The state of Donald Trump's soul: Lots of chortles and, so far, few factual questions

The state of Donald Trump's soul: Lots of chortles and, so far, few factual questions

At least once a month, I receive some kind of angry email (or perhaps see comments on Facebook) from someone who is upset about mainstream press coverage of President Barack Obama that identifies him as a Christian.

Very few of these notes come from people who think Obama is a closet Muslim. Mostly, they come from doctrinally conservative Christians whose churches clash with the Obama White House on moral and cultural issues, most of them having to do with the Sexual Revolution. What they are saying, of course, is, "Obama isn't one of us." His actions show that.

Of course he isn't one of them. But it's perfectly accurate for journalists to note that the president has made a profession of faith (numerous times) as a liberal mainline Protestant. He walked the aisle and joined a congregation in the United Church of Christ, the bleeding edge of the liberal Protestant world, and has, functionally, been an Episcopalian while in the White House. Before becoming president he was quite candid about the details of his faith (the essential interview here). Obama has a liberal Christian voice.

This, of course, brings us to the God-and-politics story de jour right now -- the online interview in which Dr. James Dobson, once the creator of the Focus on the Family operation, says that he knows the person who recently led Donald Trump to born-again faith.

You can imagine the Twitter-verse reaction to this news, coming so soon after that closed-door New York City meeting between Trump and about 1,000 selected evangelical leaders. Here is the crucial material from The New York Times, which, as you can imagine, opened with a question lede. Then:

In an interview recorded ... by a Pennsylvania pastor, the Rev. Michael Anthony, Dr. Dobson said he knew the person who had led Mr. Trump to Christ, though he did not name him.

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Weekend think piece: Pope John Paul II and his fight to save Polish culture and even Europe

Weekend think piece: Pope John Paul II and his fight to save Polish culture and even Europe

Let's make this a Polish think piece weekend, shall we?

How many more lives lived in the darkness of the 20th Century were more amazing than that of the late St. Pope John Paul II? How many other names go at the very top of the list, especially if you are looking for women and men who were warriors for peace, dignity and true tolerance?

When looking at the fall of the materialistic world of Communist Eastern Europe and, even, the Soviet Union, the question I have always asked has been this: What did John Paul II and when did he do it?

Obviously, we know quite a bit about the dramas that took place out in the open, in front of -- literally -- millions of people. But do we really know what took place behind the scenes? If Poland started the dominos falling, what role did this great son of Poland play behind the scenes? Every few years, if seems, we learn more amazing details.

Another question: How did John Paul II fail to win the Nobel Peace Prize at some point during that era? Can you think -- in this weekend after Brexit -- of better symbol of the values of the post-Christian Europe than that strange fact?

So that brings me to this weekend think piece, via The Catholic Exchange. The headline: "Pope John Paul II & the Secret History of Europe." This short piece focuses on the contents of a new film, "Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism." Here is the trailer for that documentary:

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Polexit? Looking for news about tensions between EU and Poland's Catholic culture

Polexit? Looking for news about tensions between EU and Poland's Catholic culture

There is a circle of GetReligion readers who have, from time to time, been known to lose it at the sight of a URL pointing toward material from LifeNews.com, an advocacy journalism site that focuses, as the name implies, on issues linked to abortion, euthanasia, etc.

As I just stated, LifeNews.com is an advocacy site that, basically, covers one side of hot-button stories on these topics. If you are looking for fair coverage of liberal views on this topic, this is not the site for you.

However, if you are looking for clues and information about stories that are not receiving coverage in the mainstream press, this is a place to find tips about documents, events and sources that could lead to balanced mainstream coverage. In other words, LifeNews.com has the same approach to journalism as, let's say, Rolling Stone or, on moral and religious issues, the Kellerism-era New York Times. You go there to read about one side of an argument.

Some culturally liberal readers believe, in a strange echo of conservatives who write off the Times, that this means that all events or information reported at LifeNews.com should be ignored. I don't believe that about the Times and I don't believe that about the much smaller and less important LifeNews.com. I take what I see in advocacy publications with a grain of salt and look for links to valid information about views on the right and left.

That brings me, in this post-Brexit world, to this new LifeNews.com report, which ran with the headline, "Poland Defends Its Pro-Life Laws, Blasts EU Leaders Telling It to Legalize Abortion."

(CFAM) -- The Polish government snapped back at European bureaucrats in a scathing response to a report published last week by the Council of Europe that criticized Poland’s restrictive abortion law and its treatment of women.

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Must we keep talking about Citizen Trump and evangelicals? We must, we must ...

Must we keep talking about Citizen Trump and evangelicals? We must, we must ...

First things first: Why the nod to the classic farce "Blazing Saddles" at the end of the headline for this post?

Well, why not? Don't you sense the hand of comedy genius Mel Brooks behind the scenes in this election year? Believe me when I say, "I do, I do."

Thus, People keep asking me things like, "Why are we still talking about Donald Trump and the evangelicals?" Of course, the word "evangelicals" in this case has little or nothing to do with theology. It is a reference to one camp -- stress, one camp -- of mostly white evangelicals who at this point in time are either supporting Trump or who have not made up their minds on the issue.

We are still talking about them because no Republican has a chance to reach the White House in the era after Roe v. Wade without a massive turn out by these highly motivated voters. Republican winners also need strong support from conservative (think daily Mass) and middle-of-the-road (think Sunday Mass, most of the time) Catholics, but that's an issue very few people seem to be talking about. Has anyone heard a word from a U.S. Catholic bishop about anything for about six months?

We are also talking about Trump and this one camp of old-guard, white evangelicals (many can accurately be defined as "fundamentalists") because other evangelicals are talking about them, from the other side of a bitter and painful divide in pulpits and many pews. At this stage, even Trump's evangelical advisory team is packed with people who have not endorsed him.

So, once again, "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I, during this week's podcast, talked about the slow-motion train wreck that is Trump's campaign to get right with the God voters. Click right here to tune that in.

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Who's not with the program? White evangelicals, according to RNS

Who's not with the program? White evangelicals, according to RNS

Who is out of step with the country? Oh, you know. It's the white evangelicals.

That’s the apparent upshot of a story by the Religion News Service on a new survey.  The study, by the Public Religion Research Institute, highlights anxieties among Americans about immigration, terrorism, discrimination and cultural change.

But for RNS, it seems to come down to a single social-racial-religious class: white evangelical Protestants.

Americans also are split on whether American culture and the country’s way of life have mostly changed for the better (49 percent) or worse (50 percent) since the 1950s.
And, the PRRI/Brookings report said, "no group of Americans is more nostalgic about the 1950s than white evangelical Protestants," with 70 percent saying the country has changed for the worse. Americans also split politically on the question: 68 percent of Republicans agree things have gotten worse, while nearly the same share of Democrats (66 percent) say times are better.

This despite the next paragraph, which says that overall, 72 percent of Americans agree that "the country is moving in the wrong direction" -- up from 65 percent in 2011. "And most (57 percent) believe they should fight for their values, even if they are at odds with the law and changing culture," the article adds.

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Is there a religion ghost in Brexit victory for angry old Brits who keep clinging to the past?

Is there a religion ghost in Brexit victory for angry old Brits who keep clinging to the past?

Is there a religion ghost in the shocking, to many, Brexit vote?

Of course there is. Any issue this, well, HUGE is going to have links to religious beliefs and institutions, on both sides of the debate. However, it will take a while for that shoe to drop, methinks, as secular journalists begin their work -- of course -- with waves of news about the political and economic fallout.

That is to be expected. However, we can begin our search for the religion ghost in this story by asking two rather basic questions: In terms of media and cultural elites, who is upset about the Brexit victory? And these grieving people in the mainstream media (looking at you, Christiane Amanpour), who are they blaming for this defeat for rational thought and the world's glowing future?

For example, I have no idea who this young journalist is -- Rebecca Pinnington -- but I would imagine that there were plenty of professionals in major newsrooms thinking this exact same thought in the wee hours of this morning. What does it say that CNN has this quote on its front page, as I write this?

"When Donald Trump congratulates you on a political decision, that’s how you know you’ve made a mistake #EUref"

So who is to blame for this attack on the European Union and its supporters? It would appear, based on my early reading, that the chattering classes see this as a victory for old people who yearn for the values of the past and fear the wide open, evolving future. The word of the day appears to be "xenophobia."

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Omar Mateen's interesting trips to Saudi Arabia: The details are 'conservative' news?

Omar Mateen's interesting trips to Saudi Arabia: The details are 'conservative' news?

Journalists and all you careful consumers of foreign-news coverage, I have a question for you. At this stage, after the horrors of the massacre inside The Pulse gay bar in Orlando, what elements of the case do you think are drawing the most attention from investigators at the local, national and global levels?

Everyone (well almost everyone) is really interested, of course, in learning more about the motive for the crime.

That could be a local question or it could be a national question. That could be a global question. I can imagine a scenario in which it is all three and, for national-security experts, that is the nightmare scenario. What if the lone wolf wasn't really a lone wolf?

If that is the case, then it is fair to ask when Omar Mateen met radical jihadists with ties to ISIS or, at the very least, ties to radicalized forms of Islam that might lead a young man to sympathy for the Islamic State. Yes, the internet is a likely channel But the World Wide Web alone?

This brings me to the question that I have been asking for a week or so now. I would imagine that investigators are rather interested in what did or did not happen during Mateen's two relatively recent trips to Saudi Arabia, as in 2011 and 2012.

What? You have not read much about those rather expensive and flexible trips? Well, that's because, when it comes to follow-up work among journalists, these trips appear to be (wait for it) "conservative news."

Here is a typical New York Times reference, from early reporting:

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What happens when an article is wrong? The Atlantic dissects Jesus' 'wife' story

What happens when an article is wrong? The Atlantic dissects Jesus' 'wife' story

Certainly the religion story of the week -- or rather the story of the non-story -- was a bombshell piece published by The Atlantic called “The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’ Wife” about how a forged piece of papyrus managed to pass as an ancient manuscript.

You remember that media storm, right? You remember all the coverage of the claim that Jesus was married and that centuries of Christian doctrines regarding his celibacy were lies or worse.

What was depressing about the Harvard scholar who originally revealed this great find in 2012 was how many media eagerly pounced on it as final proof that Christianity is not what it says it is. GetReligion had plenty to say about the coverage here, herehere and here, as there weren’t a whole lot of voices out there asking questions about thoroughly this Harvard professor had vetted the material.

But one reporter did have questions. Some of us know Ariel Sabar from his 2008 book “My Father’s Paradise” about exploring his Jewish past in Iraqi Kurdistan. Having traveled in that corner of the world, I was amazed at the amount of “shoe leather reporting,” as we call it, that went into tracking down his family’s history.

Sabar put plenty of shoe leather into the Atlantic story, which starts thus:

On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.

Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married.

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Major oops! NPR discovers that the Rev. Billy Graham is, in fact, NOT dead

Major oops! NPR discovers that the Rev. Billy Graham is, in fact, NOT dead

This breaking news just in: The Rev. Billy Graham is, in fact, NOT dead.

For at least a brief time this week, NPR reported otherwise in its coverage of Donald Trump's closed-door meeting with (certain) evangelical leaders.

This is the correction appended to the bottom of the story:

Correction
June 21, 2016
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to "the late evangelist Rev. Billy Graham." Graham, 97, has not died.

"Oops!" I said in reply to the GetReligion reader who shared the NPR link.

"That's a major oops!" the reader replied.

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