Tennessee pastor reflects on his effort to erect Black soldier statue
Plus Carson v. Makin explained, the crisis in Ethiopia and more headlines
Hi ReligionUnplugged readers,
Chris Williamson, the senior pastor and founder of Strong Tower Bible Church in Franklin, Tennessee, worked with two other local pastors and the city for a year to install five historical sites that honor the Black experience of the Civil War. This fall, hundreds gathered outside in the town square for the unveiling of a new statue of a U.S. Colored Troops soldier, honoring Black soldiers who fought for the Union.
In this week’s top story and podcast, Bethany Johnson talked to Williamson to reflect on the statue and how the church should be part of discussions about race.
Legal columnist Chelsea Langston Bombino dives into the facts of the SCOTUS case heard this week, Carson v. Makin, which could be a landmark case for religious schools. It’s become a touchpoint case in online culture wars: read to understand the case in-depth and why either side results in a possible form of exclusion.
Ethiopian expert Desta Heliso writes on why the Biden administration wants to oust Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This is extraordinary and would exacerbate many of the region’s challenges, including religious extremism, Desta writes. Read his analysis here.
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Carson V. Makin Explained: What's At Stake For Religious Schools, LGBTQ Kids by Chelsea Langston Bombino
(ANALYSIS) The Supreme Court will hear a potentially landmark case for religious schools on Dec. 8, Carson v. Makin. Up for discussion is whether Maine’s law, which excludes religious schools from the diversity of schooling options that families have access to in a student public aid program, infringes on First Amendment constitutional protections.
America’s Dream For Ethiopia Is Actually A Nightmare by Desta Heliso
(ANALYSIS) It’s now clear that the Biden administration wants to oust Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This is extraordinary and would exacerbate many of the region’s challenges, including religious extremism. While Ahmed has made mistakes, they are incomparable to the persecution, repression and suffering caused by past regimes.
These Are The Women Heroes Behind The Scenes Of The Hanukkah Story by Alan Avery-Peck
(ANALYSIS) On the surface, Hanukkah is a story of male heroism. A ragtag rebel force led by a rural priest and his five sons, called the Maccabees, freed the Jews from oppressive rulers. But seeing Hanukkah this way misses the inspiring women who were prominent in the earliest tellings of the story.
Kashmiri Hindus have longed to return and remain in their Himalayan homeland since fleeing violence by separatist militants in the 1990s. The Indian government has repeatedly promised to help them move back to Kashmir. But now thousands are again fleeing India’s only Muslim-majority region after a series of targeted civilian killings.
How Interfaith Collaboration Can Bring Peace To Ethiopia by Girma Bekele
(ANALYSIS) The current crisis in Ethiopia — displacing 2.1 million people with another 7 million in need of humanitarian aid — is an ethnic-political conflict, not a religious one. However, strengthening Ethiopia’s interfaith collaboration among religious groups can bring about much-needed national reconciliation and healing.
'Dune' And The Taliban’s Victory In Afghanistan by Ibrahim al-Marashi
(REVIEW) The latest Hollywood blockbuster “Dune,” a space opera based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name, is essentially a philosophical thought experiment that asks, How would Islam adapt and change thousands of years into the future on a distant desert planet? By projecting into the future, the film highlights our present reality.
Turkey's Only Christian Magazine Turns 10 Years Old by Michael Ray Smith
Publisher Gökhan Talas used his training as a graphic artist, knowledge he gained from Kurtulus churches in Ankara and training at the Filipus theological school to found Miras Publishing Ministries with his wife in 2011. Miras is the only Turkish-language Christian magazine in an increasingly hostile climate and marks its 10th anniversary this month.
In Friday’s Weekend Plug-In column, Bobby Ross Jr. discusses the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments in the (potentially) most significant abortion case in decades. Plus, as always, catch up on all the best reads and top headlines in the world of faith.
Don’t forget! You can subscribe to receive Bobby’s column early on Fridays for only $5 a month. Click the button below to subscribe!
Can Prayer Apps Help Spiritual Development — Or Are They Harmful? by Dorian Llywelyn
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Franklin's Statue For Black Soldiers Sparks Discussion in Churches
The city of Franklin, Tennessee has newly erected a statue to honor the United States Colored Troops (USCT), the segregated soldier regiments of primarily Black and formerly enslaved people who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Though there are several of these statues in the U.S., none have previously been installed directly outside a town hall like this statue in Franklin. Rev. Chris Williamson spoke with Religion Unplugged intern Bethany Johnson about the lead up to the statue's construction, its historical roots and how churches can better aid in creating unity in their communities. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or listen directly on our website.
In case you missed it
Editorial picks from our archives
(REVIEW) Terry Scott Taylor's new double album "This Beautiful Mystery," is a culmination of nearly 50 years laboring in the vineyard of Christian music with a quality and reach far beyond that much-maligned artistic ghetto.
(OPINION) This month, voters in Hamtramck, Michigan, elected a Muslim mayor and city council — a first for the state and possibly the country. It is worth reflecting on what this event signifies for the health of the polity, and indeed, the very nature of the American constitutional order.
Thanks again for reading!
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