Mark Oppenheimer

That cushy Bart Campolo profile: Why weren't the tough, logical questions asked?

That cushy Bart Campolo profile: Why weren't the tough, logical questions asked?

A lot of folks are talking about a piece in the New York Times Magazine that profiles Bart Campolo, the born-again atheist son Tony Campolo, famous progressive evangelical activist and media-friendly buddy of President Bill Clinton.

This is a very readable, albeit totally non-critical, look at a new spokesman for a growing movement that is linked to the whole coalition of atheists, agnostics, religiously unaffiliated "nones" and the old religious left.

The writer, Mark Oppenheimer, wrote the “Beliefs” column for the Times for six years, at which point he did his own exit interview this past summer. (The most astonishing thing in that interview was his remark that he’s paid $3/word for his freelance work. Maybe .00001 percent of all freelancers get paid sums like that).  

Oppenheimer also did a Q&A with GetReligion back in 2012. The bottom line is that he is a brilliant columnist and magazine-style writer. Those looking for hard-news content are going to be frustrated.

The Campolo article begins with a long intro about a bike accident he had in the summer of 2011 and then:

For most of his life, Campolo had gone from success to success. His father, Tony, was one of the most important evangelical Christian preachers of the last 50 years, a prolific author and an erstwhile spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton. The younger Campolo had developed a reputation of his own, running successful inner-city missions in Philadelphia and Ohio and traveling widely as a guest preacher. An extreme extrovert, he was brilliant before a crowd and also at ease in private conversations, connecting with everyone from country-club suburbanites to the destitute souls he often fed in his own house. He was a role model for younger Christians looking to move beyond the culture wars over abortion or homosexuality and get back to Jesus’ original teachings. Now, lying in a hospital bed, he wasn’t sure what he believed any more.

After the accident:

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On the day after Fourth of July, four Godbeat developments you'll want to know about

On the day after Fourth of July, four Godbeat developments you'll want to know about

Welp. It was quite a Fourth of July here in Oklahoma City.

Perhaps you heard the news about Thunder superstar Kevin Durant's Independence Day.

Yes, there's a religion angle. But we'll save that for a post later this week from our own tmatt, GetReligion's resident expert on faith and the NBA.

As I join my fellow Oklahomans in mourning Durant's departure, the day after the Fourth of July (that would make it July 5, right?) seems like an opportune time to update readers on four key developments on the Godbeat:

1. The Religion Newswriters Association is no more.

No, the professional organization for Godbeat pros has not disbanded. It's thriving, in fact. But it has a new name: Religion News Association.

Here's how a news release from RNA (yes, that acronym is still correct) explains the change:

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NPR offers listeners shallow mishmash about Christian universities and same-sex marriage

NPR offers listeners shallow mishmash about Christian universities and same-sex marriage

It’s been more than three weeks since the historic Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide and it appears that  NPR has finally gotten around to asking how Christian colleges are going to react to this.

Other media were asking this question even before the June 26 ruling, so it’s well-trodden ground. It's a rich mother lode of article possibilities, as religious colleges are the low-hanging fruit in the Supreme Court decision. They are not churches, so they don't come under certain protections that houses of worship would have.

So with plenty of time to prepare a decent story, NPR could have come out with a well-thought-out look at the issue, much like this recent story in the Atlantic Monthly. Instead, the show produced four and one-half minutes that didn’t even manage to stay on topic. Here’s how their broadcast started:

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Some of the uproar over the Supreme Court's marriage ruling is misplaced. Ministers will not be forced to marry same-sex couples, and churches will not be forced to accommodate same-sex weddings. But what about schools? Union University in Tennessee prohibits sexual activities that fall outside a marriage covenant between a man and a woman. That applies to staff as well as students, and Samuel Oliver, Union's president says it dictates, for example, which employees qualify for marriage benefits.
SAMUEL OLIVER: We don't offer benefits to same-sex partners because having that same-sex partner would be a violation of our behavioral code.

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Yes, I saw the New York Times piece on Marvin Olasky and World magazine

Yes, I saw the New York Times piece on Marvin Olasky and World magazine

It's interesting -- "ironic" may be a better word -- how many people sent me emails asking if I saw the New York Times "Beliefs" column this week focusing on the work of Marvin Olasky and World magazine, the one with the headline: "A Muckraking Magazine Creates a Stir Among Evangelical Christians."

"Ironic"? We'll get to that.

Columnist Mark Oppenheimer later noted, on Twitter, that many readers didn't seem to realize that the word "muckraking" is -- among real journalists -- a word that can be used as a compliment. That was the point of his column, in a word.

Before we go further, please understand that Olasky is I friend of mine, yet a friend with whom I have enjoyed many years of debates over very important questions about faith and journalism. You could not ask for a more interesting man with whom to have a meaningful and productive argument.

It is very old hat that many people on the political and religious left (liberal evangelicals, in particular) really, really, do not like Olasky's brand of advocacy journalism, which is interesting since he is a convert to Calvinist Christianity who was once a Jewish atheist and a member of the Communist Party. Oppenheimer focused -- note the headline -- on the fact that Olasky also gets under the skins of many people on the political and religious right because he is not a PR man for the Republican establishment. Ditto for the evangelical establishment, come to think of it. The typical World issue contains few, if any, ads from evangelical book publishers.

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762 Messiahs or Why Slow News is good news

You’ve probably heard of some variation of the Slow Movement, a trend which advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace. There are subcultures devoted to Slow Food, Slow Gardening, Slow Travel — even Slow Church. But what we really need, especially in religion reporting, is Slow News.

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