Black Panther actress links life, faith, depression, acting -- while reporters miss ties that bind

Black Panther actress links life, faith, depression, acting -- while reporters miss ties that bind

Every now and then, a loyal GetReligion reader sends us a URL to a story and makes a remark like this: “Says it all. Run this.”

When this happens, you can almost always count on the URL being from some alternative source of news and commentary, the kind of advocacy driven site that we don’t pay much attention to — since GetReligion focuses on hard news. Of course, we do run “think pieces” on the weekend linked to religion-news trends that tend to come from all over the place.

In this case, the subject of the piece is a public figure — a popular actress — stating that she has noticed a trend in news coverage about her work, as her star ascends in the Marvel Universe and elsewhere.

The headline states the thesis: “ ‘Black Panther’ Star: Journalists Censor When ‘I Give God the Glory.’ “ And here is the overture of this piece at the CatholicVote website:

Letitia Wright captivated millions on the big screen as Shuri, the younger sister of T’Challa, or the Black Panther. But, as her career continues skyrocketing, she wants the world to know that her success is not her own; it’s God’s. 

If only the media would report on it.

The 26-year-old actress, born in Guyana and raised in London, recently took to Twitter to express frustration over some journalists cutting out her praise for God from interviews.

“It’s super cute when journalists/interviewers for magazines leave out the massive part where I give God the glory for the success/ achievements in my life,” Wright tweeted on October 28. And yet, she added, “I still love you and God will still be praised.”

Her fans agreed. 

“[F]avorite actress not just for talent but for the faith in God!!!” exclaimed one follower, while another added, “God sees you sis.” Black-ish actor Miles Brown also chimed in, responding with emojis of hands clapping in applause.

Now, I freely admit that people have been talking about this story, and this tweet, for some time now.

In part, that’s because of this interesting response from Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post (a former member of the GetReligion team).

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#OnceGay coverage by NBC misses a vital Bethel connection

#OnceGay coverage by NBC misses a vital Bethel connection

One doesn’t hear much about ex-gays these days, but NBC recently profiled a group that traveled to the U.S. Capitol to protest some upcoming legislation that would criminalize conversion therapy. That is, counseling for gay people who wish to be celibate or straight.

The story appeared on the print portion of NBC’s site. Oddly, the network had no video of this group. It was a product of NBC Out, a branch of the newsroom that concentrates on news about homosexuality and, as I wrote last year, serves as a cheerleader for LGBTQ issues. And the reporting left out a huge angle; the name of the Christian ministry backing this ex-gay group, as well as a few other things.

NBC’s lede was straightforward enough.

A group of people from across the country who formerly identified as gay and transgender have descended upon Washington this week to share their stories and lobby against two proposed LGBTQ-rights bills.

The group is made up of 15 members of Church United and Changed, two California-based organizations that seek to provide community for, and protect the rights of, “formers” — individuals who formerly identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The bills the group is lobbying against are H.R. 5, better known as the Equality Act, and H.R. 3570, or the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act. Both have been supported by the country’s major LGBTQ advocacy organizations, though neither is expected to become law anytime soon.

Several members of Changed, interviewed by NBC, said they didn’t buy the idea that gays are discriminated against.

Despite federal hate crimes data and academic research to the contrary — along with countless anecdotal news stories — the “formers” question the existence of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and thus the necessity of such bills.

“I live in Portland [Oregon] and I don’t see the discrimination that LGBTQ people talk about,” Kathy Grace Duncan, a member of Changed who formerly identified as a transgender man, told NBC News. “They’re asking for certain rights in this legislation, but these are rights that they already have.”

Jim Domen, founder of Church United, identifies as formerly gay. He said, “Sexual behavior should not be a protected right.”

After this, NBC interviews activist groups such as Human Rights Watch that politely say the Changed folks haven’t a clue what they’re talking about. This balance is, of course, basic journalism. It would be good to see similar interviews with religious conservatives in many stories about the work of groups on the cultural left.

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Democrats' 2020 surprise: Should churches that oppose same-sex marriage lose tax exemptions?

Democrats' 2020 surprise: Should churches that oppose same-sex marriage lose tax exemptions?

THE QUESTION: 

Should U.S. religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage lose tax exemption?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

At CNN’s recent “Equality Town Hall” for Democratic presidential candidates, co-sponsored with the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, anchor Don Lemon prodded Beto O’Rourke on whether “religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities” should “lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.”

O’Rourke (who self-identifies as Catholic) immediately answered “yes,” because “there can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America” that opposes such rights. “As president, we’re going to make that a priority.” The other candidates on stage assailed discrimination without specifying tax exemption. O’Rourke has, of course, dropped out of the White House race.

Later, Pete Buttigieg (an Episcopalian in a gay marriage) agreed that religious organizations such as schools “absolutely … should not be able to discriminate” and remain tax exempt, but he said rival O’Rourke hadn’t thought through that penalizing houses of worship would create a divisive “war.”

If government were to tax income or property or end tax deductions for donations due to traditional beliefs on sexuality, the targets would include the Catholic Church, the two biggest U.S. Protestant denominations and the largest African-American church body, countless evangelical congregations, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Judaism and all Muslim centers and mosques.

O’Rourke subsequently seemed to back off, emphasizing that exemptions should be denied tradition-minded agencies that provide public services like “higher education, or health care, or adoption,” whereas practices within religious congregations are not the government’s business. (That might mean the government wouldn’t impose tax penalties due to sermons, parish education or refusal of gay weddings and clergy ordinations.)

The tax proposal poses palpable danger for a vast number of U.S. institutions, whether congregations or religious schools and agencies.

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Podcast thinking: Are mainstream reporters who ask doctrinal questions aiding Catholic right?

Podcast thinking: Are mainstream reporters who ask doctrinal questions aiding Catholic right?

If you have been reading GetReligion for a decade or so, you have probably seen references to the “tmatt trio,” a set of short questions I have long used to probe the doctrinal fault lines inside Christian hierarchies, institutions and flocks.

A dozen years ago or so, a website called “Religious Left Online” — it appears that site is now dead — even offered up a fun GetReligion drinking game that suggested that these topics, and others, could win readers a shot class of adult substances:

• Terry Mattingly mentioning his TMatt trio

• Someone taking a shot at contemporary Christian music, while also trying to defend it.

• Criticizing the evil, liberal agenda of the NYT and WP, while promoting the LAT.

Isn’t that wild? That was so long ago that The Los Angeles Times was an elite source for religion-beat news.

Why bring up the “trio” right now? Well, for starters because it was discussed during this week’s Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in). But here’s the news: Our discussion of the recent Amazonian Synod in Rome worked through the “trio” and then added a fourth doctrinal issue.

First things first: What are the “trio” questions? Let me stress that these are doctrinal, not political, questions that I have discussed over the years with many researchers, including the late George Gallup, Jr. The goal is not to hear sources provide specific answers, but to pay close attention to the content of their answers or non-answers. Here are the three questions, once again:

(1) Are biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Was this a real – even if mysterious – event in real time? Did it really happen?

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Is Jesus the Way or a way?

(3) Is sex outside of the Sacrament of Marriage a sin? The key word is sin.

Now, there came a time — in the age of Gaia environmental theology — that I needed to turn the “trio” into a “quadrilateral.”

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See that thinning flock of pew sitters with gray hair? That's a big religion-beat trend

See that thinning flock of pew sitters with gray hair? That's a big religion-beat trend

If you are interested in the future of American religion, then you have to be willing to talk about these kinds of topics — birth rates, conversions and, increasingly, the average age of people in the pews.

In other words, it’s time, once again, to discuss that old saying: “Demographics are destiny.”

GetReligion readers: How often have you seen posts that discuss questions of this kind? The reason we keep bringing this up is that reporters have to be willing to ask questions about issues rooted in demographics — that is, if they want to anticipate future news trends.

That’s true in politics, for sure. You know Republicans are worried about younger voters right now. You also know that savvy Democrats are starting to pay attention to the rising number of Latinos who are worshiping in evangelical and Pentecostal pews.

All of this is, of course, leading up to this week’s thought-provoking graphic offering from political scientist Ryan Burge, who is also an ordained Baptist progressive. Journalists who cover religion need to follow this guy on Twitter and bookmark this website: Religion in Public.

Here’s the Big Idea for this week:

“The average Muslim in America is nearly 22 years younger than the average Mainline Protestant.”

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Friday Five: Mexico massacre, German Catholics, Christian contraception, John Crist, wild shot

Friday Five: Mexico massacre, German Catholics, Christian contraception, John Crist, wild shot

Welcome to another edition of the Friday Five.

Usually, I offer a bit of extra information or at least a little wit before getting to the point.

But this week I’ll confess that I’ve got nothing, so let’s dive right in:

1. Religion story of the week: The Los Angeles Times’ Jaweed Kaleem was among those who reported on the massacre of a large Mormon clan in Mexico.

Also on the story: New York Times religion writer Elizabeth Dias, who contributed to coverage here and here.

Elsewhere, The Associated Press noted that the slayings highlighted confusion over Mormon groups. The Washington Post explained “How Mexico’s cartel wars shattered American Mormons’ wary peace,” and the Wall Street Journal reported on Mormon families gathering to mourn those killed.

Here’s one more: A stunning New York Times feature on the details of the attack itself and on-the-scene reporting about the families wrestling with grief and the details of how to respond. The reporting is deep and detailed — except that there’s no real sense of why these believers are in Mexico and what separates them from mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints life.

That seems like a rather important subject, in this case.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Editor Terry Mattingly has our No. 1 commentary of the week, headlined “Washington Post: Catholics should follow Germany's gospel when seeking future growth.”

No, tmatt was not a fan of the Post’s very one-sided story:

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Charisma magazine lands surprise scoop on comedian John Crist scandal (and prints it)

Charisma magazine lands surprise scoop on comedian John Crist scandal (and prints it)

The evangelical Protestant culture isn’t known for its humor, but there are the rare exceptions. I’ve been enjoying John Crist’s fun-pokes at Christian culture for some time.

Who can forget his “If Bible characters took Uber” video or his “17 Christian ways to say no” video? So it’s been downright depressing to learn that Crist too is being hit with sex abuse allegations like so many others in the religious media spotlight.

What’s kind of surprising about this story is that it was broken on Nov. 6 by a charismatic Christian publication — Charisma — that is definitely not known for breaking hard news and certainly not stories of the negative variety.

For instance, next to the Crist story are others with headlines like “Are you inviting demonic spirits into your home?” and “Prophetic Vision: I saw angelic armies being activated, released in worship.”

But this time, their investigation made real news, with publications such as People magazine and the Washington Post doing follow-ups. The Charisma story begins with a woman called “Kate” telling of her date with Crist.

I was blown away when John [Crist] agreed to do an interview with me for my senior project," she says. "... I was shaking and so nervous to be around someone I had idolized for months."

From a makeshift podcast studio constructed in her room at Bally's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, Kate* was thrilled to be interviewing her professional hero, comedian John Crist. She and her boyfriend drove to Las Vegas in May 2017 just to record this interview—and everything was going great.

So she thought nothing of it when Crist asked her for her number before he left. Or when he later added her on Snapchat and immediately began messaging her. Or when he invited her out for the evening — just the two of them.

Crist goes on to buy this woman a bottle of raspberry vodka, which right here tells you a lot, right there.

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Los Angeles Times writes nice story about jail chaplains, with a few eyebrow-raising word choices

Los Angeles Times writes nice story about jail chaplains, with a few eyebrow-raising word choices

There’s a lot to like about a recent Los Angeles Times feature on jail chaplains.

But there also are strong hints of holy ghosts as well as a few eyebrow-raising word choices. I’ll explain what I mean in a moment.

Let’s start, though, with the positive: This is an in-depth piece that offers a helpful primer on the state of jail chaplaincy in Los Angeles and even quotes experts such as Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The specific Times angle is that some religious groups have enough chaplains — all volunteers — while others, including Jewish and Muslim groups, have a shortage.

The narrative-style lede sets the scene:

There are days when Rabbi Avivah Erlick sits in her car outside Men’s Central Jail, too afraid to go in. She’s counseled hundreds of inmates, but sometimes she arrives downtown only to drive back home, not ready to face the sudden lockdowns, the stale air and the stories about violence and loneliness.

When she does go in, Erlick feels overwhelmingly behind. She used to be a part-time jail chaplain supported by a grant from the Jewish Federation, but it wasn’t renewed. Now she volunteers whenever she can. She spends hours updating her list of inmates to visit, which includes dozens more than she has time to see.

The work is too important to stay away.

“I listen — I’m the only person who does,” she said. “I went into chaplaincy because I feel so drawn to help people in crisis.”

Then comes this generalization:

The chaplains in the Los Angeles County jails, some of whom were once behind bars themselves, are united by a simple mission: remind inmates of their humanity. It’s a job they often do in one-on-one visits. They’ll tell jokes, share a prayer, teach a religious text, or simply listen.

I’m torn on that description of the simple mission: “remind inmates of their humanity.” I suspect a number of the chaplains — particularly the evangelical Christian ones — would be more specific and say their goal is to save the inmates’ souls.

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Oriole Chris Davis makes $3 million gift to help at-risk children, for some vague reason

Oriole Chris Davis makes $3 million gift to help at-risk children, for some vague reason

Consider this a rare GetReligion hot-stove season baseball report. The shocker is that it is not written by our resident baseball fanatic, Bobby Ross, Jr. I guess that’s because this story concerns a member of the Baltimore Orioles, a team currently in a radical-rebuild mode (that could use a miracle or two).

This is another Baltimore Sun story about the troubled slugger Chris Davis, whose struggles at the plate have made many national headlines. It doesn’t help that Davis is (a) aging, (b) holding a first-base slot that blocks younger players and (c) a few years into a massive seven-year, $161 million contract.

I have written about Davis before. At some point in time, some powerful judge in media land appears to have made a ruling that it is out of bounds to include references to his evangelical faith in stories about his life, values, family and career.

Davis recently made big news with his pen and a checkbook and, I would argue, journalists needed to ask some faith questions in this case. But first, let’s look at a hint of faith language in a different Sun story that ran the other day: “I have hope now’: Orioles’ Chris Davis carrying confidence early in offseason.” The key is that Davis is feeling better — physically and mentally — and already getting ready for 2020.

Jill Davis noted that her husband normally takes October off, but she said Davis has been ramping up his activities to the point it won’t be long before he spends his days working out, running and hitting, all while balancing the scheduling quirks their three daughters bring. The Davises have a family trip planned for early December, plus a mission trip in January.

OK, I’ll ask. What kind of “mission trip”? A generic one?

This leads me to some big news in Baltimore, $3 million worth of news that’s totally consistent with the life that the Davis family lives: “Orioles’ Chris Davis and his wife, Jill, make record donation to University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.” Here is the overture:

Chris and Jill Davis made their way from room to room at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s pediatric intensive care unit. A visit in July inspired how the Orioles’ first baseman and his wife spent their Monday morning. This trip in the afternoon was made by choice.

They stopped by rooms of little girls who, like their three daughters, love princesses. They met two boys who, like their two youngest children, were twins. They brightened the days of families who had children, like their own once had, facing congenital heart defects.

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