Denver Post

Friday Five: March Madness miracle, faith at the movies, newspaper layoffs and more

Friday Five: March Madness miracle, faith at the movies, newspaper layoffs and more

Go ahead and enjoy the video.

It's MercyMe's official music video for the "I Can Only Imagine" movie, which opens in theaters nationwide today.

Speaking of which, USA Today has an interesting story on how that song became the biggest Christian single ever (selling 2.5 million copies) and inspired the movie.

Promoters showed the trailer at the Religion News Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., last fall, and it looks interesting. The film stars Dennis Quaid, who talked to Parade about finding inspiration in the real-life story.

As we dive into this week's Friday Five, we'll highlight another faith angle on a Hollywood hit.

But first, a bit of March Madness:

1. Religion story of the week: A divine 3-pointer won the game at the buzzer. That's how the Chicago Tribune characterized 11th-seeded Loyola's 64-62 upset win Thursday over No. 6 seed Miami in the NCAA Tournament.

Enter Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, whose fans include former President Barack Obama:

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Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

What reporters have missed about Judge Neil Gorsuch, the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court, is that the Episcopal parish he attends in downtown Boulder is headed by a female priest.

Think about that for a moment. If this man is the frightening conservative that some on the Left are already alleging him to be, there’s no way he’d be Episcopalian, much less at a woman-priested church. It will be interesting to see if the Episcopal hierarchy issues any kind of formal reaction to this nomination. Watch this space: The Episcopal News Service.

The Episcopal Church, for anyone who’s not been following religion trends in recent decades, has been careening to the theological and cultural left for years and its membership statistics show it. Thousands have left TEC and joined alternative Anglican churches.

Not so this judge. A church in bluest of blue Boulder is not going to be a conservative hideout and this article notes that Gorsuch’s parish is pretty liberal. The place is St. John's, Boulder and for you trivia experts out there, it's the same church that JonBenét Ramsey's family attended. A Google search shows there’s an Anglican church in Boulder that the Gorsuch family could be attending if they so desired.

So, the fact that the judge and his family has remained at St. John’s says something.

So far, the mainstream press has missed all that and concentrated on his court rulings on hot-button topics, the kinds of subjects often framed in scare quotes. For example, while his precise views on abortion remain a mystery, he has written extensively on euthanasia -- producing a book on the topic ("The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia").

What the New York Times ran with is typical:

While he has not written extensively on several issues of importance to many conservatives, including gun control and gay rights, Judge Gorsuch has taken strong stands in favor of religious freedom, earning him admiration from the right.

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Colorado archbishop dares to tell Catholics how to vote, but does Denver media care?

Colorado archbishop dares to tell Catholics how to vote, but does Denver media care?

Last week, the Catholic archbishop of Denver posted an editorial in his archdiocesan newspaper on how Catholics should vote. It garnered quite a bit of comment from some quarters. For instance, Breitbart called it “the most powerful election statement by any Catholic prelate to date,” 

You would think that there would be some local media coverage of Aquila’s statement, since other Catholic prelates haven’t exactly been falling over themselves to make statements about the coming election (and especially since the Trump campaign’s meltdown this past weekend).  But there was nary a mention in any Denver media, print or broadcast. None. Nada.

Here’s how the Boston-based Crux summed up the archbishop’s message:

As election day approaches, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has published anarticle in his diocesan newspaper, urging Catholics to remember that no issue should be more important to them than the question of life and death for the unborn.
While making it clear that he has an “aversion” to both candidates, Aquila nonetheless suggests that the election will come down to choosing the “lesser of two evils,” and for him, that means the party that is most likely to defend unborn life.
Aquila doesn’t leave the matter in the abstract but helps readers analyze the platforms of the two major parties, especially as regards the issues that affect Christians most closely.
While Catholic prelates go to great lengths to appear neutral at election time-eschewing the endorsement of any particular candidate or party-Aquila does all but tell his readers that come November, he will be pulling the Republican lever.

Further down:

The archbishop also addressed the criticism of single-issue voting, offering one of the most succinct and cogent rebuttals of “moral equivalency” to ever come from the pen of a U.S. prelate.
“The right to life is the most important and fundamental right, since life is necessary for any of the other rights to matter,” he said.

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The Los Angeles Times misses wrestler's prayer refrain: 'Christ is in me, I am enough'

The Los Angeles Times misses wrestler's prayer refrain: 'Christ is in me, I am enough'

Does anyone have time for yet another Rio 2016 religion-news post?

One of the responses that your GetReligionistas hear when we criticize the faith-shaped holes in mainstream news coverage goes something like this: You guys just aren't realistic. In today's age of short, quickie digital journalism -- with journalists dashing off three or four stories and 10 tweets a day -- reporters just don't have the time and space to add secondary, deep-background details about religion and stuff.

Or words to that effect. Trust me, we understand the pressures, in an age when the advertising crisis in mass media has left fewer reporters in mainstream newsrooms, while the World Wide Web demands more and more 24/7 content. We know that reality issue is there.

The veteran scribes here at GetReligion -- with nearly 200 years worth of experience in religion news, when you add us all up -- can see the challenges. Trust me, we know that people on beats that bump into religious content, from arts to politics, from sports to business, don't have the time to write religion feature stories.

But they do have time to listen to what people say and then include a few details and quotes about faith, when it is clear that these details are at the heart of a person's life and work.

Take team USA wrestler Helen Maroulis, whose win over three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan was -- in one NBC soundbite -- something like an unknown sprinter beating Usain Bolt (that Catholic mega-star from Jamaica) in the 100 meters.

Now, it helps to know that Maroulis has been training for several years in Southern California. Thus, you would expect The Los Angeles Times to be anxious to tune her in and capture the essence of this huge Olympics upset. So here is some key material at the top of a feature about the gold-metal winner:

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Denver Post team flubs a bunch of key details in a simple Catholic funeral story

Denver Post team flubs a bunch of key details in a simple Catholic funeral story

A 14-year-old boy who was standing on a sidewalk in south Denver as a car careened in his direction is dead. Denver media have been full of news about this tragedy, as it involved a soon-to-be-eighth grader who got mowed down by an 81-year-old driver who clearly did not need to be at the wheel of a moving vehicle.

The tragedy, which happened on July 13, involved a woman with some standing in the community -- since she had been in a hit-and-run a few months before. Not only are locals discussing the boy’s untimely death, but they’re also asking when it’s time to get many elderly drivers off the road. 

His funeral was Saturday. Now, this wasn’t just any funeral. It was a Mass for a 14-year-old that lots of people attended. With all the local interest in this story, you’d hope the Denver Post would send someone to cover the funeral who  has a clue about religion reporting. Alas, that's not what happened with this story. It starts OK:

On the day that relatives left the hospital for the last time after 14-year-old Cole Sukle died, the sky opened up and family members were suddenly pelted by lots and lots of white pellets. It was hail, said Sherri Potter, the boy’s aunt.
But the turbulent weather made Potter smile, remembering floors littered with white pellets after Cole would play with family using air-soft guns that shot soft, white pellets. It was one of Cole’s favorite games, she said.
“I thought later that maybe my playful dad and my nephew Donnie who went to heaven ahead of Cole were welcoming him, with a crazy game of air-soft,” Potter said. “I’m going to always think of Cole and smile every time I see a hail.”
Cole died after he and his friend got hit by a car as they stood along Yale Way in southeast Denver.

But when we get to the service, problems arise.

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Colorado same-sex wedding cake wars: Coverage ranges from 'too hot' to 'too cold' to 'just right'

Colorado same-sex wedding cake wars: Coverage ranges from 'too hot' to 'too cold' to 'just right'

First off, my apologies to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I hate to insert them into Colorado's same-sex wedding cake wars. 

However, their involvement seems appropriate in this case, as I critique media coverage this week that ranges from "too hot" to "too cold" to "just right."

Let's start with an Associated Press story headlined "The growing conflict between religious groups and gay rights advocates":

DENVER — The growing conflict between religious groups and gay-rights advocates over punishments in discrimination cases is playing out in Colorado, with a Democrat-led committing (sic) rejecting Republican proposals aimed at protecting individuals and organizations from complaints.
But what some conservatives view as trying to preserve religious freedom, Democrats and gay-rights advocates see as potentially sanctioning discrimination.
One proposal would have prohibited penalties in discrimination cases if the punishment — such as an order to serve gay couples — violated the beliefs of the accused. Another measure, written broadly, barred government officials from constraining the exercise of religion.


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Let them eat cake and -- in Colorado -- make others bake it

I’m no expert on baking, but I suspect that a layer cake should stand straight, not lean to one side. The Denver Post should have followed that recipe for its latest story on the man who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The Post article is brief and mostly factual, especially for a newspaper that has written a lot of stories on the case for nearly two years. But it favors the gay side, both in what it says and what it does not say. And it leaves a number of unanswered questions on a matter that has several levels.

Cake shop owner Jack Phillips has become something of a cause celebre for religious rights folks, but he’s still getting, shall we say, battered. Colorado has just imposed a penalty on him that sounds rather like thought police:

The state’s seven-member Civil Rights Commission reinforced a December ruling from an administrative law judge who said Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips discriminated against Charlie Craig and David Mullins when he refused to make them a wedding cake because of religious objections.

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Some compelling religion stories from Easter front pages

Fittingly, stories of rebirth and renewal made their way to many newspaper front pages on Easter Sunday. One of my favorites ran in the Chicago Tribune. That story, by Angie Leventis Lourgos, highlighted Christians such as Edeette Chukro, a Syrian who celebrated her first Easter in America:

Easter is bittersweet for those seeking refuge like Chukro and her family, who were among the Christian minority in Syria. They fear for their loved ones overseas. They worry their mass exodus will diffuse their culture and identity.

And they note the paradox in fleeing Syria, a cradle of ancient Christendom, in order to worship freely.

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Weed in Denver, but Easter news on other front pages

If you live in the Mile High City (no pun intended), you woke up Sunday morning to this banner headline on your hometown paper’s front page: Another Colorado newspaper had a much better week than the Post — and not just because it won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. The Colorado Springs Gazette, edited my my friend and former colleague Joe Hight, filled up two-thirds of its Sunday front page with this headline:

Yes, the Gazette published a major religion story — and not a marijuana tourism piece — on its Easter front page:

The road to Chimayo, N.M. is long and tiring during the Christian holy week leading up to Easter.

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