Connecting Arizona's dots

As the media continues to feed us play-by-play updates from Arizona's shootings, we're reading about the endless calls to civility, the confusing ties to Sarah Palin and the (predictable?) reaction from Westboro, we're seeing some further religion coverage within profiles of some of the victims.

The New York Times offers some nice details about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' religious background, though it seems to downplay the impact of faith in her politics.

Ms. Giffords is the first Jewish congresswoman from Arizona, a point of pride for many at Congregation Chaverim. She did not attend services every week and rediscovered her Jewish faith only about a decade ago. But she is described as a dedicated member of the temple whose work and compassion embody the best of Jewish practice.

"My Jewish heritage has really instilled in me the importance of education and caring for the community," she said in a 2006 interview with The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

She called a 2001 visit to Israel a turning point in her life that set off a fresh interest in Judaism. Her faith has never become a major issue in her political campaigns, which, most recently, focused on her opposition to Arizona's hard-line immigration law and her support of President Obama's health care overhaul.

I'm not sure how the writers quantifies when faith is a major issue in a campaign, unless he was expecting something like a Jeremiah Wright moment. The Times switches course and plays up religion again towards the end.

Ms. Giffords, a member of Hadassah, the Jewish women's organization, has said that her religion helped her become a leader.

"If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it," she said in a 2006 interview. Jewish women, she continued, "have an ability to cut through all the reasons why something should, shouldn't or can't be done, and pull people together to be successful."

In comparison, the brief profile of U.S. District Judge John M. Roll doesn't even mention his Catholic faith. You would think that it would merit at least a brief inclusion, since he died after just attending daily Mass. On the other hand, a few media outlets like the Wall Street Journal captured more details on the 9-year-old girl who was born on 9/11.

More than two hundred parishioners gathered Sunday at the St. Odilia Catholic Church in [Tucson] for a mass remembering Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year old victim of the Safeway shooting, whose patriotism and passion is being commemorated across the nation.

Miss Green attended the church, a modern building in an affluent part of Tucson, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains, for four years; she was part of the "Joyful Noise Choir" and last year she took her First Communion here, less than a mile away from the parking lot where she was felled.

Bobby Ross continues to follow the story of Dorwan Stoddard, the Church of Christ member who tried to protect his wife during the rampage. Another victim, Phyllis Schneck, spent much of her time as an active member of Tucson's Northminster Presbyterian Church.

I like this little snapshot feature from the Associated Press/Los Angeles Times, which seems to mention religion when it seemed especially relevant in the victims lives.

There are still few details surrounding the motive of the alleged gunman, Jared Loughner. As Mollie mentioned earlier, he posted a video suggesting that he was able to control all religion "by being the mind controller." The Associated Press includes a comment from one of his friends briefly mentions religion, or lack thereof.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Wiens also said Loughner used to speak critically about religion. He also talked about how he liked to smoke pot.

"He wasn't really too keen on religion it seemed like," Grant Wiens, 22, told The Associated Press. "I don't know if floating through life is the right term or whatever, but he was really just into doing his own thing."

Crying "exclusive," The New York Daily News reports on a "shrine" that appears in Loughner's yard.

A sinister shrine reveals a chilling occult dimension in the mind of the deranged gunman accused of shooting a member of Congress and 19 others.

Hidden within a camouflage tent behind Jared Lee Loughner's home sits an alarming altar with a skull sitting atop a pot filled with shriveled oranges.

A row of ceremonial candles and a bag of potting soil lay nearby, photos reveal.

Experts on Sunday said the elements are featured in the ceremonies of a number of occult groups.

Who, exactly, are these "experts" who are commenting that this structure? Sure, you don't see that on everyone's back patio, but since when do reporters jump to such conclusions, using words like "sinister," "chilling" and "alarming"?

Finally, the political angles are quickly getting old. While I'm still trying to figure out how Politico justifies six links on its home page linking Palin to the shooting (While the NYT has one, the WSJ has one and CNN has zero), I hope further coverage will find some responsible connections to add.

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