God and Allah at an Easter service shooting

A church in Ashtabula, Ohio, was the scene of a shooting on Easter Sunday. Just as services had ended, a man arrived and shot his father in the head, killing him. A reporter sent us a link to an earlier version of an Associated Press story that ran in the Houston Chronicle with a headline that read:

Witness: Man yelled about God after church killing

That’s the headline that remains over this Columbus Dispatch version of the AP report. The reporter thought that interesting in so far as the assailant had reportedly talked about “Allah.” The witness actually said — in later stories at least — that the assailant had talked about Allah and God.

Allah is Arabic for God and none of the involved were Arab speakers, near as I can tell, so there was something interesting about the assailant’s choice of wording. Various other interested parties have suggested or denied drugs or mental health may have been contributing factors to this shooting.

All of which is to say, I found the various headlines interesting. Let’s look through them.

The updated AP story in the Houston Chronicle is now headlined “Relative: No motive in Easter shooting in Ohio.” I can imagine more interesting headlines.

(Ashtabula) Star Beacon: Suspect says shooting ‘will of Allah’

A later Star Beacon story:  Man gunned down after church service: Son arrested, says it was ‘will of Allah’

Local CBS: Police: Son Fatally Shoots Dad During Easter Service, Yells Killing Was ‘Will Of Allah’

National CBS: Ohio Church Shooting: Reshad Riddle, Ohio man, shot father to death in church after Easter service, police say

Vindy.com: Horrified church congregation watches son kill father after Easter service in Ashtabula

The Huffington Post:  Reshad Riddle Yelled About God And Allah After Allegedly Shooting Father In Ohio Church On Easter

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Minister recounts Easter Sunday shooting outside his Ashtabula church; one dead

I did find it odd that the last article doesn’t even mention “Allah” or “God,” but was written by the religion reporter who really struggles with writing fairly, objectively or with any nuance (here, here, here).

My own thinking is that the headlines that say “God” but avoid “Allah” are weird. But I prefer the headlines that focus on “father” “shot” “Easter service” — as those seem to be the key details. The rest can be fleshed out in the body of the story.

But what do you think?

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Render unto Google the things which are Google’s …

First of all, let me state right up front that it is hard to do a news critique of a graphic device. I concede that point.

At the same time, I also know that Google is not, in and of itself, a news source.

Google is, of course, much more than a news source.

Google is one of the most powerful forces shaping culture and information in this digital age in which we live, read and think.

Google is a portal, a door and a gateway. If the editors at Google decide to shape our world, our reality, into some new form then dang it, it will be shaped into that new form. If the principalities and powers at Google decide that certain forms of information are more worthy, more valuable, more acceptable than others, then that perception will become search-engine reality. It’s kind of like that showdown between Apple’s iTunes overlords and the circle of religious conservatives that produced the Manhattan Declaration.

Anyway, the Google overlords have a tradition of doing cute little graphic frameworks for the word “Google” on major days of interest in the culture, such as “The Holidays,” St. Patrick’s Day, the Super Bowl, Earth Day, the 4th of July, Halloween, etc. They also enjoy doing occasional salutes to major historic figures, often on their birthdays.

Which, of course, brings us to today — which is the most important day of the year in the Western version of the Christian calendar.

In other words, today is Easter for most of the world’s Christians. Those of us who are Orthodox Christians, and follow the older Julian calendar, will celebrate Pascha (Easter) on May 5th.

So what did the Google folks do today? Well, on one level, they decided to mark the 86th birthday of union leader Cesar Chavez. In my opinion, they ended up profoundly insulting this famous Catholic.

Thus, I would like to associate myself with this morning’s post on the topic by Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher, which states in part:

Nothing against Chavez, but what the heck? Chavez, who was a devout Catholic, probably would have been bewildered as well.

Google could have ignored Easter, and nobody would have noticed. But choosing to observe something other than Easter on Easter Sunday is deliberate.

It’s a small thing, of course, but this kind of thing, accumulated, signals an intentional de-Christianization of our culture, and the creation of an intentional hostility to Christianity that will eventually cease to be latent, or minor. It cannot have been an accident that Google decided to honor a relatively obscure cultural figure instead of observing the most important Christian holiday, a day of enormous importance to an overwhelming number of people in the United States, and to an enormous number of people around the world.

The only part of that statement that I would word differently is that I would say America is evolving from from a predominantly Protestant culture that, imperfectly, attempted to avoid state endorsement of any particular religion into a culture that is increasingly hostile to traditional forms of religion — while openly endorsing modernized forms of faith that our national elites find acceptable. I think it’s simplistic and inaccurate to call America’s emerging civil religion “secular,” since it officially favors some forms of religion and rejects others.

Then again, what was that whole “stomp on Jesus” incident down in South Florida all about?

With an indirect nod to a Rob Stroud post at the Mere Inkling weblog, Dreher ends up quoting a haunting piece of the famous C.S. Lewis novel, “That Hideous Strength,” that looks forward to life in an England that is blending science and the occult, while, yes, stomping on Christianity:

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Whoa! Questions about marriage and religious liberty!

YouTube Preview ImageYesterday some of us got a bit academic (and some of us practiced calling people bigots) as we discussed media coverage of the efforts to change marriage from an institution built on sexual complementarity to an institution built on sexual orientation.

Believing — by science, religion or otherwise — that all humans are made male and female and that the regeneration of humans requires the joining together of male and female is — as we all know — grounds for being openly derided, called names and generally marginalized. If you think the foundational unit of society is defined in terms of this reality, you’re basically the Ku Klux Klan. You might protest that you have reason, logic, science, tradition, or any number of things to appeal to. But we all know you’re really a bigot.

Mostly the media and other cultural elites know this. And they’re not afraid to point out that believing marriage is an institution based on sexual orientation like they do — as opposed to sexual complementarity — makes you a good person who believes in civil rights and other things on the side of angels. Not like those bad folks whose arguments can be dismissed without even so much as looking them over (do you give bigots the time of day? No you do not! Ignore them already!). Journalists at CNN and the Washington Post and the New York Times and NPR have all agreed — or at least pondered the approach as legitimate — these monsters don’t deserve fair treatment, inclusion in stories, or airing for their warnings.

Error has no rights, you know.

The genders are 100 percent interchangeable and we will make sure you agree! Are we getting tired of this media treatment yet?

Anyway, bucking the groupthink is a real, live journalist who should probably be sent to reeducation camp over the weekend. I don’t know where he got off thinking he could do this, but he got all skeptical about the value of this approach. In a newsroom! The gall!

John Kass is a traditional Christian at the Chicago Tribune and he has some questions regarding this debate:

Is it possible to be a traditional Christian or Muslim or Orthodox Jew — and hold to one’s faith on what constitutes marriage — and not be considered a bigot?

And is faith now a problem to be overcome, first marginalized by the state and then contained, so as not to get in the way of great changes to come?

No and yes. Can we go home now?

Oh wait, he has more. You should probably read the whole thing but it’s a little reflection on liberty and freedom … for all.

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Who knew Piers Morgan could be thought-provoking?

The Huffington Post’s Jon Ward is a thoughtful reporter and one who uncovers ghosts on his political beat with regularity. Earlier this week he wrote about the tension between evangelical morality and politics as it relates to changing marriage law to include same-sex couples.

Yesterday he wrote about something particularly fascinating. In the video above we see Piers Morgan and Suze Orman and Ryan Anderson. They’re debating the topic of marriage with Ryan T. Anderson. Their behavior is somewhat appalling but typical and represents a tension for those who do seek to define marriage in such a way as to include same-sex couples:

Piers Morgan’s CNN segment on Tuesday night was a vivid illustration of this tension. Morgan invited Ryan T. Anderson, a 31-year-old fellow from The Heritage Foundation, on his program to debate the issue. But Morgan did not have Anderson to sit at a table with him and Suze Orman, the 61-year-old financial guru, who is gay. Instead, Anderson was placed about 15 feet away from Morgan and Orman, among the audience, and had to debate from a distance.

The message, in both the language used by Morgan and Orman, and the physical placement of Anderson on the set, was clear: they thought him morally inferior. Evangelical leader Tim Keller talks about this dynamic — opponents of gay marriage being treated akin to bigoted groups such as white supremacists — in yesterday’s piece.

What I liked about Piers Morgan’s approach here is that it was just a very transparent and honest approach to that taken by many media figures. As the Washington Post scandal showed, through ignorance or inability to understand the arguments made by marriage traditionalists or some other problem, many in the media are convinced that they’re fighting the equivalent of racists and that, as such, horrific treatment of the people and their arguments is justified.

Here’s another example of that. Poynter discusses how some media figures took part in that most brave and meaningful public sacrament: changing one’s Facebook avatar to support changing marriage laws to include same-sex couples. You can read about it at “Journalists share arguments for, against using same-sex marriage symbols on social media profiles.”

My favorite part:

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Marriage vs. marriage (or, What is marriage?)

Yesterday morning there was quite a bit of activity in and near the Supreme Court of the United States. You may have heard about that.

Citizens who wish to uphold the traditional understanding of marriage as an institution built around sexual complementarity marched to the Supreme Court where they encountered people who wish to reform that understanding to include same-sex couples.

It was an opportunity for reporters to let their snark fly on Twitter, as Will Saletan of Slate did when he wrote derisively of marriage traditionalists:

Let me get this straight: The guys marching across from the Supreme Court in plaid skirts and puffy hats are AGAINST gay marriage?

A comment like that speaks volumes about the state and quality of media discourse on the topic. But another tweet really got me thinking. It comes from New York Times religion reporter Laurie Goodstein. She writes:

Supreme Court surrounded today by marchers for marriage and their opponents, marchers for marriage.

I love it. Funny but also incisive. That both sides argue they are advocating “marriage” when they are directly opposed to each other reveals a truth that has been obscured through ignorance and/or activism in media coverage. What’s being fought about is what marriage is.

This is not to say that the media should pick sides about which definition is right (although they clearly have) but, rather, that the media should explain the different understandings of marriage and explore the societal ramifications of adopting differing views. We know that an understanding of marriage as an institution built around sexual complementarity has, for instance, the ramification of excluding same-sex couples. That’s been highly explored by the media.

But what about all the ramifications of changing that understanding? What will happen to our understanding of marital norms, if anything, and why? What will happen to our understanding of gender?

There are smart takes on this from both sides of the marriage debate (and, to blow your mind here, there are actually more than two sides to this debate) but in case I’m not being clear, here’s how some traditionalists arguing from natural law explain the two approaches to marriage:

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Polyamory, pessimism and other same-sex marriage ink

After years of pointing out how unbelievably unprofessional the journalism of same-sex marriage coverage was, something weird happened last week. Instead of the typical media suppression and derision, we started seeing stories about the people and arguments in favor of retaining marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Now, they weren’t particularly good stories and they weren’t particularly long. They were still outnumbered by the stories cheerleading in favor of changing marriage law to include same-sex marriage. But the difference was notable (see: “At last! Actual journalism on the same-sex marriage beat).

Many of us wondered what was going on. Reader Jeremiah Oehlerich wrote:

The rash of articles for and against gay marriage are all a part of the sides preparing for the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA next week. Each party is trying to get their message out in every way possible to help shape and influence the debate in the courtroom and beyond next week. That, in part is what is what has made so much of the one sided reporting leading up to these hearing so frustrating. It’s made the cases feel pre-decided by those who shape and drive the media narrative in the build up to their hearing.

Reader MJBubba gave props to GetReligion:

I think what we are seeing is a major victory attributable to GetReligion.

These journalists and their editors really do think of themselves as noble professionals. It has to have stung to see themselves portrayed as cheerleaders, called out with non-emotional appeals to the basic tenets and ethics of their profession. Consistently, for years, they have promoted one side of an important cultural issue. So, there has been a pent-up interest built by GetReligion in some, you know, balance.

Also, it is finally dawning on these bone-heads that they will be trying to explain the Supreme Court arguments next week to a readership/viewership that have never seen or heard any presentation of one side of these important cases. These are necessary catch-up articles.

Thanks! But I’m suspicious. Reader Kate noted:

I agree with MJBubba that this is the result of journalists doing prep work for the court case coverage, and realizing they have a lot of catch up to do. I have this mental image of a reporter cynically clicking links and reading pro-marriage arguments, and calling around to find out what kind of arguments opponents will use against marriage redefinition, and winding up completely shocked to find out that reasonable sounding people have reasonable sounding reasons to want to preserve the traditional meaning of marriage. Now they’ve got to cover it so that it isn’t so obvious next week that they’ve been falling down on the job for years.

Maybe it’s a combination of a variety of things. But a few days of mentioning the people and arguments in favor of marriage built around sexual complementarity is not really significant in any case. And the entire game is rigged. Here’s one media outlet’s tweet:

Opponents of gay marriage say they’re no bigots

So they say. But I want to know when they stopped beating their children.

And so many of the interesting angles that should be covered in news sections are being covered in opinion sections. Religion opinion writer Lisa Miller had a fascinating “Got news?” item in the Washington Post a few days ago headlined “Many Unitarians would prefer that their polyamory activists keep quiet.”

Now, this is not a news story, but it is about a newsworthy trend. It’s about how the presence and activism of polyamorous families — a not insignificant part of the UU community — helps those mean bad “conservatives” with their arguments that changing marriage law to include same sex couples would lead to recognition of polyamorous marriages since if gender is an unimportant component of marriage, number of involved is, too.

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Journalism and stem cell research 101

If you think general religion coverage is bad, try mixing it with media coverage of science. Then try to find a reporter who handles it well. It’s almost impossible. Back when I started at GetReligion, I could have posted daily on the errors in coverage of what used to be an extremely hot-button topic — stem cell research that destroys embryos.

In various media reports, embryonic-destroying stem cell research was shortened to “stem cell research.” This did a disservice to the debate on numerous counts, most importantly being that there was no debate over using stem cells that didn’t require the destruction of human embryos.

Demagoguery abounded, aided by a media onslaught that characterized one side as “pro-science” and the other as “anti-science.”

Much of the debate has been resolved by something you probably haven’t read terribly much about in the media: the tremendous success of stem cell research that doesn’t destroy embryos and the struggle for success with stem cell research that does. Also, the reporting simply got better. Distinctions were made between the two types of research and as reporters got more comfortable with the basics, they were able to write up those differences with greater ease.

So it’s weird to come across a story that muddles everything again. It comes from FoxNews.com and is headlined “Catholic Church gives its blessing to stem cell research in new book.” Of course, the Roman Catholic Church never withheld its blessing from stem cell research, however much this disrupts the narrative of its anti-scientific approach. It simply opposed — along with a great many other human rights activists and bioethicists and religious adherents — that research that destroys human lives.

To wit:

In the past 20 years, stem cell research has been thrust into the medical spotlight as celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve have advocated for it.  Also, numerous studies have shown stem cell therapies have successfully treated a plethora of diseases.

And now, with the release of The Healing Cell: How the Greatest Revolution in Medical History Is Changing Your Life, the Catholic Church has given its stamp of approval on adult stem cell research by discussing the many ways these therapies work for the greater good.  In fact, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote the book’s introduction, which was co-authored by Dr. Robin Smith and Monsignor Tomasz Trafny, along with Max Gomez.

Stem cell therapy isn’t anything new. Using bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia, which started more than 40 years ago, is essentially the same procedure.  Through this process, doctors extract stem cells from the bone marrow and transplant them into the body to replace damaged cells caused by blood and bone marrow cancers. Sometimes cancer patients use autologous cells – cells harvested from their own body – and sometimes they use donated cells from another person’s bone marrow.

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On the media’s habit of showing habited nuns

Quick follow-up to a recent post highlighting some problems with 60 Minutes’ coverage of Roman Catholic women religious in the United States. Commenter Deacon John M. Bresnahan wrote:

Most of the media can’t seem to find traditional type Catholics to interview. There is a group of conservative-traditional nuns called the Council of Major Superiors of women religious that is almost never called on by the media. And it is the radical nuns group that 60 Minutes loves whose religious orders are sinking into oblivion as very few women seem interested in the radicalism they are selling. Meanwhile more traditional groups are growing rapidly–but little news coverage seems to find them.

Or as Creative Minority Report put it:

I noticed something odd (or maybe not so odd) in the anti-Catholic rants in the media recently. While they talk about things like the “stained glass ceiling” to refer to the fact that women can’t become priests they use images of nuns that don’t exactly correlate with their message.

60 Minutes used a graphic of a habited nun in their story blasting the Church for misogyny. And just yesterday, NBC’s The Today show extensively used footage of the Sisters of Mary from Ann Arbor in connection with an argument for women becoming priests from Joan Chittister.

Journalistically speaking, this is problematic. We’ve talked about it before, but the error keeps happening.

This is not to say that one can know everything about a book by the cover. Traditionally habited women aren’t necessarily making a point about their adherence to traditional teaching.

But in this regard, I found the introductory visuals to the preview of the 60 Minutes segment a bit better. We saw casually attired women in an informal liturgical procession. It may not have be the stunning imagery of more traditional orders but it is more honest for everyone involved, no matter their particular doctrinal views.

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