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Holy ghosts haunt story of Colorado high school wrestler who wouldn't compete against girl

Holy ghosts haunt story of Colorado high school wrestler who wouldn't compete against girl

In reading about a Colorado high school wrestler who declined to compete against a girl, I couldn’t help but think that holy ghost — as we call them here at GetReligion — might be haunting the story.

I first caught this recent news via Yahoo! Sports, which made no reference at all to religion in writing about Brendan Johnson.

Curious, I clicked the Yahoo! link to the original source material from the Denver Post.

Here’s the deal: On one hand, the Denver Post piece is extremely compelling and readable.

Let’s start with a big chunk of the opening (more text than I usually copy and paste) because it really sets the scene:

Once the curveball leaves life’s fingertips, the swinging part is up to you. The way Judy Johnston tells it, she just happened to snatch the first open seat she saw near the floor of the gymnasium at Legend High School in Parker last month. What she didn’t know at the time was that the open seat just happened to be next to the one occupied by Angel Rios’ mother, Cher. Or that Angel, a junior 106-pound wrestler at Valley High in Gilcrest, just happened to draw a matchup against her son, Brendan, a senior wrestler from The Classical Academy.

Or how Cher was going to react once she heard Brendan wouldn’t wrestle a woman. Not now. Not ever.

“It was a fluke,” Johnston recalls from a stairwell inside the Pepsi Center during the 2019 Colorado High School Activities Association State Wrestling Tournament. “I had been told Angel is really good, she wants to go the Olympics, so we knew a little about her. And the (Valley) coach came by and said, ‘He’s going to forfeit.’ And Angel came over to her mom and said, ‘He’s going to forfeit.’ She was disappointed. Her mom was disappointed. And me not being able to turn away from a challenging conversation…”

With Cher fuming, Judy introduced herself.

“Well,” she said, words dancing carefully to avoid stepping on any toes, “my son happens to be the one that’s forfeiting.’”

“Why is he doing that?” Cher replied.

“She explained why she felt disrespected,” Johnston recalled. “I said, ‘I totally understand that.’ I said, ‘I know she’s worked hard, but he feels it’s not appropriate to interact with a woman that way, to be physical on or off the mat, at this stage in life.

“So I kind of explained my side. It took a while, but she was able to kind of say, ‘Yeah, I kind of see your point.’ I wished her well and wished Angel well. And that was the end of it.”

Only it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

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Barring any evidence to the contrary, let's assume that Yahoo! 'News' is meant to be commentary

Barring any evidence to the contrary, let's assume that Yahoo! 'News' is meant to be commentary

It's time for another edition of "What is this?"

This is where we at GetReligion attempt to determine whether a particular piece of journalism -- or in some cases, a media organization in general -- is news or commentary or something in between.

The traditional American style of journalism -- the model that this website unabashedly promotes -- relies on impartial, accurate reporting with named sources cited. On controversial topics, it's really nice to see some balance in terms of the quoted sources.

But much U.S. journalism has given way to a European brand of advocacy, frequently making it difficult to distinguish between what is meant as "Just the facts, ma'am" and what is purposely told with a (biased) attitude. Lean forward!

Today's example comes to us courtesy of a reader, who questions whether a piece on evangelical voters from Yahoo! News and attributed to the website's "senior political correspondent" really falls under the category of news.

The reader notes that the story is "full of snark and opinion, but not labeled as opinion or even analysis."

The lede:

To Americans who stand outside the evangelical tradition, Franklin Graham’s recent proclamation that there’s “no question” that God supports Donald Trump’s presidency was another head-scratcher in a growing list of puzzling statements by Christian leaders over the past year.
Even without getting into the question of whether God chooses sides in elections, or how Graham can be so sure of his preference, there is the obvious fact, much discussed in the campaign, that the generally non-churchgoing, avidly materialistic Trump seemed an unlikely vessel for God’s will.
But Graham’s remark and white evangelicals’ continuing support of Trump make more sense when viewed in light of American evangelicalism’s history and DNA. It is a subject explored in depth in “The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America,” a new history of the movement by Pulitzer Prize-winner Frances FitzGerald.
“He did everything wrong, politically,” Graham told the Atlantic’s Emma Green. “He offended gays. He offended women. He offended the military. He offended black people. He offended the Hispanic people. He offended everybody! And he became president of the United States. Only God could do that.”
Graham’s mentality reflects the evangelical obsession with dramatic solutions and easy answers that Michael Horton, a professor of theology at Westminster Seminary in California, described in his 2014 book, “Ordinary.”
“American Christianity is a story of perpetual upheavals in churches and individual lives. Starting with the extraordinary conversion experience, our lives are motivated by a constant expectation for The Next Big Thing,” Horton wrote.

Um, OK. Where to start?

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Must we keep talking about Citizen Trump and evangelicals? We must, we must ...

Must we keep talking about Citizen Trump and evangelicals? We must, we must ...

First things first: Why the nod to the classic farce "Blazing Saddles" at the end of the headline for this post?

Well, why not? Don't you sense the hand of comedy genius Mel Brooks behind the scenes in this election year? Believe me when I say, "I do, I do."

Thus, People keep asking me things like, "Why are we still talking about Donald Trump and the evangelicals?" Of course, the word "evangelicals" in this case has little or nothing to do with theology. It is a reference to one camp -- stress, one camp -- of mostly white evangelicals who at this point in time are either supporting Trump or who have not made up their minds on the issue.

We are still talking about them because no Republican has a chance to reach the White House in the era after Roe v. Wade without a massive turn out by these highly motivated voters. Republican winners also need strong support from conservative (think daily Mass) and middle-of-the-road (think Sunday Mass, most of the time) Catholics, but that's an issue very few people seem to be talking about. Has anyone heard a word from a U.S. Catholic bishop about anything for about six months?

We are also talking about Trump and this one camp of old-guard, white evangelicals (many can accurately be defined as "fundamentalists") because other evangelicals are talking about them, from the other side of a bitter and painful divide in pulpits and many pews. At this stage, even Trump's evangelical advisory team is packed with people who have not endorsed him.

So, once again, "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I, during this week's podcast, talked about the slow-motion train wreck that is Trump's campaign to get right with the God voters. Click right here to tune that in.

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Jew attacked because of his kippah -- why do few media want to know what that is?

Jew attacked because of his kippah -- why do few media want to know what that is?

Why wear a kippah? What does the Jewish skullcap mean?

In France, one meaning is "walking target," as an attack on a Jewish teacher in Marseilles shows.  

The brutal machete attack has prompted a public debate among Jewish leaders over whether to stop wearing the traditional headgear in public. Beyond that, however, media accounts seem to lose interest.

Here are some of the horrendous details, as reported in the International Business Times:

A teenager who attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete in France claimed he acted in the name of the Islamic State (Isis/Daesh) group, authorities said. Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin confirmed the stabbing was anti-Semitic and involved some degree of premeditation.
The victim, a 35-year-old teacher at the Franco-Hebraic Institute in the southern city, was on his way to work on 11 January when the boy of Turkish Kurd origins charged him from behind.
The youth, who will turn 16 next week, first slashed the man's shoulder and then went after him as he fled. The teacher eventually fell on to the ground and fought off a second attack using his arms, legs and a holy book, Robin said.
The assailant dropped the weapon and ran away before being caught by police some 10 minutes later. Upon arrest he invoked Allah and IS also telling officers that "the Muslims of France dishonour Islam and the French army protects Jews".

You could hardly ask for stronger religious angles in a news story: jihadism, anti-Semitism, marking an enemy by his religious garb, use of a holy book as a shield. Even the machete recalls the half-dozen hacking attacks on secular bloggers in Bangladesh.

But like IBTimes, most media ignored or downplayed the religious facets. They didn’t even ask about the "holy book" used as a shield by the teacher. Among the very few that did was Yahoo News; it says the book was a Torah, a collection of the first five books of the Bible -- the basis of Jewish law and theology.

More typical is the account by the BBC:

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Sing it! Going to the 'chapel' (maybe) and we're gonna get married (on our terms)

Sing it! Going to the 'chapel' (maybe) and we're gonna get married (on our terms)

There is an old saying in the religion-beat world that goes something like this: You can always find interesting news trends if you keep looking at what happens when each generation moves through the symbolic crossroads of life -- being born, getting married, having children and dying.

During this week's Crossroads podcast (click here to tune that in), host Todd Wilken and I talked about a number of different trends linked to marriage in this day and age, spinning off from two New York Times stories. One was about people flocking to New York City for secular weddings in a state-run marriage bureau chapel. Yes, "chapel." The other was about the trend toward very sexy -- but still white -- wedding dresses.

All kinds of issues came up in this discussion. For example: Lots of churches have had to establish policies on how to handle couples who have been "living in sin" -- that's what people used to call it -- before marriage. There are still interesting stories to be found linked to that topic. But times move on. I am curious. In the age of R-rated wedding dresses, are religious leaders going to have to have wedding dress codes for brides? Do priests and rabbis need to approve wedding dresses in advance?

Truth be told, there is a big, big subject looming in the background during this chat. We are talking about radical American individualism and its whole "this day is all about you" wedding ethos that produces both gigantic, break-the-bank church weddings and all of those destination weddings on beaches, mountain cliffs and who knows where.

The bottom line is even bigger than the financial bottom line: Is the wedding a sacrament or not? Is the rite defined by individuals or by worshipping communities?

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Pope Francis in South Korea: Broad variety of coverage

Pope Francis in South Korea: Broad variety of coverage

How do you get the New York Times interested in Protestants?

Easy. Quote the Protestants freaking out over a visit by the Pope Francis. In classic form, the newspaper uses a single source to explore (exploit?) differences among Christians as Francis prays for peace and unity there.

It's one of more than 3,900 articles on the first pope to visit Korea since John Paul II in 1989.

It's also an extreme example of the antagonistic coverage the church gets from American reporters, according to an article by Father Thomas Reese in the National Catholic Reporter.  Reese complains that while obsessing over abortion, gay marriage and birth control, reporters have been ignoring other actions of the American bishops -- such as their stances on the environment, disarmament, immigration reform and peace in the Middle East.

That sounds really, really serious, when this Reese piece is actually quite hilarious, which is why religion-beat pros have been chattering about it for days. This is your chance to hear (read, actually) a priest respond "Go in peace" after a journalist curses.

But back to the pope and South Korea. We'll get to the Times'  behavior later. Fortunately, other stories show some lucid, literate coverage.

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Same-sex marriage vs. religious liberty ... another twist

Love is in the air. Or at least more marriage headlines are filling up my computer screen. (And perhaps this would be a good time for me to give a shoutout to my lovely bride and fellow GetReligionista, Tamie. I know she’ll love this video.) Earlier this month, I highlighted — and praised — Reuters’ coverage of what it called a “new twist” in the same-sex marriage debates: proposed religious exemptions for florists, cake makers and others opposed to the practice. In a straightforward account of an Oregon proposal, the wire service presented the facts and quoted both sides.

But in perusing this week’s news, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Oregon anymore. So, let’s try Kansas.

Gay rights advocates are outraged over a bill — passed by Kansas lawmakers earlier this week — that would allow businesses and state government employees to deny services to same-sex couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

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