What do you mean ‘we’ Kemosabe?

This is a small item, but I found it interesting none-the-less. I wonder what you think.

Today the Washington Post has an update on an important First Amendment issue (important for a few different First Amendment reasons).

Rives Grogan is  a former pastor at New Beginnings Christian Church in Los Angeles. He climbed a tree during the inauguration of President Obama this year and shouted religious messages about abortion. By all accounts, including his own, the protester was zealous and was a distraction.

He was arrested and — no joke — exiled from Washington, D.C. Honest.

Now for the update:

Rives Grogan is allowed back into the District.

The protester who took to a tree to shout antiabortion comments during President Obama’s inauguration in January had been banned by a D.C. judge from setting foot in the city.

But that order was amended during a hearing Monday. The revised order says the tenacious Grogan may roam widely among us while awaiting trial but must avoid a clearly defined area on Capitol Hill that encompasses the Capitol grounds, the House and Senate office buildings, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

The barring of Grogan from the city after his five hours in the tree touched off a vigorous debate over free speech and political dissent in the nation’s capital.

Emphasis mine.

Now, does anyone else find the “us vs. him” approach of that third paragraph to be odd? I can’t stand how political reporters suspect “othering” in, for example, every single pronouncement a Republican makes about President Obama but there’s something about this construction here that I find odd.

Part of it is that I have no idea why the reporter is using the first person plural in a news story. But more than that, “we” are just as much those people who get arrested and annoy people with our political pronouncements and religious views as “we” are the people who don’t, right?

I’m not sure I like the idea that “we” are better or set apart from the people who find themselves in court or otherwise in the crosshairs of government.

Couldn’t this just be avoided by avoiding the first person? Particularly on hot topics like free speech, religious expression, abortion rights, etc.?

Digging for news in (some) inauguration rites and wrongs

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Few paid much attention when a well-known liberal Episcopal priest, the Rev. Luis Leon, delivered the invocation at the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush, a somewhat traditional United Methodist.

The goal, apparently, was to have a range of religious leaders take part even if their own political and theological views did not match those of the president or his supporters. However, Leon — drawing primarily from The Book of Common Prayer — elected to offer a prayer that did not contain material that clashed with the views of the president. Perhaps the most quotable passage came at the end of his prayer, as he prayed on behalf of Bush and his team:

Endow their hearts with your spirit of wisdom that they may lead us in renewing the “ties of mutual respect which form our civic life.” Sustain them as they lead us to exercise our privileges and responsibilities as citizens and residents of this country that we may all work together to eliminate poverty and prejudice so “that peace may prevail with righteousness and justice with order.”

Strengthen their resolve as our nation seeks to serve you in this world that this good and generous country may be a blessing to the nations of the world. May they lead us to become, in the words of Martin Luther King, members of a beloved community, loving our neighbors as ourselves so that all of us may more closely come to fulfill the promise of our founding fathers-one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Of course, it made headlines when Leon — a quick replacement for an evangelical forced out because of his defense long ago of Christian teachings that sexual acts outside of marriage are sin — said the following during his benediction for President Barack Obama’s second public inauguration rite.

We pray for your blessing because without it suspicion, despair and fear of those different from us will be our rule of life. But with your blessing, we can see each other created in your image, a unit of God’s grace, unprecedented, irrepeatable (sic) and irreplaceable.

We pray for your blessing because without it, we will see only what the eye can see. But with the blessing of your blessing we will see that we are created in your image, whether brown, black or white, male or female, first generation or immigrant American, or daughter of the American Revolution, gay or straight, rich or poor.

Obviously, some prayers are more newsworthy than others. I get that.

However, I was fascinated that the moral and theological content of the inauguration prayers were so closely parsed, while other religious events linked to the inauguration were given very little attention and ink.

I don’t know about you, but I was fascinated with the lineup of speakers featured during the service earlier that morning at St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Leon has long served as the rector.

Unless I have missed it, all we have to go on is the White House pool report about the event. Here are a few key snippets:

After another hymn (“O God, our help in ages past,” sung by the full congregation), Pastor Joel Hunter delivered the opening prayer which included, “In your name we bless our president an Vice President and their families … use this service to consecrate not only them but those they serve…” He specifically mentioned members of the armed services as well.

Next was the Old Testament reading by Dr. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor at Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, GA (Joshua 1:1-9), followed by another hymn (“Praise to The Lord, the Almighty”) and a reading of Psalm 139:1-13 by Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Next, the choir sang “Amazing Grace.” Then, the Gospel Reading (Matthew 6:25-34) by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington.

Now that’s a rather interesting piece of Gospel material there. But, oh, nevermind.

Now who preached that sermon?

[Read more...]

At Obama inauguration, not all religion is biblical

Yesterday was a big day for the country, with the second inauguration of President Barack H. Obama. The president gave a very important speech and the media are, excitedly, poring over it. But how were the day’s religion angles covered?

One of the more interesting angles deals with homosexuality. Not only was a pastor dismissed from the program because he spoke 20 years ago of homosexuality in terms of sinfulness, but affirmation of homosexuality was something of a requirement for participation in the public square yesterday. While mainstream media reporters — who are among the most important elites to affirm homosexuality — have noticed one side of that equation, fewer have noted the religiosity of that affirmation or what it means for those who hold to traditional Scriptural views on sexuality. The thoughtful reporter Amy Sullivan being a notable exception here.

But let’s just stick to the speech itself. I’m not one of those reporters who faints or gets a tingle up the leg at any president and I didn’t even get to hear the speech because my children were shouting at me to turn it off. But even so, I think it’s fair to say the speech was remarkable. You can read the text or watch it here. You might not be as effusive with your praise as, say, the New York Times is in its front page story headlined (best to read this as if flushed or slightly out of breath): “Inaugural Stresses Theme of Civil and Gay Rights — Safety Net Praised” — but you can still acknowledge it was an important speech laying out the case for a strong federal government.

Reader Jerry wrote in last night:

Here’s a challenge. Find a mainstream report about today’s inauguration that says what Mark Shields said tonight on the PBS News hour or mentions religion outside of the historical significance of the Bibles that were used. Of course the RNS does but the mainstream media? Ghost city.

Well, Religion News Service is definitely a mainstream media outlet and it aims to present news objectively and without a sectarian point of view. But I get Jerry’s point — it’s an outlet that seeks out religion angles.

Here’s PBS: [Read more...]

Affirm homosexuality now … or else

Washington Post Book World fiction editor Ron Charles tweeted out this morning:

Changing times: Gay inaugural poet hailed; anti-gay inaugural preacher dismissed: ow.ly/gJopc, ow.ly/gJotK

And the links go to just that — stories about the hailing of a gay poet and about a Christian pastor who taught traditional Christian doctrine on homosexuality twenty years ago being disinvited from the inauguration.

Yes, changing times.

These are times that have been advocated strenuously for by the mainstream media. Many journalists don’t try to hide that fact and have been candid about this advocacy. We have covered their admissions here before. (See here, here, here, here)

And much of the current situation — where teaching what Christians outside of the Episcopal Church (and other churches that have recently changed their doctrines) teach about human sexuality makes you a pariah to be shunned — could have easily been predicted.

It was predicted, by many cultural observers (albeit the kind who don’t get glowing profiles in the same mainstream media).

As I prepare to look through the various stories (and of those that I’ve read, many are just fine explanations of the situation while some are more like Orwellian defenses of the inaugural committee’s understanding of tolerance), I have a simple question.

How well do you think the mainstream media explained the ramifications of their advocacy on this topic (and the advocacy of other elites on same) on Christians in the public square?

Medieval warrior, staring at you via Shutterstock.

Who’s this guy giving Obama’s benediction?

Two days ago, I wrote a post in which I suggested that the ginormous Passion 2013 conference down in Atlanta might have received even a tad more coverage. There were, reportedly 60,000 people there and yet there was almost no coverage. I thought it maybe a bit too much in the lack-of-coverage direction.

Reader responses varied. For instance, here’s Hemant Mehta:

But what would the story here be? That young Christians exist? That they gather at conferences? That’s hardly newsworthy. Did they do anything at the event that was different from what Christians typically do? (I’m asking that seriously.)

I argued that in this year, with the media focus on “the nones,” the existence of these young, motivated Christians actually would be sufficient for a story. But, further, I said it’s hard to know what was newsworthy because no one was there to cover it. Various readers agreed with Mehta.

Then reader Daniel said:

Being new on the political scene doesn’t seem to really be a standard used by journalists. If something has been going on for more than twenty years it still gets covered. What gets covered is what reporters advocate, and that’s about as far as we can get from fairminded. Lets use words like cool, trendy, unique! They sell.

The Old Bill had an idea for how to get media coverage:

Maybe if the Nuns On a Bus had been the opening act …

[Read more...]


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