Say what?!? Organ music at ‘Duck Dynasty’ church?

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The White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., is making headlines these days as the home congregation of the Robertson family of “Duck Dynasty” fame.

For me, mention of the White’s Ferry Road church brings back fond memories totally unrelated to duck hunting or reality television. That’s because — for two years during my early childhood — the Ouachita River community of West Monroe was my hometown and the White’s Ferry Road church my home congregation, as I shared in a 2012 column.

In light of the controversy over “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments on homosexuality, The Associated Press sent a reporter to cover Sunday services at the Louisiana church this past weekend.

The top of the story:

WEST MONROE, La. (AP) – “Faith. Family. Ducks.” It’s the unofficial motto for the family featured in the TV reality show Duck Dynasty and that homespun philosophy permeates nearly everything in this small north Louisiana town.

It’s perhaps most on display at the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, where the Robertson family prays and preaches most Sunday mornings.

The family — including patriarch Phil Robertson, who ignited a controversy last week when he told a magazine reporter that gays are sinners and African-Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws — were in a front pew this past Sunday. And standing by beliefs they say are deeply rooted in their reading of the Bible.

The rest of the flock, decked out in Duck Dynasty hats and bandannas, stood by the family and the sentiments Phil Robertson expressed.

Alan, Robertson’s eldest son, helped deliver a Christmas-themed sermon. He started off by referring to last week’s controversy.

“Hope your week went well,” he dead-panned. “Ours was kinda’ slow.” He was referring, of course, to Phil’s forced hiatus: TV network A&E suspended Phil last week after remarks about blacks and gays caused a public uproar.

So far, so good.

But then came this spit-out-out-your-Diet-Coke transition, if you happen to be a part of this particular branch of the Christian faith:

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Pod people: How not to write an attack piece

On one long winter workday in camp, as I was lugging a wheelbarrow together with another man, I asked myself how one might portray the totality of our camp existence. In essence it should suffice to give a thorough description of a single day, providing minute details and focusing on the most ordinary kind of worker; that would reflect the entirety of our experience. It wouldn’t even be necessary to give examples of any particular horrors. It shouldn’t be an extraordinary day at all, but rather a completely unremarkable one, the kind of day that will add up to years. That was my conception and it lay dormant in my mind for nine years.

– From the foreward of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Arkhipelag Gulag 1918–1956: Opyt khudozhestvennogo issledovaniia. Sokrashchennoe izdanie, ed. N. D. Solzhenitsyn (Moscow: Prosveshchenie, 2010).

Should fallacious news stories be allowed to stand unchallenged? If you wrestle with a tabloid, will you not merely smear yourself with more mud? In the latest edition of Crossroads, a GetReligion podcast, Issues Etc. host Todd Wilkin and I discussed my article “A Scottish tabloid libels the Churches of Christ” — my critique of a story that appeared in Glasgow’s Daily Record.

I was unsparing in my appraisal of the Daily Record article about the outreach activities of a Church of Christ congregation in East Kilbride, Scotland school. I wrote the article was written:

in a style reminiscent of Der Sturmer. Substitute “Jews” for “Church of Christ,” and with this article alleging secretive sects seeking to destroy the pure Scottish race through their pernicious doctrines, you have a story straight out of 1930?s Germany.

And …

Yes, it is only the Daily Record, a disreputable tabloid, but this article is libelous, malicious and evil — it is a disgrace to journalism.

Todd pushed me to explain why I believed it was necessary to counter such stories. I noted there were two issues here — the wrong done to the members of the volunteer program at the Church of Christ and the wrong done to the art — to the craft and aesthetics of journalism. My response was directed by my love of newspapers. It was irrelevant to me who the target of the Daily Record‘s bile might have been. An attack by a newspaper against Muslims, Buddhists, Rastafarians, or the Churches of Christ (but perhaps not the Church of England) would have elicited a similar response.

Some commentators on my original post did not believe such a distinction should be made. They believed the Church of Christ’s actions to be malign and its “missionaries” — to use the phrase placed in scare quotes by the Daily Record — were a bad lot. The newspaper’s attack was justified because of the doctrines of the Church of Christ were objectionable to their sensibilities.

I responded to one critic by stating this was not what newspapers are supposed to do. By singling out the Church of Christ for abuse, manipulating photographs and misconstruing the story I wrote that I believed the Daily Record had breached the code of ethical conduct expected of newspapers.

This is not about what the CoC believes or does not believe. It is about shoddy journalism. You forget state schools in Britain teach religion. Banning groups that are anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-evolution would ban Muslim groups from offering religious materials to schools. Do you believe the Daily Record would have run this story if it those helping at the school were Muslims? Would the Daily Record have made the same remarks about the Koran .. Sura 5:6, that Jews are the descendants of Apes and Pigs? This is not about the CoC. This is about a newspaper behaving badly.

The stated the Daily Record story was guilty of the sins I enumerated in my first piece — and frankly they were dopes who did not know their job.

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In post-denominational age, what’s in a name?

Joe Carter, our newest GetReligionista, referenced Southern Baptist name-change discussions in a post earlier this week. It’s a topic that GetReligion has tackled a time or two before — or more.

I bring up the subject again because I came across a fascinating Miami Herald news-feature this week with this headline:

For some Baptists, the name of the church is hindrance to saving souls

The top of the story:

After 87 years, the University Baptist Church of Coral Gables recently shed its name for something it felt was more forward looking — Christ Journey.

It was following the lead of First Baptist Church of Perrine, which dropped the name it had held for 89 years in favor of Christ Fellowship.

Coral Baptist Church of Coral Springs relaunched itself in 2006 as Church By the Glades.

And First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale is now known as “First Fort Lauderdale” in its new website. The word “Baptist” is found in a faintly lettered tagline.

These South Florida churches are joining a growing number of Southern Baptist congregations around the country that are quietly moving away from their denomination’s historic namesake — worried that it conjured up images of pipe organs, narrow-mindedness or stuffy, formal services.

The reality, pastors say, is that many modern Baptist churches mix their liturgy with rock bands and gourmet coffee, and sermons are more likely to be about personal growth than fire and brimstone.

This is one of those “growing number” trend stories that never actually provides any concrete statistics to back up the nut graf up high. Alas, I’ve written similarly vague summaries myself, so I won’t be too critical of that lapse. I do wonder, however, if the Southern Baptist Convention actually tracks the number of member churches that don’t use “Baptist” and how those figures have changed in recent years.

It’s not as if this trend is breaking news: I did an Associated Press feature in 2004 contrasting the approaches of Ed Young’s Second Baptist Church in Houston and Ed Young Jr.’s Fellowship Church, a non-Baptist “Baptist” megachurch in Grapevine, Texas. Christianity Today, meanwhile, notes that Rick Warren’s Saddleback Community Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Another concern for me: the editorially charged (as in, opinionated) descriptions of Baptist churches as “narrow-minded” and “stuffy” with no specific sources making those claims — and no one who might disagree given an opportunity to dispute the characterization. The same holds true in a later paragraph:


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