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Weekend Plug-in: May 29, 2020

Analysis, insights and top headlines from the world of faith produced by Religion Unplugged.

George Floyd, second from right, holds a Bible in this photo with his ministry friends. Photo provided by Nijalon Dunn

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


(RNS) — George Floyd has become the latest symbol of injustice in America.

Since video footage captured Floyd’s killing by a policeman on Monday, violent protests have erupted in Minneapolis, and the governor has called on the National Guard to help maintain order.

But loved ones stress that Floyd — who complained that he couldn’t breathe as a white officer pressed his knee against the man’s neck — should be remembered as more than a symbol.

He was a man of peace — a man of faith — those who knew him told both Religion Unplugged’s Liza Vandenboom and Christianity Today’s Kate Shellnutt.

I interviewed a group of black ministers about Floyd’s death Thursday for The Christian Chronicle.

“As a person, I’m outraged,” Russell Pointer Sr., who preaches for the Minneapolis Central Church of Christ, told me. “As a city, we’re trying to grieve.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson arranged to meet with elected officials and faith leaders at the Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis “to stand in solidarity and demand justice in the death of George Floyd,” the Star-Tribune reported.

Floyd’s killing exposes a blind spot on racism, Catholic advocates told Crux.

Power Up: The Week’s Best Reads

  1. America’s churches weigh coronavirus danger against need to worship: “State rules and personal feelings among the faithful vary widely, while experts say houses of worship are prime spots for the spread of the virus,” according to this informative report by Ian Lovett, the Wall Street Journal’s national religion writer, and his colleague Rebecca Elliott.

While reporting the piece, Lovett visited a nondenominational church southeast of Los Angeles that met Sunday when “churches weren’t legally allowed to be open in California.”

“I was the only person in a mask,” Lovett said on Twitter.

California unveiled rules this week for houses of worship to reopen, but the guidelines haven’t ended the battle over certain restrictions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Read more coverage concerning churches resuming in-person services — or not — via the New York Times’ Rick Rojas and Elizabeth Dias, The Associated Press’ Gary Fields and Sally Stapleton, the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein (and colleagues) and the Deseret News’ Kelsey Dallas.


  1. For top U.S. virus experts, faith and science work together: “While tensions over public worship’s effect on public health arise amid the pandemic — with President Donald Trump declaring religious services “essential” — personal spirituality, in all of its forms, remains an unquestioned guidepost for some scientists guiding the U.S. response,” reports The Associated Press’ Elana Schor.

In a related story, America magazine’s Michael J. O’Loughlin interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, who urged churches to use masks, limit singing and wait to resume Communion.

  1. Christian TikTok videos censored, deleted in US, creators say: I’ll admit that I don’t know the difference between TikTok and tic-tac-toe.

But Religion Unplugged’s Liza Vandenboom does. She describes TikTok as a “China-based social media app (that) hosts short, snippy videos ranging from inspirational mini-speeches to musical and dance performances and is popular with teenagers and young adults.”

More to the point: Vandenboom interviews several sources who make alarming claims concerning the app’s alleged censorship of Christian videos.


More top reads: ‘We ask forgiveness from the dead’: Why Jewish volunteers are washing bodies in a pandemic, Samantha Melamed, Philadelphia Inquirer … Quakers gather with God over Zoom, Bianca Giaever, New York Times … Mosques adapt to coronavirus shutdown by sharing the call to prayer. In one California city, neighbors said it was too loud, Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times … Seafarers — and their chaplains — face unique challenges during COVID-19 pandemic, Charles Collins, Crux … How to safely reopen your church and reduce legal liability, Holly Hammar Lear, Church Law & Tax … Meet eight pastors who pushed to keep their churches open, Kathryn Post, Religion News Service … Many Ohio houses of worship plan in-person Sunday services for May 31, Jim Woods and Danae King, Columbus Dispatch … Breakaway Anglican group that left Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth wins property fight, Yonat Shimron, RNS … Priest says water gun ‘baptism’ meant to be funny, Catholic News Agency … Balcony church gains popularity in Kenya amid pandemic, Tom Odula, The Associated Press.

Inside The Godbeat: Behind The Bylines

Standing up for social-distancing hasn’t made Hasidic reporter Jacob Kornbluh the most popular person in his religious community.

In fact, some have labeled him a traitor, notes a fascinating profile by The Forward’s Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt.

One more quick bit of Godbeat news: The Religion News Association could use your help with a survey:

Charging Station: In Case You Missed It

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


The Final Plug

I’m a big fan (as I’ve mentioned before) of Jennifer Berry Hawes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning special projects writer for the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina.

I want to congratulate Hawes, a former full-time religion writer, on receiving the 2020 AACR June L. Biedler Prize for Cancer Journalism.

“Last Rights,” Hawes’ winning story, features a man who knows he has only months to live but wants to choose how and when he dies.

Is there a religion angle to the piece? Most definitely. And Hawes handles it superbly, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with her work.

 (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 Religion News Service.)