Sally Jenkins

Talking Pat Summitt: Down South, it matters whether you're Baptist or Methodist

Talking Pat Summitt: Down South, it matters whether you're Baptist or Methodist

If you grew up in the Bible Belt, then there's a good chance that you know the punch line to this old joke.

Question: How do you tell the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist in a Southern town?

Answer: The Methodist will say "Hi" to you at the liquor store, while the Baptist will stay silent.

That joke links up pretty well with another old Southern saying. In the typical Southern town or small city, church ties were supposedly linked to education. If you graduated from high school, you were a Baptist. If you had a college degree, you were a Methodist. If you had a law degree (or a sheepskin from a medical school) you were an Episcopalian.

Why bring all this up in a post linking to our new "Crossroads" podcast about University of Tennessee legend Pat Summitt, the trailblazing czarina who built the Lady Vols hoops empire? Click here to tune that in.

The link is actually pretty complex.

When I wrote my first post about the coverage of Summitt's death, at age 64 -- "The press missed this detail? Pat Summitt took a very timely walk into the waters of baptism" -- I noted that the mainstream press had missed an important passage in the official obituary posted at the Pat Summitt Foundation website, focusing on her faith and her relationship with her son Tyler (an only child, after six miscarriages).

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Taking Pat Summitt's faith seriously: Sally Jenkins on treating the elderly with dignity

Taking Pat Summitt's faith seriously: Sally Jenkins on treating the elderly with dignity

As you would expect, the news coverage of the death of Pat Summitt has faded at the national level. She was a very important person in the world of women's sports, a legend even, but life moves on. Yes, we will get to that amazing first-person piece by columnist Sally Jenkins in a moment.

Here in East Tennessee, the coverage has continued. Here in Lady Vols territory, she was a local institution and, for many, a person who lived near someone they knew, or they bumped into her at a grocery store, met her at a sports event at a local school or, yes, they knew her from church.

Last week, I wrote a GetReligion piece in which I argued that it was strange for the mainstream press to have ignored the role that Christian faith played in this strong woman's life. This was especially true in light of a reference, in the official obituary posted online by the Pat Summitt Foundation, to the fact that she was baptized, with her son Tyler, in a ceremony of some kind of 2012. This was a year after her Mayo Clinic diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's disease and a few weeks after she stepped down as coach of the Lady Vols basketball team.

I immediately began hearing from lots of people that there was much more to that story than one event in 2012. Actually, you could catch a hint of that in the language used in that official obituary.

She was most proud of one special moment they shared that outshines all the others. On May 5, 2012, Pat and Tyler were baptized together. On this day, they decided together to go public with their faith and professed their love for and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. On this day, they created the ultimate and eternal memory, together.

The point of my earlier post was not that this baptism was a story in and of itself, but that this event was part of a larger picture.

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Washington Post probes heart of Stephen Curry and finds family (with hint of faith)

Washington Post probes heart of Stephen Curry and finds family (with hint of faith)

That Stephen Curry, how does that guy do what he does? I mean, 402 three-pointers? #Seriously?

Lots of people are asking these questions right now and, I am pleased to say, some people (click here for a previous example or maybe two) are probing deeper than the wonders of his hand-eye coordination and the near miraculous range on his high-arching jump shot.

If reporters are going to ask what makes Curry tick, they have to do more than ask what makes him tick as a basketball phenomenon. If they are going to be honest (and logical) they also need to know what makes him tick as a man, a husband and a father. They may even have to back up and look at how Curry's past, quite literally his spiritual roots, have shaped him.

These kinds of honest, totally journalistic questions (if you are writing about Curry the man) lead straight to his faith and his family.

Thus, the big question: At what point in a Curry feature story does one play the God card (or even worse, the Jesus card)? If the goal is to let readers see Curry's heart, mind and soul, how do you avoid the contents of his heart, mind and soul?

This brings me to the recent Washington Post feature that ran under this headline: "The hidden price Steph Curry pays for making the impossible seem effortless."

Hidden price? That sounds deep.

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