Tamie Ross

Son of 'Da Vinci Code'? 'Symbols' in Vatican-linked political blast cry out for translation

Son of 'Da Vinci Code'? 'Symbols' in Vatican-linked political blast cry out for translation

Actor Tom Hanks brought to life (on screen) the fictional Harvard University "symbologist" Robert Langdon, the hero of Dan Brown's fanciful novels "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons."

If there actually were a "symbologist" floating around, it might be useful to page them -- or Tom Hanks -- to help interpret a Vatican-linked bit of commentary about, of all things, American politics, the late Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and President Donald Trump's chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

Put all THAT in your word processor, Dan Brown! Can't you almost see the trailer for that movie, releasing perhaps in time for Campaign 2020? 

Instead, we are, fortunately. in the capable hands of Rachel Zoll, religion writer for the Associated Press, and Rod "Friend of this Blog" Dreher. Each approaches the subject in a professional manner. Dreher, of course, has his opinions, which we'll get to in a moment.

Let's start with the AP, via Maine's Portland Press Herald. Take a gander at this longish excerpt, published under the headline "Pope confidant sees unholy U.S. alliance," to see what's causing all the fuss:

A close confidant of Pope Francis, writing Thursday in a Vatican-approved magazine, condemned the way some American evangelicals and their Roman Catholic supporters mix religion and politics, saying their worldview promotes division and hatred.
The Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the influential Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, said a shared desire for political influence between “evangelical fundamentalists” and some Catholics has inspired an “ecumenism of conflict” that demonizes opponents and promotes a “theocratic type of state.” ...

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Washington mudslide disaster: the heart of the matter

More than two weeks after the horrendous mudslide in Oso, Wash., news coverage is taking a different turn. Gone are the frenetic rescue stories and the first profiles of those lost, and in their place are more broad-based stories about those who will help residents recover long-term. From the Seattle Times comes this piece about the faith community, both local and transplanted, in the wake of the tragedy. While we would expect this type of coverage at this stage in the developing story, this report seems different. Not only is it well-sourced, but it moved me to empathy in a way I didn’t really expect.

People of faith, ministers and chaplains have responded to the deadly March 22 mudslide as a calling. They’re on the ground in Oso, Darrington and Arlington, trying to help shocked survivors pick up and go on. The transition from overwhelming loss to healing will be slow and difficult, they say.

“I’ve been ordained 38 years, so I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve never been a part of something this dramatic and all-encompassing,” said the Rev. Tim Sauer, pastor at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Arlington and St. John Vianney in Darrington.

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Can we let Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist rest in peace?

There’s no such thing as bad publicity — at least that’s how the saying goes. I beg to differ when it comes to the late Fred Phelps, Westboro Baptist Church and promoting your business.

From my home state today comes this front-page story in The Oklahoman. Take a moment to read it so we’re all on the same billboard, er … page.

Now then, let’s talk about what constitutes newsworthiness and how that differs from creating news.

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Neon Trees rocker says he's gay — and still Mormon

At some point, coming-out stories about faith-claiming celebrities, musicians, politicians — anyone in the public eye — will cease to be newsworthy. Until then, we put up with the half-written attempts by news outlets and magazines to tell their stories. I say half-written because rarely do these pieces come close to a proper attempt at reconciling the subjects’ claims of sexual orientation with their faith backgrounds in any meaningful way. (For the record, that includes comment from someone representing the denomination with which the newly heralded LGBT identifies himself/herself.)

The latest example is Rolling Stone’s narrative on alternative rock group Neon Trees’ lead singer Tyler Glenn. Glenn, a lifelong member of the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tells the magazine he is gay and has known since he was 6 that he was attracted to men. He also describes his first date with another man, indicating he will pursue that type of relationship in the future.

Glenn also says that he still considers himself a Mormon, although the church’s doctrinal position on homosexuality is clear: Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married.

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Kentucky church gun giveaway story shoots straight

Churches offering free items, services or even doughnuts to their neighbors isn’t news. When they offer 25 long guns and shotguns as door prizes, however, people (and the press) take notice.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah are making headlines this week for doing just that: inviting 1,000 or so unchurched, mostly young men to a free steak dinner and gun giveaway Thursday night labeled as a “Second Amendment Celebration” in hopes of “luring them to Christ.”

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported on the Southern Baptist-affiliated event in its weekend edition a few days ago, and since then several news outlets have picked up the story.

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If at first you don't succeed ... find another source

British writer and editor W.E. Hickson popularized this quotation in the 1870s, and I’m dusting it off today for our friends at The Dallas Morning News. Why, you ask? I’m guessing they haven’t thought of applying the concept to sourcing stories, particularly ones that demand a balanced treatment. On the heels of a federal judge’s ruling striking down Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage, I looked to the Lone Star State’s outstanding collection of newspapers for what I expected to be top-notch coverage. Instead, I came across this news/feature piece, which fell flat on its one-sided backside.

After 53 years, Jack Evans will finally get hitched to his life partner George Harris on Saturday, believed to be the first public same-sex wedding in Dallas officiated by a United Methodist minister.

The union has qualified religious acceptance. There’s open debate in the United Methodist Church, which officially views homosexuality as ”incompatible with Christian teaching.”

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It's 5 o'clock somewhere: hymns and happy hour?

“Beer with Jesus” might have fallen off the country music charts, but the trend has legs — er, foam — apparently. You may remember the other half of our resident husband-wife team, GetReligionista Bobby Ross Jr., writing a post in November on the subject.  In summary, he looked at reports on churches offering services in pubs and bars and the successes and failures in each.

We have a new twist to the story now, and it comes to us from the country music capital of the world, Nashville Tenn. It also involves music, but not of the hometown variety.

The Tennessean invites us to pull up a barstool and join the Beer and Hymn Sing Group in this report:

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Ghosts haunt AP story on Boy Scouts of America

When my oldest son was a Boy Scout, the entire experience was couched in church settings. His pack meetings took place in church halls,  and ceremonies were scheduled in church sanctuaries and auditoriums. His pack leaders often doubled as congregational lay leaders, and the boys were asked once a year to don their uniforms and lead a special “Scout Sunday” worship. When the boys recited the oath, the “Under God” portion no doubt resonated within their surroundings.

I was surprised, then, by The Associated Press’ story on new statistics released Wednesday that show a 6 percent membership decline in the last year — a year during which new rules were put in place to accept and protect openly gay Scouts, from Cubs to Eagles.

The story had a Dallas dateline, undoubtedly tied to the organization’s national headquarters in nearby Irving, Texas. Beyond that obvious connection, what better area in the country to find a wide array of faith groups willing and able to speak intelligently about the impact of the change on troops with which they might have alliances or sponsorship?

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10 years of GetReligion: Women and the Godbeat

My 14-year-old daughter sits next to me as I type. Kendall often does this, curious about the day’s subject matter. More often than not, she is interested (and I like to think it’s more than the caramel lattes I make us). She can identify with and wants to learn more about the issues and stories of today. But beyond that, she sees relevance as we talk about people and news and faith issues. Even before society will allow her to drive or vote, she knows she is permitted to think and reason and form opinions, changing them as she matures. That, as she would say, “is really cool.”

I’m thrilled by her interest in media, especially its coverage of religion and related topics. But a larger question looms when I think of her generation. And mine, and my mother’s and grandmothers’: Are we doing right by women when it comes to religion coverage, on both sides of the press? Does our industry have enough female Godbeat writers, and are we as women spending a proportionate amount of time reading and discussing stories with religious themes or context?

GetReligion has been blessed with a number of extraordinary writers during its 10-year history, and I walk in the oh-so-stylish shoes of some gifted female journalists. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Elizabeth Eisenstadt-Evans come immediately to mind because of the questions they asked during their time here and the myriad ways in which they made religion news coverage better.

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