Ghost in the British white flight story?

big_ben.jpgIt was one of the most interesting stories in Great Britain this last week.

No, no, no, not that story.

Not even this one.

I’m talking about that Migrationwatch UK report containing the giant religion ghost that the MSM over there did not want to deal with (unless I am missing something with my online searches).

Here is the full text of a Nic Cecil story in The Sun. Read it all, then we can play spot the ghost.

Tens of thousands of white families are pouring out of UK cities as immigrants move in, a controversial new report claims. The exodus is creating an increasingly divided society, says the study for independent think-tank Migrationwatch UK.

It found that 600,000 more people left London for the regions between 1993-2002 than arrived in the capital from elsewhere in Britain. Those moving out were believed to be mainly white. In the same decade, the number of immigrants arriving in London went up by 726,000.

Migrationwatch said there were similar changes in Manchester and Birmingham. Chairman Sir Andrew Green said: “The development of increasingly parallel societies in some of our major cities is extremely undesirable. Government immigration policy is exacerbating this trend.”

The report follows a study for the Greater London Authority last year which showed the proportion of whites in London fell by almost eight per cent in the 1990s.

Want another clue? Here is a BBC report on the same subject. What’s missing in this scenario? The ghost is not the whole story, but it is certainly part of the story.

Spot the ghost?

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See you later, alligator?

popepraying.jpgThe Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a press release yesterday denouncing a “vile column” distributed by the Universal Press Syndicate titled “Death for the Pope.”

The document contained a statement by League President William Donahue. The “kindest thing” that could be said of the columnist, opined Donohue, “is that he’s gone off the deep end”:

“It matters not a whit that he calls the pope ‘a major historical figure,’ because even the most inveterate anti-Catholic must acknowledge as much. Indeed, even the biggest Catholic basher in the world is not likely to write, ‘So, what is wrong with praying for his death?’ If you have to ask, sir, then you are beyond hope.”

So who was this heretic who openly pined for the pope’s death? Hans Küng? Frances Kissling? James Carroll? Gary Wills? Try William F. Buckley Jr.

Yes that William F. Buckley Jr. In his syndicated column (which one reader sent to me with a note that read “Dude, this column has GetReligion post written all over it”), Buckley began, “At church on Sunday the congregation was asked to pray for the recovery of the pope. I have abstained from doing so. I hope that he will not recover.”

Buckley did quite a bit of throat-clearing before he got around to explaining why he would not join in the entreaties for the pope’s recovery:

[T]he pope almost died the day that he was taken to the hospital. “We got him by a breath,” one medico leaked the news, and another said, “If he had come in 10 minutes later, he would have been gone.”

The temptation is, always, to pray for the continuation of the life of anyone who wants to keep on living. The pope is one of these. In the past, he recorded that he did not plan ever to abdicate, that he would die on the papal throne.

Buckley called it “presumptuous” to suppose that John Paul’s decision not to abdicate was “motivated by vainglory” and then proceeded to do just that:

What exactly he had in mind we do not know, but can reasonably assume that he was asserting pride in physical fortitude, consistent with his days as a mountain climber and a skier. Perhaps there is an element of vanity there.

“We must have great faith in the pope. He knows what to do,” said the Vatican secretary of state. Buckley rejoined,

What to do includes clinging to the papacy as a full-time cripple, if medicine, which arrested death by only 10 minutes, can arrest death again for weeks and even months. But the progressive deterioration in the pope’s health over the last several years confirms that there are yet things medical science can’t do, and these include giving the pope the physical strength to coordinate and to use his voice intelligibly.

“So,” the old polemicist concluded, “what is wrong with praying for his death? For relief from his manifest sufferings? And for the opportunity to pay honor to his legacy by turning to the responsibility of electing a successor to get on with John Paul’s work?”

An interesting discussion of this column can be found in the comments threads of Amy Welborn’s Open Book. One reader called Buckley’s proposal the “Euthanasian Prayer.” Welborn herself has refrained from comment except in one headline: “Pope to Buckley: ‘Suffer this.’”

I was not surprised that Buckley wrote this column or that it generated a lot of debate. Buckley has been dropping broad hints lately that old age is closing in on him. This has affected the way he thinks about this world and whatever comes next — though I argued in my recent Books & Culture appreciation that this shift has been a long time coming.

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Ghost — sort of — in the SI swimsuit show

godgirl2.jpgFirst things first. Readers need to know that the three males involved in editorial work here at GetReligion decided that this was the best photo to accompany this post. It was the most modest photo and it was the wackiest one, as well.

I was going to say that the brief television career — as far as we know — of the born-again swimsuit superstar Shannon Hughes was an example of a reality-TV-era story that contained a religion ghost. Then I realized it wasn’t really a ghost. The religion angle is right there for all to see, especially in reporter Ed Bark’s rather restrained entertainment feature in The Dallas Morning News.

Here’s the basic plot. Hughes played the coveted role of Bible Belt babe on NBC’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search series. This was your basic “dream job” contest. Think The Apprentice with sun and way, way fewer clothes. Hughes lost out to a lass from Las Vegas. And that religion angle?

Ms. Hughes, a 2003 graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, had openly portrayed herself as a moral but free-spirited Christian throughout Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search. During the opening part of last week’s final Bora Bora photo shoot, she agreeably wore only a lei and micro bikini pants.

“You can still be a sexy Christian. I don’t think God’s gonna be against that,” Ms. Hughes said memorably.

She was philosophical during Wednesday’s phone interview. “Everything happens for a reason,” she said. “God just has better things for me ahead. Maybe he just thinks I can handle this disappointment better.”

So there you go.

After thinking this over for a few minutes, I wondered if there isn’t a really good Los Angeles Times Magazine cover story hiding in all of this. Last year, one of my best students down here at Palm Beach Atlantic University briefly flirted with the idea of accepting an invitation — she is an athlete, journalist, model and actress — to leap into the last round of competition to join a Survivor cast. She took a pass.

We talked about it and came to one conclusion: Reality television executives must love the idea of casting the innocent Christian who gets to look strange and, if the producers play their cards right, slides into temptation with plot-friendly results. I don’t watch these shows much, but I have read enough to know that this is an important feature in many post-Real World shows. There has to be demographic research behind this trend.

Meanwhile, what’s up with Shannon’s boots?

P.S. Here is a Baptist Press update on the Christian couple in the new Amazing Race on CBS. Anyone out there have a favorite religious believer in a reality TV role?

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The Shanley debate

shanley.jpgThe major dailies published appropriately subdued stories earlier this week about the conviction of the Rev. Paul Shanley on charges of raping a Sunday-school student during the 1980s.

These paragraphs by Pam Belluck of The New York Times cover the details mentioned in most other stories:

As the verdict was read, Mr. Shanley stood straight and betrayed little emotion. His accuser, who spoke publicly about his accusations over the last three years but asked news organizations not to name him during the trial, stood in the first row, rocking back and forth with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face.

Now a 27-year-old firefighter, the accuser testified that Mr. Shanley would pull him out of Christian doctrine class beginning when he was 6 years old, and would orally and digitally rape him in the bathroom, the pews, the confessional and the rectory of St. Jean’s Parish in Newton.

Mr. Shanley’s lawyer, Frank Mondano, had argued that what Mr. Shanley was accused of was logistically impossible given the layout and crowded nature of the church on Sunday mornings. Mr. Mondano also argued that the accuser had concocted the charges in order to prevail in his civil suit against the church.

Shanley’s conviction made me aware of an amazing package of articles I missed when they appeared in the Jan. 14 edition of the National Catholic Reporter. The Reporter published an essay by Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry, who worked with Shanley in the early years of gay activism within American Catholicism.

Gramick confesses that she was nervous about seeing Shanley again after nearly 20 years, then describes how some of her anxieties diminished:

My anxiety was somewhat allayed as I lunched with Terry [Shanley's niece] in the mall near the county jail. She believes her uncle, who has been like a father to her, is innocent. The four individuals who have brought indictments against Paul all base their claims on repressed memories, a concept regarded with skepticism by leading mental health professionals. Terry believes there is not sufficient evidence to convict her uncle. Furthermore, her uncle told her he had never raped a child or forced anyone to engage in sexual acts, and he would not lie to her. If he were guilty, would he have given himself up to the district attorney’s office?

Both Gramick and David France, in his article “The jury should still be out on Paul Shanley,” object to media reports that describe Shanley as helping to found the North American Man-Boy Love Association.

Gramick writes:

The allegation is based on a 1978 article, which reported that Paul spoke at a conference about the legal aspects of sex between men and teenage boys. The conference was not a meeting of the association, which did not exist at the time. Paul was only one of many speakers, including lawyers, psychologists, ethicists and activists. The article did not state that Paul advocated man-boy sexual relations. In fact, his file contains written testimony to the contrary. He does not condone the sexual seduction of children. After the conference, some participants decided to form a Man-Boy Love Association at a caucus Paul did not attend.

And France writes:

So why is he called the most serious pedophile priest ever to surface in the crisis? Partly because of his alleged NAMBLA link, but in fact, he was never a member of NAMBLA, nor did he ever attend a NAMBLA meeting. His crime was to attend — along with other clergy — a conference from which a caucus spun into the North American Man/Boy Love Association. He appeared, in fact, to idealize men just barely over the consent age — and, if they were vulnerable enough, to take advantage of them.

Shanley was a hero [for his gay-rights activism] and a predator, but perhaps not a criminal. That is the unusual set of facts we know so far.

Maureen Orth, who wrote a profile of Shanley in the June 2002 Vanity Fair, takes apart Gramick’s essay:

Sr. Jeannine Gramick obviously has never read the 1,600-plus pages of the Boston archdiocese’s file on Paul Shanley. I have. Had she done so before taking up his cause, she would have seen that there were complaints about Shanley’s inappropriate behavior toward minor boys going back nearly 40 years and that the diocesan-appointed psychiatrist who finally examined him in 1994 concluded, “Fr. Shanley is so personally damaged that his pathology is beyond repair.”

. . . Sr. Jeannine mentions that it is a tragedy that so much money the church could be spending for the poor instead has to go to paying off victims. I agree it would be ideal to spend the money in other ways, but where was the hierarchy’s vigilance and concern that should have occurred throughout the years but did not? Where was its moral center? The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that when someone commits a transgression against another, justice requires that the harm be repaired and the injuries be compensated. For someone like Sr. Jeannine to make fatuous statements about Paul Shanley’s presumed innocence without a real knowledge of his actions — or of the church’s doing absolutely nothing to stop him for over four decades — is not only sad, it is shocking. Her charity is glaringly misplaced.

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Dawn of the deed: Was the mistake fatal?

cartoonDawn.jpgMy first full-time job in journalism was on the copy desk at a daily in Champaign, Ill., so I have been on the other side the editing process. I would like to make three comments about the Dawn Eden affair, based on what we know so far. I have never met Dawn (the logo is from her blog) and I hope we can discuss this sooner, rather than later.

1. In the newspapers where I have worked, the changes she made would have been considered on the pushy side, but not fatal. They are right at the point where you should clear them with an editor, or the reporter, if you can. No way you get fired for this stuff. The blogging on company time issue is something else — a whole new source of tension between journalists and their bosses.

Of course, we are talking about abortion. There is a reason that almost all of the media-bias studies end up returning to questions about abortion coverage.

I could offer loads of case studies here. I once had the end cut off a story — I turned it in short, so a trim would not be needed — because the final quote was from a priest active in AIDS ministry. That was fine, but he linked his stand on that issue with his high-profile work as pro-life activist. This was a consistent, culture-of-life priest who was taking a controversial stand on two issues that he believed were connected by an ethic of life.

I warned the city editor at the Rocky Mountain News that someone in the editing process would be offended and try to cut that final quote. He said I was being paranoid. Then someone cut it off, without putting their initials on the page as required. Nothing was said, except that the city editor knew I had predicted it. That made him more sensitive to the issue.

2. During my religion-beat reporting days, I had copy editors add all kinds of things to my stories — often thinking they were correcting something. More than once, they edited in errors.

Here is an example. In a very sensitive story on Mormon theology, I quoted a leaked audiotape of the secret rites in Mormon temples. In an older version of the rite, a worshipper would vow to “suffer his life to be taken” for revealing temple secrets. A copy editor thought that sounded stuffy and changed it to say that Mormons “vowed to commit suicide.” Needless to say, we received more than a few calls from Mormons who disagreed with “my” interpretation of their theology. No punishment for the copy editor, however.

3. This is one case in which it really helps to remember that the New York Post is not a culturally conservative newspaper. It is a Libertarian newspaper. Once again, I think we are seeing evidence of the massive war still to come in the GOP in the next four years, as the moral and cultural conservatives — many of whom are old-fashioned Democrats — square off with the hard-core moral Libertarians. Jeremy can shed some light on this, I am sure, because he is a Catholic who works in one of the various Libertarian sanctuaries.

So Dawn Eden was the wrong brand of conservative. I always wondered: Why did the Post hate Bill Clinton so much? He seemed like their kind of guy, once you veered into the moral issues.

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Darkness at Dawn

dawneden.jpgThe New York Observer this week ran a major cover story on l’affaire Eden, the firing of headline gal and copyeditor Dawn Eden by the New York Post for her pro-life edits of a piece on in-vitro fertilization.

The Post brass do not come out terribly well in this story. I mean when this — “Some people already think the Post is conservative, and we don’t need New York readers also thinking it’s a Christian paper and that there are Christians working there” — is a quote from a sympathetic voice at the Post, well, you just know we’re in for the management-as-weasels treatment.

Eden explains why she made the edits to the story about women diagnosed with terminal cancer who turn to IVF to have babies:

“I got choked up,” Ms. Eden said. “How are people going to ever understand the complex issues involved here, if the story they’re reading reduces it to ‘Oh, isn’t this nice? We can just make lots of embryos and not worry about whether they live or die.’”

So she changed things. To the sentence “Experts have ethical qualms about this ‘Russian roulette’ path to parenthood,” Eden added, “which, when in-vitro fertilization is involved, routinely results in the destruction of embryos.” Where the author had written about the implantation of three embryos in which “two took,” Eden amended to, “One died. Two took.”

At the time, the Observer reports, Eden thought “she was performing a service for the reader, since she believed that the Post had been ‘notoriously oblivious’ to the nuances involving embryonic life.” Since the incident, she has decided that “my first loyalty should have been to my employer.”

The author of the Post article in question, Susan Edelman, reportedly responded to Eden’s apology thus: “Dawn You are the most unprofessional journalist I have ever encountered in all my years in this business. A disgrace. Sue Edelman.”

On her own website, Eden maintains that she did not work her own pro-life views into the article she edited: “To say that I was working my own views into the piece implies that the information I added was untrue.” I know what she’s getting at, but, given the thrust of the whole profile, I don’t think that’s the conclusion readers would be inclined to draw.

I would get into my own fun-with-copyeditors experiences here, but Mattingly has promised to do so later in the day. So I’ll hold a few stories for the comments threads.

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Not your father's Bob Jones University?

BobJonesWebcam.jpgMy Scripps Howard column today took me back into the faith-integration wars at Baylor University, my alma mater, and the growth of institutions that try to blend ancient Christian faith and modern learning, which required a reference to the Council for Christian Colleges and my work there.

As I said before here on the blog, I have refrained from writing much about the Baylor conflict because I have family ties and I have friends on both sides of the battle. Still, I wanted to try to explain how the Baylor conflict is linked to some larger issues in higher education, both secular and sacred. If the mood strikes you, take a look.

Writing the column reminded me of several recent pieces I have read about related topics. The first concerns a controversial new book called God on the Quad by journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley. Here is the top of a Wall Street Journal piece on her thesis, which focuses on a small circle of religious schools and the growth of the CCCU in general.

It’s not news in academia, although it may come as a surprise to the rest of us: America’s 700-plus religiously affiliated colleges and universities are enjoying an unprecedented surge of growth and a revival of interest. . . .

(The) number of students attending the 100 schools of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities — an organization of four-year liberal-arts schools dedicated to promoting the Christian faith — rose 60% between 1990 and 2002. In those same years the attendance at nonreligious public and private schools stayed essentially flat. The number of applications to the University of Notre Dame, the nation’s premier Catholic college, has risen steadily over the past decade, with a 23% jump last year alone.

But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Many religious schools, traditionally regarded as second-tier or worse, have improved the quality of their students and of their academic offerings, sometimes dramatically.

The Boston Globe recently dug into a related trend — the growth of traditional Christian ministries on a wide variety of campuses. To explore that angle, click here.

But the article that intrigued me the most was a Newsweek online exclusive, an interview with Stephen Jones, the next heir to the presidency of Bob Jones University (see webcam). This is one institution that fits almost any historian’s definition of “Christian fundamentalism.” Yet check out these exchanges with journalist Susannah Meadows:

NEWSWEEK: Why does your father feel the university needs a younger leader?

Stephen Jones: He said in the last two or three years he really doesn’t understand this generation, with all the dramatic changes socially and culturally our nation’s gone through. It just kind of creates a gap there.

Which changes specifically?

The inroads the culture has made even into the church. The MTV generation, pop culture, all of that has been significant and has really increased in intensity over the past 15 years. His whole generation has a hard time with it. Doesn’t understand. . . .

What do you see young people struggling with?

The philosophical view point that there is no absolute truth, that one person’s belief is just as good as another, that two different things can both be right. That’s a completely postmodern view of truth and one that’s insupportable by scripture. A student has to wrestle through that because it’s definitely not popular. It’s definitely not the message of the culture and the media. It’s one of the things I have to wrestle through, what will orient my life.

George Barna! Call your answering service. The raised-on-MTV students at Bob Jones University are struggling with postmodernism and the loss of transcendent moral absolutes?

Of course they are. Meet the new mall, same as the old mall.

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Beware of fundamentalists bearing incense

incensegargoyle.jpgTime magazine prompted some snickers last week when it counted Catholics Richard John Neuhaus and Rick Santorum among “The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.”

This week, a story by Tim Padgett explores how “Bible-Belt Catholics” are “practicing a more conservative Catholicism than their brethren in many other parts of the country.”

Padgett turns to the Rev. Jay Scott Newman, a convert from Protestantism, to help explain evangelical Catholics:

Says the Rev. Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, less than two hours south in Greenville, S.C.: “Here you’re not Catholic because your parents came from Italy or Slovakia. It’s because you believe what the church teaches you is absolutely true.”

Such evangelical Catholicism, as Newman calls it, also lends itself to Southern-fried flavors like more exuberant hymn singing, intense Bible study, spirited preaching and what Evangelicals call witnessing — personal and public professions of faith usually foreign to the more philosophical, communal and inward Catholic style.

But not all Catholics in the South rejoice with Father Newman. Indeed, one university president worries about the threat of an undefined “evangelical Fundamentalism”:

Some church observers say this trend, while ecumenical, could undermine the “intellectual heritage” of the faith, says the Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans, which in 2002 opened the Center for the Study of Catholics in the South. “The question is whether Catholicism in the South simply becomes another form of evangelical Fundamentalism with incense.”

In another piece this week, the wittily titled “Spirits of the Age,” James Poniewozik writes about the mini-trend of TV series that include supernatural elements. The range is as diverse as Medium (produced by Glenn Gordon Caron of Moonlighting), Point Pleasant and Revelations.

The latter show includes “an order of nuns, at odds with the Vatican, that believes the Second Coming is imminent.” Perhaps Father Wildes and his team will let us know whether this would make the fictional nuns evangelical fundamentalists, fundamental evangelicals or high-church dispensationalists (with incense).

In an otherwise thoughtful and entertaining piece, Poniewozik offers these agonizing generalizations:

There is a kind of vanity in Apocalyptic thinking: people eternally want to believe they are so special, their times so afflicted, that their tribulations outclass any others in history. It is oddly boastful to believe that one’s generation has screwed up the world badly enough to prompt the birth of the Antichrist. Ghost stories like Medium too appeal to our egotism. They assume that the dead are concerned above all with giving closure to the living.

But that’s what TV has in common with religion: each helps millions of people, sitting down to hear the same message, individually feel special.

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