On one level, the new Lost Angeles Times news story about the status of same-sex marriage in Mississippi is quite interesting, in light of the current Kellerism state of affairs in American journalism in the wake of the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
The story does offer quite a bit of space for leaders of the American Family Association, which is based in the state, to voice their viewpoints on the case. Then again, the Times team seems to assume that the AFA is the perfect, if not the only, example of an organization in that state to oppose the decision.
What are preachers in black churches in the state saying? What about the local Catholic hierarchy? How about the Assemblies of God? Does any other religious group -- black, white, Latino, etc. -- back the decision by Mississippi's attorney general, Jim Hood, to reject the high court's ruling?
However, it appears that the AFA was the perfect conservative voice to balance the following remarkable passage -- which was offered as unchallenged, unattributed, factual content in a hard-news report, as opposed to being in an editorial column or an analysis essay.
So, what is this?
To understand Mississippi's resistance to gay marriage, it helps to look at its legacy as a deeply religious and conservative state. This is where three civil rights workers were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s; where James Meredith became the first black student to enroll in Ole Miss, but only after a violent confrontation; and where the Confederate symbol is still part of the official state flag.
It is where 59% of residents described themselves as “very religious” in a 2014 Gallup Poll, higher than any other state, and where 86% of voters in 2004 approved a ban on same-sex marriage.
That was really subtle.
However, I am not sure that its possible to make this direct connection between the KKK past and the current theological convictions of traditional religious believers in the state of Mississippi. For starters, I would assume that a very, very, very large slice of that "very religious" statistic is composed of African-American Christians.
At the very least, it would be nice to know who, precisely, is willing to argue for that connection -- with a strong, clear attribution to their name and organization. I can also guarantee that many local and national experts would be willing to argue against that logic. At the very least, the Times editors would have had a lively debate on their hands, if they wanted to take a traditional journalistic approach to that issue and talk to people on both sides.
Once again: Yes, there were some Americans who claimed to make a biblical case for racism and, in the past, slavery. But was that a point of view affirmed through the ages by Christian saints and theologians -- think Catholic, Orthodox and in many, many Protestant folds -- speaking with authority for global Christianity?
However, this seems to be a crucial connection right now for leaders of the Los Angeles Times.
Why do I say that? Check out the top of this piece -- which is labeled "analysis" -- written by the newspaper's lead reporter for hard-news coverage on this issue:
When the Supreme Court convened in 1967 to decide the case of Loving vs. Virginia, 16 Southern states had made it a crime for interracial couples to marry. The trial judge who convicted Richard and Mildred Loving said such laws reflected divine will.
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents," the judge said. "The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
Then-Chief Justice Earl Warren quoted those words before declaring laws banning interracial marriages unconstitutional. "The freedom to marry" is one of "the basic civil rights" and a "fundamental freedom," he said. "The principle of equality at the heart of the 14th Amendment" does not permit a state to deny marriage to a couple because of race.
Nearly half a century later, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who as a boy in Sacramento knew Warren, quoted the former chief justice Friday in his own landmark decision striking down state laws that forbid marriage between same-sex couples.
And what about traditional Christians who believed that view on interracial marriage was heresy and, as one of my Baptist professors once put it, "smoke from the pit of hell"?
Wait. What? There's another side of that argument?