Oklahoma

Friday Five: Tornadoes, Tim Conway's faith, weekend reading list, parents' grief, GOT spoilers

Friday Five: Tornadoes, Tim Conway's faith, weekend reading list, parents' grief, GOT spoilers

Hey folks, it’s been one of those weeks.

Between severe weather warnings here in Oklahoma (aka Tornado Alley) and working on press week deadline at my regular job (The Christian Chronicle), I’ve missed as much religion news as I’ve caught. But I do have a holiday weekend reading list that I’ll share with you.

Speaking of tornadoes, a truck driver caught in the big one in Jefferson City, Mo., credited God with saving him, according to CNN. (There might be a holy ghost or two there.)

Anyway, let’s dive into the preoccupied edition of Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: See earlier caveat, but no single major religion headline really stood out to me this week.

That said, my colleagues here at GetReligion covered a whole lot of interesting territory, as always. That includes — just to cite a few examples:

Richard Ostling exploring the idea of an evangelical crisis.

Julia Duin pointing out another case of the Los Angeles Times suffering from a lack of religion reporting expertise.

And Clemente Lisi highlighting the collision between nationalism and Catholicism in the run-up to European elections.

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Call the police: Baby Jesus has been stolen — and The New York Times has a compelling story about it

Call the police: Baby Jesus has been stolen — and The New York Times has a compelling story about it

I’m in Texas at my Mom and Dad’s house as I type this — about to enjoy a festive Christmas Eve breakfast with chocolate syrup and pancakes, white gravy and biscuits, sausage, bacon and assorted other fixings.

My wife, two of my children, my brother, sister, my sister-in-law and various nephews and a niece will join me in line as we start our Christmas celebration by eating way too much.

I mention the above mainly because it’s all I can think about at the moment, but also because it may help explain why this post will be pretty quick and to the point.

I’ve got somewhere else to be, don’t you know.

Seriously, I want to highlight two New York Times stories real briefly this morning — both about nativity scenes, but one a much more compelling read than the other.

The first story was featured on Sunday’s front page with the headline “Cameras, Bolts and an Elusive Goal: To Sleep in Heavenly Peace.”

It’s a creative, timely piece about a national trend of baby Jesus being swiped from Nativity scenes nationally, and the dateline — the setting for the story — is pure brilliance:

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Away in a manger on Bethlehem’s public square, a woman approached a statue of the baby Jesus one dark, December night. Then she stole it.

The theft, from a Nativity scene outside City Hall, raised alarm in this eastern Pennsylvania city that shares a name with the real Jesus Christ’s birthplace.

When the missing baby Jesus was found, it had been damaged, and Bethlehem’s police chief had to glue its leg back on. Then the city took action, positioning a concealed security camera exclusively on baby Jesus and assigning police officers to monitor the footage. In the two years since, the statue has been left at peace, asleep on the hay as the camera, nicknamed the “Jesus cam” by some residents, rolls.

“If anybody looks real close, they’ll see a crack in his leg,” said Lynn Cunningham, a leader of the local chamber of commerce.

Such manger larceny, in glaring violation of the Eighth Commandment, is also part of a sad national trend. This year, thieves have raided Nativity scenes in Tennessee, West Virginia, Minnesota and plenty of other places, and made off with Jesus figurines (and sometimes Mary and a donkey, too).

In terms of clever writing, there are nice touches throughout. As for religion, the reporter doesn’t neglect it, including lines such as this:

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Post-election storylines: Five religion angles as dust settles from Midterm voting

Post-election storylines: Five religion angles as dust settles from Midterm voting

Good morning from blue America!

I mean, I guess Oklahoma — where I live — is still a red state. But my congressional district just flipped, electing a Democrat for the first time in 40 years in what The Oklahoman characterized as “a political upset for the history books” and FiveThirtyEight called “the biggest upset of the night” nationally.

(Neighboring Kansas turned a little blue, too, electing a Democratic governor.)

Religion angle? In advance of Tuesday’s midterms, we asked here at GetReligion if a post-Trump rise of the religious left was a real trend or wishful thinking.

Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, which Democrat Kendra Horn won in a nail-biter, was one of the places where a group of progressive evangelicals called Vote Common Good that toured the country brought its bus. The Oklahoman’s pre-election story noted:

If Horn, an Episcopalian and Democrat running for Congress, is to do what others claim cannot be done — namely, defeat Republican Rep. Steve Russell on Nov. 6 — she will need to make inroads with a voting bloc that has helped propel Russell's political career: evangelicals.

What role did religious voters played in Horn’s upset win in one of the reddest of the red states? I haven’t seen reporting on that angle yet. No doubt, changing demographics in the Oklahoma City area played a role, as did the rural-urban divide, but perhaps suburban evangelical women turned off by Trump did, too? Stay tuned.

As we begin to digest Tuesday’s outcomes across the U.S., here are a handful of religion angles making headlines or likely to do so:

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Friday Five: Kavanaugh and more Kavanaugh, historic church closing, Indonesia quake, baseball

Friday Five: Kavanaugh and more Kavanaugh, historic church closing, Indonesia quake, baseball

As The Associated Press reports, the U.S. Senate voted 51-49 today to move forward with consideration of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

That means a final vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation could occur over the weekend, the AP notes.

Once again this week, the battle over the court’s future — riveted by Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against the judge — had plenty of religion angles.

Look for much more on that as we dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Speaking of Kavanaugh, Washington Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein has an interesting piece out today on how the fight over the judge is dividing his Catholic Church in D.C.

Another compelling angle from a Godbeat pro: The Atlantic’s Emma Green explores why some conservative women are angry about the treatment of Kavanaugh.

Other coverage that we’ve mentioned at GetReligion include Religion News Service’s focus on the Religious Left response to Kavanaugh and how an Oklahoma pastor’s sermon of Kavanaugh gained him not-so-positive notoriety.

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Ghosts of Elizabeth Warren: Potential White House contender seeks to 'reclaim' Oklahoma past

Ghosts of Elizabeth Warren: Potential White House contender seeks to 'reclaim' Oklahoma past

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren traveled to her native state of Oklahoma recently to speak at a teachers’ rally at her old high school, Northwest Classen in Oklahoma City.

The Los Angeles Times used the occasion as a perfectly reasonable peg for an in-depth profile of the potential 2020 Democratic candidate for president.

The original headline on the Times story, published today, was this:

Elizabeth Warren is trying to reclaim her past as she prepares for the ‘fight’ in 2020

As I type this, there’s a tweaked headline atop the story (“Elizabeth Warren goes back home to Oklahoma, as she forward to 2020”), but I actually think the original title better encapsulates the profile’s general thrust. (Quick note on the new headline: Hopefully, someone will notice the missing “looks” before “forward.”)

In reading the Times piece, I was extremely curious to see if religion would figure in the descriptions of Warren’s Sooner background and her effort to appeal to a Bible Belt state known for its conservative values and voting patterns.

After all, the Boston Globe noted in a 2012 profile that during Warren’s early years in a community south of Oklahoma City, “Life in Norman revolved around church and the military, in that order.”

Later, the family moved to Oklahoma City, as the Globe recounted:

And the culture was then, as now, deeply religious and deeply conservative. Warren’s family attended a Methodist church, where her mother taught Sunday school.

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Believe it or not: Vigano testimony is producing a Catholic version of that 'Jesusland' map

Believe it or not: Vigano testimony is producing a Catholic version of that 'Jesusland' map

Does anyone remember the mini-wave of "Jesusland" maps that grew out of the nail-biter 2000 U.S. presidential election? Click here for some background on that.

Well, the famous maps of all those flyover country red states and the northern and coastal blue states evolved into images pitting "Jesusland" against the "United States of Canada" or the "United States of Liberty and Education."

You get the idea, especially if you check out some of the F-word map options that should not be repeated in public.

I thought of this the other day when I read the Crux feature that ran with this headline: "Reactions to Pope allegations offer x-ray of a divided Church." Truth is, at the time I was swamped with all of the commentary and advocacy-news reports about the Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano letter (see full text here). Thus, I really appreciated a rather calm look at one newsy angle of the story, from high altitude (so to speak). 

What emerged was this thought -- are the doctrinal wars in the American Catholic Church creating another Jesusland map?

What this Crux story did was chart some of the early reactions to this crisis by bishops who are speaking on the record. Here is the overture:

NEW YORK -- Within hours of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s blockbuster claims that Pope Francis knew about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s history of abuse, the bishop of Tyler, Texas issued a statement saying he found those claims to be credible, asking that it be read at all Masses on Sunday.

“I do not have the authority to launch such an investigation, but I will lend my voice in whatever way necessary to call for this investigation and urge that its findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable even at the highest levels of the Church,” wrote Bishop Joseph Strickland. He went on to include the 11-page testimonial of the former papal ambassador to the United States on his diocesan website.

OK, where is Texas on the Jesusland map? 


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The religion behind why some people of faith support the death penalty — and why others don't

The religion behind why some people of faith support the death penalty — and why others don't

"I wonder if Frank Keating has any comment?"

That was my first thought last week when Pope Francis decreed — as The Associated Press reported — "that the death penalty is 'inadmissible' under all circumstances and the Catholic Church should campaign to abolish it."

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Keating — a lifelong Catholic — served as Oklahoma's governor, I covered the state prison system and later religion for The Oklahoman. On both those beats, the conservative Republican's support for capital punishment came into play.

I always enjoyed interviewing Keating because he wasn't shy about sharing his opinions — even if that meant calling then-Pope John Paul II mistaken in his opposition to the death penalty. In February 1999, Keating famously skipped Mass one Sunday because he said he couldn't sit silently while then-Oklahoma City Archbishop Eusebius Beltran read a letter criticizing the governor's death-penalty stance.

After the news involving Francis last week, GetReligion editor Terry Mattingly offered astute, must-read commentary ("Death penalty doctrine: Francis builds on insights of St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI?"), followed by a helpful podcast.

Beyond the important questions tmatt raised, I was curious — perhaps because of my past experience with Keating — to see coverage of Catholic governors in states with active death chambers.

For example, Texas executes more inmates than any other state, and yes, it has a Catholic governor.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, is a staunch death penalty supporter and longtime friend of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson, who prayed at his inauguration. However, Abbott has clashed with his friend and the state's other bishops on issues such as immigration. "We agree to disagree," Olson told me on the immigration issue last year.

I was pleased to see an AP story delving into the quandary that Francis' decree could pose for U.S. politicians.

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Friday Five: GetReligionista's mea culpa, #JusticeForJack, SBC spell check and more

Friday Five: GetReligionista's mea culpa, #JusticeForJack, SBC spell check and more

I do a shameless plug every week.

But this week, here’s an extra shameless plug up high so I know you won't miss it.

Or maybe I just needed a good excuse to embed a video of Chicago's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry."

Seriously, my colleague Ira Rifkin had a must-read post this week that, based on our analytics, too many of you missed.

The title of the post:

How I lost my professional cool and succumbed to gossamer social media satisfaction

Here is part of my Rifkin said:

Bottom line. My skill set failed me because I reacted emotionally rather than mindfully. It’s a media trap that can nab any of us.

In an email thread among our team, Richard Ostling congratulated Rifkin on his reflection:

The media in an era when they're on the griddle hourly need more honest self-reflection and  all the accuracy and (yes) fairness and balance they can muster.

Amen.

Go ahead and read Rifkin's post. Read it now.

Meanwhile, let's dive into this week's Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The #JusticeForJack case — as supporters of Colorado baker Jack Phillips dubbed it — is the easy choice this week. 

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Adoption law: In battle over gay rights vs. religious freedom, one side draws way more news ink

Adoption law: In battle over gay rights vs. religious freedom, one side draws way more news ink

Here in my home state of Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed an adoption bill passed by the Legislature.

As happened in Texas last year, the Oklahoma bill became law after a fierce battle over sexual liberty (gay rights, in this case) vs. religious freedom. But guess which side's point of view drew the most media attention?

The headlines from major news organizations -- both nationally and in the Sooner State -- will help answer that question.

"Oklahoma Passes Adoption Law That L.G.B.T. Groups Call Discriminatory," declared The New York Times.

"Oklahoma governor signs adoption law opposed by LGBT groups," reported The Associated Press.

"Oklahoma's governor signs bill described by opponents as discriminatory," said The Oklahoman.

Did you see any patterns here? You get the idea: The emphasis is on gay-rights advocates upset over the law's passage, as opposed to religious groups -- including leaders of the state's Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics -- who pushed for its passage.

Is that fair, impartial journalism? Are voices on both sides being treated with respect?

At issue is whether faith-based adoption agencies can turn away same-sex couples and other prospective parents who don’t meet their religious criteria.

This was the breaking news alert that AP sent out on Twitter:

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