David Neff

Flashback 2015: Jewish news, an all-pope Top 10 list and trends on evangelical left

Flashback 2015: Jewish news, an all-pope Top 10 list and trends on evangelical left

OK, here is one final set of some Top 10 religion stories lists for the now distant 2015. If you have missed the previous installments, click here and then here to back up a post or two and catch up. There was also an end of the year "Crossroads" podcast.

One of the reasons that journalists dig into these kinds of lists, especially those prepared by leaders in specific religious flocks, is to learn about stories that may not have made headlines at mainstream news sites -- yet.

So here are three lists of this kind. Once again, please put any 2015 Top 10 lists that I missed in our comments pages.

We will start with A. James Rudin, a name familiar to all journalists who cover events and trends among Jews in North America and elsewhere. This Top 10 Jewish news events list was prepared for Religion News Service, but the link is to The Washington Post. You have Bernie Sanders, Nostra Aetate and a rabbi scandal or two. However, his top story is one that has been growing in importance for more than a decade, one sure to grow in importance with the rise of the Islamic State.

1. Anti-Semitic attacks escalate across Europe.
In January an Islamic terrorist killed four Jews inside a Paris kosher market, and in February a terrorist killed a synagogue guard in Copenhagen. The number of French Jews moving to Israel grew during the year.

Then there was this story, which our own Ira Rifkin flagged early on:

3. The BDS campaign gathers force.

In June, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ approved a resolution calling for the denomination to divest and boycott certain companies doing business with Israel.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

From one reporter to another: An insider's primer on Seventh-day Adventism

From one reporter to another: An insider's primer on Seventh-day Adventism

I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating: At dinner one evening with a Boeing Corporation division president, the topic of my “day job” came up. Because this person, long since retired, was involved with Boeing’s satellite systems, I told him my principal employer at the time had a large satellite network of its own. That employer was the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters.

His face lit up: “Oh, you’re the guys with the bicycles.”

I grimaced: this high-level executive, well exposed to the world, thought Adventists tooled around wearing white shirts and name tags. (Nothing wrong with that, but the guys on the bikes most likely are missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a different group.)

His publicist, who was at the table, piped up: “No, you’re the guys with the magazines that go door to door.”

Mercy. This person --  a former Seattle-area television news reporter, no less -- imagines Seventh-day Adventists don’t celebrate birthdays or take blood transfusions.

Well, if Mr. Now-Retired Boeing person is listening, he probably knows a bit more about Adventism and Adventists, thanks to one Donald J. Trump.

Terry Mattingly asked me, a former GetReligionista and former employee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (the Church’s formal name) to offer current Godbeat professionals a few pointers -- from my perspective on both sides of a reporter's notebook -- on covering the religion which claims, among others, Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, M.D., a 2016 GOP Presidential contender, as one of its nearly 19 million members worldwide.

Here goes.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

That Billy Graham flashback, again: Campolo, Neff and an open evangelical left

That Billy Graham flashback, again: Campolo, Neff and an open evangelical left

It's an old question, but it keeps coming up here at GetReligion and in many other settings online, in journalism and in academia: What does the word "evangelical" mean?

Is this, as many young people insist (including lots of my students), just another name for white Republicans?

Is this a sociological term, describing a movement of people in a specific subset of conservative Protestantism, one best defined in terms of culture, zip codes and upbringing? 

Is it simply a term that describes a specific marketing niche containing conservative Protestants who consume certain types of media, admire specific religious celebrities and support the same parachurch ministries?

Is this a term with precise doctrinal and historical content, one linked to specific confessions of the faith? If "evangelical" is a term with doctrinal content, who has the ecclesiastical power to define or alter that content?

People were arguing about this issue again, of course, In the wake of the media mini-storm surrounding evangelical activist Tony Campolo's long-awaited open embrace of gay marriage, as a doctrinal statement, as well as political policy. GetReligion readers will not be surprised to learn that this was the topic of my "On Religion" column this week for the Universal syndicate and also the topic of this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune in the Issues Etc. network version of that program.

For many commentators it was much more significant that recently retired Christianity Today editor David Neff moved to the doctrinal left on gay marriage, in comparison to the rather predictable statement by Campolo. In my column I noted:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

#DUH: Sarah Pulliam Bailey nails breaking news on evangelicals and same-sex marriage

#DUH: Sarah Pulliam Bailey nails breaking news on evangelicals and same-sex marriage

Evangelicals + same-sex marriage = major headlines this week.

If you pay attention to religion news, you've undoubtedly noticed that.

Of course, tmatt posted Tuesday on the New York Times' front-page story on the sex debates and the quiet evangelical left. In that same post, he referenced breaking news involving a prominent evangelical progressive, Tony Campolo, who revealed Monday that he now supports "the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the church." Also, tmatt said reporters should keep an eye on statements by former Christianity Today editor David Neff.

No surprise here, but Sarah Pulliam Bailey -- a former GetReligionista who now covers religion for the Washington Post -- pounced on Campolo's statement and related developments and produced an excellent breaking news report.

Bailey's meaty lede:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Stay tuned: The New York Times probes sex debates and the quiet evangelical left

Stay tuned: The New York Times probes sex debates and the quiet evangelical left

One of the hot social-media stories right now, in the world of religion news, is the New York Times piece that ran under this headline: "Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights." Note, in particular, that the word used is "debate" rather than the omnipresent liberal Protestant word "dialogue."

There really isn't anything new in this story, for those who have covered the evangelical left for the past quarter century or so. The news is that this debate is now in The New York Times, the bible of our culture's principalities and powers (that be). Even though there is little news content here, this piece does offer a fascinating update on three issues that we have been discussing here at GetReligion ever since we opened our cyber-doors a decade ago.

I. The news media consistently show a lack of interest in covering the actual beliefs -- doctrinal, not political -- of believers on the religious left. The assumption seems to be that their views are so obviously correct that there is no need to cover the fine details or let leaders in these pews and pulpits discuss why they believe what they believe.

For example, it will be interesting to watch mainstream media coverage of the long-expected announcement by the Rev. Tony Campolo, one of America's best known evangelical progressives, that he -- in the words of the Baptist News Global report -- now "supports the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the church." Reporters should also watch what is said, and not said, by those hailing Campolo's decision, such as retired Christianity Today editor David Neff. Again, it is crucial to look for what they are actually saying about Christian doctrine, not U.S. laws or public policy.

Please respect our Commenting Policy