The ongoing spectacle of NYTimes contempt for religion

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Yes, this was a piece of commentary. In other words, it was not a news story that automatically fell into GetReligion territory.

Yes, this mini-essay was about a new reality-television show way off in the outer reaches of cable land.

But, well, it was also a piece that was published with a staff byline in the pages of The New York Times under one of those double-decker headlines that simply demands attention, right this very moment:

Seek and Ye Shall Find a Hottie

In ‘It Takes a Church,’ the Congregation Helps Pick Your Date

Said review also contained an out-of-the-blue statement that, well, you just knew GetReligion readers were going to bring to our attention again, and again, and again, world without end, amen. More on that in a moment.

Nevertheless, your GetReligionistas passed the URL around for a day or so and we concluded that we would let this one pass us by. Then GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway jumped in, over at The Federalist, and went all GetReligion on it. Thus, we are choosing to pass along what she had to say.

So what’s this all about? The Times explains:

Each week the show visits a congregation and matches up one of its single members with a prospective mate. The first episode travels to the Rock Worship Center in Charlotte, N.C., where 30-year-old Angela laments, “I can’t find a man.” Apparently, she hasn’t been looking very hard, because when the TV cameras come to town one Sunday, bachelors pop up from the congregation like weeds, each accompanied by a “matchmaker” — his mother or some other advocate — extolling his virtues.

The gimmick of the show is: It’s not Angela who does the initial winnowing. It’s the congregation, though the criteria the parishioners are using to thin the field are not clear. Anyway, after the elimination round, the usual shallow banter ensues — here, devoid of the sexual innuendo common on other dating shows — and Angela eventually picks one fellow for a date, the results of which we do not learn.

M.Z., tongue only slightly in her cheek, noted that this scenario does not sound all that unusual to her. Why is that?

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Duck, duck, ghost: Media miss faith angle on ‘Duck Dynasty’

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Do you speak duck?

Last Wednesday night, the Season 3 premiere of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” delivered 8.6 million viewers, beating Fox’s “American Idol” and ABC’s “Modern Family” in the important 18- to 49-year-olds demographic.

In a featured titled “Faith, family and ducks,” I profiled the Robertson family for The Christian Chronicle this past fall:

WEST MONROE, La. — Hollywood, meet the real Robertsons.

A&E’s hit reality series “Duck Dynasty” has made celebrities out of Duck Commander Phil Robertson, his wife Kay and their bearded, camo-clad sons Willie, Jase and Jeptha, not to mention “Uncle Si,” Phil’s younger brother.

As the network portrays it, the series — whose Season 1 finale drew 2.6 million viewers — follows a Louisiana bayou family living the American dream as they operate a thriving duck call and decoy business while staying true to their family values.

For the Robertsons, those values relate to the grace and salvation found in Jesus.

But for the show’s producers, the family’s strong Christian faith seems to be an uncomfortable storyline — one frequently chopped in the editing room.

“They pretty much cut out most of the spiritual things,” Phil Robertson, a one-time honky-tonk operator who gave up his heathen lifestyle in the 1970s, told The Christian Chronicle. “We say them, but they just don’t run them on the show.

“Hollywood has run upon the kingdom of God, and there’s a rub there,” said the Duck Commander, a tenacious personal evangelist who has brought hundreds of souls to new life in the Ouachita River. “Well, we have to be as harmless as a dove and as shrewd as a snake in the way we deal with them.”

The entire Robertson family is active with the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, which meets just a few miles from the Duck Commander/Buck Commander warehouse in this northeast Louisiana town of 13,000.

In advance of last week’s season premiere, “Duck Dynasty” got some free publicity: Singer and animal rights activist Morrissey canceled an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” because the Robertsons were scheduled on the same night.

From The Associated Press:

Morrissey says he can’t perform on a show with what he called people who “amount to animal serial killers.”

Phil, Si, Willie and Jase Robertson appeared on Kimmel’s show as scheduled and joked about Morrissey’s absence. But Phil Robertson’s comments also reflected his faith.

“Whoever he is, we love him as our neighbor, hey!” Phil Robertson told Kimmel. The patriarch of the Robertson family also offered to have a Bible study with Morrissey (as you can see in the above video).

Surprisingly enough (or not), the Bible statement — unlike the animal rights issue — did not make it into the mainstream media reports that I read.

Back in October, The New York Times featured the Robertsons and hinted at their faith:

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Ugh — when ‘reality’ TV looks inside clergy homes

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I know, I know. “The Sisterhood” is a reality television show about pastors’ wives.

I know, I know. That piece on the Style page at The Washington Post — “‘The Sisterhood’ is more religious entertainment than reality TV” — is primarily a review of this alleged fact-based reality show, not a true news feature about a serious issue in church life.

What we are talking about, of course, are the glass houses in which most clergy families live. This is delicate, serious territory.

All that aside, I actually would like to praise this Post piece for noting several serious holes in this oh-so-unreal reality show.

However, GetReligion readers will not be surprised to learn that the article does not spotlight the fact that the show is — despite focusing on the lives of Atlanta-area preachers’ wives — almost completely lacking in content about the beliefs of these women or the practice of their faith.

Right up front, readers are told:

“The Sisterhood” is a new reality show on TLC about pastors’ wives in Atlanta. The city is the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ministry and the show promises a rare window into the lives of several “first ladies.”

So far — we’re four episodes in, halfway through the inaugural season — a pastor has given his spouse a pair of handcuffs, a first lady has pointed out the first house where she smoked crack and there’s been a nice chat about sexually transmitted diseases.

Can we get a fan in the first pew? This is so not mama’s sweet hour of prayer.

More on those handcuffs in a minute, since that’s a rather important plot twist that gets mangled.

The key is the whole National Geographic-explores-strange-people approach that is given to what the creators see as an exotic and mysterious niche culture in American life. Right, this is a land in which pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, etc., are out of the mainstream.

So what, precisely, is the edgy Bible Belt niche explored in this series? That’s where the key racial and doctrinal elements come to the forefront, creating heat and controversy:

None of these first ladies are at major denominational churches, such as Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian or Methodist. Instead, they’re all at what are loosely known as “prosperity churches,” with names like the Oasis Family Life Church, Emmanuel Tabernacle, Work with Wonders and The Good Life Ministry. Two of the couples were between churches during filming.

Actually, “Episcopalian” is a noun and the adjective form of this word is “Episcopal,” but never mind. Let’s continue, since is the point where the Post team offers some serious information to readers. This is the heart of the report:

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