Devout hero: Might Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults' 'nerves of steel' be related to her strong faith?

Devout hero: Might Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults' 'nerves of steel' be related to her strong faith?

If you follow the news, you know that a Southwest Airlines plane made an emergency landing Tuesday after an engine exploded.

Sadly, one passenger was killed and seven others wounded.

But pilot Tammie Jo Shults is being praised for her "nerves of steel" in calmly maneuvering the plane to the ground and avoiding a much worse catastrophe.

News reports also have noted that Shults is a pioneer who was among the U.S. Navy's first female pilots trained to fly fighter aircraft.

So, why does this story merit attention by GetReligion? I'm so glad you asked.

Enter reader David Yoder, who tipped us to be on the lookout for holy ghosts in the coverage of Shults.

"She's a committed Christian," Yoder told us.

That was news to me: I saw no mention of the faith angle in profiles of Shults by CNN, ABC News, the New York Times or The Associated Press.

But as I started Googling, I was pleased to see a number of news organizations did catch this angle.

The Washington Post offered these strong details:

Her mother-in-law also described her as a devout Christian, with a faith she thinks may have contributed to her calm state amid the emergency landing.
“I know God was with her, and I know she was talking to God,” Virginia Shults said.

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Barbara Bush: Last old-school mainline Protestant to serve as America's first lady? (updated)

Barbara Bush: Last old-school mainline Protestant to serve as America's first lady? (updated)

At least once a month, I pop open a search engine and go fishing on the World Wide Web, looking for a quotation or some other reference that I remember from the distant past. Just because you remember something -- as an aging religion-beat scribe -- doesn't mean that you are going to be able to find a reference online (or in the boxes of notes and clippings that line a wall in your basement).

So let me share what I remember about a First Things article I read just before the birth of the Internet. It focused on the differences, in terms of faith and personal style, between President Bill Clinton and the recently ousted President George H.W. Bush.

The basic idea was that Clinton, as a Bible Belt Baptist, was much more comfortable talking about his faith than the more reserved Bush, a Yankee Episcopalian. At one point there was a footnote to a press-conference transcript from the Bush campaign.

As I recall, Bush was asked what he thought about during the hours in which he floated in shark-infested Pacific Ocean waters after his fighter plane was shot down during World War II.

The transcript indicated that Bush said that he thought about Barbara, this family and God -- then there was a strategic pause before he added -- and "the separation of church and state."

Now there's a man who is a mainline Protestant's mainline Protestant.

I thought about article (if anyone can find it online, I'd love a URL) this morning while reading lots of news and commentary about the death of the 92-year-old Barbara Bush, the Bush family's beloved "Silver Fox" who had become a quirky, candid grandmother figure for millions of Americans. Good luck trying to find insights into the family's faith -- which can be sensed in between the lines, but that's as far as journalists were willing to go.

My main question: Were Barbara and George H.W. Bush the last old-school mainline Protestants -- in terms of low-key style and quiet faith -- to occupy the White House?

I mean, George W. Bush was a United Methodist, but he adopted a more outspoken, evangelical style after the religious rebirth that helped him defeat alcohol.

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Jailed Evangelical Presybterian pastor in Turkey finally gets full-court press coverage

Jailed Evangelical Presybterian pastor in Turkey finally gets full-court press coverage

Quite a few mainstream news outlets are finally chronicling the drama of a Christian pastor, a Turkish prison and a tussle over religious freedom that’s pitting President Donald Trump against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At issue are the few Christian missionaries in Turkey (the only Muslim majority country I know that actually allows missionaries to operate there) who are pawns in a war of words between the two countries.

In the summer of 2016, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pulled all of its missionaries out of Turkey, sensing things were going to get worse, not better, for believers there.

So here’s how the Wall Street Journal described a trial that happened this week:

An American pastor who has spent 18 months in Turkish custody appeared for the first time in court Monday, denying accusations of espionage and contacts with terrorists in a case that has exacerbated tense relations between Washington and Ankara.
Turkish prosecutors allege Andrew Brunson colluded with a group Turkey blames for the 2016 failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well with Kurdish militants Turkey regards as terrorists. If convicted he faces up to 35 years in prison.

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Morgan Shepherd has started 1,000 NASCAR series races: What exactly inspires him?

Morgan Shepherd has started 1,000 NASCAR series races: What exactly inspires him?

"At 76, Morgan Shepherd is driven to inspire others."

That was the headline on a recent ESPN story on a driver making his 1,000th career NASCAR national series start.

Enter a faithful GetReligion reader — Father Geoff Horton of the Roman Catholic diocese of Peoria, Ill. — who shared the link with us.

"Another ESPN Holy Ghost story for you," Horton said in an email. "Morgan Shepherd keeps racing at age 76 to promote his mission to ... Gosh. The article never really quite says."

True enough.

Yes, ESPN hints at a faith angle:

"I don't keep count," Shepherd said. "I enjoy the race fans and the racing. God has blessed us being here this long."

And the story notes the cross on the hood of Shepherd's car:

"It's more or less an opportunity," Shepherd said. "We carry the cross on the hood of our car and we're ministry-minded. I try to encourage people to get up off the couch and do something with their life.
"That's what I do."
He said the ministry that drives him possibly keeps companies from sponsoring him, although he has had some support from Visone RV and race fans.
"It's hard to find people when you've got the cross on the hood," Shepherd said. "We do have race fans that help us. ... We don't do big deals, but we keep coming.
"We know we can't go but so many laps because you can't buy the tires and the engines with the money you're going to get."

Give ESPN credit for including those details. But I'm with the reader. I'd like to know more about the specific nature of Stewart's faith and ministry.

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Dear Orange County Register editors: Some Episcopal stories require a bit of research

Dear Orange County Register editors: Some Episcopal stories require a bit of research

If you have been a religion-beat reporter for a decade or two (or longer), then you probably have a large "box" (analog, digital or both) stashed somewhere with a label that says "Episcopal Church Sex Wars," or words to that effect.

It's hard to know precisely where to start the clock, when creating a timeline for Episcopal conflicts about doctrines defining marriage and sex. has a helpful view from the left that starts in 1962. At GetReligion, we normally start with the 1979 General Convention in Denver, which affirmed traditional doctrines, but also saw the release of a protest document from 21 liberal bishops, including the names of several future leaders of the church.

 This brings me to a recent story in the Orange County Register: "St. James the Great congregants make joyous return to Newport Beach church." One Godbeat veteran wrote me to say that this story had "more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese." Here is the lede:

NEWPORT BEACH -- Meg Schuler teared up as she walked out of her church’s sanctuary and into the sunlight.
For her and about 100 other congregants, Sunday morning’s service at St. James the Great Episcopal Church, marked a homecoming of sorts.
For three years, this congregation, evicted from the church on Via Lido by their former bishop J. Jon Bruno, led a nomadic existence, but remained hopeful that they would return to their home church some day.

Pause for a moment to click this link and look at a few pictures of this impressive church building.

Now note the size of the congregation -- 100 worshipers -- on this historic day in the life of this parish.

It doesn't quite add up, does it?

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Real dangers in India, Indonesia and Brazil as the religious pendulum swings way right

Real dangers in India, Indonesia and Brazil as the religious pendulum swings way right

Human history may be explained as a pendulum that swings, uninterrupted, between religious and political extremes that have profound consequences for those affected. Our limited time here is no different.

This metaphor for perpetual change is currently swinging to the right in much of the world. A prime reason why, is that the most recent political and religious pull to the left failed to deliver on its promises of economic justice, political equality, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of inner security and calm craved by all.

Impatient and needy creatures that we are, such failures inevitably shift the underlying gravitational momentum that sets the pendulum in motion. When liberal (pluralistic in outlook, government and rationalism viewed as essentially positive forces) views fail us, large numbers inevitably swing to the right. A similar dynamic occurs when right-leaning ideas (top-down tribalism, traditionalist “cures” for society's ills) leave us dissatisfied and feeling threatened.

The hope is always the same, of course; finding a quick, earthly salvation to get us through the day.

In recent days, several elite media stories about events in India, Indonesia and Brazil have illustrated the problematic impacts of the current global shift to the right. (I’m covering lots of ground here so rather than use wordy block quotes, please click on the links provided to better understand my point.)

All concern religious freedom issues. All illustrate how religious, and ethnic, minorities have been treated miserably by majorities who use religious and political dominance to trample the rights of the powerless.

You could argue that none of this is new, that it’s just more of the pendulum at work. And you’d be correct.

But I cite them here not because they're new under the sun, but simply as a reminder that the human desire to dominate those who are different -- religiously or otherwise -- continues to wreck havoc on the weakest among us.

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Persecuted like a virgin: The faith behind a lawsuit filed by a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader

Persecuted like a virgin: The faith behind a lawsuit filed by a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader

Kristan Ann Ware, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, has filed a lawsuit alleging she was discriminated against, in part, because of her religion.

Oh, and because she told fellow cheerleaders she was a virgin.

Wait, what!?

Jim Davis, a former GetReligion contributor, tipped us to the story and posed a question about Ware's case: "Annnnd which religion might that be?"

Yes, that sounds like a rather pertinent question. Right?

Not so fast maybe.

USA Today gave a few clues, mentioning Ware's "religion," "virginity" and "baptism" in the first two paragraphs of its story:

Former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Kristan Ann Ware filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Dolphins and the NFL with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, alleging in the complaint that she faced discrimination and retaliation because of her religion and gender, and that she was told by two coaches in an annual work review not to discuss her virginity. 
Ware, who concluded three seasons as a Dolphins cheerleader in 2017, alleges that the team brought her severe emotional and physical distress in her last year and that NFL players are held to different standards regarding social media and expression of faith. In April of 2016, Ware posted a picture of her baptism on social media and alleges she was questioned about it by team officials before being told to not discuss her decision to abstain from sex before marriage. 

But no form of the word "Christian" appears in the report.

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The New Yorker stirs up a storm with analysis of Chick-fil-A evangelism in the Big Apple

The New Yorker stirs up a storm with analysis of Chick-fil-A evangelism in the Big Apple

First things first: I am not a New Yorker. I just live here -- lower Manhattan, to be specific -- two-plus months a year. Thus, I do not pretend to offer any special insights into the heart and soul of New York City.

However, part of my ongoing relationship with this great city is that I spend lots of time talking to New Yorkers about life in their city (as opposed to the New York seen in movies and television). I do this, in part, to help students in the New York Journalism Semester at The King's College, since they come here from all over America and even overseas.

Now, a wise New Yorker gave me this advice when I first started working here. This scribe advised me to never, ever, think of New York City as one place. If you do that, he said, your head will explode. New York City is just too big, too complex, to do that.

Instead, he advised me to figure out how people live in their own unique New York City neighborhoods and then move out into the wider city. And avoid the tourist places. Visit the neighborhood delis, pizza joints, coffee shops, pubs, hole-in-the-wall grocery stores. Talk to people there and, before you know it, those people will know your name and call it out.

The paradox: While New York is the world's greatest Alpha city, its neighborhoods are more like small towns. New York is not a super-crowded shopping mall.

You will not be surprised that this brings me to that viral headline in The New Yorker, the one that proclaimed: "Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York City." The photo tagline on the picture of the new Chick-Fil-A on Fulton Street, in my way downtown neighborhood, perfectly captures the tone: 

Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose begins with the words “to glorify God,” and that proselytism thrums below the surface of its new Fulton Street restaurant.

Yes, this piece was commentary, as opposed to news. But that raises an interesting point, one heard often here at GetReligion: Why settle for commentary? If New Yorkers are angry or upset about a Bible Belt company selling chicken sandwiches, shouldn't there be a way to write a hard-news story about this fact?

Another question: Did the author of this piece simply assume that HIS New York is one big monolithic place, that it is one unified city where everyone thinks and feels the same way? Did he make the same mistake as millions of New York-haters.

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WSJ pins Brazil's swing to right on evangelicals, but the truth may be more complex

WSJ pins Brazil's swing to right on evangelicals, but the truth may be more complex

Brazil is definitely taking a swing to the right, so who should we credit for that?

Let's think logically about this. Law and order folks? Business owners? Evangelicals? Pentecostals? Politicians? 

The societal transformation of this once-majority-Catholic country to a majority-Pentecostal republic is fascinating to watch and there's been a procession of mainstream reporters going to Brazil to check it out. You can see the latest here: a Wall Street Journal piece on how all this may pan out. 

NIOAQUE, Brazil -- It looks like a scene from Marlboro Country. Cattle ranchers drive their Chevy pickup trucks to the local rodeo. Cowboys in washed-out jeans entertain the crowds.
In fact, it is Brazil’s conservative heartland, a 14-hour drive from the nearest beach and a world away from the country’s reputation for liberal hedonism.
Over much of the past 15 years, Brazilian conservatives have watched the rise of socialism in this continent-sized nation with unease. They’ve seen farmers go to jail here for defending their land against indigenous tribes; they’ve recoiled as same-sex couples starred in their favorite soap operas; and they’ve grumbled at the local shooting club about high taxes, high crime and the corruption scandals in two successive leftist presidencies…
Conservatism is making a comeback here. It is already playing out in the battle over women’s health and across politics, religion and the arts.

Sounds a bit like Texas, does it not?

Brazil is witnessing the political rise of a fiery army captain-turned-congressman named Jair Messias Bolsonaro, who speaks fondly of the country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship in which he once served. The blue-eyed nationalist, whose middle name means “Messiah,” is a devout Christian who was recently baptized in the Jordan River. At 63, he is running for president on a pro-gun, antiabortion and anti-gay-rights platform.

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