MH News February 6, 2020

Nashville
Belmont University is in the middle of a public relations nightmare as it tries to absorb the Watkins School of Art. Watkins is a small, independent school with 16 faculty and 180 students; Belmont is an ecumenical Christian university with a student body of over 8,000 and a faculty of more than 800. Watkins was in financial trouble, and Belmont agreed to absorb the school to expand its arts offering for students; but when the Belmont provost informed the Watkins faculty that Belmont would continue employment only for Christian faculty, chaos ensued. Three days later, Belmont relented and offered special consideration to all Watkins faculty, including exemptions from the standard Christian-only faculty policy at Belmont. What a mess!

 

Washington DC
An international story with national religious dynamics is the recently announced Peace Plan for the Middle East, affecting mainly Israel and the West Bank. A team of Trump-appointed diplomats, led by his son-in-law Jared Kushner (himself a Jew and a businessman with extensive business dealings with Israeli firms), presented the plan to the public after several years of work. The plan, developed in close consultation with the Israeli government (but without any conversation with Palestinian authorities) calls for the Israeli annexation of many Jewish settlements on the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley and the creation of a Palestinian state (to include Palestinian citizenship for hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians). The Plan was immediately endorsed by prominent Evangelical leaders but condemned by many others, including former President Jimmy Carter, many American Jews, and most leaders in the Arab or Muslim world. Palestinian authorities broke off formal relations with the United States in response to the proposals.

 

Atlanta
Raphael Warnock is the senior pastor at the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and one of the national leaders in the social justice movement. He has announced his candidacy for the United States Senate as a Democrat. The party primary is scheduled for March 24; the winner will run against recently appointed Kelly Loeffler, who was sworn in last month to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Johnny Isakson. Warnock is a native of Savannah, Georgia, a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, and a double graduate of Union Seminary in New York City (MDiv and PhD). Ebenezer Church was once pastored by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Nashville
LifeWay Research, a branch of the Southern Baptist Convention, reports that a majority of Protestant churches have active shooter plans. Nearly half of the pastors who reported in the survey say their congregations have armed members on site during services and activities. At least 23% have employed armed security services, and another six percent have brought uniformed police officers to their church campus. By a 72% majority, church goers report feeling safer attending worship or activities knowing an armed security person is patrolling the campus.

 

South Bend
A song with political overtones by a relatively unknown Christian worship leader has gone viral on social media. It is entitled “Hymn for the 81%”, which refers to the Evangelicals who voted for Trump for President in 2016. The author and composer is Daniel Dedrick, and his work is described as a “cocktail of prophetic fire and Christ-like grace” and “both a love song to the church and a call to repentance” by popular progressive Evangelical preacher Shane Claiborne. A backslash to the political message critiquing Trumpian policy has developed. The song has been downloaded more than a half million times in three weeks (still small compared to billion downloads common to the most popular secular singers). Here are the lyrics:

 

I grew up in your churches
Sunday morning, evening service
Knelt in tears at the foot of the rugged cross
You taught me every life is sacred
feed the hungry, clothe the naked
I learned from you the highest law is Love
I believed you when you said
that I should trust the words in red
To guide my steps through a wicked world
I assumed you’d do the same
so imagine my dismay
When I watched you lead the sheep to the wolves
You said to love the lost
So I’m loving you now
You said to speak the truth
So I’m calling you out
Why don’t you live the words
That you put in my mouth
May love overcome and justice roll down
They started putting kids in cages
Ripping mothers from their babies
And I looked to you to speak on their behalf
But all I heard was silence
Or worse you justify it
Singing glory hallelujah raise the flag
Your fear had turned to hatred
But you baptized it with language
torn from the pages of the good book
You weaponized religion
And you wonder why I’m leaving
To find Jesus on the wrong side of your walls

 

Come home
Come home
You’re better than this
You taught me better than this

 

 

see the archive of commentaries by Dr. Moody at themeetinghouse.net/commentary