Word&Way News: Sept. 16
Here’s the weekly roundup from Word&Way. In addition to a call for Steven Curtis Chapman to address Doug Mastriano’s use of his music that is free for anyone to read, paid subscribers to A Public Witness received a look at what scholars, journalists, and religious leaders are learning about Christian Nationalism.
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Top 5 at wordandway.org
Why My Congregation Removed Flags From Our Church’s Sanctuary. Pastor Rebecca Littlejohn explained how Jan. 6, 2021, prompted a change to her congregation’s worship space.
The Fading All-American Story. Rodney Kennedy argued that if ever a Bible story reads like our national mythology, it’s Jesus’s story of the rich farmer in Luke 12.
Review: Encountering Mystery. Robert D. Cornwall reviewed Encountering Mystery: Religious Experience in a Secular Age by Dale C. Allison Jr.
Fuller Theological Seminary Names First Black President. Yonat Shimron reported on the election of Baptist scholar David Emmanuel Goatley to lead the nation’s largest interdenominational seminary.
At World Council of Churches Gathering, Russian Church Keeps its Membership. Jack Jenkins reported on tensions during a recent WCC meeting with Russian and Ukrainian religious leaders present.
This week: Angela Denker on White Christian Nationalism
Other noteworthy podcasts this week:
Brian Kaylor was the guest on a special episode of Straight White American Jesus to talk about a recent A Public Witness report on Sean Feucht, Donald Trump, and 9/11.
Baptist biblical scholar Angela Parker appeared on OnScript to talk about her book If God Still Breathes, Why Can’t I? (Parker is a co-author, with Brian Kaylor and Beau Underwood, of a forthcoming 2023 Lenten devotional.)
by Beau Underwood, Word&Way Senior Editor
Welfare programs are often attacked by political opponents of the social safety net as ripe with “waste, fraud, and abuse.” That critique appears accurate when it comes to Mississippi’s use of welfare funds, but neither program recipients nor state caseworkers are the source of an over $75 million dollar scandal.
Instead, retired NFL star Brett Favre, former Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, and current Republican Gov. Tate Reeves are at the center of the storm. Allegations include diverting millions of dollars for a volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi (Favre’s alma mater and where his daughter played volleyball), paying money to Favre for minimal-to-nonexistent work, and a larger scheme to defraud the government.
Adding to the controversy, Reeves fired the attorney investigating the conspiracy. Critics of the firing claim the lawyer’s aggressive actions towards investigating political elites prompted the dismissal.
While more facts are certain to come to light, two things are already clear. First, castigating welfare recipients as lazy, dependent, and taking advantage of the government is a regular and unfortunate part of our political discourse. Based on news reports, those judgments accurately describe a massive fraud carried out by some of Mississippi’s most famous and powerful people that is staggering compared to whatever individual abuses of the system exist.
Second, state governments hold a lot of leeway in how they spend welfare funds provided by the federal government. Setting aside questions of legality, Mississippi officials choose to divert an incredible amount of resources from their intended purpose of helping the poor. That’s a moral stain that should shock the conscience of the entire country.
Other News of Note
Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald reported on the religious rhetoric of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — with quotes in the piece from Brian Kaylor.
Tim Dickinson reported for Rolling Stone about Pennsylvania gubernatorial hopeful Doug Mastriano praying during a December 2020 meeting that the 2020 presidential election results would be overturned.
Faithful America launched a petition — based on reporting this week by A Public Witness — urging Steven Curtis Chapman to publicly call on Doug Mastriano to stop playing Chapman’s music in Mastriano’s gubernatorial campaign.
Diana Butler Bass wrote at her Substack newsletter The Cottage about Christian Nationalism and the importance of Christians studying the topic (and she included a shout-out to A Public Witness).
Amanda Tyler of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty appeared on CNN to explain why “Christian Nationalism is not Christianity”
Scholars Anthea Butler and Andrew Whitehead appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to talk about the dangers of Christian Nationalism.
Brandy Zadrozny wrote for NBC News about the new satanic panic breaking out in some right-wing circles (a trend previously documented by A Public Witness).
Daniel Silliman reported for Christianity Today on the latest effort to restrict religious liberty in Belarus.
Michael P.L. Friday wrote for Baptist News Global that “King Charles should abolish the term ‘Defender of the Faith’”
Starlette Thomas of Good Faith Media reported from the annual session of the National Baptist Convention of America.
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