Friday Five: Godbeat grant, Sri Lanka bombings, Easter perspective, Israel outlook, softball hot dogs


I’ve highlighted it twice this week — here and here — but I’m still contemplating that big Lilly Endowment Inc. grant for religion reporting.

In case you missed my earlier posts, the $4.9 million Global Religion Journalism Initiative — long a topic of speculation — was confirmed this week.

It’ll fund 13 religion journalist positions at The Associated Press, Religion News Service and The Conversation and create a partnership resulting in RNS content going to AP subscribers.

The Global Religion project has the potential to be really, really awesome (to borrow one of RNS editor in chief Bob Smietana’s favorite adjectives). But the ultimate verdict will rest in the implementation and what happens beyond the initial, 18-month grant period.

Here’s wishing the involved entities all the best in that process!

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion news of the week: GetReligion contributor Julia Duin offered our initial analysis of news coverage of the Sri Lanka bombings on Easter Sunday, delving into that country’s complex religious situation, which Ira Rifkin noted in a helpful post last year.

Amid the wave of headlines, Jayson Casper has an exceptionally poignant report for Christianity Today.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Our No. 1 post this week concerns a side controversy that erupted after the Sri Lanka attacks, as leading Democrats such as former President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton referred to victims as “Easter worshippers.”

GetReligion Editor Terry Mattingly explained the culture war clash in his commentary titled “Political style question for tense times: What do you call people killed in church on Easter?”

In addition to the “Easter worshippers” question, there was this: Why did journalists at USA Today offer a Sri Lanka massacre story that never used the word “Christian” at all until the 15th paragraph?

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): In its Easter Sunday edition, the Dallas Morning News featured an op-ed by Dallas resident and former ABC News religion reporter Peggy Wehmeyer.

In the piece, Wehmeyer reflects on her experience as a journalist and a believer:

The Easter story of God's dramatic rescue operation can read more like a Marvel comic than a historic event, yet all across the city this week people are celebrating a God who raised his son from the dead with a promise that he'll return to set the whole world right.

Even as I kneel at the cross to worship this Easter, I'll ask the difficult question.

How do I keep believing this?

I've had plenty of opportunities to sort it out, having spent decades as a religion reporter.

It’s definitely worth a read.

4. Shameless plug: A story and column I wrote after my recent trip to Israel were published this week by The Christian Chronicle.

The story headlined “Is the Holy Land the Promised Land?" explores how various Christian leaders view the modern state of Israel.

The column focuses on my experience with the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

On a related note, GetReligion’s Richard Ostling recently wrote about “Israel and the End Times, what is Dispensationalism? What is the rapture?”

5. Final thought: Hat tip to fellow GetReligion contributor Douglas LeBlanc for sharing news of the softball-playing hot dogs.

They excel on your bun and on the field, or something like that.

Happy Friday, everybody!

Enjoy the weekend!

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