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Church Culture Politics

Weekend Plug-In: July 4, 2020

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

Who’s ready for fireworks?

Or maybe not — as the coronavirus pandemic has sparked the cancellation of many holiday celebrations.

In any case: Happy Fourth of July!

America celebrates its independence each year on the Fourth of July. As America marks 244 years of independence, “Weekend Plug-in” has reached a milestone of its own: the six-month anniversary of this column.

Although I’m still experimenting to see what works best, I’m loving the opportunity to collaborate with Religion Unplugged’s ambitious team of journalists — a talented mix of youth and experience.

And I’m excited by the various media partners that have signed on to republish “Plug-in” some or all of the time, including The Christian Chronicle, Religion News Service, GetReligion and MinistryWatch.org.

Please keep the ideas and feedback coming, and let me know what you like and what you don’t: Email me or tweet me.

And now, the real fireworks: our weekly analysis, insight and top headlines from the world of faith.

Power Up: The Week’s Best Reads

1. Street corner where George Floyd was killed becomes a revivalist site: “Slate’s Ruth Graham sure knows how to tell a story,” I said back in February.

Forgive me for repeating myself, but Graham’s latest piece — on the scene of Floyd’s Minneapolis death “becoming literal sacred ground” — is another fine example. It’s both interesting and thoroughly reported.

2. Myrlie Evers weeps as Confederate battle flag comes down in Mississippi: The new state flag in Mississippi must include the phrase “In God We Trust,” but it can’t include the Confederate battle flag, noted Jerry Mitchell of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.

As Religion Unplugged highlighted earlier this year, Mitchell’s 2020 memoir “Race Against Time” details how the veteran journalist helped win justice in a series of civil rights era murder cases. Myrlie Evers, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, plays a prominent role in Mitchell’s book. And his reporting on her emotional reaction to the Confederate emblem’s removal from the state flag is a must read.

3. Evangelical leaders are speaking up about race — but will this new focus last?: This week’s column has turned into a who’s who of favorite journalists I’ve praised just recently. Enter Adelle M. Banks of Religion News Service (and, if you missed it, read out how she likes to sing spirituals when she’s not working).

Banks’ latest story that really impressed me: her exploration of “the long-standing gap between how white evangelicals and Black Christians view racial inequality.” The big question: Will the dialogue prompted by Floyd’s death change anything long-term?

More top reads: China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization, The Associated Press … Balcony churches: Kenyans find new ways to worship in lockdown, Neha Wadekar, The Guardian Meet the only person in the world who can touch the Dead Sea Scrolls, Rossella Tercatin, Jerusalem Post A life recovered, then taken by coronavirus, Isaiah Murtaugh, Los Angeles Times Trump’s white evangelical approval slips, Pew finds, but 82 percent still likely to vote for him, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Washington Post What the Supreme Court’s abortion decision means, Emma Green, The Atlantic … High court sparks new battle over church-state separation, David Crary and Elana Schor, AP … Should Americans know which churches received COVID-19 stimulus loans?, Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News In a summer of pandemic, Vacation Bible School programs go online and outside, Emily McFarlan Miller, RNS.

Behind The Bylines

It’s no surprise, but it’s sad nonetheless: The Religion News Association’s 2020 annual conference, originally set for late October in the Washington, D.C., area, has been canceled.

“In its place, RNA will hold at least two virtual meetings over the next year and will consider smaller meet-ups when it is safe to do so.,” the association announced on its website.

The good news: Karaoke (online, of course) remains on the agenda.

In Case You Missed It

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

Turkey is moving toward a neo-Ottoman regime with calls to convert Hagia Sophia (by Paul Marshall)

“Dominion” reluctantly highlights far-reaching Christian roots of western civilization (by Julia Duin)

Georgia approves hate crimes bill month after Ahmaud Arbery video surfaces (by Dave Schechter)

In 20 years, Americans of all faiths have never been more supportive of gun rights (by Ryan Burge)

These Christian women of color are juggling business ambition with biblical submission (by Kelly Wairimu Davis) 

How to follow the wisdom of Moses and Zipporah for the Black Lives Matter moment (by Noah Lawrence)

Hong Kong religious freedom crisis takes backseat to U.S. journalistic norms (by Ira Rifkin)

Pro-life ministries frustrated with Supreme Court decision (by Warren Cole Smith)

India’s police brutality targets Muslims and journalists as Hindu nationalism grows (by Shuriah Niazi)

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.