False balance: As New York Times reports on divided campuses, only left has 'real' concerns

False balance: As New York Times reports on divided campuses, only left has 'real' concerns

In the wake of Donald Trump's stunning election as president, the political divide between right and left has hardened on campuses nationwide, the New York Times reports.

At first glance, the Times seems to put aside Kellerism for a day and provide an evenhanded account of what college-age Republicans and Democrats are feeling and saying.

The Old Gray Lady even opens with an anecdote featuring a young Trump supporter:

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Amanda Delekta, a sophomore at the University of Michigan and political director of the College Republicans, was ecstatic when her candidate, Donald J. Trump, won the presidential election.
But her mood of celebration quickly faded when students held an evening vigil on campus — to mourn the results — and her biology teacher suspended class on the assumption, Ms. Delekta said, that students would be too upset to focus.
She was outraged. “Nobody has died,” Ms. Delekta said. “The United States has not died. Democracy is more alive than ever. Simply put, the American people voted and Trump won.”
She circulated an online petition and accused the university president of catering to the liberal majority by suggesting that “their ideology was superior to the ideology of their peers,” as she put it, when he sent out an email publicizing the vigil and listing counseling resources for students upset by the election. Three days later, she was invited to meet with the president in his office.

But read a little closer, and the piece's "balance" becomes less impressive.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

In your newspaper? Vatican reaffirms its teachings on homosexuality and the priesthood

In your newspaper? Vatican reaffirms its teachings on homosexuality and the priesthood

The big news out of the Vatican today really isn't all that surprising, if you know anything about the Catholic Catechism. However, grab your local newspaper and look for this story anyway, because I will be surprised if you find coverage of it there.

The Washington Post online headline proclaims: "The Vatican reaffirms its position suggesting gay men should not be priests."

Yes, we are returning to Pope Francis and the most famous, or infamous, quotation, or sort-of quotation, from his papacy. I am referring, of course, to the 2013 off-the-cuff airplane press conference in which he spoke the phrase, "Who am I to judge?"

The pope said many things in that historic presser and news consumers have had a chance to read about 90 percent of what he actually said. Click here for previous GetReligion material about this media storm. By the way, here are the latest search engine results for these terms -- "Who am I to judge" and "Pope Francis." There are currently 7,520 hits in Google News and 140,000 in a general search.

So what did the Vatican say that is, or is not, in the news? Here is the top of a Washington Post "Acts of Faith" item, which is one of the only major-media references I could find to this story. I would be curious to know if this appears in the ink-on-paper edition:

People who have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” or who “support the so-called ‘gay culture’” cannot be priests in the Catholic church, the Vatican said in a new document on the priesthood.

The document said the church’s policy on gay priests has not changed since the last Vatican pronouncement on the subject in 2005.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Assyrian Christian hostage thriller: The Associated Press gets this persecution story right

Assyrian Christian hostage thriller: The Associated Press gets this persecution story right

Anyone who has the slightest familiarity with northern Iraq knows there’s several ancient people groups who’ve been there for millennia.

The Kurds descend from the ancient Medes. There were Jews there –- sent to the region by the Chaldean monarch Nebuchadnezzar in the fifth century BC to join earlier deportees -- who lingered there until very recently. And then there are the Assyrians who came to the fore in the ninth century BC.

It’s the ancestors of the latter that concerns this fascinating Associated Press story that recounts the tale of these latter-day Assyrians imprisoned by ISIS and the bishop who raised about $11 million to free them.

It was written by AP’s “international security” correspondent (didn’t know there was such a beat) and it’s a winner.

Start reading how an ancient Christian community took action, after governments around the world refused to help them.

SAARLOUIS, Germany (AP) -- The millions in ransom money came in dollar by dollar, euro by euro from around the world. The donations, raised from church offerings, a Christmas concert, and the diaspora of Assyrian Christians on Facebook, landed in a bank account in Iraq. Its ultimate destination: the Islamic State group.
Deep inside Syria, a bishop worked around the blurred edges of international law to save the lives of more than 200 people — one of the largest groups of hostages yet documented in IS's war in Syria and Iraq. It took more than a year, and videotaped killings of three captives, before all the rest were freed.
Paying ransoms is illegal in the United States and most of the West, and the idea of paying the militants is morally fraught, even for those who saw no alternative.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

A classic Paul Simon song for scribes to hum when covering religious freedom issues

A classic Paul Simon song for scribes to hum when covering religious freedom issues

"Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest."  

Paul Simon included that line in his emotionally moving song, "The Boxer." The words have long rung true for me.

These days, I find them particularly relevant when thinking about religious freedom issues -- both domestic and international -- and much of what journalists write about them.

Which is to say that too often, respect for religious freedom comes down to whose ox is being gored.

On the domestic front, Simon's words spring to mind when reading many of the stories written about the successful -- for the moment, at least -- Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

His words also seem blindingly appropriate when considering these two international stories, one from Indonesia and one from China's ethnic Tibetan region, both published by The New York Times.

Please read both stories to better understand this post and to keep me from having to stuff this column with critical but wordy explanatory background -- as might have been necessary in the long-ago world of pre-links journalism. It's a new world. Make use of the links. The photos accompanying both stories alone are worth your time.

Click here for the Indonesia story. And click here for the China story.

Notice how sympathetic both stories are toward the religious and social views of the indigenous tribe, in the Indonesian case, and toward Tibetan Buddhism, in the China story.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Donald Trump is Time magazine's Person of the Year — but not much religion to see here

Donald Trump is Time magazine's Person of the Year — but not much religion to see here

The gods make an early appearance in Time's cover story on President-elect Donald Trump's selection — no surprise here! — as the magazine's 2016 Person of the Year.

"Gym-rat greek gods," that is.

Yes, you'll need to read that reference in context:

Even for Donald Trump, the distance is still fun to think about, up here in his penthouse 600 ft. in the sky, where it’s hard to make out the regular people below. The ice skaters swarming Central Park’s Wollman Rink look like old-television static, and the Fifth Avenue holiday shoppers could be mites in a gutter. To even see this view, elevator operators, who spend their days standing in place, must push a button marked 66–68, announcing all three floors of Trump’s princely pad. Inside, staff members wear cloth slipcovers on their shoes, so as not to scuff the shiny marble or stain the plush cream carpets.
This is, in short, not a natural place to refine the common touch. It’s gilded and gaudy, a dreamscape of faded tapestry, antique clocks and fresco-style ceiling murals of gym-rat Greek gods. The throw pillows carry the Trump shield, and the paper napkins are monogrammed with the family name. His closest neighbors, at least at this altitude, are an international set of billionaire moguls who have decided to stash their money at One57 and 432 Park, the two newest skyscrapers to remake midtown Manhattan. There is no tight-knit community in the sky, no paperboy or postman, no bowling over brews after work.
And yet here Trump resides, under dripping crystal, with diamond cuff links, as the President-elect of the United States of America. 

The only other mention of god — again the lowercase version — comes near the end of the lengthy piece. The second time the term is used as part of a vulgar quote attributed to a Trump supporter.

God with a capital "G" figures not at all in this profile of Trump — which in many ways is not all that surprising since Trump "doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve."

There is an obligatory mention of evangelicals:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Fixer Upper update (with M.Z. flashback): Was Gaines slam just BuzzFeed news style?

Fixer Upper update (with M.Z. flashback): Was Gaines slam just BuzzFeed news style?

Over the past few days, I have been searching for actual updates on the whole BuzzFeed vs. Chip and Joanna Gaines story and, as far as I can tell, there has been little or no news to speak of on that front.

It's clear that, for most journalists, these HGTV stars are cultural heretics who are on the wrong side of history, if not the cable-TV ratings. However, some commentators -- including a few on the cultural left (Brandon Ambrosino here in The Washington Post) -- have asked whether Kate Aurthur of BuzzFeed did the right thing when she probed the couple's silence and, in effect, blamed them for the traditional Christian teachings (on marriage and sex) voiced by their pastor, the Rev. Jimmy Seibert.

For example, Vox has issued one of its usual pieces on What. It. All. Means. The headline is logical: "Chip and Joanna Gaines and the anti-gay controversy over HGTV's Fixer Upper, explained." That's as good a place to start as any, in terms of the status of the journalism issues in this high-profile case.

After expressing lots of outrage over the religious beliefs at the center of the case, Vox reaches the summary paragraphs: "What the fight over the Gaineses’ beliefs is really about." Let's read that:

HGTV has a long history of leaning toward the progressive in the types of people it features on its shows. Same-sex couples are featured in many of its programs. The network airs programs like House Hunters International that sometimes feature non-American same-sex couples, and shows like Property Brothers and Love It or List It have had same-sex couples who had their homes renovated. And the channel stated on December 1 that all of its current programs are open to LGBTQ couples. ...
In 2014 the channel canceled a proposed show, Flip It Forward, because its hosts, David and Jason Benham, were vocally anti-gay. The Benham brothers are sons of a man named Flip Benham, the leader of an organization called Operation Save America, who has gone on the record in saying that “Jesus hates Muslims” and blamed the 2012 Aurora massacre on Democrats. David Benham spoke to a conservative talk show in September 2012 and said, “Homosexuality and its agenda ... is attacking the nation,” plus some nonsense about "demonic ideologies."

Then there is this, the only real commentary on journalism questions:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The big question: What does Christianity say happens to believers after death?

The big question: What does Christianity say happens to believers after death?

PAULA’S QUESTION:

When people say their loved one went to heaven, why doesn’t the preacher tell them that no-one goes straight to heaven? If they did, what would be the reason for the resurrection?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Christian doctrine says that after death a believer’s soul enters the presence of God in the blessedness of heaven, and then in the end times will be reunited with a transformed body. Christianity contrasts with Eastern religions’ belief in reincarnation, a long series of rebirths into varied conditions and biological species based upon performance in the prior life.

With typical Presbyterian precision, the Christian teaching is spelled out in the 17th Century Westminster Confession, accompanied by citations of 14 Bible texts:

“The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption, but their souls, (which neither die nor sleep,) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.” Then at “the last day ... all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.”

The modern-day Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the same: “In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ resurrection” at “the end of the world” when Christ returns.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Breaking Up Is Hard To … Quantify? This Wall Street Journal trend story needs more facts

Breaking Up Is Hard To … Quantify? This Wall Street Journal trend story needs more facts

In the month or so since the American electorate chose a first-time political candidate as the 45th President of the United States, the hyperventilating has approached a magnitude not seen since, well, those long-ago days of “Bush Derangement Syndrome.”

But unlike the mass attack of the vapors surrounding POTUS 43, the election of Donald J. Trump has also riven religious congregations across this fair and gentle republic. Where once the 11 a.m. hour on Sunday morning was deemed America’s most segregated time due to considerations of race, it now appears, per The Wall Street Journal (paywall trigger warning),  that that the advent of a Trump Administration will cause the kind of schisms usually occasioned by some monk nailing 95 talking points to a cathedral door.

I exaggerate, but perhaps only slightly. Let’s dive into that Journal piece, shall we?

The election is over and so is Brandi Miller’s religious affiliation.
On Nov. 8, white evangelical Christianity and I called it quits,” she wrote in a message posted on Facebook. Ms. Miller, a campus minister at the University of Oregon, says that exit polls showing that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump revealed a divide over race that she, as a biracial woman, can’t condone. But can she condone it as a Christian?
“Evangelicals have decided who and with what they will associate,” wrote Ms. Miller, 26 years old, in an online magazine and on Facebook. “It’s not me.”
Church is often the place where people seek comfort and community in unsettling times, but the contentiousness of this election has filtered into the pews. In a sign of lingering partisanship, some people have looked for another place to worship, having split with their pastor over politics. Others are staying but feel estranged, wondering how a person a pew away backed a pro-choice candidate, for instance, or supported someone who demeaned immigrants.

Reading this, one wonders how much or how well this Journal reporter (the Pittsburgh bureau chief) understands about the nature of a church.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Waltons? Little House? Have faith in ratings success of Dolly Parton's latest Christmas movie

Waltons? Little House? Have faith in ratings success of Dolly Parton's latest Christmas movie

My wife, Tamie, and I share different tastes in music and entertainment.

For instance, I love country music, much to the chagrin of the queen of my doublewide trailer.

I also enjoy sappy movies, no matter how predictable, which is why I DVR a lot of Hallmark Christmas films this time of year.

My wife cringes at the dialogue on certain made-for-TV entertainment, including Dolly Parton's latest holiday classic "Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love," starring Jennifer Nettles as young Dolly's mother and Ricky Schroder as her father. I, on the other hand, require a tissue to make it all the way through.

Sentimentality? If you ask me, 2016 could use some. And NBC's huge ratings for Parton's "Christmas of Many Colors" tell me I'm not alone (sorry, honey!).

("It's very good — and frightening," Tamie said when I asked her to read the above lead-in. It's a good thing we have a few things in common, such as three wonderful children and a daughter-in-law we adore.)

Yes, there's a faith angle — a big one — both in the Parton movie and the country legend behind it.

Please respect our Commenting Policy