Academia

Welcome to the Newsless Review, care of a post-newspaper New York Times?

 Welcome to the Newsless Review, care of a post-newspaper New York Times?

A page-one item in the March 15 New York Times “Sunday Review” section,  headlined “How Business Made Us Christian,” highlighted a couple notable fashions in daily newspapering.  Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse drew this article from his new book with the provocative title “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.”

In part, Kruse revisited the familiar theme of “piety on the Potomac” in the 1950s when President Eisenhower was baptized a Presbyterian, Billy Graham led a D.C. revival meeting, Catholic lobbyists got “under God” inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance and annual Presidential Prayer Breakfasts began.

Kruse’s new emphasis is how business interests promoted “capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.” It seems a 1930s Congregational pastor to the elite named James Fifield “paired Christianity and capitalism against the New Deal’s ‘pagan statism.’ ” Kruse fuses that with later businessmen backing Graham’s crusades and Abraham Vereide’s prayer breakfasts.

All rather interesting.

Nevertheless, old-fashioned journalism would immediately raise questions. Is the scenario skewed? What’s missing? Was this cynical service to mammon or authentic piety? Did such efforts have any actual  effect on America’s politics and policies?

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666!!! What should we make of the Bible’s most infamous, scariest number?

666!!! What should we make of the Bible’s most infamous, scariest number?

WESLEY’S QUESTION:

Does it really matter if it is 666 or 616?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Hold that 616 for a moment.

The Bible’s scariest and most infamous number -- 666 -- occurs in Revelation 13:17-18, a famously perplexing passage in Scripture’s most perplexing book. (If you’re superstitious, note that’s in chapter 13.) “The International Bible Commentary” recounts that assorted preachers have identified 666 as the Pope, Muhammad, Muslim warrior Saladin, King Charles I, Charles’s enemy Oliver Cromwell, King George III of American Revolution fame, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Anwar Sadat, Moshe Dayan, Saddam Hussein, Henry Kissinger, Sun Myung Moon, Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. Presidents Kennedy and Reagan.

In Revelation (a.k.a. the Apocalypse) chapter 13, a devilish dragon controls a powerful beast from the sea allied with a second beast from the earth that marks everyone on the right hand or forehead.

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You have $1.25 million: Who gets that check if the goal is basic, balanced religion-news reporting?

You have $1.25 million: Who gets that check if the goal is basic, balanced religion-news reporting?

Here at the Washington Journalism Center, the full-semester program I lead at the DC center for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, we have a number of sayings that are repeated over and over that they turn into journalism mantras. I imagine that will be true when we reboot the program next year in New York City at The King's College.

One of these sayings goes like this: Everybody in this city knows more stories than you do. I also like to stress this: The most important skill in journalism is the ability to accurately state the views of someone with whom you disagree. And then there's one that is discussed here frequently, in this Keller-istic, Twitter-driven age in which the digital line between newswriting and editorializing is often quite faded and hard to spot: Opinion is cheap; information is expensive.

Then there is another WJC mantra that moves us closer to some news sure to intrigue those interesting in religion-beat coverage in the mainstream press. This one isn't very snappy, but it's a concept that is crucial for young journalists to grasp. Here it is: In the future there will be no one dominant business model (think newspaper chains built on advertising, mixed with the sale of dead-tree pulp) for mainstream journalism, but multiple approaches to funding the creation of information and news.

I warned you that it wasn't short and snappy.

Obviously, one of the crucial emerging models right now is the growing world of non-profit and foundation-driven journalism.

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Paging Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: The ghost that, with race, still haunts Baltimore

Paging Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: The ghost that, with race, still haunts Baltimore

There has been, in the past week or two, a ripple of discussion in journalism circles (start with Rod Dreher) about the book "Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis," by liberal Robert D. Putnam. With good cause, methinks, because -- tragically -- the roots of poverty in this prosperous nation in a topic that is relevant year after year.

The big question remains the same: Is this cultural crisis best discussed in terms of economics and politics, or culture and even morality? Here is moral conservative Ross Douthat, in The New York Times:

The American economy isn’t performing as well as it once did for less-skilled workers. Certain regions ... have suffered painfully from deindustrialization. The shift to a service economy has favored women but has made low-skilled men less marriageable. The decline of unions has weakened professional stability and bargaining power for some workers.
And yet, for all these disturbances and shifts, lower-income Americans have more money, experience less poverty, and receive far more safety-net support than their grandparents ever did. Over all, material conditions have improved, not worsened, across the period when their communities have come apart.

Over on the left, at Slate, there is this timely headline:

Yes, Culture Helped Kill the Two-Parent Family. And Liberals Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Admit It.

All of this discussion, of course, can be seen as intellectual ripples from a Big Bang nearly 50 years ago -- the social sciences research of the great Democratic Party statesman Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York (a frequent topic of GetReligion discussion). He said that America was entering an era in which racism would remain a force in American life, but that the primary cause of poverty would be linked to the destruction of the two-parent family. The key factor: Who has a father and who does not.

This leads me to a massive front-page feature in The Baltimore Sun focusing on recent arguments about the impact of racism here in Charm City.

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Catholic school teacher's blunt Facebook post turns into media free-for-all

Catholic school teacher's blunt Facebook post turns into media free-for-all

When a Catholic high school theology teacher posted some thoughts on her Facebook page, she never expected that two Hollywood actors and an online lynch mob -- including professionals at several newspapers -- would make her take it down.

So here are the basics. Note that much of the reporting turned into cheerleading for one side of the debate.

Patricia Jannuzzi teaches at Immaculata High School in Somerville, N.J.  When she read an article on theyoungconservatives.com web site about an obscene tweet by gay activist Dan Savage -- posted about presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson -- she saw red. She posted a jumbled response on her Facebook page that said in -- in part -- that homosexuals have an “agenda” and “they argue that they are born this way and it is not a choice to get the 14th amendment equal rights protection … bologna.” And that gays “want to reengineer western civ into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of humanity!!!!”

 A 2001 graduate of Immaculata saw her post and created a change.org petition calling it “hate speech” and asking for “action” to be taken at Immaculata. One of the 953 people who supported the petition was Greg Bennett, an openly gay 2004 alumnus of the school who once acted in “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and had Jannuzzi as a teacher. He signed the petition and asked his 165,000 Twitter followers to do the same.

Another gay alum, Scott Lyons, got his aunt, actress Susan Sarandon, to weigh in on her Facebook page:

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Did St. Paul write all 13 letters that the Bible credits to him?

Did St. Paul write all 13 letters that the Bible credits to him?

RACHAEL ASKS: What is the debate about the authorship of Paul’s letters to the early church?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

The New Testament includes 13 letters (“epistles”) from Christianity’s first decades that name the apostle Paul as the author, or Paul with colleagues Silvanus, Sosthenes, or Timothy. The earliest is 1 Thessalonians, written just a couple decades after Jesus’ crucifixion. In the traditional view, Paul produced the others during the next 15 years or so before his execution.

As early as the 2nd Century, Paul’s 13 letters formed a defined collection that was widely recognized and later incorporated into the New Testament. That’s where matters stood till modern times. Today, scholars say Paul certainly wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. But questions are raised about these six: Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, and the “pastoral epistles” of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus.

The Religion Guy can only provide glimpses of this intricate discussion. Some of the doubts involve writing style, word choice, and such, lately examined via computer. Others concern whether the contents fit the context of Paul’s lifetime.

Would pseudonyms undercut the Bible’s credibility?

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New York Times visits Erskine College: Who gets to declare what is a 'sin' these days?

New York Times visits Erskine College: Who gets to declare what is a 'sin' these days?

Once again, let us return to Erskine College in Due West, S.C., where Christians -- under the watchful gaze of The New York Times -- are arguing about 2,000 years of Christian tradition on sexuality and marriage. Click here for my first GetReligion post on this controversy.

The headline: "Erskine College’s View on ‘Sin’ Jolts Gay Athletes." The key word, of course, is "sin" -- a word that is increasingly difficult to use publicly in America these days, no matter what is stated in the Bible and/or the First Amendment.

Now, loyal GetReligion readers will know that the word "sin" plays a key role in the infamous "tmatt trio," that series of doctrinal questions that I have used while reporting on the fault lines inside Christian churches, denominations, parachurch groups, etc. At one point, we jokingly suggested using "tmatt3" as shorthand for these questions. Once again, here they are:

* Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this happen?
* Is salvation found through Jesus, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
* Is sex outside of marriage a sin?

With that in mind, let's look at the crucial passage in the Times piece that deals with, yes, the Erskine administration's attempts to defend the use of a doctrinal covenant that draws some boundaries around the voluntary association that is this private Christian college.

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New York Times misses a ghost: Why some Christian parents don't trust Common Core

New York Times misses a ghost: Why some Christian parents don't trust Common Core

As the parent of a third grader, I had my run-ins with Common Core while my daughter was in Tennessee schools. Their standards were impossibly high for her and some of the bizarre ways they recommended that math be taught turned me off. Common Core’s math standards want students to explain how they arrived at the answer rather than memorize sums; sounds good on paper, I know but in reality, it doesn’t work.

Now Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. They were introduced in 2009 and 43 states have adopted the standards, lured, no doubt, by millions in federal funds given to those that complied.

A recent piece in The New York Times tells about those who are opting out.

GetReligion readers, can you guess what they missed? I predict that you can.

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How does U.S. Islam fit into the intensely religious gay-rights debates?

How does U.S. Islam fit into the intensely religious gay-rights debates?

America’s two dominant religious blocs, conservative Protestantism and the Catholic Church, face increasing hostility over their longstanding opposition to same-sex behavior and marriages, shared with Eastern Orthodoxy, the Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”), Jewish traditionalists, and other faiths.

Mainstream news media have largely ignored that U.S. Islam agrees. Partly that’s because its leaders and organizations tend to shun the public debate, perhaps due to immigrant reticence, leaving adherents of the other faiths to pursue the politicking and legal
appeals.

In societies where Islam dominates, dictates of the holy Quran and Hadith (collected teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) often define civil law. The Washington Post reports homosexuality can be punishable by death in Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Iran’s Khomeini-ite theocracy has executed thousands of gays, and prison sentences ranging from 3 to 20 years are prescribed in other Muslim countries.

 American Muslim educator Taha Jabir Alalwani has declared that Sharia (religious law) calls for “painful worldly punishment before the severe punishment of the hereafter.”  But should that apply in the U.S., where Muslims are a small minority? How do imams and mosque attenders view the all-important gay marriage cases the Supreme Court will hear in late April? As liberalization proceeds, will devout Muslims become more isolated from mainstream America?

Reporters should ask.

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