How not to push a story

sexytimeAssociated Press reporter Allen Breed is back with another religion-fueled story on Gov. Mark Sanford, leading candidate for South Carolina’s worst husband. You sort of know the story’s not going to be so hot when it begins as follows:

Each Sunday afternoon in May, Gov. Mark Sanford and his wife hosted five other couples at the executive mansion for a spiritual “boot camp.” Topics discussed during the hour-and-a-half-long sessions included forgiveness and “not loving your wife as Christ loved the church.”

I don’t know for sure, of course, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say the topics discussed including how to love your wife as Christ loves the church, not how not to love your wife as Christ loves the Church.

The story is built largely around Warren “Cubby” Culbertson, a spiritual advisor who runs workshops for men and couples. It’s not an awful story but it has that same “Christians in the Mist” thing that Breed’s previous story — the one that alleged the Christian idea of love is, um, ‘cold.’ Take this, for instance:

In an interview with The Associated Press this weekend at his Columbia office, just blocks from the State House, Culbertson said he believed his friend when he said that this was his only marital transgression. He thinks Sanford was simply caught off guard by “the power of darkness.”

Culbertson also thinks that the only thing holding his friends’ marriage together right now is “their vow to God.”

“Because it’s not feelings — it’s not emotions,” Culbertson said, the smile fading from his tanned face. “For most Christians, at some point in your marriage, if you’re married long enough, you do it because that’s what we’re called to do — out of obedience instead of out of passion. And I think that’s where Mark and Jenny are right now.”

Putting “their vow to God” in quotes makes me chuckle. Are they really needed there? And the whole “smile fading from his tanned face” line. I mean, come on.

So after a comparison of what Culbertson teaches with some of the various religious speech used by Sanford, Breed brings in, I kid you not, “a Washington, D.C.-based body language and deception detection expert” who says she thinks Sanford is a liar. Okay . . .

But my favorite part is where there’s a discussion of how surprising Sanford’s cheating was:

Even Sanford’s political enemies would concede that much.

Will Folks, a former Sanford spokesman who has been excoriating his old boss in his political blog, said sex and romance “never seemed to be things that were on the governor’s radar.” Although he has since reported on two other alleged dalliances, Folks said this passionate love affair is “100 percent inconsistent with everything I ever saw of the man.”

“I honestly thought the guy was asexual,” Folks said. “I am not kidding.”

The man is married. With four children. Does Folks not understand what the word asexual means? Should we, perhaps, include someone who does understand the word? I know we’re really working overtime in these AP stories to present the Christian view of love as cold, but this strikes me as just nonsensical. It’s as if the only notion of “sexy time” that the culture has comes from Britney Spears and Borat. Memo to reporters: sex doesn’t have to be base, illicit or videotaped in order to be sex.

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  • Chris Bolinger

    Associated Press reporter Allen Breed is back…

    Thanks for the warning.

  • T Stanton

    Yikes – this story is LOADED with scare quotes. Even if looking only to improve readability – those constant quotation marks really break up the continuity.

    On the other hand – I think that the quote about the Eph 5 passage might actually be, “not” loving you’re wife – since when I teach that passage – most men tend to failing to love their wives as Christ loved the church. I could easily imagine someone describing discussing that in that way.