The Religion | Newswriters Association offers Top Religion Stories of 2009 – the result of a survey of more than 100 religion journalists. They emphasize the top 10 but actually offer the top 23 stories, beginning with Obama’s June speech “pledging a new beginning in Muslim-U.S. relations.” Of that, the Springfield News-Leader wrote:
Obama extended a hand to the Islamic world in a speech in Cairo while quoting from the Quran, the Gospel of Matthew and the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law.
“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity,” Obama said in the speech. “And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”
Time Magazine has its Top 10 Religion Stories for 2009, although they are more topics than stories.
The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty offers the top 10 religious liberty stories of 2009 (in reverse order). Some are stores in the journalistic sense. But as with Time, most are topics attended by brief essays. Number one, for example, is “New President brings change, but delays some tough decisions.”
Catholic News Service tells us 2009 was a busy year for the pope, reviewing those top stories, albeit without enumeration. Not critical reviews, BTW.
The London Telegraph’s Martin Beckford (religion and social affairs correspondent) has his own Top religion stories of 2009. In his view, “Following a year of turmoil in the worldwide Anglican Communion over women bishops and homosexuality, over the past 12 months most of the newsworthy events seem to have involved the Roman Catholic Church and Britain.”
Regret The Error’s Typo of the Year (amid its top corrected journalistic errors of 2009) is about religion:
The Daily Universe, a student paper at BYU, recalled and trashed 18,000 copies of an edition after discovering a typo. Notably, it was a typo that could have offended the Mormon church. The paper issued a brief apology and also published a lengthy article to explain the error.
That can happen when one substitutes “apostate” for “apostle” thus referring in a photo cutline to a nonexistent Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints group called, “Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostates,” when Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is intended.
Thursday Religious (New Lutheran denomination, Ted startup launch, free ‘Origin,’ Atheist billboard uproar …)
- Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) organizing a new denomination (maybe): According to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Journal Sentinel, “a national Lutheran group angered by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s August vote to allow gay clergy said Wednesday that it is developing a proposal for a new denomination for congregations and individuals interested in leaving the ELCA.”
CORE members voted to begin discussing with congregations whether to move toward schism or work from within the church. It will vote on the breakaway proposal at its convocation Aug. 26-27 in Columbus, Ohio. Lutheran CORE would remain a free-standing synod serving congregations inside and outside the ELCA under a separate recommendation also being drafted, the organization said. Wisconsin CORE members will meet Nov. 28 in Lebanon (WI.).
Shifting public attitudes may have some impact, we suspect.
- Ted Haggard startup successfully launched: Having had 150 people show up rather than the 10 or 20 he said he expected, Haggard “will continue to host prayer meetings every Thursday night in his home” and/or his barn Yes, as we predicted, “He’s back.”
- ‘Origin of Species’ giveaway: The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports that at 100 campuses nationwide the 150th anniversary “Origin of the Species” came with addendum:
The books included a 50-page introductory section by religious author Ray Comfort that argues against evolution. In total, Mr. Comfort — who hosts “The Way of the Master” television show with actor Kirk Cameron — gave away 170,000 copies of the books at universities.
- Northern Irish uproar over atheist billboard: The Belfast Telegraph writes:
The British Humanist Association (BHA) yesterday unveiled a billboard with the slogan “Please Don’t Label Me. Let Me Grow Up And Choose For Myself” on one Belfast’s busiest routes.
. . .
However, religious leaders across Northern Ireland have hit out at the BHA, accusing the organisation of arrogance and hypocrisy.
BBC reports that it’s part of a broad campaign:
The posters are part of a campaign to challenge state-funded faith schools. … Professor Richard Dawkins, who has part-funded the BHA campaign in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, says labeling children as “religious” is a form of brainwashing.
Remember the Holy Moly! Atheist Bus?
- Scriptural gamester’s Christmas: An XBox 360 Bible for the children’s stockings? Your nominees?
- Sick ?: Christian ? Or as former evangelist Frank Schaeffer warns, trawling for assassins?
- Palin’s parables: Going Rogue may not be quite as much a work of fiction as Left Behind, but Dan Gilgoff seems to think they’re aimed at the same general audience. Doesn’t he?
- Our Bulwer-Lytton religious journalism nominee wrote about a Bill Moyers Journal entitled Beyond Our Differences. ‘Twas a dark and stormy editorial:
Despite the appearance of diversity, the interviewees were glaringly homogeneous in their religious pluralism. As a result, a significant portion of religious adherents, namely, those believing in some sort of exclusive religious claims, were cut-off from the conversation. A more fruitful discussion would have included religious practitioners that do not presuppose that there are a number of valid paths (Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, etc.) to the divine.
For deliberate Bulwer-Lytton Wretched Writing contest fun, go here.
- Headline of (a recent) day: Teams report movement from Native American revivals : What does it mean?
The Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Baptist Press (BP) news service stepped on the heels of an enthusiastically received Feb. 6 appearance in North Carolina by Mark Driscoll. They published a critical piece on Feb. 11, while the bloom of that appearance was still on the rose.
Presented to an audience rich in recently inspired Driscoll enthusiasts under the headline Driscoll’s vulgarity draws media attention, it was the equivalent of kicking a hornets’ nest.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), which hosted the Feb. 6/7 conference where Discoll spoke, blogged disappointment with the “inaccurate content and harsh tone” of the article.
Ed Stetzer of the SBC’s Lifeway Research stepped forward to obliquely defend “my friend Mark Driscoll” from unfortunate coverage in general (BP was mentioned only in comments by others).
Jonathan Merritt was less gentle in his North Carolina Biblical Recorder op-ed piece Unfair, Unbalanced, and Unacceptable. He blistered BP, and also recalled how release of the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative (SBECI) in March, 2008, drew immediate reaction from BP:
“Less than 24 hours after the story appeared in national media, Baptist Press had a story distancing the denomination from the document,” the Christian Index reported. They went on to note that Baptist Press “generated an additional 13 stories over the next 8 publishing days. The majority of those took issue with the topic. . . .” During this time, I left multiple voice mails and sent several emails to BP Editor Will Hall to clarify journalistic inaccuracies an offer the other side of the story, but I received no reply.
“No reply,” yet one of the most redeeming values of good American news journalism is communication with the subjects of stories and correction of errors and omissions.
Reply is a newsroom requirement, like the correction of errors.
“No reply” is not an option.
Everyone trained in the field knows that. And experience teaches that prompt reply, and appropriate corrective response when one errs, are both required to protect one’s reputation for quality and win community loyalty.
BP appears to have neither replied nor made satisfactory corrections in the earlier case cited by Meritt. And to have made some changes, but offered no response to the Driscoll matter.
Corrective passion flowed into blogs and environments like and including twitter, as it would have to some degree no matter how BP responded. Snowballing blog commentary is summarized by Timmy Brister’s’ annotated list of selected links.
Amid the fire and brimstone, we did find one comment in defense of BP.
From this old newspaperman’s point of view, the story doesn’t look malicious, as some seem to us to have implied by calling it a “hit job.” Just incomplete and outdated by facts immediately available to both an important part of the audience and perhaps, with some effort, available to the author.
As a result, a vocal segment of the audience felt poorly served. In our opinion, it was, as usually happens with dated, incomplete stories.
In an environment rich in other sources of information, the audience’s protest will be corrective. In part because, as they demonstrated, they’re no longer simply the audience. They also publish.