Los Angeles Times strives, strives, strives to ignore religion angles in Rafael Ramos funeral

Los Angeles Times strives, strives, strives to ignore religion angles in Rafael Ramos funeral

Did you know that almost all funeral services held inside churches are actually services of Christian worship?

I just thought I would bring that up -- again -- after the Bobby Ross Jr. post that covered some of the early coverage for the funeral of slain New York City police officer Rafael Ramos. That post noted that some reports -- CNN and The New York Times, to be specific -- gave readers a glimpse of the officer's life in a true evangelical megachurch, Christ Tabernacle -- a multi-site New York congregation.

However, the stories left Bobby wanting more details about the church and the work Ramos did there, especially since he died right as be was set to launch into his work as a police chaplain. He offered praise, but want to know more.

Well now, contrast that with the story that moved later from The Los Angeles Times. This story, basically, missed every single religion angle in this moving story. The fact that Ramos was poised to become a chaplain, after years of involvement with this megachurch, as been known for days. How was that handled? Basically, we're talking crickets.

How about the church itself, which is an example of a evangelical and charismatic explosion in New York City that has received a little bit of media attention, but not much? Next to zippo, in this story.

Want a taste of what did make it into this report?

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Blue mourning in New York City: More glimpses of megachurch attended by slain officer Rafael Ramos emerge

Blue mourning in New York City: More glimpses of megachurch attended by slain officer Rafael Ramos emerge

More than a few GetReligion readers have sent us a link to a CNN profile of slain New York City police officer Rafael Ramos.

The headline gives away the reason why:

NYPD Officer Rafael Ramos saw streets as his ministry

The story, published before services for Ramos this weekend, opens like this:

New York (CNN) — Rafael Ramos was an unusual cop.
He saw the streets of New York as his ministry.
In fact, he was just hours away from becoming a lay chaplain and graduating from a community-crisis chaplaincy program before he and fellow New York police Officer Wenjian Liu were gunned down in their patrol car Saturday in Brooklyn.
The gunman in the two officers' killing, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, was found dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds at a subway station immediately after the slayings.
Services for Liu are pending. On Friday, a police honor guard took Ramos' casket into Christ Tabernacle in Glendale, New York, where an afternoon wake was being held. The visitation will be followed by a memorial service at 7 p.m. ET and a funeral service Saturday morning.

CNN provides a little more insight on Christ Tabernacle (first referenced in tmatt's Tuesday post) and includes a comment from the Rev. Adam Durso, the church's executive pastor:

Ramos was active in his church.
He served as an usher and as part of the church's marriage ministry and life group ministry, Durso said.
"When his team was scheduled to serve, we never worried about whether Ralph would be there with his team to help. He was a humble man and was willing to help at any capacity, helping people to their seats, moms with their baby carriages or the elderly in and out of our elevator," Durso said in a statement.

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Pod people: Looking at the year's Top 10 religion-beat stories, through the eyes of the late George W. Cornell

Pod people: Looking at the year's Top 10 religion-beat stories, through the eyes of the late George W. Cornell

Anyone who knows their religion-beat history knows this byline -- George W. Cornell of the Associated Press.

When he died in 1994, the national obituaries called him the "dean of American religion writers" and that was precisely the role that he played for decades, especially for those of us who broke into the religion-news business back in the 1970s and '80s.

However, when I did a series of interviews with him in 1981, for my graduate project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ("The Religion Beat: Out of the ghetto, into the mainsheets") he simply described himself as the AP's religion writer for all of planet earth. How would you like to try to handle that job? (The Vatican bureau didn't count, he explained, because editors tended to view that as a political and international-news bureau.)

George had a private tradition in which, every year, he analyzed the Associated Press list of the world's top 10 stories and counted the ones that -- seen through his veteran eyes -- were built on facts and history rooted in religion. He never saw a year with fewer than five of these stories, he told me, and frequently there would be more than that.

Ah, he explained, but were the religion facts and angles in these stories (a) covered accurately, (b) presented in a way that could be understood by the general public or (c) covered AT ALL?

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Some GetReligion Christmas this and a little bit of non-Christmas that (including a think piece for Hanukkah next year)

Some GetReligion Christmas this and a little bit of non-Christmas that (including a think piece for Hanukkah next year)

Yes, this is a Christmas post and it will serve several functions, including at least one note for journalists to stash away in their calendars for next year's holiday-news season.

Item I: Christmas is one of those cultural steamrollers that demands treatment on A1 even in the most secular of news publications. Most of the time, one wakes up and finds a piece of stand-alone art that screams "Christmas," but with no valid news story attached to it. Christmas is, in other words, colorful and omnipresent but not all that real. So did anyone wake up this morning and find a particularly excellent (or terrible) in the local paper? Please share the URL in the comments pages.

Item II: Your GetReligionistas will, like most folks, be all over the place in the next week or two.

I, for example, will be headed to the mountains of East Tennessee -- Oak Ridge to be specific (Cumberland mountains photo above) -- to spend a few days with family in the house that will become our home this coming summer. That's when I will join The King's College in New York City as Senior Fellow for Media and Religion (teaching in block classes several times a year), while spending a lot more time working on GetReligion.

Other members of the team will be traveling as well.

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Did Pope Francis really give his own Curia a 'blistering attack' for Christmas?

Did Pope Francis really give his own Curia a 'blistering attack' for Christmas?

Call it truth in advertising--though not in reporting. Religion News Service's story on Pope Francis's Christmas address to the Curia bears a headline that aptly sums up its spin: "Pope Francis to Curia: Merry Christmas, you power-hungry hypocrites."

The lede signals that we have before us the mainstream media's familiar "Francis as radical" meme:

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis launched a blistering attack on the Vatican bureaucracy on Monday (Dec. 22), outlining a “catalog of illnesses” that plague the church’s central administration, including “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and gossipy cliques. 
The pope’s traditional Christmas greeting to the cardinals, bishops and priests who run the Holy See was more “Bah! Humbug!” than holiday cheer as he ticked off a laundry list of “ailments of the Curia” that he wants to cure. 
In a critique that left many of the assembled clerics clearly uncomfortable, the 15 ailments in Francis’ “catalog of illnesses” reflected the take-no-prisoners approach he promised when he was elected nearly two years ago as an outsider with little direct experience in Rome. 

The pope is an "outsider" with a "take-no-prisoners approach"? Don't hold back, RNS; tell us what you really feel.

  Seriously, did Francis's tone in speaking to the Curia actually warrant such hyperbole? A GetReligion reader who read the full text of the pope's address says no:

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Pope Francis writes (cue: news crickets) urgent letter on Islamic State and religious persecution (updated)

Pope Francis writes (cue: news crickets) urgent letter on Islamic State and religious persecution (updated)

Maybe I am wrong on this, but I was under the impression that media superstar Pope Francis could say just about anything right now (other than affirming Catholic moral teachings, of course) and draw major coverage from the mainstream press.

Apparently I was wrong. Why do I say this?

Well, right now the biggest religion-news story in the world is the rise of the Islamic State and its reign of terror in the Middle East. You can look that up.

At the same time, Pope Francis remains the most important religious voice on the planet, in terms of media coverage. You can look that up, too.

Now, toss in the annual editorial need to find valid Christmas news stories and one would assume that journalists would devote quite a bit of attention if Pope Francis issued a strongly-worded Christmas letter of encouragement to people being massacred by the Islamic State. Am I right about that?

Apparently not.

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So, who’s training tomorrow’s 'mainline' Protestant pastors?

So, who’s training tomorrow’s 'mainline' Protestant pastors?

Seasoned by a religion bachelor’s from the University of Chicago and a Harvard divinity degree, John Lomperis now monitors his United Methodist Church for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. This small, controversial D.C. think tank, devoutly conservative in both theology and politics, follows developments in U.S. “mainline” Protestant denominations, which others often ignore nowadays.

A Lomperis item for www.realclearreligion.org spotted hopeful signs for fellow conservatives, leading off with this: “Far more American United Methodists ordained last year graduated from [Asbury Theological Seminary] than seven of the UMC’s official seminaries combined. This continues a longtime trend of Asbury contributing an outsized pipeline of new, evangelical clergy coming into United Methodism.”

There’s a much broader Protestant story here awaiting development.

Independent evangelical seminaries that have grown exponentially since World War II affect not only conservative groups but the pluralistic or liberal “mainline” denominations where minority evangelicals exercise minimal influence on national programs but persist at the local level.

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Rites of mourning, anger and faith in New York City's changing public square (updated)

Rites of mourning, anger and faith in New York City's changing public square (updated)

Anyone looking for the high-church rites of American civil religion need only pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where the symbols of government, power, duty and sacrifice are blended into the religious traditions of those who have died.

The same thing happens in major cities, especially in New York, when police officers and firefighters die in the line of duty. This is made perfectly clear in a lengthy and fascinating news feature from the metro desk of The New York Times, following the stunning execution of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.

All of the political intrigue is included in this story, of course, amid the rising and very public tensions between the city's police and Mayor Bill de Blasio. If you have not already seen it, watch the video at the top of this post for one of the key events.

But this story focuses on the next step -- the funerals. Will the mayor speak? What happens if he chooses to do so? The mayor has already stated that he will attend both events.

"Events"? How about "worship services"? This is where the story, briefly, gets very interesting:

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He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

Back in January, former Seventh-day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell made national headlines with his New Year's resolution to "live without God" for a year.

Now, with Bell's publicity-grabbing experiment nearly over, he's back in the news — courtesy of an in-depth, front-page story in the Los Angeles Times.

The Times piece opens with this scene:

"Uh, I'm not exactly sure about all this," Ryan Bell said as he scanned the scene inside a darkened Las Vegas convention hall.
A stripper whirled her hips. A rock band pumped out a song about cannibalism. A man's shouting hung briefly over the packed crowd: "God is dead!"
For nearly two decades, Bell had pastored congregations of Seventh-day Adventists, among the most conservative denominations in Christianity. How had he ended up at a gathering of atheists and skeptics in Sin City?
It had been a long time coming. For years now, it felt as if his prayers weren't being answered. He secretly wondered whether a higher power existed at all.
So, last Dec. 31, he published a blog post that went viral.
"For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God," he typed. "I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result)."
Now it was July, just over midway in his journey. Bell had spent as much time as he could reading about science and philosophy, interviewing agnostics and atheists, working to decide what he would believe when the year was done.

Keep reading, and the writer explores Bell's faith journey — journey away from faith, that is — primarily from Bell's own perspective.

As for what the article means when it describes Seventh-day Adventists as "among the most conservative denominations in Christianity," readers are left to wonder.

 

 

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