Dallas Morning News

More ChurchClarity.org thinking: Digging into campus covenant details might be a hoot

More ChurchClarity.org thinking: Digging into campus covenant details might be a hoot

So here is an understatement: Some people in my life (readers included) can't seem to figure out why I think that the work of the LGBTQ activists at ChurchClarity.org is a logical, constructive and potentially positive development on the Godbeat.

To catch up on this topic, please flashback to last week's "Crossroads" podcast post: "ChurchClarity.org: Sometimes asking blunt questions about doctrine makes news." Then, to get some hints at where I am going with all this, please glace here, as well: "Here we go again: When covering campus LGBTQ disputes, always look for doctrinal covenants."

The way I see it, both of those posts are related to the Hooters video at the top of this post. I kid you not.

The other day, our own Bobby Ross, Jr., showed remarkable restraint when, in one of his Friday Five collections, he mentioned an interesting controversy on a Christian college campus in West Texas. Here is a piece of the story he mentioned, which ran at The Dallas Morning News under this headline: "Abilene Christian University urges students: Don't work at Hooters."

Hooters is set to open in Abilene this month, but students at Abilene Christian University are being urged not to apply for jobs there. ...
In a written statement, Emerald Cassidy, the school's director of public and media relations, told the station that "we have asked students to consider both what Hooters represents and whether that is something they really want to support in terms of both their faith and the value this business model places on women."

Now, pay close attention to this part:

According to the university handbook, Cassady said, students are challenged to make decisions "that ultimately glorify God" whether on or off campus, adding that the university could review any student it felt did not uphold that standard on a case-by-case basis.

Yes, lurking in that paragraph is an implied reference -- specifics would be soooo much better -- to some kind of doctrinal statement or lifestyle covenant that frames moral and social issues for ACU students.

Yes, that would be precisely the kind of document that your GetReligionistas have consistently urged journalists to find online, when covering stories about hot-button issues in Christian education.

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Take down that Confederate flag: Southern Baptist Convention rejects a symbol of the past

Take down that Confederate flag: Southern Baptist Convention rejects a symbol of the past

You may not have noticed, but there are actually two mass shooting stories in the news this week. One is the ghastly murder of 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The other is the startling news that the Southern Baptist Convention has denounced the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate and bigotry.

Shooting story? The latter hearkens back to June 2015, when Dylann Roof shot nine people dead at a church in Charleston, S.C. As one result of the public revulsion at the act, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took down the Confederate flag taken down at the Capitol.

Now the Southern Baptists, convening in St. Louis, are following suit -- though not without some opposition, as the Religion News Service reports. Veteran RNS writer Adelle M. Banks ably captures the striking symbolism:

The Southern Baptist Convention, born in 1845 in a split over its support for slavery, passed a resolution calling for Christians to quit using the Confederate flag.
"We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters," reads the resolution adopted Tuesday (June 14) at the convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis.
Former Southern Baptist President James Merritt, who said he was the great-great-grandson of two Confederate Army members, helped draft that language, which included striking a paragraph that linked the flag to Southern heritage: "We recognize that the Confederate battle flag serves for some not as a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, but as a memorial to their loved ones who died in the Civil War, and an emblem to honor their loved ones’ valor."

As a longtime specialist on evangelical Christianity, Banks also quotes one of the most-qualified Southern Baptists: Russell Moore, president of the its Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore says the convention "made history in the right way," and that it's "well past time."

Banks collects other eager quotes. An Alabama minister and author calls the action "the most wonderful surprise." A spokesman for the denomination’s executive committee says the convention delegates decided to "take one bold step."

Even more vivid prose ran in the Washington Post:

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A Texas-sized battle over an urban school district's transgender-friendly bathroom policy

A Texas-sized battle over an urban school district's transgender-friendly bathroom policy

The bathroom wars rage on.

A battle over the Fort Worth, Texas, school district's newly enacted transgender-friendly bathroom policy — which received no advance public hearing — is front-page news today in both of the Metroplex's major dailies.

You can read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram story here and the Dallas Morning News story here. Rod "Friend of This Blog" Dreher of the American Conservative offers some insightful analysis here.

The lede from the Dallas newspaper:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick again called for the resignation of the Fort Worth school superintendent on Tuesday, protesting his implementation of a bathroom policy for transgendered students. But he was greeted with boos and several area figures told him to butt out.
Fort Worth became ground zero in Texas’ political fight over transgender rights after Patrick demanded the resignation of Superintendent Kent Scribner, saying he implemented a district policy to support transgender students without properly consulting parents.
Hundreds showed up to get into the district’s regular Tuesday board meeting as the line wrapped around the building and down the block. Some held signs reading “Trans Rights Matter” while others simply had one word: Repeal.
A majority of the 20 speakers who had a chance to address trustees spoke in favor of the transgender policy. Those who opposed it had dozens of supporters in the room, too.

I read both stories in a hurry and am still digesting the intricacies of the Fort Worth debate as well as the news coverage.

Quick impression: Both stories quote sources on both sides and seem to do an adequate job of explaining the arguments involved.

However — and maybe I'm totally wrong — the Star-Telegram report seems less than impartial. Tell me if I'm off-base here.

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Underground ghosts? Dallas Morning News goes inside convent, but buries good stuff

Underground ghosts? Dallas Morning News goes inside convent, but buries good stuff

After a year packed with news articles on religious orders, a Dallas Morning News feature on a convent in Texas stands out.

This piece is smart, insightful and multi-sourced. Unfortunately, the best stuff is buried five or more paragraphs deep. Here's how it starts:

There were once no vacancies at the Jesus the Good Shepherd Convent in Grand Prairie. Now there are plenty of open rooms.
In decades past, the convent, a sprawling complex on a large plot of land just off the Bush Turnpike, housed around 40 members from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Fifteen women from the order live there now, with four of them ministering to the outside community.

Where have we read that before?

Pretty much everywhere. And that's a pity, because the 800-word Dallas story has much to offer.

It quotes six sources -- including a 51-year veteran, a sister who just took her vows in October, and the order's national director of vocations. It interviews two women who are exploring religious life over a weekend visit. And it includes details like:

The order’s dwindling numbers reflect a broader trend in the sisterhood across the U.S. In the past 50 years, researchers at Georgetown University reported, there has been a 75 percent decrease in the number of Catholic nuns in the U.S., from 180,000 in 1965 to fewer than 50,000 last year.
Perhaps more significant, there are now more sisters over the age of 90 than there are under the age of 60.

But these sisters aren’t just watching the falling numbers, as the Morning News reports.

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For Day of the Dead, mainstream media coverage is moribund

For Day of the Dead, mainstream media coverage is moribund

Folk holidays like the Day of the Dead make a good litmus test for mainstream media attitudes toward religion. A few reports interview adherents and research the spirituality behind the practices.  But most just seem to want to snap photos of the natives.

The two-day event, Nov. 1 and 2, is especially popular in Haiti and Mexico. It's a blend of Catholic and indigenous religion, either praying for the dead or asking the blessings of deities who care for them. 

That's one way to look at it. But for folks at the the Associated Press, these days, it's all about weird people and weird customs:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Revelers streamed into cemeteries across Haiti on Sunday bearing beeswax candles, food offerings and bottles of rum infused with hot peppers to mark the country's annual Voodoo festival of the dead.
At Port-au-Prince's sprawling national cemetery, Voodoo priests and priestesses gathered around a blackened monument that is believed to be the oldest grave. There, they lit candles and stoked small fires as they evoked the spirit Baron Samedi, the guardian of the dead who is typically depicted with a dark top hat and a white skull face.

Most of the story is pretty much in the same vein: Oooo, lookit that (click, click)! And that that (click, click)! 

Unfortunately, most of the "coverage" takes the form of images in "Photos of the Day" galleries. Even in far-off Australia, that nation's ABC News has a brief story with references to "sugar skulls, marigold flowers and other spirit offerings."

Not that AP's piece was a triumph of perceptiveness.

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Associated Press goes overboard on Muslims 'under siege' headline

Associated Press goes overboard on Muslims 'under siege' headline

I must say, the headline stood out: 

Muslim spokesman: As boy departs, Muslims feel ‘under siege'

Too bad the story had little to do with it. First, I read this Associated Press story about how the family of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old boy who was wrong accused of bringing a bomb — which turned out to be a clock — to school has decided they’d do better in Qatar. We critiqued some of the press coverage here.

The AP story got some intriguing quotes from two Muslim sources who disagreed with the family’s move:

Yaser Birjas, imam of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, said he wishes the 14-year-old well but worries about the stress that can come with celebrity.
"I hope that he does not get overwhelmed and consumed with that because now the expectation of him is so high," Birjas said. "And he's just a kid."
Birjas cautioned that people who move from America to Muslim countries are often disappointed when they discover restrictions they never experienced in the U.S.
"Here in America, you have much more freedom practicing the faith," he said.
For others, the family move to the Middle East sends an unfortunate message.
Yousuf Fahimuddin, a Muslim journalist in the San Francisco Bay area, believes the family's departure will only perpetuate the idea that Muslims are not loyal to the U.S.
"I don't think moving to Qatar, a country with its own share of problems, constructively helps fight prejudice," Fahimuddin said in an email.
Instead, he said, "Muslims should try to share their common humanity with others to demonstrate that they are regular people."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the U.S. has seen a significant rise in the level of anti-Muslim sentiment — feelings he said were reflected by the political attacks of GOP presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
"The Muslim-American community feels under siege by all this," Hooper said.

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After Charleston shooting, some mainstream media grasp spirituality of forgiveness

After Charleston shooting, some mainstream media grasp spirituality of forgiveness

Dylann Roof, the accused murderer of nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., reportedly wanted to start a race war. Instead, the members wept, grieved, worshiped and forgave.

And this time, some of the mainstream media actually got it: They appeared to grasp the spiritual grace that enabled people to forgive the killer.

The Los Angeles Times pooled four reporters for a moving, evocative account at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, site of the Wednesday shooting. They reported church bells ringing at 10 a.m. across Charleston and note that the town is nicknamed the "Holy City." They report as do other media, that the church is known as Mother Emanuel for its long heritage.

The reporters note the many people weeping and embracing, black and white alike. And they quote an amazing 11 people, including a woman who rose before 5 a.m. to be first in line for the service.

The 1,600 words are also salted with religious references.  The story notes hymns like Total Praise and Amazing Grace.  It quotes the Rev. Norvel Goff, a presiding AME elder for South Carolina, opening the service with "This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice, rejoice and be glad in it!" -- and the story locates the passage in the Psalms.

And the article quotes a fervent prayer at length:

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The Daily Beast jumps into church-discipline story, where other secular media fear to tread

The Daily Beast jumps into church-discipline story, where other secular media fear to tread

The May 31 appearance of this religion story in the Daily Beast had some of us at GetReligion scratching our heads. The Beast is not a site one ordinarily goes to for religion reporting or even hard news, period. After all, this is a nearly 7-year-old website launched by Tina Brown that merged, at one time, with what's left of Newsweek.

However, in recent years it’s attempted to come up a bit in quality. John Avlon, its new editor (Brown left in 2013) said in a recent interview, “We seek out scoops, scandals and stories about secret worlds; we love confronting bullies, bigots and hypocrites.” Thus, the website -- as of Wednesday night -- had entries ranging from “Putin’s New Blitz” to a story about a Maryland woman “Killed by her Back Alley Butt Implants."

Kind of supermarket tabloid meets Foreign Policy magazine. How much of this is traditional news? It's often hard to tell.

Meanwhile, the Beast also ran a piece titled "Megachurch: Stay with your kiddie porn-watching husband or face church discipline.” It’s by Matthew Paul Turner, former editor of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) magazine who’s turned superstar blogger and contributor to the Beast. Turner has written on church discipline before, notably regarding the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, so it’s not a huge shock that he’d jump on the chance to cover this story. Here is a key chunk of the text:

After attending seminary, Karen Hinkley, along with her onetime husband, Jordan Root, dreamed of becoming missionaries. The couple married in the spring of 2012 and eagerly began seeking opportunities to serve God overseas.
At the time, she had no way of knowing that alleged abuse of the most awful kind would sink their marriage. Or that the church would discipline her for wanting to end her marriage to a confessed child porn addict. Or that her pastor would try to block her from leaving the congregation.

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Dallas Morning News revisits Ebola crisis and Baptist church's embrace of victim's fiancée

Dallas Morning News revisits Ebola crisis and Baptist church's embrace of victim's fiancée

I should love this story.

Really, I should. So why don't I?

That's what I'm trying to figure out as I consider my reaction to this 1,600-word Dallas Morning News takeout.

The lede sets the scene:

Recently, between Palm Sunday services, Pastor George Mason weaved confidently and quickly through the halls of Wilshire Baptist Church. He greeted everyone with his trademark smile, passing some with a handshake, others with a pat on the shoulder.
“Good morning!” “What’s your good news today?” “Hello!”
It was a busy time, but there was an extra layer of complication: One of his church’s members, Louise Troh, was preparing to release My Spirit Took You In, a memoir to be published Tuesday. The book details her relationship with fiancé Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died from the Ebola virus in Dallas last fall.
Now, yet again, cameras were coming into his sanctuary. Reporters were coming with empty notebooks and lots of questions.
Troh had started to open up to interviews, but the majority of the press wrangling went to the pastor and Christine Wicker, a former religion reporter for The Dallas Morning News and co-author of Troh’s memoir.
Since the Ebola virus struck Dallas last September, Mason has balanced the roles of media liaison, pastor, advocate and more. He’s sat for interviews on CNN. He’s fought to find Troh and her family a place to live away from the cameras. He’s sheltered them, giving them time and space to grieve, away from the news media.
“This was a matter of ordinary care in the midst of extraordinary times,” Mason said. “The church has been willing to address significant matters culturally.”

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