How to get reporters into church

obamaatchurchI'm sure you are all as excited as I am about today's New Hampshire Primary. However, it is interesting how the media coverage of the religious angles in the race has more or less dropped off after Iowa. The exception to that might be Mike Huckabee who built his successful Iowa campaign on outreach to evangelicals, among others. In New Hampshire, he's downplaying the religious themes. He's dropped his popular Iowa adds that touted himself as a "Christian leader."

So Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon's account of how Huckabee spent his Sunday morning this week was interesting: he preached at a church in the Granite State.

Huckabee's campaign did not allow cameras into the church, and the candidate did not make an appeal for votes as part of his sermon. But a church official invited members to attend an event a mile away, where Huckabee held a rally with actor Chuck Norris and where free clam chowder was served.

Huckabee mixed homespun jokes into his sermon and added a more religious tone than in his political speeches, not just quoting from the Bible but citing specific verses and talking about the serious side of faith.

Does that last paragraph make you feel like this was Bacon's first time in a church? That's what reader Chris Duckworth thought:

Oooo. Ahhhh. He cited specific verses? He had a religious tone? He mixed in a few jokes? Wow. Where I come from - a liberal-leaning Lutheran tradition - we call that preaching. Nothing too fancy or unique about it. Rather ordinary and typical, actually. Is this all Mr. Bacon could say about his delivery?

Duckworth also thought the fact that Huckabee spent his Sunday morning at church, rather than at a large campaign event, would have been a better hook. I appreciated Bacon's descriptions of the worship service -- praise band, songs on a projector rather than in hymnals -- but they did have an anthropologist-reporting-on-the-natives vibe. I found it interesting that Huckabee prefers "contemporary" worship.

Huckabee, sitting in the front row beside his wife, Janet, seemed to know most of the songs without reading the words and praised the guitar player as being better than he is. And he said he enjoyed the upbeat service, which included tambourine and drums and children running under flags that were waved during the songs.

He knew the songs? You don't say. Anyway, it would also be nice if we could get a few more details. What kind of flags, for instance?

Even if Barack Obama -- another churchgoer -- and Huckabee don't continue as frontrunners, reporters are going to be covering a lot of church services this political cycle. What should they keep in mind when they report from inside the sanctuaries?

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