South Korea

God credited with shrinking figure skater's brain tumor, but otherwise terrific story haunted by ghost

God credited with shrinking figure skater's brain tumor, but otherwise terrific story haunted by ghost

"Scott Hamilton Was Demoted as an Olympic Broadcaster. Don’t Feel Sorry for Him."

That's the headline on a fascinating New York Times sports column on the famous U.S. figure skater and broadcaster.

Why shouldn't we feel sorry for him?

If you really want to know, I'd urge you to click the link and read the full column. 

But basically, the idea is that Hamilton has suffered through a series of cancer battles and has his priorities in the right place. That means, as the Times explains, that the loss of his Olympic broadcasting gig hasn't hit him as hard as it might have otherwise.

The Times even hints that a higher power might be involved:

Hamilton said he had prayed about 12 times a day for it to go away. Doctors treated him with radiation, and the tumor did go away.

And later, there's this mention:

The tumor had shrunk, by about half. Hamilton choked up when describing what happened next.
“Have you ever had one shrink without treatment before?” he said he asked the doctor. “And the doctor said, ‘Nope, never.’”
Hamilton asked, “So how can you explain this?”
The doctor said, “God.”
It floored him. He was in the process of losing three friends to colon cancer, yet he, somehow, someway, was given this miracle? At his latest doctor’s visit, in December, the tumor was even smaller.

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Are reporters missing a surprising religion ghost when covering news about North Korea?

Are reporters missing a surprising religion ghost when covering news about North Korea?

Media mention of religion in North Korea generally involves the arrest of some unfortunate foreign Christian who thought they could sneak a Bible or other evangelism materials into what is arguably the world's most repressive state -- which is saying something, given the number of horrific governments out there.

By way of example, click here. Or click here, and then read what GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly said over the weekend about a CNN take on a major North Korea story.

As for the existence of religion in North Korea itself, the default position for most journalists, including those on the religion beat, is that the nation formally (and oxymoronically) known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is officially atheist. On occasion, a more knowledgeable reporter may note that its official philosophy is known in Korean as Juche.

This recent New York Times piece does just that. Here's the pertinent sentence: "Juche, or self-reliance, is the North’s governing ideology."

Well, yes. But there's so much more that can be said. Including that some who study the sociology of religion consider Juche -- as politicized and seemingly secular as it is -- a "religious" ideology. Which means there's a "religion ghost," or unrecognized religion angle, hidden in some stories about how the North's oppressed population endures.

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Beleagured Jehovah's Witnesses in South Korea get sympathetic treatment in New York Times

Beleagured Jehovah's Witnesses in South Korea get sympathetic treatment in New York Times

Jehovah’s Witnesses are notoriously tough to interview.

They didn’t used to be. Back in the late 1980s while I was on the religion beat at the Houston Chronicle, I arranged for myself and a photographer to follow a team work its way, door by door, through a certain posh neighborhood. Other than the fact they tried to convert me and we got into an argument as to whether Easter should be a Christian festival, it was an enlightening time. I was amazed at how rude people were to these visitors and how many doors were literally slammed in their faces.

But in 2012, when I assigned students in my religion journalism class at the University of Maryland to find a JW team to follow around, I learned that no Witnesses could talk with us now unless their New York headquarters allowed them to. And I could never get anyone from New York to answer my calls.

Which is why this New York Times story of the horrors that Witnesses face when refusing military service in South Korea was a real coup.

No doubt the Witnesses over there talked because they wanted to get word out about how bad things truly are in the Land of the Morning Calm. When reading this story, just take into account that it's unusual to get Witnesses to cooperate much with the media. The article starts out with:

SEOUL, South Korea -- Since he was a teenager, Kim Min-hwan knew he would have to make a choice: abandon his religious convictions or go to prison.

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