Word&Way News: Jan. 26
Here’s the weekly roundup from Word&Way. In addition to an exploration of a theological theory popping up in political debates that is free for anyone to read, paid subscribers to A Public Witness received an analysis of Sen. Josh Hawley’s problematic case for the U.S. as “a Christian nation.”
Top 5 at wordandway.org
Progressive Baptists Call for Gaza Ceasefire. Brian Kaylor reported on comments from the head of the denominational home of Martin Luther King Jr.
Review: Nice Churchy Patriarchy. Robert D. Cornwall reviewed Nice Churchy Patriarchy: Reclaiming Women's Humanity from Evangelicalism by Liz Cooledge Jenkins.
Latest Candidate to Head Southern Baptists’ Executive Committee Withdraws. Bob Smeitana reported on the latest turn for the troubled Southern Baptist Convention after 2.5 years without a permanent leader.
A Pastor and a Small Ohio City Tussle Over the Legality of His 24/7 Homeless Ministry. A sanctuary from cold weather has led to heated legal disputes.
Indigenous Faithful and Christians Work With Environmentalists to Conserve India’s Sacred Forests. Deepa Bharath reported on efforts to get Christians in India engaged in protecting forest ecosystems and biodiversity.
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last year was impeached in a bipartisan vote but then saved when most of his fellow Republicans in the Senate voted to acquit him. Now, he’s on a mission to campaign against those who sought to remove him from office over allegations he accepted bribes, abused his power to target a charity and attack a whistleblower, and used his office to benefit himself, a friend, and a mistress. During a speech for a state House candidate on Tuesday (Jan. 23), Paxton even compared himself to a biblical hero.
“I’m sure you all know the story of Joseph in the Bible,” Paxton said as he recounted how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. “Didn’t work out so well for [his brothers] initially because he became prime minister of Egypt and he’s standing in front of his brothers. They’re terrified and he says to them, ‘What you meant for evil, God meant for good.’”
Paxton, who has enjoyed the support of many pastors despite his scandals, said his impeachment would function similarly since it would give them a chance to vote out politicians who tried to remove him. Although he wore a coat of just one color, Paxton did ironically give his remarks in front of a large photo of Richard Nixon thrusting his arms into the air with ‘V-for-victory’ salutes as he left the White House in disgrace. But that was less problematic than Paxton’s exegesis of the text.
Paxton flipped the biblical story to make himself the hero. Joseph was a young man wrongly sold into slavery for decades who remained righteous, refused the advances of a married woman, and then once in power used it to save those who had mistreated him. Paxton is a powerful man who abused his position, cheated on his wife, escaped justice (so far) for his wrongdoings, and now wants to use his power to attack those who tried to hold him accountable.
Just because a politician quotes from the Bible doesn’t mean they actually understand it.
Other News of Note
Roger Sollenberger of The Daily Beast reported on the “shady finances,” legal battles, and suspicious fire at the church of a key leader in the Conservative Baptist Network (and the former church of Speaker Mike Johnson).
More than 130 clergy and faith leaders this week urged Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (a Southern Baptist) to stop the state’s plan to execute Kenneth Smith using nitrogen hypoxia. She ignored their plea, and Smith was executed Thursday (Jan. 25) in a procedure that his spiritual advisor, Rev. Jeff Hood, said took 22 minutes as Smith struggled for life.
“If we want Satanic Temple chaplains in our schools, this is the way to get them.” —An Iowa citizen testifying against a state bill that would allow schools to replace counselors with chaplains, which is being pushed by some lawmakers to encourage schools to hire Christian ministers. The Satanic Temple sparked controversy in the Iowa Capitol last month.
A public school in Texas is facing criticism for flying a Christian flag alongside U.S. and Texas flags.
A Colorado pastor accused of running a cryptocurrency scam says God told him to do it — but now admits he may have “misheard God.”
Baptist Bible College (a fundamentalist school in Springfield, Missouri, where Jerry Falwell Sr. graduated) is changing its name to Mission University.
Catholic bishops in Indonesia are moving Ash Wednesday services next month so that Catholics will be able to vote that day in the nation’s elections.
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