Should media look at Raven Ray Rice and domestic violence through eyes of faith?

Should media look at Raven Ray Rice and domestic violence through eyes of faith?

If you are one of those Americans who care about the little sports operation called the National Football League, then you probably know that one of the biggest stories in the land right now (surf these links) is that America's most powerful sports institution is trying to get its act together on issues linked to its players and domestic-violence issues.

At the center of this storm is All-Star running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to waves of coverage in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., media, the recent case involving Rice and his then fiance, now wife, was recently the subject of a major story in ESPN Magazine.

Now, this ESPN piece is a first-person essay by Kevin Van Valkenburg, who has professional roots here in Charm City. Thus, it blends opinion and hard-news content. Here is a sample of what that sounds like, in a large chunk of copy that states the thesis: Should NFL fans -- on faith -- forgive Rice?

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Suds in the bucket: More on dirty laundry and faith-based outreach

Suds in the bucket: More on dirty laundry and faith-based outreach

In a post last month titled "Can a laundromat replace the traditional church?" I reviewed an NPR story out of California.

I ended that critique like this:

How exactly is the laundromat an alternative to church? Are there any spiritual aspects to the ministry — such as praying or reading the Bible? Does (organizer Shannon) Kassoff really come to the laundromat instead of going to church, or is the interviewee speaking metaphorically?
NPR does not provide answers to such basic questions — leaving the reader's (or listener's) clothes dripping wet after a half-done wash cycle.

My sarcastic tone drew the attention of my friend Dawn Shelton, who attended Oklahoma Christian University with me and later worked in broadcast media. 

Dawn's basic question to me: Couldn't you be nicer?

"NPR did a faith-based story. BOOM," Dawn wrote in a message that she gave me permission to share. "I loved it when I heard it on the air. I imagine the number of Christians in the entire NPR outfit is close to ZERO."

In other words, people of faith should be happy that NPR attempted a religion story but not expect too much out of it.

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Vermont bacon wars: How much religious info does a news report need?

Vermont bacon wars: How much religious info does a news report need?

One of the most interesting questions my students ask me all the time can be stated like this: In an age of short stories and even shorter attention spans, how do I know how much information is enough when I'm dealing with a complicated topic? 

You can see the relevance to the religion beat, right? How do you know how much the average reader actually knows about a given world religion (think Islam) or even, in an American context, details about different forms of Judaism or Christianity? How do you know when you need to stop and spend a few precious words explaining something that, to some readers, may be perfectly obvious, but not perfectly obvious to others?

Well, I saw an interesting little story the other day from Burlington, Vt., that perfectly illustrated this situation and I stashed it away for later discussion. Reading it a second time I noticed that, well, it was written by a former student of mine, someone with whom I have had this precise discussion.

So, let me clearly state that connection and note that the following is not a slam job. I honestly do not know whether this little story has to have an addition fact paragraph or two. I also don't know if the reporter (hello there, April) write additional material that was removed by an editor. Things happen. This is one reason GetReligionistas rarely mention reporters by name.

So what's the subject here? Well, it's Islam and bacon.

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AP 'chips' away at differences between LDS and 'fundamentalists'

AP 'chips' away at differences between LDS and 'fundamentalists'

Can fundamentalists break with the fundamentals?  (head exploding)

It sounded like that this week when the Associated Press reported two "fundamentalist" Mormon sects practicing polygamy, and one of them getting into winemaking. The real problem, though, was trying to summarize too much.

In both stories, the writer dutifully reports that the "mainstream" Mormon church "strictly prohibits the practice" of plural marriage. But it doesn't say why, or even what the mainstream church is called.

One of the stories deals with a legal ruling in favor of the subjects of that TLC reality show Sister Wives. Kody Brown and his four wives had fled Utah after being threatened with prosecution for their matrimonial tastes. This week, however, a U.S. district judge ruled that the state law against "cohabitation" violated Browns' freedom of religion.

Both sides are now huddling over the prospect of appeals, leaving the rest of us to scratch our heads: Where in the religioverse do the Browns belong? This paragraph doesn't help much:

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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. 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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