Joe Biden

Looking at past and into future: Will Democrats consider compromises on religious issues?

Looking at past and into future: Will Democrats consider compromises on religious issues?

Let's take a trip into my GetReligion folder of think-piece guilt, shall we?

In this case, I would like to point readers toward a piece at The Atlantic by Michael Wear that ran about a month ago. The headline: "Why Democrats Must Regain the Trust of Religious Voters."

We could, after the narrow Doug Jones victory in the Alabama Senate race, change that headline to something that would look like this: "Why Democrats Must Regain the Trust of Religious Voters, when Running Against Candidates Other Than Roy Moore."

As I have said several times: Imagine if the Democrats had, in Alabama, selected an African-American pro-life woman as their candidate. The cultural conservatives who either boycotted Moore or wrote in a third-party candidate would have had a valid choice on the other side the ballot. Moore would have been the walking (or horseback) dead against a culturally conservative Democrat.

There are so many journalism stories -- local, regional and national -- linked to this issue, in religion and in politics.

In a way, this is similar to this question: Would Joe Biden have defeated Donald Trump, especially if he had shown a willingness to seek compromises on religious-liberty issues and abortion? I think I know the answer to that one, too. Hillary Clinton was just about the only candidate on earth Trump could defeat, in large part because of her loyalty to the cultural, political and, yes, secular/religious left (key Pew Forum data here).

So here is Wear's overture:

Democrats ignored broad swaths of religious America in the 2016 election campaign and the nation has suffered because of it. Yet calls for a recommitment to faith outreach -- particularly to white and other conservative or moderate religious voters -- have been met in some corners of liberal punditry with a response as common as it is unwarranted. Some quarters of the Democratic party would rather maintain rhetorical and ideological purity than win with a more inclusive coalition. For the sake of the country, the party must turn back to people of faith.

But here is the crunch paragraphs in this analysis piece:

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Chidin' Biden: Did bishops err in scolding Joe for gay wedding? Did RNS err in its guesswork?

Chidin' Biden: Did bishops err in scolding Joe for gay wedding? Did RNS err in its guesswork?

Did three American bishops defy a cardinal in criticizing Vice President Joe Biden? The Religion News Service sure makes it sound that way in a weekend story about Biden officiating at a same-sex marriage.

David Gibson of RNS has apparently been watching for Catholic reaction since Biden officiated at the wedding of two White House staffers. When that reaction came, it wasn't where he expected:

The Catholic hierarchy was notably quiet, however, until Friday (Aug. 5) when three leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops posted a statement clearly directed at Biden and criticizing him for presenting "a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth."
"When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics," wrote Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was joined by Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone, and Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Malone is chair of the bishop’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth and Wenski is chair of the bishop’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Heavy hitters all, to be sure. (Full disclosure: I freelance for the Miami edition of The Florida Catholic, published by the state's bishops including Wenski.) But as the article notes, the list does not include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Biden's shepherd. 

The RNS story is alert and respectful (the last is not always a given these days in mainstream media). But it just may take one or two guesses too many, in an article not marked "opinion" or "commentary."

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Does Stephen Colbert's progressive Catholicism still make some journalists nervous?

Does Stephen Colbert's progressive Catholicism still make some journalists nervous?

Forget, for a moment, whatever you are thinking right now about American politics.

Just think about journalism, for a moment.

Forget what you think about Vice President Joe Biden. If you are, like me, one of America's surviving pro-life Democrats, or you are a traditional Catholic, try to forget what you know about Biden's political career on legislation linked to abortion and how he has tried to mesh his actions with his acceptance of core doctrines in his Catholic faith. For a moment, forget his loyal-soldier work in the current administration.

Now, also try to forget for a moment what you think of the laugh-to-keep-from crying humor of funny man Stephen Colbert.

Lay aside, if you can, whatever you think he does or does not believe when it comes to the fine details, especially on moral theology, of the Catholic Catechism he taught as a leader in his New York-suburb parish during his Comedy Central years. If you are a traditionalist, when it comes to Catholic doctrine, go ahead and assume that Colbert is a "progressive," whatever that term means these days.

Then again, be honest and wrestle with the content of the nights when Colbert embraced and riffed with Catholic conservatives or shredded some liberals, on his old talk show.

Now, after saying all of that, watch the Late Night interview between Biden and Colbert and ask yourself a question about journalism: How would you deal with the content of this chat without facing the fact that its intimacy and depth (unless they are both really good fakers and I've seen people on CNN suggest that) is rooted in the fact that this is a pair of Catholic guys talking about faith and family?

Looking at Colbert, is it possible -- whether his work inspires you or troubles you -- to deal with his talent, his brain and his heart without taking into account the content of his Catholic faith and its role in his grief-haunted life? This was the subject of one of my recent On Religion columns ("From John Henry Newman to Stephen Colbert: Ancient truths on suffering and death") and the topic surfaced again in a follow-up post here at GetReligion.

Well, this past week kept adding layers of news content on top of this topic -- leading up to the Biden interview -- and provided the hook for this week's "Crossroads" podcast, with host Todd Wilken. Click here to tune that in.

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Concerning Donald Trump, Billy Graham, Joe Biden and the political ties that bind

Concerning Donald Trump, Billy Graham, Joe Biden and the political ties that bind

It's a comment that I have heard several times from historians who specialize in the history of American religion, especially Protestantism in the 20th Century.

The Rev. Billy Graham has not had a spotless career, and he would be the first to note that. In particular, there were the revelations in the Richard Nixon tapes about some of the evangelist's private opinions, which led to a season of public repentance. When you look at Graham's work, it's clear that the Nixon-era train wreck led him to focus more on Christianity at the global level and less on America, America, America.

However, stop and think about this question: Can you name an American in his era who had a higher-profile public career than Graham, becoming -- literally -- one of the most famous people in the world, yet who was involved in fewer scandals linked to morality, money or ethics? Turning that around, as one historian did, and ask yourself this question: If I had been in Graham's shoes, would I have done as well?

This brings us to Donald Trump. 

To be specific, if brings us to the new Crossroads podcast, in which host Todd Wilken and I -- spinning off my Universal column this past week -- dug into mainstream press claims that the F5 category Trump (talking media storms) has become the GOP candidate with the most appeal to "evangelical" voters.

Why bring up Graham in that context? View the start of the video at the top of this post. That was where I started in my column:

When it became clear that normal venues were too small, Donald Trump met his Mobile, Ala., flock in the ultimate Deep South sanctuary -- a football stadium.
"Wow! Wow! Wow! Unbelievable. Unbelievable," shouted the candidate that polls keep calling the early Republican frontrunner. "That's so beautiful. You know, now I know how the great Billy Graham felt, because this is the same feeling. We all love Billy Graham. We love Billy Graham."

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Los Angeles Times strives, strives, strives to ignore religion angles in Rafael Ramos funeral

Los Angeles Times strives, strives, strives to ignore religion angles in Rafael Ramos funeral

Did you know that almost all funeral services held inside churches are actually services of Christian worship?

I just thought I would bring that up -- again -- after the Bobby Ross Jr. post that covered some of the early coverage for the funeral of slain New York City police officer Rafael Ramos. That post noted that some reports -- CNN and The New York Times, to be specific -- gave readers a glimpse of the officer's life in a true evangelical megachurch, Christ Tabernacle -- a multi-site New York congregation.

However, the stories left Bobby wanting more details about the church and the work Ramos did there, especially since he died right as be was set to launch into his work as a police chaplain. He offered praise, but want to know more.

Well now, contrast that with the story that moved later from The Los Angeles Times. This story, basically, missed every single religion angle in this moving story. The fact that Ramos was poised to become a chaplain, after years of involvement with this megachurch, as been known for days. How was that handled? Basically, we're talking crickets.

How about the church itself, which is an example of a evangelical and charismatic explosion in New York City that has received a little bit of media attention, but not much? Next to zippo, in this story.

Want a taste of what did make it into this report?

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