Word&Way News: Jan. 14
Here’s the weekly roundup from Word&Way. At A Public Witness we published an essay looking at the man behind a big church-state case coming before the U.S. Supreme Court next week.
Top 5 at wordandway.org
Naming Injustice and Finding Hope. Greg Mamula reflects on how he’s been inspired by someone he shares a birthday with: Martin Luther King Jr.
The Same Old Evangelical Enemies. Rodney Kennedy explores similarities in the Christian fights we saw in 2021 and in 1921.
America is Still Reacting to the Religious Right, in More Ways Than One. Jack Jenkins reports on how many religious and political issues today can be traced back to the work of the religious right in 1990s.
Reformed Church in America Splits as Conservative Churches Form New Denomination. Kathryn Post reports on the latest denominational split over LGBTQ issues.
At Milwaukee Church, Refugees Find Welcome from a Less Suspicious Time. Bob Smietana reports on a church cutting against the mold of many White evangelicals.
Other News of Note
With MLK Day on Monday, several people have written thoughtful columns, including Wendell Griffen on “The Re-Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.,” J. Alfred Smith on “Remembering the Real Martin Luther King,” and Chris Smith on “What About the Dream?”
The Washington Post put together an interactive piece that documents how “more than 1,700 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were, and how they shaped the nation.”
Sojourners explained “why the Passion Conference was bad news for public health.”
This week: Jacques Berlinerblau on Secularism
Other good podcasts this week:
Respecting Religion from BJC previews next week’s Supreme Court arguments in the Boston flag case (and includes a shout-out to A Public Witness).
Consider This from NPR discusses Christian Nationalism, voting rights, and morality with Jim Wallis and Sen. Raphael Warnock.
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
This week, a resurfaced 2021 sermon by megachurch pastor John MacArthur sparked controversy. In it, he declared, “I don’t even support religious freedom. Religious freedom is what sends people to hell. To say I support religious freedom is to say I support idolatry. It’s to say I support lies.”
Several theologians, pastors, and activists rightly criticized MacArthur’s words. To be clear: Religious freedom doesn’t harm faith but actually protects it. A forced faith — which is what we get without religious freedom — isn’t genuine. Whether the state is pushing our religion or another, we still suffer.
But there’s another issue behind MacArthur’s words that deserve more attention than just his nonsense ideology. When he made the remarks, he was literally suing the government for violating his … yes, you guessed it … religious freedom. As we noted in October, his church even received an $800,000 settlement after local officials tired of fighting his lawsuit. MacArthur flouted pandemic health restrictions, was part of a COVID outbreak in his church, and still received taxpayer funds for refusing to take health measures for the good of his community. And it turns out he also sued in bad faith on grounds he doesn’t even believe.
MacArthur’s real complaint wasn’t that he didn’t have a religious liberty right to host super-spreader services but that he wasn’t getting to make the government rules on religion. Such a strongman vision of church and state will hurt the faith. As Roger Williams put it, “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.” Don’t let your faith stink like John MacArthur’s.
Photo of the Week
Thanks for reading!