rosary

Mirror image: What if an evangelical politico doxed gay protesters at Family Research Council?

Mirror image: What if an evangelical politico doxed gay protesters at Family Research Council?

There is a reason that I held off writing about mainstream news coverage of Rep. Brian Sims and his online activism against people praying at his local Planned Parenthood facility.

To be blunt: I was waiting for some mainstream media coverage of this digital drama. The fact that this took several days is really interesting — from a media-analysis point of view.

Let’s look at this through the “mirror image” device that your GetReligionistas have been using for years.

Let’s say that a group of LGBTQ demonstrators decided to stage protests outside the doors of the Family Research Council — peacefully reading selections from the latest version of the Book of Common Prayer. The protesters include teens and an older person who is silently using a rainbow rosary.

Then a politician approaches, perhaps a GOP leader who backs the FRC. Using his smartphone to capture the proceedings for online use, he begins berating the gay activists, using language that focuses on age, race and religious beliefs. This evangelical politico also offers to pay viewers $100 for information on the teen-agers, thus helping evangelical activists to “visit” their homes.

All of this is posted online by this member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

How quickly would this draw major coverage at CNN? How about the New York Times? Note: We’re seeking serious, original coverage, not short Associated Press stories or aggregation reports built on clips from online chatter (see this Washington Post item).

Eventually, The Philadelphia Inquirer — to its credit — followed up on the explosion of Twitter activity on this topic. The lede did use a mild version of the “Republicans pounce!” theme, but took the issue seriously. Here is a key chunk of that breakthrough mainstream-news media report:

In one video, Sims approaches a woman and three girls who appear to be in their teens outside the Planned Parenthood clinic at 12th and Locust Streets and refers to them as “pseudo-Christian protesters who’ve been out here shaming young girls for being here.”

“I’ve got $100 to anyone who will identify any of these three,” Sims says in the video, adding that he is raising money for Planned Parenthood.

The unidentified woman responds, “We’re actually here just praying for the babies.”

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God, man and FIFA: The ongoing struggle to keep soccer as 'secular' as possible

God, man and FIFA: The ongoing struggle to keep soccer as 'secular' as possible

Before we dive into this week's "Crossroads" podcast -- which is about faith and football (soccer here in America) -- please click here and take a look at the map that ran atop a Washington Post feature story in 2015. (To tune in the new podcast, just click here.)

Basically, if you are looking for lots and lots of unbelievers, your best bet is to head to China, Europe and other highly industrialized and educated nations.

Where things get really complex is in Europe -- a continent in which belief and unbelief bump into one another on a regular basis. North America is quickly moving in that direction as well (you may have seen a few headlines about that). 

Now, look at the same map and think about the teams that made it into this year's FIFA World Cup (click here for a list).

Quite a mix of faith-intensive and rather faith-free nations, right? And what about the championship game, with powerful France taking on the cinderella squad from Croatia?

The Catholic News Agency offered this interesting feature about Croatia and its coach, under this striking headline: "Croatia's World Cup soccer coach clings to the rosary as he finds success."

How would this kind of symbolism play in modern France? Here is a key chunk of this story:

Here’s one reason Catholics in the US might be rooting for the small Central European country: Croatia is a deeply Catholic country, and the coach of its national team, Zlatko Dalic, is a man of sincere faith.

Dalic said recently that his current success is due to his faith in God, and that he always carries a rosary to hold onto in difficult times. Dalic spoke about his faith on Croatian Catholic radio when the World Cup began.

“Everything I have done in my life and in my professional career I owe to my faith, and I am grateful to my Lord,” Dalic said. ... "When a man loses any hope, then he must depend on our merciful God and on our faith," he said.

In that sense, Dalic explained that "I always carry a rosary with me" and "when I feel that I am going through a difficult time I put my hand in my pocket, I cling to it and then everything is easier.”

Now, why is the rosary hidden in his pocket? Why not just wear it around his wrist?

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Video chat between tmatt and a serious Catholic conservative with news-media concerns

Video chat between tmatt and a serious Catholic conservative with news-media concerns

Trust me, it's not the headline that I would have chosen for a conversation on this topic.

I am referring to that headline on the YouTube atop this here video feature that proclaims: "Religion Reporting Tends to Suck."

But, hey, in the streaming-video world of conservative Catholic commentary the hosts can get a little bit edgy sometimes.

I mean, after all, I talked the show's host out of, "Why Religion Reporting Sucks." Period. So there.

The talk-show host, in this case, is Patrick Coffin. I was on his show a few weeks ago and the URL is now up for anyone who wants to go there.

Who is Coffin? Lots of Catholics will know the answer to that one already. He is a media pro and public speaker who, in the past, was best known as the host of the "Catholic Answers Live" radio show, which was syndicated to nearly 400 stations and carried on Sirius Satellite Radio. Here's his farewell show in that project.

Coffin takes on quite a few topics in this programs, with some politics -- but just as much material about issues of religion and culture. Click here for his homepage.

So, during this particular video-blog we ranged all over the place, starting with my home office in the secret city of Oak Ridge, Tenn., (my political cartoon collection is visible in the background) and then a political hot-button topic -- Melania Trump's choice of footwear.

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Catholics 'clutch' rosaries in Poland? Journalists should pay attention to details in worship

Catholics 'clutch' rosaries in Poland? Journalists should pay attention to details in worship

The big issue in this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in) was a question raised in my recent post about coverage of a remarkable religious rite that took place on the border of Poland.

Poland is, of course, an intensely Catholic land. Thus, there were several layers of symbolism present when legions of worshipers lined up along parts of the nation's borders to pray the rosary, specifically praying for the future of their land and all of Europe.

Note that I called the participants "worshipers."

Yes, that was a value judgment on my part, a decision that was unavoidable when writing about this event. It was clear in the news coverage (I focused on BBC and The New York Times) that the Poles were, to some degree, mixing religious faith and concerns about current events and trends.

Thus, were these people "worshipers" or were they, oh, anti-Muslim activists?

The language didn't get that blunt in the BBC coverage, but it was a close call. At that global news powerhouse, this was a political event that was using religious symbolism linked to Polish nationalism. At the Times, this was a religious event with strong political overtones.

You can see these two competing narratives in the coverage. In this case, I think the Times did the better job.

However, the podcast raised another issue. Wouldn't it have been good to have included some of the language of the rosary prayers in the story? Might that be linked to the message of the event?

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BBC and The New York Times: Who listened to Catholics who prayed at Poland's borders?

BBC and The New York Times: Who listened to Catholics who prayed at Poland's borders?

If you read up on the life and times of the Polish man who would become St. Pope John Paul II, its interesting to note that he learned so many languages during his life that scholars are not really sure which ones he spoke fluently.

Most lists will look something like this -- Polish, Slovak, Russian, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Ukrainian, English and Latin. It is my understanding that, in his childhood, he also knew so many Jewish children that he also spoke Yiddish.

What does this fact say about Poland? At the very least, it's symbolic of the fact that in the past Poland has been seized by more than its share of empires. If you live in a Polish border town, it helps to speak several languages. Again, think of St. John Paul II's life in the time of the Nazis and then Communism.

I bring this up because Poland is a land, and a predominately Catholic culture, with a strong sense of national identity. Yet it is also a land that fears -- with good reason -- being conquered once again.

So, why were legions of Polish Catholics standing on the land's borders the other day saying the rosary? Clearly, this is a religious question, yet one with political overtones. So how did the world's two most powerful newsrooms handle this? Here is the top of the New York Times report, which ran with this low-key headline: "Polish Catholics Gather at Border for Vast Rosary Prayer Event."

WARSAW, Poland -- Polish Catholics clutching rosary beads gathered at locations along the country’s 2,000-mile border on Saturday for a mass demonstration during which they prayed for salvation for Poland and the world.
Many participants described it as demonstration against what they see as the secularization of the country and the spread of Islam’s influence in Europe.

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Faith on both sides of abortion? Yes, according to AP — but this is why debate falls short

Faith on both sides of abortion? Yes, according to AP — but this is why debate falls short

Over the weekend, an Associated Press national story highlighting the abortion battle in Kentucky got a bunch of play by major news organizations.

In general, this coverage impresses me as more balanced than most mainstream news reports on abortion. 

And the piece even delves — a little bit — into the religious beliefs of sources on both sides of the abortion debate. More on that in a moment.

But first, let's start at the top with AP's lede:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Both sides in the abortion fight raging in Kentucky agree on one thing: The stakes are as high as ever in a state that could become the first in the nation without an abortion clinic.
Political pressure has intensified since the Kentucky GOP took control of state government and moved quickly to pass new restrictions on abortions. And Republican Gov. Matt Bevin makes no apologies for waging a licensing fight against a Louisville clinic that is the last remaining facility performing abortions in the state.
Another battle-tested participant joins the fight this weekend. Operation Save America, a Christian fundamentalist group, plans to mobilize hundreds of activists to protest against EMW Women’s Surgical Center.
The group’s leaders state their purpose unequivocally: to rid Kentucky of its last abortion clinic. Some of the group’s followers were arrested during a protest outside EMW in the spring. The group has said it won’t use those same tactics in the coming days, but a federal judge on Friday ordered the creation of a “buffer zone” to keep protesters out of an area in front of the clinic. The pre-emptive move was requested by federal prosecutors to prevent protesters from blocking access to the surgical center.

A quick aside before I get to the real point of this post: You probably noticed that AP characterizes Operation Save America as "a Christian fundamentalist group." That's also how Wikipedia defines the group, previously known as Operation Rescue National. Is that proper usage of "fundamentalist," according to AP's own stylebook?

Here's what the stylebook says under its "religious movements" entry:

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The Los Angeles Times hears the voices: A nun, a dying woman and prayers that last forever

The Los Angeles Times hears the voices: A nun, a dying woman and prayers that last forever

On one level, it was a simple assignment. The metro desk at The Rocky Mountain News had received a call about a wedding that was sure to be poignant. The bride had cancelled her church rites several months in the future so that a simple ceremony could take place beside the deathbed of her father, whose cancer had taken a sudden turn for the worse.

My editor's instructions: Make me cry by the third paragraph or you're fired. His advice: Look for crucial details and let their voices tell the story. One symbolic detail was the copy of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" on the father's nightstand.

I thought about that story, which generated more letters from readers than anything else I wrote in Denver, when I read the Los Angeles Times feature that ran the other day with this headline: "People don’t want to die alone. With Sister Maria standing vigil, they've got company."

There isn't much I can say other than this: Listen to the voices and pay attention to the crucial details in this very human, yet deeply spiritual, story. Here is the overture:

Esperanza Calderon stared at Sister Maria Socorro with half-closed eyes. The nun hunched over her as she reclined in a living room chair, wrapped in a blanket and slowly but inexorably dying.

As the 70-year-old woman’s sister clasped her hand, Socorro held a book open across her palms. Together the three women prayed.

“Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof,” the woman followed along in Spanish, her voice fragile. “But one word from you would be enough to heal me.”

At the heart of the story is the humble work of the Servants of Mary.

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Follow-up: Why sports columnist thought story of Vin Scully's faith was so important to tell

Follow-up: Why sports columnist thought story of Vin Scully's faith was so important to tell

In one of my most-read GetReligion posts of the year, I explained last week that there's a reason longtime Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play voice Vin Scully kept mentioning God during his farewell tour.

That reason: his devout Roman Catholic faith.

In a moment, I'll share additional insight from a Los Angeles sports columnist who thought it was crucially important to highlight the faith angle in telling Scully's story.

But first, a bit of news that might interest GetReligion readers. Crux reports that Scully "is back on the air, this time calling the Rosary."

The lede from Crux:

Baseball fans across the country were saddened at the end of an era on Oct. 3, when Vin Scully, the voice of Dodgers’ baseball for the past 67 seasons, signed off for the last time, calling the San Francisco Giants’ 7-1 victory over Los Angeles in the city by the bay.
But the man known as the voice of baseball is back, this time lending his voice to an audio recording, “The Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” produced by the group Catholic Athletes for Christ in collaboration with Immaculate Heart Radio.
For Catholics who are baseball fans, it’s basically the answer to a prayer.
Scully — whose most famous calls include the Brooklyn Dodgers’ long dreamed of World Series victory over the rival New York Yankees in 1955, Sandy Koufax’s strikeout to complete the lefty’s perfect game in 1965, and Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series game-winning home run when the slugger limped around the bases on two injured legs — turned to a different kind of play-by-play for an unexpected encore.
The Hall of Fame broadcaster and devout Catholic has narrated the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary for the recording, which is available on CDs and digital downloads, and people can hear one of the most famous voices of the past century read Gospel passages explaining each of those mysteries and then lead the praying of the rosary.
“We are blessed and honored to have the iconic voice of Vin Scully lead this new recording of the rosary,” said Ray McKenna, the founder and president of Catholic Athletes for Christ, in a statement announcing the recording’s late September release.

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Hey reporters: Faith plays a key role for Simone Manuel, Simone Biles and many others

Hey reporters: Faith plays a key role for Simone Manuel, Simone Biles and many others

So many faith-driven Olympics stories, so little time to discuss them. But, yes, doing a whole "Crossroads" podcast on the topic does help.

For starters, this morning we have yet another Philippians 4:13 sighting. It's right there at the top of the Twitter feed for Simone Manuel, whose gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle has to be listed among the most stunning upsets at Rio 2016. She defeated a pool packed with world-class stars.

So do you remember this particular New Testament verse and it's role in sports? That's the verse that proclaims: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Think Steph Curry and his sneakers. That's the ticket. Remember the news story that suggested that Curry put "I can do all things" on his shoes as a sign of confidence and even ego?

Clearly, Simone Manuel is not hiding her Christian faith. But is her faith relevant, in terms of news coverage of her big win? If you look at the news today, it's clear that -- as an African-American heroine in the pool -- her views on #blacklivesmatter are sure to be explored. Consider this passage in The Washington Post coverage:

Those in the arena knew what that meant, because the scoreboard showed 52.70 seconds, an Olympic record, for both Manuel and Canadian teenager Penny Oleksiak — a dead heat that meant both took gold.
Manuel, though, shared it with a wider audience -- all young African-American girls. None had ever before won an individual Olympic medal in swimming. After preparation that took a lifetime, Manuel thus became a role model in less than a minute.

And later in the report:

“It means a lot, especially with what’s going on in the world today, just with some of the issues with police brutality,” Manuel said. “This win kind of helps bring hope and change to some of the issues that are going on in the world. I went out there and swam as fast as I could, and my color just comes with the territory.”

Now, I think this is high relevant, newsworthy material. That isn't my question.

The question I am asking -- the question that "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I explored this week -- is this: "When does an athlete's faith become relevant in mainstream coverage?" Why do so many reporters struggle to include valid faith angles in their news stories and longer features?

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