Protestants

Bible, God and Protestants: Another pesky question for the style gurus at The Associated Press

Bible, God and Protestants: Another pesky question for the style gurus at The Associated Press

Here at GetReligion, we don't mind "talking nerdy," as my friend Prof KRG puts it. I'm referring to discussions about the nitty-gritty intricacies of news writing and style.

For example, we wondered aloud what was up when the Wall Street Journal lowercased "bible" instead of capitalizing it.

Similarly, we called attention to it when we started seeing "god" — as opposed to "God" — in news reports.

For today's post, I couldn't help but notice that The Associated Press lowercased "protestant" not once but four times in a story on what Republican Roy Moore's loss in the Alabama Senate election might mean for the abortion issue in 2018.

From the AP story:

Religious influence sharpens voters’ leanings further. White evangelical protestants are the most likely religious group to oppose abortion rights: 70 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. Majorities of Catholics, black protestants and mainline protestants all support more access, while unaffiliated voters lean overwhelmingly toward legality.
A state like Alabama, where Republican nominees usually win at least 60 percent of the vote and where half the population is white evangelical protestant (as opposed to a quarter nationally), is more fundamentally anti-abortion than many other states now under Republican control, such as Ohio or Wisconsin, which have far fewer evangelicals proportionally and are typically presidential battlegrounds.

So what's the problem?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Here's some of what Reuters missed in its investigation of Brazil's growing evangelical flock

Here's some of what Reuters missed in its investigation of Brazil's growing evangelical flock

I've only visited once, but even after a short trip, I understood that faith in Brazil is a complex affair.

These days, the traditionally Roman Catholic population is influenced by all kinds of spiritualistic forces, while at the same time evangelical Protestantism, Pentecostalism, Seventh-day Adventism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are playing increasingly important roles.

Reuters, the global newswire, dropped in on an Assemblies of God congregation in a favela, or slum area, of Rio de Janiero, Brazil's second-largest city, and extrapolated much about the spiritual condition of the entire nation:

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -- Pastor Marcio Antonio stands at the pulpit in a one room evangelical church built precariously above barbed wire fences and illegally hung electrical cables, exhorting his flock in a Brazilian favela to improve their morals.
A former drug dealer in Cantagalo, an informally built hillside settlement where most residents lack official property rights, Pastor Antonio and his flock at the Assembly of God Church are part of a growing trend.
Evangelical churches are expanding rapidly in Brazil, home to the world's largest Catholic community, especially in poor favelas, experts and parishioners said.
These communities, which developed from squatter settlements, often do not have the same services as formal Brazilian neighborhoods in terms of healthcare, sanitation, transportation or formal property registration.
"The government doesn't help us so God is the only option for the poor," Pastor Antonio, 37, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation following his Sunday sermon.

It is the "Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters," which claims responsibility for the story. The foundation "covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience," and an end note to the piece says the foundation should get the credit for this piece. So noted.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Castro's death: For a follow-up, Associated Press story misses big religious angles

Castro's death: For a follow-up, Associated Press story misses big religious angles

The banging pots and honking horns have faded on Miami's Calle Ocho, where Cuban-Americans noisily celebrated the death of Fidel Castro. Thus, it's time for some reflection on what it means for peace and freedom -- including freedom of religion.

So the Associated Press shows the right instinct in its Sunday story out of Miami on the aftermath of El Comandante's death. Yet it largely leaves ghostly trails in what could have offered some spiritual insights on the story.

We get early warnings of a scattershot story:

MIAMI (AP) -- Celebration turned to somber reflection and church services Sunday as Cuban-Americans in Miami largely stayed off the streets following a raucous daylong party in which thousands marked the death of Fidel Castro.
One Cuban exile car dealer, however, sought to turn the revolutionary socialist's death into a quintessential capitalist deal by offering $15,000 discounts on some models.
And on the airwaves, top aides to President-elect Donald Trump promised a hard look at the recent thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba.

Cuba, as you may or may not know, is on the watch list of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. USCIRF's 2016 report tells of increased surveillance, harassment, closure and destruction of churches there -- on a level with the likes of Russia, Malaysia, Turkey and Afghanistan.

But here is AP's version of the religious facet in this story:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Wait a minute, NPR: Catholics are the only Christians who seek the help of the saints?

Wait a minute, NPR: Catholics are the only Christians who seek the help of the saints?

The other day I received a note from a GetReligion reader who clearly knows some theology.

The email concerned a passage in a National Public Radio story about St. Teresa of Kolkata that our reader knew, since I am an Eastern Orthodox layman, would punch my buttons. The reader was right. There is a good chance that NPR producers know little or nothing about Orthodox Christianity. Hold that thought.

The key to this case study is a very, very fine point of theology that is going to be hard to explain. It's possible that the story may have just barely missed the mark. However, it's more likely that it contains a spew-your-caffeinated beverage error that needs to be corrected.

Let's carefully tip-toe into this minefield. The passage in question focuses on the miracles, documented by church officials, that led to the canonization of the famous Albanian nun known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

A key quote comes from Bishop Robert Barron, the auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Read carefully and, well, pay attention to details about theology and church history:

Humanitarian work alone, however, is not sufficient for canonization in the Catholic Church. Normally, a candidate must be associated with at least two miracles. The idea is that a person worthy of sainthood must demonstrably be in heaven, actually interceding with God on behalf of those in need of healing.

Let me pause and note the presence of the word "interceding."

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Bookish reporting ahead: J-preps for Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary in 2017

Bookish reporting ahead: J-preps for Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary in 2017

When the Religion Guy worked at Time magazine and The Associated Press, he made every effort to read a book per week. He also vowed to give important books as much publicity as conditions allowed because “mainstream” print media increasingly neglected religion titles. 

That neglect underscores the importance of reporters keeping up with book reviews in religious periodicals, especially the sophisticated, content-rich Books & Culture: A Christian Review. Otherwise, how can busy newswriters sift through those looming piles of review copies and decide which to cover?

Quick tip: No index, no review.

For astute religion writers, the book scene comes to the fore right now due to a huge upcoming story, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017. This epochal event deserves careful advance thought about special story packages or series. And that means journalists need some historical reading under the belt to develop the themes to ponder with scholars.

As Thomas Albert Howard of Gordon College wrote four years ago in Books & Culture, the Reformation “has been credited (or blamed) for the rise of the modern nation state, liberalism, capitalism, religious wars, tolerance, America, democracy, individualism, subjectivism, pluralism, freedom of conscience, modern science, secularism, Nazism, and so much else.” He could have added the expansion of literacy, worship in common languages, and the assault on mandatory celibacy.

The agenda includes the title of a 2005 book by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom: “Is The Reformation Over?” Does the old Protestant-Catholic divide still make sense in the secularizing West? What crucial differences remain today?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

What would happen if churches tried to reclaim All Hallows' Eve as their own?

What would happen if churches tried to reclaim All Hallows' Eve as their own?

Greetings, GetReligion readers on this All Hallows' Eve.

If, by chance, you live in a small town or city somewhere in Middle America -- especially in a deep-red Bible Belt zip code -- there is a pretty good chance that your newspaper this morning contains a news-you-can-use item that starts something like this one. The headline: "Fall festivals and Halloween alternatives in the Oklahoma City area."

There's still time to visit fall festivals and Halloween alternative activities offered by area churches during the Halloween season. The following events, set for Saturday, are free, unless otherwise noted:
* Fall Festival, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Portland Avenue Baptist Church. ...
* Trunk or Treat, 6 to 8 p.m., Memorial Presbyterian Church. ...
* Trunk or Treat, 1 to 3 p.m., Trinity Baptist Church. ...
* Trunk or Treat, 6 to 8 p.m., Capitol Hill Assembly of God. ...
* FestiFall, 4 to 6 p.m., Putnam City Baptist Church. ... Big inflatables, candy, games in the building and a hayride will be offered. Parents must accompany children. Costumes welcome; scary costumes are discouraged. 

This list goes on and on, as do the many others like it. You can see the basic cultural DNA that is at work here, especially in the instructions with that Baptist FestiFall item. The key is that these churches are offering, basically, two different approaches to avoiding, or almost avoiding, the growing sort-of secular tsunami (about $6.9 billion in spending this year) called Halloween.

What's up with this? That was the topic of my Universal syndicate "On Religion" column this week, which "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I then discussed in this week's GetReligion podcast. Click here to tune that in.

You see, some religious believers are trying to avoid the unsafe or troubling elements of Halloween (thus, the growing "Trunk or Treat" phenomenon), while others are convinced that Halloween itself is, doctrinally speaking, fatally flawed.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

What can experts tell us about growing 'nondenominational' churches? (Also, new podcast alert)

What can experts tell us about growing 'nondenominational' churches? (Also, new podcast alert)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out Richard Ostling's update on the next wave of mainstream media coverage of trends in atheism, in this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

RACHAEL’S QUESTION:

In the recent Pew survey showing America’s religious changes, how were nondenominational churches categorized?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Rachael asked previously what America’s biggest Christian groups are, and now has another demographic item about the Pew Research Center’s important “Religious Landscape Study,” which continues to spur discussion. (.pdf here) This blog scanned key findings May 20).

Pew’s 2014 polling tells us how 35,071 U.S. adults identify themselves on religion, with important new fundings about these independent (a.k.a. “nondenominational” or “interdenominational”) local congregations without national affiliations. The huge sample size provides accurate breakdowns for groups, and Pew’s similar survey in 2007 shows trends over time.

The 2014 survey establishes independent congregations as a growing factor in American life and American religious life. By definition, they’re Protestant (neither Catholic nor Orthodox).

U.S. Protestantism gets more complicated by the year and, because they’re nearly impossible to track, the independents are often neglected in religious analyses. Now, thanks to Pew, there’s solid current data.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Porn no more: Secular students inviting religious discussion

Gone is the “low-hanging fruit” of years past when the media converged on the University of Texas-San Antonio campus each year to produce titillating stories on students exchanging Bibles and Qurans for porn.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Public esteem for journalists sinking. Why?

I’m not ashamed to say that I love journalism. I’m elated that I get to work in this field and I love the work I get to do. I have high regard for the good that journalists’ accomplish, this week providing just one example. You can’t be a media critic without being aware of the downsides. Heck, it’s my job to look at problems with media coverage. And yet still, I am so very thankful for newspapers and media outlets that tell us about the world around us. When I read a story about an event or an interview, I try to remember what a blessing it is that someone was there and took the time to tell me about it.

Please respect our Commenting Policy