered by the govt to go to Bethlehem to register for the census. Nice distortion. Doing Devil’s work.”
He included a bunch of laughing emojis to go with what he thought was a checkmate argument. But Gov.
Herod Abbott apparently doesn’t realize there’s also a birth narrative in the Gospel of Matthew (which the Chronicle actually quoted). By Abbott’s “logic” from gerrymandering the text, he would have to claim there were no magi who brought gifts to Jesus. Read Luke 2:1-10. Just shepherds, not magi.
Jesus and his parents were indeed refugees as they fled a barbaric ruler. The journey away from genocidal violence would’ve sent them through Gaza until they reached Egypt where Herod didn’t rule.
Likewise, refugees today flee violence and head toward the Texas border. But there they might find chainsaw buoys out of a horror film because the ruler governs in the spirit of Herod. Instead of Luke 2 or even Matthew 2, the governor might want to brush up on Matthew 25 about what one does to “the least of these.”
Other News of Note
Oren Oppenheim reported for ABC News about how Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump are courting evangelical voters in Iowa.
A U.S. congressman spoke at Uganda’s National Prayer Breakfast to offer support for that nation’s anti-homosexuality law that includes the death penalty.
Attacks over Christmas weekend against Christian villages in central Nigeria left at least 160 dead.
The Christian population in southern Lebanon has been mostly uprooted as rocket fire is exchanged between Israel and Hezbollah.
“We are outraged by the complicity of the church. … If we, as Christians, are not outraged by this genocide, by the weaponizing of the Bible to justify it, there is something wrong with our Christian witness, and compromising the credibility of the gospel!” —Rev. Munther Isaac during a Dec. 23 sermon at the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem as he denounced the war against Gaza.
NPR reported from the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska, where members of a mosque, synagogue, and church are supporting each other amid the Gaza conflict.
Brianna Griff of the Houston Chronicle looked at changes to Waco, Texas, thanks to HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines — which include some conservative Christians moving to town and some local ministries trying to help those priced out of their own homes.
Felicity Spector wrote at her Substack newsletter Flour Power about a Methodist pastor opening a bakery in his church in Ukraine:
Photo of the Week
Thanks for reading!