A couple of years ago the Southern Baptist Convention explored the option of changing their name to better reflect the national and international nature of the denomination. I thought at the time that it might be helpful to change the name to the “The Episcopal Church” so that the national news media would finally acknowledge the massive SBC’s existence.
Well, tmatt once offered some helpful theories for explaining why Episcopalians get so much ink by the elite press, but I’ve yet to hear a reasonable explanation why America’s largest non-Catholic flock is all but ignored.
A prime example is a story that has — so far — only been picked up by one mainstream media organization, The Tennessean in Nashville, the city in which the SBC headquarters is located:
Two Southern Baptist leaders said Monday that they reject conspiracy theories that the U.S. military will punish Christian soldiers who share their faith.
But they are worried about religious freedom in the military.
Kevin Ezell, head of the Baptist’s North American Mission Board, which endorses military chaplains, and Russell Moore, president-elect of the Nashville-based Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, issued a statement Monday about religious freedom in the military.
The full statement (which can be found at the Baptist Press news site) offers a number of hooks for reporters who are late writing about the story that was discussed in churches and on military bases across the country.
The fact that such sober-minded, media-friendly and thoughtful Baptist leaders as Kevin Ezell, president of the SBC’s North American Mission Board, and Russell Moore, president-elect of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, felt compelled to write about this issue is a signal that there’s a story out there that needs some calm, nuanced, informed reporting.
What, for instance, are the conspiracy theories they’re attempting to debunk?
If you’ve been following Smietana at The Tennessean you’d know.
In fact, The Tennessean has published four articles on the topic: one on the Baptist website being blocked, an A1 story on the controversy over the ban on proselytizing, a story when the Defense Department clarified that policy, and now the response by these key Southern Baptist leaders. In his most recent article, Smietana provides a helpful summary of the controversy:
The two leaders said they plan to talk with military leaders about their concerns.
The online controversy over the ban on proselytizing came after the Washington Post reported about an activist who met with Air Force officials to demand that soldiers who spend too much time talking about Jesus be booted from the military.
Mikey Weinstein, president of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation, claimed that officers who try to convert their subordinates should face a court martial.
Weinstein’s demands caused a stir on Twitter after the Pentagon told Fox News about the ban on proselytizing.
How many other news outlets have covered it so thoroughly or connected the dots in the way that Smietana has done? And why is a story with so many juicy angles in need of clarification and/or debunking — government conspiracy! oppression of military chaplains! religious freedoms quashed! — being underplayed?
The story is still fresh so maybe we’ll see more journalists playing catch-up. Perhaps we just need to get some leaders from The Episcopal Church to weigh in so that that it can get some coverage in elite news publications in blue zip codes.