Mike Huckabee

NRA dog whistles? Israeli paper's charges have impacted American Jewish debate on guns

NRA dog whistles? Israeli paper's charges have impacted American Jewish debate on guns

The recent Florida school shooting has propelled the gun issue to the forefront of the American political drama. It's also grabbed considerable attention in Israel -- providing a lesson in how news outlets with international followings can quickly influence distant debates in our online age.

It also casts light on how a diaspora population -- in this case American Jews -- can be moved by media opinion originating in a nation, despite its distance, with which they have an historical religious or ethnic bond.

So just how did Israeli media become part of the American gun control debate?

Electrifying charges have been appearing in Israeli news media claiming that the National Rifle Association, and its Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre in particular, has subtlety employed anti-Semitic code language to rally pro-gun partisans.

Israel’s leading liberal newspaper Haaretz has led the way.

Two of its columnists, as of this writing, have bluntly asserted that LaPierre used subtle anti-Semitic language -- “dog whistles” is the common term -- in his speech at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference gathering.

Let me stress: No such charges of NRA anti-Semitism has shown up in mainstream American media reports on LaPierre’s speech.

That's understandable. Mainstream American media are loath to cast such dispersions unless it's blatantly obvious, which in this case cannot be stated unequivocally. Here, for example, is how The New York Times played the story.

American Jewish media are another matter. They display the same sensitivity toward hints of anti-Semitism as their Israeli counterparts. Within a news cycle or two after the Haaretz columns appeared, similar pieces started to appear in liberal American Jewish media.

Some needed background.

It's easy for Jews to detect even subtle anti-Semitism after centuries of overt Jew-blaming and killing. Plus, American Jews, are general liberal on domestic issues, vote Democratic, and overwhelmingly favor tougher gun controls.

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In this congressional race, the question apparently is: Which candidate loves Jesus more?

In this congressional race, the question apparently is: Which candidate loves Jesus more?

When I got home from work the other day, I found a political flyer on my door.

The full-color leaflet concerned a legislative race in the Oklahoma House district where I live. I don't have the shiny paper handy, but what I remember is: The candidate touts herself as a pastor's daughter and a devoted Christian. Apparently, that kind of thing matters where I live. (Smile.)

Unrelated side note: The woman running for the seat wrote a personal note to our family and said she was sorry she missed us. That'll probably stick with me longer than the mailer itself.

But anyway ...

I bring up the above little anecdote because of an interesting story (to say the least) in the Charlotte Observer this week. 

When I first printed out the piece to read, this was the headline:

Rep. Robert Pittenger airs new ad featuring Jesus Christ

But now there's a new headline, and yes, I'd say this one better nails my question about this U.S. House race:

How did Jesus Christ become an issue in this NC primary?

The lede provides the basic facts:

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Yes, 'evangelical' is a religious term (#REALLY). You can look that up in history books

Yes, 'evangelical' is a religious term (#REALLY). You can look that up in history books

Over the years, your GetReligionistas have asked variations on the following question many times: What does the word "evangelical" mean?

Faithful readers will recall that, in 1987, I had a chance to ask the Rev. Billy Graham that question and, basically, he said that he no longer felt confident that he knew the answer. He then proceeded to frame "evangelical" in terms of ancient Christian doctrines, saying that he defined an "evangelical" as someone who believes all the doctrines in the ancient Nicene or the Apostles creeds. Graham stressed the centrality of belief in the resurrection and that salvation is through Jesus, alone.

However, if you follow the news, you know that most pollsters, politicos and journalists no longer believe that "evangelical" is primarily a religious word. During this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), host Todd Wilken and I discussed this puzzle as we tried to make sense out of a recent "Newsmax's 100 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" list.

Take a second and scan that list, if you will. Note that, after the predictable Billy Graham nod at No. 1, the next nine are Graham’s son Franklin, Joel Osteen, Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, Jerry Falwell Jr., Joyce Meyer, Vice President Mike Pence and the married Hollywood duo of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

In my new "On Religion" column on this topic, historian Thomas Kidd made the following observation about the Newsmax list:

Disputes about the meaning of “evangelical” are so sharp that “several people on this list would not even agree that some other people on the list are ‘Christians,’ let alone ‘evangelicals’ as defined by any set of core doctrines,” said historian Thomas Kidd of Baylor University, whose research includes work on American religious movements, including the roots of evangelicalism.
Making this Top 100 list, he added, seems to be linked to “some kind of prominent position in media or politics or both,” as opposed to “leading successful churches or Christian organizations. ... I would imagine all these people believe that Jesus is the Son of God and they may even share some ideas about the authority of scripture -- but that’s about it.”

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Bravo! Washington Post religion writer delves masterfully into the faith of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Bravo! Washington Post religion writer delves masterfully into the faith of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Washington Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein has a must-read story today on the faith of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Boorstein, recently honored with the Religion News Association's top prize for religion reporting at large newspapers and wire services, demonstrates once again why she is one of the best in her field.

"How Sarah Huckabee Sanders sees the world" is the headline on the Godbeat veteran's masterfully crafted piece that opens like this:

This is the world as seen through the eyes of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
As a girl, she watched her father, Southern Baptist pastor-turned-GOP-governor Mike Huckabee, sidelined when he entered politics. Arkansas Democrats literally nailed his office door shut.
In the years after, she saw conservative Christians — like her family, like most everyone she knew — ridiculed in American pop culture.
As a young woman, she moved to Washington for a government job, and noticed right away, she says, that people in the nation’s capital care more about your job than who you are. “Certainly not like where I’m from,” she says.
Sanders described this perpetual interloper experience from her other world: an elegant, well-appointed office at the White House, where reporters from places such as the New York Times and CNN metaphorically prostrate themselves at her door day in and out, and from where she can receive guidance on the phone every day from her father, long a political darling of conservative Christians, a TV celebrity now worth millions.
As the public face of the U.S. president, Sanders is a fitting symbol for her fellow religious conservatives, who are both insider and outsider, powerful and powerless.
Religious conservatives “aren’t outsiders in this White House, but generally speaking, they are,” the 35-year-old said recently in an interview in her West Wing office.

Regular GetReligion readers may recall that my August critique of a New York Times profile of Sanders was much less charitable. In fact, that analysis relied heavily on sarcasm.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I noted how shocking it was — at least to the NYT — to discover Sanders is "AN EVANGELICAL WHO READS A CHRISTIAN DEVOTIONAL BEFORE NEWS BRIEFINGS."

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Absolutely shocking news! Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reads Christian devotionals

Absolutely shocking news! Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reads Christian devotionals


Absolutely shocking!

Perhaps you saw the news today — via a tweet by the New York Times to its nearly 39 million followers — about White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

In case you're standing, I'll hold on just a second so you can sit down.

OK, brace yourself. Here it is. Deep breath, everyone!

Without further weeping and gnashing of teeth, the tweet from the Times:

President Trump's new press secretary is an evangelical who reads a Christian devotional before news briefings

Did you catch that!?


Stop the presses!

I kid. I kid. But more than a few folks on Twitter chuckled at the Times' characterization of Sanders' spiritual discipline:

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Yeah, the Ten Commandments were smashed to pieces — but don't blame Moses this time

Yeah, the Ten Commandments were smashed to pieces — but don't blame Moses this time

OK, you win, Mike Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor earns "Tweet of the Day" honors with this gem:

Some idiot in my home state broke all 10 commandments at the same time. He wasn't Moses and it wasn't Mt. Sinai.

As my GetReligion colleague Mark Kellner put it, "Gotta admit, THIS is a humorous reaction to a MONUMENTAL fail."

(Insert groans here.)

If you need a refresher on the first time the tablets were smashed to pieces, check out Exodus 32:19.

But if you're curious about what sparked Huckabee's tweet, here's the rundown from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's website:

A 6-foot-tall stone Ten Commandments monument installed Tuesday on the Arkansas Capitol grounds was toppled less than 24 hours later after a 32-year-old Arkansas man drove a vehicle into the statue, apparently while streaming the act live on Facebook, officials said.
Chris Powell, a spokesman with the secretary of state's office, said he was called early Wednesday and told a man drove a vehicle through the monument. That driver — identified in an arrest report as Michael Tate Reed of Van Buren — was arrested by Capitol police shortly after, Powell said. News reports indicate Reed was previously accused of destroying a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma.
The Arkansas arrest report said an officer around 4:45 a.m. spotted a dark-colored vehicle "start from a stopped position and ram the Ten Commandments monument."
"I immediately exited my vehicle and placed the subject in custody," Cpl. Chad Durham wrote, noting Reed was first taken to a local hospital before being booked into the Pulaski County jail.
The arrest report for Reed listed "unemployed/disabled" under occupation.
Reed, who was lodged in the jail shortly after 7:30 a.m., faces charges of defacing objects of public respect, trespassing on Capitol grounds and first-degree criminal mischief, according to the report. He was being held without bail pending an initial court appearance.

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It's the (oh, no, not again) art of Trump’s deal with many old-guard evangelicals

It's the (oh, no, not again) art of Trump’s deal with many old-guard evangelicals

From the You Can’t Make This Up Department: During Donald Trump’s summit with nearly 1,000 evangelicals (GetReligion podcast here), Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. proudly tweeted out a photo of himself and wife Becki greeting the man who would be president.

Seen on the wall behind them was a framed Playboy magazine photo of Trump alongside a nubile Playmate.

Online liberal satirist Sarah Wood noted the Playmate is currently in prison for drug smuggling, and wondered why Falwell was “honored” to associate with “a thrice-married man who has more than insinuated that he wants to date his daughter, is currently racist, made money off screwing people over, and has posed for Playboy. Praise Jesus!”

Less derisively, Professor Tobin Grant, a Religion News Service columnist, quoted Trump’s new friends who not long ago warned he “can’t be trusted,” needs to “repent,” is “embarrassing,” a “scam,” and a“misogynist and philanderer” laden with “untruthfulness.” 

A second Grant piece listed words Trump never uttered during the 90-minute encounter: that would be Jesus, Christ, Bible, prayer, faith. “God” was mentioned once, however.

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About the Republican presidential race and that 'Christian army' assembled Sunday in Texas

About the Republican presidential race and that 'Christian army' assembled Sunday in Texas

A friend of mine — a progressive evangelical who doesn't always agree with GetReligion's take on media coverage — asked me what I thought of a front-page story in today's Dallas Morning News.

The story, with the main headline "Faith takes the stage" in the dead-tree edition, reports on a Southern Baptist megachurch hosting six Republican presidential candidates at a Dallas-area forum Sunday.

My friend didn't care much for the coverage:

This looks and feels to me like religious bias from The Dallas Morning News. (It was political bias by Prestonwood Baptist, but that's an entirely different story.)
Where are the interviews with progressive Christian leaders, reminding readers that these six men do not represent the views of every Christian? By not mentioning us, aren't they perpetuating the myth that all Christians vote alike?
The DMN is covering an event that was decidedly Republican (an event to which Democrat candidates declined attendance). On the other hand, isn't the DMN contributing towards the assumption that evangelical voters represent the "Christian vote" by not mentioning the rest of the Christian voting bloc?

I am, of course, familiar with Prestonwood Baptist from my time covering religion and politics in Texas for The Associated Press. When I interviewed Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham, then the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 2004, I couldn't help but notice a prominent photo of President George W. Bush welcoming him to the Oval Office.

This is the lede on today's Morning News story:

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Yes, we saw that rather stunning Gawker quote about God and the mainstream press

Yes, we saw that rather stunning Gawker quote about God and the mainstream press

For years, I have heard religious leaders -- yes, most of them conservative types -- ask reporters whether or not they go to church. It's not a nice question and, I would argue, it's not the right question to ask if the goal is to understand why the mainstream press struggles to cover religion news.

The goal of this question, essentially, is to show that an unusually high percentage of the scribes and editors in newsrooms are godless heathens who hate religious people. Now, I have met a few of those heathens in newsrooms, but not as many as you would think. I've met my share of "spiritual, but not religious" journalists and quite a few religious progressives. I once heard a colleague quip that the only place that the Episcopal Church's "Decade of Evangelism," in the 1990s, was a success was in newsrooms.

As I have said before on this blog, there are plenty of non-believers who do a fine job covering religion news. Then again, I have met believers who could not report their way out of a paper bag.

No, the question religious folks should be asking journalists -- when reporters are sent to cover religion events -- is this: How long have you covered religion news and what did you do,  professionally and/or academically, to prepare for this work? In other words, stop asking journalists religious questions and start asking them journalism questions.

If you want to see a "Do you go to church?" train wreck, then check out the following commentary (and then some) from Hamilton Nolan at Gawker that as been making the rounds.

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