Tony Carnes

Podcast talking: Would Democrats take Marianne Williamson seriously if her name was ....

Podcast talking: Would Democrats take Marianne Williamson seriously if her name was ....

Donald Trump is not going to be beaten just by insider politics talk. He’s not going to be beaten just by somebody who has plans. He’s going to be beaten by somebody who has an idea what the man has done. This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes.

“So, Mr. President — if you’re listening — I want you to hear me please: You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you’re doing. I’m going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win.”

— Marianne Williamson’s final statement in first debate for Democrats seeking White House in 2020.

Anyone want to guess what this particular candidate might use as the anthem that plays at the beginning and end of her campaign rallies?

I’m thinking that it might be something that honors the 1992 bestseller — “A Return to Love” — that made her a national sensation back in what people called the New Age era. Something like this: Cue the music.

I focused quite a bit on that book’s old New Age theology in my recent post (“Evil, sin, reality and life as a 'Son of God': What Marianne Williamson is saying isn't new”) about a fascinating New York Times feature about Williamson and her decision to seek the White House. I thought it was appropriate that the Times gave so much attention to the religious themes and concepts in her work, instead of going all politics, all the time.

But, truth be told, the key question discussed in this week’s “Crossroads” podcast — click here to tune that in — focused on mass media, celebrity, religion and, yes, politics, all at the same time.

Look again at that debate quote at the top of this post and give an honest answer to this question: Would that quotation be receiving more attention if the candidate who spoke it was someone named Oprah? How about this person’s candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination?

Williamson is being treated as a bit of a novelty, frankly, even though millions of Americans — on the elite coasts, but also in the heartland, because of her role as a spiritual guide for Oprah Winfrey.

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On second thought, were Pat Robertson's comments on Las Vegas more newsworthy than we said?

On second thought, were Pat Robertson's comments on Las Vegas more newsworthy than we said?

"Don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news."

Somebody made that case the other day.

OK, maybe that somebody was me.

But after hearing some excellent feedback from respected Godbeat colleagues (more on that feedback in a moment), I've reconsidered my position. Have I actually changed my position? You'll have to read on to find out.

In case you missed my original post, a few mainstream media organizations — including the HuffPost — reported on Robertson blaming disrespect for President Trump, in part, for the Las Vegas mass shooting in which 59 people died and more than 500 were wounded. 

Others mentioning his remarks — and I discovered this only after publishing the first post (thank you, Cheryl Bacon!) — included the New York Times.

The relevant paragraph from that Times article, headlined "Terrorizing if Not Terrorism: What to Call the Las Vegas Attack?":

Then the F.B.I. knocked down the Islamic State angle, noting that the group has a history of false claims. The guessing game resumed: Was it a plot by “deep-state Democrats” (Alex Jones of the conspiracy site Infowars) or perhaps divine punishment for the “profound disrespect”shown to Mr. Trump and the national anthem (the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson)? Was it something to do with country music, given the concert crowd Mr. Paddock targeted? Could it be linked in any way to the long-ago history of Mr. Paddock’s father as a bank robber on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list?

The gist of my original argument against turning Robertson's comments into news:

When there's a major tragedy, here's another thing you can count on: Pat Robertson opening his mouth.
So yes, Robertson weighed in on Las Vegas. Was there any doubt that he would? But is there any possibility that what he said amounted to actual news?
Probably not, as a million (only slightly exaggerating) past GetReligion posts make clear.
"The key is that there are so many people within evangelicalism who are — for better and for worse — more interesting and influential than Robertson at this point in his career," GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly wrote way back in 2005. (That same year, Poynter.org published another excellent Mattingly piece on this subject, titled "Excommunicating Pat Robertson.")

The pushback against my position came on my personal Facebook page, where I had shared a link to the post.

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Interested in a March event with James Davis and lots of other religion-beat talent?

Interested in a March event with James Davis and lots of other religion-beat talent?

This may sound like a strange question, but, trust me, there is a good reason to ask it: Are there any GetReligion readers out there who would be interested in visiting the University of Wisconsin at Madison in mid-March?

Why is that? Well, because of a March 14th conference with this title: "Reporting on Religion: Media, Belief, and Public Life." Click here, pronto, for all of the details. Here is the overture on the home page for the event:

America’s religious landscape is shifting, and, as a result, news coverage of religion has never been more important. “Reporting on Religion: Media, Belief, and Public Life” will give journalists and the general public an opportunity to explore one of the most important, sensitive, and controversial topics in contemporary America.
The one-day conference will feature journalists and scholars who will help participants gain a deeper understanding of the role religion plays in public life and how religion is -- and isn’t -- represented in the news media today.
The conference will culminate in a keynote address, free and open to the public, by television journalist David Gregory, former moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press and the author of How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey.

Yes, that would be David Gregory talking, I am sure, about some of the territory covered in these GetReligion posts by our own Bobby Ross, Jr. -- click here and then here for details.

Glance over the packed program for that day (click here) and you will see many other names familiar to GetReligion readers, beginning with our own James Davis, in the panel called, "How the Press Covers Religion and Spirituality." Other familiar names on the docket include Cathy Lynn Grossman, Jaweed Kaleem, Bob Smietana, Dilshad Ali and Tony Carnes.

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Offering sociological journalism about the mosques of New York City

Offering sociological journalism about the mosques of New York City

ake your pick. Tony Carnes is either a sociological journalist or a journalistic sociologist.

Either way, since 2010 he’s led a team that walks the 6,375 miles of New York City streets, block by block, for interviews, documentation, and analysis of local religious activity -- with remarkable findings. Any newswriter interested in religion or immigration in America’s largest city can acquire ample material from the online magazine Carnes edits, “A Journey through NYC Religions.”

A transplanted Texan turned patriotic New Yorker, Carnes – full disclosure: a personal friend – has been a college teacher, wrote academic publications, and leads a university seminar in social science methods. But he’s also been an active journalist, including years as a senior writer for Christianity Today. His non-profit research organization, founded in 1989, has done field work in mainland China, the dying Soviet Union and rising Russian Federation, and the United States. A college convert to evangelical Christianity, Carnes attends Manhattan’s noted Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

A series of Journey articles launched May 18 is taking a fresh ground-level look at Islam. After the 9/11 attacks, the media widely reported that New York City had 100-plus mosques (“masjids”). But an early “Journey” report  located 175.

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