Congressman Elijah E. Cummings

After haunted obit, AP produces solid piece on black church's role in Rep. Elijah Cummings' life

After haunted obit, AP produces solid piece on black church's role in Rep. Elijah Cummings' life

I wrote last week that The Associated Press’ obituary on Congressman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland was haunted by religion ghosts.

I pointed to the strong role of faith in Cummings’ life and noted that publications such as the Washington Post and Cummings’ hometown Baltimore Sun reflected it.

I voiced hope that AP would recognize that angle in its later coverage.

As the Rolling Stones put it, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

But hey, sometimes you can.

AP produced a solid piece out of Detroit this week on how the “Black Baptist church shaped Cummings’ commitment”:

DETROIT (AP) — To many black clergy, Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings was more than a formidable orator, civil rights champion and passionate public servant, he was also one of them — in practice, if not profession.

His upbringing, as “a preacher’s kid” gave him a comfort level with ministers and clergy to the point they “almost regarded him as a preacher,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, senior pastor of Detroit’s Historic King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church.

Cummings, the son of a sharecropper and pastors who died last Thursday at 68, was among a generation of lawmakers, civil rights leaders and social justice advocates who grew up under the influence of the African American church. From Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church to Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, the black church is intertwined in African American history and the struggle for equality. It was the primary institution for organizing demonstrations, providing training and selecting leaders. Part of the role was instilling in those leaders a commitment to speaking for those who could not speak for themselves, giving one’s life in service to the community and standing against injustice.

Black pastors and historians alike remember Cummings, who will be buried in Baltimore Friday, as a man who absorbed the lessons of the church and exemplified its teachings in serving his constituents.

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Friday Five: Elijah Cummings, Kurdish evangelicals, Tree of Life, viral forgiveness, open marriages/NYT

Friday Five: Elijah Cummings, Kurdish evangelicals, Tree of Life, viral forgiveness, open marriages/NYT

It’s not religion news per se, but for those interested in the future of American journalism: Poynter.org reported this week on signs pointing to USA Today phasing out its print edition.

Amazing.

But come to think of it, I don’t open those free copies that I receive at hotels as often as I once did.

Anything that affects the health of major American newspapers will, ultimately, affect their ability to cover tricky, complicated subjects like religion. So would changes at USA Today affect Gannett newspapers everywhere, including funding for religion news coverage? This is worth watching.

Anyway, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: In case you missed my post Thursday, faith was a major part of the life of powerful Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, who died this week from complications from longstanding health challenges. He was 68.

Some major news organizations — including Cummings’ hometown Baltimore Sun — nailed the religion angle.

However, at least one major national news organization failed to do so.

Check out my post.

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Obituary of powerful Congressman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland haunted by religion ghosts

Obituary of powerful Congressman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland haunted by religion ghosts

There’s sad, sad news today in the world of politics: the death of powerful Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland.

The Associated Press obituary — which will be the one many thousands of Americans read — captures key highlights of Cummings’ prominent life.

Yes, those highlights include clashing with President Donald Trump:

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a sharecropper’s son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the chairman of one of the U.S. House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, died Thursday of complications from longstanding health problems. He was 68.

Cummings was a formidable orator who advocated for the poor in his black-majority district , which encompasses a large portion of Baltimore and more well-to-do suburbs.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings led investigations of the president’s government dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to Trump’s family members serving in the White House.

But read the full AP report, and it’s clear that something is missing.

Holy ghosts, anyone?

AP offers hints of a potential religious influence in Cummings’ life, including here:

It steeled Cummings to prove that counselor wrong. He became not only a lawyer, but one of the most powerful orators in the statehouse, where he entered office in 1983. He rose to become the first black House speaker pro tem. He would begin his comments slowly, developing his theme and raising the emotional heat until it became like a sermon from the pulpit.

Hmmmmm. Why might Cummings’ oratory have resembled a sermon?

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