In a highly individualistic and pluralistic America, there's some truth to the notion that the average religious Protestant tends to be a bit of a church shopper. Recent polling data have shown that American Christians tend to hop around a bit over their lifetime between different denominations. So in some respect, the spiritual smorgasbord that is the American religious scene could be viewed, crassly, as a marketplace of competing brands and tastes.
That being said, it's not the only or primary lens through which religious reporters should see their beat. Enter US News & World Report "God & Country" blogger Dan Gilgoff, who wrote last week on the Episcopal Church USA's move to allow the ordination of openly gay clergy.
In a follow-up blog post entitled "Tapping the Market for Gay-Friendly Churches," Gilgoff painted the ECUSA and other liberal mainline churches as having been unable thus far to successfully market themselves to apolitical evangelicals. Yet in doing so, Gilgoff reveals not only that he views religious denominations as competing brands, but that he confuses fundamentally theological and ethical concerns with political ones (emphasis mine):
Newsweek took their criticism of Pope Benedict XVI to the next level on Thursday- not only did guest columnist Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend affirm that the pontiff could learn from President Obama (something Newsweek and their partners at the Washington Post agreed upon back in April), but also blasted the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic hierarchy for their supposed “disdain” towards women and homosexuals.
The former lieutenant governor of Maryland began her column, titled "Without a Doubt: Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does," with the context of the pope’s upcoming meeting with the American president, and how it was “much anticipated and in some circles frowned upon by American Catholics in the wake of Obama’s controversial Notre Dame commencement speech in May.” She then laid out her central thesis about these two leaders: “In truth, though, Obama’s pragmatic approach to divisive policy...and his social-justice agenda reflect the views of American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists...[T]hey’ll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won’t care, because they know Obama’s on their side. In fact, Obama’s agenda is closer to their views than even the pope’s.”
Two major wire services- AP and Reuters- cherry picked excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s latest encyclical (a teaching document of the Catholic Church) on Tuesday to support left-wing economic and political positions, and all but ignored the pontiff’s traditional stances on the family, bioethics, and the environment. The AP also went so far to bring up “the state of the Vatican’s own [financial] books.”
Both Philip Pullella, who regularly writes about the Pope and the Vatican for Reuters, and the AP’s Nicole Winfield zeroed in on paragraph 67 of the encyclical, which is titled “Caritas in Veritate,” or “Charity in Truth,” which was released was signed by the Bishop of Rome on June 29, and released on Tuesday. In this paragraph, to use Pullella’s lede, “Pope Benedict…called for a ‘world political authority’ to manage the global economy.” Winfield put it this way near the beginning of her article: “In the third encyclical of his pontificate, Benedict pressed for reform of the United Nations and international economic and financial institutions to give poorer countries more of a say in international policy.”
While Pope Benedict did call for a “world political authority” and a “reform of the United Nations,” both authors (not to mention spectators on the left and the right) missed the context of this call. Later in his article, Pullella speculated that “the pope appeared to back government intervention ‘in correcting errors and malfunctions’ in the economy, saying ‘one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally.’” But this “government intervention” would not go so far to the level of a micromanaging/centrally-planning regime, if one goes by the pontiff’s own words in the encyclical.
It seems that on July fourth, The New York Times saw fit to smirk at both American patriotism and Christianity. A recent Times article about the erection of a giant, though strategically altered, replica of the Statue of Liberty by a showman of a Memphis pastor presented a perfect example of the ridicule and disdain with which the Times views Christianity and American patriotism, both. In Memphis, Tennessee, writer Shalia Dewan could barely hide her sarcasm and distaste for the patriotism and the muscular Christianity espoused by Pastor Alton R. Williams in her coverage of the unveiling of the 72-foot-tall statue.
Tellingly, the entire top third of Dewan's piece is filled with mockery, mischacterization, inapt comparison and quote after quote from Pastor Williams' detractors. It isn't until the initial ridicule is over that writer Dewan finally gives the pastor room to explain what his purpose and principle is in creating the odd pean to Lady Liberty.
In a June 28 "The Seeker" blog post asking, "[s]hould gay flocks have their own churches," Chicago Tribune religion reporter Manya Brachear failed to find a conservative, orthodox Christians or Jews to level a warning about the incompatibility of homosexuality and those faith traditions.
"Three area churches who cater to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians are marching in today's Gay Pride parade," Brachear noted in opening her 16-paragraph post. "Should gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender flocks have their own sanctuaries? Or does the concept of a LGBT congregation encourage an isolation within faith communities that defies the very purpose of assembling for worship?"
Brachear then went on to cite a Christian pastor and a Jewish rabbi to defend their gay-oriented congregations. Both cited the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt in defense of their sexually-oriented ecclesiology.
Yet despite the Trib's insistence in her profile that "Chicago Tribune religion reporter Manya Brachear embodies the journalist’s quest for truth and the personal search for Truth--with a capital T," the so-called Seeker failed to consult religious conservatives among Jewish and Christian traditions in the Windy City who would rebuke the practice of homosexuality as incompatible with the teachings of those faiths.
Time’s Amy Sullivan, who worked tirelessly to sell Barack Obama as an acceptable choice for Bible-toting Evangelicals -- a choice that most evangelicals didn't accept -- reported Obama has refused to pick a D.C. church as his religious home. In his latest move copying George W. Bush, he’s going to designate the Evergreen Chapel at Camp David as his official church. Now go away, she insists to people still disturbed by his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright.
She quotes Obama religion adviser Vashti McKenzie: "Everybody needs to just back off and settle down. Let him choose where he's comfortable, choose where he and his family are going to be spiritually fed, and then let it be his choice." Sullivan added her own "Amen."
Between the lines, a cynic can see all the political convenience on display: no flashy minister, and not much ministerial contact either:
In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Randy Cohen’s column titled "The Ethicist" has a perfectly liberal sense of ethics. First, he told a nurse-midwife to help illegal aliens use their aliases when they miss work due to pregnancy-related appointments. (His compromise: create a form and leave the name blank, and let them fill in the fraudulent name. How ethical.)
From there, Cohen agreed with a Portland man studying to become a Catholic priest that receiving scholarships in preparation for a lifelong vow of poverty is sexist: "You might regard yourself as preparing to be a beneficiary of entrenched workplace discrimination, an ethically troubling position."
This is the entire exchange:
I belong to a Catholic religious order and am in formation to become a priest. As part of my training, I attended a university that was founded by my order and whose president is a priest and a member of the order. Nonreligious students also attend, but we religious students receive scholarships. Is this akin to any other scholarship, like that for an athlete, or is it discriminatory, especially because the order does not admit women? – NAME WITHHELD, PORTLAND, ORE.
On Thursday's The O'Reilly Factor, FNC host Bill O'Reilly gave attention to threatening tactics from some on the far left, as he focused on the case of a Bishop from the D.C. area who became a target after speaking out against same-sex marriage. O'Reilly began the interview:
For example, if you oppose gay marriage, some far-left people will try to hurt you, as Bishop Harry Jackson is finding out, and the Bishop joins us now from Washington, D.C. Now, since you made the gay marriage issue a centerpiece of your commentary, because you are a traditional guy and you believe in traditional man-woman marriage, what's happened to you?
If you've ever wondered why the mainstream media didn't show much curiosity about how 20 years of attending Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church shaped President Barack Obama, there is a perfectly logical explanation. Obama wasn't really there.
According to Richard Wolffe, an MSNBC contributor and former Newsweek columnist that covered the Obama presidential campaign for the weekly magazine, people don't have to worry about the rantings and ravings of Obama's controversial preacher having any impact on his world view because he wasn't there.
For all the bluster from the Left during the Bush administration about the doctrine of preemptive warfare, it seems at least one journalist favors the doctrine adapted for use within the U.S. justice system to prevent lone-wolf terroristic violence.
U.S. News & World Report contributor and PBS "To the Contrary" host Bonnie Erbe on June 11 sounded a decidedly authoritarian note in a Thomas Jefferson Street blog post in which she called for "rounding up" hatemongers like James von Brunn or Scott Roeder before they turn violent.
The Washington Post displayed bad headline-writing technique on Saturday in religion coverage. The paper picked up a Religion News dispatch by Daniel Burke on retired Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland and his admission of homosexuality. The headline was "A Church Leader’s Unusual Confession." Weakland admitted he had violated his vow of celibacy and had homosexual relationships, but he did not "confess," since he wasn’t suggesting it was a grave sin and that he wanted to reject it.
Instead, Burke quotes from Weakland’s new book, about when his improper relationship with Paul Marcoux became public:
"It may seem strange, but I felt a new freedom, a sense of being liberated for the first time," Weakland writes. "It had become public knowledge that my orientation was homosexual. There was nothing more to hide; no one could do anything more to me. I was free."
That’s hardly in line with Catholic teaching on homosexuality, which is defined as a mortal sin that a man or woman should confess and repent and pledge to do no more. The orientation, if not acted upon, is not the problem. Engaging in intercourse, as the Archbishop did, is the grave sin.
Anchor Rick Sanchez used another crazed gunman’s rampage to blast conservative media during CNN’s Newsroom program on Thursday, and brought on Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert as his aide to bash talk radio and Fox News. He hinted that the white supremacist who killed a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, might have been “motivated to move by right-wing pronouncements...on some TV and radio outlets.”
Sanchez began his panel discussion with Boehlert and Accuracy in Media’s Roger Aronoff at the end of the 3 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program with his indicting line of questioning against conservative radio and TV: “Was there a tone in this country that was actually started with the election of our first black president that is bringing the crazies out of the woodwork, and are they being motivated to move by right-wing pronouncements, like he’s dangerous- he’s a socialist- he’s a Muslim, and he isn’t even a U.S. citizen? This is what we hear on some TV and radio outlets.”
After introducing his two guests, the CNN anchor let the left-wing partisan Boehlert “start with the premise” which, of course, echoed the preceding introduction: “I don’t think there’s any doubt since Barack Obama’s been elected, there’s been a complete unhinged reaction from the conservative movement in America, and sort of this vigilante and- and militia-style rhetoric has become a cornerstone of the movement, and certainly of conservative media.”
For example, Ann Coulter is responsible for yesterday’s tragic shooting at the Holocaust Museum.
Bill O’Reilly is responsible for the shooting of well-known abortion doctor George Tiller.
Oh, and the coup de grace: Sarah Palin and all of her supporters are raging racists.
That’s not to mention the implication that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, and all of Fox News were the favorite news sources of James von Brunn, now-infamous shooter at the Holocaust museum.
Idiotic though these claims most certainly are, liberal bilge of this magnitude demands confrontation. First, examine what Rowe wrote on Ann Coulter:
What was the highest-grossing independent film of 2008?
"Milk?" "Slumdog Millionaire?" Woody Allen's "Vicky Christina Barcelona?"
How about a Christian-themed movie called "Fireproof?"
If you're surprised, the idea that ABC's "Nightline" would not only point this out, but also do a segment on Friday evening dealing with the rise in faith-based films from what they referred to as "Godlywood" might be even more shocking (quotes from article at ABCNews.com follow, video of segment available here):
On Sunday, CBS’s Bill Whitaker praised the liberal activism of former TV producer Norman Lear: "But in 1980, the king turned his back on his TV empire. He grew alarmed as evangelical Christian preachers grew more visibly and vocally involved in politics with views and tactics he found divisive. He responded the way he knew best, on TV."
Whitaker, reporting for CBS Sunday Morning, went on to describe Lear’s efforts: "His ads spawned People For The American Way, his grass roots civics organization to keep Americans aware and protective of their rights." No liberal label was given for the left-wing "civics organization." Whitaker asked Lear: "What is it about the approach of the Religious Right that so rankles you?" Lear responded: "Politics and religion are not the American way. My contention is every individual's compact with God, with that, is different from every other individual's. So don't come to me with your compact and insist it must be mine. America is open to all of them."
Over at Get Religion, Mollie Z. Hemingway lamented how reporters are trying to use the murder of late-term abortionist George Tiller at church to challenge "popular perceptions" that abortionists can’t be a "faithful member of the Lutheran church" and love Jesus. Take this vomit-inducing introduction to a Religion News Service article by Lindsay Perna and Tiffany Stanley:
Dr. George Tiller's murder last Sunday morning in the lobby of his Lutheran church counters the secular image of a late-term abortion provider, pinning him more as a churchgoing "martyr" than a godless murderer.
Shot and killed while passing out bulletins in the lobby of his Wichita, Kan., church as his wife sat in the choir, Tiller is already challenging popular perceptions of both abortion providers and the abortion-rights movement.
On Tuesday's Hannity show on FNC, while interviewing author Brigitte Gabriel, host Sean Hannity suggested that, rather than make apologies for America in the Muslim world, that President Obama should point out that Muslims have benefited from America's assistance in various countries, and Gabriel pointed out that the United States sided with Muslims against Christians in the former Yugoslavia.
Hannity posed the question: "Shouldn't the President be highlighting, for example, the sacrifice of America to help save some Kuwaiti Muslims and in Somalia and in Afghanistan and in Iraq and in other parts of the world?"
An ancient Christian religious ritual is apparently comparable to a controversial interrogation technique, according to Joy Behar of ABC’s “The View.” On June 3, the hosts of “The View” were discussing the new reality show, “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here,” where pampered “celebrities” are placed in a jungle in Costa Rica. “Hills” reality television star Spencer Pratt was baptized on the show and “The View” featured a clip from his baptism in a river.
Behar, of course, had to add in her usual quip. “Isn’t it like water boarding- when they dump your head under there like that?” Fellow host Elisabeth Hasselbeck quickly replied with, “no.”
Rob Thomas, singer/songwriter and front man for the band Matchbox 20, has successfully proven an old adage: Don't keep quiet and let people think you're a fool. Open your mouth and remove all doubt. He has also shown us all that the American system of education is in pretty sorry shape. But, one thing is sure, Mr. Thomas "feels good" about himself, so he's got that whole self esteem thing down nicely. Sadly, he lacks some basis for the conceit.
In a Huffington Post entry from May 27, Thomas made to ingratiate himself with the cool, the hip, and the terminally liberal by tooting his I-love-me-the-gay horn. Most of his entry is banal, uninventive, and prosaic, but the part that most needs to be addressed is his horrible understanding of American history. Of course, his lack of historical understanding is also pretty commonplace for his ilk: those in the Hollyweird/entertainment field. Unfortunately, it is also common among far too many other Americans, ones not trying to sound perpetually hip because they loves them the gays.
Singer Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 is a passionate supporter of gay marriage – so passionate that he recently wrote a piece in support of same-sex marriage that was not only wrong-headed, but factually inaccurate, and a clear illustration of why celebrities should shut up and sing.
Featured in the “Huffington Post” on May 27, “The Big Gay Chip on My Shoulder” was written as a response after a Twitter post in which Thomas wondered why same-sex marriage shouldn’t be allowed.
Thomas focused most of the blame on religious conservatives for California’s rejection of same-sex marriage. “Still, I'm amazed at the audacity of a small, misdirected group of the ultra-conservative Christian right wing, to spend millions of dollars, in a recession, on advertisements to stop two men or women who love each other from being able to be married, but when you present any opposition to them, they accuse you of attacking their religion.”
While reporting on disgraced priest Alberto Cutie leaving the Catholic Church in the wake of a sex scandal, on Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked CBS News analyst Father Thomas Williams about the Church’s celibacy rule: "It seems to me that the Catholic Church, at least in south Florida, is not necessarily being introspective and considering whether Father Cutie and others have left the Catholic Church, and others are failing to join, because of its stringent rules. Would you like to see your church be more introspective, more progressive?"
When the story about Father Cutie first broke in early May, Rodriguez then asked Father Williams if it was time for the Catholic Church to overturn the "outdated" and "rigid" vow of celibacy that it requires of its priests. She went on to describe the vow as a "nearly impossible standard." On May 11, Rodriguez interviewed Cutie, and asked: "You don't believe that the celibacy promise should be lifted?...If they don't change this policy, do you think that they will continue to lose people, or fail to recruit people who feel the Church is too rigid?"
CNN host Larry King used many of the arguments that advocates of same-sex “marriage” use during his “Larry King Live” program on Tuesday. Hours after the California Supreme Court upheld the voter-approved Proposition 8 which protects traditional marriage, King used the oft-used comparison between the ban on same sex “marriage” and the ban on interracial marriage in the South, and brought up how the Book of Leviticus condemned other practices like the eating of certain foods besides condemning homosexual sex acts. He also repeatedly asked conservative talk show host Dennis Prager what the “big deal” was about same-sex “marriage.”
During the first segment on the topic, which began 13 minutes into the 9 pm Eastern hour of his program, King interviewed San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Jim Garlow, pastor of the Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California. The CNN host turned to Dr. Garlow for his thoughts after asking Newsom for his reaction to the Prop 8 ruling: “Doctor Garlow, are you annoyed that those 18,000 can stay married?” After the pastor answered that “we wish they would have not done that” and expressing his gratitude for the court’s decision, King followed up by asking, “From the way the voting has gone over the years, Doctor, does it look like the tide is turning against your position, with other states now -- six states, I believe -- allow it?” Garlow replied, “Well, 30 states have voted on this, and all 30 states where they -- people have been allowed to vote, they have all voted for traditional marriage every single time....Where the people get to express themselves, the average pass rate has been 68 percent. That means seven out of 10 Americans support traditional, natural marriage.”
During a news brief on the Saturday, May 23, The Early Show, CBS’s Priya David used that famous euphemism of liberals, “woman’s right to choose,” to refer to the legal right to an abortion, as the show gave attention to Liberty University’s recent decision to withdraw recognition of the school’s club for young Democrats. She also incorrectly exaggerated Liberty's action by claiming that the Democratic group "won't be allowed on campus anymore" when in reality, according to the school, the group can still hold meetings, but just cannot use the school's name or money.
On the Monday, May 18, Today show, NBC’s Ann Curry also used the term in a story about President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, which allowed the pro-choice President to speak despite being a Catholic university.
Below are complete transcripts of the relevant news briefs from the Saturday, May 23, The Early Show, on CBS, and the Monday, May, 18, Today show, on NBC:
On Friday night’s Real Life with Bill Maher on HBO, the host typically assaulted the Bible and the God of the Old Testament. He said of the Bible and the Koran "These are two books that are filled with hatred and wickedness and all kinds of immorality. I mean, I can’t think of a character who is less reliable as a role model than the God of the Old Testament." Newsweek editor Jon Meacham could only respond with pandering humor for liberals: "He’s kind of Cheneyesque actually – that runs through the God of Abraham...He didn’t shoot anybody. He smited them."
As Maher suggested he was too bright to believe in Jesus the "Jewish Zombie," Meacham also lauded how America has moved beyond a "public piety," as symbolized by Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ. "It doesn’t feel to me that we’re in the same place in terms of public religiosity and public piety that we were when Mel Gibson released The Passion of The Christ five years ago, when basically, he made an anti-Semitic film, and the only thing you can say about it is it’s the best film ever made in Aramaic." Surprisingly, Maher said he liked the movie, and he didn’t find it anti-Semitic, but that "the priesthood" had Jesus killed because he threatened their power.
As you can see from the 94 results returned in this Google News archive search on "Reagan declassified" (not entered in quotes) for 2008 and 2009, there is no shortage of establishment media interest in previously undisclosed historical information that is made public for the first time.
That makes it odd, to say the least, that only a couple of Catholic publications have picked up on a remarkable disclosure contained in information released early last week that in late 1980, Pope John Paul II personally intervened to save the life of a South Korean political dissident sentenced to death by a government military tribunal.
The person spared, Thomas More Kim Dae-Jung, became that country's president almost two decades later. He credits the late pontiff with saving his life.
Since when is the media so interested in keeping America abreast of the latest news coming out of Ireland? A commission in Ireland just released a report detailing awful abuse of children who attended Catholic schools "from the 1930's to the 1990's, when the last of the institutions closed." And what's ensued is practically an all-out media frenzy.
The AP, Reuters, the New York Times, the LA Times, Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and many others are all over the story. At Google news, the story returns "about 1,531" results.
Yes, the stories of abuse are quite troubling, but it sure seems that the media is singling out the Catholic Church's misdeeds - again.
Today - not decades ago - there is egregious abuse happening with far-greater occurrence in our nation's schools. Yet where's the coverage?
After the winner of "American Idol" is crowned, the appropriate action is to congratulate the newly crowned Idol on his success. Yet on May 21 media focus was clearly elsewhere. That day, reports on all three networks' morning broadcasts, marveled at how Kris Allen beat Adam Lambert and gave unusual attention to contestants who did not win, but are still successful, leaving little doubt that these hosts and reporters believe something wasn't right about Allen's victory.
Allen and Lambert are very different. Allen, a married twenty-three year old, is a college student from Arkansas. He grew throughout the season as a performer and was often labeled as humble. Lambert, on the hand, was an edgy performer who has become known for his "guyliner," or extensive use of black eyeliner. Although he was a frontrunner and often praised by the judges, his sexuality was often questioned, especially after photos hit the Web in which he appeared to be kissing another man.
Time magazine’s senior editor Amy Sullivan, who, like most of her peers in the mainstream media, is an amateur when it comes to religion, twice implied in May that the pro-life Catholics in the U.S. who are upset about President Obama’s recent commencement address at Notre Dame are more Catholic than Pope Benedict XVI. In a May 16, 2009 article on Time.com, Sullivan, the former aide to Democrat Tom Daschle, and the author of an entire book on how Democrats could appeal to Christians, snarked that the Pope “may find his next trip to the U.S. dogged by airplanes overhead trailing banners with images of aborted fetuses,” due to his purported silence on the matter.
Less than a week later on May 21, after outlining on Time’s “Swampland” blog that the semi-official Vatican news has been “calm” and “fairly positive” towards the Democratic president, “in stark contrast to the furious reaction of many conservative Catholics here,” the editor quipped, “Uh, oh. It sounds like the Vatican newspaper ‘doesn’t understand what it means to be Catholic.’” Sullivan, like the rest of the media, was also selective in the articles she chose to emphasize from the newspaper.
President Obama came to the campus of Notre Dame armed with all his usual arrogance. Despite his radical abortion record – which includes championing a policy in Illinois wherein aborted babies who manage to survive are tossed aside, to die – he posed as the national moderator of "common ground." And he did it by plugging a yellowed old tale from his campaign memoir "The Audacity of Hope." All he left out were the words "Order now on Amazon.com. Just $16.50 in hardcover."
Obama is loaded with nothing more than audacity. His speech no doubt pleased liberals, who love to pretend they’re for all the mushy inclusiveness Obama pretended to favor – "Open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words." This, from the politician who spent twenty years listening to the rantings and ravings of Jeremiah Wright? This, from the politician who unleashed more than 100,000 negative ads on John McCain?
Not unexpectedly, the networks embraced Obama’s pose as the pragmatic pacifier of the "culture wars."