James Lankford

Concerning Trump and the National Prayer Breakfast: Here's a byline you'll be glad to see again

Concerning Trump and the National Prayer Breakfast: Here's a byline you'll be glad to see again

I clicked the link and couldn’t help but smile at the byline.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, an award-winning religion writer for the Washington Post, took several months off after the death of her baby girl.

Those on the GetReligion team have prayed often for our friend and former colleague, who was one of the regular contributors when I first started writing for this journalism-focused website back in 2010.

So I was pleased when I clicked the link to the Post’s coverage of today’s National Prayer Breakfast and saw Bailey’s byline again. The Godbeat has missed her exceptional reporting skills and insight.

Here is the lede from Bailey and fellow Post religion writer Julie Zauzmer:

Since his campaign, President Trump has taken a page from President Reagan’s playbook.

“I know you can’t endorse me,” Reagan famously told a room full of evangelicals in 1980. “But . . . I want you to know that I endorse you.”

Whenever he takes the stage in front of conservative Christians, Trump uses those opportunities to remind them of his promises, like appointing Supreme Court justices who could help overturn Roe v. Wade and making “Merry Christmas” a more common greeting during the holidays.

“We’re going to protect Christianity,” Trump said during a 2016 speech at Liberty University.

On Thursday morning, during an address to the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump was explicit. 

“I will never let you down. I can say that. Never," he told leaders from all over the globe, including clergy, diplomats and lobbyists. The annual event at the Washington Hilton especially attracts conservative evangelicals jockeying to rub shoulders with Washington’s elite. Every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has attended the event that draws several thousand people, and this year’s event was co-chaired by Sen. James Lankford, (R-Okla.) and Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.).

Coons, by the way, was the focus of a recent Religion News Service profile by national correspondent Jack Jenkins. The headline: “In polarized Washington, a Democrat anchors bipartisan friendships in faith.” Earlier, I profiled Lankford, an ordained Southern Baptist pastor, for RNS.

Keep reading the Post story on the National Prayer Breakfast, and Bailey and Zauzmer offer helpful analysis from experts on Trump’s relationship with evangelicals and how his positions on certain issues resonate with them.

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Trump + Gillibrand + faith: 'Why is religion only talked about when reporters profile Republicans?'

Trump + Gillibrand + faith: 'Why is religion only talked about when reporters profile Republicans?'

Did you happen to hear where Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was last week when President Trump posted a tweet about her that the president's critics labeled "sexually suggestive and demeaning?"

Yep, that's right: The New York Democrat was at a bipartisan Bible study.

So what are the odds that the New York Times political writers who profiled Gillibrand in Sunday's newspaper — in a lengthy A-section piece tied to the president's kerfuffle with the senator — delved into her faith?

Hint: The Times makes passing reference to the aforementioned Bible study. 

But any actual consideration of Gillibrand's faith? Not so much. (Interestingly enough, the profile does point to the senator's propensity to curse "freely in public venues."

I first became aware of Gillibrand's participation in the regular Bible study when I did a Religion News Service profile of Sen. James Lankford earlier this year. I asked the Oklahoma Republican's team for the names of Democrats involved in the study. They put me in touch with Gillibrand's office.

I visited with Gillibrand about Lankford and her own faith, and a portion of that interview ended up in my story:

“He’s definitely sincere about his faith, and it’s absolutely a guidepost in his public service,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a Roman Catholic who joins a weekly bipartisan Bible study with Lankford and other senators.

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Folks of a certain political persuasion won't like this Elizabeth Warren story, but here's why it's terrific

Folks of a certain political persuasion won't like this Elizabeth Warren story, but here's why it's terrific

Earlier this summer, I followed Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., to a Fourth of July parade and to the Southern Baptist church where he worships each Sunday.

I wasn't stalking Lankford; I was working on a profile of him for Religion News Service.

The piece that I wrote focused on how Lankford balances his dual roles as a pastor — his former full-time vocation — and as a politician.

A few critics who don't like where Lankford stands on certain issues accused me of writing a puff piece, even though I quoted both Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

I was reminded of that (limited) negative reaction when I saw what some readers said about a Boston Globe piece this week on the faith of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a potential 2020 presidential contender.

That story's lede:

When Senator Elizabeth Warren last week visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta — religious home to the heirs and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. — the liberal firebrand began her remarks in a familiar vein, decrying an economy that only works “for a thin slice at the top.”
It might have been just another political stop, a timely bit of outreach to the African-American voters who could be key should she run for president.
But then Warren shifted her focus to Matthew 25:40 — and Jesus.
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Warren said, quoting the Gospel. Then she shared her interpretation: “He’s saying to us, first, there’s God in every one of us, there’s Jesus in every one of us — however you see it in your religion, that inside there’s something holy in every single person.”
Warren is well known for her acrid take on Wall Street money power, on the Trump presidency, and on all the forces in American life that, in her view, deny equal opportunity to all. Much less well known is Warren’s relationship with God.
The senator’s personal religious views are part of her life that few if any of her supporters or detractors think of when they contemplate the Massachusetts lawmaker, who has built a national reputation on the strength of her populism and is on many political observers’ short list of likely 2020 White House contenders.

A couple of the tweets to which a reader called my attention:

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Hate groups, far-right conservatives and other labels: Can we guess why journalists rely on certain terms?

Hate groups, far-right conservatives and other labels: Can we guess why journalists rely on certain terms?

Readers of a certain age no doubt recall commercials for "Libby's! Libby's! Libby's!"

Today, though, I want to talk about "Labels! Labels! Labels!"

Before I refer to the label that caught my attention while reading my morning newspapers, let's play the mirror image game made famous (and perhaps trademarked) by our own tmatt: When was the last time you saw a mainstream news report refer to, say, a gay-rights organization as a "far-left liberal group?"

Not recently?

OK, let's ask the question in reverse: When was the last time you saw an organization that stands for traditional religious beliefs characterized — in a mainstream news report — as a "far-right conservative group?"

If you, like me, subscribe to the Dallas Morning News, you don't have to go back too far. This is a sentence at the end of the Dallas paper's story today on oil and gas companies opposing Texas' proposed bathroom bill:

The bill's supporters say they want to protect the privacy of women and girls in intimate spaces. It has the support of far-right conservative groups like the Texas Pastors Council and Texas Values.

My question when reading that label: What makes those groups "far-right" conservatives? Why not simply describe them as conservative groups (assuming a label is required at all)? What does the "far-right" add?

Is the paper intentionally trying to cast the groups as extremists?

The Texas Pastor Council (I believe that's the correct name of the organization without the plural "Pastors") says on its Twitter profile that it "is the only culturally and politically active organization from a Biblically-grounded perspective." I'm not sure that's the best wording I've ever seen, but what is "far-right" about it? 

On its Twitter profile, Texas Values says it is "dedicated to preserving and advancing faith, family, and freedom in the great state of Texas." Again, I ask: What is "far-right" about that?

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Why folks are freaking out over article on Marco Rubio tweeting 'Most Republican Part of the Bible'

Why folks are freaking out over article on Marco Rubio tweeting 'Most Republican Part of the Bible'

To the casual observer, it looks like news.

Politico certainly does nothing to present it as something else — say, a single liberal theologian's opinion.

I'm talking about the article published over the weekend with this clickbait of a headline:

Marco Rubio Is Tweeting the Most Republican Part of the Bible

The piece has a byline and reads — to some extent — like straightforward, fact-based journalism:

Marco Rubio had a message for his nearly 3 million Twitter followers on the morning of June 26: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11.”
That one might have been his most head-snapping, but Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, had been tweeting verses like that one since May 16. He has tweeted a biblical verse almost every day since then. Almost all of them come from the Old Testament, and specifically the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is notable in that is presents a fairly consistent view of the world: The righteous are rewarded, and the wicked are punished. In the understanding of Proverbs, everyone gets what is coming to them; behavior is directly linked to reward or punishment. This worldview has social consequences: Those who succeed in life must be more righteous than those who struggle.

Some, including The Hill, interpreted it as a news story, reporting on Rubio's response:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday pushed back at a news article that claimed the conservative lawmaker was tweeting "the most Republican part of the Bible."
"Proverbs is the Republican part of the bible? I don't think Solomon had yet joined the GOP when he wrote the first 29 chapters of Proverbs," Rubio said tongue-in-check, while retweeting Politico Magazine's story on the matter.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a former Southern Baptist youth pastor, also weighed in via Twitter:

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