white supremacists

More intrigue at Liberty University over free speech, followed by more blurring of news and opinion

More intrigue at Liberty University over free speech, followed by more blurring of news and opinion

It's the story that everybody's talking about.

I'm referring to Jonathan Merritt's intriguing piece in The Atlantic on "Why Liberty University Kicked an Anti-Trump Christian Author Off Campus."

"That Liberty incident is really interesting," said a tipster who emailed me. "Merritt column scoops have a way of turning into actual news. Or did someone get to this one before him?"

Indeed, Merritt's column is a mixture of straight-news reporting and first-person opinion, some of it negative toward Liberty. That's a fact, not a criticism. The column is definitely worth reading.

But to the question: Did Merritt break news yet again in a commentary piece?

Not this time, if I'm reading the time stamps correctly on other stories.

It looks like The News & Advance, the newspaper in Lynchburg, Va., published the first report on the latest Trump-era controversy at Liberty,

 

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A motive in Nashville church shooting? Associated Press report cites possible retaliation for Charleston

A motive in Nashville church shooting? Associated Press report cites possible retaliation for Charleston

Earlier this week, I addressed the question of whether the news media underplayed the Tennessee church shooting story.

I quoted a few critics who made that claim.

But I disagreed, maintaining that the level of coverage — which I pointed out was not insignificant — would have been higher if more church members had died:

Sadly, in America in 2017, a mass shooting in which one person dies is not going to dominate the news cycle for long. Such tragedies have become too common.

One reader — who dubbed himself/herself "TooMuchDarkness" — responded to that post with this complaint:

I haven't seen one shred of investigative journalism delving into the background of the shooter, interviewing friend, family, coworkers and classmates trying understand what drove him to commit such a crime. Who are his parents and why are they spared the exposure most murderer's parents get. I'd like to know more but journalists don't seem to care.

Well, actually ...

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Free-speech protests in Boston: How many points of view, on left and right, made it into news?

Free-speech protests in Boston: How many points of view, on left and right, made it into news?

To be honest, I'm still working through the emotions and, at times, confusion that poured out the other day in the Crossroads podcast that ran with this headline: "Your depressing 'think' podcast: Faith, hate and details that mattered in Charlottesville."

I want to make sure that readers know how much of a challenge hard-news reporters face covering massive protests at street level, as opposed to the angle used by members of the chattering classes as they sit in studio chairs in Washington, D.C., and New York City (and a few other hives).

Take the demonstration the other day in Boston. How many different points of view did you have to understand to explain to the public what appeared to happen there?

First: Let's mention the religion angle. I became interested in this "Free Speech Rally" because of the involvement of some pro-life, or anti-abortion, demonstrators. They were there as part of the coalition that put the event together for the expressed purpose of (a) standing up for the free-speech rights of conservatives outside the media mainstream and, at the same time, (b) to condemn the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville. I think it's safe to say that religious faith is central to the story of the pro-life demonstrators.

According to reporter Garrett Haake of MSNBC, this small circle of demonstrators faced some pushy, some would say violent, opposition from the left. The quote from Haake's tweet:

These protests rarely end pretty. Antifa folks just mobbed some anti-abortion protestors w/ posters. Yelled & tore posters til cops came

Kudos, by the way, to MSNBC for reporting that information.

So we have some pro-lifers, we have some Antifa folks. Who else is there? Let's pause for a moment and look at the top of an ABC News report on this drama. I thought this passage -- which is a bit long -- was especially crucial:

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Why is American politics so rancid? One liberal pundit blames the slide in churchgoing

Why is American politics so rancid? One liberal pundit blames the slide in churchgoing

Why has U.S. politics became so rancid in tone and so harshly polarized?

Analysts have pinned the blame variously on talk radio and cable news, social media and the Internet, gerrymandering of U.S. House and state legislative districts, the Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling, suspicion of authorities and cultural rebellion since the 1960s, a general coarsening of culture, economic woe, and much else.

Now comes prominent liberal analyst Peter Beinart with a striking thesis in the April issue of The Atlantic (which alongside its Web site has emerged as the most interesting source of religion coverage and commentary among general-interest magazine companies). He contends that what ails the fractured republic has much to do with the serious slide in church involvement over recent years.

His scenario deserves major media attention, with  responses from fellow pundits and Christian conservatives who will dislike his anti-Donald Trump slant and  resent any connection with the “race-and-nation” movement.

Beinart, who is Jewish, is an old-school New Republic editor turned journalism professor who writes for The Atlantic and others. He notes that some analysts welcomed the increase of “nones” who lack all religious affiliation, figuring this would foster greater tolerance and social harmony. Beinart’s view is precisely the opposite.

Yes, there’s more acceptance of gay marriages and legalized marijuana, he says. But the slide in organized religion is “making America’s partisan clashes more brutal” and contributes to the rise of the “alt-right,” and  “white nationalism,” pitting “us” against “them” in “even more primal and irreconcilable ways.” The older “culture war over religious morality” has been succeeded by a “more secular, more ferociously national and racial culture war” that is worse.

Beinart piles up survey research to back up that claim.

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Parade of 2016 yearenders: Official word from Religion News Association saith ...

Parade of 2016 yearenders: Official word from Religion News Association saith ...

Want to have some fun?

Here is the official list of the results of the Religion News Association's Top 10 religion-beat news stories in 2016.

Needless to say, picking the ballot for this poll is hard. Wording the questions is even harder. 

So here is your challenge, especially at the top of this list. Look at stories No. 1 and No. 2. How would you have worded them? What major religion events and trends, in your opinion, didn't make the Top 10? Where there major omissions from the ballot itself? Scroll down and look at the items that were not at the top of the list.

Go for it.

1) Donald Trump gets strong support from white Christians, especially evangelicals, in an upset presidential election. Many were alarmed by his vilifying Muslims and illegal immigrants and his backing from white supremacists. GOP keeps majorities in Congress.

2) Post-election assaults and vandalism target Muslims and other minorities. Some assailants cite Donald Trump's victory as validation. Critics denounce the appointment of Stephen Bannon as White House strategist over his ties to white supremacists.

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Bizarre AP wording in update on Overland Park shootings

If you are of a certain age, as I am, and you grew up deep in the heavily Protestant Bible Belt, like I did, you can probably remember running into some people way back when who — to be blunt about it — used to draw a verbal line of distinction between people who were “Christians” and those who were “Catholics.” It’s hard to imagine that now, isn’t it? This is especially true after the admiration that so many evangelicals and other conservative Protestants openly poured out on the Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in recent decades.

Truth is, I rarely ever hear that kind of talk anymore, no matter where you find conservative Protestants gathered. When I do hear it, other Protestants quickly leap to the defense of the Catholics who are listed as, well, non-Christians.

That’s why I was stunned when a faithful GetReligion reader, and religion-beat pro, sent me the following Associated Press story about the tragic shootings in Overland Park, Kansas. I am sure most of our readers have seen these stories by now, but here is the top of the report for context:

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