New Orleans Times-Picayune

The Catholic matriarch of Creole cooking: Yes, the real Princess Tiana was a Catholic believer

The Catholic matriarch of Creole cooking: Yes, the real Princess Tiana was a Catholic believer

What made Creole chef Leah Chase so unique?

There’s at least two ways to look at that question. You can ask, “What made her famous at the national level?” Fame is important, especially a person’s life and work is connected to A-list personalities in politics, entertainment and culture.

However, in this case I would say that that it was more important to ask, “What was the ‘X’ factor that made her a matriarch in New Orleans culture?” When you focus on that question, the word “Catholic” has to be in the mix somewhere — a core ingredient in the strong gumbo that was her life.

Thus, I was stunned that the NOLA.com tribute to Chase hinted at her faith early on, but then proceeded to ignore the role that Catholicism played in the factual details of her life. Look for the word “Catholic” in this piece: “Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, dead at 96.” You won’t find it, even though the overture opened the door:

Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, who fed civil rights leaders, musicians and presidents in a career spanning seven decades, died Saturday (June 1) surrounded by family. She was 96.

Mrs. Chase, who possessed a beatific smile and a perpetually calm demeanor, presided over the kitchen at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant until well into her 10th decade, turning out specialties such as lima beans and shrimp over rice, shrimp Clemenceau and fried chicken that was judged the best in the city in a poll by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Every Holy Thursday, hundreds showed up to enjoy gallons of her gumbo z’herbes, a dark, thick concoction that contains the last meat to be eaten before Good Friday.

What, pray tell, is the importance of community life and faith linked to Holy Thursday and Good Friday?

Maybe editors in New Orleans simply assumed that Catholicism is a given in that remarkable city, something that does not need to be explained or, well, even mentioned. (Watch the NOLA.com video at the top of this post.)

In this case, if readers want to learn some facts about the role that Catholic faith played in this Creole queen’s life, they will need — wait for it — to dig into the magesterial obit produced by The New York Times: “Leah Chase, Creole Chef Who Fed Presidents and Freedom Riders, Dies at 96.”

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Friday Five: Olympic miracle, homeless Super Bowl player, faith of TV dad, cheating mayor and more

Friday Five: Olympic miracle, homeless Super Bowl player, faith of TV dad, cheating mayor and more

"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

With the Winter Olympics starting in Pyeongchang, South Korea, what better time to recall one of the greatest calls in sports history?

How many GetReligion readers are old enough to remember Al Michaels' excited description of the U.S. hockey team's 4-3 victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 games in Lake Placid, N.Y.?

Later, Kurt Russell starred in the 2004 movie "Miracle," which tells the true story of the Americans' improbable gold medal performance and makes some lists of all-time best sports films.

But enough reminiscing. 

Let's get to the "Friday Five":

1. Religion story of the week: Some weeks, this is a difficult choice. Not this week. 

As I described it in a post this week, "There are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible story on 'The search for Jackie Wallace.'"

The viral piece by retired Times-Picayune photojournalist Ted Jackson — now approaching 300,000 retweets — explores the downfall, redemption and disappearance of a New Orleans football legend.

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There are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible story on 'The search for Jackie Wallace'

There are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible story on 'The search for Jackie Wallace'

Ted Jackson calls the response to his story on "The search for Jackie Wallace" unreal.

Yeah, you might say that.

As of the moment I'm typing this, Jackson's Twitter post sharing the story has been retweeted 127,641 times and received 273,000 likes. 

"This might be the most amazing bit of reporting I've seen in years," veteran religion writer Bob Smietana said in his own tweet. "There are stories that haunt journalists for years. This is one of them."

This is one of those cases where, if you insist, you can keep reading my post. Or, and I promise  you won't hurt my feelings if you choose Option No. 2, you can proceed immediately to the story in question and devour it just like Smietana and I did. It really is that good.

I mean, there are must-read stories, and then there's this incredible tale.

It's a lengthy read but so, so worth it. Here's the nuts-and-bolts summary from the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans newspaper where Jackson worked as a staff photographer for 33 years and won a Pulitzer Prize:

A New Orleans football legend reached the pinnacle of the sport.
Then everything came crashing down.
This is the story of his downfall, redemption — and disappearance.

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Old story of Marvin Gorman, Jimmy Swaggart's onetime accuser, shows that faith details matter

Old story of Marvin Gorman, Jimmy Swaggart's onetime accuser, shows that faith details matter

Until just recently, you'd have to have been a rather deep-in-the-weeds religion nerd to remember Pastor Marvin Gorman, a pentecostal preacher who, like the much-more-famous Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, was once affiliated with the much more mainstream Assemblies of God. 

Gorman, 86, who passed to his rest on January 4 in New Orleans, was one of the first, in 1987, to formally accuse Swaggart of adultery, and he had the photographic evidence to support the charge.

As the New Orleans Times-Picayune captured it:

Rev. Gorman was brought down in an epic feud that sullied the Pentecostal movement three decades ago. In 1986, Swaggart, a fellow Assembly of God televangelist based in Baton Rouge, accused him of adultery. Swaggart also helped blow the whistle on Jim Bakker, an Assembly of God televangelist in Charlotte, N.C., for an extramarital affair with a church secretary.
In response, Rev. Gorman circulated photographs of Swaggart and a prostitute at an Airline Highway motel in Metairie, leading to Swaggart's downfall, and he sued Swaggart for defamation. He won a $10 million award, although the parties later settled out of court at $1.85 million.
By this time all three men's ministries were in ruins. Rev. Gorman declared bankruptcy, Bakker went to prison and Swaggart's empire collapsed.

Those of us in or around the Godbeat in those days know how tumultuous a time it was. But it was long, long ago, and the media could be forgiven for having moved on to the latest prosperity gospel preacher who's set to pray at Donald Trump's inauguration, or something else more contemporary.

I believe, however, that it's important to remember the lives and works, good or bad, of those who've labored in the vineyards of faith, and thereby hangs, I would also suggest, a journalistic tale. 

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Shooting 'devils': What beliefs drove the Baton Rouge police killer?

Shooting 'devils': What beliefs drove the Baton Rouge police killer?

While the Trumpification of the GOP held the attention of many mainstream media, some were probing the warped mind of Gavin Long, who shot three police officers in Baton Rouge before being shot dead himself. Their chilling discoveries are reported in well-crafted articles, especially in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Here are some of the spiritual currents they found coursing through the killer's mind:

* He returned from a visit to Africa saying that fasting and abstaining from sex, activated his pineal gland and "opened a third eye of wisdom."

* He began calling himself Ausar Setepenra, a reference to two Egyptian gods.

* He claimed membership in a group of African Americans who say they're a "sovereign Native American tribe."

* The world is "run by devils," in his view.

Of the articles, the Post's -- with six reporters writing 1,400 words -- is the most ambitious. It tries to track his movements over his last few weeks:

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Ten years after Katrina, looking for God in the anniversary news coverage

Ten years after Katrina, looking for God in the anniversary news coverage

With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this week, I wrote a column reflecting on covering the "storm of the century" for The Christian Chronicle:

NEW ORLEANS — I see the faces, and the memories come rushing back.

Since Hurricane Katrina a decade ago, I’ve made repeated trips to report on the faith and resiliency of God’s people — both victims and volunteers. 

I’ve lost track of the exact number of times I’ve traveled to New Orleans. However, the faces — and experiences — remain fresh in my mind.

From my personal experience in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, I know the "faith-based FEMA" were a key piece of the recovery — in some cases, the key piece.

In Katrina's wake, thousands of volunteers motivated by faith in God housed, fed and clothed evacuees, cleaned up muck and debris, rebuilt homes and businesses and helped in a million other ways.

Given that, I am curious to see if God will show up at all in the anniversary coverage of Katrina making landfall on Aug. 29, 2005.

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Big Bang and Bobby Jindal: Is Louisiana governor's silence on pope's evolution remarks newsworthy?

Big Bang and Bobby Jindal: Is Louisiana governor's silence on pope's evolution remarks newsworthy?

A regular GetReligion reader alerted us to a New Orleans Times-Picayune story on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender:

Gov. Bobby Jindal has declined to comment on Pope Francis' position that evolution and the Big Bang are real and whether the pope's beliefs will influence his views on the issue going forward.
The pope said last week that God didn't use a "magic wand" to form the universe. He said evolution explains how God allows his creation to develop.
"The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it," the pope said. "Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."

The reader complained about the headline's description of Jindal as "silent" on Francis' remarks:

So are Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Mark Dayton, Chris Christie and many other politicians. This is one of the dumbest stories I’ve ever read!

My first thought was: Why does an evangelical politician need to respond to the pope? But then I recalled — as the Times-Picayune story notes — that Jindal actually is Catholic. He's an "evangelical Catholic," as media organizations such as the Washington Post have described him.

Given Jindal's religious affiliation, asking him about what the pope said doesn't strike me as terribly offensive. 

In fact, the story explains why the issue might be considered newsworthy,

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#SBC14: Race, sex, Muslims make Baptist headlines

As Southern Baptists convene their annual meeting in Baltimore — home of editor tmatt — all could make headlines. In fact, they already are. Sunday’s front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune featured a 2,500-word farewell profile on the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., who is wrapping up two years as the convention’s first black president.

A few blocks from where he grew up in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, in a wet and rising wind, Rev. Fred Luter Jr. is pacing behind a microphone. In his last weeks as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the leader of the United States’ largest protestant denomination is here in an official capacity, to speak at the dedication of a non-profit health clinic. But the event also marks a homecoming of sorts.

Here are the streets Luter walked as a boy. He can point to where his mother went to church, and to the barber shop where he honed a gift for speaking. Those buildings are now boarded and the streets marred by blighted homes, by empty lots — evidence of deep racial inequalities that Luter has seen as his life’s work to resolve.

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