Humor

Yes, President George H.W. Bush was an Episcopalian (and that is still a noun)

Yes, President George H.W. Bush was an Episcopalian (and that is still a noun)

Back when I was breaking into journalism, soon after the cooling of the earth’s crust, I quickly learned that religion-beat specialists know lots of inside jokes.

Take this classic one, from the “light bulb” genre: How many Episcopalians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: One. Along with 10 others to start a newsletter about the utter irreplaceability of the original, historic bulb.

Yes, that’s a really old joke. Today, “newsletter” would be “Facebook page,” or something like that.

In this GetReligion post, the key thing is to note, in this joke, that “Episcopalian” is a noun.

Want to see the adjective form?

While working at the old Charlotte News (RIP), I got some nasty telephone calls after writing a column with this lede: “When covering an Episcopal convention, never stay in the hotel room next to the ice machine.”

As the late Associated Press religion reporter George Cornell — an Episcopalian’s Episcopalian, if there ever was one — once offered, in my presence, a quip that went something like this: You can tell that a journalist is a religion-beat reporter when they know that “Episcopalian” is a noun and “Episcopal” is an adjective.

I bring this up because lots of journalists — few of them religion-beat specialists — will be covering the funeral rites for President George H.W. Bush. Since he was a faithful Episcopalian, of a rather traditional bent, all of these rites will occur in Episcopal settings, with Episcopal clergy involved.

It’s safe to say that mistakes will be made. Consider, for example, the following passage in a lovely Houston Chronicle sidebar about the current emotions in the parish that Barbara and George Bush attended in Houston. The headline: “At Bush’s church, a moment of pause for ‘a remarkable life’.” The story opens with images from the 8 a.m. Mass at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, a service that tends to attract an older, quieter crowd:

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Washington Post offers nice, but totally faith-free, look at Dan Crenshaw's redemptive SNL visit

Washington Post offers nice, but totally faith-free, look at Dan Crenshaw's redemptive SNL visit

Apparently, there is more to Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw than an eyepatch, his history as a Navy Seal, a Harvard graduate degree, his Spanish-language skills and the ability to land a few humorous punches on Saturday Night Live.

The newly elected representative from Texas district 2, in the greater Houston area, is riding his victory in a purple district and his Ivy League level wits to leverage his moment in the YouTube spotlight. What happens next? That’s a good question.

However, this is GetReligion. So I would like to pause and note that it is hard to run for office as a Republican in Texas (or even as a Democrat in large parts of Texas) without people asking you about your religious beliefs and your convictions on religious, moral and cultural issues. This is especially true when your life includes a very, very close encounter with death.

So let’s start here: If you were writing about Crenshaw and what makes him tick, would it help to know what he said, early in his campaign, during a church testimony that can be viewed on Facebook? The title is rather blunt: “How faith in God helped me never quit.”

I am going to answer, “Yes,” especially with people using words like “redemption,” “grace,” “forgiveness” and “repentance” to describe what happened during his encounter with funny-man Pete Davidson on SNL.

I’m also going to say, “Yes,” because we’re talking about politics in Texas. Also, the language in that church testimony are rather strong. It sounds like faith is part of his story — period.

But let’s start with something good, in terms of the content of the lengthy Washington Post profile of Crenshaw that ran in the wake of his election and, well, that television thing. Here is the overture, which is long (but I don’t know what part to cut):

HOUSTON — Dan Crenshaw’s good eye is good enough, but it’s not great. The iris is broken. The retina is scarred. He needs a special oversized contact lens, and bifocals sometimes, to correct his vision. Six years after getting blown up, he can still see a bit of debris floating in his cornea. His bad eye? Well, his bad eye is gone. Under his eye patch is a false eye that is deep blue. At the center of it, where a pupil should be, is the gold trident symbol of the Navy SEALs. It makes Dan Crenshaw look like a Guardian of the Galaxy.

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Bee advised: Amid religious and political tumult, readers may welcome a good chuckle

Bee advised: Amid religious and political tumult, readers may welcome a good chuckle

Behold this recent "news" item:

DALLAS, TX -- Pastor Robert Jeffress, longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, has publicly accused Jesus of Nazareth of having "Trump Derangement Syndrome" after reading that the Christ condemned adultery in the Sermon on the Mount.

A baffled Jeffress read Jesus's words condemning not only adultery but looking at a woman lustfully and immediately concluded the Rabbi was simply exhibiting symptoms of deranged, unfair hatred of Donald Trump. ...

Here's another one:

WASHINGTON -- In an alarming show of religious extremism and complete disregard for the separation of church and state, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was spotted by news reporters serving food to the homeless.

Kavanaugh performed the frightening display of religious devotion alongside an organized group of radicalized Catholics, whose extremist mission appears to be helping the needy. Local news crews leaped out of the bushes and caught him in the act, asking him, "What do you have to say for yourself, BIGOT?" 

As you surely perceived, this is not real fake news but fake real news, that is to say fictional satire, posted by The Babylon Bee

Hey, in times of political and religious tumult, everyone can use a good chuckle. 

The online Bee, which first hit an unready readership two years ago, is religion’s equivalent of the devoutly secular The Onion, whose recent gibes include an item headlined “Sessions Vows To Protect All Deeply Held Religious Bigotry.”

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Still talking about it: Chris Pratt zoomed past normal Godtalk in his non-news MTV sermon

Still talking about it: Chris Pratt zoomed past normal Godtalk in his non-news MTV sermon

If you watch a lot of pop-culture award shows (confession: I don't do that anymore), then you know that a certain amount of generic God talk is normal and acceptable.

On sports awards shows, and sometimes the Grammy Awards, you will even hear people offer gratitude to "my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," or similar phrases. 

You will, of course, also hear plenty of political announcements, off-color humor and endorsements of various progressive social causes. Right now, pop superstars seem determined to make statements that will eventually show up in Donald Trump campaign ads, demonstrating what the cultural elites think of lots of folks in flyover country.

This is the wider media context for discussions of Chris Pratt's interesting "Nine Rules For Living" sermonette during the recent MTV Movie & TV awards. You can click here to watch this MTV moment or look at the end of the CNN.com report to read a transcription of what he had to say (or part of it -- hold that thought).

I also wrote a GetReligion post on this topic, focusing on the fact that Pratt's remarks were a red-hot topic on Twitter, but didn't push any "news" buttons in elite newsrooms, especially in the world of print news. Now "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I have done a podcast on this topic and you can click here to tune that in.

* The original GetReligion post on this topic focused on the simple, but hazy, question: Were Pratt's remarks newsworthy. It's clear that if Pratt had (a) discussed Trump, pro or con, or (b) discussed LGBTQ rights (pro or con), then it would have been news. If he had discussed to state of his love life and recent divorce, that would have been news. Instead, he offered remarks linked to his evangelical Christian faith. This is not "news," even in an age when explicit faith is supposed to be private?

* It's interesting to note that Pratt pretty much stated what he was doing, in rule for life No. 4., in which he said: 

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Saying goodbye to 'The Middle,' a rare Middle Class comedy (and we know what that means)

Saying goodbye to 'The Middle,' a rare Middle Class comedy (and we know what that means)

Anyone who has been alive and watching American television in recent months (or reading mainstream media sources that provide entertainment news), knows that Roseanne Barr has made a spectacular return to the air, with the rebirth of the classic "Roseanne" sitcom.

Whether this is a spectacularly good thing or a spectacularly bad thing depends on how you view the fact that Barr has included some material in the show linked to her belief that Donald Trump is not the Antichrist.

However, some journalists and critics who have attempted to view this phenomenon with a wee bit of objectivity have observed that "Roseanne," the show, is once again offering glimpses of ordinary, Middle and even lower Middle Class American life -- a topic usually ignored by elite Hollywood.

Now, the season finale of "Roseanne" took place about the same time as the farewell episode of "The Middle" after nine years as a successful series that was rarely noticed by critics -- as opposed to millions of American viewers. Variety noticed the timing of these events.

Also, a fine review/essay by Robert Lloyd in The Los Angeles Times dug deep enough to notice that these two shows shared cultural DNA. The headline: "Before 'Roseanne's' revival, 'The Middle' carried the torch for America's heartland." Here is a chunk of that piece:

Set in the middle of the country, or near it, with characters on an economic middle rung, or just below it -- the other "middle" is middle age -- the series stars Patricia Heaton, who had spent an earlier nine years married to Ray Romano on "Everybody Loves Raymond," as Frankie Heck, wife, mother, daughter, dental assistant.

Premiering in September 2009, when the shocks of the Great Recession were still reverberating and the subprime housing crisis was still having its way with the economy, "The Middle" is the sort of show that were it to debut in 2018, would be taken as a network responding to the Trump election. (The series had in fact been in development since 2006.)

The "middle" also refers, of course, to the middle of this nation, as well as the Middle Class.

When you start talking about "Middle-Class values" this is often code language for You Know What. See if you can spot the GetReligion angle in this next passage.

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Can I get an 'Amen'? For the press, that was the White House correspondents' dinner from hell

Can I get an 'Amen'? For the press, that was the White House correspondents' dinner from hell

Pardon me for a moment, because I would like us to pause for a second and think about the &%^ @#$ %*&^@#$ 2018 edition of the White House correspondents' dinner.

Wait a minute. What's the religion-news angle of this story?

Well, on one level there isn't one. However, I'd be willing to bet the farm (that's a common expression out here in flyover country) that the moral, cultural and religious views of people who laughed at what happened last night are completely different than those of people who were appalled by it.

Please note that I did not say "political" views. This really wasn't about politics. It was about culture.

Look, Donald Trump was and is a target-rich environment for lots of valid reasons. Anyone who has read GetReligion at all during the past 24 months or so knows that I was 100 percent #AntiTrump (and #AntiHillary too) and I still am. I think that Trump was unqualified to be president and, if evidence gained through testimony under oath (as opposed to waves of ink from anonymous sources) led to his impeachment, I would think that was a sobering, but positive, event for our nation.

This disaster in the public square was not about Trump. Play close attention to the nasty, personal attacks last night on several key members of this administration and their families -- in some cases because of their religious beliefs.

Again, this is not political for me. I am mad and sad today because this hellish event (a) helped Trump with his most loyal fans, (b) did further damage to American public discourse (obviously the Tweeter In Chief deserves blame too) and, most of all, (c) undercut efforts to defend journalism's First Amendment role in American life among news consumers in zip codes inside the two coasts. As a journalist, I am furious.

With all that in mind, let's turn to a new Axios bullet-list think piece by D.C. scribe Mike Allen, focusing on the #WHCD disaster. The headline:

Media hands Trump big, embarrassing win.

Amen, I say.

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(Good) Friday Five: #MLK50, #ChurchToo, Sheep Among Wolves and, um, 'Chris is risen?'

(Good) Friday Five: #MLK50, #ChurchToo, Sheep Among Wolves and, um, 'Chris is risen?'

It's Good Friday.

And Passover begins tonight at sundown.

Enter Greg Garrison, longtime religion writer for the Birmingham News, with informative overviews of both religious holidays.

In one piece, Garrison asks, "If Jesus suffered and died, why is it called Good Friday?"

His other helpful primer explores this question: "What is Passover?"

Be sure to check out both articles.

Meanwhile, let's dive into the (Good) Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the April 4, 1968, assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

In advance of that milestone, Religion News Service national reporter Adelle Banks has an extraordinary story focused on a 75-year-old Memphis, Tenn., sanitation worker who "drives five days a week to collect garbage, even as he spends much of the rest of his time as an associate minister of his Baptist congregation."

A somewhat related but mostly tangential question for the Associated Press Stylebook gurus: Why in the world doesn't Memphis (not to mention Nashville) stand alone in datelines?

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Holy Moses! Yet another religion correction for the ages, this one from Wall Street Journal

Holy Moses! Yet another religion correction for the ages, this one from Wall Street Journal

Hey journalists, thou shalt not do this.

Except -- let's be honest -- we really enjoy it when you do.

Regular GetReligion readers know that this journalism-focused website loves to highlight the best -- and by best, we mean worst -- corrections in the world of religion news.

For example, just last month, The Associated Press merited a post when it mistook a comment about "sitting shiva" with "sit and shiver."

And who can forget a few years ago when The Times of London reported that John Paul II was the first non-Catholic pope? They meant first non-Italian pope.

But today's correction for the ages come to us courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and involves Moses -- yes, the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt. 

Here is the correction that quickly went viral on social media:

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Kudos to Washington Post for accidentally revealing diverse forms of Oscar hate/apathy?

Kudos to Washington Post for accidentally revealing diverse forms of Oscar hate/apathy?

I was looking through Twitter and it appears that the Academy Awards were on the other night. Can someone confirm whether or not that's true? Has Snopes looked into that rumor?

Apparently, I was not the only flyover America person (I am not teaching in New York City at the moment) who missed this barometer of trends in American life, humor, politics and virtue.

Besides, I saw very few of this year's films -- again. When it's movie night at my house, we tend to curl up and watch classics like this, this, this or even a modern film like this or maybe even this. Then again, there's always time to visit the doctor.

Anyway, the Oscars were not a big hit there and everyone wants to talk about why. Here are the basics from The Hollywood Reporter:

A comparatively uneventful Oscar telecast led the way on TV Sunday night -- though updated numbers have the telecast somewhat predictably stumbling to an all-time low.
The kudocast, nearly four hours long, stumbled 19 percent from the previous year to 26.5 million viewers. That's easily the least-watched Oscars in history, trailing 2008 by more than 5 million.

When it comes to this "why" question, GetReligion readers will be stunned to know that this was all about politics and, especially, President You Know Who. Thus, the Washington Post opened it's Oscars ratings wreck story like this:

The 90th Academy Awards show was two things: an evening of pointed political statements and a telecast with record-low Oscars viewership. And many on the right have been quick to claim that those things went hand in hand, though the critic-in-chief blamed a lack of star power. ...
The dismal ratings for the ABC broadcast were a hot topic on Fox News, discussed at the top of the hour on both Tucker Carlson’s and Sean Hannity’s evening shows Monday, and again on Tuesday’s edition of “Fox & Friends.”

Now, whether the Post team intended to or not, this same report -- toward the end -- included some interesting voices that hinted that morality, culture and maybe even religion played a role in this story. Hold that thought.

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