Hillary Clnton

Political style question for tense times: What do you call people killed in church on Easter?

Political style question for tense times: What do you call people killed in church on Easter?

I have been covering the religion beat, to one degree or another, for 40 years and I have never heard “Easter worshippers” used as a replacement for the word “Christians.”

Is this a reference to people who worship ON Easter or, well, people who worship Easter?

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I am well aware that Christians around the world — due to the much-covered clash between the Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar — usually celebrate Christianity’s most important holy day (called “Pascha” in the East) at different times. (For the ancient churches of the East, today is the Monday of Holy week this year.)

All that aside, there is no reason to substitute an awkward term like “Easter worshippers” for the word “Christian,” when referring to the victims in the horrible Easter morning bombings in Sri Lanka.

So I was surprised to see this oh-so-Twitter firestorm erupt yesterday. Here is the top of a key D.C. Beltway report. The pro-forma headline at The Hill states: “Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity'.” And here is the overture:

Former President Barack Obama on Easter Sunday condemned a series of explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka as "an attack on humanity."

"The attacks on tourists and Easter worshippers in Sri Lanka are an attack on humanity," Obama tweeted on Easter Sunday. "On a day devoted to love, redemption, and renewal, we pray for the victims and stand with the people of Sri Lanka."

As you would expect, “Christians” pounced and this quickly became a story in “conservative” media.

What caused this bizarre mini-train wreck? I can think of two reasons — one based on journalistic caution and the other based on Donald Trump-era cynicism.

Let’s start with the closest thing to logic that I can come up with, if one is seeking a non-political reason for this switch. To bluntly state the point: The terrorists attacked churches AND hotels, so one could make a case that Christians were not the only people attacked.

Now, yes, that still doesn’t explain “Easter worshippers” in the tweets by politicos.

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Religious Trump reaction: RNS struggles to find a range of actual human voices

Religious Trump reaction: RNS struggles to find a range of actual human voices

When news spread that Donald Trump won the presidential election, I got the sense that the various elites -- cultural, political, mainstream media -- were reacting like Family Guy's Chris Griffin:  "Whaaaattt??"

The Religion News Service, at least, tried to gather responses from religious leaders, rather than have secular pundits opine about them. But that mechanical approach -- which tmatt likes to call post-Interview Journalism™ -- has weaknesses of its own.

It's not that RNS lacked effort. It compiled a long list of comments. A long, long list. Nearly 2,400 words, with 17 sources.

RNS also attempts some balance, backed up by numbers, as the top shows:

Some celebrated and congratulated the victor. Others prayed and called for unity. It was clear early on that evangelical Christians had been key to Donald Trump’s stunning upset.
Meanwhile, others including atheists and Muslims reacted in shock and vowed to defend against what one group termed “unconstitutional and undemocratic actions.”
According to exit polls, 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians cast their ballots for the reality TV star-turned-Republican presidential candidate.
It was a higher figure than voted for Mitt Romney (79 percent) in 2012, John McCain (73 percent) four years before that or George Bush (79 percent) in 2004.

From there, we get a smorgasbord of quotes. Here's a sample.

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Another sigh: Washington Post leaves theology out of big Mormon story containing theology

Another sigh: Washington Post leaves theology out of big Mormon story containing theology

The other day, I posted a piece that underlined a point that I have made several times during this long and depressing season of political/religious news. That headline: "Hey, Washington Post political scribes: So religion will have zero impact in GOP civil war?"

In that post, I argued (once again) that the political desk of The Washington Post just doesn't seem to get religion -- especially when it comes the role of evangelical Protestants, Mormons, traditional Catholics and others in the #NeverTrump #NeverHillary phenomenon. That's an important point to ponder as we prepare for the GOP wars that are ahead.

Some folks (including a former student who now works at NPR) were concerned that, while I said my target was the political desk, I had not done enough to note that other Post reporters (think religion-beat specialists) had done lots of coverage on other election-year religion angles, especially developments among evangelicals.

So let's stress that by making a similar point -- looking at two Post stories focusing on developments in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Can you spot the story by a religion-beat specialist?

The first story ran under this headline: "‘Mormon and Gay’? The church’s new message is that you can be both." It focuses on the content of an official LDS website with that title -- Mormon and Gay. As you would expect, the website supports the church's teachings on marriage and sex. Thus, the bitter debates about those teachings continue. The Post notes:

You can be gay while being Mormon, the new website says -- as long as you don’t have gay sex.
“They’re loved. They’re supported. They’re part of the church,” said L. Whitney Clayton, who serves on the Presidency of the Seventy, making him one of the most powerful leaders in the Mormon Church. “We want them to feel happy and included in the kingdom of God.”

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Graham and Trump? Charlotte Observer's coverage shows a kind of fixation

Graham and Trump? Charlotte Observer's coverage shows a kind of fixation

Decent story idea: Cover Franklin Graham's 50th and last God-and-country rally. Did it somehow mutate? Because than half of the Charlotte Observer's article was about Graham's purported relationship with Donald Trump.

Yes, the story dealt with other things. Prayers for victims of Hurricane Matthew. Fallout from HB2, the law in North Carolina that bans all cities from making gender-identity bathroom ordinances. Graham denouncing Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts for her tight relationship with the LGBT community. The wrap-up of Graham's 50-state Decision America tour (although, for some reason, that title doesn't appear in the article).

But the lion's share of the 1,100 words probes every possible link between the evangelist and the politician. It even insinuates that he all but endorses Trump:

Addressing the presidential race, Graham said many Christians have told him they don’t like either Republican Donald Trump, who has lately come under fire for lewd comments about women, or Democrat Hillary Clinton, who has been widely criticized for her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Graham’s recommendation: "Hold your nose and go vote" for the would-be president who will appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who will protect "religious liberty" and stand against abortion.
"This election is not about (Trump’s) vulgar language. And it’s not about (Clinton’s) emails that are missing," Graham told his flock. "It’s about the Supreme Court."
Since Trump has pledged to nominate justices approved by conservatives – he even released a list of possibilities – Graham’s comments sound to many like a tacit endorsement of Trump.

Ummm, yeah. Two devices that roll our eyes here at GetReligion.

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Press coverage of evangelicals and Trump is getting confusing, and that's a good thing

Press coverage of evangelicals and Trump is getting confusing, and that's a good thing

Do you ever have those moments when you think the software gods that run the World Wide Web have lost their minds? You know, all those Amazon-esque programs that plug into your browsing history and try to predict what you want to read, watch or purchase.

So the video at the top of this post was the first thing that showed up this morning on YouTube when I went looking to see if anyone has done a report or commentary about religious reactions to the latest Hurricane Donald revelations. As you would expect, there are more than a few prophecy videos of this kind out there, some of which are just as worthy of The Onion.

No one doubts that there are wild people who are convinced Donald Trump is God's man for this hour. A few even have names news consumers would recognize, dating back to the Religious Right era.

But in terms of serious mainstream coverage -- about the "hot mic" fiasco and related Bill Clinton 2.0 issues -- the big news is that some reporters are starting to get a handle on key facts:

* There are people who buy the Trump gospel. Period.

* Not all religious and cultural conservatives fit under that umbrella. At some point, more journalists are going to need to listen -- seriously -- to conservative Catholics, Mormons and the new generation of conservative evangelical leaders.

* The old guard of the Religious Right is not where the action is, today, when it comes to growth in conservative Christianity.

* Many, many evangelical Protestants who "backed" Trump didn't back him because they think he is the best candidate. They bit their lips and said they would vote for him because they fear a Hillary Clinton victory more than anything else.

* Quite a few religious conservatives have had enough, when it comes to Trump. Did you see the LifeWay poll about a near majority of Protestant pastors that STILL do not know what they want to do on election day? "Undecided" remains the top choice.

So what do you need to read today?

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