Pod people: Baptists and Bachmann-district bullies

On this week's Crossroads, host Todd Wilken and I talked about media coverage of a possible name change by the Southern Baptist Convention. That coverage was the topic of a post I wrote earlier this week:

I woke up this morning ready to question why no one in the secular media picked up on this mildly important religion story.

But it turns out that there’s no reason for me to weep or gnash teeth today. Darn it!

In fact, the story made the front page (above the fold, no less) of The Tennessean. ... The Houston Chronicle’s Kate Shellnut blogged about the proposed name change. And at Fox News, Todd Starnes (a former Baptist Press editor) developed the story for a national audience.

Wilken and I discussed why the initial coverage surprised (and pleased) me and why this is a story with plenty of time to develop (a name change would require approval at two straight Southern Baptist annual meetings).

In Googling to find any coverage not discussed in the previous post, I came across a nice piece by Godbeat pro Peter Smith of the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal:

At least eight times since the 1960s, Southern Baptists have considered changing their name, and the idea went nowhere.

But the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bryant Wright, has appointed a task force to study the idea again.

The “convention’s name is so regional,” Wright said of a denomination that has continent-wide evangelistic ambitions.

It’s “challenging in many parts of the country to lead churches to want to be part of a convention with such a regional name,” he said.

“Southern Baptist” has certain connotations that don’t play well outside the heartland. Leave alone the fried chicken, sweaty-browed revivalists, dark suits and opposition to Disney — trappings that the young, goateed church planters are trying to shed north and west of Dixie, and even within it.

There’s also the reason there’s a “Southern” convention in the first place — a split with northern Baptists in an attempt in 1845 to marry slaveholding with Christianity.

Also on the podcast, Wilken and I revisited my recent post on a New York Times story on bullying of gay students in a school district that is a part of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s Congressional district.

The gist of that post:

The larger issue here is journalistic: Have Times editors essentially decided that one-sided, advocacy, European-styled journalism coverage is justified? If so, what is the issue being debated? Is there evidence that anyone is actually pro-bullying? Or is this a clash between truth claims based on gay rights and truth claims based on religious liberty?

In the post — and on the podcast — I advocated a more well-rounded story including a fuller array of voices. A journalistic approach, in other words.

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