Podcasts

Facing the Sexual Revolution's impact, even among 'active' members of red-pew flocks

Facing the Sexual Revolution's impact, even among 'active' members of red-pew flocks

It happens to journalists every now and then. You are interviewing a source and suddenly this person says something strange and specific that completely changes how you see an issue that you are covering.

That happened to me back in the early 1990s when I was covering the very first events linked to the "True Love Waits" movement to support young people who wanted help in "saving sex for marriage." This happened so long ago that I don't have a digital copy of my "On Religion" column on this topic stored anywhere on line.

Anyway, I realize that for many people the whole "True Love Waits" thing was either a joke or an idealistic attempt to ask young people to do the impossible in modern American culture. But put that issue aside for a moment, because that isn't the angle of this issue that knocked me out in that interview long ago. (Yes, I have written about this before here at GetReligion.)

If you want to understand the background for this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), I want you to think about something else.

What fascinated me was that, according to key "True Love Waits" leaders, they didn't struggle to find young people who wanted to take vows and join the program. What surprised them was that many church leaders were hesitating to get on board because of behind-the-scenes opposition from ADULTS in their congregations.

The problem was that pastors were afraid to offend a few, or even many, adults in their churches -- even deacons -- because of the sexual complications in many lives and marriages, including sins that shattered marriages and homes. Key parents didn't want to stand beside their teens and take the program's vows.

It was the old plank-in-the-eye issue.

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Pope Francis gently tiptoes into the dangerous territory of those digital trolls

Pope Francis gently tiptoes into the dangerous territory of those digital trolls

Long ago, during one of the Key West, Fla., "Faith Angle" conferences run by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (click here for amazing transcripts), journalist and digital maven Steven Waldman made an interesting comment about online trolls. The goal of those gatherings was to inspire dialogues between scholars and mainstream reporters about religion and the news. Needless to say, changes caused by the Internet were a big part of that.

Waldman is best known for his work as senior advisor to the chair of the Federal Communications Commission and, before that, as the co-founder and CEO of Beliefnet.com. Especially in its early years, Beliefnet was precisely the kind of place where journalists were, for better or for worse, banging their heads on the emerging realities of Internet life.

Everyone learned pretty fast that things could get really hairy (troll image, of course) when you threw open the comments pages on sites focusing on religion, media, politics, social issues, etc. Clearly there had to be some rules. One of the rules Waldman described to me that night in Key West came up during this week's "Crossroads" podcast chat with host Todd Wilken. Click here to check that out.

Anyway, Waldman said that one of the key rules Beliefnet staffers used when encountering fierce opinions in the comments pages went something like this. You could leave a comment that said something like: "According to the beliefs of my faith, I think that what you are saying is wrong and, thus, you could end up going to hell." That was strong stuff, but acceptable. Otherwise, the site's editors would have been saying that believers in traditional forms of some major religions -- Islam and Christianity, for starters -- would be banned from talking about core elements of their faith.

But here is what believers were NOT allowed to say in the comments pages:

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Big question: Falwell Jr. is so mad at (fill in the blanks) that he's ready to hug Donald Trump?

Big question: Falwell Jr. is so mad at (fill in the blanks) that he's ready to hug Donald Trump?

I had a strange flashback this week, as I was watching the long, long introduction by the Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr., as he welcomed New York City billionaire and reality-television icon Donald Trump back to the campus of Liberty University.

This flashback took place when Falwell spoke the following words (as I framed them in my "On Religion" for the Universal syndicate):

Trump used blunt words crafted for populists angry about losing and tired of watching politicians break their promises. Claiming outsider status, Trump endorsed their anger.
Yes, Trump is not a Sunday school candidate, admitted Falwell. Then again, he said, "for decades, conservatives and evangelicals have chosen the political candidates who have told us what we wanted to hear on social, religious and political issues only to be betrayed by those same candidates after they were elected."

Read that quote again. Is this tense, even angry Falwell quote aimed at President Barack Obama?

No way. It is aimed at the GOP mainstream. This brings me to the topic of this week's "Crossroads" podcast, with host Todd Wilken. Click here to tune that in.

That Falwell anger reminded me of what I heard long ago -- 1997 to be precise -- when I served as a commentator for MSNBC during the network's daylong coverage of the "Stand in the Gap" Promise Keepers rally that covered the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The mainstream journalists who covered that event, as a rule, framed it as a protest against the lifestyle left and President Bill Clinton (and, yes, they thought it may have had something to do with fathers, husbands, families and racial reconciliation).

Seriously? It was news that some cultural conservatives were upset with Clinton?

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What are the ins and outs -- mostly ins -- of the giant, online Bible Gateway?

What are the ins and outs -- mostly ins -- of the giant, online Bible Gateway?

HEATHER’S QUESTION:

I don’t see the New Revised Standard Version in my biblegateway.com app. Do you have any idea why it’s excluded?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This specific topic is quick and easy, so the Guy will use the space and occasion to provide broader information about the quite remarkable www.biblegateway.com (hereafter BG), billed as “the most-visited Christian Website in the world” with “more than 18 million unique visitors per month” -- and a must reference stop for journalists and Religion Q&A readers. The heart of things is a free and fully searchable online archive of complete Bible texts in 70 languages. The offerings in English are 53 texts and 14 audio versions (three of these read by the euphonious Max McLean of C.S. Lewis On Stage fame) plus many related features.

On Heather’s point, the main Website posts the New Revised Standard Version, known for its gender-inclusive language. But, yes, the NRSV is not among the text and audio versions accessible for free via the Bible Gateway App for mobile iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android and KindleFire. This is not BG’s doing. Older Bible versions in “public domain” can be used free by anyone but BG negotiates with 27 publishers for licenses that allow posting of newer versions under copyright. The National Council of Churches, which controls NRSV rights, granted BG the Web rights in 2012 but decided not to include a license for the app.

Still, the app’s offerings are extensive, and the ins and outs of the parent Website are almost totally “in.”

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Think piece meets podcast: Spot the dividing lines between evangelical voters in 2016

Think piece meets podcast: Spot the dividing lines between evangelical voters in 2016

As a rule, here is what happens every week when "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I do a radio broadcast or taping session that turns into a podcast. First we pick a GetReligion post, or perhaps my Universal syndicate column for that week, in which we think there are angles to update or explore. Then he asks me a bunch of questions and then we chat.

However, I tried to turn the tables on Wilken in this week's podcast (click here to tune that in), in which we dug deeper into the material I explored in the post that ran with this headline: "Seriously? New York Times story on GOP schism is silent on 'pew gap' issues." He asked me a question and then I turned around and asked the audience -- that would be you guys -- a series of questions.

What were they? Well, many political journalists are starting to realize that Donald Trump is not the official candidate of American evangelicalism. Thus, I asked these three questions:

 * Who are Donald Trump's evangelicals?

* Who are Sen. Ted Cruz's evangelicals?

* Who are Sen. Marco Rubio's evangelicals?

Thinking back over our conversation, I now realize that I could have asked some pushy follow-up questions.

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Bah, humbug! The annual quest to find a valid Christmas news story

Bah, humbug! The annual quest to find a valid Christmas news story

Brace yourself, religion-news consumers, because we are entering the days appointed for "Christmas stories," care of journalists at major magazines, newspapers and television networks.

"Christmas stories" are very similar to "Easter stories." The only requirements, in most cases, is that they have something to do with religion, provide colorful art (festive or tear-jerking) and, if at all possible, allow the use of the name of the season in the headline.

In newsrooms without religion-beat specialists, general-assignment reporters probably hide under their desks about two or three weeks before Dec. 25, trying not to catch the eye of the assignment editor who has been given the thankless task of finding this year's alleged "Christmas story" for A1.

The quest for a valid "Christmas" news story was the topic that "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I tackled in this week's podcast. Click here to tune that in.

You can end up with some really strange, usually shallow, stories this time of year. Our own Julia Duin recently took a look at one of these quickie stories, from The Denver Post.

Long ago, in a city that will not be named, I saw a classic example. One of the big weekly newsmags had a cover story on the whole "does prayer work" question. A week or so later, the daily newspaper had an A1 story -- literally with praying hands and a rosary, if I recall -- about trends in prayer.

You could tell, looking at the sources quoted, that an editor had seen the magazine cover and had walked into the newsroom, found a reporter who was looking the other way, tapped them on the shoulder and said, "We need a (insert holiday name here) story. It looks like prayer is in the news. Go write me a story about prayer."

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Concerning the Church of England, the Lord's Prayer and the Star (culture) Wars

Concerning the Church of England, the Lord's Prayer and the Star (culture) Wars

It was a question that nagged defenders of the English monarchy for years: If and when he ever became king, would Prince Charles declare himself to be the "Defender of Faith," as opposed to "Defender of the Faith"?

In a way, the chance that the crucial "the" would go missing was the perfect symbol for decades of tense "multiculturalism" debates in Britain. Drop the "the" and the implication was that Christianity, and the Church of England in particular, would have lost its status as a foundation for English life and culture. The monarch would henceforth defend the IDEA of faith, as opposed to a particular faith. Theological pluralism would be the new norm.

It didn't help, of course, that the Church of England was on the decline, in terms of worship attendance, baptisms, marriages and just about any other statistic that could be cited. Meanwhile, Islam was on the rise. Wasn't dropping this telltale "the" simply a nod to the new reality?

Prince Charles has, fairly recently, stated that his title would remain "Defender of the Faith." However, the cultural identity debates roll on, as witnessed in the stark message of the new report by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life entitled "Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good (click for .pdf)." Its bottom line: England isn't Christian. Get over it. Reactions? Click here for commentary from veteran religion-beat specialist Ruth Gledhill and here for analysis by Jenny Taylor of the Lapido Media religious literacy project.

These painful debates loomed in the background during this week's "Crossroads" podcast. This time around, host Todd Wilken and I discussed the many implications of the decision -- by the principalities and powers of the movie theater business -- to reject the use of that Church of England ad featuring the Lord's Prayer before screenings of the new Star Wars epic. Click here to tune in our discussion of all of this.

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What questions must reporters ask, when faith and violence are twisted together?

What questions must reporters ask, when faith and violence are twisted together?

This may seem like a bit of a reach, but does anyone out there remember the story about the mad, misogynic gunman at the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs? Does the name Robert L. Deal, Jr., ring any horrible bells? How about Pastor Garrett Swasey?

Yes, at the time Issues Etc. host Todd Wilken and I were recording this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), the Colorado Springs story was still being discussed -- a lot. We spent much of our time discussing the religious angles of that event and, in particular, what kinds of questions mainstream reporters needed to be asking if their goal was to find facts that would or would not link Deal to any particular religious group or tradition, let alone the mainstream pro-life movement.

While we were recording, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik were on the run after attacking Farook's co-workers at a holiday party at the San Bernardino County Health Department.

You will not hear about that in this podcast. However, you will hear us discussing PRECISELY the kinds of questions that reporters are now asking about the forces that may or may not have shaped the lives and worldviews of Farook and Malik.

What kinds of questions could possibly apply to both Deal and to this terrorist couple in San Bernardino? Well, questions like these.

How did they spent their time and money?

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War on Christmas: Is it actually taking place at shopping malls and churches?

War on Christmas: Is it actually taking place at shopping malls and churches?

So why was that whole Starbucks red cup winter blend outrage thing considered a major news event in the first place?

Yes, you had a former evangelical pastor serving up a click-bait selfie video that let to YouTube after YouTube after YouTube and snarky story after story after story. I thought that this Washington Post something-or-another took the prize for capturing the tone of the media product being served up.

But about that wave of outrage. You know, folks who know something about evangelicalism and its leaders had to stop and ask: Precisely who is Joshua Feuerstein and how in the world did this unknown guy end up getting waves of media coverage?

As you would expect, the Starbucks wars were the topic of this week's "Crossroads" podcast, but host Todd Wilken and I did everything we could to try to find some actual news hooks linked to this fiasco. Click here to tune that in.

For starters, all of this was supposed to have something to do with (a) lots of Christians being upset (although there was next to zero evidence that this was true) and (b) the Christian season of Christmas, which begins on Dec. 25 and continues for the following 12 days.

No, honest. Stop laughing. You can look it (but don't ask Siri).

Then there was this other Washington Post red-cup piece that -- along with the Stephen Colbert piece at the top of this post -- kind of pointed toward the topic that dominated the Crossroads taping.

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