Southern Religion

Don’t talk to writers from non-SBC publications?

North Carolina pastor Tim Rogers recently counseled fellow Southern Baptist Convention pastors to decline comment to non-SBC publications. He did so in he context of an internecine debate over an SBC-funded pastor’s conference. Rogers wrote:

Dr. Vance Pitman has responded to various questions and concerns raised by Southern Baptist Pastors regarding the upcoming Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference (SBPC) in Phoenix, Arizona. You can see various questions and concerns here here and here. The medium Brother Pitman chooses to give his response is the Associated Baptist Press (ABP), the news agency started by disgruntled former Southern Baptist because the Executive Committee (EC) terminated Baptist Press (BP) editors. This news agency is controlled and maintained by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) the group that would not affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and splintered from the Southern Baptist Convention to form their own Fellowship denomination. You can read the ABP article which contains Brother Pitman’s interview here.

Rogers goes on to give explicit advice about how SBC pastors should handle calls from reporters who do not work for SBC publications:

Once he found out the reporter was out side of the SBC the proper way to respond would have been to politely dismiss the call with a promise to get back.

Thus he advises putting non-SBC reporters off with a fib.

Odd. And the specific reporter to whom Pittman Rogers refers in this case is Norman Jameson, clearly identified at the conclusion of the ABP article as “former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder.”

The North Carolina Biblical Recorder is a Southern Baptist newspaper, which like its peers is declining toward oblivion.

Srsly then. Doesn’t keeping debate “in the family” still mean keeping it quiet? Suppressing it. The way cults do.

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Publications, SBC | , , , , , | 3 Comments

In honor of Sister Carol

Sr. Carol Keehan, Daughter of Charity and leader of the Catholic Health Association, earned in many ways her place among those named in the 2010 Time 100.

Her vow to serve the poor brought her to the support of health reform at a critical juncture, writing, “The time is now for health reform.” And answering the tide of false claims that health reform was a path to publicly funded abortion:

The insurance reforms will make the lives of millions more secure, and their coverage more affordable. The reforms will eventually make affordable health insurance available to 31 million of the 47 million Americans currently without coverage.

CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

Among the true things Time proclaimed:

Undeterred by her critics, she refused to back down as she fought for reforms that would include prenatal and maternity care and coverage for uninsured children. She fought for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.

We turn to the Jesuit magazine America for a practical glimpse of the modesty with which she lives her vows of poverty. Michael Sean Winters writes of the president of the nation’s largest not-for-profit network of health care facilities:

Sister Carol then showed me the sisters’ living quarters. She, like all the other nuns, had a small room, like a dorm room, with a small bed, a small desk and one comfortable chair, a devotional book on the table beside it. There was a closet holding half a dozen habits and blouses. This was certainly not how most hospital executives lived. Sister Carol’s supreme confidence in discussing any and all aspects of health care management was matched by a complete absence of pride or protocol. You only had to watch her for five minutes as she interacted with the hospital staff to realize that she was as down-to-earth as she was competent, as solicitous of others as she was unafraid to make a decision on her own.

She was also one of some 60 leaders of women religious, representing 59,000 Catholic Sisters, who broke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to support passage of the Senate health reform bill.

Her clear voice remains an unwavering, truthful answer to those who seek continuously to smear the law as an inroad for immorality, rather than the triumph of Christian charity that it is.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Politics, Publications | , | 1 Comment

Hot Air move to Salem is an audience buy

With the announcement timed to coincide with the Conservative Political Action Conference, which opened today in Washington D.C., the conservative blog Hot Air has been acquired from Michelle Malkin by Salem Communications.

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) conservative political activism is visible in the fretwork of that deal. Salem’s board of directors features “Judge” Paul Pressler, architect of the SBC conservative takeover. Among Salem’s syndicated radio shows iare Richard Land Live, whose host is chief of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and the Albert Mohler Program, whose host is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Mediaite alludes to that commercial political/religious binding when it writes:

Salem Communication defines itself as a leading U.S. radio broadcaster, Internet content provider, and magazine and book publisher targeting audiences interested in Christian and family-themed content and conservative values. Perhaps their most relevant property to this transaction is which claims itself to be the #1 conservative website. The “About Us” section of its website claims “ pulls together political commentary and analysis from over 100 leading columnists and opinion leaders, research from 100 partner organizations, conservative talk-radio and a community of millions of grassroots conservatives.”

Debt-burdened Salem was “branded a ‘bottom rung’ company by Moody’s Investors Service” because is saddled with “the weight of $320 million in debt.” And HotAir brings to that business mix a large audience injection, with attendant potential for increased advertising revenue:

Hot Air ranks as the seventh-largest conservative website over the past three months, according to rankings from the Web information company Alexa — though the rankings include Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and Drudge Report

Townhall, meanwhile, had the 12th-largest audience over the same time.

We’ll see whether the ideological synergies are sufficiently financial.

February 18, 2010 Posted by | Publications, SBC, WWW | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hot Air move to Salem is an audience buy

Sarah Palin, the smeared Dominionist feminist

Sarah Palin the Christian Right Dominionist is rarely directly acknowledged as a feminist who asserts her right to power. Even feminist Echidne of the Snakes comes at that issue obliquely when defending Palin against the misogynist smears (like the current cover of Newsweek). The Goddess writes:

The list of explosive topics for feminist bloggers is slightly different than for, say, progressive bloggers in general. And no, I’m not going to give you the list because that would get the yelling started. But one of those topics certainly is the way Sarah Palin is treated in the political media and on various political blogs. The debate on her is predictable: Some (poor dear) feminist blogger points out that her treatment contains large chunks of sexist smearing. Then others note that Sarah is trading on her sexuality so she deserves the sexualized responses. Or that she’s too stoopid for words and has such horrible politics that we really should dump everything possible on her head. Including misogyny, whenever appropriate.

November 18, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Publications | , , , | Comments Off on Sarah Palin, the smeared Dominionist feminist

What can State Baptist pubs can expect from a Web pay wall?

It depends, as with other publications. The American Press Institute and ITZBelden surveyed 2,400 U.S. newspaper executives. Only 51% think pay walls will work and they have clear ideas about how many paying online subscribers [.pdf] (presentation slides [.pdf]) to expect:

Respondents report a wide range of online subscription charges (from $1 to $27.50 a month), yet they report surprisingly uniform levels of uptake on subscriptions, typically 1 percent to 3 percent of print circulation — regardless of price.

Even these survey results may be overly optimistic because, as Nieman Lab observes, “ITZ Publishing consults for Steve Brill’s pay-for-news firm Journalism Online, which just touted the results as an ‘API study’ without noting its business interest.”

The study certainly does not suggest that that small Baptist publications can readily benefit from throwing pay walls between Web users and content with which those users are already be underinspired.

Indeed, another recent survey found that just 5% of online users are willing to pay for content. Whereas “74 per cent of those surveyed said if their favourite news service started charging to access content online they would switch to a free alternative.”

For nonprofit publications which actually have special value to their readers, there is a half-step which has potential. The Texas Baptist Standard is almost trying it now and has some generalized, high-visibility support of the sort required to make the strategy work. Their E3 product offers enhanced content at a low price and could conceivably be promoted out of its doldrums. Buried in the marketing points for E3, there is already one example the kind of pitch which befits a nonprofit news product:

Gratitude: Online news is free to you, but not free to produce. An E3 subscription expresses user-supported gratitude for the value of online news.

Marketing an enhanced version of a news product to users as a way for them to support the good work, is a legitimate strategy. If the product is in the view of readers, good enough. Simply put, we believe the for-profit freemium model can be fruitfully adapted to nonprofit solicitation strategies.

November 17, 2009 Posted by | Publications, SBC, WWW | , , , | Comments Off on What can State Baptist pubs can expect from a Web pay wall?

Louisiana Baptist Message to commit Web circulation suicide [Updated]

By putting up a pay wall. They have announced “it is very likely” that once their ongoing Web redesign “is complete that a subscription will be required to access all of the Baptist Message’s print content online.”

Available public figures suggest that Web users are disinterested in the publication’s content and as a result will not pay for it online. The Baptist Message has an Alexa Traffic Rank of 4,551,727 (lower numnbers are better), a Google PageRank of 4 (higher numbers are better). Page views per user and time on site per user suggest a site that is already unread by most visitors. Likewise, the persistent absence of advertising from the Message online implies that advertisers have concluded that it has no worthwhile Web audience to which to hawk their wares.

Subscription prices are a mere $14.00 a year, but the Web has plenty of examples of small payment publications that failed. The Message is already on life support and dying by degrees. It was budgeted a $426,800 subsidy for 2004 by the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Declining circulation and rising costs drove it from weekly to biweekly in 2009, and into a printed-on-paper partnership to deliver the state convention’s promotional magazine, LBClive.


There appear to be no Southern Baptist exceptions to the record of pay-wall failure. The state Baptist publication of Texas – the Texas Baptist Standard (Alexa Traffic Rank: 282,514; Google PageRank: 5) – launched an $8-a-year online multimedia product called “E3” during the first quarter of this year. And E3’s Facebook group activity suggests that it has crashed and awaits burning.

Although E3’s Facebook presence is staff-supported, it has only 202 members and 13, inactive discussions.

Success would be denoted by thousands of Facebook group members and a plethora active discussions.

E3 was foredoomed by lack of user interest, as we warned at launch. Most Baptist Standard Web visitors hit one page and leave (80% bounce rate). They tarry long enough to perhaps read that page and increasingly look at only one page. Repackaging and more heavily promoting content whose Web traffic demonstrates little marketplace appeal is a waste of money. We’ll dig a hole in our product graveyard for E3 (no charge).

The arc of on-paper Baptist state newspaper circulation has been one of inexorable decline toward disappearance, for decades (see graph below).

It is sad to see another state Southern Baptist publication propose a step which is if implemented destined to reduce the remains of their Web presence to ashes, thus accelerating their overall decline.

Circulation trends among state Southern Baptist  newspapers in aggregate are well-documented.

Circulation trends among state Southern Baptist newspapers in aggregate are well-documented. The downward trend has continued since this graph was published, carrying them below 1947 levels. Their problems are complicated by the fact that the state-by-state geographical distribution for which they were created on paper has relatively little bearing on the Web. There are multiple state organizations to cover, but advertising data indicates that the Web market is unlikely to sustain an equal number of publications, especially not as the Southern Baptist Convention itself continues to fracture.


After some discussion of Alexa, we used Compete to generate a nice interactive graph of unique users visiting the Web sites of three state Baptist publications — the Lousiana Baptist Message, the Missouri Word & Way and the N.C. Biblical Recorder.

If the underlying numbers are even within throwing range of correct, none of them should consider charging for access to their online content. Least of all the Baptist Message (to the best of our knowledge the only one of the three which is considering a pay wall). According to Compete, it attracted just under 15 unique visitors a day in October — appropriate to a good personal blog, not a publication with full-time staff, and probably several thousand times less than the visits they need to pair with compelling content before considering a pay wall.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | Publications, SBC, WWW | , , , , | 2 Comments

Kentucky 1st in child abuse/neglect

Kentucky is 1st in child abuse and neglect deaths, reports Ken Walker of the Western Recorder, that state’s Southern Baptist newspaper.

He and reporter Dannah Prather write:

Released by the Every Child Matters Education Fund of Washington, the report said 41 Kentucky children died in 2007 in circumstances where abuse or neglect was substantiated. That number was higher than the 26 deaths counted by the state. Federal authorities include situations where abuse or neglect occurred, even if it was not a direct cause of death.
. . .
According to the report, Kentucky’s average of 4.09 deaths per 100,000 children led the nation, followed by South Dakota (4.08), Florida (3.79), Nebraska (3.59) and Missouri (3.51).

“It’s heart wrenching that each day in America, five children will die from abuse and neglect, but what’s worse is that the real number is even larger,” said Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters.

They are also writing about Baptist services to children, yet come right at the need, facts first, flinching from nothing. Baptist state newspapers can still do real journalism.

Read it here.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Publications, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Kentucky 1st in child abuse/neglect

The right fluff

A state Baptist newspaper getting called out for excessive fluff is not surprising. A self-proclaimed fundamentalist doing the calling is downright shocking.

A letter to the editor in the Biblical Recorder, the state Baptist paper in North Carolina, carries the headline, “Too much fluff.” The letter is from Shelby resident Bill Rhymes, who identifies himself as a Sunday School teacher and choir member of Zion Baptist Church. Rhymes says he has been a Baptist for 74 years and taught Sunday School for 60 years.

“What concerns me are the last two editions of the Biblical Recorder,” Rhymes writes. “Inside was page after page of ‘fluffy’ writings about by-laws, rules, etc.”

An editor’s note at the end of the letter says the paper is required by the Baptist State Convention bylaws to print proposed changes to the convention’s Articles and Bylaws at least twice.

In newspaper lingo, stories with little news value are often called fluff pieces.

While that might indeed fit the bylaw changes mentioned by Rhymes, his reasoning is completely different. He said after seeing the information, he asked himself, “What could all of this possibly mean for bringing people to know and love Jesus Christ?”

Rhymes said he wondered who would read the information and what Jesus would think about all the “excess garbage in what is supposed to be an inspirational publication about Him.”

“I’m afraid He would have said, ‘I never said these things, I never mentioned petty mounds of rules and bylaws about following Me.’ Jesus would have said, ‘I spoke the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. That is all you need for salvation with Me.'”

Interestingly, the comments section focuses on Rhymes’ view of salvation and quickly becomes a debate between opposite sides in the Southern Baptist Convention controversy.

More revealing is the last part of the editor’s note, which says printing the proposed bylaw changes is “a laudable safeguard and should inspire trust in the process by which this Convention of churches conducts the business that enables them together to care for others, share the gospel and dare to attempt great things for the Kingdom.”

Now that is fluff.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Publications, Religion, SBC | 1 Comment

Tragedy told straight, confusion and all

On a day of grievous catastrophe, blighted islamophobic blogger attempts to spin tragedy into ideological gold, the Washington Post told the story straight, getting the facts right, telling of horror and the heroism, refusing to blink away the unresolved points, digging into background issues.

November 7, 2009 Posted by | Publications, Uncategorized, WWW | Comments Off on Tragedy told straight, confusion and all

Links for the twitter-Bible story


Christian Post tells us “And God Decided to Chill,” is a “twitter Bible” without linking to the German-language [German][English translation] where it originated.

And without linking to any of the still-available-online tweets [German][English translation] from which the on-paper book was created.

Had Michelle A. Vu’s story been published exclusively on paper, there would have been less with which to quarrel:

Formally named “And God Decided to Chill,” the German language book is the compilation of tweets by more than 3,000 German Christians who participated in the church project earlier this year.

In honor of the Pentecost holiday, German Christians used the micro-blogging service Twitter to summarize 3,906 Bible sections into 140 character messages, according to Berlin-based newspaper “The Local.” Though the project was scheduled for May 20-30, it was completed 37 hours ahead of schedule and achieved a world record.

Going to an April story at Vu’s also unlinked-to source, Ecumenical News International, we learn how the date of the effort was chosen and that it was a complex, carefully planned undertaking:

The project aims to publish the Bible in a shortened, micro-blog form on 24 May, the final day of the once-every-two years German Protestant Convention known as the Kirchentag, which attracts tens of thousands of participants as well as political leaders from Germany and beyond.

Theologians are busy dividing the Bible into 3000 sections that will need to be summarised as tweets. Volunteers will then distribute flyers to the expected tens of thousands of Kirchentag visitors listing the Bible verses to be tweeted.

About that world record – what world record? One is claimed but never explained in the stories we unearthed.

Well, hope this helps.

October 19, 2009 Posted by | Publications, Religion, WWW | Comments Off on Links for the twitter-Bible story