As a certain wasted pirate would say, "Now that's what you'd call ironic." Yes, your friends at GetReligion and the Oxford Centre for Religion & Public Life have noted the fact that a certain cover story at nonNewsweek, a cover story that we are not alone in hailing as a sign of magazine's proud official transformation into the World magazine of the religious left, has received a major award in the field of religion news and commentary.
As the Religion News Service noted right up front:
A Newsweek magazine cover story on gay marriage has won a 2009 Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council.
The story by Lisa Miller, "Our Mutual Joy," prompted more than 100,000 e-mail responses and more than 2 million hits on the magazine's Web site after it was published on Dec. 15. It won in the magazine category for the prize that recognizes outstanding work in the secular media.
"Wilbur judges noted that, while people of faith and Religion Communicators Council members disagree widely on the subject of gay marriage, Miller's article is a fine example of the purpose of the Wilbur Awards, which is to recognize 'excellence in the presentation of religious issues, themes and values,' " the organization stated in its ... announcement of award winners.
This is, of course, rather different than the point of view expressed by our own Divine Mrs. MZ Hemingway, in her smackdown of that piece on basic issues of accuracy and journalistic balance.
By the time she had warmed up, MZ aimed this passage at Miller's sermon:
... (Yet) preach with unhinged emotion is precisely what Miller does. She never once speaks with an actual opponent of same-sex marriage. She never once speaks with someone who knows anything about the Biblical model of marriage as understood for thousands of years. This piece is disgusting, unfair and unworthy of a high school graduate. It is the opposite of thought-provoking. It's a post-frontal lobotomy exegesis of scripture. This is journalism? This is how people are supposed to cover the news, today?
She actually uses Miss Manners to defend liturgical changes in marital rites. I mean, really. This is a serious topic. We have had the majority populace of three dozen states now vote to define marriage as a heterosexual union. I know the news industry is suffering but perhaps one reporter could go actually research what these people think.
Instead we learn nothing about the principled opposition to same-sex marriage and instead get blasphemy and some of the most cliched reading of Scripture to appear in print. Thanks, Newsweek. Thanks a bunch.
GetReligion has not backed off on that judgment.
Of course, if Newsweek is no longer a newsmagazine -- but has become an actual journal of liberal faith and politics -- then that would, in some way, be different.
If that change had been announced at the time of Miller's cover story, then asking Newsweek to do fair and accurate coverage of a complex issue linked to traditional Christian doctrine and practice would be rather like asking Dr. James Dobson and the Focus on the Family team to roll out a fair, balanced and accurate documentary on the life and times of Rep. Barney Frank.
So, here is the ironic part of this story. The Wilbur Awards will be presented on March 28 during the national convention of the Religion Communicators Council in Boston. The assumption is that Miller or someone else from nonNewsweek will be present to receive the award.
Now, look further down the list of Wilbur winners this year and you will find this:
-- Book: "Blind Spot: When Journalists Don't Get Religion," Oxford University Press
Yes, that's our "Blind Spot" book.
Now, here is my question: Who do you think should show up from the Oxford Centre for Religion & Public Life to receive this award? I have a chapter in the book, but I will be at a speaking engagement on the West Coast that weekend.
No, I don't think anyone will let me send MZ in my place. Drat.