We get our share of interesting comments here at this weblog and we also get lots of straw-man sermons that have nothing to do with religion-news coverage. And from time to time we hear from the reporters, editors and religious leaders involved in the actual coverage. Most of the time, these emails come in flying "private" and "not for publication" warning labels.
But Mark's "Another way to be one sided" post drew a most interesting on-the-record response. You may recall that this post focused, in part, on the following section of Lisa Miller's Newsweek report on Soul Force's lesbigay activism on Christian college campuses:
... (Last) week Rick Warren announced that he was welcoming a group of gay fathers to his church for Father's Day. Now, even on very conservative Christian campuses, there are gays who are "out" and who want their authority figures to recognize them -- and their sexuality -- as deserving of God's love. Thanks largely to the efforts of Soul Force, which encourages dialogue between gays and Christians on campus, these students are trying to get organized.
That led to this GetReligion comment from the megachurch pastor, and mega-selling author:
(You) were correct in assuming Newsweek quoted a Soul Force press release headline that was 100% false. We did not invite this group and I will not be meeting with them. They invited themselves to draw attention to their cross country publicity stunt.
My staff has already told them that neither my wife nor I will meet with them for any discussion or debate. This weekend, both Kay and I are receiving awards from two different universities so we'll be out of town! Also, it's Father's Day and I'm spending the holiday with my children and grandchildren, as are all my staff.
Rick Warren Saddleback Church
Warren's comment on this factual error is important, in large part because the Miller report is inspiring other commentaries and will probably lead to live coverage of the service/demonstration. You think?
Take, for example, this commentary over at the New York Times website by Timothy Egan. It opens with this remark about some "good tidings" from Saddleback land:
This Father's Day, one of most popular pastors in America will open his megachurch to homosexual dads, an event that would usually signal an extreme weather alert from old guard Republican evangelical leaders.
But by welcoming gay fathers into his Southern California flock, Rick Warren, author of the "The Purpose Driven Life," is not just living up to the highest standards of Christian fellowship, he's turning the page on a particularly embarrassing part of our politics.
I guess the Times has to yank its Warren praise pretty quick, before it works into ink on paper.
Meanwhile, these reporters need to rethink a basic part of their framework for these reports. The assumption that Warren is set to "open his megachurch to homosexual dads" assumes that he had previously closed his church to gay dads. The odds are very good that there are gay dads and even scores of ex-gay dads at Saddleback every weekend.
That isn't the question, is it? The question is whether he had made a decision to allow his church to be used as a site for a media-friendly demonstration by a Christian group on the theological left that wants to attack some of the traditional, small-o orthodox doctrines about marriage and sex that his church has preached and tried to advocate day after day.
Does Newsweek need to print a correction? Does the Times, which just push-teched the Egan piece out to online subscribers atop its editorial-page listserv?
UPDATE: Click here for more info on this debate.
Photo: That's Rick Warren on the right.