Philippines

Friday Five: Top religion journalists, Christian rock, rainbow-cross flag burning, Sarah Sanders doctrine

Friday Five: Top religion journalists, Christian rock, rainbow-cross flag burning, Sarah Sanders doctrine

We’ve mentioned a few of the winners in the Religion News Association’s annual Awards for Religion Reporting Excellence — including Ann Rodgers, Kimberly Winston and Rachel Zoll.

But be sure to check out the entire #RNA2018 contest list for more familiar, deserving names. Some names I recognized: Peter Smith, Peggy Fletcher Stack, Tim Funk, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Emma Green, Elizabeth Dias, Bob Smietana, Jeremy Weber and Ted Olsen.

Congratulations to all of those honored for their work on the Godbeat!

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

(1) Religion story of the week: Seriously, a story on Christian rock music is the story of the week!?

Hey, when GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly refers to a New Yorker piece on the Christian rock wars as “stunningly good,” pay attention. And as his post urged, read it all.

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Twists, news pegs, names and questions in impending United Methodist LGBTQ showdown

Twists, news pegs, names and questions in impending United Methodist LGBTQ showdown

At long last, the United Methodist Church has posted detailed proposals (.pdfs here) from its emergency “Commission on a Way Forward” to address what it calls the “deepening impasse” over whether to approve actively gay clergy and same-sex weddings. 

Leaders of America’s second-largest Protestant denomination hope to end this 46-year conflict and avoid schism by uniting around one of three plans from the commission at an extraordinary General Conference, next Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis.

An added news peg: The Council of Bishops is asking the Oct. 23-26 meeting of the UMC’s highest court (Judicial Council) to rule on whether each concept is constitutional. Consider that headline: If the jurists reject one, or two, or all three of the plans, could the General Conference legislate an outlawed proposal anyway?  

Watch for reactions to the three plans from this weekend’s (July 26-29) meeting at the St. Louis Airport Hilton of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition. Its 12-member caucuses want “full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people.” Speakers include the UMC’s first married lesbian bishop, Colorado-based Karen Oliveto (bishop@mountainskyumc.org, 303-733-0083). A key coalition source will be Jan Lawrence (jan@rmnetwork.org, 773-736-5526),  executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network. 

Here are salient aspects of the study commission’s proposals. 

* One Church Plan -- The majority of bishops and commission members favor what amounts to “local option” across the U.S. Regional units (“annual conferences”), congregations, bishops and pastors would be free to decide whether to uphold or reject the UMC’s existing stance against  homosexual relationships. Conservative congregations could still avoid gay clergy. Pastors and clergy candidates on either side could switch from annual conferences or congregations they disagree with. Proponents say this will end church trials and other tumult, and honor consciences on both sides. This also changes, of course, the church's commitment to centuries of Christian doctrine.


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Transgender Filipinos and playing journalism's conflict card when the conflict's largely settled

Transgender Filipinos and playing journalism's conflict card when the conflict's largely settled

A tried, true and irrepressible journalistic contrivance to pull media consumers into a story is the widely played conflict card. And by conflict I mean of any kind — two nations in opposition, or two politicians, two ideas, two religions, two siblings; two of anything with strongly differing goals.

Theater, films, novels, opera and other story-telling forms have their own conflict cards, of course. It's the stuff of drama. But since this is a journalism blog we’ll put those others aside for now.

Conflict grabs attention, enabling us to relate to news stories. Pick a side and you’re emotionally engaged and providing your own backstory, beyond what’s been reported. We all succumb.

The problem is that journalists -- brace yourself because the following words will likely rock your understanding of how journalism is practiced -- often overplay the conflict card,  molding mountains from molehills, trying to breathe life into a conflict that’s already been largely settled.

Shocking, isn't it? Why would journalists do that?

Well, how about because we need a hook and we’ve got nothing better? Or because we believe its what an editor and the news consuming public expects? It's our programmed default.

Sometimes it’s done because a reporter is working off assumptions that no longer apply, confusing past with present.

Take the following New York Times story from the Philippines that strives in its lede to portray a hot conflict between the Roman Catholic Church’s historic teachings and influence, and the nation’s widespread contemporary acceptance of homosexuality and alternative gender identities.

It's not a badly constructed story, in my opinion. Opponents and proponents get their say. However, the story is undercut by it's attempt to give oxygen to a conflict that seems largely settled.

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About those Filipino Catholics: What does it mean when a murderer is elected president?

About those Filipino Catholics: What does it mean when a murderer is elected president?

In an increasingly insecure world, blow-back politics -- the lurch to the right after years of liberal government stumbles and outright failures -- has increasingly taken hold in the democratic West. We've seen it in Poland and earlier this year in Great Britain (Brexit).

It also goes a long way toward explaining how electoral long shot Donald Trump became President-elect Donald Trump.

How all this ends is anybody's guess. But let's hope it's not like the Philippines, where right-wing, electoral populism has birthed its deadliest spawn. That's where self-confessed murderer President Rodrigo Duterte has taken charge.

This week he uttered what arguably were his most outrageous comments yet. The Washington Post reported it thusly:

In his latest controversial statement, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, known for his bloody anti-drug war that has killed thousands, threatened to throw corrupt officials out of a helicopter, saying he has done it before, to a kidnapper, and won't hesitate to do so again.
“I will pick you up in a helicopter to Manila, and I will throw you out on the way,” Duterte said in Tagalog in front of a crowd in the Camarines Sur province Tuesday, according to GMA News. “I've done it before. Why would I not do it again?”

Yes. The people of the Philippines, an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation, freely voted into office a man who brags about his extra-judicial killing of those he judged to be incorrigible drug dealers and abusers, and others. And his henchmen follow his lead. And the Filipino people say they're, by and large, just fine with it.

This despite the fact that their church leaders openly and repeatedly condemned Duterte.

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There Pope Francis goes again: Madonna of the rabbit

There Pope Francis goes again: Madonna of the rabbit

Pope Francis’ remark about Catholics breeding like rabbits is a joy.

Just when I reach the point of indifference and exhaustion with religion reporting, the pope breathes life into journalism. He makes me laugh. What a grand fellow he is, and a misunderstood one.

The casual comment given to the press during his flight home from Manila has sparked great press interest. One might have heard the rabbit remark from Ian Paisley and other hard-nosed Protestants a generation ago. Today such comments are heard in the last bastions of anti-Catholic prejudice: the faculty lounge and press room.
 
Reuters has a nicely written report on Francis and rabbits, which summarizes the story and the difficulties of reporting on Pope Francis. He combines high and low culture in his comments, mixing pastoral and theological categories, church and secular language. The problem for reporters is discerning into which category to place his words.
 
The Reuters piece begins:

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) -- Catholics should not feel they have to breed "like rabbits" because of the Church's ban on contraception, Pope Francis said on Monday, suggesting approved natural family planning methods.

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Associated Press serves up Pope Francis for dummies: Affirm the doctrines, ignore the rules?

Associated Press serves up Pope Francis for dummies: Affirm the doctrines, ignore the rules?

As he so often does, Deacon Greg Kandra looked at a news story about the Catholic church and summed it up in a crisp one-liner, a skill honed to a fine edge during his quarter of a century with CBS News. At his "The Deacon's Bench" blog (must reading for journalists on the Godbeat) he proclaimed: "BREAKING: The pope is still Catholic."

Pope Francis is Catholic? As opposed to what?

That's a big issue in the mainstream press, these days. Kandra's ironic headline pointed readers toward this Associated Press report from the recent papal stop in the Philippines, which began like this:

Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception, using a Friday rally in Asia's largest Catholic nation to urge families to be "sanctuaries of respect for life."
Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued the Philippines for decades and urged officials to instead work to end its "scandalous" poverty and social inequalities during his first full day in Manila, where he received a rock star's welcome at every turn.

The "sanctuaries" quote led into a very interesting passage that deserves close attention. You see, it is one of those doctrine-affirming statements that Francis often makes, yet these affirmations tend to draw minimal mainstream media coverage, especially in comparison with the waves of coverage that have followed some papal remarks that, when edited, seem to undercut orthodoxy.

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Blessed corpses — and holy ghosts — after typhoon

Here’s my nominee for “Most Bland Headline of the Weekend.” It appeared atop an Associated Press report:

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