The Baltimore Sun

Monday Mix: Church vs. football, religion in schools, scandalized bishops, His (Islamic) Holiness

Monday Mix: Church vs. football, religion in schools, scandalized bishops, His (Islamic) Holiness

Welcome to another edition of the Monday Mix, where we focus on headlines and insights you might have missed from the weekend and late in the week.

The fine print: Just because we include a headline here doesn't mean we won't offer additional analysis in a different post, particularly if it's a major story. In fact, if you read a piece linked here and have questions or concerns that we might address, please don't hesitate to comment below or tweet us at @GetReligion. The goal here is to point at important news and say, "Hey, look at this."

Three weekend reads

1. "I think we can all thank the Lord for Saturday night services and TiVo." The Tennessee Titans played the Los Angeles Chargers at 8:30 a.m. CDT Sunday in London (they lost a heartbreaker).

In advance of the odd kickoff time, religion writer Holly Meyer of The Tennessean had a timely, interesting feature on the clash between Sunday morning church and football:

While the extra-early Titans game is atypical, it is not uncommon for late Sunday morning worship services to run past the usual noon-or-later kickoffs in the 17-week regular season.

Die-hard, church-going Titans fans devise game-day routines that ensure they can watch their team and worship their God.

2. "(T)here is more student religious expression today in public schools than probably anytime in the last hundred years." For two decades, Charles Haynes has been a go-to source for journalists (including myself) reporting on the intersection of religion and public schools.

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So a key player in Pennsylvania clergy sexual abuse report keeps quoting Scripture. Why?

So a key player in Pennsylvania clergy sexual abuse report keeps quoting Scripture. Why?

After the Pennsylvania attorney general dropped a bomb last month with its release of a massive report on clergy sexual abuse, we all started combing through the state’s media, seeing who was reporting on what.

Seven weeks later, they’re still out there working away. Although it’s not the state’s largest newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is leading the charge with numerous pieces packaged at this site.

The other day, the Post Gazette came up with a profile of the Pennsylvania deputy attorney general who was the leading force behind the nearly 900-page report and investigation.

It talks of a man with a strong moral sense; an ingrained conviction of right and wrong, of someone with the endurance to spearhead the five years of work that produced the massive report (which has elicited copycat investigations in at least eight other states).

HARRISBURG — Like in the Batman reruns he grew up watching as a kid, there is something about the battle between good and evil that, even as an adult, Daniel Dye can’t seem to shake from his conscience.

Maybe it’s because in those stories, someone shows up, flaws and all, when duty calls. Or maybe it’s because those people are unafraid and unabashed at feeling righteousness.

Mr. Dye, 38, muses openly about such things. On social media, where his posts often cite famous men in history or discuss the fight for justice. In a coffeehouse on an overcast weekday afternoon. And in a grand jury room, where as a senior prosecutor for state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office, he’s spent the last five years building the cases that led to the damning report on Catholic clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania — once even quoting scripture to a defrocked priest he was questioning.

As I perused more than a year of Dye’s tweets off his Twitter account, I saw a man who is passionate about punishing evil, especially regarding anything having to do with sexual abuse of children. He is also someone who very occasionally drops in a scripture quote into a tweet and, as the story says, likes Batman.

Wait. Scripture?

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#MLK50: On anniversary of King's assassination, five faith-filled links to insightful coverage

#MLK50: On anniversary of King's assassination, five faith-filled links to insightful coverage

It's #MLK50 day — the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Already, we have called attention to strong religion-related coverage of this milestone by two veteran Godbeat journalists: Hamil R. Harris and Adelle Banks.

Harris, we noted, recently wrote an article for the Washington Post headlined "Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, where should the black church go from here?" And for USA Today, he did a story noting that "As racism resurges, many look to the pulpit King left behind."

Banks, meanwhile, produced an extraordinary story focused on a 75-year-old Memphis, Tenn., sanitation worker who "drives five days a week to collect garbage, even as he spends much of the rest of his time as an associate minister of his Baptist congregation."

Along with the above coverage, here are five more insightful links (and please feel free to share more in the comments section) that we came across in scanning today's headlines:

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Steelers and Ravens: 'Prayers' vs. 'vibes' pre-game? Strange edits in famous Bible verse?

Steelers and Ravens: 'Prayers' vs. 'vibes' pre-game? Strange edits in famous Bible verse?

I didn't come of age in the 1960s, but I am old enough to understand the lingo of that decade when I hear it, like "good vibes." Plus, I'm a Beach Boys fan (especially of the underrated "Sail On Sailor" era).

Everyone knows about "Good Vibrations," right? I mean, it's one of the great radio songs of all time.

This brings us to the strange opening of a Baltimore Sun story the other day, as the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers prepared for another round in the NFL's most intense rivalry. This game, however, was framed by an on-field tragedy -- a scary back injury -- that touched players on both squads, with teams that view each other as respected rivals, not hated enemies.

The headline: "Ravens wish speedy recovery for Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier."

The key word there is "wish." Now, pay careful attention to the wording in the lede:

To Ravens players and coaches, hardly anything compares to preparing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they hit the pause button Wednesday morning on their intense rivalry to send some good vibes to an injured Steelers player.

The key term there? That would "good vibes."

So what actually happened, in that Ravens meeting as the team started work to prepare for this crucial showdown (which the Ravens lost, in yet another nail-biter in this awesome series)?

This is the rare religion-and-sports case in which we can turn to ESPN to find out. The headline on its story noted: "Ravens begin team meeting by praying for Steelers' Ryan Shazier."

The key word there is "praying." Here is the overture:

The Baltimore Ravens still talk about their hatred for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But there is a mutual respect for their biggest rival.
The Ravens opened their team meeting on Wednesday morning by praying for Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who remained hospitalized for a second consecutive night while doctors monitor his back injury.

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Baltimore Sun gets the little picture: Convert-era Orthodoxy comes to local Greek parish

Baltimore Sun gets the little picture: Convert-era Orthodoxy comes to local Greek parish

More than 30 years ago, there was a big story that rocked the rather small and obscure world of Eastern Orthodox Christianity here in the United States.

That was when a flock of evangelicals -- led by a former Campus Crusade leader, the late Father Peter Gillquist -- were embraced by the ancient Antiochian Orthodox Church. Regular GetReligion readers know my own family later joined that number, through a close friendship with another leader in that flock, the late Father Gordon Walker of Franklin, Tenn.

The mainstream press gave the "evangelical Orthodox" story a modest amount of ink at the time. Like I said, it was an important story in a small, but growing, flock. The key was that it was a sign of things to come for the faithful in the world's second-largest Christian communion.

Years before I converted, I wrote a column about the growth of an American expression of this ancient faith, built on an interview with the late Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Church. He was born in Turkey, but by the end of his life he could see ripples of change in America. The converts were coming, whether some Orthodox leaders wanted them or not.

"I cannot visualize what an American Orthodoxy would look like. ... But I believe that it will exist. I know that it must be born," said Iakovos. ...
"I do know this for sure. The essential elements of the Orthodox tradition will have to remain at the heart of whatever grows in this land. The heart has to remain the same, or it will not touch peoples' souls. It will not be truly Orthodox. I know that this will happen here, but I do not know when it will happen or how."

That was 1992. Why bring this up now? Well, the Baltimore Sun recently published a lengthy and admirable feature about a local development in this larger national story. This piece offered an in-depth look at the story of a former Southern Baptist (from East Tennessee, of all places) who has found his way into the Greek Orthodox priesthood.

To be blunt, there is only one problem with this story: It never really places this one priest in the context of this larger, 30-year-old trend in Eastern Orthodoxy. It also failed to note the degree to which this trend had already had a big impact in Baltimore, especially as symbolized by one of America's best-known "convert friendly" parishes.

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Baltimore Sun skips key angle in DUI bishop case: Why was Heather Cook using that cellphone?

Baltimore Sun skips key angle in DUI bishop case: Why was Heather Cook using that cellphone?

It made headlines at the end of 2014 and during 2015, and the DUI-linked vehicular homicide conviction of a now-former Episcopal bishop in Baltimore made news again last week.

Heather "DUI bishop" Cook, at one time the suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Church's Maryland Diocese, will remain in prison until at least 2020. She failed to gain early release at a parole hearing mandated by state law.

Cook, whose seven-month tenure as a bishop effectively ended with the December 2014 crash that killed cyclist Tom Palermo, expressed no remorse at the hearing, according to media reports. (She actually resigned on May 1, 2015, roughly one year after being elevated to the role.) The Baltimore Sun, which has been on top of the story since the accident, sums things up for us:

The Maryland Parole Commission on Tuesday denied the parole request of Heather Cook, the former Episcopal bishop who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for the drunken-driving crash that killed a bicyclist in 2014.
Commission chairman David Blumberg said the two commissioners who ruled on the case told him they denied Cook parole in part because she "took no responsibility" for her actions and displayed a "lack of remorse" during the 90-minute hearing at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup.
Cook's attorney for the hearing, Hunter L. Pruette, left without addressing reporters and could not be reached for comment.
Cook, 60, pleaded guilty in 2015 to charges of vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving, driving while texting and leaving the scene of an accident in the crash that killed 41-year-old Thomas Palermo on Dec. 27, 2014. She will no longer be eligible for parole.

The Sun report continues with a recapitulation of the case, as well as some of the comments made by Palermo's widow, Rachel, following the hearing. Watching this woman's statements -- see video above -- is painful. Two young children are without their father; a young wife was robbed of her husband. 

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NFL star's tragic loss: It's hard to talk about family-man Todd Heap without mentioning the obvious ...

NFL star's tragic loss: It's hard to talk about family-man Todd Heap without mentioning the obvious ...

It was hard to avoid the faith element of a story when almost everyone involved in talking about a family tragedy kept mentioning it.

However, some top-flight journalists tried really hard to keep the faith talk at a generic level when covering the tragic accident that claimed the life of the 3-year-old daughter of a former National Football League star. Tight end Todd Heap was a Pro Bowl-level performer for years with the Baltimore Ravens, but finished his career with the Arizona Cardinals -- a career move that was completely logical for reporters who understood his Mormon heritage and his faith.

I thought the best feature about this accident -- a mix of tweets, URLs, material from other news sources and reporting -- ran in The Washington Post, obviously not that far from Baltimore. Let's start there, in material near the top.

Heap, the 37-year-old former Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals tight end, accidentally drove over his 3-year-old daughter, killing her as he moved his truck in the driveway of the family’s Mesa, Ariz., home. She was pronounced dead at a Phoenix-area hospital and, although authorities are investigating, they indicated there was no sign that Heap was impaired or that what happened was anything other than a parent’s worst nightmare.
What happened to Heap, a popular player who retired in 2013, moved people in and out of sports, mostly because so many understand how easily such an accident could happen to anyone. Social media reactions often carried emoji of broken hearts and hands folded in prayer. The Ravens may have put the magnitude of what happened best, calling the accident “knee-buckling news” for Heap, his wife, Ashley, and their other four children in a statement.

In quote after quote, players and friends make it clear that faith was and is a key element of the Heap family story. This angle was simply impossible to avoid.

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Baltimore Sun finds the faith angle in the Baptist officer ensnared in Freddie Gray case

Baltimore Sun finds the faith angle in the Baptist officer ensnared in Freddie Gray case

The Baltimore Sun is no longer the dead-tree-pulp newspaper that lands in my front yard each morning. Thus, logically enough, there has been a sharp decline in the number of Sun stories that show up here on GetReligion.

Also, the newspaper's website features a numbing array of intrusive auto-cue forms of advertising, so sane readers would only go there when there are no other options. However, my many Charm City-area friends still let me know, from time to time, when something interesting shows up.

In this case, the Sun recently offered an in-depth profile of Alicia White, the only female officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, the infamous case that still hangs over life in Baltimore like smoke from burning urban neighborhoods. This was a big story for one simple reason, as stated in the headline: "Baltimore Police Officer Alicia White, charged in Freddie Gray case, becomes the first to speak out."

The surprise in this story is that it truly explores the human side of this woman, as well as the legal and political angles of the story. As is often the case among public servants in Baltimore's African-American community, that led the reporters into spiritual territory.

Right from the get-go, the story stresses that this case has had painful consequences for White as a person and as an officer.

For the past 18 months, her co-defendants either went to trial or were called to the stand to testify while she awaited her own trial. Out of public view, White spent much of the time grappling with crippling anxiety, and at one point was rushed to a hospital. The stress led her and her fiance to call off their engagement, and she spent months unemployed. Then, in July, all charges were dropped.

In addition to the interview material from White, it's clear that the Sun team did extensive background work in the community, digging into her life and work. That's where her educational background and church ties show up.

In other words, her Christian faith was and is part of her identity and, in the past, it affected her actions. Thus, it's part of the story.

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Baltimore Sun attempts to navigate complicated world of Orthodox iconography

Baltimore Sun attempts to navigate complicated world of Orthodox iconography

What we have here is a beautiful little feature story about a subject that is, literally, close to the heart and soul of any Orthodox Christian -- icons. The story ran in The Baltimore Sun, the newspaper that landed in my front yard for a decade, which means that it's about an Orthodox congregation that I have actually visited.

Iconography is a complicated subject on several levels, both in terms of the theology, the history and the craft itself. This story gets so many details right that I hesitate to note an error or, maybe, two -- one of mathematics (I think) and the other is, well, just a strange hole that would have been easy to fill.

First things first: Here is the overture.

As  Dionysios Bouloubassis picks up his paint brush at Saint Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church early one morning, the large canvas before him is blank but for the outlines of an angel he has sketched in pencil.
Swirling on reddish-brown pigment, he brings its wings to life. He fleshes out a Bible, then two hands to hold it. By nightfall, the cherub seems alive, its eyes gazing down from heaven.
The angel, a figure from the Book of Revelation, is one of 16 that Bouloubassis, a master iconographer from Greece, plans to paint and affix to the 60-foot dome inside Saint Mary, part of a years-long project in art and worship the Hunt Valley congregation launched in 2013.

So far so good. However, the very next paragraph contains a crucial error of history.

If all goes as planned, Bouloubassis will leave the interior of the year-old church covered in icons -- mural-sized renderings of Christ, the saints, angels and other religious images that have been part of the Orthodox Christian worship tradition for more than 1,200 years.

Where did that reference to 1,200 years come from?

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