England

When the queen dies: What, precisely, will cause England to slide into grief?

When the queen dies: What, precisely, will cause England to slide into grief?

I guess it is sort of strange to complain about a heavy emphasis on business and economics in a story published at BusinessInsider.com.

Nevertheless, I found myself wanting to know more after reading the recent feature that ran with this headline: "The death of Queen Elizabeth will be one of the most disruptive events in Britain in the past 70 years." Yes, I sense a religion ghost here.

I have read several reports about the planning that is going on behind the scenes, as British leaders brace themselves for this seismic shift in their culture. There are so many details to describe and, yes, lots of them are linked to economics and trade.

England's currency will need to change, along with all passports. God Save the Queen will, of course, return to God Save the King. Police uniforms will be tweaked. Old questions will resurface about the status of the monarchy and the British Commonwealth. The public events linked to her death will cost billions of pounds.

Check out this overture. It may even help to read it out loud, to get the reverent tone right:

Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, is not going to live forever.

Since ascending to the throne in 1952, the monarch has seen 13 prime ministers serve Britain and lived through another 13 US presidents. She's now 92. At some point -- not for many years yet, we hope -- Queen Elizabeth II's reign will come to an end.

But what happens then? For at least 12 days -- between her passing, the funeral and beyond -- Britain will grind to a halt. The chaos will cost the UK economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks are likely to close. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation will become formal national holidays, each with an estimated economic hit to gross domestic product of £1.2 billion to £6 billion($1.6 billion to $7.9 billion), to say nothing of organisational costs.

Yes, that's a lot of money and that's part of the story.

However, there are even larger issues lurking in the background that, frankly, have to do with history and national identity.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Extraordinary actions by pope and Italy draw little USA ink, with the Alfie Evans story (updated)

Extraordinary actions by pope and Italy draw little USA ink, with the Alfie Evans story (updated)

Once again, people who care about religion news have proof -- as if they needed more -- that not everything Pope Francis does and says is worthy of intense coverage by elite news media.

What's the overarching trend?

When Pope Francis sounds small-o "orthodox," it isn't news. When this pope sounds small-p "progressive," it's big news.

Yes, say hello to Dr. James Davison Hunter of "Culture Wars" fame.

The latest case is, of course, the struggle over the body and dignity of British toddler Alfie Evans who, as I type, is still alive and breathing on his own. His hospital room is surrounded by guards just in case his parents or anyone else attempts to carry him to the medical care that is waiting for him in Italy.

Italy? If you read European newspapers you would know all about that. News consumers here in America? Not so much. Here is the top of a short Associated Press update about this religious-liberty crisis:

LONDON -- The parents of a terminally ill British toddler whose case has drawn support from Pope Francis plan to return to the Court of Appeal Wednesday in hope of winning the right to take him to Italy for treatment.

High Court Justice Anthony Hayden on Tuesday rejected what he said was the final appeal by the parents of 23-month-old Alfie Evans, who suffers from a degenerative neurological condition that has left him in a "semi-vegetative state." ...

But Alfie's parents, who are backed by a Christian pressure group, have been granted a chance to challenge that ruling at the appeals court Wednesday afternoon.

A "Christian pressure group"?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The Guardian digs into faith of one of UK's most private, yet public, Christian believers

The Guardian digs into faith of one of UK's most private, yet public, Christian believers

Some things never change and, even when they do, they may change very slowly.

Journalists tend to focus on the quick, the loud, the, well, "newsy" things that happen in public life. Long, slow stories tend to drive editors a bit crazy.

That's one of the many reasons why important stories on the religion beat are hard to sell to editorial power brokers in the big offices in major newsrooms. Important stories about faith are often built on lots of observations about symbolic words and gestures, unfolding over time.

So kudos to The Guardian for its Christmas story about one of the quiet, but symbolic, moments on the calendar in England -- the Queen's annual Christmas address. The double-decker headline spells things out:

How the Queen – the ‘last Christian monarch’ -- has made faith her message
Over the 65 years of her annual Christmas broadcast, the Queen has begun to take a deliberate turn towards religion

Obviously, Elizabeth II is not your ordinary monarch. Her time on the throne has been extraordinarily long and, thus, she has seen stunning changes in her land and her people. It took patience to document how the content of her messages has been changing and what those changes say about her and these times. Here is the overture:

To the royal household, it is known as the QXB -- the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. To millions of people, it is still an essential feature of Christmas Day. To the Queen, her annual broadcast is the time when she speaks to the nation without the government scripting it. But in recent years, it has also become something else: a declaration of her Christian faith. As Britain has become more secular, the Queen’s messages have followed the opposite trajectory.
A survey of the broadcasts made during her 65-year reign reveals that for most of the time the Queen has spoken only in passing of the religious significance of Christmas. There have been references to presents linking contemporary Christmas to the three wise men, for instance, alongside trips to Commonwealth countries, family events such as weddings and funerals, and there were observations about contemporary society.

However, in 2014 she referred to her Christian faith as the "anchor in my life.” Then, last year, she added words that, on some street corners in today's multicultural England, could cause trouble. The Queen said:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Media blitz follows survey saying Brits have 'no religion,' but enlightenment remains elusive

Media blitz follows survey saying Brits have 'no religion,' but enlightenment remains elusive

Cue the R.E.M. video again.

This time for the United Kingdom, where a survey reveals a stunning number of folks who say they embrace no faith at all. Yep, the nation where Queen Elizabeth is, officially, "By the Grace of God, Queen, and Defender of the Faith," is ... losing its religion.

Of course, there's more to it than the headlines, and more than many reporters and editors seem to have grasped. By reporting the news on the surface data alone, the media are missing key questions, let alone reporting any answers.

Let's begin with the most venerable of British journalistic institutions, the BBC, which reports:

For the first time, more than half of people in the UK do not identify as religious, a survey suggests.
Last year 53% of people described themselves as having "no religion", in a survey of 2,942 adults by the National Centre for Social Research.
Among those aged between 18 and 25, the proportion was higher at 71%.
The Bishop of Liverpool said God and the Church "remains relevant" and that saying "no religion was not the same as considered atheism".

There's a lot to consider here, but one of the key elements missing is any consideration of why this has happened and what it might mean, other than calls for defunding of the state-sanctioned Church of England and of religious schools by the government.

As you read, look for signs that some forms of religions are growing and others are in decline.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Daily Telegraph backs old guard in row over Church of England's 'Alpha' evangelicals

Daily Telegraph backs old guard in row over Church of England's 'Alpha' evangelicals

The Daily Telegraph has leapt into a dispute between two factions of a London church, offering its support to traditionalists who dislike changes brought by a new priest and the younger crowd of worshipers he has attracted.

The author of the 14 August 2017, article entitled “Proms conductor in row with musicians' church after it bans 'non-religious' concerts” would most likely reject this summary of her story. Yet the journalistic shortcomings of this article turn it into a club for traditionalists to beat modernizers.

Congregational conflicts are seldom newsworthy. But they are often vicious, taking their cue from the command to smite the Amalekites and “utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (1 Sam 15:3). And these church spats seem to revolve around the same set of problems that often boil down to a battle for power.

The exceptions to the rule, however, are often great news stories.

Who would not relish reading about the conflict in this Tennessee church:  “Pastor’s Wife And Mistress Fight At Communion Day Service In Church.”

The Daily Telegraph picked up a story about St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church in the City of London over a power struggle within a church, which has widened to include comments and criticisms from non-members.

The lede telegraphs the Telegraph’s construction of the story. We are told who are the villains and who the heroes.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Welcome to the UnHerd scribes, who also think journalists should, you know, 'get religion'

Welcome to the UnHerd scribes, who also think journalists should, you know, 'get religion'

Now this is what you call an easy weekend "think piece" post.

I had not heard of the just-launched UnHerd blog over in England until a reader sent your GetReligionistas a URL for a post that was guaranteed to get our attention. More on that in a minute.

Here is the top of an article in The Spectator about the launch of this interesting new blog featuring news and commentary.

A new star is born today into the centre-right blogosphere: UnHerd. The latest brainchild of Tim Montgomerie, founder of ConservativeHome, it has launched with a mission statement to ‘dive deep into the economic, technological and cultural challenges of our time’. Its launch blogs show a wide mix of subjects: a YouGov poll revealing the low regard with which the public view traditional news media, Peter Franklin on why we should get ready for Prime Minister Corbyn, James Bloodworth on the crash ten years on and Graeme Archer on how meat-eating may come to be seen as barbaric by our grandchildren.
UnHerd is also marked out by its financing model. It has no paywall; all articles will be free to read with the costs covered by an endowment from Sir Paul Marshall. He is a former Liberal Democrat donor and a Brexit backer -- but, unlike the others, has not run away from the field.

Well, it was another early UnHerd post that caught the attention of a GetReligion reader and, thus, your GetReligionistas. The catchy headline on that short, but provocative, post by religion researcher Katie Harrison of greater London?

Why journalism needs to get religion

You can see how that might get the attention of folks at this here blog.

 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The New York Times runs two Charlie Gard editorials, with one in the news pages

The New York Times runs two Charlie Gard editorials, with one in the news pages

At the heart of the tragic Charlie Gard case are two clashing values.

On one side: Doctors and UK officials who argue that they have the power to rule that cutting life support, and ceasing an further experimental treatments, is in the child's best interest.

On the other side are the stricken infant's parents, who believe that they should have the right to care for their child with their own funds and with the help of other doctors who want to treat him.

Pope Francis, of course, issued a statement backing the rights of the parents:

“The Holy Father follows with affection and commotion the situation of Charlie Gard, and expresses his own closeness to his parents. ... He prays for them, wishing that their desire to accompany and care for their own child to the end will be respected.”

It's impossible to understand this story without a clear presentation of the parental rights claim, which clashes with the rights articulated by UK officials and a specific set of medical experts. There are two essential points of view.

Editors at The New York Times know this, of course. They know this because one of their own columnists -- while expressing his convictions -- clearly described the standoff. However, it's interesting to note that the latest Times news story on this case covers the arguments of the state, but contains zero clear references to the parental-rights arguments. The pope is mentioned, for example, but the content of his words was ignored.

In other words, the Times ran two editorials: one an op-ed column and the other, alas, an unbalanced, advocacy news report in the news pages.

Columnist Ross Douthat opened his essay like this:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Anglicans OK casual-dress liturgical option: Did The Guardian know this is part of an old war?

Anglicans OK casual-dress liturgical option: Did The Guardian know this is part of an old war?

As a rule, your GetReligionistas critique religion-beat stories in the mainstream press when journalists get something really right or really wrong. Often we simply note the presence of "religion ghosts" in stories, our term for a religion-shaped hole in the content that makes it hard for readers to know what is going on.

On weekends, I often point readers toward "think pieces" linked to religion-beat trends and issues -- essays, op-ed page columns, etc. -- that we wouldn't normally feature, because of our emphasis on basic news reporting.

The following piece from The Guardian -- "Clergy to ditch their robes in further sign of dress-down Britain" -- is a little bit of all of this.

First, it's a news piece about a highly symbolic and rather edgy decision made by the Church of England. Second, it contains material that -- think-piece style -- points to larger trends in England. Finally, while the story is pretty solid, it does contain an important hole that editors could have filled with a few sentences of content by a religion-beat pro who knew what she or he was doing.

The overture does a great job of putting this church decision in a wider cultural context:

First it was ties in parliament, now it is surplices at communion.
Following Speaker John Bercow’s decision last month to relax the convention requiring male MPs to wear jackets and ties in parliament, the Church of England is to allow clergy to conduct services in civvies.
The C of E’s ruling body, the synod, meeting in York, has given final approval to a change in canon law on “the vesture of ordained and authorised ministers during the time of divine service”. The measure needs to be approved by the Queen, who swapped her crown for a hat at last month’s state opening of parliament in another sign of dress-down Britain.

So what, pray tell, is a "surplice"? What are "vestments"?

This is where The Guardian team needed to add a few extra sentences. For starters, the editors seemed to think that all Christian bodies are branches on the same tree, when it comes to traditions about liturgical details. Instead, this latest Anglican innovation is yet another sign of a church body moving toward Protestant influences and away from it's ties to ancient Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Think like an editor: What happens if Trump's own plane takes Charlie Gard to Vatican?

Think like an editor: What happens if Trump's own plane takes Charlie Gard to Vatican?

The Charlie Gard story rolls on, of course, now super-charged by those magic words that inspire headlines -- "Donald Trump" and "Pope Francis."

It's interesting (and to me a bit depressing) the degree to which American media really seem to think this is story driven by American questions, which is what happens when a presidential tweet reshapes everything.

After recording this week's Crossroads podcast -- click here to tune that in -- it hit me that, in a way, I may be guilty of the same kind of thing, since I keep seeing this story through a religious-liberty lens.

True enough, podcast host Todd Wilken and I did spend quite a bit of time talking about church-state cases here in America that some are comparing to the Charlie Gard case. I'm talking about the agonizing court battles over the starvation death of Terri Schiavo, debates about the rights of Pentecostal parents who insist on faith healing (alone) and the complex legal battles over Jehovah's Witnesses and their doctrines rejecting blood transfusions.

However, the point I kept making was not that laws in England and the European Union should be the same as America. What interests me is why journalists don't seem to be interested in explaining to readers how religious-liberty concepts on the other side of the Atlantic affect this painful case.

A news cycle ago, we got a clue that we may have more coverage ahead that could deal with this. Consider this from a Sky News report:

Great Ormond Street Hospital says “claims of new evidence” in the treatment of Charlie Gard have prompted it to seek a new hearing at the High Court. In a statement, the hospital said: “We have just met with Charlie’s parents to inform them of this decision and will continue to keep them fully appraised of the situation.
“Two international hospitals and their researchers have communicated to us as late as the last 24 hours that they have fresh evidence about their proposed experimental treatment. “And we believe, in common with Charlie’s parents, it is right to explore this evidence.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy