After 'scheduled maintenance,' Energizer Baptist Al Mohler back in the news

The Babylon Beethe fake religion news website — keeps making me laugh.

My favorite satire of the last week was the Bee's report that the Southern Baptist Convention's Energizer bunny — Al Mohler — would go offline for "scheduled maintenance."

Regular GetReligion readers — not to mention anyone who pays attention to religion news — are familiar with Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.:

Mohler, who hosts “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview, is a favorite go-to source for reporters — and I'm no exception. I interviewed him recently on politics and churches for Christianity Today's ChurchLawandTax.com.

Today, Mohler is a key voice in an in-depth NPR report on some evangelicals digging in — and others adapting — on culture war issues:

The NPR piece qualifies as mildly interesting. For me, it doesn't cover a whole lot of new ground. Of course, I follow these issues on a daily basis. The report might hold more appeal for a general audience.

From a journalistic perspective, it provides a fair measure of balance, quoting both traditionalists and progressives. Mohler, in particular, figures heavily on the side intent on standing firm:

America's culture war, waged in recent years over gender roles, sexuality and the definition of marriage, is increasingly being fought inside evangelical Christian circles. On one side are the Christians determined to resist trends in secular society that appear to conflict with biblical teaching. On the other side are the evangelicals willing to live with those trends.
For Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the key question is "whether or not there is a binding morality to which everyone is accountable."
Mohler is a co-founder of the biannual Together for the Gospel conference, which brought together thousands of evangelicals last month at a sports center in Louisville, a few miles from the Southern Baptist campus. Electronic signs around the top of the arena carried such messages as "We Were Born Out of Protest" and "We Stand on Scripture Alone, Not Man's Wisdom."

But I wish NPR had avoided some of the subtle (or not-so-subtle?) editorializing that seems tilted to the progressive side.

On the radio, scare quotes probably don't matter (although tone of voice certainly does). But in the written version, readers get scare quotes on "biblical" and "religious liberty." If necessary, feel free to refresh yourself on why scare quotes are bad:

Meanwhile, see if you can spot any editorializing in this paragraph (boldfacing mine):

Living as the moral exception was the prospect facing the Together for the Gospel attendees. Most were young men training to be pastors in Southern Baptist churches. The Southern Baptists are one of the Protestant denominations that do not ordain women, even as church deacons. Some Southern Baptist congregations do not even allow divorced men to serve as pastors.

What might be a less slanted way to say that? Let me try:

Living as the moral exception was the prospect facing the Together for the Gospel attendees. Most were young men training to be pastors in Southern Baptist churches. The Southern Baptists are one of the Protestant denominations that do not ordain women or appoint women as church deacons. Some Southern Baptist congregations do not allow divorced men to serve as pastors.

Elsewhere, NPR references Southern Baptists' "strict Bible-based standards of morality" and their "strict reading of the Bible." If the goal is impartial reporting, getting rid of the unnecessary "strict" would be a nice first step.

Finally, as part of its thesis that evangelicals are losing ground, NPR links to a Pew Research Center report on the declining Christian population in the U.S.

However, that's not the full story.

Far from it, actually:

Overall, the NPR story could have been worse. But it could have been a whole lot better, too. How's that for a mixed review?

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