In the wake of the Louisiana flooding, a number of my Facebook friends posted about that Deep South state's heroic people coming together and showing their resiliency amid a major disaster.
But here's what I was curious about: how to mesh that totally appropriate narrative with the recent racial protests and violence in that same state.
I wanted to see journalists explore the big picture in Louisiana.
So here's the good news: The Washington Post did exactly that in an 1,800-word takeout on Sunday's front page. Well, sort of.
And that segues to the bad news: The more I read, the more something seemed to be missing. Something big. Something that just might have to do with all those evangelical Christians and Catholics who make up such a large proportion of Louisiana's population.
Let me share the crux of the Post story — dateline Baton Rouge — and then explain what I mean:
In fewer than six weeks, this city has faced grievous man-made and natural disasters, from the police killing of Alton Sterling that provoked protests and mass arrests by a heavily militarized police force, to the shooting of Nick Tullier and his fellow law enforcement officers, to the epic flooding that now has left tens of thousands displaced.
The city and a vast swath of south Louisiana are facing a huge cleanup and a housing crisis. Families are grappling with moldy drywall, the intricacies of applying for federal disaster aid, and the trauma of loss and sudden homelessness.
But alongside the devastation here, there have been astonishing displays of generosity and selflessness, and a swelling pride in the way communities have rallied to take care of each other.
Hundreds and perhaps thousands of volunteers launched boats to rescue those trapped in their homes. First responders who have lost their own homes have continued working long shifts. And in the many subdivisions where people are doing the hard, hot, smelly work of pulling sodden debris out of their homes, strangers have shown up bearing bottles of cold water, snacks and clean T-shirts.
Among many people, there is a hope that when Baton Rouge residents look back at this unnamed storm years from now, they’ll see that it didn’t just upend lives, but also began a much-needed healing.
OK, a few questions: Concerning all those people who have rallied to take care of each other, is there any chance any of them might be motivated by faith? And those strangers showing up with cold water, snacks and T-shirts, might they be part of the "faith-based FEMA?"
If you doubt that strong possibility, be sure to watch the report above from religion correspondent Kim Lawton of PBS' Religion Ethics & Newsweekly. Or check out this Associated Press report. Or read this story by Baton Rouge Advocate reporters including my friend Kyle Peveto, who has been reporting as well as helping with the relief effort:
Yes, in a couple of spots, the Post provides vague hints of a potential religion angle, including here:
“Some people say it’s God teaching us a lesson to forgive and forget,” said Jewels Simpson, who is white, and whose home was flooded.
“Right now, it’s time everyone needs to pray,” McMillon said.
However, the newspaper fails to engage — really engage — the importance of religion in Louisiana. The front-page headline speaks of "hope that disaster can heal." But there's no mention of faith. None at all.
What we have here — regrettably — is an in-depth attempt to dig below the surface of difficult life issues in the nation's fourth-most religious state without ever mentioning, you know, religion. That's pretty much impossible.