Word&Way: Sept. 30
Here’s the weekly roundup from Word&Way. In addition to a report on deadly Christian Nationalism in Russia that is free for anyone to read, paid subscribers to A Public Witness received an examination of the untold history at Samford University.
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Top 5 at wordandway.org
Embracing a Spiritual Discipline of Reparations. Lee Spitzer considered how American followers of Jesus should come to grips with the reality and implications of our country’s historical record of racist actions and structures.
The Talented Tenth: Creating Equitable Pathways for Black and Brown Student Achievement. Darron LaMonte Edwards argued that while there are many pathways to success through education, most of those pathways for Black and Brown students still have roadblocks and only a select few can tread that path.
Survey: Confederate Memorials Still Divide Americans and Religion is a Big Predictor. Yonat Shimron reported on new poll data from Public Religion Research Institute.
Clergy Strive to Reconcile Politically-Divided Congregations. David Crary reported on how ministers are struggling to address polarizing politics in their local congregations.
Interfaith Group Hosts Hill Briefing on Christian Nationalism. Jack Jenkins reported on a briefing on Capitol Hill where an interfaith group of activists and religious advocates voiced concerns about the rise of Christian Nationalism as a threat to democracy.
This week: Bekah McNeel on Bringing Up Kids When Church Lets You Down
Other noteworthy podcasts this week:
Brian Kaylor was the guest on Pursuing Uncomfortable with Melissa Ebken to discuss “pursuing authentic conversations about religion and politics.”
The New York Times’s show The Run-Up looked at the role of evangelicals in contemporary politics (with a somewhat contentious interview with Al Mohler).
by Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor-in-Chief
If you are in Tennessee, you should pray today. Your governor told you so.
Last week, Gov. Bill Lee signed a proclamation declaring Sept. 30 as a “Day of Prayer and Fasting.” This is something he and other governors have done in previous years. The banality of it all might seem harmless and even silly, but such official statements work to civically excommunicate some people from their own state. Such gubernatorial actions push a Christian Nationalism that teaches that if you don’t pray, you’re not really a good citizen.
I’m not opposed to prayer. I think you should pray today, whether you live in the Volunteer State or not. But you shouldn’t pray because your governor told you to bow your head and close your eyes. You should pray on a volunteer basis out of faith in God not government.
Yet, some governors like Lee exploit sacred practices for the purposes of the state. He uses the language but is just babbling like a pagan. After all, his proclamation says the people of Tennessee “seek forgiveness for our many transgressions” and thus are humbling themselves for “prayer, humility, and fasting.” But he doesn’t identify any alleged sins necessitating such behavior. Is he seeking forgiveness for his efforts to undermine public education? Is he seeking forgiveness for overseeing the execution of people he refused to meet with for prayer after they invited him?
Nope. It’s just performative Christian Nationalism. And that’s sacrilegious. So, I pray he’ll stop issuing such gubernatorial proclamations.
Other News of Note
Tim Dickinson reported for Rolling Stone about Lance Wallnau, a self-proclaimed “prophet” with ambitious political plans.
Sarah Posner wrote for Talking Points Memo about “key ingredients of Christian Nationalism.”
Russell Moore wrote for Christianity Today about how “Christian Nationalism cannot save the world.”
We’ve reported on the problem of various political candidates campaigning in churches in our “partisan pulpit” series this year. Here are two appearances by Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, who campaigned Sunday morning at Life Center Ministries in Harrisburg (left), and Wednesday evening at Beech Creek Wesleyan Church.
AJ Willingham reported for CNN about some Christians struggling to overcome “rapture anxiety.”
Amid a water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, Rev. William Barber II is bringing his “Moral Mondays” movement to the city.
African biblical scholars called for protecting the environment as a “divine mandate.”
Mitch Randall wrote for Good Faith Media about the “Space for Grace” conference held by the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
Jim Wallis wrote at his Substack newsletter God’s Politics to urge faith leaders to serve as poll chaplains in November (for background on this idea, check out Word&Way’s coverage of election chaplains in 2020):
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