Detroit Free Press

Mainstream media have some explaining to do about Black Hebrew Israelites. Also: It's complicated

Mainstream media have some explaining to do about Black Hebrew Israelites. Also: It's complicated

“I still can't believe that the *black Israelites* are playing a key role in a multi-day national controversy,” Washington Post political writer Dave Weigel tweeted Monday as the various videos of whatever happened Friday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial were dissected again and again.

“If you live in a big east coast city you've been putting in headphones and ignoring those guys your whole life,” Weigel added.

Here at GetReligion, my colleagues already have delved into various crucial angles of the brouhaha. Read the latest here, here and here.

But let’s go ahead and delve into another one, especially since the Black Hebrew Israelites angle is so fascinating and, believe it or not, important to grasping the full story.

Kudos to the Washington Post, which turned to Sam Kestenbaum, a contributing editor at The Forward, to write an explainer on the group:

In the initial media churn, they were nearly missed.

But a small band of Hebrew Israelites, members of a historic but little-known American religious movement, may actually be at the center of a roiling controversy that has gripped the nation in recent days.

It began with a now-viral video clip, filmed Friday at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, in which high school students from a Catholic school in Kentucky appeared to be in a faceoff with a Native American elder, who was beating on a drum. The boys, some wearing red hats with President Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, appeared in the clip to be mocking a man, named Nathan Phillips. The clip was widely understood as being centrally about the dangers of Trumpism, and the teens were condemned.

But a longer video soon bubbled to the surface, widening the lens. It showed how a group of half a dozen Hebrew Israelites had, in fact, been goading and preaching at both the Native Americans and high schoolers, using profanity and highly provocative language, for nearly an hour. Phillips later told journalists that he was seeking to defuse tensions between the Israelite group and the high school students by stepping in between them.

But who are these Hebrew Israelites?

From there, Kestenbaum does a nice job of explaining the group’s history. I won’t attempt to summarize here but rather point you to his full article.

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A priest's jarring homily after teen dies by suicide: The missing link in USA Today's viral story

A priest's jarring homily after teen dies by suicide: The missing link in USA Today's viral story

USA Today has an email newsletter to share its “Most Social” story.

Typically, it’s a viral headline such as “Jennifer Aniston responds to Dolly Parton’s outrageous threesome joke” or “Twitter users mercilessly mock Mike Pence for ‘Elf on the Shelf’ performance in the Oval Office.”

Congrats on our interest in real news, America!

Seriously, though, an actual piece of hard news occasionally crosses my screen via that newsletter: That happened this past weekend with the story of a Catholic priest’s jarring homily at the funeral of a teen who died by suicide:

DETROIT – They lost a teenage son to suicide, then sought compassion from their priest.

Yet, at the packed funeral on Dec. 8, the Rev. Don LaCuesta delivered words so hurtful that Catholic officials in Detroit apologized in a statement emailed to the Detroit Free Press.

Not good enough, the youth's parents said. They want their parish priest removed from his post in Monroe County, south of Detroit.

"Everybody seems to understand but the Catholic Church," said Jeff Hullibarger, father of 18-year-old Maison, a straight-A student and outstanding athlete who ended his own life on Dec. 4. The priest told mourners at the funeral that the youth might be blocked from heaven because of how he died, the couple said.

The extremely sad story was picked up from the Detroit Free Press, a part of the USA Today network of Gannett papers.

Read the whole thing, and it’s made even sadder by a “bully” high school football coach who apparently has been relieved of his duties.

But here’s the question raised that sparked this post at GetReligion: What does the Catholic Church believe concerning suicide?

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Another faith angle with a Detroit Tigers pitcher: Free Press nails how Matthew Boyd raised his game

Another faith angle with a Detroit Tigers pitcher: Free Press nails how Matthew Boyd raised his game

Apparently, I'm not the only journalist interested in the faith of Detroit Tigers pitchers.

To refresh those who haven't committed all my baseball stories to memory: A few years ago, I interviewed Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris about his baptism in his uniform as a high school player.

Just a few weeks ago, I interviewed a different Tigers pitcher — Michael Fulmer — about the role of faith in his approach to baseball and life, including his offseason job as a part-time plumber.

And now — thanks to my friend Ron Hadfield, one of the world's most devoted Detroit fans — I have come across a feature about the faith of yet another Tigers pitcher: Matthew Boyd.

The recent Detroit Free Press story notes that Boyd has "raised his game."

How'd he do it?

Let's check out the subhead:

Family, faith, fatherhood have helped take Matthew Boyd to a new level over his eight starts for the Detroit Tigers this season

Alrighty. That sounds like a religion story.

Often, we at GetReligion complain about holy ghosts in sports stories. But in this case, give the Free Press credit for its willingness to focus on that angle.

The paper even quotes Boyd's pastor up high:

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USA Today Network explains 'What it takes to become a saint' (for Catholics only)

USA Today Network explains 'What it takes to become a saint' (for Catholics only)

Dear editors at USA Today:

I thought that I would drop you a note, after reading a recent feature on your USA Today Network wire that ran with this headline: "What it takes to become a saint."

That's interesting, I thought. That's a pretty complex subject, especially if you take into account the different meanings of the word "saint" among Christians around the world, including Protestants. And then there is the unique use of this term among believers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

At the very least, I assumed that this "news you can use" style feature would mention that, while the canonization process in the Roman Catholic Church receives the most press attention, the churches in the world's second-largest Christian flock -- Eastern Orthodoxy -- have always recognized men and women as saints and continue to name new saints in modern times. Also, high-church Anglicans pay quite a bit of attention to the saints, through the ages.

The Catholic process is very specific and organized, while the Orthodox process is more grassroots and organic. There is much to learn through the study of the modern saints in both of these Communions. This is a complex topic and one worthy of coverage.

Then I read your feature, which originated in The Detroit Free Press. It opens like this:

What does it take to become a saint?
Anyone can make it to sainthood, but the road isn’t easy. The journey involves an exhaustive process that can take decades or even centuries.  
The Catholic Church has thousands of saints, from the Apostles to St. Teresa of Calcutta, often known as Mother Teresa.
Here are the steps needed to become a saint, according to Catholic officials. ...

What is the journalism problem here?

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From 'van man' to man of God: Finally, a ghost-free profile of quirky Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris

From 'van man' to man of God: Finally, a ghost-free profile of quirky Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris

My three favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. Christmas. Opening Day.

I'm on vacation from my regular job this week and headed — as soon as I can type this post and throw a few baseball shirts and jeans into a suitcase — to Arlington, Texas. My beloved Texas Rangers open the 2017 season at home tonight against the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians.

If you need me, I'll be Section 115, Row 33, Seat 5.

Given the peanuts-and-Cracker Jacks nature of this Monday, it seems only appropriate that I critique a baseball story — and thanks to my friend Ron Hadfield, an avid Detroit Tigers fan, I've got a terrific one to highlight.

"Here's one Detroit sportswriter unafraid to write about a player's faith," Hadfield said in sharing a link to this story.

If you're a baseball fan and a GetReligion reader (by my rough count, there are three of  you), I know what you're thinking about this ghost-free Detroit Free Press profile of Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris.

And I agree: It's about time someone in the mainstream press delved into Norris' faith and took it seriously. We've been begging for this since Norris first burst onto the national scene with an in-depth ESPN the Magazine profile two years ago.

Later that same season, I did some behind-the-scenes ghostbusting and interviewed Norris for The Christian Chronicle — answering a key question that ESPN ignored:

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Surprise! Pro-life women planning to join March for Life get front-page news coverage

Surprise! Pro-life women planning to join March for Life get front-page news coverage

Hey, this is a surprise.

Pro-life women planning to join this week's March for Life in Washington, D.C., got front-page news coverage in the Detroit Free Press.

Why's it a surprise?

If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you don't need to ask: We've pointed out a time or two — or a thousand — that news stories heavily favoring the pro-choice side are a longstanding and indisputable problem. If you somehow missed it previously, check out the classic 1990 Los Angeles Times series — written by the late David Shaw — that exposed rampant news media bias against abortion opponents. 

So yes, it's unusual to see a Page 1 story in a major metropolitan daily that focuses on the perspective of the pro-life side. But that's exactly what the Free Press provides — quoting five pro-life advocates, including four women. (Amazingly, this is my second post in the last week-plus praising a mainstream news story on the abortion issue.)

Back to the Detroit story: Let's start with the lede:

While millions of women marched last weekend for equal rights around the world, many others sat on the sidelines.
They felt excluded from the Women's March on Washington because of one tenet: Its pro-abortion rights platform.
But this week, it's their turn.

The wording of the next paragraph gives me a little pause. But maybe it's just me:

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Let's dig below the surface of Donald Trump's awkward visit to a black church in Flint, Mich.

Let's dig below the surface of Donald Trump's awkward visit to a black church in Flint, Mich.

Back in February, Democrat Hillary Clinton got a rousing welcome at a black church in Flint, Mich.

Republican Donald Trump's reception in that same city Wednesday was not quite so enthusiastic.

The basics from the New York Times:

FLINT, Mich. — Donald J. Trump traveled Wednesday to Michigan, a state that has not voted Republican in more than two decades, as he reached out to African-Americans with remarks at a local church and toured a water-treatment plant in a city that has battled dangerously high levels of lead and contaminated water.
The trip did not exactly go as planned. In a stop at the predominantly African-American Bethel United Methodist Church here, a pamphlet was distributed indicating that the speech “in no way represents an endorsement.” Mr. Trump was then interrupted in the middle of his remarks by the pastor, the Rev. Faith Green Timmons, after he started to criticize Hillary Clinton.
“Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us,” she said, adding, “not make a political speech.”
“O.K., that’s good,” Mr. Trump responded. “Flint. And I’m going to back on to Flint. O.K. O.K. Flint’s pain is a result of so many different failures.”
The candidate continued, but members of the crowd repeatedly shouted questions, at one point interrupting him about reports that his housing empire had “discriminated against black tenants” in the past, according to news media pool reports.

You can find similar information in reports from major news organizations such as CNN and Reuters.

But did any journalists go beyond the threadbare particulars of the short exchange between the pastor and the presidential candidate?

Actually, yes.

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Muslims vote for a Jew! Some journalists make strawman of Sanders' win in Dearborn

Muslims vote for a Jew! Some journalists make strawman of Sanders' win in Dearborn

The Michigan primary was settled on Tuesday, but some mainstream media are still chattering over Dearborn -- a city said to be 30-40 percent Arab, yet voted decisively for the lone Jewish candidate, Bernie Sanders.

And so many are still crowing about how so very wrong the pundits were to fret over anti-Semitism, it's hard to find the fretting. The stories are almost all "Nyah, nyah, we knew it all along."

The International Business Times let out some of the loudest chortles:

As the results rolled in, television pundits like Lawrence O’Donnell and Chuck Todd marveled on MSNBC that Sanders was doing so well in Dearborn “despite” the large Arab-American population there. WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer tweeted that Sanders’ dominance in Dearborn was “the stat of the night,” later adding “It’s official: Arab city feels the Jewish Bern.” Meanwhile, The Week dubbed it “just one more strange data point in an election overflowing with them.”
The assumption implicit in such commentary, of course, is that Muslims are biased against Jews — and that when they do cast a vote for Jewish candidates, it’s because they’ve somehow managed to overcome their own inherent anti-Semitism. But this fascination with Dearborn’s support of Sanders actually demonstrates the media industry’s own all-too-prevalent prejudice — and reveals how much reporting on American Muslims is still rooted in an unsophisticated naiveté about what motivates them.

The article quotes a prof saying that “the ‘Muslims voting for a Jew’ tagline is trite." And it quotes a Libyan-American writer saying that mainstream media are "guilty of promoting two-dimensional caricatures of Muslims and Arabs."
 
IBTimes isn’t the only miscreant, of course. The Huffington Post began its stridence yesterday with the headline: "Yes, Muslims Voted for A Jewish Candidate. Pundits Shouldn't Be Surprised." Added the subhead: "Arab-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, shut down uneducated commentary about their support for Bernie Sanders."

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God and baseball: Why sportswriters keep ignoring this MLB pitcher's Christian faith

God and baseball: Why sportswriters keep ignoring this MLB pitcher's Christian faith

Daniel Norris makes no secret of his Christian faith — no secret at all.

The Detroit Tigers pitcher's Twitter profile is typical of that openness:

I live to find 3 things. 1. Eternal life. 2. The strike zone. & 3. Good waves - 2 Peter 3:18 - Just Keep Livin' *dirtbag*

So why do sportswriters — again and again and again — either totally ignore that aspect of Norris' character or keep the nature of his faith vague?

The latest examples of how sports journalists treat the top prospect's faith come in recent reports on the 22-year-old having a malignant tumor removed from his neck this offseason. 

Despite a drive-by scattering of terms such as "prayer," "faith" and "eternal life," holy ghosts haunt the reports.

The Detroit Free Press notes:

After the season, Norris announced his cancer on Twitter and Instagram.
“I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer,” he posted Oct. 19. “So now, I’m asking for prayers.”
His faith is the center of his being. “It’s something to lean on,” he said. “Without faith, I don’t think I would be in the big leagues.”

Photo by Mark Cunningham, Detroit Tigers

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