A note to religion reporters

a stack of booksCan anyone guess what the top two books at Amazon were Tuesday afternoon? If you guessed that the books had anything to do with religion, you would be correct.

Currently the number one book is The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. While it has since slipped to number five, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins was in second place on Tuesday.

Go figure.

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Killing embryos

embry3Last night, as I settled in to watch my St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers (fairly, no less!), I told my husband about a political ad I’d seen the day before. It featured actor Michael J. Fox asking people in Missouri to support an amendment to their state constitution that would ensconce embryonic destruction for the purpose of stem-cell research.

I’m a big fan of Fox and I have followed his battle with Parkinson’s for a while. Which was why I was shocked to see what a devastating turn for the worse the disease had taken with him. He was writhing around, lifting a contorted hand and bobbing back and forth.

When I had seen him on a television show a few weeks ago, he seemed to have been doing well — or at least along the lines of what I have come to expect when I see him every few months. Like all good campaign commercials, this one was emotionally gripping. I wondered, though, whether Fox and the commercial’s producers had overdone it a bit in their attempt to be politically effective.

My husband informed me that Rush Limbaugh was in a world of trouble over similar comments about the commercial. He said he thought that Fox either didn’t take his medication or was acting to exaggerate the effects of the disease. Let’s look at how The Washington Post handles this today:

Possibly worse than making fun of someone’s disability is saying that it’s imaginary. That is not to mock someone’s body, but to challenge a person’s guts, integrity, sanity.

I can’t tell from the online version, but I suppose it’s possible that this comes from that den of complete immunity: the Style section. Still, I’m not sure if even the Style section permits such gross mischaracterization of Limbaugh’s comments. Limbaugh didn’t say Fox imagined he had Parkinson’s. He said Fox exaggerated the effects. When someone makes an incendiary comment that you want to criticize, exaggerating the comment serves no one. What Limbaugh said — though I must admit I thought exactly the same thing — was bad enough. At least I only told my husband. And now you all. Let’s keep it between us, if that’s all right.

In polite society, we’re not allowed to wonder whether someone with a horrible disease is playing it up for sympathy or political gain. We’re all supposed to permit the victim to say or do whatever he wants. You lose a son in combat, you’re an expert in foreign policy. You develop a debilitating disease, you’re an expert in bioethics. It may not be fair, but that’s how the game works.

Even if Fox has admitted that he lays off his medication before public appearances where he’s trying to elicit support.

Anyway, my real beef with this and almost all other stories dealing with embyronic-destroying stem-cell research is that they fail to distinguish between stem-cell research and embryonic-destroying stem-cell research. To wit:

The actor, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has done a series of political ads supporting candidates who favor stem cell research, including Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, who is running against Republican Michael Steele for the Senate seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes.

That is not true. What reporter David Montgomery means to say is that Fox is campaigning for candidates who favor embryonic stem-cell research.

Everyone, more or less, favors stem-cell research. Stem cells are considered very exciting avenues for research these days because of their remarkable potential to develop into different cell types in the body (muscle cell, brain cell, skin cell). Some stem cells come from adults while other stem cells come from embryos. Each type has various advantages and disadvantages.

Some people don’t think advances in science should come by destroying embryos. Others think destroying embryos is a price you have to pay for the possibility of developing cures to diseases.

Characterizing people who oppose destroying embryos as opponents of all stem-cell research is unconscionable. It’s one thing if Michael J. Fox does it in a campaign commercial. It’s another if a reporter for a publication like The Washington Post does it.

Words have meaning. Journalists, of all people, should know that.

UPDATE: GetReligion is a forum for discussing how the media treat religious issues. It is not a forum for discussing religious issues themselves. Or scientific issues. Or medical issues. Please do not comment on your personal views of embryonic stem-cell usage. Comments are open for discussion of how the media treat this issue.

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DiIulio loses faith in the Gray Lady

450px The new york times building in new york city 01It’s hard to deal with life in the faith-based-politics era without running into the work of researcher John J. DiIulio Jr., the Democrat (and Roman Catholic) who briefly headed up President Bush’s faith-based outreach to religious groups that try to help their neighbors.

DiIulio is famous for his candor and he is, to say the least, not a card-carrying member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. His departure from the Bush team was memorable and he was way ahead of the curve in warning that the White House was more interested in faith-based voting than in faith-based projects to help the poor and the suffering.

All of this is to say, it is significant that it is DiIulio’s byline on top of The Weekly Standard‘s flamethrower article, “The New York Times versus Religion — So much nonsense in a four-part series.”

The series in question, of course, is reporter Diana B. Henriques‘ sprawling “In God’s Name” package attacking some essential elements of America’s tradition of church-state separation, including several laws and court decisions hailed by religious leaders on the religious left as well as the right. The GetReligion gang has, of course, already written about this series at quite some length.

DiIulio uses the much-celebrated sermon by Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse as his overture, but that is not what his essay is really about. He is convinced that the “In God’s Name” series is evidence that the newspaper agrees with Greenhouse that American public policy has been “hijacked by religious fundamentalism.” Of the first article in the series, DiIulio writes:

A Times “computer analysis” of post-1989 federal laws turned up “more than 200 provisions granting accommodations or protections specifically to religious groups.” The ostensibly faith-favoring laws covered “topics from taxes to immigration to education.” The article’s subheading was “From Day Care Centers to Use of Land, Rules Don’t Apply to Faith Groups.”

The computer analysis turned up 22 “social services” religious exemptions, including one that the story highlighted, “the landmark ‘Charitable Choice’ provision in the Welfare Reform Act of 1996.” Apparently, however, the “analysis” did not extend to actually reading the provision, parsing cognate regulations, or carefully examining how the relevant laws have
been implemented or ignored.

Read the article for the details. But here is the heart of the matter, from DiIulio’s point of view:

For every court decision and anecdote in the story indicating how “accommodating” government has become in employment and related matters, leaders of religious educational, health care, and other faith-based organizations could rattle off contrary decisions and horror stories indicating how adversarial government has been and remains.

Times readers might be invited to imagine an America in which all of those ostensibly favored faith groups disappeared tomorrow. Who would suffer the most, and who would have to pay to replace the social services that they now provide? For instance, pick ten big cities, and ask how many low-income non-Catholics (Title I students, Medicaid-eligible patients, etc.) are served by Catholic elementary schools, high schools, colleges or universities, and hospitals? Next, try to figure out who is subsidizing or “accommodating” whom: How much would it cost to provide the same services without religiously mobilized volunteers and institutions in the mix?

nytredesignThat’s a good question, and DiIulio notes that there are mainstream researchers at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania — two institutions rarely called bastions of fundamentalist paranoia — trying to find out just how much it would cost taxpayers to replace these Catholic “civic assets.” He also mentions the amazing work done by urban African-American churches.

Meanwhile, I know, from my own experience as a reporter, that there are suburban Protestant churches on both the left and the right that do very little to minister in lower-income areas. But there are just as many that have major urban and blue-collar suburban outreach ministries that undercut the media stereotypes.

As I said, DiIulio is both a Democrat and a Catholic and, among reporters, he is known as a straight shooter. He is not a media basher.

Thus, the end of this article is rather stunning. To put it bluntly, DiIulio gets mad and wonders out loud if it really is true that many leaders in the Times newsroom are biased against religious believers, as opposed to merely failing to “get religion” on the intellectual, professional level. Perhaps their distrust of religious believers that they consider ignorant and dangerous has warped how the editors view American religion, in general. Thus, he concludes:

Despite survey evidence, case studies aplenty, and personal experiences suggesting that most elite national media outlets are home to people far less religious than most Americans, I have always resisted the conclusion that their reporting is systematically biased against religiously observant people and institutions. The Times, however, has very nearly converted me to that cynical view.

. . . Over the last two decades or so, the federal playing field has become less tilted against community-serving faith-based organizations, and more respectful of citizens’ free exercise of religious rights. Over the same period, orthodox Christians have asserted themselves in politics in ways that challenge settled ideas about church-state relations and spark deep disagreements even with faith-friendly fellow citizens like me.

The way forward on church-state issues is with honest exchanges of views, from the secular liberal left to the Christian right, conducted in a spirit of mutual civic forbearance. Sadly, the Times prefers to reinforce biases against “the faithful.”

Here at GetReligion, we have praised our share of reporters and stories at the Times, while feeling free to criticize others. We agree with editor Bill Keller that his newsroom needs more intellectual and cultural diversity. I hope that his staff read and meditated on DiIulio’s blast against this great newspaper. I know that it sure shocked me.

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The BBC’s failed multiculturalism

BBC biasThe BBC doesn’t like Christians, and there are discussions of ways to change this. As revealed by the British conservative tabloid the Daily Mail, “the BBC is dominated by trendy, Left-leaning liberals who are biased against Christianity and in favour of multiculturalism.” To most on the right, this is not shocking news.

Let’s take a step back and consider some recent developments. The New York Times‘ Linda Greenhouse has come clean on her biases. The management at the NYT stumbles around to get its story straight and now the BBC has this embarrassment on its hands. As of Tuesday, the BBC had not addressed the situation, but it will be interesting to see what its response ends up being.

Are two major media organizations a trend? No, not yet, but this is certainly something worth noting as news organizations struggle to find their place in the fast-changing media landscape. Perhaps all news organizations should be more straightforward with their inherent biases. Much of a newsroom’s bias could be easily determined by charting the political and social views of its reporters.

This brings me back to the BBC story, in which the Daily Mail appropriately focused on the staffing of the taxpayer-funded newsroom:

A leaked account of an ‘impartiality summit’ called by BBC chairman Michael Grade, is certain to lead to a new row about the BBC and its reporting on key issues, especially concerning Muslims and the war on terror.

It reveals that executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show, but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity. Further, it discloses that the BBC’s ‘diversity tsar’, wants Muslim women newsreaders to be allowed to wear veils when on air.

At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians.

One veteran BBC executive said: ‘There was widespread acknowledgement that we may have gone too far in the direction of political correctness.

bbcWhat is most interesting about this report is that a BBC executive claims a “widespread acknowledgement” that the BBC has gone too far toward political correctness. So tell us something we don’t know already, but are BBC decision-makers starting to realize this as well? Does this mean the BBC’s staff is going to move toward true diversity?

This brings me to another point. BBC Sunday morning political pundit Andrew Marr said in the story that the network has “an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias[,] not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.”

What exactly is an “abnormally large number”? Unless the BBC decides to let us know, it will be difficult to determine exactly how abnormal its staffing situation really is. But the irony of the whole situation is that while BBC executives can rant and rave about how they promote multiculturalism, they to fulfill that mission if they do not have a staff and executive team that represents the wide range of views in the social landscape.

I’m not saying that newsrooms should hire political hacks to do their information-gathering. Rather, in considering hiring decisions for reporting positions, and ultimately editing positions, BBC executives should consider diversity of belief an important part of their mission of multiculturalism.

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Clinton praying with Republicans

SenatorClintonCLXWho would have thunk it?

Sen. Hillary Clinton’s ability to be an effective member of Congress’s upper chamber is directly tied into her affiliation with a lawmakers’ prayer group sponsored by the Fellowship. It was in this group that Clinton first started turning herself into “the consummate Washington player,” as documented by Joshua Green in the cover piece of the November Atlantic.

That leaves me wondering. Does Sen. Clinton pray with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. (who let slip Sunday morning that he has had a thought or two about running for president)?

What is really going on in Hillaryland? What happened to the fire-breathing liberal who was despised by all true-blooded conservatives? Is it all going by the wayside? Green, who I should mention is an acquaintance of mine, notes this powerful story involving the prayer group, Clinton and religious right favorite and potential presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.:

The roster of regular participants has included such notable conservative names as Brownback, Santorum, Nickles, Enzi, and Inhofe. Then, in 2001, just after the new class of senators was sworn in, another name was added to the list: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

One spring Wednesday, a few months into the term, Senator Sam Brownback’s turn came to lead the group, and he rose intending to talk about a recent cancer scare. But as he stood before his colleagues Brownback spotted Clinton, and was overcome with the impulse to change the subject of his testimony. “I came here today prepared to share about this experience in my life that has caused great suffering, the result of which has deepened my faith,” Brownback said, according to someone who watched the scene unfold. “But I’m overcome now with only one thought.” He confessed to having hated Clinton and having said derogatory things about her. Through God, he now recognized his sin. Then he turned to her and asked, “Mrs. Clinton, will you forgive me?” Clinton replied that she would, and that she appreciated the apology.

“It was an extraordinary moment,” the member told me.

This repentance fostered an unlikely relationship that has yielded political bounty. Clinton and Brownback went on to cosponsor one measure protecting refugees fleeing sexual abuse, and another to study the effects on children of violent video games and television shows. “That morning helped make our working relationship,” Brownback told me recently. “It brought me close to someone I did not ever imagine I would become close to.” Since then, Clinton has teamed up on legislation with many members of the prayer group.

hillary clintonHow many other conservative evangelicals are lining up behind Brownback to ask for Sen. Clinton’s forgiveness? Do conservative Christians feel the need to ask for forgiveness? Or to turn the question around, are they ready to forgive her? No one is suggesting that conservative Christians are considering supporting her, but has the conservative rage against President Clinton’s wife waned? Can Clinton-watchers relax over the concern that righteous rage alone will block her nomination as the Democrats’ presidential candidate in 2008?

This is key. Rage against a candidate by a block of voters can kill a candidacy, no matter how fervent the candidate’s support. Many have said that Sen. Clinton is one of the best fundraisers for the GOP. But Clinton’s behavior in the Senate could change all this, and Green drills down the transformation to the prayer meetings:

Of the many realms of power on Capitol Hill, the least understood may be the lawmakers’ prayer group. The tradition of private worship in small, informal gatherings is one that stretches back for generations, as does a genuine tendency within them to transcend partisanship, though as with so much that is religiously oriented in Washington, the chief adherents are the more conservative Republicans.

Most of the prayer groups are informally affiliated with a secretive Christian organization called the Fellowship, established in the 1930s by a Methodist evangelist named Abraham Vereide, whose great hope was to preach the word of Jesus to political and business leaders throughout the world. Vereide believed that the best way to change the powerful was through discreet personal ministry, and over his lifetime he succeeded to a remarkable degree. The first Senate prayer group met over breakfast in 1943; a decade later one of its members, Senator Frank Carlson, persuaded Dwight Eisenhower to host a Presidential Prayer Breakfast, which has become a tradition.

Though it still sponsors what is now called the National Prayer Breakfast, the Fellowship scrupulously avoids publicity, as Vereide insisted it must. “If you want to help people, Jesus said, you don’t do your alms in public,” Douglas Coe, the group’s leader since the late 1960s, said in a rare interview several years ago.

clinton's crossToday, on Capitol Hill, as the old avenues of bipartisanship have gradually been blocked off by hardening ideology, the prayer groups have become cherished sanctuaries for their members — providing respite, however brief, from the cacophony of political Washington. Speaking about a group is strongly discouraged, and what transpires at meetings is strictly off the record. As a result, the groups provide an intimate setting in which members can share their faith without fear of being judged. “Once you take off the cloak of politics and look into a person’s soul, you find that you can establish a relationship that is enduring and deep and doesn’t let politics get in the way,” one longtime participant explained to me. “If you’re going to be consistent with the teachings of Jesus, it’s about forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.” Many who come, he said, are surprised to wind up forming close friendships with colleagues who in any other setting would be considered political enemies.

Green’s article is long and worthwhile. In it you will find how Sen. Clinton and her mother wooed over her onetime nemesis (Sen. Robert Byrd, D.-W.Va.) and many other exciting stories. But according to Green, it all started with her time in prayer with those conservative and avowedly Christian Republicans.

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The Post’s proven power to shake faith

bibleonsinglepageRemember that pre-Easter slate of stories attempting to debunk Christianity? There was the shocking lost “Gospel of Judas” story. The Jesus walked on an ice floe (not water) that forms once every few millennia story. The Jesus’ father was a Roman soldier named Pantera story and the Jesus didn’t die on the cross so much as pass out after being doped up story.

Somehow the foundations of Christianity remained unharmed.

But I think Alan Cooperman, religion reporter for The Washington Post, has gone and done it. I mean, from reading the first few graphs of his shocking story in Saturday’s paper, it looks like he may have broken a story that will cause all Christians to question their faith:

If 40 percent of Americans refuse to believe that humans evolved from earlier hominids, how many will accept that the book we know as the Bible evolved from earlier texts and was not handed down, in toto, by God in its present form?

The fossil evidence for human evolution is permanently on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Hard evidence that the Bible took its present shape over centuries will be on display for the next 11 weeks, from today through Jan. 7, across the Mall at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

They are rarer than dinosaur bones, these fragments of papyrus and animal skin that tell the Bible’s story. With names such as Codex Sinaiticus, the Macregol Gospels and the Valenciennes Apocalypse, they evoke lost empires and ancient monasteries as surely as archaeopteryx and ceratosaurus conjure up primeval swamps and forests.

See, if there is one thing I learned as a lifelong Christian, it is that the Bible was handed down in the New King James Version directly from God. And as a Christian, the foundations of my faith would be shaken if I were to be told that God did not hand down the books of the New Testament in English along with a printing press in the year A.D. 33 Every Christian knows that the canon was dictated by God Himself speaking directly to Jesus, right?

That’s why I love Cooperman’s opening graph so much. It resonates with me. I like how it ties together skepticism of human evolution with skepticism about canon development. I have never felt better understood by mainstream media than I do in Cooperman’s hands.


The exhibit at the Sackler Gallery sounds fantastic. My husband and I plan to go see it, in fact. But it looks like we better watch out:

These are documents with the proven power to shake faith. That’s what happened to Bart D. Ehrman, author of the 2005 bestseller “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.”

Ah, yes, Bart Ehrman. Reporters love to get Ehrman talking about how he lost his faith once he realized that the Bible was not handed down in its present form. Whether his story is cause for skepticism about the Bible or Bart Ehrman is for the reader to decide. But can’t we expand the Rolodex a bit more than this? Ehrman was quoted in all of those Christianity-in-Danger stories from Easter 2006. But if these documents have such a dramatic “proven power to shake faith” (Hide the women! Protect the children!), it’s interesting that he’s one of such a small number of people reporters talk to when this type of story rolls out on cue.

Cooperman has promised a story about documents that have the power to shake faith. What are these documents? What could they be? I can’t wait to get to the part of the story where he sheds light on what doctrinal tenets are undercut by historical research! Let’s take a look:

“If people come looking to find something new about Jesus, they won’t find it in this exhibit. That’s not what it’s saying. But it is saying that we didn’t start out with this,” [Michelle P. Brown, guest curator] said, producing a red [Gideons] Bible from her Washington hotel room and giving it a resounding thwack with the palm of her hand.

Okay, so who are these people who believe that God delivered red Gideons Bibles straight from heaven? And what happened to writing about faith-shaking documents? Oh wait, I found that part of his story. It’s in the 23rd paragraph of the 27-paragraph story. Here we go:

Ehrman noted that [the Codex Sinaiticus'] version of the Gospel of John is missing the story of the woman taken in adultery, the famous parable in which Jesus says to those who would kill the woman, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” He and many other textual scholars believe the adultery story was not introduced into John until the Middle Ages.

And . . . scene! That’s it. Other than a casual mention of a few passages that weren’t included in the final canon, this is the faith-shattering proof from the article. The millennia of critical thought, the many deliberations over what to include in the canon, heck, all the work that’s gone into just this issue since the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered 150 years ago — all brushed away.

The sad thing is that Cooperman actually wrote a rather nice review of the Sackler exhibit complete with interesting historical facts and discussions with its curator. But when he went to frame the story or give it broader context, he went for the dramatic faith-shaking angle.

In so doing, he managed to cast Christians as unwitting fools who believe the Bible was delivered in Gideons form in some ahistorical manner. Was that really necessary?

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Covering a GOP implosion

implosion2A day before the David Kuo book leaked onto the airwaves, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson said on The Chris Matthews Show that “the elites in the Republican Party have pure contempt for the evangelicals who put their party in power.” Republicans were pandering to the values vote by bringing up gay marriage, all the while holding contempt for evangelicals, Carlson said. Was this a faint rumble or was this old news to those closely covering Bush’s faith-based initiative?

Then Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction hit the airwaves and blogs and the faint rumble became something of a roar. But note it was a media roar driven by something other than a substantial shift in the issues. Yes, the details were interesting, but this story had already been told.

With three weeks to go until the Nov. 7 election, Washington Monthly contributing editor Amy Sullivan is back in her pulpit, as tmatt would say, claiming that President Bush disdains evangelicals. Has the entire building now collapsed? Here’s the crux of her argument:

The problem is that Kuo’s book creates cognitive dissonance for liberals. Conspiracy theories about theocracy have haunted liberals for the last few years, and, if you believe that religious conservatives lead Bush around by the nose, evidence to the contrary is impossible to absorb. Everyone on the left “knows” that the faith-based initiative is a slush-fund, a jackpot for religious conservatives. If it turns out instead to be a political sham that produced only 1 percent of the new funds it promised for faith-based organizations, liberals need [to] rethink their theocracy-phobia.

Since they haven’t done so yet, they’re missing a golden opportunity. Evangelicals have become increasingly disillusioned with the Bush administration and the Republican Party in general over the last two years. While 78 percent of white evangelicals voted for Bush in 2004, only 57 percent approve of the job he’s doing now, and only 52 percent say they are likely to support Republicans in the November elections.

Those numbers have not dropped because conservative evangelicals picked up Kevin Phillips’s American Theocracy and became worried that Bush was too religious. Instead, evangelical support has plummeted in large part because they, along with other religious conservatives, have begun to suspect they’ve been played by Republicans — used for their votes and then ignored.

implosionSullivan argues that Kuo’s book will not ignite the implosion that is evangelical support for Republicans. That long fuse was lit a long time ago when evangelicals realized that the Bush team was not really all that excited about enacting their agenda. No, really?

This idea that Republicans are losing their grip on the evangelical conservative vote is nothing new. That relationship has been showing cracks for a long time. But it’s only now, three weeks before the election, that the big heavy media machine is getting behind the story as the party faces losing control of at least part of one of the branches of government. The New York Times‘ David Kirkpatrick writes that things are getting nasty and “unusually personal” at an “unusually early” time.

The best part of Kirkpatrick’s article is the back-and-forth with former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. Check it out:

In recent weeks, Mr. Armey has stepped up a public campaign against the influence of Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and an influential voice among evangelical protestants. In an interview published last month in “The Elephant in the Room,” a book by Ryan Sager about splits among conservatives, Mr. Armey accused Congressional Republicans of “blatant pandering to James Dobson” and “his gang of thugs,” whom Mr. Armey called “real nasty bullies” — arguments he reprised on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and in an open letter on the Web site organization FreedomWorks.

In an interview this week, Mr. Armey said catering to Dr. Dobson and his allies had led the party to abandon budget-cutting. And he said Christian conservatives could cost Republicans seats around the country, especially in Ohio.

“The Republicans are talking about things like gay marriage and so forth, and the Democrats are talking about the things people care about, like how do I pay my bills?” he said.

… Mr. Armey, who identifies himself as an evangelical, said he was tired of Christian conservative leaders threatening that their supporters would stay away from the ballot box unless they got what they wanted.

… In a statement on Thursday, Dr. Dobson said Mr. Armey was “still ticked” over a long-ago House leadership race in which Dr. Dobson endorsed someone else, and he restated his warnings to Republicans that social conservative voters “would abandon them if they forgot the promises they had made.”

Other splits in the GOP abound. There is the whole Iraq-war on terrorism issue, former Rep. Mark Foley’s instant messages and the GOP leadership’s failure to stop him and of course the deficit. But nowhere is the noise louder of the implosion than from the religious corner of the debate, where Dobson is accused of having gangs of thugs at his disposal.

But have evangelicals really abandoned the GOP? Or is this more of a struggle for the soul of the party? And when evangelical leaders say that Kuo’s revelations are not that much of a surprise, I believe them, and reporters should take particular note that the alleged Christianism agenda of the GOP has more than a few holes in it. For reference, follow this train of headlines and decks in World, which is edited by Marvin Olasky, former Bush political adviser and author of The Tragedy of American Compassion:

world mag cover“Beneath the radar: As the press focuses elsewhere, President Bush’s faith-based initiative is quietly gaining momentum” (Oct. 11, 2003)

“A lasting legacy? President touts a signature issue, but without legislation, its future may rise or fall based upon the occupant of the Oval Office” (June 12, 2004)

“Bureaucracy plus plastic chairs? A window of opportunity is open now, but maybe not for long” (Jan. 29, 2005)

“Stamped Out: Ten years ago Governor George W. Bush jump-started his faith-based initiative by standing up to Texas bureaucrats over licenses for Teen Challenge. Now Bush administrators in Washington are hassling Teen Challenge groups around the country. The reason? Licensing.” (Aug. 27, 2005)

“Stamp of approval: Bush administration reverses policy for faith-based rehab” (Sept. 10, 2005)

The Bush team abandoned the faith-based initiative a long time ago, but the mainstream media failed to write that story. Now they play catch-up.

While the party’s overall support may be imploding — and it may very well face minority status come January due to low evangelical voter turnout — Dobson and company still believe that he can still hold the party accountable for its promises. Armey and company are calling for a divorce, but are the evangelicals? Perhaps that’s the story reporters should be focusing on.

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American Anglicanism in a Nutshell 1.0

national cathedral pictureAttention all religion reporters, copy-desk chiefs or interested laypeople who are having trouble keeping up with all of the moves on the chessboard of Anglicanism in America.

Can’t tell The Episcopal Church from the Anglican Mission in America? Can’t tell the Anglican Mission in America from the Anglican Communion Network?

Do the words Reformed Episcopal Church — as opposed to the Unreformed Episcopal Church — confuse you?

That parish down the block where the people with Anglican collars and vestments are doing healing rites and speaking in angelic tongues, is that a Charismatic Episcopal Church or is it a charismatic parish in The Episcopal Church?

Why do some people think that the organization Forward In Faith wants to take The Episcopal Church backward?

Well, you are in luck. It seems that one Dr. William J. Tighe of the history faculty at Muhlenberg College at Allentown, Pa., has written a kind of game program for the North American Anglican world series. Who is this man, so that you can judge his loyalties? He is clearly on the orthodox side of the wars, but not a member of an official Episcopal team.

In a way, he is worse (from the viewpoint of progressives). Tighe is a contributing editor of the ecumenical, but traditionalist, journal Touchstone. His bio blurb there notes that he is “faculty advisor to the Catholic Campus Ministry” and a member of “St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church” in Bethlehem, Pa. In other words, he is an Eastern Rite Christian loyal to Rome. The Episcopal Church is not getting along with traditional forms of Roman Catholicism, at the moment.

Still, there are oodles of interesting details in his short, punchy descriptions of the origins and structures of the various groups in North America that can, to one degree or another, be called “Episcopal” or “Anglican.” You will find it posted here at the Pontifications blog run by Al Kimel, a former Episcopal priest who is about to be ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood.

“American Anglicanism in a Nutshell” is worth checking out.

Still, events keep moving in the chess game to control the keys to the doors of National Cathedral (pictured) — so the list needs to be updated. There is, for example, the new Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America (CANA), which is already making major headlines here.

And what about the left? Since the left controls the actual mechanisms of The Episcopal Church here in the United States, it really does not have formal splinter churches or alternative movements. However, there are rumors that if Canterbury were to push the left out of power, a new rebel alliance could form on the left. And what if Rome really attempts to roll out an Anglican Rite Church in England?

In other words, print out Tighe’s work or stash it in a digital file somewhere. Consider this “American Anglicanism in a Nutshell 1.0.”

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