Seventh-Day Adventists

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.

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Alternate facts: New York Times posits 'Jediism' as actual religion in credulous feature

Alternate facts: New York Times posits 'Jediism' as actual religion in credulous feature

Pardon the trite expression, but I just got sick, a little. I got my nausea through The New York Times.

The newspaper once positioned as America's "newspaper of record," the one whose slogan, "All the News That's Fit to Print" might well have been carved in stone, that newspaper has just served up a positive puff piece positioning a group of "Star Wars" movie aficionados as a religion.

In the process, they offered yet another installment -- is anyone keeping count? -- of how the fabled institution is more tone-deaf on faith than was Ludwig von Beethoven at the end of his life.

Here now, the "news," or perhaps, "alternate facts, faith division":

The makers of the “Star Wars” franchise on Monday [Jan. 23] announced the name of the films’ next installment -- “The Last Jedi” -- just as “Rogue One” hit $1 billion in global box office. Onscreen, it’s a great time to be a Jedi.
But Jedi is also a real-life religion that drew headlines last month when the Charity Commission for England and Wales ruled that it would not grant religious status to the Temple of the Jedi Order, a Jedi church. So, what is Jediism, and who is in the temple? We caught up with some practicing Jedi to find out.
What is Jediism?
Several Jedi communities exist around the world. Some call themselves religions, though others shy away from the word.
Interest in the religious potential in “Star Wars” first bubbled up online in the early 1990s, Michael Kitchen, one of several directors of the Temple of the Jedi Order, said in a recent interview.
The religion exploded into the mainstream in 2001, when fans in several countries listed Jediism as a religion on their local census. Hundreds of thousands did so. For many, it was a joke. But the phenomenon led others who were serious about Jediism to start considering the possibility of full religious status.

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To hell with it: No, seriously, there's a movement to eliminate doctrine of eternal torment

To hell with it: No, seriously, there's a movement to eliminate doctrine of eternal torment

What the ... ?

In case you haven't heard, there's a campaign to eliminate hell.

No, it's not a platform of Donald Trump. In fact, I can't outright dismiss the possibility that Trump might be Satan. (I kid. I kid.)

But seriously, National Geographic reports on changing evangelical attitudes toward hell in a recent feature story.

I love the lede.

See is this opening doesn't grab your attention:

Hell isn’t as popular as it used to be.  
Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans who believe in the fiery down under has dropped from 71 percent to 58 percent. Heaven, by contrast, fares much better and, among Christians, remains an almost universally accepted concept.  
Underlying these statistics is a conundrum that continues to tug at the conscience of some Christians, who find it difficult to reconcile the existence of a just, loving God with a doctrine that dooms billions of people to eternal punishment.  
"Everlasting torment is intolerable from a moral point of view because it makes God into a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom he does not even allow to die," wrote the late Clark Pinnock, an influential evangelical theologian.   
While religious philosophers have argued over the true nature of hell since the earliest days of Christianity, the debate has become especially pronounced in recent decades among the millions of Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals. The once taboo topic is being openly discussed as well-regarded scholars publish articles and best-selling books that rely on careful readings of Scripture to challenge traditional views.   

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Deseret News covers heaven: But how many voices does this story need to include?

Deseret News covers heaven: But how many voices does this story need to include?

Anyone who has spent some time on the religion beat knows that religious organizations like to hold conferences about big, complex, interesting topics.

Covering one of these things is a great way to spend a day. Most of the time when you are sent to one, you end up hearing all kinds of articulate people talking about all kinds of interesting angles on what is usually a very interesting subject (at least it's interesting to members of the flock that staged the conference).

But there are challenges. For starters, what do you do if there are two really interesting presentations going on at the same time? Also, you can end up with dozens of interesting points of view competing for the lede of your story. How do you pick a winner? How does one decide which voice is the most newsworthy?

In the end, reading competing news accounts of the same conference tells you just as much about the reporters involved in the coverage as it does the content of the actual event.

If you want to see a perfect example of this syndrome, check out this recent story from The Deseret News about a conference focusing on a subject that is certainly interesting and potentially even newsworthy. But the topic is so massive, and the event drew so many interesting experts, that the result is kind of -- well, I'll let you be the judge of that.

How big is the subject? Let's start with the lede:

PROVO -- What lies beyond the grave?

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Daily Beast approaches satire territory when ‘reviewing’ Carson’s congregation

Daily Beast approaches satire territory when ‘reviewing’ Carson’s congregation

Tina Brown, who founded The Daily Beast, will readily admit the news site’s name is an homage to Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Scoop,” in which the newspaper tub-thumping for war was called “The Beast.”

But Brown’s website approached satire not only in its name when it sent a reporter to poke around a congregation with which this writer is intimately familiar, the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. In its report, Brown’s reporter demonstrated a breathtaking lack of basic knowledge about religion -- certainly about Christianity -- or even what people do when they go to worship services these days. Click here to read that story.

Disclosure: I’ve been a member at Spencerville since 2003, have attended weekly worship there, and still am on the rolls, not having yet transferred my records to a local Adventist congregation in Utah.

Oh, some fellow named Dr. Ben Carson is a member there, along with his family. You might have heard about his connections to the Seventh-day Adventist faith.

It’s not unusual for the press to poke around the church of a presidential candidate’s choice, especially if that church is either little-known or perhaps controversial. In 2008, Trinity United Church of Christ was put under a media microscope not only because Barack Obama was a member there. but also because the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor, had issued many sermons that were, shall we say, a bit caustic about America and its role in the world. Four years later, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a media-led “Mormon Moment” when Mitt Romney, a lifelong member, returned missionary and former bishop, ran for the presidency.

Now it’s Adventism’s turn.

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From one reporter to another: An insider's primer on Seventh-day Adventism

From one reporter to another: An insider's primer on Seventh-day Adventism

I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating: At dinner one evening with a Boeing Corporation division president, the topic of my “day job” came up. Because this person, long since retired, was involved with Boeing’s satellite systems, I told him my principal employer at the time had a large satellite network of its own. That employer was the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters.

His face lit up: “Oh, you’re the guys with the bicycles.”

I grimaced: this high-level executive, well exposed to the world, thought Adventists tooled around wearing white shirts and name tags. (Nothing wrong with that, but the guys on the bikes most likely are missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a different group.)

His publicist, who was at the table, piped up: “No, you’re the guys with the magazines that go door to door.”

Mercy. This person --  a former Seattle-area television news reporter, no less -- imagines Seventh-day Adventists don’t celebrate birthdays or take blood transfusions.

Well, if Mr. Now-Retired Boeing person is listening, he probably knows a bit more about Adventism and Adventists, thanks to one Donald J. Trump.

Terry Mattingly asked me, a former GetReligionista and former employee of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (the Church’s formal name) to offer current Godbeat professionals a few pointers -- from my perspective on both sides of a reporter's notebook -- on covering the religion which claims, among others, Dr. Benjamin S. Carson, M.D., a 2016 GOP Presidential contender, as one of its nearly 19 million members worldwide.

Here goes.

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Ben Carson takes on Trump's faith; CNN commits three sins against journalist's bible

Ben Carson takes on Trump's faith; CNN commits three sins against journalist's bible

Before we get to the serious part of this post, this seems like the perfect time to ask: Have you read Eric Metaxas' humorous take on the #TrumpBible?

If not, be sure to enjoy it at The New Yorker.

Back in the less-funny world, The Donald's faith — or lack thereof, depending on whom you ask — is making headlines again this week.

Thank Republican challenger Dr. Ben Carson for that.

Here's the scoop from CNN:

Anaheim, California (CNN) In the end, it was the most mild-mannered of the presidential candidates who may have dealt the most searing blow so far to Donald Trump.
In a fascinating twist to the 2016 Republican presidential race, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson essentially threw down the gauntlet Wednesday and asked evangelical Republicans to choose sides by questioning the authenticity of Trump's faith. Speaking to reporters before a large rally here in Anaheim, Carson was asked by a reporter how he was different from Trump.
His answer was short and direct.
"Probably the biggest thing -- I've realized where my success has come from and I don't in anyway deny my faith in God," Carson said.
He explained what he meant by quoting what he said was one of his favorite bible verses.
"By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life and that's a very big part of who I am. I don't get that impression with him," Carson said of Trump. "Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't get that."

For my tastes, that lede is too opinionated. An impartial journalist ought to report what the candidates said, put the statements into proper context and let the audience decide whether someone dealt a "searing blow." Right?

Meanwhile, did you spot the pesky, recurring journalism style issue in that opening section? One that we highlighted here at GetReligion just last week? 

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Lost in translation - AFP and the Seventh-day Adventists

Reports on the exorcism trial currently underway in Paris suburb of Essonne cast an interesting light on the internal workings of the French wire service AFP (Agence France Presse). And these gleanings do not do it credit.

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Kleenex alert: Tale of tragedy, irony and Christianity

It’s not every day that an obituary of a non-celebrity appears above the fold on a major daily newspaper’s front page. Rarer still is the mention, nay prominence, of a faith story unfolding within.

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