Arizona Republic

'Pitch' this: When boys and girls play on the same sports field, religion enters the mix

'Pitch' this: When boys and girls play on the same sports field, religion enters the mix

Big baseball fan that I am, I was drawn to last week's premiere of "Pitch."

Fox's new series features a fictional pitcher named Ginny Baker (played by Kylie Bunbury), who becomes the first woman to play in the major leagues.

I'm not a TV critic, but I really enjoyed the first episode — including the emotional twist at the end.

I'll admit that I didn't spot a potential religion angle — at the time.

But after reading a story included in today's Pew Research Center daily religion headlines, I'm wondering if there just might be one.

This is the headline, as presented by Pew, that caught my attention:

Arizona high school boys soccer team refuses to play team with two female players for religious reasons

Hmmmmm. Interesting. As I clicked the link, I wondered: Would the Arizona Republic explain those religious reasons?

However, the first thing I noticed was that Pew had tweaked the headline a bit for its audience. I'll copy the actual headline on the Republic website below. Notice any missing words?:

Arizona high school boys soccer team refuses to play team with two female players

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Oh no he di-int! Major city's council shocked by prayer mentioning Jesus and the devil

Oh no he di-int! Major city's council shocked by prayer mentioning Jesus and the devil

Government-sanctioned prayers at the beginning of public meetings don't typically draw a lot of attention. Generally, journalists sleep right through them. 

As you might imagine, it takes a humdinger of a prayer to grab the attention of a major newspaper like the San Antonio Express-News.

So, give Theo Wolmarans credit for that.

Wolmarans' secret for making headlines with his prayer? Hold onto your britches: He mentioned Jesus and the devil.

Stop the presses!

A local pastor who prayed Thursday at the start of the City Council meeting declared only two types of people exist on Earth — those who work for God and those who work for the devil.
The invocation, the standard kickoff to all Thursday council meetings, typically is an inclusive prayer.
Religious leaders from various denominations and religions are invited by individual council members and the mayor. The pastors, rabbis, imams and others mostly invoke God for his wisdom. Some mention Jesus in passing.
Rarely do they offer prayer that excludes entire groups of people. But Pastor Theo Wolmarans from Christian Family Church of San Antonio seemed to do just that in his brief invocation.
“Father, we thank you for the privilege we have for being your children. We know that there are many different races and colors and creeds and languages in our world, of which you are the creator of all of these,” he said during the brief invocation. “But even so, out of all of your creation are your children because only those who accept Jesus as their lord and savior are born into your family.
“And so, when you look down upon us today, you see two kinds of people only — those who believe in you and those who don’t know you. Those who believe in you are your children, and you work through your children to bring peace and love and blessing to the earth,” he said. “And the devil works through those who don’t know you to bring confusion and strife and division, the work of the enemy, because he came to steal, to kill and to destroy.”

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Arizona Republic examines evil through the eyes of a victim

Arizona Republic examines evil through the eyes of a victim

The mystery of evil may be a religious concept, but it's still the focus of many anguished essays. The Arizona Republic brings the question horrifically home via an interview with a priest who was scheduled to say a requiem Mass last night for a fellow cleric.

Both men, fathers Joseph Terra and Kenneth Walker, were attacked a year ago -- in the ironically named Mother of Mercy Mission in Phoenix -- when Terra opened the door of their rectory. He was beaten suddenly and savagely with an iron rod, with the side of his face smashed and a finger mangled. His friend Walker (the subject of this tmatt column a year ago) was shot fatally.

The suspect, ex-convict Gary Michael Moran, is mentioned only briefly in this new article; he was picked up after he boasted about beating and robbing a priest, the Republic says. Nearly all the focus is on Terra: how he's healing, physically and emotionally, and how he carries on after what happened.

The brutal incident has, of course, sharpened for Terra some classic Christian themes like theodicy, forgiveness, redemption and grace. Still, the Republic says, he sat down for an interview only reluctantly, with spare sentences, carefully choosing words, "guarding his emotions." But he gradually opened up on his memories of that night and his thoughts about living the ideals he preaches.

The Republic cites Terra on forgiveness, but without the facile, high-minded way that many media treat the topic.

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Kayla Mueller's faith: What was God's role in life of American killed while being held by Islamic State?

Kayla Mueller's faith: What was God's role in life of American killed while being held by Islamic State?

Is there a holy ghost in media coverage of Kayla Mueller's life?

The 26-year-old American was killed while being held hostage by Islamic State extremists, her family and the White House confirmed Tuesday.

In a letter released by her family and cited frequently in news reports, Mueller referred to "our creator" and mentioned God five times.

The Los Angeles Times highlighted a portion of the letter:

“By God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light [and] have learned that even in prison, one can be free,” she wrote. “I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.”

Meanwhile, Reuters noted:

Mueller's family quoted from another letter she sent her father on his birthday in 2011: "I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I've known for some time what my life's work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering."

But journalists struggled to uncover more concrete details about Mueller's specific faith and religious background. 

Some major news organizations — including The Associated Press, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post — avoided any mention of God at all.

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Arizona Republic gets lots of the Latin Mass details right

It’s time for a simple test. Yes, this does involve some Latin. True or false. The following quotation is taken from the Communion passages in the Latin Mass.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccàta mundi; miserère nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccàta mundi; miserère nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccàta mundi; dona nobis pacem.

Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccàta mundi. Beàti qui ad cenam Agni vocàti sunt.

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Newspaper reporter critiqued by GetReligion fires back

.@TipsForJesus still leaves $$$, so for #Easter, we asked ethicists – is it moral? http://t.co/Nmvb0cyEoF pic.twitter.com/nhAZPrBsF2 — Megan Finnerty (@MeganMFinnerty) April 17, 2014

Megan Finnerty, a Page 1 reporter for the Arizona Republic, didn’t really fire back at my recent negative review of her pre-Easter story on “Tips for Jesus.”

In fact, the thoughtful email that she sent me with the subject line “Read your critique of my story” was kinder than my snarky critique, titled “What would Jesus tip? Be sure to ask … secular ethicists!?”

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What would Jesus tip? Be sure to ask ... secular ethicists!?

.@TipsForJesus still leaves $$$, so for #Easter, we asked ethicists – is it moral? http://t.co/Nmvb0cyEoF pic.twitter.com/nhAZPrBsF2 — Megan Finnerty (@MeganMFinnerty) April 17, 2014

  Just in time for Easter, The Arizona Republic decided to write about #TipsforJesus.

As the Page 1 reporter who wrote the story put it on Twitter, “@TipsforJesus still leaves $$$, so for #Easter, we asked ethicists — is it moral?”

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Religious freedom vs. gay discrimination in Arizona

In Arizona, a religious freedom bill has riled gay rights supporters, as The Associated Press puts it. Or, as a Los Angeles Times headline describes it, gay rights activists are in an uproar over the “religious freedom” (scare quotes courtesy of the Times) measure headed to Gov. Jan Brewer. In Phoenix, readers of The Arizona Republic woke up to this banner front-page headline this morning:

The Republic’s big type certainly plays the story down the middle, avoiding the seeming bias of some national media reports.

But what about the local newspaper’s story itself?

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