I think it's time for another fun online game, although with a different, uh, twist than the GetReligion drinking game dreamed up by Religious Left Online. This game focuses on a story that The Dallas Morning News ran recently.
Now, I must stress that I want to have some fun with this question-and-answer feature, although in doing so I do not want to imply criticism of:
• The excellent religion-beat specialist there and the crew that works with him. I am referring to the vocal friend and critic of this blog named Jeffrey Weiss.
• The veteran Godbeat writer who is answering the questions, Jeffery L. Sheler, who is best known for his years at U.S. News & World Report.
• The effort that Weiss has made to keep alive the Morning News religion section, which has probably been hurt by the much-publicized circulation problems that the newspaper has suffered and the slashes in the newsroom staff linked to that reality. In fact, I would love to know the status of the Morning News religion-page project in light of recent cutbacks. Will it continue?
Anyway, on to the humor -- quick.
The headline on this new interview feature by freelance writer Sarah Price Brown is this: "Evangelicals: 'your next-door neighbor.'" The goal of the story is to explain to Morning News readers who evangelical Protestants are, what they believe and what they want, while dispelling stereotypes of people who are often described as a frightening, monolithic force in American life. Sheler's latest book is Believers: A Journey Into Evangelical America.
The bottom line is that Sheler -- described as a "former evangelical" -- discovers that evangelicals are "extraordinarily normal." Here is a sample slice of the interview:
Evangelicals have come out of the woodwork in Washington. They have recognized that it does not serve them well to sit on the sidelines and bemoan the fact that in their view, the country's morals are going down the drain.
How influential are they?
All you have to do is look at where we are midway through the second term of an evangelical president. How many laws have been passed on the religious right's agenda? Abortion is still legal. Prayer in public schools is still not legal. Pornography is as ubiquitous as ever. Certainly, evangelicals have influence, but the perception is far greater than the actuality.
And so forth and so on.
It's the context that makes the interview so interesting to me. OK, sorta funny, even.
Remember, the goal is to explain evangelicals to readers in Dallas. This is the city that, a few years ago, Christianity Today labled the evangelical capital of the whole country, outranking the likes of Orlando, Wheaton and Colorado Springs.
Does anyone else see any humor in the Morning News running a freelance piece to explain to people in Dallas that evangelical Protestants are surprisingly normal people who might even be living next door? I mean, who is supposed to be reading the Morning News in the first place? There may be some evangelicals who still subscribe to the newspaper.
So here is the game (at last). We start with this statement: The Dallas Morning News offering a news feature to explain to its readers that evangelicals are like the people next door is like:
• The New York Times explaining to its readers that .
• The Wall Street Journal explaining to its readers that .
• The Los Angeles Times explaining to its readers that .
• Rolling Stone explaining to its readers that .
• The Washington Post explaining to its readers that .
You get the idea. How would you fill in the blanks? Have some fun with this!