The Eucharist -- Made In France

The Eucharist -- Made In France

Easter is one of the silly seasons for the media. The holiday sees a spike in publication of religion-themed stories in the secular press -- often with uneven results.

Some outlets opine on topics for which they are manifestly unqualified to offer an opinion.  Donald Trump's “Two” Corinthians controversy and the New York Times' inability to explain Easter are two recent examples noted by GetReligion.

The season also sees the production of prestige stories seeking to sum up the meaning of life in 2000 words or less. Time magazine has a long tradition, which began long before its “Is God Dead” 1966 cover story, of investing in these middlebrow faith stories.

A third seasonal trope is the religion item tied to events in the secular world. These present the opportunity for the writer to demonstrate his cleverness. One that caught my eye over Easter reported on calls for protecting French domestic industry from unfair competition.

The story in the French opinion magazine, Boulevard Voltaire, entitled “Les monastères français en péril: la Pologne et les USA « cassent » le marché des hosties” tied President Trump’s sabre-rattling over allegations that Canada is dumping lumber and dairy products in the United States with news that French nuns were protesting the importation of cheap Eucharistic hosts from the USA and Poland, undercutting domestic industry.

Let me set the scene. The European press loves Donald Trump, but not in the way it loved Barack Obama.

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Crossroads podcast: A Muslim at an Episcopal altar? Face it, that's a complicated story

Crossroads podcast: A Muslim at an Episcopal altar? Face it, that's a complicated story

Sometimes the issue flares up in a major religious denomination. Take, for example, the 2007 case of an Episcopal priest who declared, "I am both Muslim and Christian." She was eventually defrocked. Coverage of that story led to some interesting discussions here at GetReligion.

Quite some time ago, there was the case of a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor who was disciplined for taking part in a post-Sept. 11 service that involved praying with Oprah Winfrey, as well as leaders from a wide spectrum of religious traditions, including Islam and Hinduism. 

Or maybe we're talking about a professor at a major evangelical Protestant school -- like Wheaton College -- who not only wore a hijab in support of oppressed Muslims, but took to social media to declare that she believes that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. She quoted the pope, when making that point.

These kinds of news reports loomed in the background during this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), which focused on a recent Holy Week Mass in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, during which the clergy renewed their ordination vows.

The bottom line: Stories about interfaith work and worship almost always raise complicated theological issues and, nine times out of 10, there are more than two camps of believers involved in the debates. Hold that thought.

Key details about the new Holy Week story: A Muslim interfaith leader preached during the rite, in the normal point in the liturgy dedicated to the sermon. A passage from the Quran was read, before the Gospel. The preacher stood with the bishop and others at the altar during the consecration prayers and she received the consecrated bread during Holy Communion.

All of this was discussed in my Universal syndicate "On Religion" column this week. Here is a sample of that column, which included material from contacts with Bishop Robert C. Wright, as well as the preacher, Soumaya Khalifah.

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Wednesday is the new Sunday, a major paper reports, but are there any theological implications to that?

Wednesday is the new Sunday, a major paper reports, but are there any theological implications to that?

Our mantra here at GetReligion is that the mainstream news media should take religion seriously.

But way too often, newspapers such as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune — today's example — offer faith coverage that is about as meaty as pink cotton candy.

The Star-Tribune this week published a skeleton of a story exploring a subject that — if approached more thoughtfully — could be extremely timely and insightful concerning modern worship trends.

Instead, readers are treated to a religious puff piece.

The story subject: churches turning to Wednesday night as an alternative to Sunday worship. 

The lede:

Each Wednesday, the Latzke family heads to their Bloomington church for an evening of religious education and a worship service. Sunday is too packed to squeeze in church, so now Wednesday is their day — as it is for thousands of busy Minnesotans.
“Wednesday is the new Sunday,” is what some clergy call this trend reflecting the scheduling quirks of modern families.
“This works really nice for us because we’re so busy on weekends,” said Robyn Latzke shortly before the service at Transfiguration Lutheran Church. “She dances, and she plays volleyball,” Latzke said, pointing to her daughters.
“And I farm on weekends with my brother,” added her husband, Jeff Latzke.
As churches across Minnesota try new ways to accommodate the hectic lives of the faithful, Wednesday night services have emerged as a popular option.
For churches that already offered religious education on Wednesdays, adding a worship service was a logical fit. For others, a Wednesday service helps folks who travel on weekends, hold down jobs, or schlep children to hockey, soccer and other events.

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Can conversion therapy get a fair hearing in mainstream press? Short answer: No

Can conversion therapy get a fair hearing in mainstream press? Short answer: No

It wasn’t that long ago that people who wished not to be gay were involved in “conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy.” Not everyone welcomed same-sex attraction and those who didn’t found therapists who tried to help them.

Very few people were trying to "pray the gay away," but many did believe that human sexuality is a spectrum (as in the Kinsey scale) of orientations and that it was possible to modify emotions and behaviors.

Quite a few churches –- which had no other ideas about how to handle the gay folks in their midst –- believed in this therapy and referred people to it. Back in the 1990s, I knew folks who either worked in this field or were allied with those who did. For most churches, it was the only way out for people who didn’t want to engage in behavior that traditional forms of the major world religions considered to be sinful.

That was then. The Barack Obama administration went to war against the therapy during its eight years in power and Democrats haven’t given up the ship, according to this Washington Post piece.

The big legal question: What happens with children and young adults? What role can parents play in this process?

Democratic lawmakers this week introduced a bill that would ban the practice of “conversion therapy,” treatments that historically have targeted the LGBT community and claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), along with Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). About 70 other members of Congress, all Democrats, have said they support the bill, which would allow the Federal Trade Commission to classify conversion therapy and its practitioners as fraudulent.
“The bill is very simple,” Lieu told The Washington Post. “It says it is fraud if you treat someone for a condition that doesn’t exist and there’s no medical condition known as being gay. LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for. And by calling this what it should be, which is fraud, it would effectively shut down most of the organizations.”

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Faith in what, exactly? Courier-Journal series on Indiana town battling AIDS pulls up short

Faith in what, exactly? Courier-Journal series on Indiana town battling AIDS pulls up short

One of the most challenging assignments in the world is stuffing 10 pounds of sugar into a five-pound sack.

Reporters face this all the time: A carload of details that must be crammed into a small shopping bag.

Such may well have been the lot of investigative reporter Laura Ungar of the Louisville Courier-Journal, a daily now noted as "part of the USA Today network." After six months of reporting, she delivered a devastating three-part series on the HIV epidemic that still plagues Austin, Indiana, a town less than 40 miles north of the paper's offices, in a region known as "Kentuckiana."

Let me be clear: This is important work touching on a vital topic of national interest, and it deserves a wide readership, I believe. How HIV gripped this town, how addictions to opioids opened the floodgates, how transmission the virus is being fought and what the human and policy consequences are should concern every American. After all, as noted in the two-year-old PBS NewsHour video above, one trucker hiring a prostitute in Austin could subsequently carry the infection hundreds of miles away.

The articles focus on the health care and policy issues, subjects well within the reporter's wheelhouse. But we also get glimpses of faith elements at both ends of the series.

The glimpses left me wanting more.

The first piece begins with a discussion of the Christian physician laboring to help save the town, and the final installment boldly proclaims Austin as "having faith" in the midst of the crisis, Ungar -- or her editors -- seem to hold back when discussing the exact nature of faith that's involved.

The final installment's headline, "Healing Austin: Faith lifts small town from depths of HIV plague," could lead a reader to expect a more detailed discussion of just what that faith is, how it is practiced, what it entails. The subhead is equally promising: "As the outside world moves on, [a] small city draws on faith to save itself from drugs and disease."

Everyone who imagines we're going to get a few tales of tent revivals and the old "sawdust trail," please raise your hand.

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No, Lester Holt didn't used to be the lead singer at his church. He used to lead SINGING

No, Lester Holt didn't used to be the lead singer at his church. He used to lead SINGING

On its website as I type this, celebrity magazine US Weekly features an "exclusive" profile of "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt.

Right under a report that "Kim Kardashian Says That Caitlyn Jenner's Book Is 'So Hurtful,'" Holt's first-person piece highlights "25 Things You Don't Know About Me."

Things such as Holt's fear of snakes, love of Mexican food and lack of prowess when it comes to mechanical things. ("I once installed a garage shelf that then collapsed, sending buckets of paint falling onto our babysitter's car," he says.)

But it's thing No. 11 that's interesting from a GetReligion perspective:

11. I used to be the lead singer in church.

The only problem: That's not actually true.

Holt, it appears, is the victim of an editing error — an error presumably made by someone who didn't grasp the intricacies of Holt's specific religious background. Does your inquiring mind want to know more?

I am familiar with Holt's Church of Christ ties because of my work as chief correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. In a visit to New York several years ago, I interviewed the newsman about faith and journalism. 

Here at GetReligion, we also have highlighted Holt's faith previously: 

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Washington Post asks: Will the tiny Christian flock in Taiwan defeat same-sex marriage?

Washington Post asks: Will the tiny Christian flock in Taiwan defeat same-sex marriage?

There is no question who LGBTQ activists in Taiwan blame for the fact that their drive to legalize same-sex marriage is having problems. It's the Christians.

Thus, there is no question who The Washington Post blames for the fact that same-sex marriage faces strong opposition in Taiwan, a nation that LGBTQ activists have been counting on to blaze a progressive trail for Asia. It's the Christians.

The result -- "A backlash against same-sex marriage tests Taiwan’s reputation for gay rights" -- is a classic example of what your GetReligionistas call "Kellerism," with a nod to those 2011 remarks by former New York Times editor Bill Keller. The basic idea is that there is no need for journalists to offer balanced, accurate coverage of people -- especially religious believers -- whose views you have already decided are wrong. Error has no rights in some newsrooms.

So what forces are undercutting Taiwan's multicultural legacy of tolerance?

... (The) groundswell of support that spurred hope for marriage equality has spurred a bitter backlash that has experts and advocates wondering when or whether the law will move ahead.
Over the past year, mostly Christian community groups have mobilized against the marriage-equality movement, warning, contrary to evidence, that same-sex partnerships are a threat to children and that giving LGBT families legal protection will hurt Taiwan.
They have also claimed -- again, contrary to evidence -- that protecting the rights of gender and sexual minorities is a Western idea, that being gay is somehow not “Chinese.”

So, how many Christian leaders are quoted in this lengthy Post feature? 

Well, there is one short quote from a secular politician, Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san, who was speaking in a public hearing. There is a second-hand quote of conservative arguments, care of an interview from a gay-rights activist. Actual quotes from interviews with Christian leaders? Zero.

Meanwhile, there are a minimum of seven voices speaking on the other side. This does not include paragraph after paragraph of paraphrased material backing the LGBTQ side of the argument, facts and arguments that -- in the new Post advocacy news style -- require no attribution to named sources.

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Mirror image time again: Trump's people still fighting Little Sisters, religious schools?

Mirror image time again: Trump's people still fighting Little Sisters, religious schools?

So here is a story that is causing lots of traditional religious believers to shake their heads today. They are reacting to headlines, like this one at The Washington Post states: "Trump has yet to signal his approach to Obamacare birth-control mandate."

Once again let me stress that we are talking about head shaking in two different camps of religious conservatives. The best evidence is that they are pretty equal in size, as GetReligion has been noting since last summer (here is yet another hat tip pointing readers to this fine Christianity Today feature).

In one camp are the religious conservatives who enthusiastically embraced Citizen Donald Trump, pretty much from Day 1.

In the other camp are religious conservatives who never endorsed Trump, at any stage of the game, yet felt they had to vote for him in order to defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Here is what I heard legions of folks in that camp say: "I do not know what Donald Trump will do, but I know what Hillary Clinton will do. I will have to risk voting for him."

So, what were they so concerned about, in terms of what the candidates "will do"?

We are, 99.9 percent of the time, talking about two crucial issues: The U.S. Supreme Court and/or battles over religious liberty. At this point in time -- as the world awaits votes by the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court -- most conservatives are pretty pleased with that first issue. But what about that second concern, in light of this overture at the Post?

President Trump had promised religious groups that he would reverse the Obama administration’s requirement that employers provide birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.
But his Justice Department indicated Monday that it’s not yet giving up a fight with religious schools and nonprofits that are suing over the contraception mandate.
The department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and several other religious groups objecting to a requirement to which they are morally opposed.

To which some people, in this case Rod "Benedict Option" Dreher are saying, "WHAT'S THAT?!"

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Toronto Globe and Mail misses it on religious roots of sex-selective abortions

Toronto Globe and Mail misses it on religious roots of sex-selective abortions

Ten years ago, I wrote a four-part series about the horrific imbalance of boys and girls in India due to the rampant aborting of female fetuses. I spent three weeks in India tracking down doctors who were assisting in those abortions and activists who were trying to prevent them.

People kept on telling me that I needed to also check on whether female Indian immigrants to the United States were aborting their female children. I heard rumors that they were but I ran out of time and could not pursue that angle.

So I was glad to see that The Toronto Globe and Mail not only tackled the topic recently, but actually had some statistics to back it. However, the newspaper only told half of the story. As it said:

Fewer girls than boys are born to Indian women who immigrate to Canada, a skewed pattern driven by families whose mother tongue is Punjabi, according to a new study.
One of the most surprising findings of the study, to be published Monday in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Canada, is that the preference for boys does not diminish, regardless of how long women from India have lived in Canada.
“It’s counterintuitive,” said Marcelo Urquia, a research scientist at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Health Policy and lead author of the study. “We know that the longer immigrants are in Canada, the more likely they are to align to the host country.”

The longer they are in Canada? So western feminist values haven’t rubbed off at all? Are we sure that there is no religion ghost in this subject?

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