Search Results for: f-word

Yay! Dallas paper examines heart and soul

It’s becoming clear that The Dallas Morning News has no regard for the F-word.

Faith, that is.

I made that statement last month after the Texas newspaper allowed holy ghosts to haunt yet another major profile.

But I come today not to bury the Morning News, but to praise it: Apparently, somebody at the highest echelon of that newspaper reads GetReligion and decided to prove me wrong.

This was the headline at the top of the front page a week ago Sunday:

Healing with heart and soul

The 1,800-word story profiles Mark Pool, a heart surgeon who prays with patients. The lede:

At 83, Carl Smith found himself facing quadruple-bypass surgery and the real possibility that he might not survive.

Within hours on this spring morning, Dr. Mark Pool would temporarily bring Smith’s heart to a stop in an attempt to circumvent its blocked passages.

And to help his patient confront the uncertainty, Pool did something unusual in his profession: He prayed with him.

From there, the story (most of which is hidden behind a paywall) immediately presents the meaty nut graf:

The power of healing: Medicine and religion have both had their day, and they haven’t always been able to coexist. But as today’s medical treatment becomes more holistic, doctors are increasingly taking spirituality into account.

Studies show a majority of patients want their spirituality recognized, and most med schools now have classes related to the topic. In general, the new thinking asks doctors to note their patients’ spiritual leanings and open doors to expression, especially when life is at risk.

Now, if I’m the editor, I highlight “both had their day” and suggest that the writer come up with something less cliche.

By the “increasingly taking spirituality into account” sentence, I make a note: “How do you know this?” (In other words, I ask for attribution.)

And by the vague “studies show,” I demand to know which studies — or at least one. Give me some specific information about the study (or studies): Who did the study? When? Who did they study? What did they find? Etc. Etc. Etc.

But in general, I praise the reporter effusively for going behind the scenes and putting real human faces — the surgeon and the heart patient —  on a compelling religion, and medicine, story.

I compliment the fact that the story treats Pool’s faith with respect and gives him an opportunity to describe his beliefs and perspective while at the same time providing different points of view from other medical experts. This is what is known in some circles as JOURNALISM.

More from the story:

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Pod people: The thin line between insight and hearsay

Earlier this week, I critiqued an Associated Press story on the hullabaloo caused by a newspaper column in which a pastor’s wife referred to Southern Baptists as “the crazy old paranoid uncle of evangelical Christians.”

I closed that post by questioning the AP’s sourcing at the end of the story:

Here’s my journalistic question: If you were the editor, would you be comfortable with that source and the information provided? Or would you hold out for a more official source? In other words, would you consider this source credible on deadline?

The chunk of the story in question:

First Baptist member Larry Wilson said Bill Thomas was accused of “intolerable insubordination” by a staff committee and was told to submit a letter of resignation.

“To me, it sounds more like a termination or a forced resignation than a resignation,” said Wilson, who is also a Hopkins County magistrate.

Wilson said he believed Bill Thomas ran afoul of some church leadership before the column was published by supporting an openly gay church member. Wilson said Thomas was told to prevent the member from joining the choir, but Thomas declined to do so.

The church offered Thomas a severance package — contingent on him not making public statements about the details of his departure, Wilson said. According to church policy, staff terminations must be approved by the congregation, and church leaders wanted to avoid that step, Wilson said.

Wilson said he enjoyed reading Angela Thomas’ column.

“There were points in it that I thought were hilarious, it was funny, thought provoking,” he said. “Maybe we are Shiite Baptists.”

A bit of background for those who missed the original post: Both the assistant pastor and his wife declined to be interviewed. Meanwhile, the lead pastor told the AP that the column was not the cause of the assistant pastor’s departure. And the story cited a letter by the assistant pastor saying he had not resigned and had no intention of stepping down.

Confused yet?

My questions drew this response from Mollie, my fellow GetReligionista:

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What The Economist Gets Wrong About Calvinist Baptists

Image source: Christian Post

Today is the 504th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin (July 10, 1509) — and the 497th anniversary of misunderstanding Calvinists.

To commemorate the event, let’s look at a recent notable example provided by The Economist. The article is out-datedly titled, “Dippers divided” and the subhead is “Where evangelicals disagree.” Where evangelicals disagree, apparently, is on whether to maintain,

the “theocon” alliance in American politics between Catholics and evangelicals, who have set aside their doctrinal differences (over the Virgin Mary, for example) to take a joint stand against abortion and in favour of the traditional family.

What could be causing the rift between Catholics and evangelicals. According to The Economist, the alleged culprit is Calvinists in the Southern Baptist denomination.

. . . the effectiveness of the Catholic-evangelical axis may be compromised by a deepening ideological fissure within the evangelical camp; or more specifically within America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, which has about 16m members.

Broadly speaking, the difference is over whether Jesus Christ died to save mankind as a whole, or sacrificed himself only for a particular group of human beings, the elect, whom God had chosen in advance. The latter view is associated with John Calvin, the French reformer of the 16th century; critics find it too fatalistic, and inconsistent with the idea of a loving God. Taken to its logical extreme, some say, Calvinism can lead to an introverted, exclusive mindset: if most of humanity is irrevocably damned, what’s the point of engaging with the world?

Who is this “some” who “say?” Probably the same “some” who claim that premillennial dispensationalists (who are rarely, if ever, Calvinists) also believe that if most of humanity is irrevocably damned (see: the Left Behind novels), there is no point of engaging with the world. Of course, these same groups — Calvinists and dispensationalists — are frequently portrayed as also wanting to create a theocracy in America, so who knows what to believe. The “some” have a tendency to “say” contradictory things.

The Economist adds,

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Football, family and … faith? That’s a definite maybe

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If you read GetReligion with any frequency, you know the drill.

We critique mainstream media coverage of religion and often point out holy ghosts in news coverage. What are holy ghosts? Let’s go back to tmatt’s description at the very beginning:

They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Some of our regular readers understand the concept quite well. In fact, we depend on readers to submit links to stories deserving of attention. Typically, readers provide a few quick takes on the item submitted, and your friendly neighborhood GetReligionistas take it from there.

Then there are readers such as Ken Fallon, whose submission on a front-page Oregonian story says just about everything that needs to be said. (I really hope Ken isn’t trying to take my job. Granted, it’s a part-time gig, and I’m not getting rich off it, but I do enjoy writing for GetReligion.)

Let’s catch a flavor of the 2,500-word Oregonian feature before reviewing Fallon’s analysis:

SPRING BRANCH, Texas – Lawrence Mattison finds it odd that anyone would look up to him.

Not in the literal sense, of course. Strangers often wonder aloud, glancing at the teenager’s 6-foot-1, 230-pound hulking presence, “Is that guy in high school?”

But the little boy who approached Mattison last fall after a Smithson Valley football game caught him off guard when he handed up a picture he had drawn in school, shyly saying, “I wanna be like you, No. 21.”

“To shake a little kid’s hand, to hear him say he wants to be like me, it’s crazy, it’s humbling,” Mattison says. “This kid wants my life?”

Mattison, who signed a letter of intent at Oregon State this month, may be the best running back to ever play at Smithson Valley, a 2,000-student high school on the northern outskirts of San Antonio. But he’s also the kid who slept behind a gas station when he had nowhere else to go, the guy who punched two holes in the wall when he lost his cool, the one who got handcuffed and wondered if he had just blown his chance at a better life.

Seventeen-hundred miles away in Corvallis, Mike Riley and his staff have built a top 25 program where they preach trust, family and relationships. Lots of coaches talk about a family friendly atmosphere but it’s a way of life at Oregon State, where coaches’ children and wives hang out at practice and eat lunch with the players, where it’s not uncommon for Riley to stop a fan outside the Valley Center, put a hand on the person’s shoulder and ask, “Hey, how you doing?” then stick around to hear the answer.

If you have time, go ahead and read the whole thing and then come back for the critique.

In his submission to GR, Ken noted that the profile “hints at matters of faith while managing to avoid exploring them whatsoever.” (Did I already mention the concept of holy ghosts?)

Let’s hear directly from Ken:

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Pod people: Forgiveness is such a simple word

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Forgiveness is such a simple word

But it’s so hard to do when you’ve been hurt 

The above lyrics from Kellie Pickler’s “I Wonder” provide a fitting introduction to this post.

On this week’s Crossroads podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss forgiveness and media coverage of it. We focus on two recent GetReligion posts touching on that subject.

The first related to my critique of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story that opened this way:

STOVER, Mo. — Last Sunday, the Rev. Travis Smith paced First Baptist Church’s sanctuary, decorated for the holidays with poinsettias and a Christmas tree. He addressed his congregation, speaking to them about forgiveness.

Smith read verses from the Gospel of Matthew that follow the Lord’s Prayer:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” he said.

Since Smith’s arrest in October on sexual abuse and statutory rape charges, which follow similar allegations from 2010, forgiveness from his congregation has become critical to his survival as its pastor. It is this group of about 100 souls — not a bishop, nor a disciplinary committee nor national church leaders at a faraway headquarters — who will decide Smith’s future in the Southern Baptist Convention.

The second concerned my critique of a CBS News report on someone forgiving someone else for — at least based on the news account — some unknown reason.

As my original post noted, that report contained a major ghost.

Also on the podcast, Wilken and I talk about my critique of a USA Today story on a business marketing its products using an R-rated word.

We recorded the podcast before the tragedy in Connecticut, so I was thinking more clearly than I am now. However, I did forget the question about three or four sentences into one long-winded reply — but please don’t tell Wilken!

Anyway, check out the podcast and hug your children.

#APStyleChat: Religion style in 140 characters or less

Speaking of totally geeky things to do (“geeky” as in “absolutely awesome”), the folks at @APStylebook organized a Twitter chat this week on religion writing style.

With the hashtag #APStyleChat, the discussion featured guest expert Rachel Zoll, The Associated Press’ national religion writer. AP’s Colleen Newvine described the chat this way:

People sometimes call AP Stylebook the journalist’s bible, but today we’re hosting a Twitter chat on actual religion.

Your friendly neighborhood GetReligionistas were, of course, curious about the chat and followed it as closely as possible while busy solving other world problems. (A side note: The official @APStylebook Twitter page, which has about 122,000 followers, is different from the unofficial @FakeAPStylebook Twitter page, which has nearly 300,000 followers and takes a, hmmmm, tad more irreverent view of journalistic style issues.)

You can check out the entire chat here, but I wanted to highlight a few of the style guidelines advised:

Those all seem like logical, straightforward approaches. The notion of asking a group to define itself fits with GetReligion’s general mantra that reporters should afford religious people the opportunity to explain what they believe and characterize themselves. On the Mormon item, I recall writing a story one time in which I inadvertently capitalized the “Day” after “Latter.” I was quickly corrected by someone who knew better. Evidently, the capitalized “Day” has a specific meaning.

Another tweet hit at the F-word that has been the subject of so many GetReligion posts over the years:

From 1,300 miles away, I am almost certain I heard Terry Mattingly yelling “Amen!” after that tweet.

Finally, there was this style recommendation:

That note prompted this response from one chat participant (a dude with 138,681 tweets to his credit as of this moment… WOW!):

Weird, huh? Actually, I’ve always kind of thought that myself. I don’t know that I’ve ever interviewed someone who referred to a priest as “the Reverend” instead of “Father,” so I wonder why the AP Stylebook recommends that approach (not that the full response would fit in the 140 characters allowed by a tweet). I know that some newspapers veer from that specific AP style as a means of ensuring consistent language in the story text and direct quotes (by calling a priest “Father” in both instances).

What say you, GetReligion readers? Do you agree with the AP style on priests or have any insight on the proper usage? Any comments or questions related to the other style questions that were addressed?

By the way, if you’re not already following @getreligion on Twitter, why not?

Pod people: Bubba, Mitt and the tie that binds

So, what do Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin and Bubba Watson have in common?

Now — in terms of journalism — what do those guys have in common with Mitt Romney?

Believe it or not, that’s the rather strange question that, rather to my surprise, surfaced near the end of this week’s “Crossroads” GetReligion podcast.

Well, all four of these men are religious believers and they are all in the news — for sure.

The first three are superstar athletes whose faith have put them front and center in the mainstream press. In each case, they have climbed to levels of success that made them all but impossible for mainstream journalists to ignore.

Thus, journalists have hit them with some heavy words, in today’s tense public square. You know the ones — “devout” and “evangelical” (if not the f-word itself, “fundamentalist”).

Now, it helps that none of these sports guys are hiding their beliefs, from reporters or anyone else. In fact, as I noted the other day, that deep-fried Masters champ Bubba is sticking his evangelistic efforts in front of the world on Twitter. Thus, in a discussion of ESPN coverage of the champ, I wrote:

Perhaps the quickest, most concise way to describe this man is the ready-made soundbite he posted as his bio on his Twitter page. That would be this:

“@bubbawatson: Christian. Husband. Daddy. Pro Golfer. Owner of General Lee 1.”

… Once again we see a basic issue in mainstream news coverage of religious believers in public life: When describing what makes these people tick, isn’t a good thing for journalists to include their own voices as part of the coverage?

In other words, I thought it was strange for journalists to try to write about Bubba Watson THE MAN without including some of his own words on the topic that he himself says is the defining thread that runs through this life — linking his family, his charity work and his golf career.

But there has to be more to this kind of story than one person’s unchallenged voice. Journalists are not audio recording devices that store words and then serve them — public-relations style — to the public. The voices of the people in the news are an essential ingredient in the coverage and it’s bizarre when they are missing.

So, what else links these guys?

That’s where you have another crucial piece of the journalism-coverage puzzle. All too often, we journalists seem to forget — especially when covering athletes (hello Michael Vick) — that, while it may be hard to get inside someone’s head and probe the full content of their beliefs, it is actually rather easy to seek out some of the key facts linked to how believers live their lives.

It would interesting, for example, to know where that Tebow fellow plans to go to church in or around New York City. I would predict that he has already given it some thought. Yes, and he probably is being forced to make privacy and security a part of that equation. I predict that he picks one and that he is an active member. I would imagine that the pastor hopes Tebow is a tither.

My point is that religious lives have public components that can be reported. People rarely sit in pews alone. Pastors and other church leaders may be willing to discuss some aspects of a believer’s life on the record. It is possible to discreetly visit forums in which people share their thoughts and convictions — right out in the open. Once upon a time, reporters learned a lot from listening to a Baptist named Jimmy Carter teach his Sunday School classes (Note to Barack Obama: Even while Carter was living in Washington).

Which brings us to Mitt Romney. Now there’s a man who is unlikely to be tweeting verses of scripture anytime soon. I would imagine that he is not anxious to talk about his own theological convictions, these days.

However, it is valid to ask factual questions about his religious pilgrimage. There may be speeches and Q&A interviews from the past. Mormons, as a rule, tend to have highly detailed (and amazing) track records in terms of philanthropy and public service. Check out this Pew Forum link on that subject.

In other words, it is possible to seek out Romney’s voice and then to probe what one might call the “faith facts” linked to his beliefs. Follow the money. Back up a few decades and follow, so to speak, the event planners of his previous work. Seek journalistic facts, not labels. You are seeking, in the words of the old hymn, not the classic Bruce Springsteen song, the ties that bind (as in “Blessed Be The Tie That Binds”).

By the way, the same approach would work with Obama — past and present. Seek the voice. Seek the public facts about his religious walk. Report the results.

Is Chaput too Catholic for the Inky?

First things first. Let me state right up front, for GetReligion readers who do not already know, that I have known Archbishop Charles Chaput ever since he was an urban pastor and college campus minister long ago in Denver. The young Franciscan I knew then is still the man who makes headlines from time to time today, especially now that he has moved from Denver to the historic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

I was a bit surprised to meet a friar who was so intensely interested in mass media — film in particular — and technology, especially the impact of modern media on college students and the young. He was much more interested in trends in media, family life, education and related topics than he was — let’s say — in politics. However, we do live in an age in which it is impossible to discuss the moral theology of the Catholic faith in the public square without getting involved in political debates.

My point is that it is impossible to write about who Chaput actually is without discussing the topics that drive him as a priest and as a bishop. This is easy to do, since he talks about these issues all of the time. Alas, it is also possible to only pay attention to Chaput’s statements that make headlines — which tend to be about issues of moral theology. These statements are viewed as being political statements, pure and simple.

This is clearly what happened in the thin, shallow, all politics, all the time profile that ran recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Note, especially, that this is a lengthy news feature that includes one voice — on the left or the right — that is not completely predictable and partisan. Sure enough, the most interesting material in the story is drawn from that one voice who is not one of the “usual suspects” for a story of this kind. More on that in a minute.

I mean, this is the kind of story that features — read to the end of this passage — the following ID for one outspoken Catholic partisan:

Writing in last Sunday’s Inquirer, he described as “dangerous and insulting” the Obama administration’s mandate that religious-affiliated hospitals, schools, and charities provide employees with free contraception coverage. President Obama’s plan was the most “aggressive attack on religious freedom in our country … in recent memory,” Chaput wrote, lambasting it as “the embodiment of a culture war.”

Taking their cues from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, many other prelates condemned the policy. But Chaput’s attack stood out, eliciting praise from conservative Catholic groups and dismay from church liberals.

“Incendiary and divisive,” said a spokesman for Catholic Democrats, a liberal advocacy group for the poor.

This Catholic Democrats group is a crucial voice in a story of this kind and represents the Catholic left very well — the bookend on the left that, oh, Priests For Life would form on the right. However, as the name implies, it is a honest and openly partisan group. This makes it an “advocacy group for the poor”? This assumes that only doctrinally liberal Catholics care about the poor — which would come as a great shock to, well, the Franciscans or the Missionaries of Charity.

Oh, and “many other prelates” oppose the new regulations from the Obama White House? At this point, it is very hard to find a Catholic bishop — left, right or center — who has not opposed them.

It would be very easy to pick away at the slanted and, at times, inaccurate language in much of this report. Most of the time, however, readers are dealing with sins of omission rather than commission. For example, on one highly controversial issue:

In 2006, Chaput drew national attention for his denunciation of legislation to expand the right of Colorado sex-abuse victims to sue their abusers, denouncing its advocates as “anti-Catholic.”

“It was about as ugly a political fight as I’ve been involved with at the Capitol,” one lobbyist said.

And why did the archbishop call this bill “anti-Catholic”?

Now, this is complex and controversial terrain, but it really would have helped for readers to know that — at the center of the fight — was debate about whether the legislation would, in effect, merely lengthen the statute of limitations for case involving THE CHURCH, as opposed to cases involving public institutions with unique legal advantages — such as accusations against public-school districts (which were fiercely protected under Colorado law by immunity from truly damaging civil law suits).

And so forth and so on.

I also found it interesting that the Inky didn’t follow up — zip, zero, nada — on this rather revealing quote from a previous Chaput interview. The archbishop declined to be interviewed by the Inquirer, which says quite a bit in and of itself.

Though a hero to many conservatives, Chaput has taken shots from all sides. “The left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that,” he told Catholic News Service in 2009. “The right is meaner, but they’re not as foul.”

That’s interesting. On what issues has Chaput taken heat from the political and cultural right? I would assume his stances on immigration, the death penalty, health care for the poor, etc., etc. How would Inquirer readers know that? It appears that those details would have muddied the picture in this article.

Meanwhile, what about that one interesting, insightful and non-partisan voice? Remember this guy?

Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University of America, took a more temperate view.

“He’s distinctive among the American bishops in his ability to make certain kinds of arguments,” said Schneck, who called Chaput “an extremely talented prelate.”

“But there’s a twist,” Schneck said. Chaput “sometimes speaks so clearly and with such force that it’s more a conversation-stopper than an invitation to discourse, and that might work against his ultimate effectiveness.”

That’s interesting. Might Schneck have an example or two to discuss and dissect? Apparently not.

Maybe some other time. The folks driving the bus on this story already knew where they were going.

VIDEO: A rather typical mini-sermon from the archbishop, drawn from the funeral Mass for Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.


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