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Word&Way News: March 17
Here’s the weekly roundup from Word&Way. In addition to a look at the U.S. invasion of Iraq 20 years after its start that is free for anyone to read, paid subscribers to A Public Witness received a report from Puerto Rico.
Top 5 at wordandway.org
Review: Preaching and Praying as Though God Matters. Robert D. Cornwall reviewed Preaching and Praying as Though God Matters: In the Post-establishment Church by Ronald P. Byars.
State Lawmakers Push for Priests to Report Abuse Learned About in Confessional. Jack Jenkins reported on a church-state debate emerging in statehouses in Vermont, Delaware, and Washington.
Pope Francis at 10 Years: A Reformer’s Learning Curve. Nicole Winfield looked back at a decade of Francis leading the Catholic Church.
For United Methodists’ Top Court, 2024 Is the New 2020. Emily McFarlan Miller reported on the latest from the United Methodist Judicial Council as the denomination slowly splits.
Since the 1880s, Southern Baptists Have Argued Over the Role of Women. Bob Smietana looked at past and present controversies in the Southern Baptist Convention about women in leadership.
This week: Michael Budde on Foolishness to Gentiles
Other noteworthy podcasts this week:
The Atlantic released an eight-episode podcast, Holy Week, looking at the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
A Lutheran pastor in Brooklyn, New York, spoke on NPR’s All Things Considered about his church’s efforts to help migrants.
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
On Tuesday (March 14), the Oklahoma House of Representatives defeated a bill that would have banned punishing children with disabilities “by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.” Why would 43 representatives vote against that? Because they thought the Bible told them so.
“He that spareth his rod hateth his son,” Republican Rep. Jim Olsen, a Sunday school teacher at a Holiness movement church, said during the legislative debate as he quoted from Proverbs 13:24. “So it tells us that if you will not use the rod on a disobedient child, you do not love that child. That’s what the book said.”
His fellow Republican who authored the bill, Rep. John Talley, thinks that’s why it failed since “several people were a little nervous about voting for it because they thought they were voting against the Bible.” An ordained minister who works with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Talley rejects the idea that his bill violates scripture.
Talley’s right. The much-quoted, often-misunderstood passage in Proverbs says nothing about public schools (which didn’t exist back then, nor did a modern understanding of physical or cognitive disabilities). More significantly, using the passage that way shows a lack of appreciation for what the Book of Proverbs is and is not. It is not a set of divine commands but a collection of advice aimed at adding to one’s ability to act more wisely.
So applying such a verse out of context to govern school policies is not only a form of Christian Nationalism, it’s dangerous. Quoting the Bible to justify physical abuse of children with disabilities does violence to the text in order to justify violence against the least of these.
Other News of Note
After Catholic bishops in Brazil made addressing hunger the focus of the Church’s Lenten appeal this year, some conservatives attacked the bishops for taking a “revolutionary approach” to Lent instead of focusing on prayer and fasting.
“Americans who subscribe to Christian Nationalist ideology are attracted to Putin as a strong man and ethno-nationalist leader just as they were with Trump.” —Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, a professor of religion and anthropology at Northeastern University, about new research on Christian Nationalism.
Caleb Gayle wrote for the New York Times about Black evangelicals finding themselves wanting to work with White evangelicals (like in the Southern Baptist Convention) but put off by the embrace of Christian Nationalism.
The president of Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois, resigned after allegations of bullying and retaliation made by multiple women.
Jeff Hood wrote at Red Letters Christians about serving as a spiritual advisor inside the death chamber during an execution in Texas (he previously talked about capital punishment on Dangerous Dogma).
An Episcopal church in Virginia where George Washington worshiped installed new plaques to honor the enslaved persons who built the structure.
At his Substack newsletter Footnotes, Jemar Tisby talked with a professor fired from a Christian university in Florida for teaching about racial justice:
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