Hey Dallas Morning News: Bible contains two books of Timothy, and Peter didn't write them

Imagine if a sportswriter covering the Dallas Cowboys (who are on quite a roll!) didn't know the difference between a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

Or if a journalist reporting on the Texas Rangers (my beloved Texas Rangers) failed to understand how a batter could swing and miss at strike three — and still reach first base safely.

Now contemplate this for a moment: What if —  a la Donald "Two Corinthians" Trump — a major newspaper's reporters and editors failed to realize that the apostle Paul wrote two letters, not one, to his "son in the faith" Timothy? Or even that Paul, not Peter, was the one who penned them?

Welcome to the Dallas Morning News of 2016 — a once-great newspaper with a once-unrivaled team of Godbeat pros.

These days, this — referring to Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas — is what passes for religion reporting in the Texas newspaper:

In another video he posted Wednesday morning, Jeffress pointed to the Book of Timothy, where Peter instructed Christians to pray for all leaders. He tweeted that he would have the same message if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency.

For everyone reading this in the Dallas Morning News newsroom (and that's no longer a large group of people, which is part of the problem), those New Testament epistles are known as 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy. (Or for president-elects who might ever need to mention them out loud, think First Timothy and Second Timothy.)

And no, Jeffress (who has been the victim of past terrible journalism by the Dallas newspaper) didn't refer to the "Book of Timothy" or "Peter" in his video remarks. These errors are solely on the newspaper. 

Here's what the pastor actually said:

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul made it clear that we're to pray for all those who are in authority. And no matter how you feel about the outcome of this election, I hope you'll join me in praying for my friend President-elect Donald Trump. 

Now, if a newspaper can't even get the books or authors of the Bible right, how adeptly might that same publication cover a recent theological dispute over LGBT inclusion involving the roughly 2.3 million members of the Baptist General Convention of Texas?

Insert the sound of fingernails scraping a chalkboard.

The story in question isn't a real news report per se. Such a report would, theoretically, require a Dallas Morning News reporter to pick up a telephone and call someone. Instead, this is aggregated clickbait masquerading as news on "The Latest DFW News at your fingertips" email that I received Sunday from the Dallas newspaper.

Instead of original reporting, this piece quotes two Baptist newspapers (and fortunately includes links to those newspapers so Dallas Morning News readers can gain a closer understanding of what's actually happening). But for those who only read the metro daily's rewrite, the lede is extremely misleading:

Two Baptist churches risk expulsion from the Baptist General Convention of Texas for adopting stances that open doors to the LGBT community.
Baptist News reported that two churches, First Baptist Church of Austin and Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, received letters from convention leaders informing them that they were "on notice" for taking welcoming stances toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

For those who actually understand the debate in Baptist churches (and that's hard to do if you're a newspaper that has let go or reassigned all its religion writers), the problem is not "welcoming stances." The crucial missing word in the Dallas Morning News quasi-news item is "affirming."

Near the bottom of the Baptist Standard news item to which the Dallas newspaper links, readers who take the time to click and educate themselves will find this important context:

“I believe a church can be welcoming but not affirming,” (BGCT Executive Director David Hardage) said, explaining his belief churches can welcome people regardless of sexual orientation but maintain a traditional understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. “I believe that is not only possible, but also biblical. I also realize some would disagree.”

Lest this post be seen as too negative, I'll stress that I'm a paying subscriber of the Dallas Morning News. I read the e-replica print edition on my iPad most mornings. The Dallas newspaper has many stories that I really enjoy, particularly in areas — such as my Rangers and, in recent months, the 2016 presidential race — where the publication devotes actual resources and expertise.

But oh, what a shame that a major publication in the heart of red-state America — where religion is so important to understanding Lone Star culture and politics — can't be bothered to provide competent Godbeat coverage.

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