Who says print is dead? Check out how much space this religion story got

Who says print is dead? Check out how much space this religion story got

Sorry, Carla.

I don't mean to embarrass you.

Just six days ago, my former colleague Carla Hinton — who succeeded me as religion editor of The Oklahoman in 2002 — drew GetReligion praise from James "Not The One Who Created Garfield" Davis.

Now I'm going to say more nice things about Carla and her newspaper. Actually, the story I want to highlight has been in my guilt file for a few weeks. (The guilt file is where we stash stories that we really want to mention but never seem to get around to.)

Before church on a recent Sunday, I was eating a quick breakfast at a fast-food joint when I noticed a giant photo on the front page of that day's Oklahoman. 

The photo (the one embedded with the tweet above) referred to a story by Carla on a "Midnight Basketball" outreach program:

Some youths show up in clusters of three or four, while others arrive alone on Friday nights during the summer.
For many onlookers, the young people’s destination is simply a church parking lot with a couple of basketball goals.
But to die-hard ballers like Jashean Taylor, 14, and Tywon Morton, 12, it’s a blacktop paradise.

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A deeper religion hook inside the spiritual drama of the 'Rare Bird' memoir?

A deeper religion hook inside the spiritual drama of the 'Rare Bird' memoir?

If you know anything about the world of religious publishing these days, you know that publishers are very, very aware that "spiritual" content is good, and can lead to massive "crossover" sales, while explicit "religion" is bad and can shove good books into narrow niches.

Thus, we live in the age when religious publishers -- the kind of folks who publish doctrinal books -- are trying to start not-so-religious special branches with cool names that try to fly under the media radar, publishing books that reach out to the non-doctrinal masses with faith that would be too foggy for the publisher's normal readers.

Right now, one of the imprints that is making news is called Convergent Books, which is part of the evangelical WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. However, as this report in the conservative World magazine notes, both are operating under the secular corporate umbrella that is Penguin Random House. 

This brings me to some questions that GetReligion readers have been asking about that Washington Post feature focusing on blogger Anna "Inch of Gray" Whiston-Donaldson, author of the memoir "Rare Bird" about the death of her young son, Jack died. The headline on this Style piece says it all: "She let her son play in the rain. He never came back."

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Intentional omission? The ghost in MSM coverage of reporters held by ISIS

Intentional omission? The ghost in MSM coverage of reporters held by ISIS

The New York Times reports that Shirley Sotloff, whose son Steven Joel Sotloff is a freelance journalist being held by ISIS, says in a video message to her son's captors: 

“As a mother, I ask your justice to be merciful and not punish my son for matters he has no control over,” Ms. Sotloff, a teacher from Miami, says in the video. She explains that she has been studying Islam since his capture, and then urges ISIS’ leader to follow the path of his religion’s founder: “I ask you to use your authority to spare his life and to follow the example set by the Prophet Muhammad, who protected People of the Book” — a reference to Christians and Jews.
She adds that in her study she has learned that Islam teaches that “no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others.”
“Steven has no control over the actions of the U.S. government,” she continues. “He is an innocent journalist.”

Note that the story does add that "People of the Book" is ”a reference to Christians and Jews." This is good. In some other media reports online, "Book" has a lower-case "b." What, precisely, is this "Book"?

However, look for mention of Steven Sotloff's specific religion in the Times article -- or in coverage of Shirley Sotloff's video in the Miami Herald, the UK Mirror and other mainstream news outlets -- and you won't find it.

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How does the modern Catholic Church view marriages with Jews?

How does the modern Catholic Church view marriages with Jews?

LISA ASKS:

When a Catholic marries a Jew, does the Catholic Church recognize that marriage as a sacrament, since Catholicism has roots in Judaism?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

No. In the church’s view a marriage between a Catholic and an adherent of Judaism (or any other non-Christian religion) is not a sacrament. This doesn’t mean the church doubts the couple is truly married, nor does it signify any disrespect toward Judaism with which -- yes -- Christianity has great affinity.

The Canon Law Society of America commentary on the 1983 law code notes there’ve been “extensive changes” toward leniency in marriage rules since the Second Vatican Council, partly because such mixed marriages have become “more commonplace and socially acceptable.”

Technically, marriage with a non-Christian involves “the impediment of disparity of cult.” 

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Altar-ed plans: Oklahoma City 'Black Mass' organizer to go on without consecrated Host

Altar-ed plans: Oklahoma City 'Black Mass' organizer to go on without consecrated Host

The recent news that the organizer of the Oklahoma City Black Mass gave up the consecrated Host that he intended to desecrate at the event appears to have caused confusion in some Catholic circles.

The Catholic Culture website interpreted the story as meaning that the Black Mass had been "thwarted," while the Catholic League rang out huzzahs that the event had been "nixed." However, the latest news, as well as Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley's plan to continue to counter the event, suggests that Satanists still intend to have their day, to one degree or another, at the Oklahoma City Civic Center.

For starters, the Black Mass is still listed on the Oklahoma City Civic Center website.

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WPost ponders mysterious secular surge in support for U.S. action against ISIS

WPost ponders mysterious secular surge in support for U.S. action against ISIS

Faithful readers of this blog over the past decade or so will know that your GetReligionistas rarely write about the contents of mainstream news blogs or op-ed page columns, even as the line between news coverage and commentary continues to blur.

However, every now and then someone writes a piece that is highly relevant to work on the religion-news beat or offers a fresh insight into how mainstream journalists are covering an important religion event or trend. This brings me to a new piece in "The Fix," the self-proclaimed "top political blog" at The Washington Post.

In this case, the headline states the issue facing political writer Aaron Blake:

Americans strongly opposed airstrikes in Syria last time. Why would it be different now?

So what has happened in, oh, the past year or so in this region -- Iraq and Syria -- that may have changed the minds of many Americans? 

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Faith and gambling: Story exploring one city's 'false god with a small g' hits the jackpot

Faith and gambling: Story exploring one city's 'false god with a small g' hits the jackpot

A few years, I covered a meeting of preachers in Las Vegas and wrote a story titled "Saving Sin City." 

In reporting that piece, I was fascinated by how local church leaders and members approached the all-encompassing gambling industry in their home city.

I was reminded of that story when I read a front-page Philadelphia Inquirer report this week on clergy members supporting casino workers about to lose their jobs in Atlantic City, N.J. 

The newsy lede:

ATLANTIC CITY — When gambling was being proposed for Atlantic City 38 years ago, most religious denominations opposed casinos. They viewed gambling as a vice that could destroy families and communities.
Now, many of the same churches are standing firmly by the casino workers, a number of whom fill their pews on Sundays, who are expected to lose their jobs in massive numbers, starting Labor Day weekend with the closure of the Showboat and Revel.
Many houses of worship are offering counseling for the affected workers, increased food pantry hours, or just someone to pray with.
"There are going to be a lot of people hurting," said John R. Schol, bishop of the United Methodist Church Greater New Jersey Conference, based in Ocean Township, which has 572 member churches. "No matter what industry, we want to be there to support them."

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Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was 'living his faith,' and the media take notice

Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was 'living his faith,' and the media take notice

In our post last week on slain American journalist James Foley, we highlighted a letter he wrote describing how prayer helped sustain him during a previous captivity.

We noted that most initial news reports ignored Foley's religious background — with the major exception of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In recent days, though, Foley's faith has received quite a bit of attention.

Daniel Burke of CNN's "Belief Blog" had an insightful piece contrasting Foley's beliefs with those of the radical Islamic militant group that executed him:

The ISIS militant, a man with an apparent British accent, said that Foley’s murder was payback for U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq. On Monday, President Barack Obama said the American operation has helped drive ISIS from strategic cities and infrastructure in northern Iraq, which apparently angered the Muslim militants.
“Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny Muslims liberty and safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people,” the ISIS militant said in the video.
The man in orange, kneeling. The man in black, wielding a knife. One asked God to cross the “cosmic reach of the universe” and soothe his family. The other claimed to kill in the "name of Allah, the most gracious, the most merciful."
Admittedly, we know relatively little about Foley's faith and even less about the ISIS militant in black. But the contrast between the two religious paths — one led a journalist to cover conflicts, the other a jihadist to create them — is jarring.

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Who is in charge of judging Mark Driscoll, other than The New York Times?

Who is in charge of judging Mark Driscoll, other than The New York Times?

As the story of Mars Hill Church and the Rev. Mark Driscoll continues to unfold, I want to flash back to the very important New York Times story that yanked this drama onto the national front burner (other than for evangelical insiders).

This story was quite good, with few examples of usual jarring advocacy language pointing readers toward the progressive social doctrines advocated by the Times. In particular, note that this story often featured the views of conservative Christians who are now critical of Driscoll's leadership style and some of the actions that may or may not have grown out of it. Even though this story travels into moral and cultural issues, there are very few traces of "Kellerism" in it.

However, this report does have one major problem, from my point of view. It is clear that Driscoll is facing the judgment of evangelical Protestant leaders from coast to coast. However, the story never really states the degree to which Mars Hill Church is, itself, an independent body that has few ties binding it to any denomination or tradition.

In other words, if Mars Hill is a kind of mini-denomination of its own, who has the legal, as well as the doctrinal, right to investigate and then pass judgment on its founder?

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