Over the past few days, I’ve been wondering about the significance of religious or quasi-religious words in a culture in which a shared understanding of these words appears to be disappearing. My curiosity was first piqued by a column by Gene Lyons in Salon. The critic argues that an interview (not so much the act?) sex offender Roman Polanski (here’s Mollie’s take from last week) gave should get a “special place in hell.” His column is sprinkled with words like “holy writ”, “sins” and the most definitely not complimentary “professional Christian” (applied to Nevada Senator John Ensign.
It’s fair to say that nine-term Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak is not a poster boy for conservatives, even for conservative Democrats. An opponent of the Iraq war, active on environmental issues, watch him being skewered above by radio host Rush Limbaugh for his criticism of advertising by the pharmaceutical industry.
Let me own up to being on the losing side of the great American dialogue about guns. Linked to my pro-life beliefs is a deep skepticism that the answer to violence on American streets is owning guns to use in self-defense. Thus I find it unsettling when pollsters, as Pew did last spring, track a rise in anti-abortion sentiment — and a call for less regulation of guns. Is there a connection?
Is the U.S. public moving towards a more conservative, or perhaps a less generally permissive, attitude towards legalized abortion?
Let’s return to one of my favorite hot-button topics, the role of religion in the public schools. Whether it sets a precedent or not, the question of how to teach religion in the Texas schools is roiling the State Board of Education, schools, and activists concerned either that religion isn’t getting a fair shake or that a certain viewpoint (read: Christian) is being promoted.
In an era in which the definition of journalism itself seems to be up for grabs, it’s a pleasure to praise Godbeat journalists recognized for superior writing by their own colleagues in the Religion Newswriters Association. Troll the list of the 2009 RNA awards, and you will see a few names you may know, either because they comment on the blog, or we often praise them for being examples of accurate reporting — Julia Duin (who won in multiple categories!), and Bob Smietana. Another award recipient was Sarah Pulliam, the younger sister of our own Daniel Pulliam.
Sometimes religion stories are about what happens at the sweeping level of doctrine, traditional and denominational controversy. And sometimes journalists have the chance to inspire readers to ponder the question –could I do that?
About eight years ago I went with a group of congregants in a previous church to partner in work for a week with a West Virginia congregation down near Kentucky in the “hollers”. I don’t eat meat, so I was eager to get to a grocery store and buy some lettuce and other vegetables to supplement the carb-heavy fare at the church.
I’m saving the best (Got News?) for last. But first, let’s cover culture war news from the Values Voter Summit held in D.C. And right off the bat I wanna say (yeah, that’s how we talk in Philly — you gotta problem with that?) that I’m ambivalent about any journalist who uses that term as a descriptor rather than the title of the Family Research Values conference. The term implies that conservative activists are the only ones with values, or that those on the left are value-free, or that voters who fell into the middle of the spectrum don’t take their values to the voting booth. In general, the reporters below tend to be clear that this is a term of choice, not of reality.