The life and Times of John McCandlish Phillips

The word on the Brooklyn streets in 1959 was that a crazy preacher from Pennsylvania was helping addicts find the power to kick heroin and gang members to trade their weapons for Bibles.Reporter John McCandlish Phillips heard the talk in local churches and took the tip to his metro editors at The New York Times. This was more than a religion story, he argued. This was something truly new in urban ministry in a rough corner of the city.The editors just didn't get it."The New York … [Read more...]

Old religion-beat questions linger, even after 25 years

Every year or so, editors are asked to sit patiently while market researchers dissect thick reports about what consumers say they want to see in their newspapers.That was already true back when Harry Moskos was editor of The Knoxville News Sentinel. But he immediately noticed something strange, when handed the executive summary of one late-1980s survey.Two words near the top of the subjects valued by readers caught his attention -- "religion" and "family." Yet the professionals … [Read more...]

Hot words in top 2012 religion stories

'Twas the Sunday night before the election and the Rev. Robert Jeffress was offering a message that, from his point of view, was both shocking and rather nuanced.His bottom line: If Barack Obama won a second White House term, this would be another sign that the reign of the Antichrist is near.Inquiring minds wanted to know: Was the leader of the highly symbolic First Baptist Church of Dallas suggesting the president was truly You Know Anti-who?"I am not saying that President Obama is the … [Read more...]

Yet another preying Presbyterian?

Once again, shocked onlookers painted from familiar palettes as they described the latest young man to march into the public square with his guns blazing.The alleged killer was a moody, quiet loner who excelled at school. He was a normal guy who loved movies and super-hero tales, only he cheered for the villains. When seen in bars, he was usually sitting alone.Journalists also quoted people who knew the family and said that James Holmes was once, as The Los Angeles Times noted, "heavily … [Read more...]

Why Chuck Colson spent Easter in prison

It wasn't the typical Bible text for an Easter sermon, but the preacher knew what this congregation needed to hear.Never forget, he said, what Jesus proclaimed in his first sermon: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."This isn't the sermon that many believers hear on Easter, but it's the one that prisoners need to hear, … [Read more...]

2012: It’s religion news deja vu

The late, great Associated Press religion reporter George Cornell noticed a striking pattern as he dug into a 1981 survey of journalists in elite newsrooms such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, ABC, CBS and NBC.In the space marked "religion," 50 percent of these elite journalists wrote one word -- "none.""They wrote 'none' and many even underlined that word," said Cornell, in an interview conducted for my graduate project at the University … [Read more...]

BBC leader says race trumps religion

The full-page New York Times advertisement by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was certainly blunt -- starting with its headline telling "liberal" and "nominal" Catholics that "It's Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church."Conservative Catholics were outraged and called the newspaper's leaders hypocrites, claiming they would never dare to run such a fierce and offensive ad that targeted believers in other faiths, especially Islam.Sure enough, a group called Stop Islamization of … [Read more...]

God, Allah and Rick Warren

At the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, centuries of Islamic doctrine have literally been carved into the shrine's walls.Two quotations on the northwest wall will be of special interest to anyone interested in the latest whirlwind of controversy linked to evangelical superstar Rick Warren and his giant Saddleback Church.The outer face inscription states, in part: "Praise be to God who has not taken a son and who does not have any partner in dominion. ..." On the inside, after a … [Read more...]


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