Oklahoma City

When a sermon goes viral: Pastor finds himself in middle of social media storm over Kavanaugh

When a sermon goes viral: Pastor finds himself in middle of social media storm over Kavanaugh

I don’t believe I’ve ever met the Rev. Bob Long, even though my time as religion editor for The Oklahoman overlapped with his tenure as pastor of a large United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.

But I know his voice.

For years, I’ve heard Long on the radio, often while driving to work. Long is a mini-celebrity here in Oklahoma, known for inspirational radio messages that include cheerful music and a quick life lesson from the pastor.

“That’s something to think about,” he concludes each 60-second segment. “I’m Bob Long with St. Luke’s Methodist Church.”

This week, Long has gained notoriety for a different reason — for a sermon in which he put the face of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on his church’s big screens.

As The Oklahoman’s Carla Hinton (who succeeded me as religion editor in 2002) reported on Wednesday’s front page, a social media storm erupted with a tweet from a churchgoer who was not pleased with Long’s choice of optics.

The church posted both written and video messages from Long apologizing for the hurt feelings his sermon caused.

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'You can't give in': an incredible story of faith and forgiveness by NBA coach after wife's tragic death

'You can't give in': an incredible story of faith and forgiveness by NBA coach after wife's tragic death

"Dude. This was a hard read. Never take anything for granted, because every normal day is a blessing."

I first heard about Sports Illustrated's in-depth feature on former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams when my son Brady tweeted the above comment.

Then my friend Darin Campbell posted a link to the same story on Facebook with this note: "If you read one thing this week, read this." One of Campbell's friends followed his advice and replied:  "I'm not sure there is a verbal response for this."

Amen.

Suffice it to say that Sports Illustrated senior Chris Ballard dives deep and insightfully into the life and mindset of "Monty Williams, the woman he loved, and the power of persistence."

Interest in the story of Monty and Ingrid Williams has been extremely high, of course, since the tragic death of the coach's wife 14 months ago. I wrote more than 200 GetReligion posts in 2016, but my most-clicked one concerned holy ghosts in initial reporting on the Williamses.

Days later, Monty Williams' faith-filled remarks at his wife's funeral at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City rocked the sports world.

Now comes the Sports Illustrated piece, which fills in the gaps of Monty and Ingrid Williams' journey — before, during and after the events of Feb. 9, 2016 — in a way that's hard to explain.

You just have to read it:

 

 

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Hey media: In delving into child prostitution scandal involving senator, don't forget the church

Hey media: In delving into child prostitution scandal involving senator, don't forget the church

I'm on a reporting trip to Canada and writing this post from my hotel room in Hamilton, Ontario, southwest of Toronto.

Ordinarily when I travel, I don't pay much attention to the news back home in Oklahoma City. But this week — even though I'm 1,200 miles away — I haven't been able to escape the scandal making banner headlines in my local newspaper, The Oklahoman.

The headlines concern a state senator caught up in a child prostitution scandal.

Until this week, I had never heard of Shortey. Since I cover national religion news, I don't follow the key players in Oklahoma politics as closely as I did years ago when I worked for The Oklahoman.

But my 17-year-old daughter met Shortey through the YMCA’s Youth and Government organization, which lets teens participate in a program that simulates state government. My daughter, a high school senior, served as a judge in the YAG program and had meetings with Shortey and other students just recently. So she has been — for obvious reasons — distressed and sickened by this week's news (as has her father).

The Oklahoman has been all over the story — five front-page reports in three days (here, here, here, here and here) — and rightly so. Voters deserve to know what happened, and the newspaper has an important role to play in ensuring that justice is served.

And yes, there is — sadly — a religion angle, one that so far has not been pursued as much as it could be and should be.

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Path to sainthood: Slain Oklahoman could be first U.S.-born priest beatified, paper reports

Path to sainthood: Slain Oklahoman could be first U.S.-born priest beatified, paper reports

Sometimes, old news is worth reporting again.

Carla Hinton is the longtime religion editor for The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City's daily newspaper where I worked for nine years. She had a nice story Sunday on Oklahomans traveling to Guatemala to mark the 35th anniversary of a slain priest's death.

Thirty-five years, huh!?

So why is this front-page news all these years later?

I'm not privy to The Oklahoman's news meetings, where editors decide what stories to give the most prominent play, but here's my guess: This is a case that many Oklahomans — particularly the state's religious community — have followed for a long time. The editors know that the story of the upcoming pilgrimage will appeal to those readers.

As for those unfamiliar with the Rev. Stanley Rother's death, Hinton shares the history and the path that has led to this week's anniversary commemoration in an extremely compelling way. It's just an interesting weekend read for those with coffee in one hand and the thick Sunday paper in the other:

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Kevin Durant bombshell: Could reporters have spotted ties that bind during 'chapels'?

Kevin Durant bombshell: Could reporters have spotted ties that bind during 'chapels'?

When it comes to NBA culture, Oklahoma City is not your normal town. That's a #DUH statement, right there.

Over the years, this theme about Oklahoma City being a family-friendly, Bible Belt kind of place has figured into the story of Kevin Durant, a superstar who has never hidden his faith, all the way back to his Christian high school. (I met him, briefly, when he was being recruited by Baylor and I was on campus for a speaking gig. He did a one-and-done thing with the University of Texas, of course.)

Our own Bobby Ross, Jr., has written about this part of the Durant story -- here and here, for example -- noting that the national press has rarely connected the dots on the faith side of things.

So now Durant has left family-values land to join the Golden State Warriors, heading to northern California, and the hip, secular Bay Area to be specific. That's a big surprise and surely there isn't a faith angle to that outrageous move. Right?

Well, it appears that there is a link there. For example, check out the YouTube at the top of this post. Yes, it's over-the-top evangelical and not news material. But do you spot any Golden State Warriors in it? That brings me to this interesting passage in a feature -- "How the Warriors got Kevin Durant" -- at USA Today:

The Warriors had been hearing that Durant had eyes for their franchise for a while. ... Part of it was relationship-based, with Durant growing close with Warriors players in recent years -- none more so than Curry and super sixth man Andre Iguodala during the FIBA World Championships in 2010.

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On the day after Fourth of July, four Godbeat developments you'll want to know about

On the day after Fourth of July, four Godbeat developments you'll want to know about

Welp. It was quite a Fourth of July here in Oklahoma City.

Perhaps you heard the news about Thunder superstar Kevin Durant's Independence Day.

Yes, there's a religion angle. But we'll save that for a post later this week from our own tmatt, GetReligion's resident expert on faith and the NBA.

As I join my fellow Oklahomans in mourning Durant's departure, the day after the Fourth of July (that would make it July 5, right?) seems like an opportune time to update readers on four key developments on the Godbeat:

1. The Religion Newswriters Association is no more.

No, the professional organization for Godbeat pros has not disbanded. It's thriving, in fact. But it has a new name: Religion News Association.

Here's how a news release from RNA (yes, that acronym is still correct) explains the change:

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Euphemism in the news? We debate 'abortion care' terminology in front-page report

Euphemism in the news? We debate 'abortion care' terminology in front-page report

My friend and former colleague Kenna Griffin loves to "talk nerdy" about the intricacies of journalism.

That description probably fits GetReligion's behind-the-scenes discussion over two words that appeared in a Sunday front-page story in The Oklahoman — the Oklahoma City metropolitan daily where Kenna and I both used to work.

A question from reader Brandon Dutcher sparked the dialogue by our team:

You doubtless saw The Oklahoman’s front-page story on the new abortion clinic coming to Oklahoma City. One sentence in particular jumped out at me: “Burkhart did not get involved in women's rights work to provide abortion care in underserved communities — but that's where life led.”
Am I being overly sensitive here, or is the phrase “abortion care” inappropriate for a straight news story? Why not just say “provide abortions”?
My Orwellian alarm bells are going off, but I’m curious to know if anyone else sees anything amiss here.

A little background: I wrote a recent post praising an earlier Oklahoman story on the planned facility by religion editor Carla Hinton. The Sunday story about which Brandon inquired was written by Carla, a friend with whom I worked for nine years, and Jaclyn, a health reporter of whom I am a big fan. (In other words, these are not people I am in a hurry to criticize.)

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#ThunderUp: Jumping on O-K-C bandwagon and exploring religion ghosts on sports page

#ThunderUp: Jumping on O-K-C bandwagon and exploring religion ghosts on sports page

I'm not a huge basketball fan. Baseball is my sport.

But I live in Oklahoma City, and my sons, Brady and Keaton, are Thunder fanatics. The team's surprisingly strong playoff run against historic powerhouses San Antonio and Golden State has the Thunder one win from the NBA Finals. 

With Loud City — OKC's earsplitting fandom — in a frenzy, I've jumped on the bandwagon. 

Thunder up,  y'all!

If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you already know there's a Godbeat angle with the Warriors — the Thunder's Western Conference finals opponent and the team that won an NBA-record 73 games this season.

Think Stephen Curry, the first unanimous NBA MVP.

But what about Oklahoma City? Any potential religion angles here? Ya think?

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For fun, let's try — one more time — to make sense of Donald Trump's evangelical support

For fun, let's try — one more time — to make sense of Donald Trump's evangelical support

Over the weekend, I partied like a journalist.

No, I'm not talking about celebrating the best picture Oscar for "Spotlight," although I thought that was pretty cool.

Rather, I'm referring to the column I wrote comparing the 2016 Republican presidential race to the wrestling shows I watched as a kid. (We newspaper writers do like to amuse ourselves.)

In a more serious take, I tackled this question in a piece for The Christian Chronicle:

In the year of Trump, do values, character matter to Christian voters?

Over at the New York Times, Sunday's newspaper likewise explored the phenomenon of Trump winning the hearts of evangelical voters. Given that I covered the same Oklahoma City rally as the Times, I called dibs on critiquing the piece for GetReligion.

"Go for it," editor Terry Mattingly replied. "You can link to the previous 28 posts. ;-)"

OK, boss, if you insist.

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