Adding to the Middle East mix; this time we're talking about Jewish terrorism

Adding to the Middle East mix; this time we're talking about Jewish terrorism

Despicable Jew-on-Jew and suspected Jew-on-Palestinian acts of violence were committed in Israel last week, producing much agonized soul-searching among Israeli and Diaspora Jews over how this could happen. Not surprisingly, the international media has been all over the story, supplying enough answers to the question of "how" to satisfy every taste.

Here's a quick summation of events: 

Within the span of just a few days, right wing religious settlers clashed with government forces seeking to remove illegally built West Bank settler homes, an ultra-Orthodox man attacked a Jerusalem gay pride parade, knifing six and killing a teenaged Jewish girl, and suspected extremist religious settlers set fire to a Palestinian home, killing a toddler. (I say suspected because, as of this writing, no one's actually been charged with the crime, though all signs point to the involvement of radical Jews.) 

Want more detail, including how the Israeli government has reacted to these events? Read this solid Washington Post piece published earlier this week.

Israeli Jewish civilian violence rooted in religious or political extremism -- or an unfortunate mix of the two -- is not quite the man-bites-dog story it's generally portrayed to be. Sadly, it happens too often for that to be the case. Jews, Israeli or otherwise, are no less immune to the darker human impulses than anyone else. 

Still, the anguished "How could Jews do this?" trope carried the day.

My reading of the media landscape tells me that this is the case for several reasons.

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Hard-hitting journalism on Baptist church's acceptance of same-sex marriage? Not exactly

Hard-hitting journalism on Baptist church's acceptance of same-sex marriage? Not exactly

"Hard-hitting religion journalism," said the subject line on an email from a GetReligion reader.

Methinks that reader enjoys the fine art of sarcasm.

The friendly correspondent shared a link to a front-page story in today's Greenville News in South Carolina.

The story concerns a Baptist church — which disassociated itself from the Southern Baptist Convention in 1999 — deciding to embrace same-sex marriage.

At 1,900 words, the Gannett newspaper's report on "One church's journey" is long enough to be considered in-depth. But hard-hitting journalism it most definitely is not.

If newspapers wrote love songs instead of news articles, this is how one might go — complete with the reporter tweeting unabashedly about the church's "amazing transformation."

Here's the first verse:

The conversation at First Baptist Church Greenville took place well before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this summer to legalize same-sex marriages.
The dialogue was bold — particularly for one of downtown Greenville’s influential legacy churches that in its earliest years served as a birthplace for revered Southern Baptist institutions.
Would the congregation be willing to allow same-sex couples to marry in the church?
To ordain gay ministers?


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Correction please: What was the priest doing when Las Cruces bomb exploded during Mass?

Correction please: What was the priest doing when Las Cruces bomb exploded during Mass?

I don't know about you, but I am curious as to what's going on with those two strange church bombings out in New Mexico.

Maybe you are like me and the detail that is nagging you is that someone -- unless the bombings are a coincidence and not the work of one person or group -- decided to hit a Baptist and a Catholic church. That's an interesting pair of targets. Also, the bombs were fairly minor, so this seemed to be a symbolic attack. Strange, strange, strange.

Authorities report that the first bomb went off at about 8:20 a.m. in a mailbox near the door to the Calvary Baptist church office. Services hadn't start yet.

And the timing of the attack at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church? That's the subject of this post, focusing on the Associated Press report on the attacks. You see, there has been some interesting chatter online about whether editors there really thought this one through. Either that, or the Associated Press copy desk doesn't include a single Catholic who frequents an altar. Then again, you could say the same thing about The Las Cruces Sun-News.

So here is the crucial part of the story. Let us attend:

The next blast came from a trash can outside Holy Cross Catholic at about 8:40 a.m. as Monsignor John Anderson was helping pass Communion.
"I was right in the middle of saying the words 'take and eat, this is my body,' and there was a pow! I mean, I knew it had to be more than a gunshot," Anderson told the Las Cruces Sun-News newspaper. "I didn't know if it was a shotgun blast, I didn't know what. But it was very loud, and I just kept on saying the words."

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Classic M.Z. on Planned Parenthood, media bias, religion and Gosnell flashback

Classic M.Z. on Planned Parenthood, media bias, religion and Gosnell flashback

As I noted the other day, the Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway has been involved in a very revealing standoff with The New York Times over a very basic issue of fact linked to the undercover Planned Parenthood videos being released by Catholic activist David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress team.

Hang on. In a minute we'll get to to a recent Eric Metaxas Show interview with M.Z. about the mainstream press, abortion, #AnotherBoy, classic GetReligion, Dr. Kermit Gosnell and several other topics of interest to readers of this weblog.

But first, unless something has happened that I have missed, Hemingway is still trying to get a correction from the world's most powerful newspaper, one noted for the excellence -- under normal circumstances -- of its corrections desk.

So, one more time, here is the Times online form that she has filled out to make her complaint. The key to her claim is the basic fact that almost all websites have built-in clocks, so you know when people posted something or made a basic change in a post. Thus:

Article Headline: Planned Parenthood Tells Congress More Videos of Clinics Might Surface

Date Published: Web: July 20, Print: July 21

Web or Print: Both

Phrase in Question: "Mr. Daleiden released what he called the full recording last week after Planned Parenthood complained of selective, misleading editing."

Your Concern (please limit to 300 words): –- This is completely in error. The full recording was released 21 seconds after the edited version, according to YouTube records, many hours before Planned Parenthood tried the public relations spin accepted by some reporters. ...

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Ghostbusters: Solving faith mystery of CEO who cut his $1 million salary to pay employees more

Ghostbusters: Solving faith mystery of CEO who cut his $1 million salary to pay employees more

Back in April, we spotted a holy ghost in the coverage of a Seattle CEO.

As you may recall, Gravity Payments founder Dan Price cut his own $1 million salary to pay all his employees at least $70,000 a year.

That post asked:

Could Price's weirdness have something to do with his Christian faith, if, as I am assuming, he is a Christian? A blurb on Seattle Pacific's website says one of the books that influenced him was"Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger."
My quick Googling didn't turn up any news reports that mention Price's religion. Nonetheless, I can't help but think a holy ghost might be haunting this story.

Three-plus months later, a GetReligion reader points us to an update from the New York Times.

Thank you for the tip, Christopher!

I must agree: This in-depth piece does a nice job of solving the faith mystery.

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People moving around less; Baptist News Global asks what that means for today's churches

People moving around less; Baptist News Global asks what that means for today's churches

"Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?" Carole King asked musically

Well, researchers at the Barna Group have the answer: More and more Americans are doing so. And Jeff Brumley of the Baptist News Global operation looks at whether people staying put is a good thing or a bad thing for congregations.

First let me say that Jeff is a longtime friend and a veteran religion reporter. Still, what we have here is what GetReligion folks call a "Got news?" story. It's a trend in a religious publication that is certainly worthy of coverage by folks in mainstream newsrooms. 

Pulling from the Barna survey, Brumley says most people nowadays -- 59 percent -- are certain or fairly sure they’ll never move again.

Normally, that would be good news for churches, which thrive on stable communities. But not necessarily this time, Brumley says, quoting Baptist minister Kevin Collison:

"The church has to realize we are now in competition with other community forces," he said. "CrossFit may be their community, more maybe the microbrewery is their community."
Ditto for coffee shops and farmers’ markets, Collison added. In other words, people staying put may present as many challenges for congregations as it does opportunities, he said.

The Baptist Press story quotes a good variety of sources. Besides Pastor Collison, there's David Hull of the Center for Healthy Churches and Roxanne Stone of Barna.  (However, Stone is only quoted via the organization's website.)

Hull spells out another ramification of people's reluctance to move -- a reluctance of clergy to change venues:

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Indianapolis Star tries to listen, but misses BIG question: What was the florist really saying?

Indianapolis Star tries to listen, but misses BIG question: What was the florist really saying?

So the First Amendment battles in Indiana roll on.

Apparently, someone at the Indianapolis Star decided that it was time to listen to one or two people on the pro-religious liberty side of this debate, allowing them to tell their stories in their own words. The symbolic hook for this news story was the town of Goshen, a small community containing a number of plot lines.

However, before we get to one of the key voices in this piece -- florist Sally Stutsman -- let's look at one or two crucial pieces of framing material. As always, it is crucial who gets to define the terms of the debate and who, well, gets to use the scare quotes. Another key player is a conservative activist named Eric Miller of Advance America, who at a crucial point in the story declined to be interviewed. Now, read the following carefully:

Advocates are gearing up to push for statewide inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes -- what they see as a next step in the LGBT rights fight -- to ensure those characteristics cannot be reasons for firing people from their jobs, denying housing or education opportunities, or refusing services.
Others, including Miller, contend that would give LGBT Hoosiers “special rights” at the expense of the devoutly religious who oppose same-sex marriages.

Ah, "special rights." What might that term mean? Truth be told, we don't know what the term means in this case because the Star team did not ask anyone on the moral and cultural right to define it. We just know, because of the scare quotes, that this is a bad thing.

In my experience, the term "special rights" is usually used by conservatives to say that they do not believe that homosexuality is the same as race, gender, age, disability or religion, defining characteristics that have always defined protected, or "special," classes of citizens.

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Sacramento Bee does lackluster reporting on local man behind Planned Parenthood videos

Sacramento Bee does lackluster reporting on local man behind Planned Parenthood videos

Although the news on the controversial Planned Parenthood selling-baby-parts videos, PP’s web site and various legal maneuvers blocking the videos seems to be changing by the hour, I chose to take on Sacramento Bee story released Tuesday. Call it a short-term GetReligion folder-of-guilt thing.

The headline: “New Planned Parenthood Controversy: Same Old Abortion Debate,” is an eyebrow raiser. Would the Bee say the following about the recently famous Cecil the Lion: “Freshly Killed Lion, Same Old Animal Rights Debate”? Really?

Before even reading the article, one gets a hint of the newspaper's take on this hot-button topic. Then:

Anti-abortion activists rallied in cities across the country in recent days, invigorated by the release of videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the procurement of fetal tissue for research. For the activists, the videos provided a new -- and still unfolding -- source of indignation. They accuse Planned Parenthood of profiting from the sale of aborted fetuses, a claim Planned Parenthood denies.
In Washington, Republicans called on Congress to withhold federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and GOP lawmakers in several states opened investigations of their own. Democrats pushed back by focusing scrutiny on the producer of the videos, a 26-year-old man involved in anti-abortion causes since his high school days in Davis.
But on the sidewalks outside Planned Parenthood clinics, familiar strokes of the anti-abortion movement -- wooden rosaries, amplifiers, faded signs telling women “it’s not too late to change your mind” -- belied the activists’ deeper hope that controversial videos might change people’s minds more broadly on abortion.
In that effort, there has been little evidence of success.

Much of the story is about David Daleiden, who attended a high school in Davis, about 15 miles west of Sacramento. Daleiden founded the Center for Medical Progress, which is releasing the videos. 

As regular news-consumers know, all news is local. Even as the local newspaper, the Bee doesn’t go to great lengths to look into Daleiden, who they said didn’t respond to requests for interviews.

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Do journalists (and the public, for that matter) still separate news and opinion?

Do journalists (and the public, for that matter) still separate news and opinion?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, we know that it is now August. However, there is no Aug. 1 in the calendar of the SquareSpace software we use to publish this blog. Think "Twilight Zone."


Pick a poll, pretty much any poll, and you will see that public trust for the work of journalists today is lower than low.

OK, how about Gallup in 2014, a poll indicating the key trust number -- for newspapers -- was at 22 percent and dropping below previous records? You don't want to know what the numbers were for television news and the Internet.

Of course, there is a degree of public hypocrisy in those numbers. Postmodern Americans claim they want balanced, accurate news and then there is strong evidence that what they really want is opinion and news that backs their own views. It is rare to see a deep, balanced, nuanced news story trending on Twitter.

So should journalists stop trying? Should mainstream news outlets simply let their freak flags fly and stop trying to do fair and accurate coverage of causes they believe are, using this phrase in as nonsectarian a way as possible, of the Devil? Using terms from journalism history, should journalists give up on the American model of the press and go back to a European, advocacy model?

That was the topic of this week's "Crossroads" podcast chat with host Todd Wilken (click here to tune that in), spinning off my recent GetReligion post about a New York Times article in which gay-rights activists reached out, through a formal letter, to Pope Francis seeking a face-to-face media event during his upcoming visit to the media centers of the American Northeast. As always in the Kellerism age, there was zero evidence that the world's most powerful newspaper made any attempt to seek the input of pro-Catechism Catholics when reporting this story, even when discussing events and doctrines on which there are myriad points of view to consider.

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