Pod people: Trinitarian editing 2.0

It was a simple little headline, dashed off for one of our “Got news?” posts, which is the catchphrase that we use when we see religion-beat stories that intrigue us, but have yet to make an appearance in the mainstream press (or have been downplayed, for some strange reason).

In the headline I asked, “Adios to God the Father?

Please note that the headline does not say, “Adios to God?” It says, “Adios to God the Father?” So I was not asking a question about, well, chopping off one corner of the Christian Trinity. I was asking a question about a Christian denomination voting to edit language concerning the Trinity, voting to move away from ancient, apostolic, orthodox language which speaks of the Trinity as revealed in the form of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Obviously, anyone who has followed trends in the world of liberal Protestantism in the last quarter of a century knows that there is nothing new about these bodies experimenting with gender-neutral language for humanity and God. What fascinated me was the decision by the trailblazing United Church of Christ to formally vote to drop a reference to God the Father from its constitution. In such a free-church, non-creedal, congregational body, I thought the constitution was a pretty symbolic document.

The point of my short post was not to express shock that this would happen, since it wasn’t shocking. I wrote this as a “God news?” piece to ask a real question: Would this action by the UCC really be “news” to anyone? Would it be interesting to the reading public? In my experience, readers are interested in this kind of symbolic event, especially about worship issues.

Apparently, this was not “news,” as much as it was a matter of “opinion,” since mainstream coverage of the topic was nil and the topic jumped straight to the new semi-opinion level of blogging. That answers my question, at the level of newsrooms. The whole topic did set off some sparks.

Thus, I brought this topic up for another round in the latest GetReligion podcast (click here to tune in), just to take another shot at saying clearly what I had briefly said in the original post. Besides, it’s always interesting to be accused of saying one thing, when you actually said something else.

Those looking for a sort-of-news summary of this affair will want to check out the work of Peter Smith at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He notes, accurately, that a small circle of conservatives left in the UCC protested this action, while the vote undoubtedly expresses the beliefs of the liberal denomination’s core leaders and churches. He added, however, another interesting note:

The United Church of Christ recorded 1.08 million members last year, down nearly 3 percent from the previous year and down by about half since its peak in the 1960s.

It was formed by a merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church — itself formed by a merger of two historically German Protestant groups, with several congregations in the Louisville area — and the Congregational Christian Churches, whose organizational ancestors included the Puritans.

In the podcast, I list three reasons why this unsurprising UCC action still struck me as newsworthy. Smith’s comment raises another question: Is the editing of the Father God language a story inside this declining church body, a flock that — outside the Northeast core — still contains some rather conservative and independent thinking congregations? Even if this language remains somehow optional, how will the constitutional change play in the heartland?

Also, astute readers noted another interesting and newsworthy angle — the formal approval of a “Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism (.pdf)” between the UCC, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church.

However, that story gets complicated, too. UCC press materials noted:

The two primary roadblocks to the agreement centered on language used during the baptismal rite and the manner in which water is used. … Research found that nearly 20 percent of UCC churches were using alternative language for “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” for baptismal formula. …

Ancient churches, you see, do not recognize the validity of baptisms that do not use the orthodox language of “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Thus, the new agreement is supposed to guarantee that this doctrinal formula will be used in all baptisms, to assure validity among these churches. However, it seems that in some corners of the UCC the operative idea is that “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” language may often be mixed with other references to God as Mother and/or a Trinity of gender-neutral descriptors of divine function, not personhood, such as “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.”

So, is a combo-language rite of this kind OK with Rome and others? That’s an interesting, and perhaps newsworthy, question.

Also, does this mean that highly independent UCC pastors and congregations are now required to use some gender-specific “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” Trinitarian language in their baptism rites in order to keep faith with Catholics and others in this agreement? That’s another interesting, and newsworthy, question.

After all, read this interesting item from the Rev. Chuck Currie, a UCC pastor in Portland. After covering some of this baptism language territory he notes:

I do not use the traditional language of “Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” during baptism as I try to refrain from using gender specific language for God in most cases. …

Actions taken by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ speak to but not for the local church. Therefore, as a minister in the UCC I am not bound by any agreement made regarding baptism and may (and will) continue to use the language that I currently do. Inclusive language is important in theology and a important trait of many UCC congregations and our denomination as a whole.

Now, that’s real life in the UCC — right there.

So what is the official UCC policy on this ancient, creedal issue in baptism? Is it up to the local pastor and her or his flock? That would seem to be the case. So do officials of the Church of Rome now need to deal with UCC baptisms on a case-by-case basis, to see if the terms of this important agreement were honored at the local level? It would appear so. So what did this breakthrough document accomplish?

Sounds like news to me. Enjoy the podcast.

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Pod people: If Womenpriests were rabbis?

In most of our recent posts about coverage of the Womenpriests movement, such as this piece by the Divine Ms. MZ Hemingway, we have ended up discussing how journalists often struggle to grasp basic historical facts about the Roman Catholic priesthood. In particular, journalists just can’t seem to realize that the Church of Rome is a voluntary association and that to be a priest in this body one must, first and foremost, be in Communion with the pope of Rome and the bishops of that Communion.

However, in an earlier post, I voiced my concern about the degree to which journalists from the Baltimore Sun seemed to have been cooperative, if somewhat passive, participants in the public Womenpriests ordination rite that they were allegedly covering as members of the public press. Here is a flashback to a worrisome passage in the Sun coverage:

Andrea Johnson, presiding as bishop, ordained two women from Maryland, Ann Penick and Marellen Mayers, one from Pennsylvania and one from New York in the sanctuary of St. John’s United Church of Christ. The church was filled with family members — including husbands of three of the ordinands — and friends, including some who are employed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore but who support the ordination of women. Photography was limited to protect the privacy of those attending the ceremony.

Later, we learned that until recently Mayers had been employed as “a campus minister and religion instructor at a Catholic high school” until she was outed as a Womenpriests activist. The Sun team declined to click a mouse once or twice and give the name of her former school, perhaps, once again, because the journalists did not want to print information that would violate the privacy of well-placed Catholic progressives in the administration there. Might some of these people be longtime sources for the newspaper?

Anyway, this issue has continued to bug me and it is the subject of this week’s GetReligion podcast. Click here to listen or head on over to iTunes to add our weekly offerings to your iPhone/iPod queue.

Even after we recorded this broadcast, I continued to work this situation over in my mind.

I’ve been trying to find a good metaphor, a journalistic parallel case, that might help readers understand why this bothers me so much.

The following metaphor isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough — as we would say in Texas — for horse shoes and hand grenades.

So let’s say that the home mission board of the Southern Baptist Convention decided to hold a celebration in a Baltimore-area church sanctuary in which four people who are of Jewish birth and background would be ordained in order to serve in new congregations that would compete directly with local congregations that are affiliated with traditional Jewish movements.

Instead of being called pastors, however, the organizers — leaders in the Jesusrabbis movement — insist that these newly ordained ministers are not, in fact, Protestants or even “Messianic Jewish” pastors. No, they insist that the newly ordained are rabbis — period.

Now, as it turns out, the participants in this public celebration actually included recognizable leaders from the Baltimore Jewish Federation, major Jewish schools, the Jewish studies programs of local universities and even major Jewish congregations. They were there to celebrate the ordination of these new “rabbis,” cheering and applauding the rites.

And how about the news media? The event’s organizers asked the media professionals who were present to honor the privacy of these Jewish leaders who came to celebrate the ordination of these Jesusrabbis. For example, the Baltimore Sun team members agreed not to cover this important factual element of the story or even to take photos of the crowd. In a way, the Sun actually helped these Jesusrabbi movement supporters to maintain their positions in prominent local Jewish institutions, even though the overwhelming majority of local Jews would see their actions as scandalous acts of betrayal to any traditional form of the Jewish faith.

Did I mention that all of this took place in a church sanctuary in an event that was clearly open, in some sense, to the public?

But wait! If the event was secret, then that would be even more significant. The Jesusrabbi Movement even knew to invite these Jewish leaders who were acting in rebellion against their own congregations and institutions. They would had to have been, to some degree, on the inside.

So, who can imagine Sun editors cooperating in this manner in this hypothetical case, going to far as to ignore crucial news information that the public would want to know? How about other major media institutions? Would they agree to help the Jesusrabbis movement in this manner?

Enjoy the podcast. Please keep your comments focused on the journalism issues in this post.

IMAGE: Messianic Jews in worship in a congregation with Baptist roots.

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Pod people: Name that religion

It’s no secret that GOP leading candidate Mitt Romney is Mormon, and reporters appear so enamored with his faith that they forget to cover the other candidates’ religious affiliations.

In GetReligion’s latest podcast I spoke with Todd Wilken about the candidates’ faith and why were aren’t seeing much mention of it. In an earlier post about how none of the leaders in the GOP field are mainline Protestants many of you jumped in the comments to talk about mainline Protestantism and the faith of the GOP candidates.

Some of you were concerned that I didn’t get to other candidates like Gary Johnson, Herman Cain and Ron Paul. It’s hard to column everyone, but from what I have read, Gary Johnson is Lutheran (though I’m unclear which church he attends), Herman Cain attends Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta, and Ron Paul has described himself as an evangelical.

Rick Perry, who some say might enter the race, is a United Methodist member who attends a church with Southern Baptist connections. If you have more links for those or other candidates about their faith, please share them.

All of this started with Doyle McManus’ column in the Los Angeles Times that noted the candidates’ religious affiliations and voter behavior.

There’s still a “God gap” in American politics between the religiously observant (who tend to vote Republican) and the less observant (who tend to vote Democratic), but it now crosses denominational lines. “If I know whether you say grace before meals every day, I can probably predict how you vote,” said Notre Dame political scientist David E. Campbell. (About 44% of Americans say grace, and most of them vote Republican.)

That also helps explain why so many Republican candidates come from conservative religious backgrounds — whether Mormon, Catholic or evangelical — instead of the more liberal traditional GOP denominations, which now stand outside the party’s conservative mainstream.

As I note in the podcast, someone in the Presbyterian Church of American may find himself more in line with a Mormon politically than he does with someone in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

In the podcast, we also talked about the story of a mother and child with cerebral palsy who were removed from a worship service “for being a distraction.” The story left out many details, like what kind of church it was, whether the TV station contacted the head pastor, and whether the woman was attending another church before. These kinds of stories highlight the struggles many church might face, but we need more info to fill in the blanks.

Hopefully we’ll see more religion and politics coverage in the coming months as candidates commit to the race and more stories on how churches handle people with disabilities.

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Pod people: hypocrisy & virginity checks

In the latest Crossroads, I discuss with host Todd Wilken the media coverage of hypocrisy, the murder of a Pakistani journalist and virginity checks in Egypt.

The latter two stories have stuck with me. They are sad in the way that lingers. The death of the Pakistani journalist didn’t generate much conversation on this site, although I trust readers are just as appalled as others. The conversation on virginity did include quite a few comments and was a reminder of just how much I enjoy our community here.

Longtime commenter Julia pointed out one flaw with the story:

This archaism drives me crazy. There are many ways a hymen can be perforated other than intercourse. A medical exam, use of Tampax, an accident. I keep seeing this idiocy that an un-intact hymen is proof that one is no longer a physical virgin – only the journalist is tip-toeing around the subject. …

I’m not just talking about Egyptians. The journalist seems to accept that you can tell physically that women are no longer virgins. Why is there no explanation of why these women were considered not virgins. Where is the interview of a physician about the significance of an non-intact hymen? Who performed these tests and what was the criteria used?

Sorry for being graphic, but the subject is physical proof of virginity. It’s the failure to discuss what we’re really talking about that keeps this assumption alive – with horrible consequences to some women in the 3rd world who fail this “test”.

Excellent point and one I wish I’d made. Another point was made by commenter Marie:

What about the implication that only a virgin can be raped and therefore any sexual assault on a non-virgin can never be considered rape. In other words if a man were to force himself on a non-virgin that would be okay.

Obviously these are both points that should have been addressed in stories about the virginity tests.

We also had a vibrant discussion about Weinergate, with some predictable results. But there were a couple of comments that were helpful, including commenter GFE who pointed out that CNN found a non-social conservative hypocrite:

For what it’s worth, a short while ago I was listening to CNN, and a theme of the reporting on John Edwards is that he was a hypocrite (yes, they used the word) — not because he was a “family values” candidate, but because of the image he presented during his campaigns of being a family man.

The original report I criticized showed a CNN host suggesting that only social conservatives had the capacity for hypocrisy. This goes to show how much a perspective can change just from show to show even on the same network.

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Pod people: Oprah, mainline evangelist

We are going to be done with Oprah Winfrey finale stuff sooner or later. I promise.

However, you will not be surprised — if you read some of the amazing first-person sermons that appeared in major media after her last rite — that I was still thinking about America’s favorite guru when it came time for this week’s Crossroads taping. That’s the GetReligion podcast, of course. Click here to listen to it (or head on over to iTunes and get it automatically every week).

I don’t want to add a whole lot here to what gets said in the podcast, but I do want to connect a few of the dots about why this subject fascinates me so much.

Let’s start here. If you had been reading GetReligion from the get go, you know that we have always argued that the shape and content of the Religious Left has been one of the most under-covered subjects in the mainstream press. The Religious Right has generated oceans of ink, while many corresponding subjects, debates and trends on the left have received little attention.

I mean, right now in Google News, a search for “Religious Left” gets you 19 references. A few minutes later, a search for “Religious Right” gets you 330. Actually, that’s a down day for the right. It’s time for a Sarah Palin bus tour!

I bring this up because, in my opinion, the decline of the Protestant mainline left — a basic fall of about 40 percent in membership in the last third of the 20th century — was one of the most under-covered subjects in that era. But while the moral, cultural and religious left declined in pews, pulpits and at altars, it’s clout evolved and grew elsewhere.

Like on television, at the mall and at the multiplex. And in Oprah’s Book Club.

One could also make the case that, without the decline of the mainline left, there never would have been a growing hole in the public square to be filled, for better and for worse, by the Religious Right.

So the Religious Right became the huge news story. The opening that allowed its rise? That received less analog and digital ink.

This leads us to that amazing Sally Quinn quote the other day in the Washington Post “On Faith” cyber-section, the one about the Rt. Rev. Oprah Winfrey and her impact on American civil religion (I think that is what she was saying changed):

In recent years, religious behaviors have changed dramatically. More people have left traditional religions to join congregations which are self validating. Gone were the fire and brimstone, you’re-all-going-to-hell-unless-you-accept-Jesus-Christ-as-your-personal-savior, the judgment, the fear, the punishment. Many religious and spiritual leaders have taken the lead on this, realizing people don’t want to be lectured to and made to feel guilty for common human failings. People want to feel hopeful, as though they matter. They want to feel empowered.

Oprah led the way.

So Oprah led the way to a faith without fear, judgment or punishments — eternal or temporal. A faith without a Savior who would ever dare to say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

As a reporter, Quinn’s summery of the Oprah gospel sounds like the message that has grown to become the heart of the mainline liberal Protestant faith, especially at the level of seminaries and ecclesiastical bureaucracies.

So here is my question: Was Oprah the most successful mainline Protestant evangelist of her era? If so, why does her theology work so well at the mall and not in the sanctuaries of many or most mainline churches? I don’t know how one would investigate that story — but there is a story there.

Enjoy the podcast.

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Pod people: raptures, McGreevey & Osama

For this week’s Crossroads podcast, we talked a bit about media coverage of the group claiming the rapture is looming, as well as that surprisingly sad story about former governor Jim McGreevey and the abominable coverage of a Mass intention for Osama bin Laden. Host Todd Wilken threw me by asking for my thoughts about Matt Drudge. I defended news aggregators but cautioned that news consumers must be more cautious and skeptical while reading links.

Anyhoo, earthquakes were supposed to start in New Zealand last night, if Harold Camping’s prediction and analysis were right on. It will be interesting to see what coverage of the group will be like once the date passes. I really haven’t been terribly impressed either with the coverage of the group and its beliefs or how they are viewed by Christians and other religious (and irreligious) groups.

This Los Angeles Times piece was awesome for how it interviewed Camping’s longtime producer, a Christian “who believes Jesus will return some day but that it is a sin to presume to pinpoint a date.” I realized upon reading that how little of the media coverage explained Christian beliefs on Jesus’ return, much less the pre-millennial, post-millennial, millennial streams of thought and their relative strength of support.

As it happens, at least two of Camping’s studio staff are Jewish – including his cameraman – and are among the many non-believers in his employ. The most outspoken in-house critic happens to be his longtime producer, Matt Tuter, 53, who believes Jesus will return some day but that it is a sin to presume to pinpoint a date.

“He leaves out numbers he doesn’t like,” Tuter said of Camping’s numerological analysis of the Bible. Tuter said he can no longer keep track of all the times Camping has predicted the end of the world.

Tuter thinks $100 million is a conservative figure for the money Camping has spent publicizing May 21. On Friday, employees at Family Radio headquarters in Oakland were given a paid day off, though some of them chuckled at the irony that the money would not appear in the paychecks until June.

Across the country, nonbelievers are throwing parties.

Wow, $100 million? That’s amazing. The Times piece is interesting, and sad, but does that thing that grew boring weeks ago — pitting Camping’s group against atheists. As if these two groups are the most representative of either rapture adherents or skeptics of Camping.

Of course, it’s a much better piece than this Live Science analysis of how the Rapture would impact carbon emissions.

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Pod people: Talkin’ about the f-word

First of all, my apologies that this Crossroads podcast is arriving several days late. You see, some key members of your GetReligionista team have spend quite a bit of time on airplanes in the past week or so heading hither and yon (seeing snow on the ground as I went through the Denver airport really brought back some high-altitude memories for me).

So this is, truth be told, last week’s podcast — when the events in Egypt were much more fresh.

Still, I hope that you enjoy some additional discussion on the whole “what does fundamentalist actually mean” theme. This really is an important topic, especially when it comes to the interesting and important information in that recent Pew Research Center poll on religious and political attitudes in Arab Spring Egypt. Click here for the GetReligion post that opened that discussion.

Anyway, my interest in the poll led me to seek some clarification from the people behind this survey. As you will see, they chose to use an Arabic term in the survey that they — when jumping to English — translated as “fundamentalist.” It is a term that some Muslims have begun using when referring to “radicals” on the ultraconservative side of Islam.

But what groups fit under this umbrella? What are the doctrines associated with this term? Does anyone know? Not that I can discern.

So here is the end of my Scripps Howard News Service column — Define fundamentalist, please — that followed up on on the overarching issue, which is the cloud of acidic fog that now surrounds the word “fundamentalist.” This long slice focuses on the actual Pew data:

“Egyptians hold diverse views about religion,” stated the report.

“About six-in-ten (62%) think laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Quran. However, only 31% of Egyptian Muslims say they sympathize with Islamic fundamentalists, while nearly the same number (30%) say they sympathize with those who disagree with the fundamentalists, and 26% have mixed views on this question.”

Meanwhile, on two other crucial questions: “Relatively few (39%) give high priority to women having the same rights as men. … Overall, just 36% think it is very important that Coptic Christians and other religious minorities are able to freely practice their religions.”

So while only 31 percent sympathize with “fundamentalist” Muslims, 60-plus percent decline to give high priority to equal rights for women and 62 percent believe Egypt’s laws should STRICTLY follow the Quran. Also, only 36 percent strongly favor religious liberty for religious minorities. Each of these stances meshes easily with alternative “fundamentalism” definitions offered by experts.

To add more complexity, 75 percent of those surveyed had a somewhat or very favorable view of the Muslim Brotherhood’s surging role in Egyptian life – a group long classified as “fundamentalist” in global reports, such as historian Martin Marty’s “Fundamentalism as a Social Phenomenon” in 1988.

While there is no Arabic word for “fundamentalist,” Pew researchers believe many Egyptians have begun applying a similar term to some groups of “very conservative Muslims,” according to James Bell, director of international survey research for the Pew Research Center.

However, he added, the complexities and even conflicts inside these new survey results make it hard to say specifically who is or who isn’t a “fundamentalist” in the context of Egypt today.

“For our Egypt survey, the term ‘fundamentalist’ was translated into Arabic as ‘usuuli,’ which means close to the root, rule or fundamental,” he explained. “It is our understanding that this Arabic term is commonly used to describe conservative Muslims. … So that’s the word that we used.”

Oh, one other fun point about that column and this podcast.

In the column, I decided to use a classic quote from the great Reformed Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga in which he offers a blunt view of what “fundamentalist” now means in the context of elite academia. For the wire service, this meant warning editors that my column contained the mild curse “sumbitch.” Why? Here’s Plantinga, in a longer version of the quote that I used:

I fully realize that the dreaded f-word will be trotted out to stigmatize any model of this kind. Before responding, however, we must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ‘son of a bitch’, more exactly ‘sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ‘sumbitch’. When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obliged first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use): it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ‘stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ‘sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation is that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’.

On the podcast, enjoy my ex-Southern Baptist preacher’s kid reluctance to mangle the pronunciation of “sumbitch.” It’s not an academic word that I am used to using. Cheers.

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Pod people: No shrines for shrine haters

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! On Crossroads this week, we discussed media coverage of the burial of Osama bin Laden as well as coverage of the Royal Wedding. During the podcast, I noted that there had been much excellent journalism this week and that some errors are bound to creep in. What’s important, I think, is to get the story right as quickly as possible.

One thing I thought would be interesting would be coverage of what American Muslims thought of the burial rite. Much of the coverage has been from Muslim clerics in the Middle East. They decry the way the United States buried the body at sea but what do American Muslims say? Is there a difference and why?

The New York Daily News attempted a look with the piece “Even a monster such as Osama Bin Laden deserved a better burial, say city Muslims”:

New York Muslims and community leaders are still shocked that the U.S. dumped Osama Bin Laden’s body into the ocean.

No matter how evil – and even though Bin Laden didn’t afford his victims a decent burial – many Muslims interviewed by the Daily News said sending his remains to a watery grave was wrong.

“All Muslims as good believers are against terrorists but the way they got rid of his body … is not the way,” said Hamed Nabawy, owner of The Fertile Crescent grocery in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn’s Arab hub along Atlantic Ave. “We do not burn it. We do not throw it in the water. We bury it in the ground,” said Nabawy, 52.

The story doesn’t go too deep into some of the other issues we discussed earlier in the week, such as whether Muslims are unified in their belief that Bin Laden deserved a Muslim burial or how that is determined.

Reuters did dig a bit deeper for the piece “Bin Laden sea burial not in line with Islam, clerics say.” It was fascinating to learn the perceptions of the sea burial among non-American Muslim clerics. So, for example, one Saudi cleric and judge says the U.S. made a mistake with the burial. It was un-Islamic and showed Americans fear him even after death, he said. Yemen critics said that the body should have gone to his family. I do wish we’d see a story about who might have taken the body for a proper burial and whether Washington even considered it. This story goes into who wouldn’t take the body:

In reality, it was unlikely that Saudi Arabia would have allowed a burial on its soil, analysts say. His family, which became rich from the Saudi construction boom, has disowned him, and he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994. …

Analysts said Washington may have also wanted to avoid any chance of having a known burial spot where sympathisers could visit and perhaps draw inspiration for future attacks.

“For them it is justified politically and psychologically. Because they dont want him to have a shrine,” said Mustafa Alani, security analyst at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

Ah, the old shrine issue, again. One commenter on a previous post wondered if the word shrine weren’t being used religiously so much as politically. Followers of Bin Laden generally oppose shrines. Violently. They think that visiting the graves and the shrines of prophets, imams and saints is un-Islamic. So what, precisely, is the concern over a known burial spot? Perhaps we’ll find out in the next round of stories.

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