Santorum stunner at Florida church!

One of the first things that I do with student journalists is teach them the following trick. If you are struggling with some particularly tough passage in a story, perhaps a tricky paraphrase with some complicated grammar, then it is wise to print a copy of your rough draft, walk away from the keyboard and read the stuff out loud. Most of the time, your ears will catch the mistakes.

This even works, sometimes, with errors of fact. It’s amazing how the really dumb stuff just jumps off the page when you hear your own voice reading the words. No, this technique doesn’t work nearly as well when you simply read the text silently, inside your own head.

A reader just sent your GetReligionistas a classic example of a mistake that made it into print at the Palm Beach Post (the newspaper that landed in my yard about a decade ago) that surely, surely would have been caught if a reporter or editor had paused long enough to read this howler out loud. Here’s the top of this short political-beat story:

Rev. O’Neal Dozier, the conservative pastor of Pompano Beach’s Worldwide Christian Center, told the Palm Beach Post … that Mitt Romney cannot win the presidency because Americans won’t vote for a Mormon president.

Following his third place finish in South Carolina, Rick Santorum made his first Florida campaign stop at Dozier’s church, where he gave a faith-based sermon. Dozier has been an outspoken critic of homosexuality and radical Islam. In November, former presidential candidate Herman Cain decided minutes before a speech not to have Dozier deliver his invocation, as was originally planned.

First of all, under Associated Press style, that would be “The Rev. O’Neal Dozier,” with a T-H-E.

However, that isn’t the most humorous choice of words in this passage.

Did you see it? Raise your hands, out there in GetReligion reader land, if you have ever heard someone deliver, in a church, a non-faith-based sermon.

I assume that the reporter was trying to say that, instead of getting up in the pulpit of a conservative church and giving a talk about tax breaks for manufacturers, the Catholic senator elected to talk about matters directly related to Christian faith. Thus, it was a “faith-based sermon” instead of, well, a “secular sermon.”

Then again, after that kind of gaffe, are readers supposed to trust that this was a “sermon” at all? Did Santorum actually preach the sermon in this church service or did he simply make some off-the-cuff remarks? In other words, is the reporter using the word “sermon” as a metaphor?

In this case, I would think that many readers would actually want to know if a candidate for the White House spoke before the service in a major African-American church, during the service or afterwards. Was he in the pulpit or did this take place in coffee hour?

After reading that strange “faith-based sermon” reference, I am not sure what happened, in this case.

As for the main thrust of this story, Palm Beach Post editors also needed to challenge this prominent pastor on one of his alleged facts. Read the following carefully:

Dozier, who is black, said a Republican will need at least 10 percent of the black vote to win the presidency.

“Blacks are not going to vote for anyone of the Mormon faith,” Dozier said. “The book of Mormon says the Negro skin is cursed.”

From 1849 through 1978 the Church of Latter-Day Saints barred blacks from its priesthood. The church has lifted but not repudiated the policy. Dozier said if Romney is the nominee, President Obama’s surrogates will bring out what Dozier considers to be racist views in the Mormon Church.

First of all, the story should have referred to “The Book of Mormon,” not the “book of Mormon.” Also, that controversial “doctrine” or “teaching” — as opposed to “policy” — is linked to a passage in a different Mormon text, one called “The Book of Abraham,” within “The Pearl of Great Price.” It isn’t in “The Book of Mormon,” itself. If I am in error on that point, someone shoot me a correction.

All in all, this was not a happy excursion onto the religion beat.

Print Friendly

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Jerry

    then it is wise to print a copy of your rough draft, walk away from the keyboard and read the stuff out loud.

    That’s also true for poetry. And plays often don’t survive intact after actors try to speak the lines as written. And, of course, walking away from the keyboard is very helpful before sending email that might just be read in a way that was not intended or perhaps written under the influence of strong emotion.

    So this member of the choir says “Amen, amen and amen” to your journalistic “sermon” :-)

  • Darrell Turner

    What kind of a gaff was it? Not being a fisherman, I’m not sure. It seems more like a gaffe to me, which demonstrates that reading your writing out loud won’t catch all the gaffes. :)

  • Tregonsee

    “Raise your hands, out there in GetReligion reader land, if you have ever heard a non-faith-based sermon.”

    My hand is up, because I have heard many such in liberal churches. The minister said it was a sermon, the bulletin said it was a sermon, but to pick a specific example, it was about the tragedy of depression. It also contained a significant complaint about President Bush about some perceived lack of interest or caring.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    DARRELL:

    OK, then we say that I HAVE caught MY stupid stuff that way, even my gaffes.
    ;-)

  • Jeff

    “Raise your hands, out there in GetReligion reader land, if you have ever heard a non-faith-based sermon.”

    Raising my hand. High.

    I’ve heard the same kind of sermon in the same sort of place as Tregonsee has — extraneous slap at one or another Republican and all.

  • sari

    “Raise your hands, out there in GetReligion reader land, if you have ever heard a non-faith-based sermon.”

    Hand up–in all three branches of Judaism and a middle of the road (not overly conservative or liberal) church. Not even an effort to connect the subject to scripture or religious belief. Some were political; others were not.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    The word “negro” does not appear in any Mormon scripture. In the Book of Mormon it does refer to “black and white”, but says “all are salike unto God”, the opposite of what THE Reverend Mr. Dozier claims.

    The reporter’s claim that the policy restricting priesthood ordination of blacks was “lifted but not repudiated” is very odd. As soon as the announcement was made, black Mormons all over the world were being ordained, and missionary efforts in Africa were opened up. …

  • Martha

    “Raise your hands, out there in GetReligion reader land, if you have ever heard someone deliver, in a church, a non-faith-based sermon.”

    I don’t know, tmatt; I’ve had to listen to some sermons which only qualified as such due to the fact that they were given by a priest standing at the ambo during Mass :-)

    But yes: a politician invited to speak in a church isn’t necessarily preaching a sermon, regardless of the content; was this speech given in the context of a church service, or was it a special “come and meet the candidate” thing? Also, what is the position of Reverend Dozier’s church and/or denomination on having a lay person speaking in church – do they permit lay delivery of sermons or is this more along the lines of “Today Brother X is going to tell you about his mission trip”?

  • Will

    “Raise your hands, out there in GetReligion reader land, if you have ever heard a non-faith-based sermon.”

    Me. I heard a “sermon” which consisted of the visiting director of the Queens Federation of Churches telling us how we should vote on Question 1 on that year’s ballot.

  • Ira Rifkin

    speaking of reading it out loud…

    “…that Mitt Romney cannot win the presidency because Americans won’t vote for a Mormon president.”

    No one’s voting for a Mormon president (of the US) because there ain’t no such thing. How about voting for a Mormon TO BE president?

  • carl jacobs

    faith-based sermon

    If I was a cynic, I might assume this was a way for the journalist to signal the dangerous nature of the candidate. Here he is in a fundamentalist church speaking to the fundamentalist choir when he thinks no one else is listening. And what is he speaking? The coded language of the fundamentalist theocrats who want to bring back the Inquisition. He may be a Roman Catholic but he is in bed with those Evangelicals. He’s dangerous. He speaks ‘religion’ … uh … faith-based sermons.

    But I’m not a cynic about journalists. Much.

    carl

    btw, I was going to say that if you have never heard of a non-faith based sermon, then you have never heard of Bishop Spong. But many people beat me to the punch.

  • Darren

    Willie –

    What you’re referencing is a chapter summation, which was added ca. 1981 as a study aid.

    In the actual text itself, “white” was used to mean “pure” and “dark” was used to mean “impure”. This was fairly common usage in the very early 1800s (“Heart of Darkness” relies on it for most of the impact), but even Joseph Smith himself noted that by the 1840s such usage was already on its way out and so simply put “pure” and “impure” into the text.

  • Bain Wellington

    I notice that the report gives no clue as to what Santorum actually said in his “faith-based sermon”.

    Having regard to comment 31 made under the Palm Beach Post report, I think some light might also have been shed on what Mormonism understands by the “priesthood”:-

    I am an Elder in the Mormon Church. Every month I go out with a 17 yr old companion to visit members and check on their welfare. My young companion is a Priest in our Church and he is Black. At the appropriate age, probably 19, he also will be ordained an Elder.

  • Julia

    I note the “ihs” on the podium/ambo from which Santorum is speaking in the photo. This is the well-known logo/motto of the Jesuits. He must be at a Jesuit institution other than at Mass-time – Catholics don’t have lay people speak during Mass – or they shouldn’t.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    JULIA:

    That was simply a file photo I found that went with this post, not a picture of the actual news event.

  • Julia

    That’s what I figured, but I still wonder why & when Santorum was standing at a Jesuit-linked ambo. It doesn’t look like a church.

  • Passing By

    ”IHS” is a popular symbol in Methodist Churches. I think it’s the first three Latin or Greek letters of the name ”Jesus”, although popular Methodist piety interprets it as ”In His Service”. I’m thinking the same is true among some Presbyterians, but I remember it from days working among Methodists.

  • Inge

    “Raise your hands, out there in GetReligion reader land, if you have ever heard a non-faith-based sermon.”

    *Raises both hands*

    In the main Protestant church of my country, on a regular basis. And sadly in some Catholic parishis with an elderly pastor preaching in the “spirit of the Second Vatican Council”.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X