Friday Five: Christians + free press, John Allen Chau, exorcisms, dope pastor, foster care crisis

Is it possible to love Jesus and journalism?

Count me among those who do.

As such, I can’t help but endorse Daniel Darling’s column for Religion News Service this week on “Why Christians should support a free press.”

Darling, vice president of communications for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, writes:

Restoring faith in our media institutions is a shared responsibility. Christians should not only see the value of a free press but should support robust reporting, even journalism that reveals the misdeeds and sins in our own communities. Transparency doesn’t hurt the advance of the gospel. After all, the death and resurrection of Christ lay bare the gritty reality of every human heart.

In other words, a newspaper article cannot reveal anything about us that God doesn’t already know.

Meanwhile, the media could learn from some of the criticism of consumers. Too often, in our day, it seems that an undercurrent of bias exists against Christian ideals, even in subtle ways in which stories are reported or given the weight of breaking news or national importance. Too often journalists, especially on social media, seem to cheerlead rather than report.

Amen and amen.

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: For the second week in a row, the death of American missionary John Allen Chau occupies this space. I’ll echo my GetReligion colleague Julia Duin, who said earlier this week that she “figured the story would be just a blip in the daily news flow.”

Some of the notable mainstream press coverage since Duin’s post includes NPR religion and belief correspondent Tom Gjelten’s piece titled “Killing Of American Missionary Ignites Debate Over How To Evangelize” and RNS’ in-depth report (by national correspondents Emily McFarlan Miller and Jack Jenkins) on the same subject.

But some of the must-read material on Chau’s death has come not in the form of news stories but rather first-person opinion pieces. Look for some insightful analysis of that in a think-piece post coming this weekend from GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Our most-clicked item of the week is tmatt’s commentary on The Atlantic daring “to ask if exorcisms (and thus the supernatural) may be real after all.”

A major voice of authority in this piece? That would be the late William Peter Blatty, who wrote a little novel and screenplay called “The Exorcist.” Hey, and look for the podcast post on this topic later today. Click here for the podcast — period.

Oh, and check out tmatt’s original post.

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): This is one of those stories you almost have to read to believe. I still have a lot of questions after reading it all, but the San Diego Union Tribune reports what facts are known in its detailed profile of “a charismatic pastor-turned-marijuana smuggler” who’s heading to prison.

Spoiler alert: The piece contains plenty of intrigue, mixing talk of a hit man with a Disney trip.

4. Shameless plug: Hundreds of houses of worship are making a difference in my home state of Oklahoma recruiting more families to care for roughly 9,600 children in state custody.

I wrote about the trend for RNS this week.

5. Final thought: Go ahead. Write your own caption to go with that photo.

Happy Friday, everybody! Enjoy the weekend!

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