history

Concerning the familiar journalistic need to seek out history (and a Catholic angle to July 4th)

Concerning the familiar journalistic need to seek out history (and a Catholic angle to July 4th)

A trip to Washington, D.C., especially around the time of Independence Day, is always a good way to get the history juices flowing. It’s also a good way to get story ideas if you’re an editor or reporter looking for a new angle to this annual holiday.

Walking around the nation’s capitol is also a reminder of how much religious faith and this nation’s founding are connected, in terms of personalities and big themes. God is everywhere in this country’s past and the monuments that populate this wonderful city are a reminder of it.

One statue that many often ignore or neglect to focus on is that of Charles Carroll located in the National Statuary Hall collection. Not only is his life an excuse to cover July 4th through a new lens, but also gives readers the chance to learn about our country’s religious origins.

Who was Carroll? It’s a question not too many people have asked, in recent decades. It is one that editors and reporters should be flocking to cover. If anything, it would allow for news coverage to get away from the standard tropes that include fireworks, grilling recipes and mattress sales. Carroll was the only Roman Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence and its longest-living signer. That alone would be reason enough to focus some of the coverage on this man, especially in Maryland media — in the state where he lived and died.

Crux did a wonderful feature in 2016 on Carroll, complete with tons of history and interviews with experts who studied Carroll’s life. This is how the piece opens:

On July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — one of the most amazing coincidences in U.S. history unfolded. On that day, Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration’s author, and John Adams, perhaps its greatest advocate, died within hours of each other.

David McCullough’s masterful biography John Adams tells the poignant story of how the two patriots he called “the pen” and “the voice” of the Declaration, who had helped forge liberty in their new nation later became bitter political rivals but in their old age corresponded as friends.

But their rivalry even extended to their dying moments, as McCullough noted that Adams on his deathbed in Massachusetts whispered, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Yet earlier that afternoon, Jefferson had died in Virginia.

And then there was one.

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Mythology? History? Biographies? Why are there differences in the four Gospels?

Mythology? History? Biographies? Why are there differences in the four Gospels?

The Religion Guy observes that the wording of the perennial question above is the title of an important new book by Michael Licona of Houston Baptist University and published by the prestigious Oxford University Press.

Variations among the four New Testament Gospels in parallel accounts of the same events and sayings are fascinating for scholars. And they can perplex believers, though most involve details that don’t affect the main teaching or are easily explained in Bible commentaries.

Meanwhile, those who seek to deride the scriptures and thus the Christian tradition emphasize these differences, calling them “contradictions” and “mistakes.”

In reality, there are fewer such puzzlers than skeptics imply, yet more of them than many believers might admit.

Licona’s research on this is deemed “significant” by Dale Allison of Princeton Theological Seminary, “illuminating” by Richard Bauckham of the University of St. Andrews, and “exemplary” by Christopher Pelling of Oxford University.

In his scenario, the Gospel writers or editors followed a flexible process that was commonplace in ancient times but doesn’t always fit present-day historiography (history-writing): “Ancient biographical conventions provided authors a license to depart from the degree of precision in reporting that many of us moderns prefer.”

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WSJ gets the tone right on Holocaust survivor story

There’s so much bad reporting about religion and religion-related stories these days — the continual surprise evidenced by The New York Times that the leaders of Roman Catholic institutions may choose to act, well, in a Catholic manner, for example — that it’s not a bad thing, I believe to highlight instances where a given reporter (and publication) get it right.

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