Dallas Police Department

For chaplains helping folks find peace after police deaths, generic religion's the best religion

For chaplains helping folks find peace after police deaths, generic religion's the best religion

Forgive me for that clickbait of a post title.

But that's exactly the impression given by a front-page Dallas Morning News story this week on chaplains comforting police and crime victims in their darkest hours.

It's one of those stories that you read and then scratch your head. 

"Something's missing," you tell yourself. "What could it be that I'm not seeing here?" 

Hang with me for a moment, and I bet we can figure it out.

The lede is compelling enough:

Win Brown's heart sinks when his other phone rings.
His ministry phone signals that he'll soon be comforting people on the worst days of their lives.
Across 17 years, the volunteer chaplain has been there -- for search crews scouring East Texas for the seven Columbia astronauts, for Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana, and for police officers as they go to the homes of families shattered by violence.
After a gunman killed five police officers following a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas, he and other chaplains rallied for a Thanks-Giving Square prayer service. It was just the beginning of their healing work. 
Some people needed a hug. Many wanted to pray. A few just needed to know that the emotions welling up within them and streaming down their faces were normal reactions to an abnormal event.
“Everyone grieves differently and needs something different,” Brown said. “But I’ve seen the proverbial light bulb go on many times when you say, ‘You’re not going crazy.’ ”

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In the worst of times, the faith that sustains Dallas Police Chief David Brown

In the worst of times, the faith that sustains Dallas Police Chief David Brown

Dallas Police Chief David Brown is a man of faith.

Even if you've followed the major media profiles of Brown in the wake of Thursday night's sniper ambush that claimed the lives of five officers in Dallas, you might have missed that.

Holy ghost, anyone?

With a notable, praiseworthy exception — and we'll get to that in a moment — the stories on Brown that I've seen have overlooked or downplayed the religion angle.

That's the case even with stories that are, otherwise, extremely compelling, such as this Washington Post piece highlighted by former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

Yes, a quote in the Post profile cites Brown's "professionalism and faith," but that's as far as it goes.

Other stories leave out "faith" entirely:

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'The end is coming': Is there a religion angle in Dallas suspect's cryptic words?

'The end is coming': Is there a religion angle in Dallas suspect's cryptic words?

"The end is coming."

Dallas Police Chief David Brown attributed those cryptic words to a slain suspect in Thursday night's killings of five police officers.

Is there any kind of religious connotation to those words? It's too early to know. But it certainly seems like a valid question.

ABC News reports:

One of the suspects in the ambush-style shootings in Dallas that left five police officers dead overnight served in the U.S. Army Reserve. The suspect told a hostage negotiator that he was upset about the recent police shootings of two black men and that he wanted to kill white people, especially police officers, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at a news conference this morning.
The suspect, who was killed by police when they detonated a bomb delivered by robot, was identified today as 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Johnson served as an Army reservist until April 2015. He was trained and served in the Army Reserve as a carpentry and masonry specialist, defense officials said.
The suspect "wanted to kill officers" and "expressed anger for Black Lives Matter," Brown said.
"None of that makes sense," Brown said.

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Biased framing: Here's why 'religious freedom' automatically means 'anti-LGBT' to this newspaper

Biased framing: Here's why 'religious freedom' automatically means 'anti-LGBT' to this newspaper

Dallas Morning News writer Robert Wilonksy is no fan of Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

No fan at all.

In fact, Wilonsky wrote a scathing column last week in which he declared that "Robert Jeffress belongs in Dallas' past, not our future":

It’s appalling but never particularly surprising when First Baptist Dallas senior pastor Robert Jeffress says something about how the Catholics and the gays and the Muslims and the Mormons are ruining America and stripping Christians of their religious liberties. It’s who he is. It’s what he does. It’s how he makes his mammon.
Dallas has become a city that considers itself progressive and tolerant, where “gender identity and expression” are part of the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. We’re supposed to be enlightened now, no longer The City of Hate.
But Jeffress is the vestigial tail that forgot to fall off.
And usually, when Jeffress says things like President Barack Obama’s clearing the path for the Antichrist or that he agrees with Donald Trump that women who get abortions should be punishedor that “a competent Christian is better than a competent non-Christian,” his remarks rev up the Internet Comment Machine for a day or two and then fade away until the next time he says something you can’t believe someone would say in a major metropolitan city in 2016.
But not this time.
This time, activists are demanding city officials do something, say something.

Extremely strong words. And certainly appropriate ones for an editorial writer. We at GetReligion highlight slanted reporting and apparent bias in news coverage, not opinion content.

But what if the same writer who bashed Jeffress above also purported to produce impartial news coverage on the same subject matter?

Might anyone at the Dallas Morning News see a problem with that? A journalistic problem?

Mind-blowingly, the answer appears to be no.

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