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Why Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting a haircut wasn't just news — it was, believe it or not, religion news

Why Texas Sen. Ted Cruz getting a haircut wasn't just news — it was, believe it or not, religion news

Dude.

Religion stories pop up in the most unexpected places. For example, the barber chair.

That's where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz found himself over the weekend as the Texas Republican campaigned for votes in his re-election bid against Congressman Beto O'Rourke, Cruz's well-financed Democratic challenger.

In the nation's most expensive Senate race, perhaps it's no surprise that Cruz getting a haircut — "and an earful," as the Dallas Morning News described it — made headlines.

But was there really a religion angle in the snip, snip, snip?

Believe it or not, yes, as noted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy.

Check this off as example 3,127,629 why the religion beat is never boring.

Also, give credit to the Texas media who covered Cruz's retail politics (which later included Texas barbecue, which beats anything cooked in Tennessee, as I'm sure tmatt will attest) for not missing the faith angle.

The name of the barber shop offered the first clue: It's called Kingdom Cuts.

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Covering Robert Jeffress and Kim Jong Un: Some media shone, while others flailed

Covering Robert Jeffress and Kim Jong Un: Some media shone, while others flailed

It certainly made for a lot of waves on the internet: The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, describing how America's chief executive has authority from God to kill off North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

I’m still waiting for Pope Francis to come up with a statement to refute that one. But first things first: On Tuesday, Jeffress’ remarks were released to the Christian Broadcasting Network, an odd alliance if there ever was one. CBN is very oriented toward the Pentecostal-charismatic side of things and Jeffress most definitely is not, as an old-guard leader on the Southern Baptist right.

But politics always makes for strange bedfellows and with its superior contacts within the Trump administration, CBN has found itself in the unusual role of breaking national stories lately. David Brody’s three-paragraph story was part news, part editorial:

Sometimes you've got to stop evil. It's biblical. In North Korea, it's pretty clear that their dictator is downright evil. So tonight, Pastor Robert Jeffress, a longtime evangelical backer of Donald Trump, just released a statement saying the president has the moral authority to take out Kim Jong Un. This comes after Trump said today that if North Korea continues to threaten the U.S. then they will “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."
“When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary -- including war -- to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un. I’m heartened to see that our president -- contrary to what we’ve seen with past administrations who have taken, at best, a sheepish stance toward dictators and oppressors -- will not tolerate any threat against the American people. When President Trump draws a red line, he will not erase it, move it, or back away from it. Thank God for a President who is serious about protecting our country.”
Folks, get ready. I've warned for a long time that North Korea was the biggest problem all along. Memo to North Korea: with Trump as president, you really don't want to mess with America. This could get real ugly real soon. Trump won't tolerate this for too much longer.

Later, CBN did follow up with something more nuanced from other evangelicals. 

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What was hottest story in Phoenix? Southern Baptist confusion or final vote slamming alt-right? (updated)

What was hottest story in Phoenix? Southern Baptist confusion or final vote slamming alt-right? (updated)

So in the end, what was the big news story at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix?

Was it the resolution slamming the alt-right that "messengers" from churches in America's largest Protestant flock passed or the strange timing of the action to pass it?

Was it the painful chaos after SBC leaders decided not to send the original resolution to the floor for debate, a decision raising myriad issues about Southern Baptist tensions linked to race and politics in the age of Donald Trump? Or was it the successful protests from many younger pastors -- white and black -- demanding a chance to speak to America about this issue?

The answer, of course, is all of the above.

As always, journalists faced the challenge of crunching that complex reality into as few words as possible, in a form that average readers could understand. Clearly, it helped to have a veteran religion reporter on hand to do this work (or someone who spoke fluent Southern Baptist).

Here is the good news: The Associated Press produced a punchy, highly accurate report from Phoenix, which means that your average newspaper reader had a chance to get the basic facts. Note the sequence of news elements at the top of this report (produced by an AP reporter on the scene, and veteran religion-beat pro Rachel Zoll in New York):

PHOENIX (AP) -- Southern Baptists on Wednesday formally condemned the political movement known as the "alt-right," in a national meeting that was thrown into turmoil after leaders initially refused to take up the issue.
The denomination's annual convention in Phoenix voted to "decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and "denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil."

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Where's the beef? Report on Texas attorney's controversial prayers missing crucial details

Where's the beef? Report on Texas attorney's controversial prayers missing crucial details

Where's the beef?

In a front-page story today, the Dallas Morning News nails the basic facts of a prayer dispute pitting a Texas criminal defense attorney against prosecutors and judges. However, crucial specific details are missing about, well, religion. More on that in a moment.

But first, the lede from the Morning News:

Defense attorney Mark Griffith prays for God’s guidance each time he walks into a courtroom.
He prays on Facebook, too, asking God to help the jury “see the heart of my client.” Or for “God to be with them all tonight as they await closing arguments tomorrow and the decision by the jury as to what will echo in my client’s life forever.”
And he prays, as he writes on Facebook, about how he has “one of God’s children in my hands. He has no voice, I am his voice in the courtroom. I actually pray before trial starts and at every break during trial. I ask God to lead me to the truth with his grace, by my questions.”
Now, Griffith says, two judges have ordered him to stop praying on social media at the request of Ellis County’s County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson.

Whoa!

But that's just one side of the story. The Dallas newspaper reports the other side, too:

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