Perhaps you saw the news today — via a tweet by the New York Times to its nearly 39 million followers — about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
In case you're standing, I'll hold on just a second so you can sit down.
OK, brace yourself. Here it is. Deep breath, everyone!
Without further weeping and gnashing of teeth, the tweet from the Times:
Did you catch that!?
To repeat, Sanders IS AN EVANGELICAL WHO READS A CHRISTIAN DEVOTIONAL BEFORE NEWS BRIEFINGS.
Stop the presses!
I kid. I kid. But more than a few folks on Twitter chuckled at the Times' characterization of Sanders' spiritual discipline:
Readers actually have to scroll about a third a way down the story before getting to the religious part.
The lede focuses — big surprise! — on the politics:
WASHINGTON — Pickle did not go as planned.
When Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the newly minted White House press secretary, began her first official briefing by reading a child’s letter to President Trump — “Everybody calls me Pickle, I’m 9 years old, and you’re my favorite president” — the backlash was swift.
Reporters called it a transparent attempt to distract from numerous scandals roiling the White House. Theories surfaced that Mr. Trump, who once impersonated his own spokesman, had written the missive himself. (He didn’t.)
“I didn’t know it was going to be such a controversy,” Ms. Sanders said during an interview last week in her spartan West Wing office. “I was like, what has happened in America when a kid writes a very innocent, nice letter and it turns into, like, handwriting specialists and psychologists?”
Absurd as it was, the Pickle affair offered a low-stakes microcosm of the deep distrust that has developed between the Trump administration and the journalists whose work the president derides as “fake news.” And it underscored the why-would-you-want-this nature of Ms. Sanders’s new job: defending a president who is at war with the news media and an administration that has repeatedly been denounced for playing loose with facts.
Now Ms. Sanders, who inherited her position when her celebrity predecessor Sean Spicer quit, is stepping into the glare, trying to manage coverage of a tumultuous White House while mollifying a boss who believes he is his own best spokesman.
Keep reading, though, and the Times devotes an entire three paragraphs (!!!) to Sanders' faith:
An evangelical who reads from a book of Christian devotionals before every briefing — and the daughter of the pastor-turned-presidential-candidate Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas — Ms. Sanders is an unlikely public face for Mr. Trump, a twice-divorced connoisseur of grievance.
“I certainly didn’t approve of a couple of the comments,” Ms. Sanders said of her time on Mr. Trump’s campaign, where she served as an adviser and on-air surrogate. “But at the same time, we were looking for a commander in chief, not a pastor.”
“Oftentimes, people want to make politicians perfect,” she added. “And that’s one of the actual beauties of Christianity, is understanding that no one is.”
Sarcasm aside, I'll go ahead and voice my unpopular opinion: I think the detail about Sanders reading a devotional before press briefings is interesting and highly appropriate for a major newspaper profile of the press secretary.
My problem with the Times piece is this: Religion makes only a cameo appearance in this story. The 140-character version of the story promoted on Twitter is about as deep as the faith angle gets. That's too bad. Once again, a Times piece could have benefited from the expertise of a religion-beat professional.
In the above video, Sanders is asked about her faith in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network's "Faith Nation." At about the 9:00 mark, she replies:
I think (for) anybody of authentic faith, it has to be the primary thing that drives everything that you do. Some people want to say you can separate your faith from your work. I feel very much the opposite of that. I think your faith defines who you are, and I’m certainly not going to shy away from that. It’s a big part of who I am and something I’m more than happy to talk about openly and answer any question about it. The only challenge is, sometimes, making sure it’s the right platform and the right location and environment in which to do that, an appropriate place.
Back to the Times story: Personally, I'd love to know more about the devotionals, including the source and the specific content. I'd love to hear — in Sanders' own words — what the devotionals mean to her and how they influence her approach to her job. I'd love more facts — in general — about Sanders' faith background and beliefs.
A quick Google search finds articles that describe Sanders as "a devout Christian" and note that she graduated from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, which is also her father's alma mater. Mike Huckabee was, of course, a Southern Baptist pastor before he became a politician.
In 2012, Sanders posted a photo of her baby's baptism:
But wait, I don't think Southern Baptists baptize babies, do they? So what is Sanders' specific Christian affiliation?
Given that question and many others, the Sanders story story seems ready made for a little ghostbusting.
Hey Godbeat friends: Please, somebody take the little the Times reported and run with it. The snippet that the paper offers hints at a better, deeper religion story begging to be told.