Brooklyn

New York Times scribe has big problem with 'New South' -- it's full of backward church people

New York Times scribe has big problem with 'New South' -- it's full of backward church people

To be honest, I had shoved the Ginia Bellafante feature at The New York Times — “Abortion and the Future of the New South” — so far back into the “think piece” folder of guilt that I almost forgot that this “Big City” masterpiece still existed.

In this case, the term “masterpiece” is defined as a piece of first-person journalism that has to be in the running as one of the greatest summary statements of Gray Lady-speak ever put on paper.

I mean, Rod “Benedict Option” Dreher — a former Brooklyn resident — had already produced this truly fab summary statement of what’s going on here. Before we get to the latest response to the Bellafante opus — at Scalawag, hold that thought — let’s let Dreher kick off this thinker-fest:

I’m so sorry. Really, just very sorry. Here entitled Yankees like the NYT’s Ginia Bellafante thought the American South existed to give Millennial Brooklynites a place to reproduce Park Slope, but more affordably, and now we’ve gone and ruined it for them with our deplorable social and religious views.

Ah, right. All that icky religious stuff. That really messes things up for “Tess” and other relocated New Yorkers. Here is the essential Times-talk overture:

Tess wanted her own kingdom, and New York — forbidding, impossible — wasn’t going to let her build it. The start-up costs for the baking and catering business she envisioned were going to be too high; the rent on her apartment in Bed-Stuy was increasing. When she moved in it was $1,800 a month; just a few years later, it was approaching $3,400.

This young woman was a citizen of the New South now. Her business, Tess Kitchen, was thriving. Her New Orleans apartment, at $1,900 a month, had three bathrooms.

I called Tess on the day that the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee backed legislation to prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat was detected. This came 24 hours after Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country, one that does not allow exceptions for rape or incest. That followed the passage of another restrictive abortion law in Georgia.

Living in a very liberal city in a very conservative state is a trick mirror. “You really forget that you are in the Deep South here,’’ she said.

Need more? It’s all about the word “backward,” you see. You see the people who are, to New York-raised reformers, still yearning for the “Old South” are still fighting the Civil War.

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This is a viral news story, obviously: What religion groups oppose vaccinations and why?

This is a viral news story, obviously: What religion groups oppose vaccinations and why?

THE QUESTION:

In light of the recent measles outbreak spreading from certain enclaves of U.S. Orthodox Jews, does their religion, or any other, oppose vaccination?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

The current epidemic of highly contagious measles is America’s worst since 2000 when the federal Centers for Disease Control proclaimed the disease eradicated. At this writing there are 704 known cases of the disease, three-fourths of them in New York State, but no deaths yet. The epidemic apparently originated with travelers returning from Israel and then spread out from close-knit neighborhoods of strict Orthodox Jews (often labeled “ultra-Orthodox”) in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and suburban Rockland County, where some residents have not been vaccinated.

New York City has undertaken unusually sharp measures, leveling fines for those lacking vaccination and shutting down some Jewish schools. Significantly, vaccination is being urged by such “Torah true” Jewish organizations as Agudath Israel, United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association, the Yiddish-language newspaper Der Yid and by rabbinic authorities in Israel.

Medical science is all but universal in refuting claims that have been made about some unexplained link between the increase in autism and the customary MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) or other inoculations of children. Though individual rabbis may hold anti-vaxx ideas, avoidance is not a matter of religious edicts but a secular counterculture, including a since-discredited medical journal article, Internet propaganda and publications from groups like Parents Educating and Advocating for Children’s Health (PEACH) and Robert Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense, certain entertainment celebrities, and an offhand remark by candidate Donald Trump.

The journal Vaccine observed in 2013 that outbreaks within religious groups result from “a social network of people organized around a faith community, rather than theologically based objections.”

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Opening Day memories: Was Jackie Robinson's Methodist faith part of his epic life story?

Opening Day memories: Was Jackie Robinson's Methodist faith part of his epic life story?

A lot has been said and written about Jackie Robinson. The baseball great — famous for breaking baseball’s color barrier — was known for many things. Robinson’s athletic abilities, courage in the face of racism and the dignity with which he went about it all remain the focal points.

What is often ignored, and even forgotten, was Robinson’s Christian faith.

This past January 31 marked the day the trailblazing Robinson would have turned 100. He died at age 53, meaning that he’s been gone almost as long as he lived. Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947 when he donned a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform — that now-iconic No. 42 emblazoned across his back — at Ebbets Field and how his relationship with Branch Rickey, the team’s general manager, forever changed race relations in the United States.

“I think there are different explanations why his faith has been ignored. One of them is that Robinson — unlike Rickey — was private about his religion. It wasn’t something he talked a lot about,” said Chris Lamb, who co-authored a book in 2017 with Michael Long entitled Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography. “The book of Matthew quotes Jesus as telling us to avoid praying publicly. Secondly, Robinson’s significance comes more in his work in baseball and in civil rights and not in religion. That said, he couldn't have achieved what he did without his faith and his wife Rachel.”

The centennial of Robinson’s birth (and the many events associated with the celebration that will culminate in December with the opening of a museum in his honor in New York City) has allowed Americans of all ages to recall Robinson’s great achievements in the diamond — including helping the Dodgers win the 1955 World Series and having his number retired by every Major League Baseball team in 1997 — and the impact he would have on ending segregation and helping to spur the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Robinson died of a heart attack in 1972 at the age of 53.

Robinson’s famous quote — one etched on his tombstone at his Brooklyn gravesite in Cypress Hills Cemetery — reads: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

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Friday Five: Baptist sex scandal, NYT paranoia, Brooklyn bridge, Julie Roys story, drive-thru priest

Friday Five: Baptist sex scandal, NYT paranoia, Brooklyn bridge, Julie Roys story, drive-thru priest

Do you want a hippopotamus for Christmas?

If so, enjoy the video.

If not, what request would you like me to pass along to Santa?

Meanwhile, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion of the week: The investigation by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram into sex crimes in independent fundamental Baptist churches nationally is the must-read story.

For additional insight on that topic, check out Kate Shellnut’s coverage for Christianity Today.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Editor Terry Mattingly’s analysis titled “Tale of two New York Times stories: Seeking links in ultimate anti-Pope Francis conspiracy” occupies the No. 1 spot.

His intro sets the scene nicely:

ts the scene nicely:

What we have here are two interesting stories, which appear to be connected by a bridge of New York Times paranoia. It’s that latest addition to a growing canon of work attempting to connect Donald Trump to a vast right-wing Catholic conspiracy to bring down the compassionate, progressive Pope Francis.

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New York Times says Pastor A.R. Bernard has evolved on marriage -- but how far?

New York Times says Pastor A.R. Bernard has evolved on marriage -- but how far?

Every decade or two, The New York Times hires a conservative columnist.

There are exceptions to the rule, but most of the time these conservative columnists are what critics refer to as "New York Times conservatives." This means that, while they may be Republicans who lean to the right on economics and global issues, they lean left on the cultural issues that really matter -- such as abortion rights and gay rights.

Is there such a thing as a "New York Times conservative" when it comes to religious leaders, and Christian clergy to be specific?

I raise this question because the Times -- in its Sunday magazine -- has produced a long profile of the Rev. A.R. Bernard, a pastor, author and civic leader who has deserved this kind of attention from the Gray Lady for a long, long time. He is an African-American megachurch star whose clout and fame has completely transcended that community label.

The Times even refers to him as smart and stylish. You can clearly sense this respect in the overture.

One Saturday in mid-September, the Rev. A. R. Bernard took to the blue carpeted stage of the Christian Cultural Center, the 96,000-square-foot megachurch he built 16 years ago at the edge of Starrett City, in Brooklyn, with his usual accouterments: a smartphone, a bottle of water and a large glass marker board that he would soon cover in bullet points drawn from the playbooks of marketing specialists. Mr. Bernard, 63, is tall and slender, and on this day he wore a distressed black leather jacket, a white polo shirt, bluejeans and white tennis shoes -- casual Saturday attire. On Sunday, you would find him impeccably tailored in a light wool suit and tortoiseshell glasses, looking more like the banker he once was than the pastor of a congregation of nearly 40,000.

So why do this piece now? Yes, Bernard has a popular self-help book out at the moment -- "Four Things Women Want From a Man." There are even hints that he is pro-monogamy. Oh my. Hold that thought.

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Question for the Gray Lady: What did other Jews think of the 'Jewish Billy Graham'?

Question for the Gray Lady: What did other Jews think of the 'Jewish Billy Graham'?

The last time I checked, it was accurate to say that the Rev. Billy Graham had spoken in person to more people -- as in crowds at mass rallies, as opposed to on television -- than any other person.

That's a hard thing to calculate over history, but no one else comes close in the modern era, at least. That would make Graham a rather famous individual.

Thus, calling someone the "Jewish Billy Graham" is a significant statement, as in this New York Times headline the other day: "Esther Jungreis, ‘the Jewish Billy Graham,’ Dies at 80."

This story intrigued me for several reasons. I had heard this woman's name but knew little or nothing about her, which is interesting since I have always been interested in issues of Jewish outreach to secular Jews (and the religious and demographic impact of intermarriage, which is a related subject). My interests date back to a University of Illinois graduate-school readings class on post-Holocaust Jewish culture.

So who was Jungreis? Here is the Times overture:

Esther Jungreis, a charismatic speaker and teacher whose enormously popular revival-style assemblies urged secular Jews to study Torah and embrace traditional religious values, died on Tuesday in Brooklyn. She was 80. ...
Ms. Jungreis (pronounced YOUNG-rice), a Hungarian Jew who spent several months in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a child, was often called “the Jewish Billy Graham,” and her artfully staged rallies, with theatrical lighting and musical accompaniment, were in fact inspired by Mr. Graham’s Christian crusades.
She styled herself “rebbetzin,” the Yiddish honorific bestowed on wives of rabbis. Her husband, Rabbi Theodore Jungreis, led the Congregation Ohr Torah, an Orthodox synagogue in North Woodmere, N.Y., on Long Island.

So that explains the origin of the Billy Graham comparison. However, I still wondered how famous this woman was, not among Americans in general (like Billy Graham), but among modern American Jews. Also, what did the leaders of other Jewish movements think of her work?

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Swimmin' Orthodox women: A complex synagogue-and-state gender wars story

Swimmin' Orthodox women: A complex synagogue-and-state gender wars story

This isn't your basic separation of synagogue-and-state debate that we have here, care of The Atlantic. At least, I don't think so.

Instead, we have a story that -- with the tsunami of gender-identity news about showers, locker rooms and bathrooms -- raises lots of questions linked to public funds, female privacy, religious liberty and, yes, another dose of GetReligion mirror-image news analysis, as well.

As you would imagine, the lawyers in New York City are pretty used to dealing with complicated questions linked to Orthodox Judaism and public life. Now we have this newsy double-decker headline:

Who Should Public Swimming Pools Serve?
Women-only hours at a location in Brooklyn have ignited a debate about religious accommodation and the separation of church and state.

Now, the story by Adam Chandler does make it clear that the issue of "women only" hours at a public pool is not a new one. This isn't the only case involving religious doctrine and the privacy rights of women. But here is the overture, just to get us started.

Oh, I should issue a trigger alert for readers troubled by the word "theocratic," care of, logically enough, an editorial in The New York Times.

This week, a public pool in Brooklyn became the diving-off point for a new clash over religious law and religious coercion in New York City. For decades, the Metropolitan Recreation Center in Williamsburg has offered gender-separated swimming hours in an accommodation to the heavily Hasidic Jewish community that it serves.

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The New York Times asks: Is that historic Bernie Sanders win 'good for the Jews?'

The New York Times asks: Is that historic Bernie Sanders win 'good for the Jews?'

I guess this really is the year of the outsider -- even the Jewish outsider.

Take a look, if you will, at the following New York Times piece about the historic New Hampshire Primary win by Sen. Bernie Sanders. We're talking about the sidebar that ran under this headline: "As Bernie Sanders Makes History, Jews Wonder What It Means."

I realize that this piece is little more than a round-up of clips from Jewish newspapers and commentary publications. The goal, apparently, was to raise topics, one paragraph after another, that Jewish thinkers are talking about (with little new reporting).

If that was the goal, it is amazing what is NOT in this piece. Here is a sample, including the question-mark lede:

But is it good for the Jews?
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont ... became the first Jewish candidate in history to win a presidential primary election, setting off a familiar mixture of celebration and anxiety among Jews in the United States and abroad, who pondered what his milestone victory meant for the broader Jewish community.
“Did Bernie Sanders Just Grab Jewish Crown In New Hampshire?” asked a headline in the The Forward, which questioned why Mr. Sanders’ victory received less attention as an emblem of acceptance and accomplishment than the selection of Joseph I. Lieberman as the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee in 2000.
The likely reason: While Mr. Sanders was raised Jewish and even spent time on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1960s, he has been muted in his own embrace of the faith.

His own embrace of the "faith"? Or are we talking about a matter of heritage and culture?

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