Heaven and hell: (a) Evangelicals are weird, (b) Americans are confused, (c) both

Heaven and hell: (a) Evangelicals are weird, (b) Americans are confused, (c) both

How do you write a logical, coherent news report about a survey that offers evidence that Americans are not the most consistent pack of people in the world when it comes to matters of absolute truth and eternal life?

That's the challenge facing journalists who face the challenge of writing about a new LifeWay Research survey probing the current status of several ancient Christian doctrines in postmodern America.

Based on two early reports, it appears that the crucial question is whether the survey is newsworthy because it shows that lots of Americans are out of step when it comes to holding on to core beliefs in traditional Christianity or because it shows that evangelical Protestants are out of step with ordinary Americans.

First, here is the top of a Religion News Service piece -- "On God and heaven, Americans are all over the map" -- on this subject. Spot the approach.

(RNS) Two-thirds of Americans believe God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The exception: Americans with evangelical Christian beliefs, according to LifeWay Research’s 2016 State of American Theology Study. Only 48 percent of evangelicals share the belief God accepts all worship.

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That political despair among white evangelicals? New York Times nails it

That political despair among white evangelicals? New York Times nails it

This — 100 percent this. And about time.

Perhaps you saw the debate the other night. I caught an hour or so of it — about all I could take. 

For those concerned about culture-war issues, count how many times words such as "abortion," "marriage" and "religious liberty" were uttered in the showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (The answer, in each case, would be zero.)

Thus, tweets such as the ones below appeared in my timeline on debate night (yes, including one from our own tmatt).

Then on Wednesday, I noticed this tweet from James A. Smith Sr., a GetReligion reader, a Southern Baptist minister and vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters.

So back to "This," that link I shared earlier.

It's an in-depth story by Laurie Goodstein, the New York Times' veteran national religion correspondent who just won the Religion News Association's top prize for excellence in religion reporting at large newspapers and wire services.

Here is how an email sent to religion writers by a New York Times public relations guru (who knew newspapers had PR people?) describes today's story:

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Tampa football team sues to pray, but media still don’t score a touchdown

Tampa football team sues to pray, but media still don’t score a touchdown

The Lancers of Cambridge Christian School may have lost their championship game; but in court, they have just begun to fight. The Tampa school this week made good on its threat to sue for the right to lead public prayer before a game.

In January, the Florida High School Athletic Association denied them the mic and speakers at Orlando's Citrus Bowl, even though they were facing another Christian school -- University Christian of Jacksonville. Mainstream media coverage varied greatly, as I wrote in a January GR post.

Unfortunately, they did little better this time around.

The fracas turns on whether the FHSAA, as a "state actor" -- commissioned by the state legislature to regulate high school sports -- is responsible for speech flowing through public-address systems at stadiums like the Citrus Bowl (renamed Camping World Stadium). If so, they argue, they can't allow religious talk like prayer.

Cambridge Christian, as you can guess, is standing on the First Amendment rights of free speech and exercise of religion.  They argue also that the athletic association is doing the opposite of the First Amendment by opposing religious free speech.

In January, the Tampa Tribune did much better than the Tampa Bay Times. Now that the Times has bought the Trib, their better side seems to have taken over -- at least with this story:

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'Pitch' this: When boys and girls play on the same sports field, religion enters the mix

'Pitch' this: When boys and girls play on the same sports field, religion enters the mix

Big baseball fan that I am, I was drawn to last week's premiere of "Pitch."

Fox's new series features a fictional pitcher named Ginny Baker (played by Kylie Bunbury), who becomes the first woman to play in the major leagues.

I'm not a TV critic, but I really enjoyed the first episode — including the emotional twist at the end.

I'll admit that I didn't spot a potential religion angle — at the time.

But after reading a story included in today's Pew Research Center daily religion headlines, I'm wondering if there just might be one.

This is the headline, as presented by Pew, that caught my attention:

Arizona high school boys soccer team refuses to play team with two female players for religious reasons

Hmmmmm. Interesting. As I clicked the link, I wondered: Would the Arizona Republic explain those religious reasons?

However, the first thing I noticed was that Pew had tweaked the headline a bit for its audience. I'll copy the actual headline on the Republic website below. Notice any missing words?:

Arizona high school boys soccer team refuses to play team with two female players

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I pray thee, might this story on Lulu the therapy dog have needed 'scare quotes'?

I pray thee, might this story on Lulu the therapy dog have needed 'scare quotes'?

Well, what do you know?

Apparently there is a time and a place for just about everything and, in the field of news, that even includes the use of "scare quotes." Surf here for some discussions of the meaning of this hot-button term in modern semi-opinion journalism.

Now, anyone who has visited this blog more than two or three times probably knows that your GetReligionistas are not fond of "scare quotes" around religious terms that have perfectly fine, established meanings, thank you very much. Most of the battles right now, of course, are about religious liberty vs. "religious liberty." Oh, and "traditional marriage" is another one.

However, in this case I am going to argue (wait for it) that the Washington Post team probably needed to use scare quotes in the Health & Science feature that ran with this headline: "There’s a dog at this funeral home, ready to pray with you."

Come to think of it, I would have put some quote marks around a specific term in that headline. See if you can figure out which one, after looking at the overture:

“Lulu, say a prayer,’’ Matthew Fiorillo tells his 2½ -year-old goldendoodle. Hearing the command, Lulu, a therapy dog who comforts mourners at Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services in Westchester County, N.Y., puts her paws up onto the kneeler and tilts her head down.

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Baltimore Sun attempts to navigate complicated world of Orthodox iconography

Baltimore Sun attempts to navigate complicated world of Orthodox iconography

What we have here is a beautiful little feature story about a subject that is, literally, close to the heart and soul of any Orthodox Christian -- icons. The story ran in The Baltimore Sun, the newspaper that landed in my front yard for a decade, which means that it's about an Orthodox congregation that I have actually visited.

Iconography is a complicated subject on several levels, both in terms of the theology, the history and the craft itself. This story gets so many details right that I hesitate to note an error or, maybe, two -- one of mathematics (I think) and the other is, well, just a strange hole that would have been easy to fill.

First things first: Here is the overture.

As  Dionysios Bouloubassis picks up his paint brush at Saint Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church early one morning, the large canvas before him is blank but for the outlines of an angel he has sketched in pencil.
Swirling on reddish-brown pigment, he brings its wings to life. He fleshes out a Bible, then two hands to hold it. By nightfall, the cherub seems alive, its eyes gazing down from heaven.
The angel, a figure from the Book of Revelation, is one of 16 that Bouloubassis, a master iconographer from Greece, plans to paint and affix to the 60-foot dome inside Saint Mary, part of a years-long project in art and worship the Hunt Valley congregation launched in 2013.

So far so good. However, the very next paragraph contains a crucial error of history.

If all goes as planned, Bouloubassis will leave the interior of the year-old church covered in icons -- mural-sized renderings of Christ, the saints, angels and other religious images that have been part of the Orthodox Christian worship tradition for more than 1,200 years.

Where did that reference to 1,200 years come from?

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Digging into Islamophobia: CNN's award-winning religion editor does actual reporting

Digging into Islamophobia: CNN's award-winning religion editor does actual reporting

Islamophobia.

It's a term the news media (yes, I know they don't want to be called "the media," but I couldn't resist) seem to love.

Whereas here at GetReligion, stories on "Islamophobia" (scare quotes intentional) more often than not frustrate us. As we've mentioned before, too many of these reports follow a predictable paint-by-numbers approach that results in painfully pathetic journalism.

So what to make of CNN's new, in-depth piece on "The secret costs of Islamophobia" by religion editor Daniel Burke?

More on that question in a moment. But first, the opening scene:

(CNN) With Adele's song "All I Ask" playing in the background, a Maryland teenager opened her computer and wrote an emotional letter to President Barack Obama.
"I am an American, I grew up here. I say the Pledge of Allegiance every day," Aleena Khan told the President. "And yet, I am a Muslim."
Which one, she asked, is she allowed to be?
Aleena is 17, with a bright smile and dark hair that sweeps across her shoulders. Her mother is Indian-American, her father emigrated from Pakistan. Aleena and her two sisters have lived in Maryland their whole lives.
Last year, as part of an honors research project on identity crises among Muslim-American teenagers, Aleena spent hours online combing through public comments on news articles about Muslims. What she read shocked her.
"Kick them all out and put the rest in detainment camps. Enough with the PC feces," said one commenter.
"The only peaceful and moderate Muslims are the dead ones," said another.
The tweet from the man wearing military camouflage was the worst, Aleena said. "Hard to tell what we should build first. A border wall or a gas chamber for Muslims."

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The Wall Street Journal gets religion and aliens — in Los Angeles

The Wall Street Journal gets religion and aliens — in Los Angeles

This spring, the Wall Street Journal advertised for a Los Angeles-based religion reporter who'd not only cover the beat but pinch-hit on other stories. This pleased those of us who have wondered for years how one of America’s largest newspapers could neglect so huge a beat.

Since the early 1990s, the Journal’s religion coverage has been all over the map. At one point, the paper was running columns by one-time Journal religion reporter Gus Niebuhr down the left side of the front page. At other times, all you could find in its pages was a weekly freelance column called Houses of Worship. I wrote some religion pieces for the Journal from 2012-2014, most of which ended up in the entertainment blog.  

So I was glad to see this ad. I’m guessing the Journal’s religion+breaking news beat out of the L.A. bureau was actually started a year or two ago by Tamara Audi, whose talents were spotlighted last year by my colleague Bobby Ross Jr. When Audi was promoted earlier this year, the Journal wanted to retain the same beat composition. This summer, the paper hired Ian Lovett, a 2006 Amherst College graduate. After a short stint at the Beverly (Hills) Press, he got hired on the Los Angeles bureau of the New York Times as a junior reporter in 2010. Then the Journal hired him this summer. 

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After 75 years, evangelicals in science still debate Darwin, Bible and evolution

After 75 years, evangelicals in science still debate Darwin, Bible and evolution

This past July the annual conference of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), an organization of Christians in the sciences, offered a high-powered speaker lineup on the human brain and mind: Justin Barrett, director of the psychological science program at Fuller Theological Seminary; Audrey Bowden, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University; Edward Davis, historian of science at Messiah College; Douglas Lauffenburger, biological engineering professor at M.I.T.; William Newsome, director of Stanford’s Neurosciences Institute; and Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Roger Wiens.

The equally intriguing 2017 conference, July 28-31 at Colorado School of Mines, will focus on environmental science and -- yes –- “climate change.” And on Oct. 11 the organization will be marking the 75th anniversary of its founding with a banquet at Wheaton College in Illinois. The current issue of the ASA quarterly, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (check here), is devoted to the group’s history, and Colorado State University molecular biologist Terry Gray has posted a series of historical articles.

Full membership in ASA is restricted to persons with bachelor’s degrees or beyond in the sciences who affirm the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds and belief in “the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.” Most are evangelical-type Protestants.

Though members’ interests range from chaos theory to entomology to the morality of fracking, the most heated debates usually swirl around Darwin, evolution, creation, the Book of Genesis, origin of the universe and of earthly species and, therefore, what it means to be human.

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