Domestic violence

Washington Post bias? Reader questions headline re: 'good Christian' prosecutor and same-sex violence

Washington Post bias? Reader questions headline re: 'good Christian' prosecutor and same-sex violence

When is a headline just a headline?

And when is a headline, in fact, an editorial comment?

A reader’s email to GetReligion about a Washington Post story published today raises that issue.

Here is the headline in question:

This ‘good Christian’ prosecutor is overlooking domestic violence charges for same-sex couples

The reader, someone I respect, asks: “Since when do neutral newspapers mock the subjects of their stories in their headlines?”

My first reaction (before clicking the link) was that, yes, the headline contained more attitude than necessary and seemed slanted against the prosecutor.

But after reading the story (which is generally a nice thing to do before forming an opinion), I’m not so certain that the Post’s title is inaccurate or mocking. I mean, the case could be made that the newspaper simply quotes the prosecutor’s own words.

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Let us attend: A reminder that Southern Baptists have their own rules when they play chess

Let us attend: A reminder that Southern Baptists have their own rules when they play chess

If you are going to watch religious leaders play high-stakes chess, it helps to know that the rules are quite different in various churches, denominations and other large religious institutions.

Why can't Catholics act more like Episcopalians? Well, there are different doctrines, different rules. Why are Global South believers, and folks in growing sections of the U.S. Sunbelt, so much more powerful in the United Methodist Church than in the Episcopal Church? There are different rules shaping the conventions that make the rules.

Long ago, I watched United Methodists elect new bishops while gathered at the historic Lake Junaluska Conference Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It was easy to watch the clergy engage in face-to-face negotiations about candidates while gathered under the giant trees surrounding the open-air sanctuary. Every now and then the politicking would pause, and everyone would bow their heads as a prayer was read for the Holy Spirit to guide the voting. When the prayer was over it was back to business.

Now, the Southern Baptist Convention game is played on several levels -- as journalists are learning during the debates about the future of the Rev. Paige Patterson, in the wake of debates about his statements about domestic abuse, divorce, women, etc.

You have the public game, of course, with activists on both sides doing that thing they do in their own media forums. Then you have the fact that -- as a seminary president -- Patterson ultimately answers to the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (click here and dig into the story). Those trustees are selected by the SBC, through its elected leaders. The SBC meets once a year as a convention to do business.

Note the word "convention." This is not a denomination or "Church." It is a complex association of congregations, with local associations, state conventions and then the big national SBC meetings once a year. There are actions the SBC can only take during the two days in June that it does business.

Rest assured that the most important meetings in this current affair are taking place behind closed doors and in conference calls. At that level, almost all flawed, oh-so-human institutions are alike. Every now and then, however, SBC leaders release public statements that are read like Russian tea leaves.

This brings me to that Baptist Press item at the end of this last week, with the headline: "Gaines addresses Patterson, racial diversity, SBC."

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Southern Baptists, domestic violence and divorce: Will SBC '18 be a must-cover press event?

Southern Baptists, domestic violence and divorce: Will SBC '18 be a must-cover press event?

What happens if the Rev. Paige Patterson -- one of the two generals who led the conservative revolt that seized the SBC in the late '70s and early '80s -- insists on standing in the media spotlight and delivering the official convention address?

What happens if the convention's resolution committee is buried in resolutions making it absolutely clear that (a) Southern Baptists believe domestic violence is a crime as well as a sin and (b) that the safety of the abused is Job 1 and that the careful, essential work of reconciliation and attempting to save the marriage follows justice and the abuser's repentance?

What happens if there are demonstrations, not just by outsiders, but by the young generations of SBC conservatives whose voices last year helped produce the historic resolution condemning the alt-right and white supremacy?

Yes, we had a lot to talk about during this week's "Crossroads" podcast that focused on the complex story surrounding Southern Baptist debates -- on Twitter and in the media -- about domestic violence, divorce, the Bible and a Patterson interview tape from 2000 about all of the above. Click here to tune that in. You can click here to see my original post on this topic.

For an update, here's the top of a new Washington Post story (by former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey) about the controversy:

FORT WORTH -- A prominent Southern Baptist leader whose comments about spousal abuse set off a firestorm last week said in an interview Friday that he couldn’t “apologize for what I didn’t do wrong.”

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Southern Baptists and domestic violence: It's a tough issue to cover after Twitter explosion

Southern Baptists and domestic violence: It's a tough issue to cover after Twitter explosion

In case you have been on another planet for several years, let me state the obvious: One of the toughest challenges in journalism today is covering an important, valid story that has already been framed, defined and, well, set on fire by several thousand Twitter bombs.

We all know this game. For every calm and reasoned tweet -- by people on both sides -- there will be dozens of howls of outrage or acidic messages written to signal virtue.

After all of that, reporters are supposed to call people who have been Twitter bombed and ask some variation on that old question: Are you still beating your wife? This past weekend, that question sounded like: Are you still using the Bible to justify asking wives to be patient with abusive husbands, hoping that they will repent of their sins?

Please note, at this point, my earlier emphasis on the fact that we are talking about a valid subject for serious coverage -- which is certainly the case with anything related to domestic violence, in the homes of religious believers or anywhere else.

This brings us to a serious report at The Washington Post with this headline: "Southern Baptist leader pushes back after comments leak urging abused women to pray and avoid divorce."

Now, the word "leak" in that headline is strange, since we are talking about remarks by a major Southern Baptist leader that have been the subject of debate in the past. Here is the overture for this story:

The leader of a major Southern Baptist seminary issued a statement Sunday pushing back after a 2000 tape surfaced purporting to quote him saying that abused women should focus on praying and “be submissive in every way that you can” and not seek divorce.

Paige Patterson is president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Fort Worth school whose Web site says it is one of the largest seminaries in the world. ...

Patterson, who declined to comment Sunday, is heard on an audiotape being interviewed in 2000 about what he recommends for women “who are undergoing genuine physical abuse from their husbands, and the husband says they should submit.”

“It depends on the level of abuse, to some degree,” Patterson says. “I have never in my ministry counseled anyone to seek a divorce and that’s always wrong counsel.”

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Should media look at Raven Ray Rice and domestic violence through eyes of faith?

Should media look at Raven Ray Rice and domestic violence through eyes of faith?

If you are one of those Americans who care about the little sports operation called the National Football League, then you probably know that one of the biggest stories in the land right now (surf these links) is that America's most powerful sports institution is trying to get its act together on issues linked to its players and domestic-violence issues.

At the center of this storm is All-Star running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to waves of coverage in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., media, the recent case involving Rice and his then fiance, now wife, was recently the subject of a major story in ESPN Magazine.

Now, this ESPN piece is a first-person essay by Kevin Van Valkenburg, who has professional roots here in Charm City. Thus, it blends opinion and hard-news content. Here is a sample of what that sounds like, in a large chunk of copy that states the thesis: Should NFL fans -- on faith -- forgive Rice?

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