Duck Dynasty

Thinking about America's new sort-of-civil war: Dividing lines are politics, religion and ...

Thinking about America's new sort-of-civil war: Dividing lines are politics, religion and ...

Yes, it's the "Jesusland" map again.

With good cause. Trust me on that.

I can't think of a better illustration, when it comes to the following must-read think piece by David French, one of our nation's most important #NeverTrump cultural conservatives.

But first, if you never read his National Review piece describing the alt-right's war on his family, because of his opposition to the candidacy of Donald Trump, then read it now. Here is the unforgettable first sentence: "I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber."

Now he is back, with a think piece about the bitter, growing, divisions at the heart of America's alleged public life. This piece -- "We’re Not in a Civil War, but We Are Drifting Toward Divorce" -- contains so many must-booknote URLs and Big Ideas linked to religion news that I hardly know where to start or stop. You know how it is when a book hits you so hard that you basically highlight 90 percent of its contents, turning it into a sea of yellow patches?

The big idea: 

Our national political polarization is by now so well established that the only real debate is over the nature of our cultural, political, and religious conflict. Are we in the midst of a more or less conventional culture war? Are we, as Dennis Prager and others argue, fighting a kind of “cold” civil war? Or are we facing something else entirely?
I’d argue that we face “something else,” and that something else is more akin to the beginning stages of a national divorce than it is to a civil war.

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Adam LaRoche plays by HIS own rules? That's what his story is about? #Seriously

Adam LaRoche plays by HIS own rules? That's what his story is about? #Seriously

You knew there was going to be some kind of sequel to the amazing story of Adam LaRoche and his decision to walk away from millions of dollars because Chicago White Sox leaders had second thoughts about allowing his son Drake to come to work with him day after day.

Sure enough, ESPN assigned reporter Tim Keown to do one of those ultra-personal feature stories -- built on a long, exclusive interview -- that come a week or two after a media firestorm that created way more heat than light.

So we get a deep feature piece, precisely the kind that makes me think there is some chance that ESPN will finally take seriously the religion angle of a major story. Take that headline for example: "Adam LaRoche goes deep on his decision to walk."

Now, this story does include all kinds of interesting details and colorful anecdotes, while answering a few obvious questions. Some LaRoche critics, for example, thought it was strange that this loving dad wanted his son to spend so much time around, well, baseball players. Aren't they known for being a bit, well, profane and crass?

Yes, LaRoche knew that Drake would be stretched a bit. Thus, I loved the evidence that some of the players actually tried to clean up their acts a bit. For example:

In 2012, Nationals utilityman Mark DeRosa cut a deal with Drake: I'll pay you every time you catch me swearing.

"Ten bucks a word."

So how much did the kid make? You can look it up.

Now, the whole idea is that LaRoche -- #duh -- has a different set of priorities than your average millionaire jock.

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'Thank u Lord for the game of baseball' -- A religion ghost in LaRoche exit? You think?

'Thank u Lord for the game of baseball' -- A religion ghost in LaRoche exit? You think?

Here is a heart-strings tugger for you as we move closer to Opening Day in major-league baseball (an event that should receive Upper-Case status as a cultural holy day, as I am sure our own Bobby Ross Jr. would agree).

So Adam LaRoche walked away from his Chicago White Sox contract worth $13 million rather than yield to demands by management -- as in team president Ken Williams -- to drastically cut the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spent with him and the team during workouts and in the clubhouse.

Sports fans, you have to be blind as a bat not to see the religion ghost in this one.

I suspect that many sports-news scribes see the religion element, but they are hesitating to suggest that it may have been a factor in this buzz-worthy clash between this dad and the leaders of his team. Here is a chunk of the relevant report from the frequently faith-lite ESPN team:

LaRoche, 36, announced his retirement Tuesday, hinting at the reason behind his decision with the hashtag #familyfirst in a tweet posted that day.
When news of the reason became public Wednesday, Williams addressed the issue with reporters and said that kids are still permitted in the White Sox clubhouse, but they shouldn't be there every day, saying no job would allow that.
"Sometimes you have to make decisions in this world that are unpopular," he said.
The White Sox have always encouraged players to bring their kids into the clubhouse and onto the field, according to Williams. But he said he thought Drake LaRoche was there too much.

That #familyfirst tag is a clue, don't you think? And this tweet referenced in the ESPN report?

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Worst religion story of the year? AP trashes Phil Robertson

Sigh…no context, just a quick Associated Press gotcha blurb.  Yep, that reader’s email to GetReligion pretty much sums up an atrocious, 135-word piece of AP “journalism” on Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame.

New anti-gay remarks by ‘Duck Dynasty’ star emerge

NEW YORK (AP) — A&E has declined to comment on new video of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson reviving past anti-gay remarks.

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More on politics, sin and Louisiana's kissing congressman

For anyone unfamiliar with Rep. Vance McAllister, he’s a Louisiana congressman who ran on a Christian family values platform. But now he’s in trouble with some voters — and presumably his wife — after he got videotaped kissing a staff member (not a peck on the cheek, by the way). Last week, I praised the serious, respectful nature of the New York Times’ reporting on McAllister’s predicament, his request for forgiveness and the various reactions of folks in his northeast Louisiana district.

It’s no surprise that a 1,700-word Washington Post Style section treatment of the same story contains more snark — and innuendo — on McAllister’s relationship with Melissa Anne Hixon Peacock:

The McAllisters and Peacocks were close friends. Two friends — speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation — said they thought it was unusual that McAllister seemed to openly flirt with Peacock in public, even sometimes when his wife was present.

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Politics, sin and serious reporting in La. bayou country

As I’ve shared before, I spent a few years of my early childhood in West Monroe, La., where my dad attended the White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching. That now-defunct school was operated by the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, now known nationally as the home congregation of the Robertson family of “Duck Dynasty” fame. Through my work with The Christian Chronicle, I remain in touch with a number of White’s Ferry Road church leaders and members.

Given my personal connection, national news out of Louisiana bayou country tends to catch my attention. The latest headlines involve Congressman Vance McAllister, who ran on a Christian family values platform but got caught in a compromising video with a woman who is not his wife. (I met McAllister’s predecessor, Rodney Alexander, several years ago when he caught a ride on a private plane that the White’s Ferry Road church’s disaster relief ministry chartered to assess Hurricane Katrina damages.)

The brouhaha over McAllister prompted this Facebook post by my good friend John Dobbs, who preaches for the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, La., across the Ouachita River from West Monroe:

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Say what?!? Organ music at 'Duck Dynasty' church?

Say what?!? Organ music at 'Duck Dynasty' church?

The White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., is making headlines these days as the home congregation of the Robertson family of "Duck Dynasty" fame.

For me, mention of the White's Ferry Road church brings back fond memories totally unrelated to duck hunting or reality television. That's because -- for two years during my early childhood -- the Ouachita River community of West Monroe was my hometown and the White's Ferry Road church my home congregation, as I shared in a 2012 column.

In light of the controversy over "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson's comments on homosexuality, The Associated Press sent a reporter to cover Sunday services at the Louisiana church this past weekend.

The top of the story:

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The Big D's sex-loving, millionaire megapastor

Would a major network such as A&E really consider a reality series featuring a millionaire evangelical family?

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Duck czar: World-class sinner who has been there, done that

A long, long time ago — pre-World Wide Web — I wrote a column for the Scripps Howard News Service (RIP) and The Rocky Mountain News (RIP) that tried to explain why a very charismatic evangelical leader of national renown insisted on saying that homosexual acts were sinful.

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