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Religion at World Cup 2018: Christianity Today spots valid hard-news hook worth covering

Religion at World Cup 2018: Christianity Today spots valid hard-news hook worth covering

Over the nearly 15 years of GetReligion's run, I have learned quite a few lessons about content and online clicks.

No, I'm not talking about the sad reality that hardly anyone reads and retweets positive posts that praise good religion reporting in the mainstream press.

I am referring to the fact that GetReligion readers are way, way, way, way less interested in sports that most readers. However, the GetReligion team has always included some sports fans -- in addition to me -- and we persist in thinking that "religion ghosts" and quality reporting on faith issues matter just as much in sports journalism as anywhere else. And we're not just talking about Tim Tebow updates.

This brings me, of course, to the biggest thing that is happening in the world right now. Yes, a news event bigger than that open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

We're talking about World Cup 2018, of course. When you look at global media and passionate fans, nothing can touch it.

Now, there are always religion-news hooks during a World Cup, because religion plays a huge role in most cultures around the world. In the past decade or so, for example, there has been lots of coverage of the strong evangelical and Pentecostal presence on the high-profile squad fielded by Brazil. Of course, some scribes have found political implications of that trend.

This year, if you've been tuned in, it’s been interesting to watch Fox Sports trying to figure out how to handle all of the Russian churches that keep showing up whenever the graphics team needs to produce dramatic, sweeping images of the host nation. Was it just (Orthodox) me or, early on, had the Fox digital tech team removed some crosses from the top of some of those signature onion domes?

Anyway, the religion-news coverage has been rather right, this time around. However, Christianity Today just ran a story that I would like to recommend to journalists who are looking for valid news angles in the Russia World Cup.

Once again, the Brazilian squad is involved, but there's more to this story than that. Check out the dramatic double-decker headline:

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Craig James takes on bias against religious conservatives at — uh — Fox Sports

Craig James takes on bias against religious conservatives at — uh — Fox Sports

One of the most interesting discussions that I have with journalism students every semester is the moment when I ask them to identify the specific cultural and political philosophy that drives the editorial policies of Fox News and other giants associated with the world of Rupert Murdoch. 

They always say, "Conservative" or "right wing."

Then I ask them this question: "What kind of conservatism?"

At that point there is silence. The same thing happens when I ask them to tell me the difference between, let's say, Rush Limbaugh and the Rev. Mike Huckabee. Once again, most students simply blink and keep saying "conservative."

The answer, of course, is that Murdoch, like Limbaugh, is best described as a Libertarian conservative and, in particular, is not known for consistent, thoughtful (cough, cough) defense of conservative stands on moral and cultural issues. 

This brings me to a very interesting "Got news?" story, once again from Baptist Press, that should be interesting to watch -- if and when it receives major coverage in the mainstream press. Here is the top of the BP report:

DALLAS (BP) -- College football analyst Craig James has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Fox Sports alleging he was fired from a broadcasting position because of his Christian belief that homosexuality is sinful.
"This case is much bigger than me," James said according to a press release from Liberty Institute, the Christian legal organization representing him. "It affects every person who holds religious beliefs. I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty. Today, many people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Sadly, countless are afraid to let their bosses know they even have a faith. This is America and I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren't above the law."

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