Politics

Religious Trump reaction: RNS struggles to find a range of actual human voices

Religious Trump reaction: RNS struggles to find a range of actual human voices

When news spread that Donald Trump won the presidential election, I got the sense that the various elites -- cultural, political, mainstream media -- were reacting like Family Guy's Chris Griffin:  "Whaaaattt??"

The Religion News Service, at least, tried to gather responses from religious leaders, rather than have secular pundits opine about them. But that mechanical approach -- which tmatt likes to call post-Interview Journalism™ -- has weaknesses of its own.

It's not that RNS lacked effort. It compiled a long list of comments. A long, long list. Nearly 2,400 words, with 17 sources.

RNS also attempts some balance, backed up by numbers, as the top shows:

Some celebrated and congratulated the victor. Others prayed and called for unity. It was clear early on that evangelical Christians had been key to Donald Trump’s stunning upset.
Meanwhile, others including atheists and Muslims reacted in shock and vowed to defend against what one group termed “unconstitutional and undemocratic actions.”
According to exit polls, 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians cast their ballots for the reality TV star-turned-Republican presidential candidate.
It was a higher figure than voted for Mitt Romney (79 percent) in 2012, John McCain (73 percent) four years before that or George Bush (79 percent) in 2004.

From there, we get a smorgasbord of quotes. Here's a sample.

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Atheist ranks aren't solid, even in politics, says an eyebrow-raising RNS piece

Atheist ranks aren't solid, even in politics, says an eyebrow-raising RNS piece

Atheists differ strongly on views of religion, of themselves, even what group to join; Richard Dawkins famously compared organizing atheists to herding cats. But I'll confess that I never thought of political differences also -- not until I read a new story from the Religion News Service.

The article is couched in terms of the presidential race -- as almost every American news story this season seems to be -- but have patience. It's a fresh approach to a little-reported facet of religious (or non-religious) life.

RNS veteran Kimberly Winston starts with the event that may have gotten her attention: a video by atheist blogger Hemant Mehta. He gets pretty strident in his opposition to Trump and to whoever supports him:

"I don’t want a president who couldn’t even explain evolution. I don’t want a president who can’t tell fact from fiction and seems to believe anything someone tells him on Twitter," Mehta says in a recent You Tube video that has garnered a lot of attention in atheist corners.
"If I wanted to hear people whose best evidence for their belief is, ‘Well, some people have said,’ then I’d go to church."
So, Mehta, best known as "The Friendly Atheist"  on his popular blog, will vote for Hillary Clinton — and he spends more than seven minutes trying to persuade other atheists to do the same because, he believes, she — a lifelong Methodist — is the only candidate who shares their core values of separation of church and state, LGBT equality and science-based education.

Winston then reveals what may surprise: Despite their commitment to pluralism and liberal politics, Democrats cannot expect a bloc vote from atheists.  "For some, the choice is not clear," the story says of the 2016 race.

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Chidin' Biden: Did bishops err in scolding Joe for gay wedding? Did RNS err in its guesswork?

Chidin' Biden: Did bishops err in scolding Joe for gay wedding? Did RNS err in its guesswork?

Did three American bishops defy a cardinal in criticizing Vice President Joe Biden? The Religion News Service sure makes it sound that way in a weekend story about Biden officiating at a same-sex marriage.

David Gibson of RNS has apparently been watching for Catholic reaction since Biden officiated at the wedding of two White House staffers. When that reaction came, it wasn't where he expected:

The Catholic hierarchy was notably quiet, however, until Friday (Aug. 5) when three leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops posted a statement clearly directed at Biden and criticizing him for presenting "a counter witness, instead of a faithful one founded in the truth."
"When a prominent Catholic politician publicly and voluntarily officiates at a ceremony to solemnize the relationship of two people of the same-sex, confusion arises regarding Catholic teaching on marriage and the corresponding moral obligations of Catholics," wrote Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was joined by Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone, and Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski.
Malone is chair of the bishop’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth and Wenski is chair of the bishop’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Heavy hitters all, to be sure. (Full disclosure: I freelance for the Miami edition of The Florida Catholic, published by the state's bishops including Wenski.) But as the article notes, the list does not include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Biden's shepherd. 

The RNS story is alert and respectful (the last is not always a given these days in mainstream media). But it just may take one or two guesses too many, in an article not marked "opinion" or "commentary."

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