Forgetting the kippah or crucifix (and the second why)

All-nighters and Domino’s Pizza at the student newspaper. X-acto knives and 2-point tape. The smell of chemicals processing the film. The five Ws and the H.

Good times, folks. Good times.

What journalists among us can forget our introductory class, whatever it was creatively named by the institution of our choice? One of the first quizzes I remember taking at my alma matter covered the basics of good, solid reporting. And those fundamentals included (say it with me): Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.

As our loyal followers know, one of our mantras is to stress this foundation and its importance from a religious standpoint. Of course, just as multiple Whos can be involved in a report, so can multiple Whys.

Why am I stressing the basics? Because The Associated Press didn’t. And the absence of a second Why in this AP story from earlier this month on a proposed move by the Quebec government to ban employees in the public sector from wearing religious headwear and neckwear glares at me from my computer screen.

From the top:

MONTREAL – Viewed from the outside, Quebec often seems like a place where all life orbits around the political destiny of a French-speaking province in an English-speaking country.

The latest instance centers on religious headwear. The trigger is a heatedly debated plan by the ruling party, the separatist Parti Quebecois, to make the provincial government religion-neutral.

It wants to do so by banning symbols of religious faith such as Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans, Muslim head scarves and large crucifixes from public workplaces. And as usual, the measure is being read also for what it says about the ruling party’s perennial goal of making Quebec independent of the rest of Canada.

The analysis is that with support for separatism weakened, and an election being predicted for December, something spectacular is needed to rally the party base. But the proposal appears to be losing support with that base, and if anyone is being mobilized, it’s the opposition.

In recent weeks Montreal has witnessed the rare spectacle of thousands of protesting Muslims, Jews and Sikhs marching together through the streets.

“I just want to be able to wear what I want; I don’t see why any one can tell me what to put on my head,” Saara Khan, a Montreal Muslim high schooler who wears a head scarf, said at a recent protest.

But why, Saara Khan? Why do you want the religious freedom to wear your head scarf at school?

AP assumes we know the importance of the religious headware. Another thing I learned in that freshman journalism class is what happens when we assume. Ahem.

The full answer is easily available. As author Shabana Mir, assistant professor in social foundations and qualitative research at Oklahoma State University, puts it: “The list … shows that the Muslim headscarf is capable of a number of meanings, many of which are rather more mundane and less dramatic than outsiders might imagine.”

And of course I can’t expect valuable ink to be spent on all 17 reasons. But how about a primer?

Another source for the story represented the Jewish faith:

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Evangelicalism is political, but not a political movement

How many political issues do American evangelicals care about? Apparently, just two: abortion and same-sex marriage. At least that is the impression you’d get if you read about evangelicals in the mainstream press.

Earlier today, CNN updated their “Fast Facts” page on former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. Aside from general biographical information and a timeline of his career, the page includes only three “Other Facts,” including this one:

Evangelical Christian who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.

Australia’s Herald Sun describes another Minnesota politician, Michele Bachmann, in similar terms:

The former tax lawyer staked out positions against big government, with calls for slashing taxes and debt, while touting her credentials as a Christian evangelical opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Abortion and same-sex marriage. And that’s that.

With the media constantly connecting evangelicalism with these issues it’s no surprise that many people believe these are the only two moral, cultural and political issues that matter to evangelical Christians. As important as these issues are, though, they are just two of a multitude of concerns that comprise the public agenda of American evangelicals.

Evangelicalism is religious movement that span across a broad range, from left to right, across the political spectrum. There is no singular “evangelical perspective” on any political issue. And on doctrinal matters? Even that question will cause fierce debates.

Yet for many journalists, politics is the metanarrative that frames all others belief structures. Since I can’t convince them to stop treating religion as a subset of politics, I thought it might be useful to at least help them broaden their perspective by pointing out how evangelicals tend to faith prioritizes and influences political views. I’ve been an evangelical my entire life and a close observer and participant of evangelical trends — particularly in the media and politics — for the past fifteen years. But you don’t need to be an insider to recognize the main concerns of the evangelical community — especially evangelical leaders — tends to revolve around six key principles.

These six principles, of course, do not comprise an exhaustive list. While I incorporated many of the themes from the National Association of Evangelicals’ paper on civic engagement, the list remains rather subjective and based on my own experience. Still, while it won’t provide a definitive answer to the question of what American evangelicals care about, I believe it’ll show that the political concerns are more broad-based than is often realized. The six principles are:

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