Word&Way News: May 6
Here’s the weekly roundup from Word&Way. In addition to a reflection on the one-year anniversary of this newsletter that is free for anyone to read, paid subscribers to A Public Witness received a report on the disconnect between Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her pastor Andy Stanley. We also published a review of The Flag and the Cross by Philip Gorski and Samuel Perry.
Top 5 at wordandway.org
The Lifeboat Our Teens Need. Sarah Blackwell reflected on why our kids need church in ways that extend far beyond Bible stories and learning to be nice.
Review: A Basic Guide to Eastern Orthodox Theology. Robert D. Cornwall reviewed A Basic Guide to Eastern Orthodox Theology: Introducing Beliefs and Practices by Eve Tibbs.
William Jewell has Two Groups Doing Slavery Research. Some Say That’s a Problem. Maria Benevento reported on growing criticism that administrators at a historic Baptist school in Missouri aren’t fulling addressing the school’s ties to slavery.
With Roe Teetering, Religious Activists on Both Sides Flock to the Supreme Court. Jack Jenkins reported from in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building after news of a leaked opinion that would overturn Roe. v. Wade.
Florida Churches Among First to Begin Exit from UMC to New, Conservative Denomination. Emily McFarlan Miller reported on the latest in the slow-moving divorce among United Methodists.
This week: Corey Nathan on Talkin‘ Politics & Religion
Another good podcast this week:
Other News of Note
J.D. Vance won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Ohio Tuesday (thanks to former President Donald Trump endorsing him over the favorite candidate of White evangelical leaders). But Vance’s book deal to write about American Christianity fell apart.
Emily Belz reported for Christianity Today about the biggest white-collar Wall Street criminal case since Bernie Madoff: “Billionaire Who Invested ‘According to the Word of God’ Charged with Multibillion-Dollar Fraud.”
Federal officials are investigating Liberty University, the fundamentalist school in Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell, amid growing complaints about how the school has handled reports of sexual assaults.
Jeff Brumley reported for Baptist News Global about how “Moldova, One of the Poorest Countries in Europe, Opens its Doors and Hearts to Ukrainians.”
Brown Chapel AME Church, where civil rights demonstrators met in 1965 ahead of the “Bloody Sunday” march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, has been put on the endangered places list due to damage from termites and water leaks.
Susan Fletcher wrote for Christianity Today about the plight of aging church windows: “Stained Glass Needs Saving.”
After 33 years leading Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, George Mason delivered his last sermon as senior pastor on Sunday. The local NBC affiliate was there to cover the service.
Jim Wallis has launched a Substack newsletter: God’s Politics with Jim Wallis. This week, he wrote about a conversation with Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow after her viral speech pushing back against “vile and terribly wrong” political rhetoric.
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the City of Boston in the Christian flag case. The case came after a man who espouses Christian Nationalism and political conspiracies sued when his application for raising the Christian flag at City Hall was rejected even though the city occasionally flew other flags there. The majority opinion treated this as a free speech case (as opposed to a religious establishment case) and thus ruled against Boston. But that doesn’t mean you’ll see the Christian flag at City Hall.
The justices noted that Boston could establish rules that more clearly state that choosing flags to fly is official government speech. Or Boston could just end the program where people applied to raise a special banner. The city will choose one of the routes, and not just to avoid the problematic scene of a local government appearing to endorse one religion from a flagpole.
If Boston doesn’t change its program in light of the ruling, they’ll have to fly lots of other flags. As Kathryn Joyce wrote for Salon after oral arguments in January, that could include flying the swastika, Confederate flag, or Proud Boys flag. One group has already applied this week to fly a flag because of the Supreme Court’s ruling: the Satanic Temple. Conservative Christians who demanded Boston fly the Christian flag at City Hall opened this door.
That’s why this pyrrhic victory won’t see the Christian flag waving over Boston’s City Hall. And that’s a good thing. Governments shouldn’t be helping evangelize with their flagpoles. Let’s restrict those places to official government speech as we encourage everyone to practice their free speech rights without conscripting government officials and property.
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