A long time ago, in a post about the Grammy Awards, I raised a basic question about God-talk in The Associated Press Stylebook. Here is what I wrote at that time, in reference to a Los Angeles Daily News story quoting diva Mary J. Blige expressing thanks to "Father, God, lord and savior Jesus Christ."
... I believe that Associated Press style would use an uppercase "L" in "Lord" and an upper-case "S" in "Savior." Has there been a non-Trinitarian change in the journalism Bible that I missed, somehow?
I was not alone in asking this question. Soon after that, Frank "Bible Belt Blogger" Lockwood at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sent me the link for another article that raised the same issue, this time from the sacred pages of The New York Times. The context of this reference is a profile of politico Marshall Wittmann, the press secretary for U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman. Wittmann has also worked as top lobbyist for the Christian Coalition, a unique post for a practicing Jew.
Then there is this reference:
There are of course plenty of political people who have undergone philosophical evolutions over the years. But Mr. Wittmann, 53, has zigzagged in the extreme, from stints in left-leaning unions to right-wing policy shops. He describes his career as "eclectic," saying he has always been drawn to independent thinkers. "The good lord has made me a contrarian," Mr. Wittmann said.
The good lord has also blessed him with the gift of speaking in punchy and irresistible sound bites.
The question, of course, is whether the "lord" in this sentence is the "Lord God" of Israel. In his email, Lockwood raised a good question:
Should Lord be capitalized here? If so, should it be the good Lord, the Good Lord or (for those of you with King James Bibles) the good LORD?
Every since, I have been watching to see if I could find a consistent pattern for references to God in the Times and elsewhere. I cannot find a consistent pattern for a lowercasing of the names of the Judeo-Christian God and-or Trinity. Yet clearly this happens.
Meanwhile, page 106 of my newest copy of The Associated Press Stylebook still reads as follows:
Capitalize God in references to the deity of all monotheistic religions. Capitalize all noun references to the deity; God the Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, etc. Lowercase personal pronouns: he, him, thee, thou.
Lowercase gods and goddesses in references to the deities of polytheistic religions. Lowercase god, gods and goddesses in references to false gods: He made money his god.
Some GetReligion readers have written me to ask if newspapers would dare to lowercase the "p" in the Prophet Muhammad. However, that is a totally different issue -- falling under the style rule for the titles of religious leaders.
So let me ask the Godbeat -- or godsbeat -- professionals out there: Any theories as to what is going on? Have the rules been tweaked in your own newsrooms?