Tongues, cartoons, news -- oh my (updated)

washington post cartoonCartoons are certainly not news items in the traditional sense of a news article or broadcast, but as we all know, cartoons can certainly make news. See to the right (or click on this link) to get an idea of what I am talking about. I hardly watch cable news these days (except for The Daily Show), so I can't say what type of broadcast news coverage this attempt at humor is getting. Give me some feedback on whether this has received any significant coverage beyond various blogs. Maybe it's time to start ignoring these types of incidents as some of you have suggested.

Or maybe it does matter since Pat Oliphant is one of the most widely distributed political cartoonists in the world. I love political cartoons and newspaper cartoonists in general. The first person outside family members I became friends with at my local newspaper was the evening newspaper's cartoonist. Cartoonists can make points in ways writers like myself can only dream of. I am sad to see the slow decline over the years. The big question that some are asking: is this cartoon appropriate? Watch to see if The Washington Post's ombudsman Deborah Howell covers the issue this weekend in her column.

Now that the cartoon issue is out of the way, take a look at this news story from Dan Harris of ABC News on what Palin's faith might mean to the country. The article starts out by saying the following:

It's happened to John McCain and Barack Obama. Now it's Sarah Palin's turn to go through what one observer has called a "spiritual vetting."

Isn't it great when news stories start out by talking about the very thing that same news story is doing? As for the vetting, Harris didn't do all that good of a job. Check out this paragraph:

Pentecostalism has been described as evangelical experience on steroids. Like evangelicals, Pentecostals believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and that the end of time is near. However, Pentecostals also believe that the Holy Spirit can give you gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesy, and divine healing.

"It's very common in Pentecostal churches to be emotionally involved, physically involved in our worship service," Palin's former pastor Tim McGraw said. "And the reason for that is that if you go to a football game and your team wins or kicks a field goal to win it's entirely consistent to be happy."

Why does Harris have to use a negative analogy like steroids? Couldn't he have found the time to find a more neutral comparison?

The article mentions early and often the speaking in tongues issue despite the fact that it never suggests Palin has spoken in tongues. Getting that fact nailed down would seem to be to be essential to this story.

The article states that the practice is often the least understood. By definition, I think that is true. How should news reporters cover something as tricky and theologically controversial? I wouldn't know where to start but maybe some of you readers could provide some suggestions.

UPDATE: Steve Waldman over at Beliefnet believes that Oliphant should apologize for the cartoon:

Where to begin? Palin doesn't belong to a Pentecostal church now. When she did, we don't know if she spoke in tongues. And most important, Speaking in Tongues is a religious practice in which Christians feel the direct presence of the Holy Spirit. Is that really something to mock?

... Here's a general rule of thumb: if you look closely, every religion's practices and beliefs seem idiotic to those who aren't part of that faith. Yet they're profoundly meaningful to those who believe.

Please respect our Commenting Policy