Ben Carson

Politico should know better, part II: Dr. Ben Carson God-talk piece leaves out his church

Politico should know better, part II: Dr. Ben Carson God-talk piece leaves out his church

It was 92 years ago that a manufacturer of record players first trademarked the phrase "the gift that keeps on giving." 

Perhaps the folks at Politico could consider its use any time they publish stories about God and politics.

Last week, it was a ham-handed attempt at analyzing President Donald J. Trump's "God-talk" as POTUS. And its equally poor take on supposed links between Trump and Russia via the Chabad Lubavitch organization, as noted by my colleague Ira Rifkin.

This week, Dr. Ben Carson is in the crosshairs for daring to mention the Deity when talking about government work linked to his new line of work -- housing:

God is Ben Carson’s favorite subject. Brain surgery is a close second. Housing is somewhere further down the list.
“I was told that as a government leader, I really shouldn't talk about God. But I have to tell you, it's part of who I am,” Carson said last month, in one of his first speeches as Housing and Urban Development secretary.
Less than two months into the job, Carson still holds forth on God and neurosurgery, but his views on housing policy remain largely a mystery. While he's making good on a promised listening tour to learn about the $48 billion agency he now leads, he's done little public speaking about the urgent issue at hand -- a lack of affordable housing. ...
Carson told POLITICO that policy proposals are in the works, but in public appearances the one-time presidential candidate is sticking to his stump-speech staples. He prescribes “godly principles” as a cure for the country’s political division and praises housing advocates for “putting God’s love into action.”

Now, from a political/policy standpoint, I can understand why Carson's emphasis on "godly principles" and "putting God's love into action" might seem a bit, well, off-putting. We're more accustomed to hearing about bloc grants, subsidies, expansion plans, or reasons why there can't be any of those.

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Donald Trump's cabinet: Are his choices merely a list of evangelical deplorables?

Donald Trump's cabinet: Are his choices merely a list of evangelical deplorables?

OK. I get that for lots of people, Donald Trump’s cabinet picks seem like a freak show line-up.

But can we at least try to maintain a little bit of journalistic objectivity when we describe these folks? Yes, this is a debate that's raging all over the place right now. Just ask New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet. And remember the Fixer-Upper couple bouhaha that BuzzFeed tried to ignite two weeks ago (which I wrote about) that blamed the two home remodelers for the views of their pastor? 

Lots of folks condemned that sort of damned-by-association style of journalism. In this latest wrap-up of Trump’s cabinet, I see it again in this RNS story.

(RNS) An education secretary who supports school vouchers to get more children into private religious schools. A White House strategist whose ex-wife accused him of anti-Semitism. A national security adviser who called Islam “a political ideology hiding behind a religion.”
After a campaign in which President-elect Donald Trump was accused of trafficking in bigotry and hatred, and of changing his views to win the conservative religious vote, he is choosing Cabinet members who have made controversial statements on religious and ethical issues.

I get the second half of the sentence, but was the first part (on “bigotry and hatred”) necessary? Yes, it is a statement of fact about attacks by Trump critics on the left and right, but still. The article then goes on to list several cabinet nominees:

Pruitt is a member of First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., where he has served as a deacon. First Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, which has opposed marriage equality, reproductive rights for women and LGBTQ rights, including bathroom access for transgender people.

My goodness, are these people villains or what? The Southern Baptists also took a strong stand against racism, for refugees and repudiated the Confederate flag at their June meeting. I guess that wasn’t good enough.

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Carson, Clinton, Colbert and ... Lucifer? The God-and-politics drama never ends

Carson, Clinton, Colbert and ... Lucifer? The God-and-politics drama never ends

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder at the Republican convention, the Prince of Darkness showed up. Or at least his ally was in the house, via a prime-time speech reference to none other than Hillary Clinton by one-time GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson.

I am not making this up. Stephen Colbert has even invented a new word: Trumpiness, to describe the state of things in Cleveland, and America in general. More on Colbert later. 

Frankly, I thought most media were fairly subdued in handling what a goofball Carson has become although their headline writers definitely had a holiday. "Did You Stay Awake Long Enough to Hear Ben Carson Call Hillary Lucifer?" Esquire asked

Here's how CNN called it

Washington (CNN) -- Former presidential candidate Ben Carson said Wednesday that he linked Hillary Clinton to a prominent community organizer, Saul Alinsky, who once offered measured praise of Lucifer in a book, to provide "perspective" on what type of president the Democrat would be.
"Recognize that this is a very famous book -- 'Rules for Radicals' -- and on the dedication page, you acknowledge Lucifer in an admirable way saying he's the original radical who gained his own kingdom," Carson told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day." "What I am saying is that we are talking about electing to the presidency an individual who embraces someone who obviously is not someone who is consistent."
Clinton wrote her 1969 Wellesley undergraduate thesis on Alinsky -- though she's said in her own book that she had "fundamental" disagreements with him," according to an analysis of Carson's comments on Politifact.

Now back to what Carson originally said Tuesday night:

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Move over, 2 Corinthians: Proverbs takes center stage in latest Bible flap of GOP campaign

Move over, 2 Corinthians: Proverbs takes center stage in latest Bible flap of GOP campaign

Proverbs 14:7 says:

Stay away from a fool, for you will not find knowledge on their lips.

That verse seems appropriate in light of the latest Bible-related scrap by GOP presidential contenders — this one involving Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

In case you missed it, Cruz fired a top aide Monday over — as the Los Angeles Times characterized it — a "charge of dirty tricks":

Already fighting accusations of underhanded campaigning, Cruz asked his communications director, Rick Tyler, to resign after Tyler posted a video on social media and claimed that the senator from Florida could be heard disparaging the Bible. The allegation was false and Tyler apologized.
“This was a grave error of judgment,” the senator from Texas told reporters in Las Vegas. Even if the charge had been true, he said, “we are not a campaign that is going to question the faith of another candidate.”

The Los Angeles newspaper noted that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump — who made headlines when he said "2 Corinthians," not "Second Corinthians" at Liberty University — was quick to weigh in:

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In story on Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, is there any room for theology?

In story on Paris attacks, U.S. politics and Syrian refugees, is there any room for theology?

Since the Paris attacks, my Facebook feed has filled up with two things:

1. Temporary profile pictures in the blue, white and red colors of the French flag.

2. Friends debating the pros and cons of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Michael, a minister, sparked 100-plus comments when he declared:

I know a lot of people will strongly disagree with this, but I think terrorists within our borders is the price we must be willing to pay if absolutely necessary for showing Christ-glorifying love and help to Syrian refugees who live with this evil every day. A sovereign God has called us to help and defend the cause of the immigrant, regardless of the costs. "Your kingdom come, your will be done..."

Phil, also a minister, seemed to take a different position with this status:

The attack on France included at least one Syrian refugee. What will happen to us when we take them in? Do we want to invite our enemies into our house and support them?

Enter Donald Trump into the discussion, courtesy of The Washington Post.

Read the Post's lede, and many of the issues my friends are debating on social media emerge:

BEAUMONT, Tex. — For John Courts, the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 132 people provided more evidence of something he has long suspected: Syrian refugees are not to be trusted.
“I think they’re wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” said Courts, 36, a police officer in this industrial town in southeast Texas who attended a political rally for Donald Trump on Saturday. “Bringing those refugees here is very dangerous. Yeah, they need help, but it’s going to bring terrorism right into our front door.”

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Delving into CNN's 'dirty little secret' about religious conversions and Ben Carson

Delving into CNN's 'dirty little secret' about religious conversions and Ben Carson

My Christian Chronicle colleague Erik Tryggestad wrote a column from New Zealand recently in which he lamented his somewhat pedestrian decision to give his life to Jesus:

I’ve always found my own story to be lacking in drama, I told the group. I grew up in the church with great, godly parents. When I was 14 I was baptized. My salvation was an assumption — an expected journey, hardly worth sharing.

Tryggestad's not-so-boring reporting adventures have taken him to 60 countries. ("Plus, y'know ... Canada," he told me. And yes, I'm including that comment just to agitate my friends north of the border.)

Apparently, my Chronicle colleague is not alone in wishing he had a better conversion story.

Enter CNN Religion Editor Daniel Burke with the "Religion News Clickbait Headline of the Week":

The dirty little secret about religious conversion stories

(Here at GetReligion, we're much too sophisticated to ever resort to such a headline. Obviously, we'd never put "dirty little secret" in a title just hoping to gain a few extra clicks. But anyway ... )

Like the CNN headline, Burke's lede takes ample creative liberty (as opposed to an inverted-pyramid approach):

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Increased press scrutiny of Ben Carson will involve his Seventh-day Adventism

Increased press scrutiny of Ben Carson will involve his Seventh-day Adventism

Four polls in Iowa give candidate Ben Carson a solid lead over his rival Donald Trump. “The Hill” observed October 26 that this now raises “the possibility of Ben Carson becoming the Republican presidential nominee,” although he “has not yet faced real scrutiny.”

Inevitably,  scrutiny will include Carson’s well-known and devout affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church,  a topic the New York Times just examined. There will be more, of course, if his numbers stay high.

Of course, Trump pulled that part of Carson's into the spotlight, telling a Florida rally, “I’m Presbyterian. I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist, I don’t know about. I just don’t know about.”

Challenged about questioning a candidate’s religion, Trump said he had nothing to apologize for because “all I said was I don’t know about it.” But of course his words contrasted his “middle of the road” mainline Protestantism with   a faith people don’t know about, slyly suggesting there’s reason for wariness and relegating Carson’s creed to the cultural margins.

Note that SDAs number 1.1 million in the U.S. plus Canada, compared with 1.7 million in Trump’s Presbyterian Church (USA).

Actually it was Carson who started the religion warfare in September, saying his own devout faith is “probably is a big differentiator” with Trump, and that if Trump is sincere, “I haven’t heard it. I haven’t seen it.” Unlike Trump, Carson later apologized.

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New York Times magazine finally connects Donald Trump with prosperity theology

New York Times magazine finally connects Donald Trump with prosperity theology

Every so often, you run across a piece of writing that is simply beautiful and, at the same time, laden with religion ghosts. Such was this New York Times Magazine piece on Donald Trump, written by a reporter fortunate enough to get significant face time with him. 

Ghosts? You may ask, what does this have to do with religion? More than you think.

First, the reporter doesn’t spare himself or his fellow media elitists for not deigning to cover Trump because he was plebian and, well, they were not. 

This is blunt: “I was, of course, way too incredibly serious and high-­minded to ever sully myself by getting so close to Donald Trump,” he writes.

And yet his lead in the polls kept growing. He was impolite company personified, and many Republican voters were absolutely loving him for that. They seemed to be saying en masse that even if Trump could be crass and offensive at times (or, in his case, on message), could he possibly be any worse than what politics in general had become?

Trump, the writer learns is infinitely easier to approach than Hillary Clinton. This was a relief:

... for political reporters accustomed to being ignored, patronized and offered sound bites to a point of lobotomy by typical politicians and the human straitjackets that surround them. 

Now, what comes next is long but essential. Pay close attention to this:

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About the Republican presidential race and that 'Christian army' assembled Sunday in Texas

About the Republican presidential race and that 'Christian army' assembled Sunday in Texas

A friend of mine — a progressive evangelical who doesn't always agree with GetReligion's take on media coverage — asked me what I thought of a front-page story in today's Dallas Morning News.

The story, with the main headline "Faith takes the stage" in the dead-tree edition, reports on a Southern Baptist megachurch hosting six Republican presidential candidates at a Dallas-area forum Sunday.

My friend didn't care much for the coverage:

This looks and feels to me like religious bias from The Dallas Morning News. (It was political bias by Prestonwood Baptist, but that's an entirely different story.)
Where are the interviews with progressive Christian leaders, reminding readers that these six men do not represent the views of every Christian? By not mentioning us, aren't they perpetuating the myth that all Christians vote alike?
The DMN is covering an event that was decidedly Republican (an event to which Democrat candidates declined attendance). On the other hand, isn't the DMN contributing towards the assumption that evangelical voters represent the "Christian vote" by not mentioning the rest of the Christian voting bloc?

I am, of course, familiar with Prestonwood Baptist from my time covering religion and politics in Texas for The Associated Press. When I interviewed Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham, then the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 2004, I couldn't help but notice a prominent photo of President George W. Bush welcoming him to the Oval Office.

This is the lede on today's Morning News story:

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