Karen Pence

Friday Five: #ExposeChristianSchools, Trump's Bible, buried lede, tmatt's future, Mariano Rivera

Friday Five: #ExposeChristianSchools, Trump's Bible, buried lede, tmatt's future, Mariano Rivera

“Reporter Trolls Christian Schools” was the headline on a recent Wall Street Journal column after a New York Times reporter asked for feedback from people who had attended Christian schools.

A lot of conservatives saw the request — tied to the viral hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools that emerged after headlines over Vice President Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, teaching at an evangelical school — as a pretense for a looming hit piece.

In fact, the actual New York Times article published drew praise from some, including a Southern Baptist minister who called it “insightful reporting and not one-sided negative.”

Me? I didn’t find the piece terribly insightful, enlightening or revealing of Christian school experiences that I know about.

This will give you an idea of the tone: The Times starts with quotes from those who “struggled with bullying and depression” at Christian schools, moves to quotes from those who “experienced lasting pain and confusion” at Christian schools and finishes with — this must be the “not one-sided negative” part — those who “shared stories of love and acceptance of others” at Christian schools.

Got a different view of the article? Feel free to comment below.

Now, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: This is one of those weeks when a single story or issue didn’t really stand out. So let’s go with President Donald Trump’s tweet supporting Bible literacy courses in public schools.

I wrote an entire post about this subject earlier this week, and since I see our analytics, I know many of you missed reading it.

So here’s another chance to check it out.

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Why was Karen Pence's Christian school choice worthy of all those Eye of Sauron headlines?

Why was Karen Pence's Christian school choice worthy of all those Eye of Sauron headlines?

Let’s play a headline-writing game, inspired by the fact that one of the world’s most important newsrooms — BBC — wrote a blunt headline about You. Know. What.

Yes, this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (click here to tune that in) takes another look at the great scandal of the week — that the wife of Vice President Mike Pence returned to her old job teaching at an evangelical Protestant school. This is the kind of small-o orthodox school that has a doctrinal code for teachers, staffers, parents and students that defends ancient Christian teachings that sex outside of marriage is a sin. We’re talking premarital sex, adultery (Hello Donald Trump), cohabitation, sexual harassment, same-sex behavior (not orientation), the whole works.

Thus, the BBC headline: “Vice-president's wife Karen Pence to teach at anti-LGBT school.”

Now, that BBC report didn’t make the common error of saying that this policy “bans” gay students, parents, teachers, etc. There are, after all, gays and lesbians, as well as people seeking treatment for gender dysphoria, who accept traditional Christian teachings on these subjects. There are some careful wordings here:

Second Lady Karen Pence, the wife of the US vice-president, will return to teaching art at a school that requires employees to oppose LGBT lifestyles.

The school in Springfield, Virginia, bars teachers from engaging in or condoning "homosexual or lesbian sexual activity" and "transgender identity". …

"I understand that the term 'marriage' has only one meaning; the uniting of one man and one woman," the document states.

My question is this: For the journalists that wrote this headline, what does “anti-LGBT” mean?

If that term is accurate in this case, would it have been accurate for BBC to have used this headline: “Vice-president's wife to teach at anti-LGBT school for Christian bigots”? Is the judgment the same?

Now that I think about it, in many news reports it certainly appeared that editors assumed that banning homosexual behavior is the same thing as banning LGBT people. If that is accurate, then why not write a headline that says, “Vice-president's wife to teach at school that bans gays”?

Then again, looking at the content of the school policies, journalists could have used this headline: “Vice-president's wife to teach at school that defends Christian orthodoxy.” OK, but that doesn’t get the sex angle in there. So, let’s try this: “Vice-president's wife to teach at school that opposes sex outside of marriage.” That’s accurate. Right?

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This just in: Not all Christians agree on marriage and sex! This schism even affects their schools!

This just in: Not all Christians agree on marriage and sex! This schism even affects their schools!

How did I miss this story?

Apparently, there is some kind of move afoot in elite media to push for the establishment of the Episcopal Church, or perhaps the United Church of Christ, as the state-mandated religion in the United States. Have you heard about this?

That’s one way to read the remarkable media response to Second Lady Karen Pence’s decision to return to the teaching at an ordinary evangelical Protestant school that attempts to defend ordinary conservative or traditional Christian doctrine on sexuality. (Yes, I am writing about this issue again.)

Why bring up Episcopalians? Well, Episcopal schools are allowed to have lifestyle and doctrinal covenants that defend their church’s evolving pronouncements blending liberal Christian faith with the editorial pages of The New York Times. Private schools — on left and right — get to define the boundaries of their voluntary associations.

These institutions can even insist that teachers, staff, parents and students affirm, or at least not publicly oppose, the doctrines that are the cornerstone of work in these schools. Try to imagine an Episcopal school that hired teachers who openly opposed the church’s teachings affirming same-sex marriage, the ordination of LGBTQ ministers, etc.

Now, after looking in that First Amendment mirror, read the top of the Times report on Pence’s heretical attempt to freely exercise her evangelical Protestant faith. The headline: “Karen Pence Is Teaching at Christian School That Bars L.G.B.T. Students and Teachers.

Actually, that isn’t accurate. I have taught at Christian colleges in which I knew gay students who affirmed 2,000 years of Christian moral theology or were willing to be celibate for four years. These doctrinal codes almost always focus on sexual conduct and/or public opposition to traditional doctrines. But back to the Gray Lady’s apologetics:

Karen Pence, the second lady of the United States, returned to teaching art this week, accepting a part-time position at a private Christian school that does not allow gay students and requires employees to affirm that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

You could also say that the school requires its employees not to publicly oppose the teachings on which the school is built. That’s a neutral, accurate wording that would work with liberal religious schools, as well as conservative ones. Just saying. Let’s move on.

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Washington Post editors still don't understand that private schools -- left and right -- have doctrines

Washington Post editors still don't understand that private schools -- left and right -- have doctrines

United Methodists are, of course, getting ready for their extraordinary global conference next month in which they will try to decide if the Bible and 2,000 years of Christian doctrine have anything definitive to say about marriage and sex.

One powerful pack of lobbyists on the doctrinal left — the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church — have come out swinging, urging the conference to allow “full inclusion” for all in the denomination’s life and work, no matter what their “gender identity” or “sexual orientation.”

It’s safe to say that leaders of these 93 schools — including universities such as Emory, American, Duke, Syracuse and SMU — have created campus policies that encourage or require students, faculty and staff to embrace this modernized approach to moral theology.

That’s fine, as long as these schools are very up-front about the doctrines that define life in their private associations. Private schools on the left and right are allowed to do that. (Click here for a column that I wrote several years ago about efforts at Vanderbilt University to require on-campus ministries to toe the evolving LGBTQ line: “The new campus orthodoxy that forbids most old orthodoxies.”)

Once again let me stress: Private schools on the left and right have a First Amendment right (think freedom of association) to defend the doctrines that define campus life.

Some journalists continue to struggle with this First Amendment concept, leading to lots of GetReligion posts trying to explain the law and history behind “lifestyle” and doctrinal covenants at private schools.

For a perfect example of this problem, see the new Washington Post report with this headline: “The school that hired Karen Pence requires applicants to disavow gay marriage, trans identity.” Here is the lengthy, but essential, overture to this story.

The school where Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, has accepted a part-time job teaching art requires potential employees to affirm certain religious beliefs that seek to exclude homosexual and transgender applicants, including that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

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Religion folks note: Whatever Donald Trump’s fate, there’s a Pence in your future

Religion folks note: Whatever Donald Trump’s fate, there’s a Pence in your future

Whether Donald Trump completes two full terms and surpasses Ronald Reagan as America’s oldest president, or declines to run in 2020, or -- as many Democrats pray –- resigns or is removed from office, 58-year-old Vice President Mike Pence will be a fixture in your future.

Pence is an obvious prospect for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 if not 2020. He runs a bit better in first-year job approval ratings than Trump, who was averaging a limp 39 percent at realclearpolitics.com just prior to the “[bleep]hole” racial furor.

The current issue of The Atlantic magazine offers a religious spin on the VeeP that gets second billing on the cover under the headline “God’s Plan for Mike Pence.” (The writer, McKay Coppins, also provided an online obit for LDS Church President Thomas Monson.)

The Pence piece, though weighing in at 8,000 words, leaves room for more depth from an enterprising religion reporter. Mention of the vice president’s conservative Christian zeal is a frequent tic in the news media, but as Coppins accurately observes: “For all Pence’s outward piousness, he’s kept the details of his spiritual journey opaque.”

 Other writers have sought to fill in the Catholic and evangelical blanks but, oddly, the vice president is as religiously mysterious in his own way as the unconventional president who ushered him into the limelight. Some aspects regarding this would-be future president that journalists should fully explore and explain.

So, for starters, is Pence still a member of the Catholic Church?

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This is why half of U.S. rolled its eyes over that 'Mike Pence won't eat alone with a woman' controversy

This is why half of U.S. rolled its eyes over that 'Mike Pence won't eat alone with a woman' controversy

Hey, remember the freak-out over "news" that Vice President Mike Pence won't dine alone with a woman (except his wife, of course)?

My GetReligion colleague Julia Duin covered the media storm when it erupted back in March:

Ka-boom. The mockery began.
Social media went nuts, excoriating Pence for being such a Neanderthal and worse. There were references to sharia law, for example. BBC asked: “Are Mike Pence’s Dining Habits Chivalrous or Sexist?” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jonesfired off at least 15 angry tweets on the topic during a period of high dudgeon on Wednesday afternoon. Naturally, The Onion weighed in.
Jezebel.com had something so unprintable, I’m declining to link to it. Guess I get tired of media slinging the F-bomb around like it’s candy from a parade. That was pretty common during this Twitter tsunami.
The comments cascaded to a point that the Post did two pieces solely on reaction to the article. Gotta make click-bait hay while the digital sun shines.

Fast-forward three months, and a poll conducted for the New York Times confirms what roughly half of America already knew:

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New York Times offers lots of whispers (hint, hint) about Pence's patient waiting game

New York Times offers lots of whispers (hint, hint) about Pence's patient waiting game

Sooooooo ... Did anyone read the OTHER big mainstream news feature involving the vice president?

There was, of course, that tsunami of digital ink about Mike and Karen Pence and their attempts to follow the marital example of Billy Graham rather than Bill Clinton. But there was also a long New York Times feature the other day about the vice president that ran with this calm, friendly headline: "Amid White House Tumult, Pence Offers Trump a Steady Hand."

GetReligion readers can read this report in one of two ways.

First of all, it does contain obvious references to the rather striking differences -- at the level of personal style and, by implication, faith and character -- between President Donald Trump and his squeaky clean evangelical vice president. This led to some nice turns of phrase, such as Pence being a "Hill-wise former Indiana congressman who is typically a palliative presence in an administration of piranhas." Hold that thought.

At the same time, you can read this story as a kind of Game of Thrones parable. Note, for example, that the Times team may have broken some kind of journalism record for the number of off-the-record sources used in an article about a vice president. This is one of those stories that delights inside the Beltway politicos, forcing them to grab a high-lighter pen and play the old "name that White House aide" game.

Read this way, Pence is seen as a kind of quiet, wise Washington pro who is waiting for the other Trump shoe to drop. Thus, the Times notes that "Mr. Pence’s dad-in-the-Norman Rockwell-painting demeanor masks a shrewd political intelligence." In the current White House, Pence is "jarringly out of place, a clean-cut 1950s Republican cheerfully navigating the chaotic 'Mad Max' landscape."

The implication, of course (one senses the presence of Democrats starting research for attacks on a Pence presidency) is that Pence has been muddied just by agreeing to play ball with Trump in the first place.

This is where the religion angle starts to show up.

That’s the challenge he’s faced since accepting the job of Mr. Trump’s straight-man running mate last summer. Many Pence advisers, including his wife, Karen, were wary of the offer.

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Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

When does a rather ordinary news profile turn into a mass-media panic?

Apparently, when it’s in a Washington Post feature about Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence.

I covered this two days ago in that finally -- after zillions of fawning pieces about Hillary and Michelle -- a major newspaper had profiled the Second Lady. I had no idea that one sentence in the story would create a Twitter mob scene. Part way down the story, a Post reporter mentioned that Mike Pence has a policy of never dining alone with a woman nor attending an event where alcohol is served without Karen by his side.

Ka-boom. The mockery began.

Social media went nuts, excoriating Pence for being such a Neanderthal and worse. There were references to sharia law, for example. BBC asked: “Are Mike Pence’s Dining Habits Chivalrous or Sexist?” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones, fired off at least 15 angry tweets on the topic during a period of high dudgeon on Wednesday afternoon. Naturally, The Onion weighed in

Jezebel.com had something so unprintable, I’m declining to link to it. Guess I get tired of media slinging the F-bomb around like it’s candy from a parade. That was pretty common during this Twitter tsunami.

The comments cascaded to a point that the Post did two pieces solely on reaction to the article. Gotta make click-bait hay while the digital sun shines. 

Here's the original Tweet:

 

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Washington Post: Is Karen Pence the strong, hidden angel behind the vice president?

Washington Post: Is Karen Pence the strong, hidden angel behind the vice president?

I’ve long been curious about Karen Pence, who is Vice President Mike Pence’s better half and probably one of the most likeable and approachable members of the Donald Trump administration. Fortunately, the Washington Post just came out with a profile, titled “Karen Pence is the vice president’s ‘prayer warrior,’ gut check and shield.”

Well, I thought, this should be good. And it’s a lot better than what the New York Times did on her.

Karen Pence refused to be interviewed for the Post story, which meant the reporter had to work twice as hard to get info. This also tells you something about the current relationship between this White House and the biggest newsroom inside the Beltway.

This being GetReligion, obviously we’re interested in the “prayer warrior” portion of the piece which starts thus:

As second lady, Karen Pence, 60, remains an important influence on one of President Trump’s most important political allies. She sat in on at least one interview as the vice president assembled his staff, accompanied her husband on his first foreign trip and joins him for off-the-record briefings with reporters, acting as his gut check and shield.  
On the vice president’s visit last month to Germany and Belgium, the Pences quietly toured Dachau concentration camp, often holding hands, and huddled together on the Air Force Two ride home to debrief on the trip. When Mike Pence, 57, ventured to the back of the plane to chat off the record with reporters, his wife accompanied him, bearing a silver tray of cookies and standing by his side for the 20-minute conversation.  

Next, the Post delved into what few details were available about her first marriage, which quickly ended in divorce. At least they tracked down her first husband, who now lives here in Seattle.

Then, she met Mike Pence at church.

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