Neon Trees rocker says he’s gay — and still Mormon

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At some point, coming-out stories about faith-claiming celebrities, musicians, politicians — anyone in the public eye — will cease to be newsworthy.

Until then, we put up with the half-written attempts by news outlets and magazines to tell their stories. I say half-written because rarely do these pieces come close to a proper attempt at reconciling the subjects’ claims of sexual orientation with their faith backgrounds in any meaningful way. (For the record, that includes comment from someone representing the denomination with which the newly heralded LGBT identifies himself/herself.)

The latest example is Rolling Stone’s narrative on alternative rock group Neon Trees’ lead singer Tyler Glenn. Glenn, a lifelong member of the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tells the magazine he is gay and has known since he was 6 that he was attracted to men. He also describes his first date with another man, indicating he will pursue that type of relationship in the future.

Glenn also says that he still considers himself a Mormon, although the church’s doctrinal position on homosexuality is clear: Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married.

One might think that Rolling Stone would seek out a quote from a church representative, given the situation. Not in this story. No quote from anyone in the church, although we do hear from Glenn’s mother, also a Mormon, as well as others connected to the group — whose members all profess Mormon faith. And no word from Neon Trees fans, whom Glenn admits might be upset when they hear the news:

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Francis is the right kind of pope, at least for Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone has done gaudy before. Its writers have weathered Lady Gaga’s meat gown, Madonna’s frills and external bras, Bowie’s androgynous alien Ziggy Stardust and more. Yet its cover story gets goggle-eyed at Catholic trappings — the “absurd, impossibly baroque backdrop of the Vatican” — just to show Pope Francis as moderate and low-key. And a liberal, modern, progressive (i.e., good) pontiff.

All that and more goes into the cover story of the current Rolling Stone, painting Francis as a huge surprise to a dusty, arthritic institution: a sweet man bursting with idealism, pushing the Roman Catholic Church to shed its benighted notions of politics and morality.

GetReligionista Mark Kellner wrote a breezy, well-deserved diss to the Rolling Stone article. Now let’s peel a few layers off this onion.

What Stone writer Mark Binelli gives us is an expanded version of hopeful chatterings last year by liberal media, when Francis was elected. Granted, Rolling Stone celebrates colorful writing, but Binelli’s story reads like an odd mix of naïvete and cynicism. Case in point:

Against the absurd, impossibly baroque backdrop of the Vatican, a world still run like a medieval court, Francis’ election represents what his friend Elisabetta Piqué, an Argentine journalist who has known him for a decade, calls “a scandal of normality.”

Whatever Piqué meant (and her articles aren’t linked from the Rolling Stone piece), it’s doubtful that she would have mixed periods centuries apart, like Baroque and medieval, in a single sentence.

It gets worse — nine times worse, according to Damon Linker of The Week, who lists nine ridiculous claims in the Rolling Stone article. Linker rightly scorns, for instance, the incredible comparison of Pope Benedict XVI with Freddy Kreuger:

After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares, Francis’ basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic.

Comments Linker: “Let’s ponder the spectacle of a journalist likening a head of state and the spiritual leader of about 1 billion people to Freddy Krueger. Not because he made a habit of terrorizing teenagers, mind you. But because of what he ‘looked like.’ ”

And when Binelli wades into politics, he’s clearly out of his depth. Now, no one expects seasoned political writers at Rolling Stone; but theoretically, someone at the magazine should have copyread his piece. They might have caught this:

The touchingly enduring Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Bulworth/Aaron Sorkin fantasy in which a noble political figure finally tells the American people the truth tends not to happen in real-life democracy, you may have noticed. There’s too much money, too many special interests infecting electoral politics. Such a scenario could probably take place only in an arcane throwback of an institution like the Vatican, where secret ballots and an utter absence of transparency made the rise of an unknown quantity like Bergoglio possible. Had the race instead been for an obscure House seat in Kentucky, the opposition research team would have reduced his campaign to rubble within a couple of weeks.

Leaving aside the 18th century-style first sentence, the paragraph contradicts itself. First it says that too many dollars and special interests taint American democracy. Then it says the dysfunction can happen only in a “secret” institution like the Vatican.

And keep in mind that this is supposed to be a bad thing that forces the election of a bland, traditional pope rather than a colorful reformer.

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Rolling Stone thinks it <3′s this pope (plus, Mark signs out)

For reasons probably more associated with my age than anything else, the old Dr. Hook song, “(On the) Cover of the Rolling Stone,” which equated placement on the front of rock’s top magazine with true accomplishment in life, ran through my mind when I first learned that Pope Francis would get pride-of-place in the magazine’s Feb. 13 issue. The comparisons with Dr. Hook (who eventually got their cover) end there, however. This piece is pretty much an early Valentine to its subject.

Mark Binelli, a “novelist and contributing editor to Rolling Stone,” as his bio notes, got the nod to proffer a pontifical profile, and as might be expected from a truly non-conservative publication, Francis comes off closer to Dorothy Day than to George Weigel:

Up close, Pope Francis, the 266th vicar of Jesus Christ on Earth, a man whose obvious humility, empathy and, above all, devotion to the economically disenfranchised has come to feel perfectly suited to our times, looks stouter than on television. Having famously dispensed with the more flamboyant pontifical accessories, he’s also surprisingly stylish, today wearing a double-breasted white overcoat, white scarf and slightly creamier cassock, all impeccably tailored.

The topic of Francis’ catechesis, or teaching, is Judgment Day, though, true to form, he does not try to conjure images of fire and brimstone. His predecessor, Benedict XVI, speaking on the topic, once said, “Today we are used to thinking: ‘What is sin? God is great, he understands us, so sin does not count; in the end God will be good toward all.’ It’s a nice hope. But there is justice, and there is real blame.”

Francis, 77, by contrast, implores the crowd to think of the prospect of meeting one’s maker as something to look forward to, like a wedding, where Jesus and all of the saints in heaven will be waiting with open arms. He looks up from his script twice to repeat key lines: avanti senza paura (“go without fear”) and che quel giudizio finale è già in atto (“the final judgment is already happening”). Coming from this pope, the latter point sounds more like a friendly reminder. His voice is disarmingly gentle, even when amplified over a vast public square.,

Yes, sports fans, time for another long, slobbering kiss from a media outlet inclined to see Papa Francesco as their own theological Rorschach test, an ideological ink-blot that shows what they want to see.

There are, approximately, 7,600 words in this account — I knocked off about 125 words from what Microsoft Word tallied because of links and other bits Rolling Stone inserted in the text — and it would take a post of almost the same length to diagram and dissect the article fully. For starters, suffice it to say that Binelli wasn’t a fan of Francis’ predecessor:

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