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Word&Way News: Nov. 19
Here’s the top news of the week from Word&Way. In addition to a piece on unsettling Advent, we also published at A Public Witness this week an essay considering the meaning of “one nation under God.”
Top 5 at wordandway.org
Why Myanmar Matters to Me. Sarah Blackwell reflects on what she learned from getting to know refugees from Myanmar.
The Hyperbole Hounds Howling at the Moon. Rodney Kennedy critiques Christians for joining cultural trends toward exaggeration. One person he mentioned, Ken Ham of the Creation Museum, attacked the piece. So, Kennedy penned a follow-up: A Response to Ken Ham.
Why the Minichurch is the Latest Trend in American Religion. We’ve all heard of megachurches, but Bob Smietana reports on the growing U.S. trend of minichurches.
Russia Added to State Department List of Worst Religious Liberty Violators. Adelle M. Banks reports on the new move by the U.S. government after years of the Russian government targeting religious minorities like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and Baptists.
Bishops OK Communion Document, Avoid Direct Rebuff to Biden. Peter Smith reports on the anti-climatic conclusion of the months-long effort by some Catholic bishops to officially deny communion to pro-choice politicians.
Other News of Note
After a political rally at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, sparked headlines for controversial religious-political statements and a coded obscene chant, the church put out a statement claiming it was “not associated” with the event. However, Brian Kaylor had watched part of it as research for A Public Witness, and so he knew the church’s lead pastor, Matt Hagee, had actually spoken at the event. After posting the video clip on Twitter, several media outlets reported on Kaylor’s tweet — including Religion News Service, San Antonio Current, and San Antonio Express. After the latter one, Hagee issued a new statement apologizing for hosting the event and admitting he had spoken at it.
Advent is almost here. Sign up for our free Advent daily devotional e-newsletter that will run Nov. 28-Dec. 24: Unsettling Advent.
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
The “wise men” are out. In the upcoming edition of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, those famous Christmas pageant characters will be called “magi.” It’s one of more than 20,000 edits for the New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition (or NRSVue) — which isn’t as catchy as NNRSV (New New…) or ENRSV (Even Newer…).
The edits offer important reminders about the power of words. For instance, references to a “slave woman” will now read “enslaved woman,” so as to not treat the woman’s oppression as her primary identity. Other changes attempt the same thing in terms of diseases or disabilities, like in Matt. 4:24 where a reference to “demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics” will now refer to “people possessed by demons or having epilepsy or afflicted with paralysis.” Longer but more compassionate.
How we talk about others matters. Using language that dehumanizes people makes it easier forget Jesus’s command to love our neighbors. Even worse, such dehumanizing language can set the stage for physical violence against a whole group of people.
“Dehumanization can even affect our brains,” explained psychology scholar Allison Skinner. “When we look at people we’ve dehumanized, there’s less activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for social processing.”
I would add that dehumanization also numbs our hearts and souls. And that’s why it’s important for biblical translations to follow the vision of the NRSVue. Let’s not translate our sacred texts in ways that do violence to those around us.
Photo of the Week
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