Songs? Prayers? Scriptures? Moving story on funeral for 15-year-old shot by police lacks religious details

Once again, a police shooting of a young black male is making national headlines.

If you haven't followed the story of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards' death in a Dallas suburb, the Los Angeles Times had an insightful overview Sunday. However, the Times piece isn't the one I want to critique. There's really not a strong religion angle there.

Rather, I want to analyze the Dallas Morning News' front-page story Sunday on the teen's funeral and highlight what I believe is missing from a GetReligion perspective.

But before I get to that, the Times' story provides some important context: 

Jordan Edwards’ “ginormous” smile, they said, could light up a room — even one as large as Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, where a community gathered to mourn a life just beginning to blossom.

The car drove away from the high school house party, down a street in a Dallas suburb dotted with single-level brick homes, when the police officer raised his rifle and fired.

A bullet tore through the front passenger window, killing an unarmed 15-year-old: Jordan Edwards.
As the death reignited a national conversation about race and the police, it’s also elevated what’s viewed as a well-understood fact in many African American communities: When you’re black — even if you’re a child — you can be viewed as a threat to police.
“These are trained professionals, who are supposed to make rational decisions, but they’re not,” said Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney and former president of the National Bar Assn., a network of black lawyers and judges. “And yet again our children — I repeat, children — are paying the ultimate price.”
Crump spoke Saturday, the day a funeral was held for Jordan, a freshman who played on the Mesquite High School football team. A white hearse carried his body from a Baptist church to the cemetery, and teammates attended the burial wearing their white-and-maroon jerseys.

Now, back to the Dallas newspaper's funeral coverage, which opens like this:

Jordan Edwards’ “ginormous” smile, they said, could light up a room — even one as large as Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, where a community gathered to mourn a life just beginning to blossom.
About 800 people packed the church Saturday for a moving, spiritual celebration of a 15-year-old recalled as an ardent athlete and committed student, “with a humble and loving spirit.”
But more than anything, said Mesquite High Principal Kevin Samples, Jordan was a thoughtful, bright-eyed boy whom other kids admired “for all the right reasons.”
“As a teacher, he’s the kid you wanted in your class,” Samples said. “As an adult, he was the kid
who demonstrated that America has a bright future. As a fellow human, he was a kid who brought encouragement with his joy. He led his peers with character and finesse, and his presence is greatly missed.”
In the latest police shooting to draw national attention, Jordan was killed by a Balch Springs police officer as he and his brothers left a party last weekend. That officer, Roy Oliver, was fired Tuesday and charged with murder Friday, a swift development that filled many in the crowd with cautious optimism.
“We have seen the scales of justice level out,” Friendship Baptist pastor Terry M. Turner said. “This shows the importance of body cams on officers.... Just because we are black doesn’t mean we are wrong.”

Funerals are never easy to cover — trust me, I've handled my share in 27 years as a full-time journalist.

For that reason, I'm a little hesitant to criticize the Dallas newspaper's story, which — on the positive side — features specific, powerful details and in some ways seems to reflect the "moving, spiritual celebration."

Moreover, the report shows flashes of the religious nature of the service, describing a "swaying gospel choir" and quoting the victim's brother as saying "it was time to give him to God." 

But overall, this funeral story feels shallow — as if we're tapping our toes in the water of a deep experience but never truly diving in.

Here are some things I want to know: What hymns did they sing? What words did they pray to God? On what Scriptures did they reflect and seek to find meaning in Edwards' death?

Surely, a two-and-a-half hour religious service was not devoid of such hymns, prayers and Scriptures. So why was the story?

It seems to me that ignoring such crucial, revealing details serves only to allow holy ghosts to haunt a good piece that could have been much better.

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