Every now and then, the newspaper that lands in my front yard runs a story about one of the most famous and, for many, most inspirational men currently alive and well and working in Baltimore.
No, this is not another post about coverage of the theological insights of Ray “God’s linebacker” Lewis of the world champion Baltimore Ravens.
I’m talking about Dr. Ben Carson, who is usually, in media reports, described as the “trailblazing black neurosurgeon” at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is also well known as an author, of course.
The most recent Baltimore Sun story about the good doctor is not, repeat, is NOT, haunted by a religion ghost. In fact, the story does a pretty good job of noting that his Seventh-day Adventist faith is a crucial part of what makes him tick — even if the references settles for the usual “devout” label without providing any material that demonstrates that fact, as opposed to simply proclaiming it.
Let me repeat, this particular story does not ignore religion. In fact, the team that produced it made sure to include the doctor’s beliefs as part of his public persona.
So what, in my humble opinion, makes this a story that deserves some GetReligion attention? I was fascinated by the fact that the Sun team clearly took the content of Carson’s faith semi-seriously for a completely and painfully obvious reason, which is that his recent remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast have stirred up political talk about his future.
The content of his faith is news because it’s political, not because it’s a key element in the life of a major figure in the city. Thus, readers are told right up front:
Dr. Ben Carson says he didn’t anticipate the reaction to what he considered his common-sense remarks as keynote speaker this month at the National Prayer Breakfast. But after video went viral of the trailblazing black neurosurgeon taking jabs at Barack Obama’s health care overhaul a few feet from the president himself, some want the famed doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to parlay the attention into a new career: politics.
“Here you have this guy who has been a celebrity minority for 30 years coming out and making the conservative case better than a lot of conservatives can,” said Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large for National Review Online. “Emotionally, that had a really big impact for a lot of people.”
While some objected to Carson raising health care and tax policy at the traditionally nonpolitical Washington breakfast, conservative heavyweights Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter all cheered his address. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial with the headline “Ben Carson for President.”
Trust me on this: How does the Sun team expect their readers to react to all of those names, to this litany of cultural doom, in a news report about a prominent local African-American leader? Click here for the YouTube answer.
So what was Carson actually trying to say at the breakfast? It would have been nice if the piece had actually quoted a chunk or two of the address, but this information made it into the report: