What an amazing religion story NBC News offered the other day about sin, repentance, forgiveness and a Christian pastor showing some genuinely amazing grace to a KKK leader.
Well, it would have been an astonishing religion feature, if only the newsroom team had included a reporter or a producer who recognized that Christian faith was at the heart of this story of human hatred that was baptized -- literally, in this case -- in love.
It's hard to leave religion out of a born-again story like this one, but the NBC team did its best.
So here is the dramatic, but faith-free, headline on top of the report: "Ex-KKK member denounces hate groups one year after rallying in Charlottesville." And here is the faith-free overture:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nearly one year ago, Ken Parker joined hundreds of other white nationalists at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. That day, he wore a black shirt with two lightning bolts sewn onto the collar, the uniform of the National Socialist Movement, an American neo-Nazi group.
In the past 12 months, his beliefs and path have been radically changed by the people he has met since the violent clash of white nationalists and counterprotesters led to the death of Heather Heyer, 32.
Now he looks at the shirt he wore that day, laid out in his apartment in Jacksonville, and sees it as a relic from a white nationalist past he has since left behind.
So where is the faith element in this born-again story? Well, Parker had some contacts with opponents of the alt-right that left him somewhat shaky, in a good way. He began to think twice about his beliefs.
Then this happened:
A few months later, Parker was still weighing those doubts when he saw an African-American neighbor having a cookout near the pool of his apartment complex. As the sun set and the crowd thinned, Parker and his then-girlfriend approached the man, William McKinnon III, a pastor at All Saints Holiness Church.
By the way, under Associated Press style, that would be "the Rev." William McKinnon III, or perhaps "Pastor." For some reason, many journalists ignore formal titles of this kind when writing about African-American clergy. Why is that?
Parker didn’t know McKinnon was a pastor at first, but says he knew there was something different about him.
“They sat down,” McKinnon recalls, “and she said they had some questions for me, and I just asked them what were some of the questions that they had.”
They kept talking, then decided to meet up for more discussion. Soon after, McKinnon invited Parker to the church’s Easter service. And on April 17, 2018 -- six years after he joined the Klan and just seven months after Charlottesville -- Parker decided he’d had enough.
A month after that, he stood before the mostly African-American congregation of his new church and testified.
He "testified" to what? His changed political beliefs?
Yes, that was probably part of the equation. However, starting with that whole "Easter" thing, I would assume that Christian faith and maybe even Jesus had something to do with this transformation. This pastor brought him to faith in what? Baptized him into what?
Now read this next passage and try to imagine the congregation just sitting their quietly. I see logical points for a few shouts of "Lord have mercy!" and similar faith-based pronouncements. We are talking about a church, after all.
“I said I was a grand dragon of the KKK, and then the Klan wasn’t hateful enough for me, so I decided to become a Nazi -- and a lot of them, their jaws about hit the floor and their eyes got real big,” Parker recalls. “But after the service, not a single one of them had anything negative to say. They’re all coming up and hugging me and shaking my hand, you know, building me up instead of tearing me down.”
From there, the transformation sped up.
Transformation? What kind?
On July 21, wearing a different kind of robe, Parker waded into the Atlantic surrounded by members of that same church. McKinnon embraced him, and then dipped his head down into the water to baptize him.
He rose up, blinking and wiping water from his face, then walked toward a line of fellow congregants waiting for a hug.
Do you sense anything missing here?
Read the whole story. Does NBC News have a style book that bans the kind of Christian language that is used in these circumstances? Why avoid the faith elements in this event?