reality TV

Church flipper: Why this pastor has a passion for finding the new faithful for old houses of worship

Church flipper: Why this pastor has a passion for finding the new faithful for old houses of worship

All too often, shuttered houses of worship are converted into nightclubs, restaurants and even condominiums, as former GetReligion contributor Mark Kellner noted in a Religion News Service story back in September.

Kellner’s report highlighted “a growing desire to keep houses of worship within the tradition in which they were originally established, even if the founding congregation has diminished.”

A few months earlier, our own tmatt commented on a New York Times article from Quebec with this provocative headline: “Where Churches Have Become Temples of Cheese, Fitness and Eroticism.”

Now, via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, comes a feature on a “church flipper.” Pastor Paul Marzahn, it seems, is the “Fixer Upper” of houses of worship.

The Star-Tribune’s lede:

Pastor Paul Marzahn is best known as the founder of several south suburban churches. But he’s gaining a new reputation for an unusual side job he’s juggling — as a church flipper.

The Methodist minister scouts for “For Sale” signs on churches with an eye toward rehabbing the buildings and selling them back to new faith-filled owners. He’s also a consultant to clergy looking to sell or buy.

Marzahn’s nonprofit, for example, purchased the historic Wesley United Methodist Church in downtown Minneapolis and last year turned it over to a fresh congregation. His own Lakeville church bought an aging Inver Grove Heights church, rehabbed it, and made it an auxiliary campus.

He’s now helping a ministry serving the homeless revamp a former Catholic Charities building.

“I drive by these church buildings for sale and think, ‘Who do I know who would be a good fit into this building?’ ” said Marzahn, senior pastor at Crossroads United Methodist Church in Lakeville. “That’s my calling. To see churches or nonprofits save some of these great buildings.”

It’s a really fascinating piece.

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The Times of London goes clever (and surprisingly deep) with party girls and praying nuns

The Times of London goes clever (and surprisingly deep) with party girls and praying nuns

Every so often, there’s an article out there that’s truly a pleasure to read and it makes some interesting points about life and faith, even if the piece isn't hard news. Such is the case with the Times of London’s take on an upcoming reality TV show.

GetReligion does not ordinarily cover opinion pieces, but this was a mix of analysis and news, so I grabbed it.

The writer, Helen Rumbelow, shows a keen awareness of the human condition as she describes the comedic collision of party girls and nuns when a group of wild twentysomethings are sent to a convent in rural Norfolk. They don’t exactly swap their go-go boots for godliness but there are subtle transformations.

Plus, the piece shows how easy it can be to write profound observations on something as everyday as a reality show.

Five new girls arrive at the Daughters of Divine Charity convent in Swaffham, deep in rural Norfolk. The first, Paige, 23, has, between her red go-go boots and her miniskirt, a gap large enough to display the entire face of Nicki Minaj that is tattooed on her thighs. She is struggling to pull a suitcase the size of a small wagon across the gravel courtyard. It’s full of her clubbing lingerie. She is joined by Rebecca, 19, another committed hedonist who seems to sum up their situation when she realises what their new home is, crying: “F***, I’m in a f***ing nunnery.”
It’s a fair guess that this Channel 5 reality-TV experiment, called Bad Habits, Holy Orders, wouldn’t have taken much of a “sell”. “Think Sister Act,” the executive would say, “crossed with St Trinian’s.” …
The five women had been told only that they were going on a “spiritual journey” and had imagined a yoga retreat in Bali. Instead they were to be confined to a nunnery off the A47 with a bunch of mature ladies in wimples, whose modesty was far more shocking than anything they could think up.

What follows is a photo showing an elderly nun face-to-face with one of the sultry five. I’m guessing that the reality show paid the nuns a good amount to film this show on their property, for why else would a religious order put up with this craziness?

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Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Future-gazingjournalists take note: The question above is the lede of an article in the April edition of First Things magazine.

Author John Witte Jr. devoutly hopes the answer is no.

Witte, the noted director of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, presents that viewpoint at length in “The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy” (Cambridge University Press). The issue arises due to the gradual legal toleration of adultery and non-marital partnering that culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion last June that extended such  liberty to same-sex marriage.

The high court’s wording leaves open whether polygamy laws still make sense. This is “becoming the newest front in the culture wars,” Witte writes, and legalization may seem “inevitable” after Obergefell. We've had federal district court rulings supporting religious polygamists that Utah is appealing at the 10th Circuit. The case involves a family from the “Sister Wives” cable TV show that has helped make polygamous families seem less offensive and more mainstream-ish.

Witte writes that aversion to homosexual partners has been based historically on religious teaching, but rejection of polygamy is quite different. Polygamy occurred in the Old Testament (and usually demonstrated resulting ills and family strife). But it was opposed by the non-biblical culture of classical Greece, and in modern times by Enlightenment liberals on wholly secular grounds. (For more on biblical and Mormon history, see this piece by the Religion Guy.)

Witte observes that multiple mates are the pattern among “more than 95 percent of all higher primates,” and yet human beings “have learned by natural inclination and hard experience that monogamy best accords with human needs.”

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No Trump metaphors here! Putting evangelical faith on cutting-room floor of reality TV

No Trump metaphors here! Putting evangelical faith on cutting-room floor of reality TV

And now for something completely different, after what seems to have been a hurricane of news about the alleged love affair between "evangelical voters" and Citizen Donald Trump. Let's look at what happens when faith shows up in news coverage of reality TV.

Oh, wait. What is the difference between "reality TV" and the White House race? Might Trump be winning the hearts of many Americans, including a 30-something percent slice of evangelical Protestantism, because he is a superstar level performer in the world of reality TV?

Oh man, now I'm really depressed.

Anyway, USA Today ran a long, long "news" story the other day about a major development in the history of extreme-romance television, which had this headline: "Ben tells TWO women he loves them on 'The Bachelor,' one is his fiancée." (We have the inevitable ABC News coverage as well, at the top of this post.)

So what we have here is a controversial use of the word "love" by one Ben Higgins. The complicating "love" factor is that Higgins is a strong Christian. So how does this affect life in the "fantasy suite," when bachelor stars can choose to spend the night with the women who are, well, pursuing them? USA Today handles this issue by ignoring it.

Instead, the feverish, wink-wink entertainment-news page prose included passages such as:

But before Ben could ask one woman to spend the rest of her life with him, he had to whittle three women down to just two.
Ben also shockingly dropped two L-bombs on Monday night's episode! In 20 seasons, many women have told a Bachelor that they loved him, but rarely have they heard the guy say it back. Again, Ben proved he is no ordinary Bachelor.

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Think 'Catholic' voters: Looking ahead to next round of Donald Trump vs. Pope Francis

Think 'Catholic' voters: Looking ahead to next round of Donald Trump vs. Pope Francis

It's an important question, one that any serious journalist must take seriously as the pace begins to pick up in the race -- or at this point races -- for the White House.

How will candidate x, y or z fare in the contest to win the mythical "Catholic vote." Whoever wins the "Catholic" voters wins the race. Hold that thought.

This time around, of course, we have already had a collision between two of the world's most amazing public figures, each a superstar in radically different forms of "reality" media. I am referring, of course, to Citizen Donald Trump and Pope Francis.

Journalists love them both in completely different ways.

So let's pause, in this weekend think piece slot, and look back at three different thoughts related to that recent media storm involving the pope and the billionaire.

(1) The mass media is waiting, waiting, waiting for a second round. As M.Z. "GetReligionista emeritus" Hemingway noted at The Federalist:

Our media, currently in the throes of one of the most damaging co-dependent relationships with a candidate the country has ever seen, immediately ran with headlines about how Francis was definitively saying Trump is not a Christian. If Trump is like an addict whose illness is in part the result of family dysfunction, then the media are his crazy parents who can’t stop enabling him. Francis is playing the role of the out-of-town uncle who thinks he’s helping but is just furthering the dynamic. OK, maybe that analogy isn’t working. But there is no way that Trump suffers from being criticized by the Pope, and the media enablers get to spend even more time obsessed with their favorite subject.

(2) This brings me to a Columbia Journalism Review think piece by Danny Funt -- "How one letter changed the story in Pope v. Trump" -- that I really intended to point GetReligion readers toward soon after the controversy about what the pope did or didn't say about the state of Trump's soul.

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About that church girl on The Voice: Might faith have something to do with her music?

About that church girl on The Voice: Might faith have something to do with her music?

Anyone who follows GetReligion knows that I am really into music of just about every kind (basically everything except opera and pop-country). I have never, however, been a fan of the whole world of reality TV.

So you put the two together -- pop music and reality TV -- and I would much rather cue up something from my massive Doctor Who library.

However, I do live in East Tennessee and was pretty hard not to notice, in the newspapers at least, when a show like The Voice got down to the final two singers and both of them were from here in the Hills. The winner of season nine was Jordan Smith, from down the valley at Lee University, and the runner-up was a young woman from Knoxville named Emily Ann Roberts.

Now, if you follow those polls to determine America's most religious or "Bible-minded" cities, then you know that Knoxville is not exactly Portland, either Maine or Oregon. Thus, it didn't take a doctorate in sociology to figure out that, here in Dolly Parton territory, young Roberts has spent some time singing in church.

This showed up -- in the vaguest possible terms -- in a recent Knoxville News-Sentinel update on her life and work after the finale of The Voice.

This was not a hard puzzle to figure out, folks. Let's start right at the opening:

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Washington Post leaves readers with a generic bishop, in Style story on 'Exorcism: Live!'

Washington Post leaves readers with a generic bishop, in Style story on 'Exorcism: Live!'

I don't know about you, but the moment I heard about the "Exorcism: Live!" event on reality television, the very first thing I thought was this: There is no way on earth that a priest from a mainstream Catholic or Orthodox body agreed to take part in this pop-culture train wreck.

So, as I read through the Washington Post Style section take on this mass-media product, I was looking for one thing -- the name of the exorcist and the detailed identification of his church.

Surely, no one was going to write about this eve of Halloween production without giving readers that crucial detail? I mean, that would leave the religion-beat professionals at the Post pounding their heads on their desks. Right? Hold that thought. 

First, what is the fuss all about?

Welcome to “Exorcism: Live!” airing at 9 p.m. Friday on Destination America, a cable channel owned by Discovery Communications. The two-hour telecast tasks a clergyman, a psychic and the team from the network’s “Ghost Asylum” series to go into the spooky suburban St. Louis home that inspired “The Exorcist” book and movie. Ghost hunters insist that the house is filled with a dark, sinister energy, and “Exorcism: Live!” is determined to cleanse it.

Now, I happen to like the book that is behind all of this, and its author is a fascinating man (click here for my "On Religion" interview with him). And don't get me wrong. The documentation for the original case behind all of this is pretty disturbing stuff. The question is what it has to do with reality television, and the ministry of an exorcist.

So here is some more information on the supposedly troubled setting for today's planned epic.

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