A quiverfull of kudos for the BBC

As an Evangelical in the media, I’m sympathetic to the struggle journalists have with reporting on our peculiar tradition. When simply defining what the term “Evangelical” means poses a challenge, it can be difficult to know how to report on shared beliefs within Evangelicalism, much less the on the more controversial sub-movements within the tradition.

The BBC news magazine recently ran a feature on the Quiverfull movement, though, that had me taking notes on how to do it right. Here are a few Journalism 101 tips about reporting on religious trends that I gleaned from the article:

1. Explain the movement in terms its adherents would agree with. – The BBC provides some helpful background by mentioning the term “Quiverfull” comes from Psalm 127:

The psalm – where children are compared to arrows for war – is the inspiration for the Quiverfull movement.

“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They shall not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”

Christians in the movement believe in giving up all forms of contraception and accepting as many children as God gives, both as a sign of obedience to God and in a bid to ensure the future of the faith.

2. Explain why the movement is newsworthy. – Almost any genuine religious trend is worthy of coverage, but the average reader should be given some reason for caring enough to read the article. The BBC provides a helpful, succinct explanation:

In the US, Quiverfull families frequently reach up to a dozen children with the numbers of adherents in the tens of thousands. But now the movement is gaining popularity in other countries.

In the UK, where the average family size is 1.7 children, this makes couples who follow its teachings stand out.

[Read more...]

Hey Telegraph editors: Where’s the Catholic left?

One thing is certain, the facts boldly stated in the headline at The Telegraph are enough to grab readers from the get-go.

Gay marriage could signal return to ‘centuries of persecution’, say 1,000 Catholic priests

The story opens with an imposing block of paraphrased and quoted material from the letter, which was signed by some key bishops as well as priests.

The key, however, is the word “some.” More on that later.

More than 1,000 priests have signed a letter voicing alarm that same-sex marriage could threaten religious freedom in a way last seen during “centuries of persecution” of Roman Catholics in England.

In one of the biggest joint letters of its type ever written, they raise fears that their freedom to practise and speak about their faith will be “severely” limited and dismiss Government reassurances as “meaningless”. They even liken David Cameron’s moves to redefine marriage to those of Henry VIII, whose efforts to secure a divorce from Katherine of Aragon triggered centuries of bloody upheaval between church and state.

They claim that, taken in combination with equalities laws and other legal restraints, the Coalition’s plans will prevent Catholics and other Christians who work in schools, charities and other public bodies speaking freely about their beliefs on the meaning of marriage.

Even the freedom to speak from the pulpit could be under threat, they claim. And they fear that Christians who believe in the traditional meaning of marriage would effectively be excluded from some jobs — just as Catholics were barred from many professions from the Reformation until the 19th Century.

Now the key to this story is who signed this document and who did not.

Some of the important facts are clearly stated in the story. The letter — apparently sent to The Daily Telegraph, not to a government office of any kind was signed by 1,054 priests as well as 13 bishops, abbots and “other senior Catholic figures.” In all, these Catholic leaders are said to “account for almost a quarter of all Catholic priests in England and Wales.”

A quarter signed. There’s the key to the whole matter.

[Read more...]

Not all ‘nones’ are atheists

In England and Wales, there were 37.3 million Christians in 2001, representing 72 percent of the population. In the most recent census (2011), that had dropped to 33.2 million or 59 percent of the population.

Religion News Service had a brief story about this that included these graphs:

Figures from the 2011 Census show the number of people declaring themselves to be atheists rose by more than 6 million, to 14.1 million.

“It should serve as a warning to the churches that their increasingly conservative attitudes are not playing well with the public at large,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. “It also calls into question the continued establishment of the Church of England, whose claims to speak for the whole nation are now very hard to take seriously.”

However, those statistics are not right.

As reported in The Telegraph:

The number of people specifically identifying as Atheists was 29,267, while over 13.8 million refused to identify with a faith at all, ticking the “No religion” box on the census form.

While reporting no religion might sound similar to atheism, there is no way for journalists to know if respondents are atheists, agnostics, unaffiliated or otherwise.

But there is a big difference between 29,267 reporting atheism and 14.1 million. For more on the rise of the nones, check out The Friendly Atheist’s blog post here.


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