Perhaps you saw the debate the other night. I caught an hour or so of it — about all I could take.
For those concerned about culture-war issues, count how many times words such as "abortion," "marriage" and "religious liberty" were uttered in the showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (The answer, in each case, would be zero.)
Then on Wednesday, I noticed this tweet from James A. Smith Sr., a GetReligion reader, a Southern Baptist minister and vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters:
So back to "This," that link I shared earlier.
It's an in-depth story by Laurie Goodstein, the New York Times' veteran national religion correspondent who just won the Religion News Association's top prize for excellence in religion reporting at large newspapers and wire services.
Here is how an email sent to religion writers by a New York Times public relations guru (who knew newspapers had PR people?) describes today's story:
In today's New York Times Laurie Goodstein reports on how some conservative Christians view this presidential race.
• In small-town Iowa, many evangelicals say that they have no genuine champion in the presidential race and that the country has turned its back on them.
• While other Americans are anxious about the economy, jobs and terrorism, conservative Christians say they fear for the nation’s very soul.
On her own Twitter account, Goodstein commented:
My take: Goodstein absolutely nails the despair that I sense — and hear about — among many of my conservative Christian friends.
Let's start at the top of the Times story:
GRIMES, Iowa — Betty and Dick Odgaard used to own the tiny church next door to their home. They had built it over 13 years into an art gallery, bistro, flower shop and framing service. They even rented out the chapel, with its bright stained glass windows, for social events.
But three years ago, the Odgaards refused to rent the quaint site to two gay men for a wedding, saying it would violate their religious beliefs about marriage. The men filed a civil rights complaint, and the Odgaards settled, paying a penalty because it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. After the controversy, regular customers stopped coming. Friends and family members stopped speaking to them. The Odgaards were vilified as bigots and haters.
But it was not long before the Odgaards found themselves cast as heroes as well. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, then a Republican candidate for president, visited the Odgaards’ business and videotaped a sympathetic interview with them. They joined a troupe of business owners upheld as Christian martyrs in the nation’s culture wars: the cake baker, the florist and the photographers who stood up for their religious beliefs and lost legal battles. They received a standing ovation at a Cruz rally and signed on as “religious liberty ambassadors” in his campaign.
Now, a year later, the Odgaards and other conservative evangelicals interviewed in central Iowa say they feel as though they have been abandoned. Many say that they have no genuine champion in the presidential race and that the country has turned its back on them. Americans are leaving church, same-sex marriage is the law of the land, and the country has moved on to debating transgender rights. While other Americans are anxious about the economy, jobs and terrorism, conservative Christians say they fear for the nation’s very soul. Some worry that the nation has strayed so far that God’s punishment is imminent.
Now, for folks paying attention, the basic outline of the Odgaards' experience will not be new. We've mentioned it before here at GetReligion:
But while the Odgaards' story has been told before, Goodstein takes it to a new level. Her piece is sensitive and insightful. She treats this couple and their experience fairly and thoughtfully (and yes, she does give the other side a voice, too, as good journalism should).
When I woke up today, a friend who reads GetReligion already had shared the Times story link with me. Then I saw it all over my Twitter feed. I felt certain that the story must be on today's front page. Alas, it's not, which surprises me:
Perhaps this story will appear on tomorrow's front page? Anybody who takes the Times' dead-tree version know if it's in print today? If it's buried inside while a Hillary Clinton young voters' story is on the front, any chance there's an element of Kellerism at play? (Hey, I couldn't write a post about the Times without at least one conspiracy theory, right?)
In the meantime, check out Goodstein's story.