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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Baltimore Sun finds the faith angle in the Baptist officer ensnared in Freddie Gray case

Baltimore Sun finds the faith angle in the Baptist officer ensnared in Freddie Gray case

The Baltimore Sun is no longer the dead-tree-pulp newspaper that lands in my front yard each morning. Thus, logically enough, there has been a sharp decline in the number of Sun stories that show up here on GetReligion.

Also, the newspaper's website features a numbing array of intrusive auto-cue forms of advertising, so sane readers would only go there when there are no other options. However, my many Charm City-area friends still let me know, from time to time, when something interesting shows up.

In this case, the Sun recently offered an in-depth profile of Alicia White, the only female officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, the infamous case that still hangs over life in Baltimore like smoke from burning urban neighborhoods. This was a big story for one simple reason, as stated in the headline: "Baltimore Police Officer Alicia White, charged in Freddie Gray case, becomes the first to speak out."

The surprise in this story is that it truly explores the human side of this woman, as well as the legal and political angles of the story. As is often the case among public servants in Baltimore's African-American community, that led the reporters into spiritual territory.

Right from the get-go, the story stresses that this case has had painful consequences for White as a person and as an officer.

For the past 18 months, her co-defendants either went to trial or were called to the stand to testify while she awaited her own trial. Out of public view, White spent much of the time grappling with crippling anxiety, and at one point was rushed to a hospital. The stress led her and her fiance to call off their engagement, and she spent months unemployed. Then, in July, all charges were dropped.

In addition to the interview material from White, it's clear that the Sun team did extensive background work in the community, digging into her life and work. That's where her educational background and church ties show up.

In other words, her Christian faith was and is part of her identity and, in the past, it affected her actions. Thus, it's part of the story.

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Back to Indonesia: When covering disputes among faithful, AP should talk to more Muslims

Back to Indonesia: When covering disputes among faithful, AP should talk to more Muslims

Tensions remain high in Indonesia, where opponents of the nation's Christian governor -- he is part of the nation's minority Chinese population -- held a massive rally calling for the arrest of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja and his trial on charges of blasphemy.

Obviously, many journalists believe that a story like this requires lots of vague adjectives in front of the word "Muslims."

In this case, the opponents of Ahok are "conservative Muslims" and the Muslims who support him are "moderate Muslims." What does this mean? Who knows, other than the fact that the conservatives are (you knew this was coming) mad about the growing presence of LGBTQ activists in public life.

Here is the key passage in an update from the Associated Press:

The crowds massed in the area of the national monument formed a sea of white that spilled into surrounding streets while gridlocked motorists sat on the sidewalks. Some held huge banners calling Ahok a blasphemer who should be jailed while others chanted and prayed. The blasphemy controversy erupted in September when a video circulated online in which Ahok criticized detractors who argued the Quran prohibits Muslims from having a non-Muslim leader.
It has challenged the image of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, as practicing a moderate form of Islam and has shaken the government of Jokowi, who accused unnamed political actors of trying to undermine him.

Recently, I criticized a Washington Post story about these events in the incredibly complex culture of Indonesia because it didn't include quotes from non-Muslims. As Ira "Global Wire" Rifkin noted at that time: "Tremendous hole in this piece: What about non-Muslim Indonesians? There are many Hindus in Java, Christian Chinese, Sikhs and others living there."

The problem with the recent AP coverage of this dispute is that it offers a different kind of simplicity -- by (a) dealing with these clashes as a matter of politics, alone, and (b) by failing to interview representatives of some of the largest and most powerful Muslim organizations in Indonesia.

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Oh, Politico! We're not laughing with you, but at you, after that 'advance God's Kingdom' scoop

Oh, Politico! We're not laughing with you, but at you, after that 'advance God's Kingdom' scoop

Hey, remember after Donald Trump's stunning election victory when some navel-gazing media types contemplated their cluelessness.

Good times.

But that didn't last long, huh?

Which brings us to Politico's laugh-out-loud "scoop" featuring 15-year-old quotes from President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Education Department:

The billionaire philanthropist whom Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Education Department once compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to "advance God's Kingdom."
Trump’s pick, Betsy DeVos, a national leader of the school choice movement, has pursued that work in large part by spending millions to promote the use of taxpayer dollars on private and religious schools.
Her comments came during a 2001 meeting of “The Gathering,” an annual conference of some of the country’s wealthiest Christians. DeVos and her husband, Dick, were interviewed a year after voters rejected a Michigan ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to allow public money to be spent on private and religious schools, which the DeVoses had backed.
In the interview, an audio recording, which was obtained by POLITICO, the couple is candid about how their Christian faith drives their efforts to reform American education.

Wow, talk about an insightful piece of "gotcha" journalism! (Sarcasm intended.)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, the former GetReligionista, couldn't resist commenting on the Politico story:

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Southern Baptist offers poor churches free websites; RNS does compelling story

Southern Baptist offers poor churches free websites; RNS does compelling story

One thing I’ve noticed about churches is how awful their online presence is. Having an effective website isn’t optional these days. Yet, I’ve been amazed at the sheer sloppiness of most churches’ online offerings. And then they wonder why no one attends their services.

I always thought a model website should have a “coming attractions” kind of ad for the upcoming sermon. Churches have been asking visitors to accept on faith that the sermon will apply to them that week, only to find out that the sermon’s about marriage, but the visitor is single. Or the sermon deal with God and the workplace while the visitor homeschools her kids.

So I was glad to see Religion News Service’s piece on a Connecticut firm that’s offering to build free web sites for churches, especially those too poor or technology-phobic to get their own.

(RNS) Members of Trueworship Tabernacle used to walk their Corpus Christi, Texas, neighborhood, passing out fliers about upcoming events.
But in March, the small, multicultural church got a new website.
Six months later, its online postings helped boost attendance at its “Youth Car Wash and Enchilada Sale” as well as its “Hallelujah Night” on Halloween.
In February, TicketNetwork executive Don Vaccaro started Grace Church Websites to meet a need he discovered while talking to his friend, the Rev. Boise Kimber of New Haven, Conn.

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