Friday Five: Forgiveness and justice, Scouting and faith, Tree of Life anniversary, Eric Metaxas


I’m back home in Oklahoma after a two-week trip that took me from Las Vegas (for the Religion News Association annual meeting) to Searcy, Ark. (for the 96th Bible lectureship at Harding University, the alma mater of Botham Jean).

Other stops along the way included Los Angeles, a Rust Belt town in Ohio and Chick-fil-A drive-thru lines in at least three states.

I’m looking forward to resting up a bit this weekend.

First, though, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: I highlighted the viral story of “The hug seen around the world: Botham Jean's brother forgives ex-officer who killed his brother” in a post Thursday.

I focused on a splendid front-page story in the Dallas Morning News. Among the plethora of coverage by major media, another good piece was this one in the Washington Post looking at the debate over forgiveness that the hug ignited.

This tweet caught my attention, too:

My post noted that the brother wasn’t the only person to hug convicted murder Amber Guyger. The judge did, too, and gave her a Bible.

I wrote:

The judge? That one surprised me. I wonder if there’ll be a letter in the mail soon from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. And honestly, I’d love to hear from legal and constitutional experts on that exchange. It’s fascinating to me.

Enter the Fort Worth Star-Telegram with coverage later Thursday of the FFRF entering the fray.

The Dallas Morning News also has a story on the issue, asking at the top of today’s front page: “Was the judge right to offer a Bible?” (Look for a more in-depth post from me next week on that issue.)

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Our No. 1 most-clicked commentary this week was Terry Mattingly’s post on “A big news story: Scouting was a mainstream thing, embracing a vague faith. What now?”

Some crucial background from that post:

Right now, the big news in Scouting centers on waves of sexual-abuse lawsuits and the very real chance that the organization previously known as the BOY Scouts could go bankrupt. That is a big story — no doubt about it.

But there is another big story on the horizon, a story that reporters have long known was coming. But now it is here.

Remember these three facts: The Southern Baptists have been bailing out of Scouting for years now. The United Methodists are, well, at war with each other over the same kinds of moral issues that are tearing up the Scouts. And now the Latter-day Saints are opening the exit door and moving on.

Here’s some good news: There’s a related podcast (“What do the Boy Scouts have to do with religion? That's a big question”) that goes with that post. Be sure to give it a listen.

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): Emma Green of The Atlantic won three first-place awards in the RNA’s annual contest, which honored top journalism on the Godbeat produced in 2018.

One of her honored stories: her exceptional piece headlined “The Jews of Pittsburgh Bury Their Dead” (related to the mass shooting that claimed 11 lives at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year).

Now Green has returned to Pittsburgh for anniversary take on the Tree of Life massacre, titled “The Fight to Make Meaning Out of a Massacre.” I haven’t had a chance to read it all yet, but it’s on my list for this weekend.

4. Shameless plug: In a post from the RNA meeting in Las Vegas, Julia Duin noted the controversy over Eric Metaxas’ appearance — including the fact that he didn’t take questions from the audience during a panel session he moderated.

Well, Metaxas did answer questions after the panel — from Religion News Service editor-in-chief Bob Smietana.

In an interview with Smietana, Metaxas discusses “Trump, Bonhoeffer, and the future of America.”

Both the interviewer and the interviewee are regular readers of GetReligion, and we thank them both for that!

5. Final thought: This tweet drew a few serious responses from people who follow me. I assured them that Snopes probably will fact-check the story soon.

Happy Friday, everybody! Enjoy the weekend!

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