News flash! Brown on Brown, again

0767926021 01  SCLZZZZZZZ V54155182 There he goes again.

As I stressed in my recent “Who is Dan Brown?” piece for the Da Vinci Dialogue site, the author of Da Book that is being turned into Da Movie isn’t terribly fond of facing tough questions about his work or his beliefs.

Thus, I bring you this news flash: Dan Brown has interviewed himself again and Dan Brown, the novelist, thinks that the upcoming movie of Dan Brown’s book is just great.

It was a really nice touch that Brown allowed this new content about himself — it’s a short clip from the foreword of the published movie script — in one of the only places in public media that people online will not be able to link to it and discuss it. That would be USA Weekend, which noted at its website:

The exclusive cover story written by Dan Brown on The Da Vinci Code movie is available only in our print edition. See USA WEEKEND in your local newspaper.

You’ll be shocked to learn that Brown offers no insights into the truth claims vs. fiction issue and he does not even bother to address his critics directly. Here is one of the only interesting quotations:

“Novels change as they adapt to the screen. They simply must.

“Now, before you read this as an author’s disclaimer for any differences between the book and the movie, let me assure you that it’s all there — the Louvre, Saint-Sulpice, Chateau Villette, Westminster Abbey, Rosslyn Chapel, the codes, the sacred feminine, and the quiet invitation to think about faith, religion and history with a fresh, open-minded perspective.”

Take that, historians! This means that all of his fact-based critics are the opposite of fresh and open-minded. But we already knew that, of course.

It is also interesting that at the end of the article he comes very close to confirming the rumors of his wife, Blythe, being the coauthor of the book. Then again, maybe he is just being loose with his metaphors. It’s hard to tell fact from fiction with this guy. Brown writes:

“My wife and I live our lives by a simple mantra — to make wonderful memories every day. For us, few memories will ever be as vivid as the night we spent exploring the darkened Louvre by flashlight … and seeing a frightened curator flee through the Grand Gallery with a pale monk in pursuit.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times has put into print a hint of the buzz on the left coast, where some people are wondering why the studio isn’t letting critics take an early look at the movie. Of course, it is perfectly logical for Sony executives to assume they do not need to use traditional PR for this product. Nevertheless, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman has heard some of the whispers.

The film’s distributor, Sony, has been doing its best to keep the film shrouded in mystery, forgoing the usual media run-up in favor of an unveiling at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday. It’s a tactic usually employed by studios to try to hide stinkers. But Goldsman says it was a strategy decided upon before the film was even edited, “which was to try to diminish the ability of people to indicate pre-release what was different from the book. Part of what is intriguing is the ability to go and experience that yourself.”

Not incidentally, however, the strategy also undercuts critics and protesters who are forced to resort to debating the merits of the book — not the film.

Early reports do indicate that the movie contains actual flashbacks to offer its own twist on biblical events, which means that many of the book’s long conspiracy-theory speeches will now be offered as clips from a kind of post-Passion, neo-gnostic, goddess-friendly bathrobe epic.

Traditional Christians and historians are going to love that. And their complaints will be music to the ears of the millions of loyal fans of the novel and, almost certainly, the movie. As one Brown supporter wrote me this morning, in an email from Memphis:

liberating jesus from the likes of falwell, roberson, bush, graham the younger, van impe, hagee and the rest of the ahistoricalevangelicaldumbdamentalists seems to me to be a fine mission and ministry … likewise for the seriously constipated roman catholics who believe they, too HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS and the ONLY ANSWERS!! those whose “faith” is “threatened” by this book — or any serious theological thinking and reflecton — probably deserve having that “faith” “threatened” … big time!! time to grow up into the big world of adulthood, kiddies!!!!

P.S. Our friends over at Beliefnet have a pretty interesting series of video features up right now on you know what, featuring Father Robin Griffith-Jones of the Temple Church in London. They are not journalism, per se, but they do give you an idea of what critics — even left-of-center mainline critics — are saying about the book.

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The divine Miss Winfrey?

oprah bless youDid you hear that Oprah Winfrey is the reincarnation of God? Well, at least according to USA Today. Reporter Ann Oldenburg did just about everything but say Oprah was the sister of Jesus Christ in a 2,000-plus-word profile in Thursday’s edition.

Oldenburg lines up a bunch of big names to say how awesomely insightful Oprah is on people’s spiritual lives, quotes people predicting that Oprah will be there to greet them in heaven and even includes a Beliefnet poll finding that 33 percent of respondents think Oprah has more impact on their spiritual lives than their pastor. Not missing a beat, the Oldenburg quotes fan Claire Zulkey saying that if Oprah existed 1,200 years ago, we’d look back at her as a deity.

This idea of the “Church of Oprah” is not new. Mollie wrote about it back in January as the James Frey scandal was busting open. God can do no wrong, and apparently neither can Oprah, as we saw her receiving praise for what easily could be argued was a tremendous blunder on her part in promoting Frey’s book.

Oprah has been denying her status as a deity since 1989, but at the same time, she was describing her show as her “ministry,” according to the article. Apparently it wasn’t Oprah’s best interview, and she refused to do interviews for the USA Today piece:

Love her or loathe her, Winfrey has become proof that you can’t be too rich, too thin or too committed to rising to your place in the world. With 49 million viewers each week in the USA and more in the 122 other countries to which the show is distributed, Winfrey reaches more people in a TV day than most preachers can hope to reach in a lifetime of sermons.

“One of the things that’s key,” says Marcia Nelson, author of The Gospel According to Oprah, “is she walks her talk. That’s really, really important in today’s culture. People who don’t walk their talk fall from a great pedestal — scandals in the Catholic Church, televangelism scandals. If you’re not doing what you say you do, woe be unto you.”

In Ellen DeGeneres’ stand-up comedy act several years ago, she included a joke about getting to heaven and finding that God is a black woman named Oprah.

TDoprah2I don’t give a hoot about what Oprah does. But some people do and while many like her, others despise her for her influence and power. Oldenburg introduces Oprah’s critics and quickly dismisses them, turning the article into a puff piece that furthers Oprah’s deity-like image:

[Reed College professor Kathryn] Lofton points out that any discussion of Winfrey should not be one that criticizes her or how she came to be a spiritual icon for the history books but one that examines how it came to be that way. “Why do we all need her so much? What is wrong with us that we so need this little woman in Chicago?”

Jim Twitchell, a professor at the University of Florida who has written several books about branding and describes himself as a cultural anthropologist, says Oprah reverence makes sense.

“Religion essentially is based on high anxiety of what’s going to happen to you.” Winfrey pushes the idea “that you have a life out there, and it’s better than the one you have now and go get it.”

For several years, tmatt has been using the term “OprahAmerica.” That would be the 60 to 70 percent of Americans who you could place “in the mushy middle” of any given social issue. Considering that the vast majority of the Americans who watch her show probably fall into that category, it is not surprising that they view her as a godlike figure in their lives. Who else would they turn to?

I found it interesting that while the article is set upon placing Oprah in the pulpit of American homes, Oldenburg had the space for only one pastor, who merely explains how he came to understand the concept of the Church of Oprah. There’s nothing about how it feels to be replaced by a talk-show host.

This all relates back to Mollie’s post on NBA star LeBron James (she provided the title for this post, by the way). LeBron has a similar image, just a different audience.

In writing about King James’ deity (more on the religious implication of the title “King” later), Mollie found this Washington Post article by Mike Wise to be a great example of how a reporter went into a church to understand the intersection of sports and religion. Too bad Oldenburg couldn’t do the same in helping us understand the collision of afternoon television entertainment and religion. It might have helped balance the article a bit.

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Why does Time see religion as irrelevant?

time 100 coverMany of you know World as a publication that strives to compete with other newsweeklies, but with an avowed evangelical Christian slant.

As a longtime reader of the publication, I appreciate it most for covering items that did not show up in The Washington Post and The New York Times the previous week, as both Time and Newsweek are known for doing so lamely.

So it’s not surprising that World founder Joel Belz over at the WorldViews blog pointed out that Time, in its list of “100 men and women” who are transforming the world through their “power, talent, or moral example,” sadly failed to include more than three people who could be considered religious figures.

While I cannot say here how disgusting I find the magazine’s hero-worshiping style and selection — Will Smith is on the list? Power? No. Talent? Definitely not. Moral example? Let’s hope not. — I do respect such efforts to catalogue the influential and powerful. It’s relatively interesting, good for conversations (and blog posts) and probably good for the magazine’s bottom line. But as Belz notes, the lack of religious leaders in the list is truly disturbing, especially since being a “moral example” is one of the qualifications:

Indeed, TIME lists 27 “artists and entertainers,” 16 “scientists and thinkers,” 22 “leaders and revolutionaries,” 21 “heroes and pioneers,” and 23 “builders and titans.” (The fact that this actually adds up to 109 people may be because TIME saw no mathematicians among the world’s most influential people). The three who might fall into the “religious” category are Muqtada al-Sadr of Iraq, Pope Benedict, and Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. Is organized religion really that miniscule in its worldwide influence these days — or is that just the secularist perspective of the editors at TIME?

I would like to think that the lack of religious leaders on the list is not due to “the secularist perspective” of the editors. Smart secularists should be able to recognize the importance of religion in the world. The magazine clearly understood it in putting together its list of the 25 most influential evangelicals in February 2005. I would also, obviously, disagree with the position that organized religion is “miniscule in its worldwide influence,” but an argument could be made that it is difficult to nail down 15 to 20 truly significant international leaders.

Who then should be on the list? Based on the inclusion of Tyra Banks, Stephen Colbert and Steve Nash (who was owned by NBA MVP rival Kobe Bryant on Sunday), one would think just about anybody can get on that list. So why did the editors omit the Dalai Lama, Rick Warren, Osama bin Laden and Tom Cruise (in jest, for his Scientology crusade)? Who would you add to the list?

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Evangelicals prefer Clinton over a Mormon?

romney in massThe “Mitt Romney cannot win the Republican nomination because he believes in weird things” chorus is singing again. The major theme this time around, as explained in this this excellent blogpost by Ross Douthat, is whether it is constitutional for voters to apply a religious test to candidates for public office.

Romney’s presidential run has picked up some serious steam, thanks to his universal health-care initiative in Massachusetts. National Journal considers Romney one of the big three contenders for the GOP nomination behind Sens. John McCain of Arizona and George Allen of Virginia.

Putting his super-secret sources to work, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak wrote Thursday that “Romney is well aware that an unconstitutional religious test is being applied to him.”

There is nothing new to this argument, as The Washington Monthly‘s Amy Sullivan points out. It was Sullivan who wrote in September 2005 that Romney’s Mormon beliefs will be a problem in a 2008 presidential run. Nevertheless, Novak has the super-secret sources and his article will be a watermark in Romney’s presidential run:

Mitt Romney, in his last nine months as governor of Massachusetts, was in Washington Tuesday to address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in an early stage of his 2008 presidential campaign. To a growing number of Republican activists, he looks like the party’s best bet. But any conversation among Republicans about Romney invariably touches on concerns of whether his Mormon faith disqualifies him for the presidency.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits a religious test for public office, but that is precisely what is being posed now. Prominent, respectable Evangelical Christians have told me, not for quotation, that millions of their co-religionists cannot and will not vote for Romney for president solely because he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If Romney is nominated and their abstention results in the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton, that’s just too bad. The evangelicals are adamant, saying there is no way Romney can win them over.

Evangelicals, whoever these strange folks are, prefer a President Clinton II to a President Romney? You have to be kidding me.

The biggest problem I had with Novak’s article is the assumption that evangelical voters — those who are orthodox in their politics — actually have that level of influence in the Republican Party. The influence of these voters is minimal and must be separated from the millions of churchgoers who readily voted for Ronald Reagan despite his wife’s use of a personal astrologer to help determine his schedule.

romney buttonAn angle that needs to be covered in these pieces of political speculation is that Mormon politicians have historically been very friendly to evangelicals’ ministries and issues. A Washington, D.C., pastor I spoke to last night said that the politician who is most helpful to his ministry is Mormon.

A note to political writers: Romney’s religious beliefs matter. They matter because Romney himself knows they matter. Will conservative evangelical voters and their leaders really not vote for Romney in a general election because he is Mormon? Sounds like a good story for local papers to do during the GOP primary.

Adam Reilly over at Slate wrote a nice piece of political commentary a day before Novak’s piece ran that provides the Romney campaign with some nice suggestions for overcoming what has now become the “Mormon problem.”

In recent months, for example, he’s done a nice job convincing pundits and the public that religious voters care more about core values than theological minutiae. During a February trip to South Carolina, a key primary state, Romney was asked how his faith would go over with Southern evangelicals. “Most people in South Carolina want a person of faith as their leader,” he replied. “But they don’t care what brand of faith that is … I believe Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe in God. I’m a person of faith and I believe that’s the type of person Americans want.” Romney’s contention that the “brand of faith” doesn’t matter is debatable — but if he keeps saying it, and enough people take up the mantra on his behalf, some skeptics might change their minds. Romney’s hard sell is already working with the press: In a recent column on Romney’s ’08 prospects, Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter asserted that “[M]ost just want a believer, regardless of faith” — a line that could have been penned by the governor himself. …

RomneyStandardWhat’s more, there’s a desperate quality to Romney’s eagerness for approval from non-Mormon religious notables. In March, Romney traveled to Rome for Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley’s elevation to cardinal. It was a nice photo-op for the governor, who’s sure to tout this trip — and his cooperation with O’Malley in fights against gay marriage and stem-cell research in Massachusetts — while courting the Catholic vote nationwide. But Romney overreacted, embarrassing himself with breathless commentary about what a big deal his Vatican junket was. “This is extraordinary, and particularly for someone of my faith,” Romney gushed at a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in New Hampshire prior to his trip. “I don’t know that there’s ever been a Mormon guy that’s been to the Vatican for a [M]ass held by the Pope, so it’s a personal honor.” Thanks for the reminder that Mormons are religious pariahs, governor. Worse, a Romney spokesperson told the Boston Globe that A) Romney and O’Malley were friends; and B) the archbishop had invited the governor to make the trip. Romney just looked foolish when O’Malley told the Globe he hadn’t invited Romney and didn’t really know him all that well. (An O’Malley spokesman eventually explained that Romney had received an invitation “similar to that extended to the general public.”)

In between Romney’s lectures that HBO’s Big Love does not represent Mormonism, political reporters are going to have to dig into the true beliefs of this faith. As we have written at GetReligion, those beliefs are hardly monolithic.

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A Bloomian critique of Harold Bloom

JesusAndYahwehFranklin Foer became the editor of The New Republic in March, and this already seems to be good news for people who seek lively and opinionated coverage of religion. Only a few weeks after publishing a lengthy cover-story attack on Richard John Neuhaus, it has now published a lengthy cover-story attack on Harold Bloom.

Like the article on Neuhaus, the essay on Bloom feels too ad hominem. James Wood, a New Republic senior editor, describes Bloom as “addicted to continuous [book] publication,” which means “Bloom must fatten his thesis” in his latest book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.

Still, Wood offers much legitimate criticism of how Bloom mixes his literary criticism of the New Testament with his quirky theological tastes as a Gnostic Jew:

Since he has no interest in the tradition of Jewish or Christian theology, he never quotes from it. Since he disdains much of the New Testament, he would rather confess his bewilderment than examine its sources. He gestures constantly toward the majesty and vividness of J’s portrait of Yahweh, but he rarely quotes from it, referring us instead to The Book of J. His chapter on Paul, who is supposedly Bloom’s arch-antagonist, runs barely to two thousand words, and maunders amid idle speculation …

What a strange parochialism, that imagines everywhere only a literary mode of being! (And what strange literary taste, that gets itself so much more excited by the Book of Mormon than the New Testament.) Why is Bloom so sure that the “warfare” between the two books is aesthetic and not theological? … Does Bloom really think that Paul and John sat down to write thinking to themselves, “Well, it is time to take on that immense literary rival, the Yahwist”? The curious effect of Bloom’s theological blindness is that his book reduces theology to aesthetics and simultaneously inflates aesthetics to theology: there is no greater religion here than the religion of art, and in the warfare of the religion of art Yahweh is just “greater.”

Wood mentions in passing that he grew up in an evangelical home, where he was “tortured … with a song whose vilely mnemonic refrain was ‘Your way, not my way, Yahweh.’” The wording does indeed sound agonizing.

Might any GetReligion reader point us toward the melody?

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Salman Rushdie says, “Get religion”

usa trenholm 01Salman Rushdie is not, of course, a conventionally religious man. During the recent Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing he went out of his way to call himself a “dreadful old atheist.”

Nevertheless, Rusdhie — with very good reason — seems to “get religion.” You might even say that influential Muslims still want him to “get religion” in such a way that he has an opportunity to discuss the concept of blasphemy with the Almighty face to face, sooner rather than later.

Listening to a press copy of his Calvin address, I was, however, struck by his emphasis on the powerful role that religion plays in the life of real people living in the real world, even if they are living according to beliefs that Rushdie does not share. Much of his discussion was of India, his homeland. However, he also makes it clear that he is also talking about modern America (in the age of Bush, in particular) and the vast majority of the world’s nations and cultures (taking a lovely little shot at the low-grade mush of The Da Vinci Code, along the way).

In this address, Rushdie was discussing the work of novelists.

However, I thought his words might also sound as a sobering warning to journalists. Thus, here is a large chunk of the Scripps Howard column I filed this morning.

Please consider this material a kind of “thoughts for the day” offering:

As a writer, Rushdie said that he has always insisted on treating religion as a “normal part of life.” Thus, his goal was “not to give it special treatment, not to hedge it around with the language of taboo and respect because that has always seemed, to me, to be anti-intellectual.”

However, skeptics have their own way of avoiding the truth when dealing with intensely religious cultures, he said. Even writers who are unbelievers must realize that almost everyone in a land like India believes in one god or another and views life through the lens of that faith. Skeptical writers who refuse to accept this reality are practicing another form of intellectually dishonesty.

Rushdie does not, of course, believe writers should surrender their right to deal with religion in an irreverent or critical manner. However, he stressed that skeptics must be willing to doubt their own doubts and remain open to the possibility that the believers may, in some mysterious way, be right.

After all, he said, the real world is not completely realistic. Ordinary people believe in miracles and their beliefs are considered normal. Even in modern America, real life contains moments that are utterly surreal.

“So the sense that the miraculous and the mundane, that the supernatural and the everyday, coexist in a completely natural way, is everywhere,” he said. “The idea that, somehow, these are separate categories of thing is quite alien. So if you are going to write about that world, you have to take cognizance of that fact. You have to recognize that this is how people think.”

In other words, even devout skeptics need to “get religion” if they want to write about reality in this day and age. Do you think we should we ask him for a quote for our blog’s masthead?

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Can I get a witness?

JamesDid you all catch Frank DeFord’s rather pretentious defense of sportswriting in the Washington Post Book World Sunday? I love Frank DeFord and listen to him all the time on NPR and watch him on (the best sports show out there) HBO’s RealSports with Bryant Gumbel. I also love sportswriting. I’ll never forget the transformative experience that was reading Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes while on a transcontinental flight.

But not only did DeFord violate my rule against more than one French word in a paragraph, he told too many too-perfect stories. He acts like sportswriting is some derided ghetto when most folks think that the sports pages have the liveliest writing in newspapers across the land. Case in point is the Washington Post‘s Mike Wise and his excellent analysis of Nike’s new ad campaign that uses religious ideas to sell shoes:

At the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church on Quincy Avenue, on the fringes of East Cleveland, the guest minister’s voice rose with fervor on Sunday morning.

“We worship at the cathedral of entertainment,” warned Peter Matthews, “where athletes and rock stars are high priests and high priestesses.”

The pastor looked prescient if you drove 15 minutes toward downtown. An entire building’s facade is dedicated to a black-and-white mural of LeBron James. The basketball is held aloft like a torch pointed toward the heavens.

“We Are All Witnesses,” reads the most visible symbol of Nike’s ad campaign for James, Cleveland’s 21-year-old wunderkind, the NBA’s best young player since Magic Johnson.

The intersection of sports and religion is an area not mined enough. Last year Thomas Herrion, the offensive guard for the 49ers, collapsed and died after a preseason game. His casket was draped not in a baptismal pall but in a blanket with his team logo. And not that it ended well, but I found it interesting that stranded New Orleans residents were told to find sanctuary in the Superdome. Dell deChant, a professor of religion at the University of South Florida, has written a bit about the religious role sports play in our culture. Wise provides examples of the intersections:

Sports Illustrated christened James “the Chosen One” when he was 16 years old, which explains the large tattoo on his back. He also goes by “the Golden Child,” and “King James.”

The unabridged version, of course.

LeBron is not coached as much he is “shepherded” by Mike Brown. LeBron also did not lead the Cavs to the playoffs for the first time in eight years. No, he took them to the promised land.

The Cavs team store is not yet selling nativity scenes with Bron-Bron in a manger, but it’s only April.

Nice. The piece is enjoyable and thoughtful. And largely because of Wise’s original reporting — in a church no less! I wish more non-Godbeat reporters would see the value in considering the religious stories in their areas of coverage.

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Hume gets God; Howie sort of gets Hume

Brit hume fncBecause I am one of those people — cultural conservatives who go to church all the time — many of my friends in academia and journalism assume that I watch Fox News.

Actually, I don’t like Fox News at all, for many of the same reasons that I don’t like other television news shows in prime time. I am not, as a rule, interested in celebrities, spectacular murder cases, tiny political soundbites and 90-second reports on complex medical issues. I also prefer to get my entertainment news from a wide variety of print sources. I like information.

So I don’t watch Fox News, but I do watch Brit Hume and his Special Report quite a bit, especially the first 40 minutes or so in which he basically covers hard news with that dry style that somehow lets you know that he knows more than he is letting on. It’s a news show, not a star vehicle. I am vaguely aware of his political views, but, frankly, not to the same degree as I am when I am watching most TV news stars. Once he was a liberal, now he’s a conservative, and he’s still a journalist.

I bring this up because the official voice of the Washington media establishment — Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post — did a profile of Hume the other day (there’s an obvious topic that should have been done a long, long time ago, don’t you think?) and discovered that there is a major God role in the anchorman’s story. Read the piece and you will see that this element of the story — a family tragedy and a rebirth of faith — is the turning point.

But Kurtz is not sure what do to with it. It seems to get in the way of his political analysis. Check this out:

Hume, like his network, has clearly become a lightning rod in a polarized media environment. Hume is almost evangelical in his belief that he is fair and balanced while most of the media are not, an argument challenged by several studies showing that his program leans to the right.

Hume is no partisan brawler in the mold of some of Fox’s high-decibel hosts. By virtue of his investigative background, his understated style and his management role, he represents a hybrid strain: conservatives who believe in news, not bloviation, but news that passes through a different lens, filtered through a different set of assumptions.

Note the presence of that interesting word “evangelical” floating around in there. Yes, I know the meaning of that word in that context. But Kurtz always has a way of letting you see what he is thinking. The story goes on to show that Hume is actually very centrist in his news work and quite respected. I think what Howie is trying to say is that Hume believes his work is, in large part, more centrist than the left-leaning mainstream in TV news.

But the heart of the story is linked to the 1998 death of Hume’s 28-year-old son, Sandy, a journalist with The Hill newspaper, Fox and other outlets. Here is that section of Kurtz’s report:

On Feb. 22, Sandy Hume killed himself with a hunting rifle in his Arlington apartment. He had been arrested the night before for driving under the influence, had tried to hang himself in a D.C. jail cell and was released after being evaluated in a psychiatric hospital.

“It’s a moment of truth when you realize what you believe,” Hume says. “I realized I believed in God.” He had been “a fallen Christian,” Hume says, but “it was such a devastating loss I was thinking, ‘How in the world am I going to get through this?’ I had this odd thought that I would get a phone call: ‘Brit, this is God.’ I had this idea that somehow I was going to be okay and God was going to rescue me.”

03 1123 JPGClearly, this is a key part of the story and Kurtz either has to go deeper or simply mention it and then back off. There is a chance, of course, that Hume did not want to discuss this in depth and I think everyone can respect that choice.

Still, as a religion reporter, I was left wanting to know one or two facts that may not have been too private. Kurtz hints at something with the “evangelical” reference and then, later, makes a reference to a specific tradition in Roman Catholicism — Mass cards.

Was Hume racked with parental guilt? “It was a great help to me that I’d had a very good relationship with (his son). I didn’t have to live with a lot of regrets about how we’d gotten along.”

Within six weeks, he had received 973 Mass cards. “I cannot tell you how buoyed I felt,” Hume says. “I thought, this is the face of God. I just got on with my life.” Hume now struggles “with trying to make Washington political journalism consistent with an effort to lead a Christian life.”

Now there is an interesting story, one that could lead in all kinds of different directions.

As an Orthodox Christian who has worked and taught in Washington — to one degree or another — for more than a decade, I know that there are many Christian believers who are committed to journalism careers in this town (no matter what some on the Religious Right think). I also know that some are liberal and some are conservative. I also know that many are, with good reason, hesitant to talk about their faith because they worry that others will say this is a handicap in mainstream journalism.

It is hard to dig into a man’s faith. I know that.

Still, I wonder if we could have learned a few basic facts. Is Hume an evangelical or a Catholic? Is a strong faith community a part of his strategy for staying sane in Washington journalism? Is Kurtz hinting that faith is that “different lens” through which Hume views the news? Would it be possible — without “outing” anyone — to know who some of the other believers are (other than Fred Barnes, obviously) who share his commitment to faith, family and to the craft of the news?

There is a story in there.

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