GetReligion

The universe sent me a message. It's time to take heed

The universe sent me a message. It's time to take heed

The thing about insight is that you never really know in its initial energy burst whether it’s delusional. Still, one has to act.

So with the insight gained from having my heart stop a few times, I’ve decided to step away from my weekly GetReligion responsibilities and devote myself to self-healing.

It's going to take months to fully recover from the two major surgeries, hospital pneumonia and series of seizure-like heart stoppages (cardiovascular syncope, to be more medically precise) I’ve experienced in recent weeks. This followed a steady health decline over the previous several months. I want to give myself every advantage in the process.

I owe at least that much to the many people, my family and friends, that have bathed me in love and compassionate devotion during this time.

(In case you're wondering, prior to my decline I did take care of myself. I was super careful about diet and exercise. But I’m 76 and this is what happens to us all, sooner or later. Life is transient.)

I was fortunate that the heart stoppages — I’m actually unsure of the precise number I suffered — did not diminish my intellect; I did not stroke out. My new pacemaker should handle the stoppage problem.

I’m also fortunate that Medicare, my supplemental health insurance and my personal finances are likely more than sufficient to handle my bills. I fully realize that in 2019 America, and in the larger human family, I’m privileged to be able to say this.

I still have great curiosity about this amazing creation in which we get to sojourn and I’m so blessed to be deeply connected to my wife, Ruth, who taught me how to commit to love, and who I wish to show love toward for many years to come.

There’s much ahead. I remain an adventure-seeker.

I've written for GR for about four years, and as professional journalists know well, one column a week of analysis or commentary is hardly a backbreaking pace. So it's not the deadline pressure that I need to step away from.

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It's not just DC and the Vatican: Saudi Arabia and Indonesia make worrisome news

It's not just DC and the Vatican: Saudi Arabia and Indonesia make worrisome news

It's time for an update on the inseparably braided political and religious goings-on in two key Muslim nations; Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, and Saudi Arabia, Islam’s birthplace and site of the recently concluded hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.

As you may expect, it’s not good news.

Moreover, it’s news that’s in danger of going under-appreciated because of the undeniably more alluring headlines -- for American news junkies, at least -- related to the Catholic Church’s sexual corruption cover up, and the Trump administration’s equally crumbling cover up of sexual, financial and all-around political corruption.

Let’s start with Indonesia, which once enjoyed, and capitalized on, a reputation for being one of the most politically moderate and religiously open-minded of Muslim nations.

These two pieces provide a refresher, should you require it. The first is a news report from Reuterswhile the second is a previous GetReligion analysis by editor Terry Mattingly ("That wave of attacks on churches in Indonesia: Is the 'moderate' Muslim news hook gone?"

Now, it seems, the situation in the Southeast Asian archipelago nation has gone from bad to worse, and perhaps to the absurd.

Here’s what The Washington Post reported last week.

A Buddhist woman’s conviction this week on blasphemy charges has alarmed many in Indonesia who were already worried about the erosion of religious pluralism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.


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What five religion-news stories truly impressed you in 2017? It's time to praise them!

What five religion-news stories truly impressed you in 2017? It's time to praise them!

Attention serious GetReligion readers!

You know who you are. You may be Catholic, Baptist, atheist, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Anglican or nothing in particular. Oh, and Lutherans of all stripes. You may have read this blog for 14 years, 14 months, 14 weeks or whatever. You may be a veteran religion-beat professional or you may be a reader who has carefully consumed mainstream religion news for years.

The members of the international team with The Media Project -- backers of this blog for 14 years -- want your help in selecting five truly great mainstream media religion-news stories for this year. It's fair to criticize religion coverage produced by people who just don't "get" religion. But it's also great to offer praise where praise is due, something we frequently do here.

We would like your suggestions by the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Note: We are talking about news stories, not editorials or advocacy pieces.

Note: We are talking about mainstream news media, not religious publications or websites. This can be news in all forms -- print or broadcast (with links online for those reports).

Note: When we say "best" we are talking about stories in which you believe the religious content and themes were handled exceptionally well by reporters and editors. We want you to pick stories worthy of JOURNALISTIC praise, not topics that you simply want to publicize because they echo your own beliefs.

We are looking for all the virtues of great journalism, with a heavy emphasis on accuracy, fairness and respect for the views of people whose voices are included in these reports.

For example, here is one of my nominees, the subject of a recent post with this headline: "Bodies trapped on Mt. Everest: The New York Times gets the Hindu details in this tragedy." You can find this amazing, epic report right here at the Times.

Yes, magazine journalism qualifies. For example, I recently poured praise on a piece at The New Yorker that, on the magazine's website, had this headline: "Roy Moore and the Invisible Religious Right." This is another of my 2017 nominees.

So please take this seriously. Many of you send us URLs, week after week, pointing us to religion stories, good and bad. Now focus on the good and even the great. The email from The Media Project team put it this way:

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Washington Post follows up on faith-related 'hate group' story (and answers our prayers)

Washington Post follows up on faith-related 'hate group' story (and answers our prayers)

Among the journalistic salutes that, frankly, never get old is being quoted by one of the nation's leading newspapers.

Thank you, then, to The Washington Post for noticing a blog post by your humble correspondent posted here about a week ago. (See quote at the top of this post.)

That notice came in the context of changes over at GuideStar, the nonprofit that maintains a gigantic database of information about ... other nonprofits. For years, many journalists and researchers have relied on the organization when seeking to dig up data on this or that group.

As reported here -- drawing on media reports at websites for Christianity Today and The Daily Signal -- GuideStar began running a banner noting that a given faith-based group, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, had been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In that blog post, I wondered whether the story would cross over into mainstream press, and if so, "I'm hoping – and not against hope, I pray – that journalists will pause and ask some serious factual questions if and when that coverage takes place."

The Post report obliged, I'm happy to say. It also contained some good news for ADF and other groups:

Earlier this month, GuideStar, the world’s largest source for information about charities, added a new feature to its website: warning labels flagging would-be donors to nearly four dozen nonprofits accused of spreading hate.
The outcry was immediate and most vehement from conservative groups, including Christians who said they’d been targeted as hateful for opposing same-sex marriage.

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'On Religion' meets GetReligion -- tmatt's national column turns 29, with nod to Dean Baquet

'On Religion' meets GetReligion -- tmatt's national column turns 29, with nod to Dean Baquet

A long, long time ago -- 29-plus years to be precise -- several editors at the old Scripps Howard News Service noticed something.

At the time, I was the religion-beat reporter and columnist at The Rocky Mountain News in Denver (memory eternal). The national wire desk in Washington, D.C., noticed that, when they put my national-angle columns on the wire -- as opposed to something completely Colorado-centric -- they would get picked up by quite a few smaller and mid-sized papers.

Plus, there was a pending request from the editor of The Knoxville News Sentinel -- Harry Moskos at the time -- for a weekly Scripps Howard wire piece on religion to serve as one anchor for his newspaper's planned Saturday section on issues of family and faith. Those two subjects, you see, kept showing up near the top of lists about subjects that interested his local readers.

So the national editors worked out a deal with my bosses in Denver to free me up to do a weekly column for the national wire.

Thus, my national column was born 29 years ago last week. An editor asked me what I wanted to call it and I proposed "Get Religion."

That name struck one of the editors as a bit aggressive. You see, he didn't get that I was (wink, wink) linking the old Southern saying that someone "got religion" -- as in got saved, in a revival tent sort of way -- with the modern idea that some people just "don't get it," as in feminist lingo. So they changed "Get Religion" to "On Religion."

Anyway, I rarely run anything from "On Religion" (the column is now carried by the Universal syndicate) here at GetReligion, but I thought I would let readers here see this past week's piece -- as I open my third decade doing that column.

Yes, 29 years is a long time. This particular column is also about -- well, do you remember that turn of phrase used by New York Times editor Dean Baquet?

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Same as it ever was: It's time for a new, old GetReligion

Same as it ever was: It's time for a new, old GetReligion

You know that whole Christmas in July thing, when stores and other groups have fun by, well, pretending that it's Christmas, only in the month of July?

That is kind of what is going on here today. Kind of.

The big news is that GetReligion.org is going back to being GetReligion.org -- period. This website has, over the past decade or so, gone through three basic transformations in its platform and layout and now we are headed into No. 4.

We are returning to our status as an independent website that wrestles with issues of religion-beat coverage in the mainstream press, linked to The Media Project and, in a process that will evolve over the next year, to my future classroom work with The King's College in New York City. The key institution at that prime lower-downtown location is the college's new John McCandlish Phillips Institute, which is led by a New York City journalist named Paul Glader, who is justifiably well-known for his years of hard-news work with The Wall Street Journal. If you are not familiar with the byline of the late and very great New York Times reporter John McCandlish Phillips, please click here and then here.

The key to this fourth GetReligion move is that we are, first and foremost, a journalism website -- as opposed to being a site that fosters dialogues and debates (valid ones, at times) about religion and religious issues. As such, our turf is rather different than the many excellent blogs that have flourished here in the digital universe called Patheos. We think it is time to link up with projects, old and new, dedicated to journalism education.

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10 years of GetReligion: Arne's view from 10,000 feet

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad is a veteran journalist who worked at a variety of mainstream Norwegian newspapers and then as a publisher in Egypt and North Africa. He is also a Lutheran pastor and has a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary. He leads The Media Project, which includes GetReligion. Mainstream media is up for a big challenge in the coming years. Nope, I am not talking new technology, lack of finances for print media and rapidly declining numbers of readers both for magazines and the daily newspaper. Or any other of the many rapid changes in media reality today. I am talking about the challenge of a paradigm shift in mainstream media.

Possibly the challenge is even greater in Europe (where I live when I am not on the road or in an airplane at 10,000 feet) but also US media as well as many media elsewhere in the world will need to change their attitude and policy. Start focusing for new ways to meet the growing demands for real knowledge about the world, the society and the neighborhood. Real knowledge that will include knowledge about history, culture and religion. Yes, religion.

Religion will be the key to the ongoing paradigm shift. It’s all about religion and the impact of faith in any culture, in any country or region of the world. The challenge for any news media is to “get religion.” Understand its impact — good and bad. Simply because religious faith, religious culture and religious history again and again are the key to understand why news happens.

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Jim Davis agrees to join GetReligion's thriving Florida bureau

EDITOR’S NOTE: What can I say? When I lived in South Florida this guy was the local professional on the religion beat whose work landed in my front yard. Also, surely it means something that one of his email addresses is “religionwriter.” To cut to the chase, I’m happy to report that James Davis, one of the gentlemen of the profession in recent decades, is joining us here at GetReligion. Stop and think about it. With Father George Conger already based in Central Florida, I think the odds are getting better that there may someday be a GetReligion cruise to the Caribbean.

Thanks to tmatt for the invitation to write for GetReligion. I’ve long admired the blog and I’ve known tmatt as a colleague on the religion beat for (slurred number) years. I’m honored to breathe the rarefied atmosphere here.

For myself, I worked for four decades until November 2012 with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, most of it as religion editor. Most of my work focused on religion at the local level, covering the unbelievably rich mix of religions that is South Florida.

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10 years of GetReligion: Why we are still here, part I

The late Leonard Smith was, according to his Jan. 26 obituary at the Greenwich Time newspaper in Southwest Connecticut, a radically independent man who never hid his beliefs. A native of New York City, he was World War II veteran and a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He liked to sail and raise hunting dogs. He was devoted to his wife and five kids, to the churches they frequented and to charities. I have a strong suspicion that quite a few faithful GetReligion readers would have liked Mr. Smith — a whole lot.

Why is that? Consider this passage at the end of his obituary:

Leonard Smith hated pointless bureaucracy, thoughtless inefficiency and bad ideas born of good intentions. He loved his wife, admired and respected his children and liked just about every dog he ever met. He will be greatly missed by those he loved and those who loved him. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you cancel your subscription to The New York Times.

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