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The Catholic matriarch of Creole cooking: Yes, the real Princess Tiana was a Catholic believer

The Catholic matriarch of Creole cooking: Yes, the real Princess Tiana was a Catholic believer

What made Creole chef Leah Chase so unique?

There’s at least two ways to look at that question. You can ask, “What made her famous at the national level?” Fame is important, especially a person’s life and work is connected to A-list personalities in politics, entertainment and culture.

However, in this case I would say that that it was more important to ask, “What was the ‘X’ factor that made her a matriarch in New Orleans culture?” When you focus on that question, the word “Catholic” has to be in the mix somewhere — a core ingredient in the strong gumbo that was her life.

Thus, I was stunned that the NOLA.com tribute to Chase hinted at her faith early on, but then proceeded to ignore the role that Catholicism played in the factual details of her life. Look for the word “Catholic” in this piece: “Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, dead at 96.” You won’t find it, even though the overture opened the door:

Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, who fed civil rights leaders, musicians and presidents in a career spanning seven decades, died Saturday (June 1) surrounded by family. She was 96.

Mrs. Chase, who possessed a beatific smile and a perpetually calm demeanor, presided over the kitchen at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant until well into her 10th decade, turning out specialties such as lima beans and shrimp over rice, shrimp Clemenceau and fried chicken that was judged the best in the city in a poll by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Every Holy Thursday, hundreds showed up to enjoy gallons of her gumbo z’herbes, a dark, thick concoction that contains the last meat to be eaten before Good Friday.

What, pray tell, is the importance of community life and faith linked to Holy Thursday and Good Friday?

Maybe editors in New Orleans simply assumed that Catholicism is a given in that remarkable city, something that does not need to be explained or, well, even mentioned. (Watch the NOLA.com video at the top of this post.)

In this case, if readers want to learn some facts about the role that Catholic faith played in this Creole queen’s life, they will need — wait for it — to dig into the magesterial obit produced by The New York Times: “Leah Chase, Creole Chef Who Fed Presidents and Freedom Riders, Dies at 96.”

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What's the 'A Wrinkle In Time' news story? Flashback to wisdom from Madeleine L'Engle

What's the 'A Wrinkle In Time' news story? Flashback to wisdom from Madeleine L'Engle

So what is the story with the new Disney version of the classic, Newbery Award winning novel "A Wrinkle In Time" by the late, great Madeleine L'Engle?

I'm talking about a news story here.

I'm talking about the attempt -- another one -- to make this beloved youth-fiction classic into a blockbuster movie. Why is it is causing discussion, debate and even controversy? Yes, I'm asking this because that's what we talked about this week in the GetReligion "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

Is it news because it appears, to one degree or another, to be a box-office flop? Is it news because, at Rotten Tomatoes, only 40 percent of critics like it? That's bad, but the score from ordinary people in theaters was even lower, to the tune of only 34 percent positive reactions.

Director Ava DuVernay was not amused and argued that race may have had something to do with it, since she -- as a star African-American director -- changed the racial mix of the cast.

It's clear that some of the movie's supporters thought race was a crucial part of the mix, as seen in this NBC commentary: " 'A Wrinkle in Time' isn't a film for critics. It's Ava DuVernay's love letter to black girls." And over at CNN there was this: "Watching 'A Wrinkle in Time' is a political act."

So one more question: Why write a religion column about this book and its author?

That's what I did this past week, for the Universal syndicate. It did that because, nearly two decades ago, I had a chance to spend two hours talking to L'Engle about the crucial themes woven into her book. In particular, I asked her if there were concepts and even quotations from her novel that needed to be in a film adaption of it. Here is a key piece of that column:

It would be hard, explained L'Engle, to grasp this book's cosmic war between life and death, good and evil, darkness and light without two crucial passages.

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I know this may be hard: But let's take the Jedi faith folks seriously for a moment

I know this may be hard: But let's take the Jedi faith folks seriously for a moment

Can't you feel the excitement building as the holy day draws near?

No, not Christmas. A am referring to the media build-up during this advent period before the arrival of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

I am old enough to remember the early conversations in newsrooms about whether, under the doctrines of the Associated Press Stylebook, stories about the Star Wars franchise should refer to "the force" or "the Force." Just about everyone on the religion beat back in those days wrote features about whether parents should tell their children that the Force was or was not another name for God.

If you follow discussions of Star Wars as a pop-culture religion, you surely know that fans on the other side of the pond took this discussion to a higher level about 15 years ago. Here is the background section of a new story in The Telegraph about the impact of the new film on the leaders of the Church of Jediism.

Jediism started as a joke, ahead of the 2001 census, in which respondents were asked to declare their religion for the first time. At the time, 390,000 people declared that they were Jedis, a number that fell by more than half, to 177,000, at the following census, in 2011.
Now the organisation, described by its members as “a set of philosophies based on focusing, learning and becoming one with the Force”, claims to have more than 250,000 followers. Patrick Day-Childs, a member of the church’s five-strong UK ruling council, said that more than a thousand people a day are signing up for the religion. He said: “It’s gone up substantially in the past couple of days. The real test will be in a couple of weeks when the film hype has died off. “
Daniel Jones, who founded the religion and who goes by the Jedi name Morda Hehol, said: “We’ve been rushed off our feet. People want to know more about it. It’s great for us.”

Now, the "leading figures in the Church of Jediism," as the Telegraph team identifies them, are saying that they are gaining about 1,000 new members a day as the holy release day nears for the new film.

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Just keep swimming, just keep swimming? When reporters fear talking about prayer

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming? When reporters fear talking about prayer

Faithful readers of GetReligion may recall the interview I did years ago with the late Peter Jennings of ABC News in which we talked about the failure of many major news organizations to, yes, "get religion." For a few years, Jennings attempted to get his elite newsroom to take religion news more seriously, with mixed results.

This interview came up the other day when I received a call from columnist Jay Evensen of The Deseret News, who was acting on a research tip from former GetReligionista Mark Kellner.

Evensen was doing a follow-up column on an amazing story about the survival of two girls after a boating accident on Bear Lake in Utah. This drew the attention of Good Morning America over at ABC News. Yes, this was a classic case of "How did you survive this ordeal" syndrome. Here is a slice of the online ABC news text.

Hang on, because we will get to the "Finding Nemo" angle in a moment.

Tiffany Stoker and Tylinn Tilley credit their friendship with helping to keep them alive. ...
The Utah girls, both 13, survived a deadly boating accident that claimed four lives after they swam for hours, singing songs and shouting prayers as they fought exhaustion in the 53-degree waters of Bear Lake.
The teens were on a ski boat with family friends Lance Capener, his wife Kathy, their two daughters and another friend from school. The weather took a turn for the worse, bringing 76-mph winds and 10-foot waves.
The boat capsized, throwing all seven people into the water. All on board were wearing life jackets, but the waves separated Tiffany and Tylinn from the group. The two tried to swim the 6 miles to shore, treading water for hours. They chanted songs and said prayers, even massaging each others' cramps.

The key to Evensen's column, and the sense of outrage felt by the families of these girls, is what appears to a fictional addition to the actual video report featured on Good Morning America (see the video at the top of the post).

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NYTimes: Mouseketeer-turned-Pagan-turned-Christian trip

One of the staples of evangelical Christianity — at least so far as I can remember — is the story of the spectacular sinner who found redemption, preferably on the “sawdust trail” of a tent revivalist’s “canvass cathedral.”

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M-O-D-E-S-T: A key word for Annette the Catholic

As you would expect in a world that remains obsessed with all things Baby Boomer, the death of the ultimate Mouseketeer — that would be the always lovely Annette Funicello — drew quite a bit of mainstream media attention.

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