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Church Culture Politics

Weekend Plug-in: July 10, 2020

Editor’s note: “Weekend Plug-in,” featuring analysis, insights and top headlines from the world of faith, is produced by Religion Unplugged.


That’s a new word we’ve learned in 2020, thanks to the global pandemic.

Speaking of which, much attention has focused on in-person worship assemblies as potential superspreader events for COVID-19 — and understandably so.

This week, an in-depth New York Times article drew a bunch of attention with this provocative headline: “Churches were eager to reopen. Now they are a major source of coronavirus cases.”

It’s a fascinating piece. But I appreciated the important questions that Ed Stetzer’s blog at Christianity Today raised about the context — or lack thereof — on the numbers that the Times highlighted. GetReligion’s Terry Mattingly also voiced concerns.

Stetzer points out that the Times has softened its headline to this: “Churches were eager to reopen. Now they are confronting coronavirus cases.” I don’t see any note on the article explaining the reason for the change.

Meanwhile, the Deseret News’ Herb Scribner reported on movie theaters suing New Jersey, arguing that if churches can open, then cinemas can, too. Personal confession: I won’t be eating popcorn anywhere except for my couch for a while.

One more pandemic-related note: I missed this interview when it was first published last week, but it’s an amazing (and encouraging) read: Enjoy New York magazine writer Jebediah Reed’s “long talk with Anthony Fauci’s boss about the pandemic, vaccines, and faith.”

The Week’s Best Reads

1. Washington’s ‘Church of Presidents’ etched in history: Elana Schor, The Associated Press’ national reporter for religion and politics, is still relatively new to covering faith.  Already, though, she has demonstrated a knack for producing timely and insightful coverage on a regular basis. Her latest feature — following up on President Donald Trump’s famous church photo op — dives into the history of St. John’s Episcopal Church.  Bonus reason to click the link: the exceptional photos (several in black and white) of past presidents visiting St. John’s.

2. Faith figures prominently as Kanye West talks about running for president: Let the record show that on Aug. 6, 2015, I tweeted skepticism at the notion of Donald Trump running for president, asking if his candidacy might be an elaborate “Saturday Night Live” skit.

More top reads: The Supreme Court just handed a big win to religious employers, and made good on its promise, Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News Supreme Court rulings expand exemptions for religious employers, Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall, Wall Street Journal … The unofficial racism consultants to the white evangelical world, Emma Green, The Atlantic Ideologies clash at Carmel church amid protests over statements made by suspended pastor, Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ hymn ignites across nation, Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press … 665K ministry jobs covered by Paycheck Protection Program funds, Ryan P. Burge, Christianity Today … Seattle-area evangelicals wrestle with racism and their own silence: ‘We repent,’ Nina Shapiro, Seattle Times God and money, Christina Darnell, MinistryWatch.com …

Charging Station: In Case You Missed It

Here is where you can catch up on recent news and opinions from Religion Unplugged.

Supreme Court rules in favor of Catholic nuns for contraception exemption (by Christina Darnell)

Popular Christian youth camp source of COVID-19 outbreak (by Christina Darnell)

Why the Black Lives Matter movement is controversial to many Christians (by Bobby Ross Jr.)

U.K. report on Nigeria’s religious violence skirts around the word ‘genocide’ (by Dr. Jenny Taylor)

Wheaton fires chaplain for ‘Inappropriate comments and actions of a racial and sexual nature’ (by Christina Darnell)

Bobby Ross Jr. is a columnist for Religion Unplugged and editor in chief of The Christian Chronicle. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of MinistryWatch.

Bobby Ross Jr.

A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, he blogs about the intersection of faith and the media for GetReligion.