Jared Kushner

Friday Five: American-style Islam, Christmas in Bethlehem, $29.95 ordination, Hooters and more

Friday Five: American-style Islam, Christmas in Bethlehem, $29.95 ordination, Hooters and more

Here's something I betcha didn't know: I'm an ordained pastor, and it only cost me $29.95. (Apparently, I paid too much.)

More on that — and my strange clerical connection to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law — in a moment.

First, though, let's dive right into this week's Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly mentioned Emma Green's important contributions to 2017 religion reporting in a post earlier this week.

Here's another shout-out for Green, who ended the year with an in-depth piece on "How America Is Transforming Islam."

The article didn't please everyone, but like Rod Dreher — who praised Green's story on his American Conservative blog — I thought it made for compelling and thought-provoking reading.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: The No. 1 spot this week belongs to tmatt's post on the timing of Christmas in the ancient city of Bethlehem. The post's title: "Once again in Royal David's City: Journalists still confused about Christmas who, what, when, where ..."

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Oval Office prayer meetings: Journalists still struggling with what to make of them

Oval Office prayer meetings: Journalists still struggling with what to make of them

We’ve seen this before: A gallery of people lumped together as “evangelicals” all gathered around President Donald Trump, each with one hand extended toward the man or actually placing that hand on his shoulders.

A bevy of folks just happened to be in the Old Executive Office Building next door on Monday when they were whooshed into the Oval Office for an audience with not only Trump but Vice President Mike Pence. If Trump had wanted that session to be private, he was out of luck, as photos appeared on Twitter and Facebook as soon as the participants were out the door.

All this occurred during a press blackout on Trump's activities, meaning that the 27-some evangelicals and Pentecostals broke the news themselves. Here’s what the Daily Mail led off with

This is the moment evangelical leaders laid their hands on Donald Trump's back as they prayed over him in the Oval Office.
Evangelical pastor Rodney Howard-Browne led a prayer circle alongside his wife Adonica in the White House and then shared the image on Facebook.
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence can be seen closing their eyes and bowing their heads in the solemn moment. 
The group were invited to pray with Trump during a meeting with members of The Office of Public Liaison. Others pictured included Jack Graham, the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and Michele Bachmann, the former Republican congresswoman from Minnesota. 

Howard-Browne (pictured with this post) is the South African-born evangelist who took the American Pentecostal world by storm when he pioneered the “holy laughter” movement in the mid-1990s. 

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Yo, New York Times team: How do marriage, motherhood, Judaism affect Ivanka's agenda?

Yo, New York Times team: How do marriage, motherhood, Judaism affect Ivanka's agenda?

So you sit down to read a long New York Times profile of Ivanka Trump that ran with this headline -- "Ivanka Trump Has the President’s Ear. Here’s Her Agenda."

The story has lots of room for details and nuance, while probing the ideas and convictions that shape her "Women who work" worldview and the branding image behind her life as a married mom with three children and a lightning rod last name.

Now, I certainly had an agenda when I read this piece. I was curious to know about the contents of this woman's head and how that affected her views -- as a modern Orthodox Jew -- of marriage and family.

So with that in mind, guess the one subject -- out of the following short list -- that is explored (or even mentioned) in this long profile.

(1) Jewish faith and tradition and its role in her home.

(2) The impact of her marriage to Jared Kushner and her life as a wife and mother.

(3) Her beliefs on religious liberty conflicts in America, including those sure to affect Orthodox Jewish believers.

(4) Her relationship with her father and, in particular, his track record when it comes to sensitivity to the feelings and ambitions of women (other than her).

If you guessed answer (4), then you are a winner and have a great future writing profiles of important Americans for the Times.

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Mirror image time again: Trump's people still fighting Little Sisters, religious schools?

Mirror image time again: Trump's people still fighting Little Sisters, religious schools?

So here is a story that is causing lots of traditional religious believers to shake their heads today. They are reacting to headlines, like this one at The Washington Post states: "Trump has yet to signal his approach to Obamacare birth-control mandate."

Once again let me stress that we are talking about head shaking in two different camps of religious conservatives. The best evidence is that they are pretty equal in size, as GetReligion has been noting since last summer (here is yet another hat tip pointing readers to this fine Christianity Today feature).

In one camp are the religious conservatives who enthusiastically embraced Citizen Donald Trump, pretty much from Day 1.

In the other camp are religious conservatives who never endorsed Trump, at any stage of the game, yet felt they had to vote for him in order to defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Here is what I heard legions of folks in that camp say: "I do not know what Donald Trump will do, but I know what Hillary Clinton will do. I will have to risk voting for him."

So, what were they so concerned about, in terms of what the candidates "will do"?

We are, 99.9 percent of the time, talking about two crucial issues: The U.S. Supreme Court and/or battles over religious liberty. At this point in time -- as the world awaits votes by the newest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court -- most conservatives are pretty pleased with that first issue. But what about that second concern, in light of this overture at the Post?

President Trump had promised religious groups that he would reverse the Obama administration’s requirement that employers provide birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.
But his Justice Department indicated Monday that it’s not yet giving up a fight with religious schools and nonprofits that are suing over the contraception mandate.
The department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and several other religious groups objecting to a requirement to which they are morally opposed.

To which some people, in this case Rod "Benedict Option" Dreher are saying, "WHAT'S THAT?!"

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Glass houses, religious garb, a crucial Middle East sidebar and, of course, Donald Trump

Glass houses, religious garb, a crucial Middle East sidebar and, of course, Donald Trump

Forget the bromides about how wrong it is to make snap judgements about people based solely on their physical appearance. Truth is, we -- by which I mean virtually every last one of us -- put enormous stock in appearances.

To narrow that generalization down some, I'm referring in particular to the world of religion and religious garb.

Spot a woman wearing a Muslim hijab on Main Street U.S.A. -- not to mention a niqab, or face veil -- and, invariably, we conjure thoughts about what this woman believes and how she practices her faith. Individual perspective colors our thoughts, for sure, but the larger point I'm making is that our minds are largely reactive, so react we will.

Which brings me to the following story that's been wending it way through Israeli and American Jewish news outlets. It is, as you haven't guessed, a story about appearances and religious garb. And perhaps, also, the need for endless content in our 24-7 journalistic environment.

President Donald Trump -- despite the claims of critics that, at the least, he's willing to countenance anti-Semitic displays among core supporters -- has several self-identified Orthodox Jews in his entourage.

Most famously, his daughter, Ivanka, a convert to Judaism, and her husband, Jared Kushner, self-identify as Orthodox.

As does Jason Greenblatt, a long-time attorney for Trump's business organization who is now a presidential special envoy. Greenblatt made his first extensive visit to the Middle East on behalf of the president last week, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Whether or not Greenblatt's effort will bear fruit in bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, is undoubtedly the storyline that's most important here.

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The Ivanka/Jared factor: Who's reporting on their clout and the faith connection?

The Ivanka/Jared factor: Who's reporting on their clout and the faith connection?

I was going through my daily collection of emails from the various media on Friday when I noticed something on the Washington Post’s “Daily 202” email blast about the documents President Trump doesn’t want people to see him sign.

Then there was this. Does anyone else sense a religion ghost here, as your GetReligionistas would put it? Read on:

Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared, both top advisers, also tend to be extremely uneasy with the kinds of socially-divisive executive actions that will offend their 30-something liberal socialite friends in Manhattan, whose cocktail parties they want to continue getting invited to. They killed a draft executive order that would have dramatically expanded the rights of people, businesses and organizations of faith to opt out of laws or activities that violate their religion, such as same-sex wedding ceremonies.

We’ve been writing about the often unbalanced news coverage of the Baronelle Stutzmans and the Elaine Huguenins and the Melissa Kleins of this world –- all of them people who’ve declined to assist at weddings of gay clients because of their religious beliefs. A major reason why a lot of folks voted for President Donald Trump was to put an end to such lawsuits. Are all these folks’ hopes going to be washed down the river thanks to Ivanka and Jared?

Why is this duo all that powerful? They've recently been criticized for not stopping Trump's reversal of Obama's transgender bathroom bill.

Let’s back up a bit. There was a lot going on in early February (Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Superbowl, the National Prayer Breakfast) when all this broke. The Nation magazine described the draft executive order here

A New York Times piece then explained how the order got killed:

WASHINGTON -- The two most influential social liberals in President Trump’s inner circle — daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner -- helped kill a proposed executive order that would have scrapped Obama-era L.G.B.T. protections, according to people familiar with the issue…

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