Marriage & Family

Do you believe the Bible recommends spanking? Don't move to Norway, says BBC

Do you believe the Bible recommends spanking? Don't move to Norway, says BBC

To spank or not to spank, that is the question. Corporal punishment is legal in all 50 U.S. states, but America is a bit of an outlier on spanking as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Globally, 44 nations forbid you to spank your kids.

But here's the question journalists need to think about, after a major report on this topic by the BBC: What if your religious beliefs back corporal punishment and you move to a country where that’s not allowed? Wouldn't journalists need to explore the specifics of that belief in their reporting on this topic?

Meanwhile, this story centers on the fact that one country will take your kids away if they find out you are spanking your children -- at all. Here's what BBC found out about a famous case in Norway involving a family with five kids:

Ruth and Marius's life was torn apart without warning one Monday afternoon last November when two black cars approached the farm where they live in a remote Norwegian valley.
Their two little boys, aged five and two, and their three-month-old baby son, were in their big, bright, modern living room overlooking the steel-grey fjord.
Ruth was waiting as usual for the school bus that would bring back their two daughters, aged eight and 10.
But that Monday, it never came. Instead, Ruth saw the two unknown cars. One continued along the main road; the other turned up the farm track -- and a woman from the local child protection service knocked at the door. She told Ruth to come to the police station for interrogation.

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Do YOU have lots of questions about the NCAA and traditional religious schools?

Do YOU have lots of questions about the NCAA and traditional religious schools?

If you listen carefully to this week Crossroads podcast (click right here to do so), you can hear question after question passing by, questions that simply cannot be answered at this time -- yet questions that could be hooks for major news stories later on.

Here's the big question, one that I asked on a radio show several months ago and discussed again in a post this week: Will the principalities and powers at the NCAA choose (as is their right as leaders of a private, voluntary association) to eject religious private colleges and universities that (as currently is their right as private, voluntary associations) ask students, faculty and staff to live under lifestyle covenants that, among other doctrines, affirm that sex outside of traditional marriage is sin?

OK, let's back up and ask an important question that precedes that monster: Will major American businesses -- the economic giants that sponsor events like bowl games and the hoops Final Four -- hear the cries of LGBT activists and begin pressuring the NCAA to make this change?

Maybe there is a question in front of THAT one, such as: At what point will ESPN or some other force in the entertainment industrial complex begin what amounts to a "go to the mattresses" campaign to force this question on the NCAA?

So, the questions keep coming.

What will the leaders of the big religiously conservative private schools that are in the cross hairs on this issue -- think Baylor and Brigham Young -- do when forced to make a choice between the faiths that define them (and religious supporters with children and money) and the prestige and money connected with big-time athletics?

Yes, host Todd Wilken pressed me -- as a Baylor alum -- to offer an educated guess on what I thought Baylor leaders would do when push comes to shove.

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Sharia divorce: Vancouver Sun dives into what Muslim immigrants are really talking about

Sharia divorce: Vancouver Sun dives into what Muslim immigrants are really talking about

It’s really a shame that The Vancouver (BC) Sun hides its religion coverage under the proverbial bushel. Under 10 portals, the newspaper has dozens of drop-downs for all manner of specialties, such as “wine country” under the “life” portal.

I see nothing to help readers find religion news. I even checked under “staff blogs” under the “news” portal, but could not find Doug Todd, the staff writer who covers religion along with migration and diversity.

Folks south of the border appreciate his insight into the religion of “Cascadia,” the area of North America that covers coastal Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. A Seattle blog, ChristandCascadia.com, did a very good interview with him recently about spirituality in this region. 

 Fortunately, I know I can always locate Doug Todd’s columns here and that’s where I found his fascinating take on how divorce under sharia law fares in a western country.

The answer: Not so well. This passage is long, but essential.

“In the event of a separation, the defendant agrees to deliver to the plaintiff the following: I. One volume of the Holy Qur’an; II. One crystal sugar stick; III. One basket of narcissus flowers; IV. 3,000 gold coins.”
                — Delvarani v. Delvarani, B.C. Supreme Court
Lawyer Zahra Jenab often comes face to face with couples embroiled in acidic disputes over a small fortune in gold.
The West Vancouver family lawyer, who was born in Iran and raised in Canada, works frequently with ex-partners wrangling over thousands of gold coins, which may or may not have been given by the husband in a dowry under Islamic Shariah law.

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Weekend think piece: Tips for how to think your way through Pope Francis coverage

Weekend think piece: Tips for how to think your way through Pope Francis coverage

Let's get one thing clear right up front about this post. I have no intention of comparing Adolph Hitler with Pope Francis. Got that?

However, long ago -- while at graduate school at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign -- I did a readings course about post-Holocaust trends in world Judaism. You can't read about that horror without reading about Hitler.

I wish I could remember who said this, because I would like to give full credit, but one of the authors I read said that, most of the time, commentaries about Hitler almost always tell you more about the writers than about Hitler. I know I ran into this concept again years later when I interviewed journalist Ron Rosenbaum, author of "Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil."

What does this have to do with Francis?

Journalists on the religion beat, news-consumers at large, please ask yourself this question: When you stop and think about the public impact of Pope Francis, how much are you reacting to the pope's own words, as opposed to news-media (and church media) commentaries about his words? When you read elite media coverage of a new statement by the pope, are you confident that you know what the pope said as a whole, as opposed to one or two sentences that have been used to create a headline?

With these questions in mind, please consider this new think piece from The National Catholic Register by Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, which ran under the headline, "5 Ways to Avoid Unhelpful Pope Francis “Mind Reading." Here is her overture:

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Interracial family faces prejudice: Whoa! That generic 'church' reference just isn't enough

Interracial family faces prejudice: Whoa! That generic 'church' reference just isn't enough

So, is the following statement true: A church is a church is a church is a church?

In other words, are all churches the same? When reporters cover stories about controversies linked to "a church," shouldn't it be a standard part of their journalistic marching orders to provide some kind of modifier or brand name in front of the word "church"?

I think most GetReligion readers would say "yes." Why pin some kind of blame on a vague institution when, with one or two questions, a journalist could dig out specific information to provide to readers?

You will see what I mean in the following story from The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. The headline -- "Mississippi RV park owner evicts interracial couple" -- doesn't point to the religion angle, so hang on. Here is the overture:

TUPELO -- A Mississippi RV park owner evicted an interracial couple because of the color of their skin.
“Me and my husband, not ever in 10 years have we experienced any problem,” said Erica Flores Dunahoo, who is Hispanic and Native American and whose husband, a National Guardsman, is African-American. “Nobody’s given us dirty looks. This is our first time.”
More than a half-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred discrimination on the basis of race, Gene Baker acknowledged asking the interracial couple to leave his RV park near Tupelo. Baker, who lives in Aberdeen, said he only did it because “the neighbors were giving me such a problem.”

The on-the-record reaction from Baker is crucial.

Later on in the story, readers are given this crucial information linked to Baker, which pulls the church angle into play:

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This faith-free BBC report asks: Why do so many modern wives in India commit suicide?

This faith-free BBC report asks: Why do so many modern wives in India commit suicide?

Is there a nation on earth in which religious beliefs and traditions play a more important, and more complex, role in daily life than India? At the same time, journalists have told me that it's almost impossible to write about many religious topics in India, especially in the country's own media.

Why is that?

To be blunt, there are issues that, as a Muslim student told me in a "Blind Spot" book forum in Bangalore, are too dangerous to cover, at least in explicit terms. If journalists write about some religious subjects in our newspapers, he said, then "people are going to die." Thus, reporters write about "community violence," instead of conflicts linked to religion. Their local readers know how to read the code.

Another key word in this code is "traditional." Hold that thought, as we dig into a BBC report that ran online with this headline: "Why are India's housewives killing themselves?" Here is the overture:

More than 20,000 housewives took their lives in India in 2014.
This was the year when 5,650 farmers killed themselves in the country.
So the number of suicides by housewives was about four times those by farmers. They also comprised 47% of the total female victims. Yet the high number of homemakers killing themselves doesn't make front page news in the way farmer suicides do, year after year. ... The rate of housewives taking their lives -- more than 11 per 100,000 people -- has been consistently higher than India's overall suicide rate since 1997.

This is all most strange, since -- as explained by a key source, Peter Mayer of the University of Adelaide -- marriage usually is linked to lower suicide rates. So what is happening in India?

Get ready for that key code word.

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Adam LaRoche plays by HIS own rules? That's what his story is about? #Seriously

Adam LaRoche plays by HIS own rules? That's what his story is about? #Seriously

You knew there was going to be some kind of sequel to the amazing story of Adam LaRoche and his decision to walk away from millions of dollars because Chicago White Sox leaders had second thoughts about allowing his son Drake to come to work with him day after day.

Sure enough, ESPN assigned reporter Tim Keown to do one of those ultra-personal feature stories -- built on a long, exclusive interview -- that come a week or two after a media firestorm that created way more heat than light.

So we get a deep feature piece, precisely the kind that makes me think there is some chance that ESPN will finally take seriously the religion angle of a major story. Take that headline for example: "Adam LaRoche goes deep on his decision to walk."

Now, this story does include all kinds of interesting details and colorful anecdotes, while answering a few obvious questions. Some LaRoche critics, for example, thought it was strange that this loving dad wanted his son to spend so much time around, well, baseball players. Aren't they known for being a bit, well, profane and crass?

Yes, LaRoche knew that Drake would be stretched a bit. Thus, I loved the evidence that some of the players actually tried to clean up their acts a bit. For example:

In 2012, Nationals utilityman Mark DeRosa cut a deal with Drake: I'll pay you every time you catch me swearing.

"Ten bucks a word."

So how much did the kid make? You can look it up.

Now, the whole idea is that LaRoche -- #duh -- has a different set of priorities than your average millionaire jock.

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On divorce: Is Pope Francis acting like a loving pastor or a clever Machiavelli?

On divorce: Is Pope Francis acting like a loving pastor or a clever Machiavelli?

So we have another major document from Pope Francis, with yet another wave of coverage in which the pope's intentions -- just as much as his words -- are the focus of a tsunami of media coverage.

Of course, "Amoris Laetitia (On Love in the Family)" wasn't just another 60,000-word church document. This apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis followed tumultuous synods on issues linked to marriage, sex and family life. The stakes were higher.

After reading waves of the coverage, and commentaries by all kinds of Catholics, I was struck by the degree to which journalists continue to view the work of Pope Francis through a lens that was perfectly captured in the following Associated Press statement (note the lack of attribution) about an earlier papal media storm:

Francis has largely shied away from emphasizing church teaching on hot-button issues, saying the previous two popes made the teaching well-known and that he wants to focus on making the church a place of welcome, not rules.

The "Amoris Laetitia" coverage offered more of the same formula, which can be summed up as,"The pope didn't change any church documents, but it's clear that he's trying to change such and such (wink, wink)." Thus, this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) returned to a familiar question: Is Pope Francis acting like a loving pastor or a clever, stealth-mode liberal Machiavelli?

To be perfectly frank with you, I was intrigued by the degree to which traditional Catholics were divided on this issue, in their discussions of this document -- especially on the issue of Catholics receiving Communion after second, civil marriages. I am always intrigued when conservatives take stands that make other conservatives nervous and liberals take stands that make other liberals nervous.

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Washington Post probes heart of Stephen Curry and finds family (with hint of faith)

Washington Post probes heart of Stephen Curry and finds family (with hint of faith)

That Stephen Curry, how does that guy do what he does? I mean, 402 three-pointers? #Seriously?

Lots of people are asking these questions right now and, I am pleased to say, some people (click here for a previous example or maybe two) are probing deeper than the wonders of his hand-eye coordination and the near miraculous range on his high-arching jump shot.

If reporters are going to ask what makes Curry tick, they have to do more than ask what makes him tick as a basketball phenomenon. If they are going to be honest (and logical) they also need to know what makes him tick as a man, a husband and a father. They may even have to back up and look at how Curry's past, quite literally his spiritual roots, have shaped him.

These kinds of honest, totally journalistic questions (if you are writing about Curry the man) lead straight to his faith and his family.

Thus, the big question: At what point in a Curry feature story does one play the God card (or even worse, the Jesus card)? If the goal is to let readers see Curry's heart, mind and soul, how do you avoid the contents of his heart, mind and soul?

This brings me to the recent Washington Post feature that ran under this headline: "The hidden price Steph Curry pays for making the impossible seem effortless."

Hidden price? That sounds deep.

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