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Denhollander’s memoir on vast gymnastics scandal is a landmark for religion as well as athletics

Denhollander’s memoir on vast gymnastics scandal is a landmark for religion as well as athletics

Countless books have landed on The Religion Guy’s desk over decades and rarely has he cited one as a “must read” or “book of the year.”

But such descriptions are appropriate for Rachael Denhollander’s candid memoir “What Is a Girl Worth?” about exposing the vast sexual-abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. The evangelical Tyndale House issues her book on Sept. 10 alongside a four-session study guide, and the author’s non-salacious “How Much Is a Little Girl Worth?” for young readers.

Attorney Denhollander, the first person to publicly lodge accusations against MSU athletics osteopath Larry Nassar, has a unique status. She is a heroine named among Time’s 100 Most Influential People, Glamour’s Women of the Year, recipients of ESPN’s Courage Award and Sports Illustrated’s Inspiration of the Year. At the same time, she’s the wife of a doctoral student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, while raising four young children and she uses her hard-won celebrity to present Christian truth.

An account of the worst sex-abuse case in its history is obviously a landmark for U.S. sports, but this is also a vitally important story for religion writers, and most certainly for Denhollander’s fellow evangelical Protestants, who are now following Catholicism in stumbling through #MeToo crises. (Along the way, journalists will relish the inside account of her byplay with investigative reporters and the media horde.)

Denhollander alone bravely lodged public accusations against predator Nassar, a big shot in gymnastics. Eventually, he faced 332 accusers of all ages including Olympic superstars, the Feds unearthed his stash of 37,000 child pornography files and he was sent to prison for life. MSU was forced to pay $500 million in damages, but any USA Gymnastics payout is problematic because it was forced to file for bankruptcy protection.

What’s vitally important in this sordid narrative is helping readers comprehend the severe psychological damage that sexual abuse creates in the victims. “It follows you. It changes you forever.” And then why, like Denhollander, victims often raise protests long after the incidents, or never raise them at all. They feel nobody will believe them, and for good reason. And they fear the cost that will be paid by the accuser. For Denhollander, that cost was enormous.

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Theology of Baptist seminary's lament: Slavery is the headline, but a few media reports mention sin

Theology of Baptist seminary's lament: Slavery is the headline, but a few media reports mention sin

In inside-the-Beltway speak, by releasing an extensive report on its racist past, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., decided to “hang a lantern” on its problem. (It’s a term that readers of Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” will understand.)

In other words, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s oldest educational institution, wanted part of the story to be about how blunt and candid the seminary was in acknowledging its historic sins.

The basic point is that when something is really bad, you want to be the person who tells the public that it's really bad. 

Mohler did that Wednesday in releasing a report that has drawn — and rightly so — extensive national media coverage.

The lede from the New York Times:

The first and oldest educational institution of the Southern Baptist Convention disclosed in a report Wednesday that its four founders together owned more than 50 slaves, part of a reckoning over racism in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

The 71-page report released by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is a recitation of decades of bigotry, directed first at African slaves and later at African-Americans. Beginning with the founding of the seminary in Greenville, S.C., in 1859, the report found that the school, with few exceptions, backed a white supremacist ideology.

“The moral burden of history requires a more direct and far more candid acknowledgment of the legacy of this school in the horrifying realities of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racism, and even the avowal of white racial supremacy,” wrote R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of the seminary, which is now in Louisville, Ky.

Over at the American Conservative, blogger Rod Dreher praised Mohler for the release of the report:

I have an immense amount of respect for Albert Mohler and the institution he leads, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for having commissioned a hard-hitting report looking into the seminary’s racist past. This is a profoundly Christian act of historical reflection and repentance. Read the report and Mohler’s cover letter here. 

But the Times’ coverage — like that of most other mainstream news reports that I saw — lacked any mention of the theological angle.

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After 'scheduled maintenance,' Energizer Baptist Al Mohler back in the news

After 'scheduled maintenance,' Energizer Baptist Al Mohler back in the news

The Babylon Bee — the fake religion news website — keeps making me laugh.

My favorite satire of the last week was the Bee's report that the Southern Baptist Convention's Energizer bunny — Al Mohler — would go offline for "scheduled maintenance."

Regular GetReligion readers — not to mention anyone who pays attention to religion news — are familiar with Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Mohler, who hosts “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview, is a favorite go-to source for reporters — and I'm no exception. I interviewed him recently on politics and churches for Christianity Today's ChurchLawandTax.com.

Today, Mohler is a key voice in an in-depth NPR report on some evangelicals digging in — and others adapting — on culture war issues.

The NPR piece qualifies as mildly interesting. For me, it doesn't cover a whole lot of new ground. Of course, I follow these issues on a daily basis. The report might hold more appeal for a general audience.

From a journalistic perspective, it provides a fair measure of balance, quoting both traditionalists and progressives. Mohler, in particular, figures heavily on the side intent on standing firm:

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In coverage of evangelical conference on homosexuality, why's it all about the protesters?

In coverage of evangelical conference on homosexuality, why's it all about the protesters?

Is it just me, or does media coverage of that evangelical seminar on homosexuality and transgenderism seem to be all about the protesters?

In fact, USA Today — for a while — had this whopper of a headline:

Activists protest Baptists' seminar on gay therapy

What's wrong with that headline? It's totally inaccurate.

Gay therapy is not the focus of the seminar, and organizers spoke out against that approach, as we noted the other day. 

The seminar drew 2,300 church-based counselors, but are they the focus of USA Today's lede (the report is an edited version of a story that first appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal, a Gannett sister paper)?

Nope, it's all about the protesters:

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