Days after former President Jimmy Carter shared details of his battle with cancer, reporters followed the nation's most famous Sunday school teacher to church Sunday.
Some of the headlines:
As I clicked the above links, here's what I wanted to know: Would news reports reflect the actual biblical content of Carter's lesson?
As tmatt noted here at GetReligion the other day, religion is key to who Carter is:
CNN's Sunday story opens like this:
Plains, Georgia (CNN) They arrived at this sleepy Georgia town in droves, from places as far away as Africa. Some spent the night in line just to ensure a seat.
Ordinary fare, if it were a rock concert or major sporting event -- but not for a Sunday school Bible talk.
But this is no ordinary Sunday school: Its teacher has a Secret Service detail.
For decades, former President Jimmy Carter has been teaching Sunday school here at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.
But this Sunday's lesson -- Carter's 689th, according to his grandson Jason -- commanded attention far beyond the worshippers who packed the pews and overflow rooms in the wake of the revelation that the 90-year-old Carter is battling cancer.
OK, that lede sets the scene.
But what was the lesson about?
There are 31,101 verses in the Bible. Surely Carter referenced at least one or two of them. But CNN mentions not a single passage — either directly or indirectly.
The Associated Press gets closer, while still leaving the specific biblical content relatively vague:
PLAINS, Ga. (AP) — The Sunday school lesson was familiar: When your burden grows heavy, ask God for strength. But the message carried a more powerful and personal meaning than usual because of who delivered it: Jimmy Carter.
The 90-year-old former president taught Sunday school in his hometown for the first time since he disclosed on Thursday that his cancer had spread to his brain.
With easygoing humor and his usual toothy smile, Carter gave two back-to-back Bible lessons to unusually large crowds totaling more than 700 people — some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles — just three days after undergoing radiation treatment.
He spent less than five minutes recapping his illness before saying, "That's enough of that subject" and beginning the lesson on faith, love and relationships
Reuters, meanwhile, mentions an actual book of the Bible.
The theme of the lesson was love, Carter told the 300 people who filled the church's sanctuary, after briefly alluding to his health.
"We are studying the most important aspect of Christianity," he said, and read from the Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Matthew: "I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
He mentioned his conflict resolution work, including the Camp David peace agreement and negotiating a nuclear program with North Korea, and said mediation can help resolve any conflict, be it between two countries or two people.
NPR, too, reflects the actual Scripture reading:
Then, after briefly describing how his cancer will be treated, Carter gets right to it, teaching straight from the heart of his Christian faith.
He reads from the book of Matthew: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,' but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Besides the national reports, I was really curious to see how the Atlanta Journal-Constitution handled the story in its home state. Alas, the Atlanta paper's report is hidden behind a paywall.
Overall, I would love to have seen more emphasis in news reports on the actual content of Carter's message.
As he fights for his life, what message does Carter consider most important to share on Sunday morning? How is his faith helping him as he confronts cancer and his own mortality? What Scriptures are guiding him at this time?
The answers to all of these questions would make for interesting — and highly relevant — news copy.
Amen, GetReligion readers?