Billy Graham rule

Friday Five: Billy Graham rule, Marianne Williamson, nun's curveball, MZ's Kavanaugh book

Friday Five: Billy Graham rule, Marianne Williamson, nun's curveball, MZ's Kavanaugh book

A famous steakhouse off Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas, offers a free, 72-ounce steak.

The only catch: You must eat it all in one setting.

On a reporting trip this week, I stopped there for lunch. Spoiler alert: I didn’t order the 4.5-pound hunk of beef. I chose something slightly smaller.

While I savor the delicious memories, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: This may not be the most important story of the week. In fact, veteran religion journalist G. Jeffrey MacDonald questioned on Twitter whether it’s news at all.

But I’m fascinated by the coverage of a little-known Mississippi gubernatorial candidate who invoked the “Billy Graham rule” in declining to allow a female journalist to shadow him for a day. I wrote about all the national media attention state Rep. Robert Foster has received — and the lack of details on Foster’s actual religious beliefs — in a post Thursday.

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A male gubernatorial candidate, a female reporter and a Pence-like storm over 'Billy Graham rule'

A male gubernatorial candidate, a female reporter and a Pence-like storm over 'Billy Graham rule'

Remember a few years ago when a bunch of people flipped out over news that Vice President Mike Pence wouldn’t meet alone with a woman?

Interestingly, a New York Times poll later found that — surprise! — not just Pence but many men and women are wary of a range of one-on-one situations.

Fast-forward to this week.

A little-known Republican candidate for Mississippi governor is getting national attention, mostly negative, after citing the same “Billy Graham rule” that Pence did. The candidate, state Rep. Robert Foster, sparked a furor by declining to grant a female reporter’s request to shadow him (unless she brought a male colleague along).

CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today — among other major news outlets — have covered the story. The journalist in question, Mississippi Today reporter Larrison Campbell, offered her firsthand perspective on Foster’s decision.

What is the Billy Graham rule? The Times explains:

Mr. Graham, who died last year at 99, was the country’s best-known Christian evangelist. He sought to avoid any situation involving a woman other than his wife “that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion,” he wrote in his autobiography.

In Lloyd Bentsen style, CNN Religion Editor Daniel Burke felt compelled to let Foster know that he’s no Billy Graham:

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Thinking, with Andy Crouch, about the stunning power of celebrities in religion and ...

Thinking, with Andy Crouch, about the stunning power of celebrities in religion and ...

This is an unusual think piece, because its contents is primarily theological -- as opposed to journalistic.

However, the whole "think piece" concept is this: We're talking about articles that will be of interest to anyone who is interested in trends in religion in the news or the process of covering them in the mainstream press.

In this case, there are all kinds of links between Andy Crouch's subject in this recent post at The Gospel Coalition -- "It’s Time to Reckon with Celebrity Power" -- and the news. He even states that in the overture.

What Crouch has not done, however, is write out the names.

It was not a great week. In three separate cases in my immediate circles, a person with significant power at the top of an organization, each one a subject of flattering major media exposure during their career, was confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct and related misdeeds. In one case, the person resigned from his role and board memberships, accompanied by a direct and remorseful confession. In the second, the person resigned, but not without posting a defiant denial of all allegations against her. In the third, the person likewise denied all allegations in the strongest terms -- at one point with physical force, banging on a table -- and, as I write, remains in his position.
All three were, or at least had once been, seen as among the most exemplary Christian leaders of their generation, including by many who worked closely with them. While I wasn’t personally close to any of the three, I have experienced and benefited from their exceptional gifts in leadership and ministry, as have thousands or millions of others.

This was one of the pieces that I was thinking about this past week when, in my post about the "Crossroads" podcast, I listed the five "Big Idea" takeaways from my 30 years writing my national "On Religion" columns.

To be specific, note No. 5:

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Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

When does a rather ordinary news profile turn into a mass-media panic?

Apparently, when it’s in a Washington Post feature about Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence.

I covered this two days ago in that finally -- after zillions of fawning pieces about Hillary and Michelle -- a major newspaper had profiled the Second Lady. I had no idea that one sentence in the story would create a Twitter mob scene. Part way down the story, a Post reporter mentioned that Mike Pence has a policy of never dining alone with a woman nor attending an event where alcohol is served without Karen by his side.

Ka-boom. The mockery began.

Social media went nuts, excoriating Pence for being such a Neanderthal and worse. There were references to sharia law, for example. BBC asked: “Are Mike Pence’s Dining Habits Chivalrous or Sexist?” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones, fired off at least 15 angry tweets on the topic during a period of high dudgeon on Wednesday afternoon. Naturally, The Onion weighed in

Jezebel.com had something so unprintable, I’m declining to link to it. Guess I get tired of media slinging the F-bomb around like it’s candy from a parade. That was pretty common during this Twitter tsunami.

The comments cascaded to a point that the Post did two pieces solely on reaction to the article. Gotta make click-bait hay while the digital sun shines. 

Here's the original Tweet:

 

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