Friday Five: Olympic miracle, homeless Super Bowl player, faith of TV dad, cheating mayor and more

Friday Five: Olympic miracle, homeless Super Bowl player, faith of TV dad, cheating mayor and more

"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

With the Winter Olympics starting in Pyeongchang, South Korea, what better time to recall one of the greatest calls in sports history?

How many GetReligion readers are old enough to remember Al Michaels' excited description of the U.S. hockey team's 4-3 victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 games in Lake Placid, N.Y.?

Later, Kurt Russell starred in the 2004 movie "Miracle," which tells the true story of the Americans' improbable gold medal performance and makes some lists of all-time best sports films.

But enough reminiscing. 

Let's get to the "Friday Five":

1. Religion story of the week: Some weeks, this is a difficult choice. Not this week. 

As I described it in a post this week, "There are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible story on 'The search for Jackie Wallace.'"

The viral piece by retired Times-Picayune photojournalist Ted Jackson — now approaching 300,000 retweets — explores the downfall, redemption and disappearance of a New Orleans football legend.

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When reporting on Iceland's attempt to ban circumcision, why not talk to Jews, Muslims?

When reporting on Iceland's attempt to ban circumcision, why not talk to Jews, Muslims?

It was bound to happen: Laws banning circumcision for infant boys. No one knew quite where it might start.

Turns out the place is none other than Iceland, lauded by some as being a “feminist paradise” with a former prime minister who was a lesbian, generous childcare benefits and a strong women’s movement. The circumcision ban is ostensibly to protect children. What the country’s tiny Muslim and Jewish minorities may think of that is not mentioned.

Here’s the bare bones recital from the Independent:

MPs from five different political parties in Iceland have proposed a ban on the circumcision of boys. 
The bill, which has been submitted to the country’s parliament, suggests a six-year prison term for anyone found guilty of “removing sexual organs in whole or in part”. 
Circumcising girls has been illegal in Iceland since 2005, but there are currently no laws to regulate the practice against boys. 
Describing circumcision as a “violation” of young boys’ rights, the bill states the only time it should be considered is for “health reasons”. 
Addressing religious traditions, it insists the “rights of the child” always exceed the “right of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion”. 

As to who thought up this bill and why, we hear nothing. Think about that for a moment. That's a rather important hole in the story. Right?

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So, you thought the bizarre crisis at Newsweek was complicated enough already?

So, you thought the bizarre crisis at Newsweek was complicated enough already?

If you are a long-time reader of weekly news magazines (many old people like me will raise their hands), then it is has been bizarre trying to follow the bizarre reports coming out of the Newsweek newsroom.

We are, of course, talking about news reports ABOUT Newsweek, not reports BY Newsweek about others. Then again, there have also been headlines about Newsweek reports about events at Newsweek, and the fallout from all of the above. This New York Post headline (of course) captures the mood: " 'Bats–t crazy’ Newsweek staff meeting quickly goes off the rails."

Confused? To top it all off -- from a GetReligion perspective -- there are several very complicated religion angles (think arguments about the end of the world and a possible messiah) buried in the details here. Reporters need to be careful.

First, what the heckfire is going on? Let's walk into a CNN Money report for a few basics:

Employees at Newsweek have been told that editor-in-chief Bob Roe and executive editor Ken Li have been fired, sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
A reporter, Celeste Katz, who had written articles about financial issues at the magazine as well as an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's office into its parent company, Newsweek Media Group, was also let go, the sources said.
Katz declined to comment to CNN but tweeted on Monday afternoon, "My warmest thanks to the brave Newsweek editors and colleagues who supported and shared in my work -- especially our recent, difficult stories about the magazine itself -- before my dismissal today. I'll sleep well tonight... and I'm looking for a job!"

OK, it helps to know that, earlier, co-owner and Newsweek Media Group chair Etienne Uzac resigned, along with his wife, company finance director Marion Kim. Oh, and in January the Manhattan District Attorney's office raided Newsweek offices -- exiting with several computer servers. Then there was the BuzzFeed report about pre-Newsweek allegations about sexual abuse by chief content manager Dayan Candappa.

I think that's enough context. So now, the religion angles.

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Beyond sex carnivals and drag queens: Facts appreciated in furor over disinvited campus speaker

Beyond sex carnivals and drag queens: Facts appreciated in furor over disinvited campus speaker

Since I live in Oklahoma and write about religion, friends started asking me yesterday about a controversy brewing at the University of Central Oklahoma.

"Know anything about this?" said one GetReligion reader, sharing a link to an item on the Answers in Genesis website. The headline: "University Denies Free Speech to Ken Ham and Boots Him from Speaking."

Nope, I replied.

That was the first I was hearing about it.

I Googled to see if I could find any mainstream news coverage. I couldn't. But my search did turn up a column by Todd Starnes, a conservative commentator at Fox News. The headline: "Sex carnivals, drag queens are welcome, Ken Ham and other creationists are not, university says."

Starnes' take:

The University of Central Oklahoma has opened its arms to drag queen shows and safe sex carnivals but they draw the line at Christians who believe God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days.
The university apparently has no problem with students tossing dildos through cardboard vaginas, but they draw the line at exposing impressionable young minds to the teachings of a creationist.
Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and founder of the popular Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, was disinvited from speaking on the public university campus after an ugly campaign of bullying by LGBT activists.

Alrighty then.

"Well, if Starnes is reporting it :-) ..." said a friend who, like me, was hoping for a more impartial source.

Suffice it to say I was pleased when I woke up this morning and found the story at top of The Oklahoman's front page:

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So what did Cardinal Marx say about gay unions? Let your Ja's be Yes

So what did Cardinal Marx say about gay unions? Let your Ja's be Yes

“German Cardinal Endorses Homosexual Heresy” states the headline of a Sunday story in the Daily Caller.

It is a wonderful headline crafted to drive readers to the religion section of the online political news portal. But is it true?

Written by the Daily Caller’s religion reporter, the article appears to deliver on the claims made in headline. The lede states:

A German Catholic cardinal publicly approved heresy Saturday, declaring that priests are permitted to bless homosexual unions despite official church doctrine to the contrary.

Working from Catholic media reports, the article cites Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s words, translated into English, and then places them against the formal teaching of the church to substantiate the charge of heresy.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx said that “there can be no rules” concerning the question of whether a priest can bless a homosexual relationship in the name of God and such a decision should be made on a case by case basis and left up to priests, according to Crux Now. Despite Marx’s assertion that there can be no rules, his approval directly contradicts the Catholic Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage.

The article offers further quotes from the interview, sourced through the English-language newsite Crux Now, to hammer home the claim of false teaching, and then notes recent statements by two other prominent German Catholic clergy. The article then moves in for the kill with this quote.

When asked to clarify whether he was in fact approving the idea of blessing homosexual couples, Marx simply replied “yes.”

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More Bible battles: The 'old, old story' is ever new and, thus, ever in the news

More Bible battles: The 'old, old story' is ever new and, thus, ever in the news

Pondering Washington’s new Museum of the Bible for the quasi-Jewish Commentary magazine, Williams College art historian Michael Lewis finds it ideologically inoffensive and is therefore perplexed at how fiercely some despise the place.

How come? He says the very claim “that the Bible is a foundational document of our civilization is, to many, an unwelcome one. And as biblical ignorance grows, the claim grows progressively more unwelcome. The Bible seems to be one of those books that the less people know about it, the less they like it.”

Journalists: The professor is onto something that might merit a think piece.

But in this Memo, The Religion Guy instead insists that the Book of the “old, old story” (per that Gospel hymn) is perpetually new, and therefore news. Book-buyers, Internet blabbers and media consumers (also church and synagogue attendees) can’t get enough of it. So here’s the latest twist on the Bible beat.

Religion writers should check the next issue of Christianity Today as it  surveys “lesser-known translations” of scripture, provoking this theme: In the Bible sweepstakes, why pick this one and not that one? Plus there’s a story peg in a current biblical battle between two titans who translated their own one-man New Testaments from the original Greek into English, as opposed to the usual committee editions. The competitors:  

(1) David Bentley Hart, outspoken Eastern Orthodox thinker currently at Notre Dame’s Institute for Advanced Study, with his sharply provocative “The New Testament: A Translation” (Yale).

(2) Bishop N.T. Wright of Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, favorite New Testament scholar for legions of U.S. Protestants and his fellow Anglicans worldwide. Wright's “The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation” (HarperOne, 2011) caused England’s Church Times to proclaim him “the J.K. Rowling of Christian Publishing.”

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John Mahoney was 'moral core' on 'Frasier;' maybe his Catholic faith was relevant in obits?

John Mahoney was 'moral core' on 'Frasier;' maybe his Catholic faith was relevant in obits?

If you ever watched the classic comedy series "Frasier," it was clear that actor John Mahoney and his Martin Crane character played a crucial role in its broad appeal.

Basically, he was a battered recliner in a world of pretentious fashion, a can of beer at a wine-and-cheese party, a lifer cop surrounded by chatty urban psychiatrists. In other words, he was the down-home voice of ordinary America. He was an every-Dad.

A tribute to Mahoney at The New York Times -- not the newspaper of record's actual obituary, following his death on Sunday -- put it this way:

As Martin Crane, the lovably grumpy, blue-collar father to the snobby Frasier and Niles, he hit many notes during the series’ run from 1993 to 2004 -- sometimes all in the same episode. He played sarcastic, cutting his sons’ pretensions down to size. He did reserved, as a counterpoint to their voluble self-analysis. He even delivered warmth, when reminding Frasier and Niles of the importance of unfussy stuff like family and beer.
As Joe Keenan, a “Frasier” executive producer and writer, put it, Mr. Mahoney’s character was the “moral center” of the show.

This moral-core theme continued in the Times obit.

While Frasier and Niles Crane, both psychiatrists, worried about wine vintages, cappuccino bars and opening nights, Marty, a retired police officer, cherished his dog, his duct-tape-accented recliner chair and the solid values of his generation. Once, when his younger son declared a certain restaurant’s cuisine “to die for,” Marty corrected him. “Niles, your country and your family are to die for,” he said. “Food is to eat.”

Now, in light of all that, does it matter that Mahoney was on the record -- in an interview with a prominent journalist, no less -- saying that his Catholic faith was at the center of his life and work?

Apparently not, at least not in The New York Times and at The Los Angeles Times.

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Is climate change an excuse to not have kids? The New York Times focuses on half of this debate

Is climate change an excuse to not have kids? The New York Times focuses on half of this debate

Some of you are old enough to remember the 1960s, when books like “The Population Bomb” warned of coming mass starvation if people didn’t stop having kids. And some folks took that warning seriously and decided to forgo childbearing.

Places like China with its brutal, obscene “One Child” policy forced people onto birth control after one child (and aborting any further pregnancies) while none of the predicted famines occurred

Fast forward 50 years and while Africa is still booming, demographic drops in places like Japan and Korea are at near-crisis levels; China’s population is aging faster than anywhere else and half the world’s nations have fertility rates below the replacement level of two children per woman. 

Now there’s another reason not to have kids: Climate change. The New York Times tells us why:

It is not an easy time for people to feel hopeful, with the effects of global warming no longer theoretical, projections becoming more dire and governmental action lagging. And while few, if any, studies have examined how large a role climate change plays in people’s childbearing decisions, it loomed large in interviews with more than a dozen people ages 18 to 43.
A 32-year-old who always thought she would have children can no longer justify it to herself. A Mormon has bucked the expectations of her religion by resolving to adopt rather than give birth. An Ohio woman had her first child after an unplanned pregnancy — and then had a second because she did not want her daughter to face an environmental collapse alone.
Among them, there is a sense of being saddled with painful ethical questions that previous generations did not have to confront. Some worry about the quality of life children born today will have as shorelines flood, wildfires rage and extreme weather becomes more common. Others are acutely aware that having a child is one of the costliest actions they can take environmentally.

I’m glad they involved someone from a religious background and a Mormon at that, because of Latter-day Saints’ doctrine encouraging large families. Another few paragraphs later:

Parents like Amanda Perry Miller, a Christian youth leader and mother of two in Independence, Ohio, share her fears.

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There are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible story on 'The search for Jackie Wallace'

There are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible story on 'The search for Jackie Wallace'

Ted Jackson calls the response to his story on "The search for Jackie Wallace" unreal.

Yeah, you might say that.

As of the moment I'm typing this, Jackson's Twitter post sharing the story has been retweeted 127,641 times and received 273,000 likes. 

"This might be the most amazing bit of reporting I've seen in years," veteran religion writer Bob Smietana said in his own tweet. "There are stories that haunt journalists for years. This is one of them."

This is one of those cases where, if you insist, you can keep reading my post. Or, and I promise  you won't hurt my feelings if you choose Option No. 2, you can proceed immediately to the story in question and devour it just like Smietana and I did. It really is that good.

I mean, there are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible tale.

It's a lengthy read but so, so worth it. Here's the nuts-and-bolts summary from the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans newspaper where Jackson worked as a staff photographer for 33 years and won a Pulitzer Prize:

A New Orleans football legend reached the pinnacle of the sport.
Then everything came crashing down.
This is the story of his downfall, redemption — and disappearance.

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