Harpo America

baby namesForgive my snarkiness, but stories about baby names are just dumb. I have particular disdain for stories on those unusual names that suddenly become popular. First, it ruins the offbeat quality of those names, and second, who cares? Anybody with an Internet connection can look up the popularity of a name.

So the cynical writers here at GetReligion were especially appalled to see The New York Times write about the historic boom in the number of babies named “Nevaeh,” which is, for those clever enough to figure it out, Heaven spelled backward. Whoop-de-do (the story’s headline is, well, lame, despite my own use of the technique):

The spectacular rise of Nevaeh (commonly pronounced nah-VAY-uh) has little precedent, name experts say. They watched it break into the top 1,000 of girls’ names in 2001 at No. 266, the third-highest debut ever. Four years later it cracked the top 100 with 4,457 newborn Nevaehs, having made the fastest climb among all names in more than a century, the entire period for which the Social Security Administration has such records.

Nevaeh is not in the Bible or any religious text. It is not from a foreign language. It is not the name of a celebrity, real or fictional.

Nevaeh is Heaven spelled backward.

The name has hit a cultural nerve with its religious overtones, creative twist and fashionable final “ah” sound. It has risen most quickly among blacks but is also popular with evangelical Christians, who have helped propel other religious names like Grace (ranked 14th) up the charts, experts say. By contrast, the name Heaven is ranked 245th.

Spectacular indeed is how the Jennifer 8. Lee got this puff piece in the pages of the Gray Lady. Stories on baby names are much more appropriate for things like magazines. This simply isn’t news.

Much to my amazement, as the gossip blog Gawker pointed out, not only is a piece on an “insignificant trend” in the Times, it was also on the front page. I kid you not. Perhaps it is Miss Jennifer 8.’s interesting middle name that makes this story front-page material? Go figure.

One can only imagine our disgust when the article dipped into the realm of the religious. We blame this on Oprah. It’s all her fault. Anything can be religious these days. Even generic religious words spelled backwards. Welcome to Oprah America.

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The alleged rise of the religious left

MichaelLernerGood political reporters do their best to cover both ends of the political spectrum. With American politics nicely divided into “liberal” and “conservative” camps — at least on the surface — this is easy. So with the “sudden” emergence of the powerful “religious right” in the 2004 presidential election, articles on the “religious left” in American politics have been on the to-do list for political and religion reporters.

I won’t take the time here to fully challenge the idea that the “religious right” suddenly became influential or even the myth that it is as influential as it is made out to be. To make it brief, the political influence of religious conservatives did not appear overnight, and reporters routinely overestimate their influence on national politics.

With that introduction, I have a few comments on Saturday’s front-page Washington Post piece by Caryle Murphy and Alan Cooperman on the arrival of the religious left, whatever that means, in politics:

Some groups on the religious left are clearly seeking to help the Democratic Party. But the relationship is delicate on both sides. “If I were the Democrats, the last thing I would do is really try to mobilize these folks as a political force . . . because I think some of this is a real unhappiness with the whole business of politicizing religion,” said Mark Silk, director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

The Rev. Joseph W. Daniels Jr., senior pastor of Emory United Methodist Church in Northwest Washington, said a key question for him is whether the religious left will become “the polar opposite to . . . the religious right” or be “a voice in the middle.”

“What this country needs is strong spiritual leadership that is willing to build bridges. We don’t need leaders who are lightning bolts for division and dissension,” he said.

Nonetheless, some observers doubt that the revitalization of the religious left will lessen the divisions over religion in politics. “I do think,” said Hertzke, “that, if in fact this progressive initiative takes off, we will see an even more polarized electoral environment than we did in 2004.”

Religious Left3With that, religion in American just got that much more political.

A few issues with the article. I know Washington is a political town and the Post is a newspaper that thrives covering politics, but how about a little religion in a piece about religious groups? I got all excited when the article suggested that it would explain what “religious liberals” believed, but nada, other than references to abortion, and the cozy categories of mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics. There is no mention of the authority of the Bible, not to mention key theological issues that are at the root of the differences between liberal and conservative denominations.

This is an interesting reversal of roles. The mainline denominations are outside the sphere of influence looking in while conservative, traditional denominations supposedly hold all of the influence and power in Washington.

There was little direct mention of the doctrine of separation of church and state in the article. It does not really fit with the story line, but are there those in the liberal religious left who are concerned about violating that constitutional concept?

While the Post‘s version of the current status of religious liberalism in America is all rosy, the New York Times offered a starker picture a day earlier:

WASHINGTON, May 18 — They had come to All Souls Unitarian Church, 1,200 of them from 39 states, to wrest the mantle of moral authority from conservative Christians, and they were finally planning how to take their message to those in power.

After rousing speeches on Wednesday by liberal religious leaders like Rabbi Michael Lerner (pictured) of the magazine Tikkun and Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, participants in the new Network of Spiritual Progressives split into small groups to prepare for meetings with members of Congress on Thursday.

Yet at a session on ethical behavior, including sexual behavior, the 50 or so activists talked little about what to tell Congress about abortion or same-sex marriage. Instead, the Rev. Ama Zenya of First Congregational Church in Oakland, Calif., urged them to talk to one another about their spiritual values and “to practice fully our authentic being.”

It is essentially the same story, but the contrast in outlook is amazing. I’ve complained about this before, but I wish NYTimes.com would tell us what page the story was published the way washingtonpost.com does, because I’m curious what kind of play this received.

I know the Post has long practiced the tradition of getting beat by the NYT on stories and then playing it up a day or two later on the front page with a different angle, but I wonder whether this was actually the case in this instance.

Religious LeftLastly, revealing more of the “religious left” movement than the Post or the Times combined, Julia Duin of the Washington Times was also able to scoop both papers in publishing a preview to the event on which both the NYT and the Post stories were centered:

[The conference's spiritual covenant] supports a national health plan, suggests members of Congress “spend part of one day a week feeding hungry people at a shelter or other … hands-on service activity,” the public funding of all state and national elections and many other innovations.

“Have you ever heard a Democrat talk like that?” the rabbi asked. “They have down one dimension of the problem, and we’re behind that. But we’re trying to add a spiritual dimension.”

The guest list for the conference, posted at www.tikkun.org, includes anti-war activists such as Cindy Sheehan, who will help lead a “pray-in for peace” outside the White House on Thursday afternoon. A range of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu speakers are also slated.

There you have it, folks. The political influence of the religious right in America is being met by a coalition of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindus. All you ever wanted to know about the booming religious movement that will rock the nation come November. I have my doubts.

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Who does Dan Brown say that I am?

ChristSinai 01And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Who do men say that I am?

– Gospel of Mark 8:27

Please do not blow a fuse, dear readers.

I am not opening this post with a Bible verse in order to veer into evangelism. For most of the week, I have been looking for mainstream press reports about The Da Vinci Code that found a news hook other than (a) evangelicals trying to use the movie for evangelism, (b) scholars shredding the novel’s historical claims, (c) movie executives insisting that their product was only fiction or (d) speculation about the impact of the lousy reviews on the box office and the future of what was supposed to have become a major franchise for Sony Pictures. Weeks two and three are the keys.

On that final point, I do wonder if Tom Hanks is locked in for the future. And here is another question about the future: How do you film Angels & Demons — much of which happens in churches in Rome, and much of the final act actually in the Vatican — without the cooperation of the Holy See?

Well, there is a different angle out there. Reports indicate that the movie has softened the novel in at least two key ways.

First, it has edited out or weakened much of the oh-so-sexy pagan roots of the plot. Where’s that passage in the book about sacred sex inside the Jewish Temple’s Holy of Holies between the priests and holy women representing an ancient Jewish goddess?

But, most importantly, the movie has tried to adopt a slightly less hostile stance toward Christianity. The movie strives for a more mushy, spiritual, “dialogue”-oriented approach that, at crucial moments, says, “maybe,” “maybe,” “maybe.” As Associated Press religion-beat veteran Richard N. Ostling notes in an analysis piece:

An early clue that the film is trying a different tack from the novel comes when it omits the book’s thesis: “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.” The script instead turns that concept into a question: “What if the world discovers the greatest story ever told is a lie?”

The chief alterations, however, pop up during a pivotal theological discussion between the story’s two experts on religious history, Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Sir Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen). The maniacal Teabing makes the claim (disregarded by real-life scholars) that Christianity considered Jesus a mere man and turned him into a divinity in A.D. 325. Good-guy Langdon mildly objects, inserting a critical viewpoint that the novel lacks.

The bottom line is that the novel said Jesus was a remarkable man — bright, charismatic, hot and all that — but just a man. This is the Jesus of the old liberal mainline Protestant world. But the novel added another layer of commentary, saying that the true Christianity of the Gnostics and other believers in the “sacred feminine” was buried by the evil, sexist, frumpy men who were setting up the Catholic version of a Roman empire. This is the modern, sexy, almost Wiccan gospel of some segments of the liberal mainline Protestant academic world.

The movie says most of that, but adds a crucial word — maybe. In the end, it says that the most important thing is for believers to believe something and only nasty traditionalists care about the details. But the bottom line remains the bottom line: Dan Brown is acting as an evangelist for a syncretistic, pluralistic, at times neo-pagan version of Christianity.

Thus, one of the best news hooks right now can be summed up in this statement: “Who do men say that I am?” As USA Today noted:

At one climactic point, Langdon says, “History shows Jesus was an extraordinary man. Why couldn’t Jesus have been divine and still have been a father?” That line was not in the book.

The filmmakers try to back off from a hard-line stance on the question of Jesus’ divinity. Says Langdon, near the end of the film, “What matters is what you believe.”

Wasn’t there a way to work Oprah into the movie to deliver that line?

I would imagine that some mass-media people may not be happy about this change (and the fact that the script is terrible and most of the performances wooden or cheesy). Over at Entertainment Weekly, reviewer Owen Gleiberman cuts to the chase. Is that disappointment we hear between the lines?

A crucial change from the book is that Langdon has been made into a skeptic, a fellow who doesn’t necessarily buy that official Christianity is a lie. This is a sop to the film’s critics (i.e., the Catholic Church), but it feels cautious, anti-dramatic. Yes, a soupçon of research reveals that the Priory of Sion is a hoax invented in 1956, and surely it can’t be proved that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were ever intimate . … But what we want from a film of The Da Vinci Code is the fervor of belief. … As a novel, The Da Vinci Code has a resonance that lingers. It may be less history than hokum, but it’s a searching product of the feminist era, when even many true believers have grown weary of the church as an instrument of moral reprimand and male dominion.

2795So here is the question, and it’s one that I think is at the heart of the movie story: Who is Jesus, according to Dan Brown (and thus, the Sony Pictures franchise)?

This is a question linked to millions and millions of dollars worth of tickets. What does Brown believe? Will he stand up for his own beliefs or will be compromise, in order to give his actors and directors wiggle room? In novels one and two in this series, Brown had firm, blunt beliefs. He waffled a little, but not much. It seems that the movie has retreated into an Oprah-esque world of “maybe.”

This may be The Matrix all over again, in a strange sort of way.

The siblings Larry and Andy Wachowski — the word “brothers” is problematic right now — were also pushing a gospel rich in neo-Gnostic images and themes, with a literal union of the divine feminine and the male savior.

The Matrix gospel worked when it was visual, vague and exciting. It sank into irrational, wordy quicksand when the siblings attempted to explain their beliefs. They refused to retreat and the result was a disaster that still made lots of money, but it was clear that the franchise declined with each film. It had nowhere to go.

Will Brown be honest? Will he answer questions? Will he have the courage of his convictions, or compromise in an attempt to be safe? No wonder there are rumors of writer’s block on the third book.

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Killing Rachel, over and over again

rachel scottI guess I am going to have to download that damned Super Columbine Massacre RPG game if I want to know the answers to some of my questions. I want to know if the angels and demons present in the original press coverage of that 1999 tragedy made it into the game.

As noted in a Washington Post report by Jose Antonio Vargas, the game has been lurking on the Internet for more than a year without drawing much interest. But now it is getting media attention and, thus, the attention of survivors and their families. The game, as a game, is said to be pretty shoddy, but it contains real images and quotations from the event. The once anonymous creator of the game has been outed as 24-year-old Danny Ledonne.

And what about all of the God talk and the anti-God talk? The words of the boys who thought they were gods and the martyrs who testified to their faith in God? Still no concrete information, but the following chunk of the Post report does include a hint that, yes, Rachel Scott is in the game.

Roger Kovacs, a 22-year-old Web developer, was so infuriated about the game this week that he sought to figure out who “Columbin” was. Once he learned Ledonne’s identity, he posted it on the game’s site. “One of the girls who died was a friend of mine,” Kovacs said. “Rachel. We were in the same church group. Anyone playing this game can kill Rachel over and over again.”

Richard Castaldo, one of the students injured that day, had a different take. He is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the back, chest, arm and abdomen. He’s a gamer — he wants to be a sound engineer for games — and he’s played the Columbine game. There are some parts that were tough for him, the 24-year-old said, but he thought the game has a unique take on that day. “It’s weird for me to say this, I guess, but there’s something about it that I appreciated, seeing the game from the killers’ perspective,” Castaldo said.

Both of those quotes are chilling, in totally different ways.

Has anyone else see some serious coverage — MSM or online gamer sites — of this “shooter” game?

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Attack of Da Cannes tomatoes

killertomatoesAs regular GetReligion readers know, we don’t pay much attention to editorials and reviews, unless they touch on topics that are so newsworthy that we simply have to talk about them. You could make a case that the current flood of negative reviews of The Da Vinci Code movie would fall into this category.

But there are just too many of them. If you want to tap into that, you can head over to Rotten Tomatoes and eat your fill.

So what about the news itself?

Well, the DVC news coverage is also so heavy that I am having trouble trying to read even a 10th of it. Then again, that is why God made Ted Olsen, over at Christianity Today‘s blog. Click here if you want access to his usual blitz of URLs to reviews, news, strange press releases and who knows what all. And Olsen offers this interesting thought for reporters working this story:

What Weblog doesn’t quite understand is the use of the term boycott in talking about one particular movie. Is saying “don’t see this movie” or “this movie stinks” the same as calling for a boycott? If so, then why are critics described as “panning” the film but pastors and bishops are “calling for a boycott”? And is choosing not to see a film the same as taking part in a boycott? Because I’m not reading a lot about the big R.V. and Just My Luck boycotts. And if it’s a boycott to refuse to see a film, what do you call Sony’s refusal to let people who want to see the film (namely film critics who aren’t in Cannes) do so?

Meanwhile, if you want to know why there are so many stories about about this movie gracing prime slots on the front pages of major newspapers, click here to see the “Well, Da Duh!” story of the day — a newsy report by Godbeat veteran Tom Mullen, writing for Editor & Publisher‘s website. It does seem that more secular editors want to “get” religion news when it involves Hollywood, the Vatican, heresy, alleged feminism, multimedia evangelism, screwed-up history, a kinky albino monk (repeat after me: Opus Dei does not even have monks), goddess worship and a splash of edited-out sacred sex.

You think? Thus, Mullen writes:

Newspapers don’t always do a good job of covering religion. You don’t have [to] look too far for critics in and outside the newsroom whom [you] can fault about how the whole realm of belief is covered. And it’s interesting to note how a Hollywood movie has again become a huge religion story that’s inspiring so much copy. Where is all the religion coverage on matters a little closer to home, a little closer to readers’ everyday lives? That’s still a topic for discussion at length, but for now, it’s worth noting what many papers did well over the last week or so before “Da Vinci” opened.

Read it all. And let us know if you see stories that do a good job of dealing with the facts of this story, as well as the hot opinions on both sides.

One thing is clear: Everyone needs to read the latest opus from the amazingly literate and fair-minded Peter J. Boyer of The New Yorker. If you have not read his “Hollywood Heresy: Marketing ‘The Da Vinci Code’ to Christians,” then what are you waiting for? It gets five stars (out of five).

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How much of Columbine is in the game?

SCMRPG RolloverI started to post this as a cryptic “From our no comment department” item. You know, one of those short posts in which one of us writes a sentence or two and then asks people to read an article that speaks for itself, usually in a way that is quite bizarre.

So click here. Then click here for the “Video game reopens Columbine wounds” story at the Rocky Mountain News.

The report is pretty straightforward. The anonymous creator of the game has said he wanted to provoke real dialogue about the events and the actions of two disturbed but intelligent young men. In an email to the newspaper he said:

“I’m routinely accused of being soulless, of being destined for an eternity in hell, and similarly colorful assertions,” he wrote. “However, I cannot emphasize enough that there is a small fraction of the population who really gets it, who really understands why I made the game and how possible it is to escape from the polarized, dualistic thinking the Columbine shooting seems to (elicit) in most people.”

To say that the game offended many people would be an understatement.

“It’s wrong,” said Joe Kechter, whose son, Matt, was murdered in the Columbine library.

“We live in a culture of death,” said Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Dan, was gunned down on a sidewalk outside the school, “so it doesn’t surprise me that this stuff has become so commonplace. It disgusts me. You trivialize the actions of two murderers and the lives of the innocent.”

The story does tell us that the video game ends with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in hell, fighting the demons. What I found interesting is that the report does not mention any of the other religious elements of that God-haunted story.

That’s important. From the beginning to the end, the Columbine story and the debates about the coverage contained strong religious themes and images. As a reader, I wanted to know: Did any of those words, images and deeds make it into the game? After all, we are told that the game includes images and quotes from videos and articles about the massacre.

Where to begin? Did it include Rachel Joy Scott writing and drawing in her school notebook minutes before she died? Her journal entry — complete with a rose and 13 tears — ended with this prayer:

“Am I the only one who sees? Am I the only one who craves Your glory? Am I the only one who longs to be forever in Your loving arms? All I want is for someone to walk with me through these halls of a tragedy.”

30Is that in the game?

How about some of the dialogue from the videos that Harris and Klebold left behind? After all, the killers said they wanted to start a “religious war” and they mocked a Christian girl named Rachel.

In their pre-rampage videotapes, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold discussed — in their litany of hate — how they wanted to start a “religious war” and mocked a girl named Rachel who had shared her Christian faith.

In audio tapes aired on CNN, and transcripts released by parents, Klebold said: “Stuck-up little b–, you f– little Christianity, godly little w–.”

Harris: “Yeah, ‘I love Jesus, I love Jesus.’… Shut the f– up.”

Klebold: “What would Jesus do? What would I DO? (Makes shotgun sound at camera)”

Did any of that make it into the game? I would assume it did.

And what about the stories of Cassie Bernall, Valeen Schnurr and others who were shot after being mocked for their faith? Some of the eyewitnesses differed on the details, but it was clear that the killers — before pulling the trigger — were asking some people, “Do you believe in God?” Where did all of that come from?

It was Bernall who left behind a note, found by her parents, that described the tensions in her school and then said:

“I try to stand up for my faith at school. … I will die for my God. I will die for my faith. It’s the least I can do for Christ dying for me.”

I have searched around online and cannot find out what I want to know. How many of the angels and the demons of Columbine made it into this crude video game? I think many readers would want to know.

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McCain sat next to someone he once called “evil”

McCainFalwellPOTUS wannabe but for now just Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., spoke at a religious institution this past weekend. This sent political reporters at the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post into a tizzy writing about how weird it was to see two man that apparently once despised each other sit there in their funny robes acting friendly with one another. An amazing political development!

Except we already knew about it. Months ago. Everyone’s been talking about it. Someone should tell Janet Hook of the LAT and Dan Balz of the Post.

Tim Russert of NBC’s Meet the Press grilled McCain within an inch of his life about the appearance more than a month ago, and more than enough ink has been spilled on the subject since then. So while I admire both reporters’ ability to do a bit of spot news reporting, I think their skills can be put to better use. (Plus, I’m sure Lynchburg, Va., is just a wonderful place to spend a weekend. I really hope they found time to go hiking in the beautiful surrounding mountains.)

The problem with spot news these days is that by the time the actual event took place, it’s already old news. Was there any real news in Bush’s Monday night speech? And by the time the article appears in the dead-pulp version known as a newspaper, it’s pretty much as old as the dinosaurs. So why bother?

Media organizations should throw a copy of the transcript and maybe some video clips on the good ol’ website and link to an already written story detailing the situation and historical context surrounding the event. Anybody who cares enough to read 1,200 words on a speech (that’s the approximate word count for the Post‘s article) will take the time to visit the website.

Nevertheless, let’s get down to business. I had issues with Balz’s word usage. Check out the third graph:

LYNCHBURG, Va., May 13 — Six years after labeling the Rev. Jerry Falwell one of the political “agents of intolerance,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) delivered the commencement address Saturday at Falwell’s Liberty University, and vigorously defended his support for the war in Iraq while saying that opponents have a moral duty to challenge the wisdom of a conflict that has exacted a huge toll on the nation.

McCain’s presence on the campus here was as remarkable as what he had to tell the graduating class of 2006, given his clashes with religious conservatives during his 2000 campaign for president. His appearance continued a rapprochement that has been underway for months with a critical constituency in the Republican Party as McCain prepares for another possible campaign in 2008.

The Arizona senator’s speech was shorn of religious references and avoided controversial social issues. Instead, he focused on constitutional principles while touching on themes of humility, patriotism, respect for political opponents and forgiveness that may be relevant to his preparations to seek the Republican presidential nomination again.

McCainPirateI’m not sure where Balz grew up, but it certainly was not on a farm. Last time I checked, the word “shorn” refers to the removal of something, usually hair or fleece. So how were religious references “shorn” from the speech? Did Balz obtain some earlier draft that contained religious references? If so, he should have mentioned it.

Balz also quoted McCain advisers as saying that his speeches (there will be four of them in the next month) will not be tailored to individual audiences. Well, this is in fact partially true.

A GetReligion investigation of the Liberty speech alongside a speech McCain gave Tuesday to Columbia University graduates Tuesday revealed that he droned on for an additional 1,000 words at Liberty. Nothing substantial was added to the Liberty speech other than a bit more nuance, but I’m curious to know whether McCain was given additional time at Liberty.

To the credit of the LAT‘s Hook, her article contained a substantially greater degree of reporting and historical background than the Post‘s version. The Post piece is more of a forward-looking piece and that’s also to its credit.

For a bit of analysis, David Kusnet over at the New Republic writes that McCain preached “a sermon about a religion” despite avoiding the topics of “abortion, evolution, school prayer, same-sex marriage, stem-cell research, or the role of religion in public life.”

McCain’s message was grounded in “civil religion” and “the restoration of virtue.” I’m not sure whether I am ready to categorize those topics under religion, but Kusnet makes an interesting case in his attempt to catch McCain’s subtle religious undertones:

For all its seriousness, McCain’s message is softened by the fact that the messenger takes pains not to seem to take himself too seriously. Unlike the televangelist who was his host on Saturday, McCain managed to preach without sounding preachy. While Falwell and Robertson present themselves as paragons of virtue, McCain is ceaselessly self-deprecating; he is one moralist who claims never to have met a virtue he hasn’t neglected to display or a sin he hasn’t repeatedly committed. To hear McCain tell it, he was a poor student and an arrogantly opinionated young man who grew up to become a glory-seeking adult whose only redeeming merit has been his occasional ability to achieve a reconciliation with his enemies. Only when he alluded to his heroism as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam did McCain’s reminiscences become sketchy, alluding vaguely to a time “when I confronted challenges I never expected to face” and “in that confrontation, I discovered that I was dependent on others to a greater extent than I had ever realized.”

FalwellGargoyleShrewdly and skillfully, McCain apologized to Falwell and Robertson by advocating the very virtue — tolerance — that most challenges his host and his followers. Managing to echo Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, McCain explained: “Let us remember, we are not enemies. We are compatriots defending ourselves from a real enemy. We have nothing to fear from each other.” In an oblique reference to his own harsh words for Falwell and Robertson, as well as anything intemperate he has ever said, he added: “I have not always heeded this injunction myself, and I regret it very much.”

I’ve always found that McCain takes a certain pride in his humility. Wait, that makes no sense, at least on the surface. McCain’s humility is a confusing thing to write about because in the one opportunity I had to meet him back in 2000 (after he had been defeated by George W. Bush), I was struck by this very humility that everyone writes about. But as every reporter knows, McCain never met a television camera or a microphone that he did not like. How is that showing humility? Go figure.

Ultimately, political reporters attempting to cover the story that is the break between McCain and the religious right in 2000 and the supposed reunification need to keep their powder dry and wait for more data to come across their radars. One speech at one university doesn’t mean much on the surface and it will take a lot more for evangelicals to embrace the good senator from Arizona.

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The Very Right Reverend Father Dobson returns

20050623 123335 Dobson1I know it’s not the biggest deal in the world, but today’s correction in the Washington Post caught my eye:

A May 14 article about Sen. John McCain’s speech at Liberty University incorrectly referred to the chairman of Focus on the Family as the Rev. James Dobson. Dobson is not an ordained minister.

So he’s not an ordained minister . . . thank you very much. The correction might have also mentioned what his honorific and vocation are (he has a Ph.D. in child psychology from the University of Southern California). In any case, this simple error appears with alarming frequency in American publications. Interestingly, it was Newsweek, which is a Post-owned publication, that struggled with this sin repeatedly in the past year.

Maybe the Post needs to hold an all-company retreat in which Donald Graham addresses the troops with this opening: “For the love of God, you idiots, how difficult is it to remember the courtesy title for this man? Must we hand him more ammo for his fundraising letters?”

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