Seventh-day Adventists

Friday Five: Dallas clergy abuse, God and abortion, Colorado hero, 'Whiskeypalians,' Tenn. execution

Friday Five: Dallas clergy abuse, God and abortion, Colorado hero, 'Whiskeypalians,' Tenn. execution

Here’s your periodic reminder that — from “Save Chick-fil-A” legislation to the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandals — the Dallas Morning News sure could use a religion writer.

When police this week raided Diocese of Dallas offices related to allegations of sexual abuse by priests, the Texas newspaper — to which I subscribe — put a team of reporters on it and produced two front-page stories (here and here).

The team included a projects/enterprise writer, two police/crime reporters and a city hall writer/columnist. A Godbeat pro on the team? Sadly, the Dallas Morning News doesn’t have one, despite the importance of religion in that Bible Belt city. (There’s another Page 1 report today, again by a public safety reporter.)

Ironically, the paper’s initial coverage included an opinion piece (“Why it's good Dallas police ran out of patience with the Catholic Diocese on sex abuse”) by metro columnist Sharon Grigsby. Those of a certain age will recall that in the 1990s, Grigsby founded the Dallas Morning News’ award-winning religion section (now defunct) and oversaw a team of six religion writers and editors.

Those were the days!

Turning from the Big D, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Alabama’s passage of a law banning abortion in almost all cases tops the week’s headlines.

Since my post pointing out the holy ghosts in much of the news coverage, the religion angle has received major treatment from the New York Times (here and here) and showed up in The Associated Press’ headline on the state’s governor signing the anti-abortion bill into law.

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A Falwell in St. Martin? Religious charities' aid gets little coverage in post-hurricane news

A Falwell in St. Martin? Religious charities' aid gets little coverage in post-hurricane news

As everyone from President Donald Trump to politicians of all stripes try to make sense of the mess that is Puerto Rico, I’ve noticed little has been written about all the religious groups heading down to the U.S. territory to help.

Why is this? Information about these efforts is all over the place on Twitter and in social media.

So, along with the city of Chicago sending some two dozen firefighters, paramedics and engineers to Puerto Rico, there’s a group of Chicago Catholics sending down supplies as well. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which uses its storage centers in Atlanta as a staging ground for emergency relief, is also sending folks to Puerto Rico.

Seventh-day Adventist students and professors from the Adventist-affiliated Andrews University in Michigan are likewise showing up. The Catholic Diocese of Providence, R.I. is chipping in 10 grand. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams were finally given permission by FEMA to move in.

You may have heard about President Trump tossing towels at a Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo, but here’s a story about a Calvary Chapel-affiliated church in California that’s trying to get supplies to their brethren some 3,500 miles away.

That story was from the NBC affiliate in San Luis Obispo, but most of the stories I’ve seen are from the religious press. Case in point is this Charisma News post about everyone ranging from Paula White Ministries to Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse racing to get thousands of pounds of supplies to the island.

It does seem ironic that while so many have problems with Graham’s style or politics, there’s much less coverage when Samaritan’s Purse pours relief supplies into a devastated area.

Christianity Today also did an overview of which religious charities are doing what.

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It's the end of the world as they report it: New York Times listens to echo-chamber voices

It's the end of the world as they report it: New York Times listens to echo-chamber voices

Good morning, journalism class. Today's topic is the question of the voice in writing, specifically news writing.

No, we're not talking about active voice versus passive voice, Rather, let's look at the voices -- the "subject matter experts" as the phrasing goes -- selected by a reporter and a media outlet to speak to a given item.

For this question, we can thank The New York Times and their recent feature titled, "Apocalyptic Thoughts Amid Nature’s Chaos? You Could Be Forgiven." While the subject itself is interesting, it was the voices heard in the story -- as well as those not heard -- that caught my attention.

Here we go:

Vicious hurricanes all in a row, one having swamped Houston and another about to buzz through Florida after ripping up the Caribbean.
Wildfires bursting out all over the West after a season of scorching hot temperatures and years of dryness.
And late Thursday night, off the coast of Mexico, a monster of an earthquake.
You could be forgiven for thinking apocalyptic thoughts, like the science fiction writer John Scalzi who, surveying the charred and flooded and shaken landscape, declared that this “sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now.”

We go on to a survey -- written and published before now-Tropical Storm Irma made its first U.S. landfall as Hurricane Irma -- the thoughts of several experts about the relationship, if any, between environmental disasters and the End of All Things.

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New York Times ignores key faith facts when covering Michael Chamberlain's fight for justice

New York Times ignores key faith facts when covering Michael Chamberlain's fight for justice

I'll be upfront about my interest, or perhaps "bias," in the case of Michael Chamberlain, 72, who passed to his rest on Jan. 9 from complications of leukemia.

Chamberlain, an Australian, was a Seventh-day Adventist, as am I.

Knowing a few Australian Adventists, I can attest that the case of Michael and his former wife, Lindy, was a searing moment in the 131-year history of the movement in that country. (Adventism -- founded by some veterans of the Millerite movement -- itself dates back to 1863, when its General Conference was first organized.)

The Chamberlains were a young pastoral couple serving in Australia when they went on a camping trip in 1980 with their children, including a nine-week-old daughter, Azaria. At one point, Azaria vanished from the campsite, with Lindy claiming to have seen a dingo, a wild dog native to Australia, in the vicinity. Azaria's body was never found.

Almost immediately, public suspicion fell on the Chamberlains: No one else heard or saw an animal in the area when the child disappeared. Was baby Azaria's name some sort of cultic reference to a child sacrifice? (It wasn't.) And what about the Chamberlain's religion -- aren't those Adventists a weird sect that does kooky things?

While some may wish to debate the pros and cons of Seventh-day Adventist belief and practice, I can't think of too many rational people who believe that Adventism is a blood-sacrifice-loving cult. But in the heated antipodean media environment of the early 1980s, it was easily possible to lose sight of that.

But 37 years after Azaria's tragic death — ruled, in 2012, to have indeed been caused by a dingo and without the parents being at fault — the faith angle of this story is, or should be, widely known. Apparently, however, these crucial details slipped past The New York Times (paywall), which reported on Michael Chamberlain's passing thusly:

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Godbeat time travel: Check out these religion-news feature ideas from 43 years ago

Godbeat time travel: Check out these religion-news feature ideas from 43 years ago

Decades ago, award-winning Houston Chronicle religion writer Janice Law left the beat after a major ruckus with her editors. She became an attorney, judge, author and lately the founder of D.C.’s American Women Writers National Museum. While cleaning out clutter recently she came across a Religion Newswriters Association “News Letter” from 1974 and mailed it to the Religion Guy for a look.

Nostalgia flowed while reading about patriarchal mentors George Cornell of The AP and competitor Louis Cassels of UPI, who had just died all too young at age 52, succeeded by David Anderson. Anybody out there remember the bylines of other valued colleagues mentioned in the issue? Try these -- Jim Adams, Jim Bowman, Betty Brenner, Ken Briggs, Russ Chandler, Larry Cohen, Virginia Culver, John Dart, Bill Folger, Marjorie Hyer, Ben Kaufman, Lee Kelly, Betty Medsger, Louis Moore, Dorothy Newell, W.A. (Bill) Reed,  Dave Runge, Bob Schwartz, Lee Steele, Dan Thrapp, Hiley Ward, Bill Wineke.

At the time, The Guy was running RNA’s annual contests and 158 newswriters had submitted collections of articles from 1973. There were spot stories, local angles on national disputes, reaction roundups (e.g., Jews, Christians and Muslims addressing the latest Mideast crisis) and other standard fare. Sally Priesand, vastly covered as America’s first woman rabbi, won that year’s “Flack Award.” 

The Guy listed features from the entries for an “idea exchange” that’s interesting from a 43-year perspective. Some might even work today. A sampling: 

* What do pastors say to parents of a dying, dead, or deformed child? Similarly, pondering why God doesn’t intervene in peoples’ troublesome situations.

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Seventh-day Adventist college fracas proves that local coverage is often better

Seventh-day Adventist college fracas proves that local coverage is often better

Every week, yet another Christian college is in an uproar over clashes between doctrine and 21st century culture.

Thus, it’s no great surprise that one of North America’s 13 Seventh-day Adventist schools should be on stage now. The focus is on Pacific Union College, a Napa Valley institution ranked as America’s most beautiful college in 2012 by the Daily Beast and Newsweek. That is pretty amazing when you consider it was up against the University of California-Santa Barbara and Pepperdine.

However, its psychology department is in much disarray, according to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that tells of the department’s decision to invite Ryan Bell to speak. GR’s own Bobby Ross has written quite a bit about the publicity-seeking Mr. Bell who has gotten lots of favorable coverage for his recent decision to dump his Christian faith and become an atheist.

Even though Bell is a PUC alum, it’s not hard to imagine how inviting him onto campus would set the collective teeth of college administrators on edge.

 After forcing a psychology professor to disinvite a controversial speaker, Pacific Union College is, for the second time in less than three years, facing turmoil within and departures from its department of psychology and social work, along with renewed questions about its commitment to academic freedom.
The latest uproar at the institution, a small Seventh-day Adventist liberal-arts college in California, began when Aubyn S. Fulton, a professor of psychology, invited Ryan Bell, a former pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who had become an atheist, to speak at a colloquium.

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RNS looks at Mormon art: Vastly interesting, but what's the news hook right now?

RNS looks at Mormon art: Vastly interesting, but what's the news hook right now?

Ten years ago, I got to spend a whole day in Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, wandering about the gorgeous gardens and visiting all the sites that a non-Mormon could get into. I enjoyed the tranquility and the snapshots of Mormon history I’d known nothing about. I watched various bridal parties approach the main temple and pose for photos and I watched a few films chronicling the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The art in the main visitors center fascinated me, even though I knew it was highly idealized at best. For instance, why do painters constantly portray Jesus as the only person in the crowd wearing a white robe? No first-century carpenter would have dressed like that, so I knew instantly these were not meant to be realistic.

A recent Religion News Service story shows that I am not the only journalist asking these kinds of questions:

SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) -- Enter the North Visitors’ Center in Temple Square here, home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and you can’t miss them: 10 life-size oil paintings that march along a curving wall.
The paintings illustrate the life of Jesus. Here is John baptizing Jesus, there is Jesus gathering disciples from simple fishermen. Another shows Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, and in another he is crucified between two thieves.
In all of the paintings, there is little room for interpretation about who is being depicted: Jesus glows with an otherworldly light.
But if the message is hard to miss, so is something about the medium. Everyone is spit-spot clean and all of the paintings seem set more in the lush, green valleys near the Great Salt Lake than on the dry, brown shores of Galilee.

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Delving into CNN's 'dirty little secret' about religious conversions and Ben Carson

Delving into CNN's 'dirty little secret' about religious conversions and Ben Carson

My Christian Chronicle colleague Erik Tryggestad wrote a column from New Zealand recently in which he lamented his somewhat pedestrian decision to give his life to Jesus:

I’ve always found my own story to be lacking in drama, I told the group. I grew up in the church with great, godly parents. When I was 14 I was baptized. My salvation was an assumption — an expected journey, hardly worth sharing.

Tryggestad's not-so-boring reporting adventures have taken him to 60 countries. ("Plus, y'know ... Canada," he told me. And yes, I'm including that comment just to agitate my friends north of the border.)

Apparently, my Chronicle colleague is not alone in wishing he had a better conversion story.

Enter CNN Religion Editor Daniel Burke with the "Religion News Clickbait Headline of the Week":

The dirty little secret about religious conversion stories

(Here at GetReligion, we're much too sophisticated to ever resort to such a headline. Obviously, we'd never put "dirty little secret" in a title just hoping to gain a few extra clicks. But anyway ... )

Like the CNN headline, Burke's lede takes ample creative liberty (as opposed to an inverted-pyramid approach):

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He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

Back in January, former Seventh-day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell made national headlines with his New Year's resolution to "live without God" for a year.

Now, with Bell's publicity-grabbing experiment nearly over, he's back in the news — courtesy of an in-depth, front-page story in the Los Angeles Times.

The Times piece opens with this scene:

"Uh, I'm not exactly sure about all this," Ryan Bell said as he scanned the scene inside a darkened Las Vegas convention hall.
A stripper whirled her hips. A rock band pumped out a song about cannibalism. A man's shouting hung briefly over the packed crowd: "God is dead!"
For nearly two decades, Bell had pastored congregations of Seventh-day Adventists, among the most conservative denominations in Christianity. How had he ended up at a gathering of atheists and skeptics in Sin City?
It had been a long time coming. For years now, it felt as if his prayers weren't being answered. He secretly wondered whether a higher power existed at all.
So, last Dec. 31, he published a blog post that went viral.
"For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God," he typed. "I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result)."
Now it was July, just over midway in his journey. Bell had spent as much time as he could reading about science and philosophy, interviewing agnostics and atheists, working to decide what he would believe when the year was done.

Keep reading, and the writer explores Bell's faith journey — journey away from faith, that is — primarily from Bell's own perspective.

As for what the article means when it describes Seventh-day Adventists as "among the most conservative denominations in Christianity," readers are left to wonder.

 

 

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