About that Jesus’ wife thing (Part 2)

Yesterday we noted some of the micro-problems with the latest story that was to shake the very foundations of Christianity. Well, tmatt alerted me to this column by historian Philip Jenkins that criticizes these stories from a macro approach.

While we can discuss all the many little ways that media outlets have been duped over the years on these types of stories, it’s important to do something to correct the larger problem of journalistic ignorance about the history of Christianity.

If you are a Godbeat professional, this “Alternative Christianities” is essential reading to avoid these embarrassing stories and inevitable walk-backs in the future. And while it’s outside the scope of this blog for me to correct general ignorance, this short piece is something that anyone with an interest in religion should be familiar with. Here are just the first few paragraphs:

On average, the Biblical world sees a startling new discovery of allegedly cosmic significance every four or five years. Most recently, we had Jesus’s Wife, with the Gospel of Judas not long before that, and no great powers of prophecy are needed to tell that other similar finds will shortly be upon us.

In themselves, the finds are usually interesting (if they happen to be authentic), but where the media always go wrong in reporting them is in vastly exaggerating just how novel and ground-breaking they are.

So powerful are such claims, and so consistent, that it sometimes seems as if nobody before the 1970s (say) could have known about the multiple alternative Christianities that flourished in the first centuries of Christianity. Surely, we think, earlier generations could never have imagined the world revealed by such ancient texts as the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gnostic documents that turned up at Nag Hammadi. Lacking such evidence, how could older scholars have dreamed what we know to be true today: the vision of Jesus as a Zen-like mystic teacher, or perhaps a Buddhist-style enlightener, who expounded secret doctrines to leading female disciples, and who may even have been sexually involved with one or more of them? Today, for the first time, we hear the heretics speaking in their own voices!

But here’s the problem. Virtually nothing in that model would have surprised a reasonably well-informed reader in 1930, or even in 1900, never mind in later years. In order to make their finds more appealing, more marketable, scholars and journalists have to work systematically to obscure that earlier knowledge, to pretend that it never existed. In order to create the maximum impact, the media depend on a constructed amnesia, a wholly fictitious picture of the supposed ignorance of earlier decades.

Jenkins obliterates such an approach and with some fun details. He ends:

If you want to see just how much general readers knew about alternative early Christianities, then read Robert Graves’s bizarre novel King Jesus, a book so floridly heretical it makes The Da Vinci Code look like a pious pamphlet from Our Sunday Visitor. King Jesus appeared in 1946, just as the Nag Hammadi documents were being unearthed, and even before the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yet Graves already had full access to a panoply of lost gospels and Gnostic fragments, from which he concocted a mythology that includes virtually every radical view of Jesus that has surfaced in later years. We find Jesus as the secular revolutionary; the husband of the pagan Goddess of the land; the expounder of Oriental wisdom; the secret heir to the secular kingdom of Israel; the master of Hellenistic mysteries; participant in ancient tribal fertility rites; the esoteric teacher and numerologist; and (of course) the husband of the Magdalene.

Huh, Jesus’s wife, what a revolutionary new theory…

Oddly, though, when a scholar wishes to present a new discovery or thesis to a publisher or a funding agency, they don’t generally begin by saying, “Well, this really doesn’t break any new ground in terms of what we know about the early church, but for specialists in Coptic linguistics, it’s just heart-stopping.” Rather, the aspiring author succumbs to the inevitable temptation to proclaim just how many boundaries he or she is shattering, and how, at long last, cutting edge research is breaking the irrational taboos set by the churches and their jaded orthodoxies. We are boldly going where no Jesus Quest scholar has gone before; and we will boldly ignore any evidence to the contrary.

People being what they are, I know that situation won’t change any time soon. But can I at least make a minimum demand? If you are going to claim a new gospel fragment as a revolutionary scholarly breakthrough, can you at least demonstrate that it significantly advances the state of knowledge beyond what existed in the era of Herbert Hoover?

Is that too much to ask?

Not a bad question for journalists to ask next time they’re pitched yet another story that will shake the foundations of Christianity.

Image of the earth shattering caused by the Jesus’ wife story via Shutterstock.

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A final goodbye with an eye on the future

Since joining GetReligion three years ago, I have felt like a giant walking paradox.

I would write a GetReligion post about the missing religion angle or the unfair twisting of the facts to fit a narrative. Then I would try to cover religion in a smart and interesting way for Christianity Today magazine, knowing I could easily make the same kinds of mistakes I would critique of the mainstream media.

Religion reporting is hard.

In my role at GetReligion, I analyzed. In my role at CT magazine, I covered. And then I decided to continue to cover by taking a new job with Odyssey Networks, a multimedia outlet that covers religion, especially through video. Odyssey has worn many hats over the years, and I’m hoping to rethink how we cover religion news through new media.

During my time at CT, I stepped out of several potential critiques where I might feel most qualified because it could interfere with my role as reporter. Reporters just don’t get religion, especially evangelicalism. When you ask a reporter, who works very nicely within structure and obvious hierarchies, to cover something inherently unstructured and rapidly changing, you can almost guarantee a messy story that misses the bigger picture.

I have also been caught between our desire for truth and the hope that we can extend some grace. Yes, it’s true that many, many reporters miss the angle or do sloppy stories. But I also know many, many reporters are terrified for their jobs, their families, their livelihood. Journalism thrives on telling true stories, though we also extend some grace knowing that the reporter is probably also worrying about their future employment.

Journalists are no longer going into an office to write one story a day. They are often covering several a day, flying from one thing to the next, churning out copy for the web and for print, pleasing their direct supervisor as well as doing something for the bottom line.

While reporting a story, a journalist is also probably tweeting, recording video, making sure she has enough batteries for whatever devices she’s been given, getting ready to upload or dictate the story back to editors in the office. It’s challenging, especially if you’re wondering if you’ll have a job the next day.

My husband worked night, weekend and holiday shifts at a newspaper during our first two years of marriage. I know firsthand it isn’t smooth sailing being a journalist or being married to one. You wonder if you could get laid off, you churn out stories at a rate barely humanly possible, you fly by the seat of your pants hoping a copy editor will catch you if your writing “fly” is down.

Thanks to smartphones, you’re wedded to your device like the world could explode any second. Because you can be on the ball, you can constantly worry you’ll get beat by another reporter and you’ll face a public chiding in the next editorial meeting. And tools like Twitter have come along to shake our collective understanding of gatekeepers, how to chase and report news and how to understand the world we live in.

And we wonder why journalists drink and smoke and abuse substances?

With the low pay, the high stress, the insane hours, the lording editors, the competition within your beat, you might understand better why some reporters would miss the religion angle. But on a positive note, I think we can be grateful to many, many reporters who work hard to cover the news, especially the religion beat. Religion reporters are the ones filling in the holes, the religion “ghosts,” the why question we often so question. My colleagues at GetReligion have helped me immensely in understanding how to cover religion more thoroughly.

With all the dire news about the media, it’s easy to focus on what hasn’t worked, but I hope we can better understand and figure out what is working, editorially, financially and all the other elements that make media outlets run smoothly. In the coming years, who knows what medium we’ll be in reporting in, as the newspaper, magazine and broadcast models have been merged and diverged, mixed and matched to try to make magic on the internet. It feels like a Buzz Lightyear moment: “To infinity and beyond!” or something like that.

Image of woman with suitcase via Shutterstock.

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A non-journalistic flight to heaven and back

In the past week of so, I have received a number of requests for a GetReligion news critique of the Newsweek cover story that ran under the grabber headline: “Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife.” The problem, of course, is that this cover story by Dr. Eben Alexander is a perfect example of a larger trend, which is the flight of America’s major news magazines away from actual news coverage and into the world of first-person, advocacy, experiential writing.

Please note that this particular feature focuses on a subject that remains highly newsworthy, even after decades of books and chatter about evidence that near-death experiences can in some way be documented and/or investigated. This trend has affected popular culture, pop religion, journalism, etc., etc.

Clearly, millions of Americans are intrigued with this subject, while others merely groan, curse or shake their heads.

I have been reading up on this topic for a quarter of a century or so and, if this subject interests you, please surf around a bit in the contents of this Google search. Pay special attention to references to the stricken “looking down” from above their bodies and retaining information about objects they could not possibly have seen with their own eyes.

So there is news content here. There are voices on both sides of these debates with information and arguments to share. There are theologians and religious/cultural historians who will gladly debate the implications of the experiences that resuscitated people claim to have had during NDE events.

But do not look for this material in the Newsweek cover story. This is a non-journalistic feature that raises all kinds of questions that journalists could investigate — if they have the will to do so.

Instead, readers are given prose such as the following:

Although I still had little language function, at least as we think of it on earth, I began wordlessly putting questions to this wind, and to the divine being that I sensed at work behind or within it.

Where is this place?

Who am I?

Why am I here?

Each time I silently put one of these questions out, the answer came instantly in an explosion of light, color, love, and beauty that blew through me like a crashing wave. What was important about these blasts was that they didn’t simply silence my questions by overwhelming them. They answered them, but in a way that bypassed language. Thoughts entered me directly. But it wasn’t thought like we experience on earth. It wasn’t vague, immaterial, or abstract. These thoughts were solid and immediate — hotter than fire and wetter than water — and as I received them I was able to instantly and effortlessly understand concepts that would have taken me years to fully grasp in my earthly life.

I continued moving forward and found myself entering an immense void, completely dark, infinite in size, yet also infinitely comforting. Pitch-black as it was, it was also brimming over with light: a light that seemed to come from a brilliant orb that I now sensed near me. The orb was a kind of “interpreter” between me and this vast presence surrounding me. It was as if I were being born into a larger world, and the universe itself was like a giant cosmic womb, and the orb (which I sensed was somehow connected with, or even identical to, the woman on the butterfly wing) was guiding me through it.

Later, when I was back, I found a quotation by the 17th-century Christian poet Henry Vaughan that came close to describing this magical place, this vast, inky-black core that was the home of the Divine itself. “There is, some say, in God a deep but dazzling darkness …”

This is interesting material to quote in a serious cover story on this topic. However, this passage is — in effect — drawn from the “fact paragraph” material in this report. It’s contents cannot be discussed by others or debated. There are no sidebar articles accompanying this feature written by skeptics — secular or religious (such as this reaction piece, predictably, by Sam Harris).

And in the end, what does all of this mean? Well, Dr. Alexander is not shy:

Today many believe that the living spiritual truths of religion have lost their power, and that science, not faith, is the road to truth. Before my experience I strongly suspected that this was the case myself.

But I now understand that such a view is far too simple. The plain fact is that the materialist picture of the body and brain as the producers, rather than the vehicles, of human consciousness is doomed. In its place a new view of mind and body will emerge, and in fact is emerging already. This view is scientific and spiritual in equal measure and will value what the greatest scientists of history themselves always valued above all: truth.

This new picture of reality will take a long time to put together. It won’t be finished in my time, or even, I suspect, my sons’ either. In fact, reality is too vast, too complex, and too irreducibly mysterious for a full picture of it ever to be absolutely complete. But in essence, it will show the universe as evolving, multi-dimensional, and known down to its every last atom by a God who cares for us even more deeply and fiercely than any parent ever loved their child.

How does one critique this kind of material as journalism?

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About the whole Jesus’ wife thing (Part 1)

Remember that front page New York Times story about Jesus’ wife? Yeah, about that …

Well, earlier this month we learned from WBRZ:

The Smithsonian Channel says the premiere of its documentary on a papyrus fragment that purports to show Jesus referring to his wife is being delayed until further tests can be done.

And another scholar has noted that the fragment that was the basis for the story somehow managed to replicate a typo from an internet site related to the Gospel of Thomas. Many folks had noted that the fragment seemed to borrow from the Gospel of Thomas but Michael Grondin noted the similarities a typo in his Interlinear Coptic-English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas.

In the first and third paragraphs of that New York Times story, we learned about the scholar who was making the claim about the Jesus’ fragment:

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’ ”

The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at the International Congress of Coptic Studies by Karen L. King, a historian who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity.

So after the front-page treatment about Jesus’ wife, have you seen much coverage of the rest of the story? Of course not.

And yet all of the fallout has been more than a bit embarrassing for such an august scholar.

The Chronicle of Higher Education decided to ask her about it. That is a great idea for a story:

I talked to King recently about the reaction to the fragment. She said that while she was braced for some vigorous discussion, the avalanche of attention and criticism was much more than she expected. It has included angry, hateful e-mails (“pretty ugly and unprintable,” she says). The reaction from scholars has influenced her thinking, and she plans to incorporate some of their analyses into her paper on the fragment, which is slated to be published in the Harvard Theological Review in January, assuming that the ink test now being performed doesn’t reveal the fragment to be a modern forgery.

Sometimes I wish I could show people the contents of my email inbox. Anyway, he asks her why she didn’t wait for the ink test to be done. She gives a response. The article ends:

But how do you roll out a potential blockbuster discovery like this? King said she’s been asking colleagues how they would have handled it differently, and they’ve reassured her that they would have done what she did. And while she’s been dinged by some for jumping the gun, others would have attacked her for keeping it to herself. “The longer I held back, the more criticism there would have been,” she said.

One thing she would change? The title of the fragment. Calling it “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” seemed natural. And for scholars like King, one of the authors of a book about The Gospel of Judas, alternative accounts of the Jesus story are not shocking. She misjudged just how inflammatory that title would turn out to be. She’s been asking around for ideas on a new, less exciting name.

Great idea for a follow-up but why rely on just King here? So a Harvard prof asked her Harvard colleagues and they all told her she was just fine? Is that really that interesting? And we’re not able to find any critics to add insight into how she messed up her big, splashy, New York Times, Smithsonian Channel reveal based around the title she chose? Really?

I mean, these regular “shake the foundations of Christianity” stories in the media are getting embarrassing. You’d think that there would be some much tougher questions of the scholars who were relied on, no? And on that note, come back later for a devastating look at what those early stories about this fragment missed.

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Why didn’t Catholic bishops call Biden out by name?

I’m on the road right now, in Montana, and haven’t had a chance to catch Saturday Night Live yet but apparently in the comedy show’s skit on the Vice Presidential debate, the Joe Biden character said:

“I accept the teachings of the Catholic Church. But then, like most Catholics, I ignore them and do what I want.”

Hardy har har. The joke was in reference to a portion of the debate where the moderator treated abortion as a question of faith and then asked both candidates to explain — as Catholics — their position on abortion. During the answer to that question, Republican candidate Paul Ryan brought up the threats to religious liberty posed by the Health and Human Services mandate requiring individuals and organizations to provide health insurance coverage that may violate the teachings of their faith.

In response, Biden said something most interesting (according to this Washington Post transcript):

With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

Well, like almost everything uttered by politicians, that’s not a fact. And a few hours later, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called him out. Religion News Service had a story that some people brought to our attention:

In a rare public rebuke, Catholic bishops chided Vice President Joe Biden for saying during Thursday’s vice-presidential debate that Catholic hospitals and institutions will not be forced to provide contraception coverage to employees.

Without mentioning Biden by name, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the “inaccurate” statement “made during the Vice Presidential debate” was “not a fact.”

I think some people thought RNS was having fun with scare quotes again. But this is just quote-quoting it. What’s really interesting about this statement from the bishops isn’t just that they called Biden out for lying. They did it without using his name and in a quite passive manner. The quote mechanism used above conveys that.

There was a bit of a problem with inconsistency in using such an approach later in the story, however:

The White House later offered a complex compromise that would allow insurance companies, rather than employers, to pay for the contraceptive coverage. Critics — including the bishops — say it doesn’t go far enough.

“They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries,” the bishops’ conference said.

It’s true that the White House claims that its compromise is not a shell game but rather a totally legit way to keep employers from being too involved in paying for things they oppose. Claims should be put forth as just that, however. It’s easy to say that “The White House later offered a change that it says would ….” There’s no reason to adopt the White House talking point. Just say what it is. Obviously people opposed to this mandate think it’s no compromise at all and that the claim is laughable — that the underlying issue is unchanged. So just let them make their case, too — as this story does above.

Anyway, a good story that lays out the bishops’ view and the curious way they made the statement. That might even be worth more coverage — why did the bishops play the passive game of saying some mysterious person at the debate erred? Why did they not call out Biden by name? Religion reporters definitely noticed this. Perhaps there’s some coverage of this I haven’t seen yet. Of course, I also haven’t seen mainstream coverage of another Biden claim on abortion. Many Catholic sites and individuals have lambasted his claim that the basis for Catholic opposition to abortion is de fide. There’s no reason that this interesting debate — along with those about whether the Catholic religion requires particular legislative approaches when it comes to care for the poor — can’t get more mainstream coverage. It really lies at the heart of these important political differences on how society can best protect the lives of the unborn and how society can best take care of the weakest among us.

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Pod people: saying goodbye

Friends of GetReligion, it is time for me to tip my hat and say farewell. It’s been a good ride, three years of working with excellent colleagues.

I’ll give one final post with some reflections, but first, in my last podcast, I tried to address a few posts that have encapsulated some of the issues GetReligion regularly addresses. Ultimately, we hope to help reporters understand better how to cover the religion beat, a challenging beat for reporters to cover.

Recently, we considered how the religion beat is changing, looking at what’s new that we didn’t have a few years ago. Here’s a hint: we’re all recovering from this great recession and we have this thing called Twitter on the scene. Combine those and you have a few dead religion blogs, reporters moving in and off the beat faster than many people can remember in recent years.

We also have often discussed what religion ghosts look like, stories that should include religion but they don’t. I made a few assumptions when watching London’s opening ceremonies, for instance, filtering religion through my own set of beliefs. Religion is truly everywhere, so sometimes it’s worth getting over yourself and admitting you don’t know the answer. Then you go to a religion scholar and ask some basic questions. Or you crowd source and ask Twitter for help. There are more ways of reporting when we get creative.

Remember this summer when everyone was getting all hot and bothered over Chick-fil-A? The stories were perfect for social media, so what do you do when you have a really hot story the internet loves? I say, maybe you should give it a little bait and then quickly ignore it. Truly, the internet honors stupid stories. Additionally we see seen time and time again reporters who show biases, undercutting their own objectivity.

Because my husband is a sports reporter, I regularly make comparisons between the religion beat and the sports beat. Think about it. There are passionate fans in both beats, people who will spend a lot of money in both areas. So why, then, do sports reporters often ignore an athlete’s faith? I’ve made the case time and time again that sports reporters expect the faith narrative and think it’s cliche. But reporters who ignore the glaring religion angle, as some did with the story on Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, do a disservice to their readers. So how do they keep it fresh? Examine the Grantland piece on athlete Mo Isom for ideas.

There are always ways to tell stories about religion in fresh and interesting ways. Just ask the religious leaders who give sermons every week. And enjoy the podcast.

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Yes, you can ask tough questions of pro-choice candidates

Last night was the only Vice Presidential debate we’ll get in this cycle. Almost all of that debate and attendant media coverage is outside the purview of this blog. But right there at the end, the moderator got into religion. Although the answers the candidates gave were interesting, let’s focus simply on the questions from journalist Martha Raddatz:

RADDATZ: I want to — we’re — we’re almost out of time here.

RADDATZ: I want to move on, and I want to return home for these last few questions. This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country…

RADDATZ: … please talk personally about this, if you could.

Congressman Ryan?

RADDATZ: Vice President Biden?

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan.

RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

RADDATZ: I’m — I’m going to move on to this closing question because we are running out of time.

You will note that the pointed follow-up question went to Ryan, not Biden. And I’m all for follow-up questions. But why just to Ryan?

Journalists just have remarkable trouble asking pointed follow-up questions of politicians who support abortion rights — no matter how extreme their views might be on the matter.

Now, perhaps Raddatz doesn’t know enough to know that people would disagree whether Biden understands Roman Catholic teaching on abortion, much less accepts it. Perhaps that’s not where she should direct a tough follow-up question.

But how about asking him whether he could envision any limitations on abortion at all, whatsoever? How about asking him if he thinks it should be legal to kill an unborn child simply because that child is a female? How about asking him if he thinks that there is anything wrong with terminating a pregnancy because the fetus has Down syndrome?

And should a question about abortion be tied to both men’s religious views? Ryan answered that religion and science inform his views on protection of unborn life. Biden said his religion only requires him to be personally opposed to abortion and that he can’t force Muslims to also oppose abortion. But is there too much religion — and too little science — in how Raddatz framed this question? In how journalists treat opposition to abortion in general?

Obviously religion plays a huge role in many people’s commitment to the abortion issue. We’re big fans of media coverage that explores that role. But is the particular approach journalists take to religion and abortion accurately conveying the reasoning behind the various sides here?

Imagine of woman having trouble coming up with questions via Shutterstock.

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The anti-Semitic focus of French terrorism

You may recall media coverage regarding a kosher market in a suburb of Paris that was bombed last month. There’s been a development in the case. Here’s the New York Times piece “French Investigators Find Bomb-Making Materials“:

French police officers investigating a group of young Islamic radicals have uncovered bomb-making materials and weapons, the Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“We are clearly and objectively facing an extremely dangerous terrorist cell,” Mr. Molins said in the statement, adding that it was necessary to “avoid the risk of a terrorist attack in France.”

We learn a bit about the detention of 12 suspects and the significance of the haul the police found, including potassium nitrate, sulfur, saltpeter, pressure cookers, headlights and guns. Then:

Most of the arrests were made on Saturday in a number of cities across France and the police said then that some guns and ammunition had been found. In Strasbourg, one suspect, Jérémie Louis-Sidney, 33, fired on the police and was shot dead. Mr. Louis-Sidney was believed to have been the leader of the cell and to have been radicalized in prison, where he served two years for drug trafficking. His DNA was found on the pin of a low-powered grenade used to attack a Jewish kosher market in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles last month.

It’s interesting that Louis-Sidney was said to be “radicalized” in prison. I also wonder if he converted to Islam there. I heard he did, although it’s not entirely clear from this article. And then I wonder if he changed his name at that time or did not. While we frequently hear about people changing their names, it’s not always required or even encouraged. That, in itself, would be a great topic for a stand-alone story. It’s also possible, of course, that the individual did change his name but did not do so legally.

Here’s another interesting part:

Jewish leaders have expressed concern that Islamic extremists have made them targets in the wake of mockery of the Prophet Muhammad in an excerpt from a film made in America and in cartoons published in a small French satirical newspaper. The police said on Saturday that they found a list of Jewish institutions and their addresses when searching the homes of the detainees.

Obviously there is some targeting of Jewish institutions by this alleged terror cell. While anti-Semitism is a common trait among Islamic radicals, I wonder if there is something particular going on here. I can’t forget the horrible terrorist attack last year against Jews in Toulouse.

This paragraph provided an intriguing hint of a major religious issue in this story:

Manuel Valls, the interior minister, said there were several hundred radical Islamists in France who were capable of acts of terrorism, and that the country’s prisons were breeding radicalism. France has as many as six million Muslim residents, more than any other country in the European Union. But spokesmen for French Muslims say that the lack of religious education in the schools and the shortage of imams in the country leaves some French-born Muslims ignorant about their faith.

Sounds intriguing, but very vague, eh? How is this shortage of imams quantified? How are “French Muslims” organized in such a way as to have a spokesman? Are there particular issues on which the spokesmen says the terrorist cell are ignorant? Obviously the vast majority of French Muslims are living in peace with their Jewish neighbors. Why is that? How, specifically, do they differ from these terror cells? This might be a good opportunity to just highlight one particular way that Muslims in France disagree with this terror group. Sometimes I wonder if we assume too much ability to fill in the blanks with a readership unfamiliar with contested aspects of Muslim thought.

It’s a good story, written with an economy of words. It lays out the major issues at play. I do think some follow-ups would be helpful or interesting on some of these questions.

Grenade image via Shutterstock.

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