L.A. Times plays it straight on some hot stories

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the Los Angeles Times is on a tear these days on the religion beat? Several times a week, the newspaper's push-tech email I receive every morning includes two or three stories that dig into the religion hook of major events and the lives of interesting people. Some of these stories are, I admit, a bit strange. Yesterday was a good example. Face it, it's hard NOT to read a story that has a headline such as this: "After 'Deep Throat,' G-rated life: A new film highlights Harry Reems' porn fame, but now he's a born-again Christian who sells real estate."

Uh, right. This sounds like an oh-so-cynical riff that David Letterman would dream up. However, reporter Kenneth Turan's story plays this profile rather straight. After all, there was no need to liven up the story. Here are two summary paragraphs:

[When] Harry Reems takes a poetic moment and says "What a ride this thing called life is," he is not being hyperbolic. As Linda Lovelace's costar in "Deep Throat," the most successful pornographic film ever made, he has gone from obscurity to celebrity to criminal notoriety to gutter-dwelling debauchery to born-again sobriety and success in one hectic lifetime.

"I've been through things most people never experience even vicariously, let alone for real," he says. "I'm truly proud of myself; I've overcome some major problems. I really believe God is at work in my life."

Normally, Reems only tells his story in churches and 12-step programs, but he is in the spotlight at the moment because of a major documentary entitled "Inside Deep Throat," produced by Brian Grazer for Universal and HBO. Reems also admits that he would love to return to his acting career -- legitimate acting.

This short feature includes many twists and turns, including his arrest in a government crackdown on the pornography industry. Most of all, Reems was drowning in a sea of alchohol. He was what he now calls a "blackout drinker." Finally a 12-step program led to a charismatic Methodist minister and Reems, who was a secular Jew, was converted. Soon he vanished, embracing a normal life.

Also Saturday, the Times offered a very straightforward and balanced story linked to another hot-button issue, with this headline: "Church Plans to Bury the Ashes of Fetuses From Abortion Clinic." Reporter David Kelly sticks to the basics, letting leaders on each make a case for their actions. The bottom line: A mortuary decided it would be more compassionate to let a local Roman Catholic church bury the dead, rather than throwing away the remains. The abortion facility disagrees and may or may not try to take this to court.

Particularly striking is this quote from one of the nation's most fierce, unapologetic defenders of late-term abortions:

"They have taken it upon themselves to make a macabre ritual out of this, inflicting pain on everyone," said clinic director Dr. Warren Hern. "I have women calling me who are very upset over this. These fanatics simply cannot leave other people alone with their most intimate sorrow."

Meanwhile, here is a poignant detail from the other side. It seems that the Sacred Heart of Mary parish has

... a Memorial Wall for the Unborn, with tiny plaques put there by women who have had abortions. Each one has a message: "Forgive Me." "No less real, No less loved."

The remains of 3,000 fetuses are buried near the wall. On Sunday, 600 to 1,000 small boxes of ashes will be emptied into a tomb and covered.

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