Michael Paulson

Preview features for 'Jesus Christ Superstar: Daily Beast and NYTimes did it best

Preview features for 'Jesus Christ Superstar: Daily Beast and NYTimes did it best

Without a doubt, the religion event of the week in the world of 21st century pop culture was NBC’s live Easter Sunday broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar last night.

Having played the role of Mary Magdalene in ninth grade, I know almost every lyric and note by heart. I was interested in hearing about this bare-bones rendition of the rock opera compared to Norman Jewison’s over-wrought 1973 movie version.

My daughter and I would have enjoyed last night's show had it not been interrupted every five seconds by commercials, which utterly ruined the flow of the performance. There were lots of great performances; the kiddo loved the music and I got a big nostalgia dose.

Most favorite moment: Jesus getting mobbed by TV news crews while fans were taking selfies. More of my reaction further down.

But first, I was curious as to how reporters previewing the performance would treat the religion angle –- other than the obvious fact that the show is about the founder of a faith that has more than 2 billion adherents. Would they delve into the not-so-obvious?

Many did not. More were taken with how, for the first time, Jesus was played by a black actor, like this NPR story:

This Easter Sunday, NBC will debut its latest one-night live musical event, Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert. The event's source material is the 1970s rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, an interpretation of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ. But it's not your old school Sunday morning gospel. This time around, John Legend, the messiah of pop-R&B love jams, will take on the titular role of Jesus Christ for the production. ...

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Livin' on a prayer: The good, the bad and the ugly in the world of religion writers, circa 2015

Livin' on a prayer: The good, the bad and the ugly in the world of religion writers, circa 2015

I won't bury the lede. The ugly is me.

I ate too many sausage biscuits and cheeseburgers this year as I feverishly cranked out four GetReligion posts a week. (Note to self: Must exercise more and eat less in 2016.)

But oh, I do love this part-time gig and count it a blessing to work with the likes of Terry Mattingly, Jim Davis, Julia Duin, Richard Ostling and Ira Rifkin.

While we at GetReligion mostly critique media coverage of religion news, we like to keep readers updated on happenings on the Godbeat itself.

Here are seven developments — some good, others bad — from 2015:

1. Jennifer Berry Hawes rocked — totally rocked — coverage of the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Faith of Jeb Bush: Aligned with Catholic hierarchy on most issues, but not on death penalty

Faith of Jeb Bush: Aligned with Catholic hierarchy on most issues, but not on death penalty

If this is Michael Paulson's last hurrah on the Godbeat, it's a good one.

Last week, we lamented the New York Times religion writer's move to the theater beat.

This week, we were reminded why we're going to miss Paulson's expertise and storytelling talents on religion news.

 

Paulson's 2,000-word story on the Catholic faith of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender — appeared on the front page of Wednesday's Times: 

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — He arrived a few minutes early — no entourage, just his wife and daughter — and, sweating through a polo shirt in the hot morning sun, settled quietly into the 14th row at the Church of the Little Flower.
A bit of a murmur, and the occasional “Morning, Governor,” passed through the Spanish Renaissance-style church, with its manicured grounds and towering palms, as worshipers recognized their most famous neighbor, Jeb Bush. He held hands with the other worshipers during the Lord’s Prayer, sang along to “I Am the Bread of Life” and knelt after receiving communion.
“It gives me a serenity, and allows me to think clearer,” Mr. Bush said as he exited the tile-roof church here on a recent Sunday, exchanging greetings and, with the ease of a longtime politician, acquiescing to the occasional photo. “It’s made me a better person.”
Twenty years after Mr. Bush converted to Catholicism, the religion of his wife, following a difficult and unsuccessful political campaign that had put a strain on his marriage, his faith has become a central element of the way he shapes his life and frames his views on public policy. And now, as he explores a bid for the presidency, his religion has become a focal point of early appeals to evangelical activists, who are particularly important in a Republican primary that is often dominated by religious voters.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Another one bites the dust? New York Times religion writer taking his talents to Broadway

Another one bites the dust? New York Times religion writer taking his talents to Broadway

Another one bites the dust.

That's how New York Times national religion writer Michael Paulson described the news when the Salt Lake Tribune eliminated its Faith section nearly a year ago.

On Monday, Paulson revealed news of his own: He's moving to the theater beat.

Fellow religion writers were quick to congratulate Paulson and lament him leaving the Godbeat.

In Paulson's short time on the Times' Godbeat — a year or two maybe after previously serving as an editor there and a Boston Globe religion writer before that? —  I became a fan of his generally fair, thorough, interesting work.

As a fellow Godbeat pro reflected on Paulson changing beats, she noted, "All his stories seemed to be on A1!" That front-page placement reflected, of course, the quality of journalism that he produced.

So, here's my question: To borrow Paulson's own terminology, did another one just bite the dust? Did the Godbeat just lose another star player (a la Bob Smietana at The Tennessean and Abe Levy at the San Antonio Express-News) who won't be replaced?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Have your cake and read both sides of the story, too

Religious freedom vs. gay rights: Have your cake and read both sides of the story, too

Jack Phillips — the Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding (see past GetReligion critiques of media coverage here, here and here) — is back in the news.

The story by Godbeat pro Michael Paulson prompted an email to GetReligion from an evangelical advocate sensitive to the Colorado baker's refusal to violate his religious beliefs.

"This is how it's done," the advocate said.

I don't think he was talking about Phillips' cakes — but rather the balanced nature of the journalism by a publication ("Kellerism," anyone?) criticized by this website for too often leaning to the left its coverage of social issues.

From the start, Paulson's story fairly and accurately portrays Phillips.

Not just back in the news, but he landed on the front page of the New York Times this week.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Ebola-free nurse Nina Pham thanks God, and The Dallas Morning News takes notice

Ebola-free nurse Nina Pham thanks God, and The Dallas Morning News takes notice

At first glance, nurse Nina Pham's return home to Texas after beating the often-deadly Ebola virus failed to raise my GetReligion antenna.

A medical story? Definitely.

A political story? Perhaps, given Pham's Oval Office hug with President Barack Obama. 

But a religion story? Probably not.

The straightforward lede of The Dallas Morning News' front-page story on Saturday gave no indication of a faith angle: 

Nurse Nina Pham, the first person to contract Ebola in the U.S., returned home to North Texas late Friday with a clean bill of health, reassurance from President Barack Obama and the promise of a reunion with her dog, Bentley.
CareFlite pilot Jason Davis confirmed about midnight Friday that Pham had arrived at Fort Worth's Meacham International Airport: "She seemed good -- super nice family. She's in good spirits."
Pham, one of two Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas nurses who caught Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, was declared virus-free and sent home by the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. Officials also confirmed Friday that her colleague Amber Vinson has tested free of the disease, but they said they didn’t know when she’d be ready to leave Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Before Pham visited the Oval Office and got a hug from Obama, she expressed gratitude as she left the NIH facility.

But then I read Pham's own words — the next two paragraphs of the story.

 

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Migrant children crossing the border: the religion angle

Migrant children crossing the border: the religion angle

Amid the ongoing headlines - mostly political - over the thousands of migrant children crossing illegally into the United States, I've been pleased to come across some excellent reports on the religion angle.

New York Times national religion reporter Michael Paulson produced a thorough overview of U.S. religious leaders embracing the cause of immigrant children:

After protesters shouting "Go home" turned back busloads of immigrant mothers and children in Murrieta, Calif., a furious Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, sat down at his notepad and drafted a blog post detailing his shame at the episode, writing, "It was un-American; it was unbiblical; it was inhumane."

When the governor of Iowa, Terry E. Branstad, said he did not want the migrants in his state, declaring, "We can't accept every child in the world who has problems," clergy members in Des Moines held a prayer vigil at a United Methodist Church to demonstrate their desire to make room for the refugees.

The United States' response to the arrival of tens of thousands of migrant children, many of them fleeing violence and exploitation in Central America, has been symbolized by an angry pushback from citizens and local officials who have channeled their outrage over illegal immigration into opposition to proposed shelter sites. But around the nation, an array of religious leaders are trying to mobilize support for the children, saying the nation can and should welcome them.

"We're talking about whether we're going to stand at the border and tell children who are fleeing a burning building to go back inside," said Rabbi Asher Knight of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, who said leaders of more than 100 faith organizations in his city had met last week to discuss how to help. He said that in his own congregation, some were comparing the flow of immigrant children to the Kindertransport, a rescue mission in the late 1930s that sent Jewish children from Nazi Germany to Britain for safekeeping.

From there, Paulson notes the broad spectrum of religious leaders — from left to right — speaking out:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Same-sex marriage, religious freedom and a liberal twist

An extremely interesting — and potentially highly important — twist came Monday in the ongoing culture wars over religious liberty. New York Times religion writer Michael Paulson reports:

In a novel legal attack on a state’s same-sex marriage ban, a liberal Protestant denomination on Monday filed a lawsuit arguing that North Carolina is unconstitutionally restricting religious freedom by barring clergy members from blessing gay and lesbian couples.

The lawsuit, filed in a Federal District Court by the United Church of Christ, is the first such case brought by a national religious denomination challenging a state’s marriage laws. The denomination, which claims nearly one million members nationwide, has supported same-sex marriage since 2005.

Please respect our Commenting Policy