NPR’s Sarah McCammon visited two Friendship Baptist Churches for a report that aired this week.
I loved the idea behind her story on congregations in the same state with the same name but different perspectives on President Donald Trump. And I mostly loved the implementation.
But before we delve into her feature, let’s start with the online headline: I’m not 100 percent sold on it.
Here it is:
In Virginia, 2 Churches Feel The Aftermath of Trump’s Racist Rhetoric
My problem with the headline is this: It labels Trump’s rhetoric — as a fact — as “racist.” I’m an old-school- enough journalist that I’d prefer the news organization simply report what Trump has said and let listeners/readers characterize it as racist. Or not.
But back to the story itself: It opens this way:
A welcome sign on the way into town reads "Historic Appomattox: Where Our Nation Reunited." But here in Appomattox, where the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, there are still reminders of division.
Not far away, a sign posted in front of Friendship Baptist Church reads "AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT."
Pastor Earnie Lucas said he posted that message on his church sign several weeks ago. It was around the same time that President Trump tweeted an attack on four Democratic members of Congress — all women of color — saying they should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."
Lucas, 85, is white and has been a pastor in this community for decades. He defends his sign and expresses anger about the response it has received online and in news reports.
"Don't talk to me about that flag out yonder, or that sign out yonder!" he thundered from the pulpit. "This is America! And I love America!"
Lucas asks if anyone in the small, all-white congregation is "from Yankee land." No one raises their hand