The Onion

What!? About that Washington Post religion story on clergy gathering to bless late-term abortion clinic

What!? About that Washington Post religion story on clergy gathering to bless late-term abortion clinic

What!?

I'll admit it: That was my first reaction when I saw a Washington Post headline this week declaring, "Clergy gather to bless one of the only U.S. clinics performing late-term abortions."

Apparently, I wasn't the only reader taken aback by that story.

"Is this a Babylon Bee article?" asked one Twitter user, referring to a website that specializes in Christian satire news. "I can't tell."

The Babylon Bee did have a story last week on doctors discovering a "strange, baby-shaped organ" in a woman's womb.

But no, the Post story wasn't satire. It was an actual news report. And it was a well-done one at that.

Religion writer Julie Zauzmer's piece does a nice job of explaining why the clergy involved in this blessing ceremony believe what they do.

The lede:

When clergy gather at an abortion clinic, it’s usually in protest, outside the building.
Rarely are they huddled inside the clinic, not to condemn but to bless the procedures that happen there.
Yet that was the Rev. Carlton Veazey’s task as he led a prayer in Bethesda on Monday. “God of grace and God of glory, in whom we move and live,” he said, as he opened a prayer for the well-being of the doctor and nurses who facilitate abortions at a clinic here and for their patients. “Keep them safe and keep them strong. And may they always know that all that they do is for Thy glory.”
Veazey was one of four Christian pastors and one rabbi who gathered to bless this Bethesda abortion clinic in an unusual interfaith ceremony. (A Hindu priest who was supposed to attend from a local temple, who has blessed an abortion clinic before, didn’t make it.)
Opinions on the morality of abortion differ drastically by faith. Catholicism and some Protestant denominations teach that life begins from the  moment of conception and abortion at any stage is akin to murder. Other Protestants and teachings from several other faiths disagree with that definition of life and emphasize instead the sanctity of the health and the free will of women.
“Jewish rabbinic authorities, starting with the Middle Ages, say that a fetus is not a person,” said Rabbi Charles Feinberg, who is retired from Adas Israel synagogue, after participating in the ceremony. “Judaism has always said abortion is never murder. It may not be permitted, depending on the circumstances — how far along the pregnancy is, how seriously ill the mother-to-be is — but it is never murder. It only becomes that once the baby is born.”
Yet everyday conversation about abortion tends to cast it as a question of faith on one side — the antiabortion side — versus secular liberalism on the other. The clergy at this ceremony said that’s not the case. Many women who seek abortions are people of faith who pray about their decision, the clergy said.

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Please don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news

Please don't take the bait: What Pat Robertson said about Las Vegas isn't really news

A headline from The Onion, of all places, went viral Monday after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

In recent years, the "'No Way To Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens" story has become a staple of the satirical newspaper.

When there's a major tragedy, here's another thing you can count on: Pat Robertson opening his mouth.

So yes, Robertson weighed in on Las Vegas. Was there any doubt that he would? But is there any possibility that what he said amounted to actual news?

Probably not, as a million (only slightly exaggerating) past GetReligion posts make clear. Terry Mattingly wrote one of my favorites way back in 2005.

The good news is this: My Google news search found very few mainstream news organizations jumping on the latest Robertson quotes. But the Huffington Post — which still does some straight news reporting — was among them.

HuffPost's headline:

Pat Robertson Blames Las Vegas Massacre On ‘Disrespect’ For Donald Trump

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Washington Post pays attention, as Episcopalians ponder the life and faith of Robert E. Lee

Washington Post pays attention, as Episcopalians ponder the life and faith of Robert E. Lee

Yes, we saw the story about ESPN and sports announcer Robert Lee, who was switched off the upcoming broadcast of a University of Virginia football game because his name is Robert Lee.

I would assume that "Robert Lee" is not all that unusual a name for an Asian man. But, hey, we are talking about Virginia and that's almost the same name as He Who Must Not Be Named.

So I thought this story was from The Onion and said so on Twitter. I was not joking. It has now been confirmed -- by The New York Times and the rest of the journalistic universe. For the life of me, I cannot think of a religion angle to that story. But it's so RIGHT NOW.

In case you haven't noticed, things are a bit tense right now when it comes to statues, Civil War history, white supremacy and other topics that some people believe are linked and others do not. There are religion angles in there and many are painful.

(Quick statement: I'm in favor of saving Confederate statues in cemeteries, battlegrounds, museums, academic facilities [linked to the study of Civil War history] and similar sites. I favor taking statues down in civic squares, once government officials have legally chosen to do so. But I'm with Peggy Noonan. It's usually better to build new statues, rather than destroy old ones. Raise statues to praise those who created a better union.)

But here is some good news. If you want to read a news story that wades into a Gen. Robert E. Lee controversy and listens -- hard -- to voices on both sides, then check out The Washington Post religion-desk feature with this headline: "This is the church where Robert E. Lee declared himself a sinner. Should it keep his name?"

This story, by religion-beat veteran Michelle Boorstein, struck home for me because I spoke at Washington and Lee University last spring, doing a seminar on the challenges and rewards of Godbeat work. I had a long talk with a journalism professor (and ethics specialist) about the ongoing debates about this church and, of course, about challenges to the name of the university.

Here is the essential question stated, carefully, in the feature lede:

Could “R.E. Lee Memorial Church” commemorate the postwar fence-mender who had led their church and city out of destitution? Or could it only conjure the wicked institution of slavery for which Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee fought?

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Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

Mike Pence will not meet alone with a woman, so the online left flips out?

When does a rather ordinary news profile turn into a mass-media panic?

Apparently, when it’s in a Washington Post feature about Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence.

I covered this two days ago in that finally -- after zillions of fawning pieces about Hillary and Michelle -- a major newspaper had profiled the Second Lady. I had no idea that one sentence in the story would create a Twitter mob scene. Part way down the story, a Post reporter mentioned that Mike Pence has a policy of never dining alone with a woman nor attending an event where alcohol is served without Karen by his side.

Ka-boom. The mockery began.

Social media went nuts, excoriating Pence for being such a Neanderthal and worse. There were references to sharia law, for example. BBC asked: “Are Mike Pence’s Dining Habits Chivalrous or Sexist?” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones, fired off at least 15 angry tweets on the topic during a period of high dudgeon on Wednesday afternoon. Naturally, The Onion weighed in

Jezebel.com had something so unprintable, I’m declining to link to it. Guess I get tired of media slinging the F-bomb around like it’s candy from a parade. That was pretty common during this Twitter tsunami.

The comments cascaded to a point that the Post did two pieces solely on reaction to the article. Gotta make click-bait hay while the digital sun shines. 

Here's the original Tweet:

 

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Who penned this satire gem? Democrats in U.S. Senate or editors at The Politico?

Who penned this satire gem? Democrats in U.S. Senate or editors at The Politico?

All of us have social-media buttons that our friends know how to push to get us to click this or that link, to forward this or that item, to pull out of our email haze and to PAY ATTENTION.

For me, one of the most magic phrases in the world is "Not The Onion." This is especially true when the item is sent by GetReligion co-founder Doug LeBlanc, whose sense of humor has a similar laugh-to-keep-from-crying twist as my own.

But in this case, when I saw the headline, I had my doubts.

This was supposed to be a short story from The Politico. But the whole tone of the thing was just so dry and understated and, well, surreal. How could this not be from The Onion or even the Babylon Bee?

Are you ready? Here is what has to be the first nomination for the Not The Onion headline of 2017:

Democrats hold lessons on how to talk to real people

Alas, there is no second line to this masterpiece of a headline. After all, it would be hard to top the excellence of that first line.

I also liked the fact that the story was so short and that it ignored so many obvious "real people" topics. Yes, like religion and culture. It was like no one in the room had ever even heard of books such as "What's the Matter with Kansas?" or "Hillbilly Elegy."

Once again, life is all about politics and money and that is that. Here is the brilliantly boring opening of the piece:

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Election-year theodicy? Washington Post explores rise of faith-haunted, political obits

Election-year theodicy? Washington Post explores rise of faith-haunted, political obits

So do you remember Mary Anne Noland of Richmond, Va.? Her name surfaced recently in a way that was both humorous and poignant, during a "Crossroads" podcast about the "lesser of two evils" dilemma faced by many voters in this year's White House campaign.

All over America, people were talking about her obituary in The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Some people thought this was a hoax, perhaps something from The Onion. The folks at Snopes.com quickly verified that this viral sensation was the real deal.

If you do not recall the details, here is how the Noland obit opened:

NOLAND, Mary Anne Alfriend. Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the age of 68. Born in Danville, Va., Mary Anne was a graduate of Douglas Freeman High School (1966) and the University of Virginia School of Nursing (1970). A faithful child of God, Mary Anne devoted her life to sharing the love she received from Christ with all whose lives she touched as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse. ...

You could see, in the Noland obituary, that this family's faith was woven into this story and linked, somehow, to the disdain they felt toward the two major candidates (depending, of course, on the outcome of the crucial FBI primary and the growing revolt among GOP delegates, many of them cultural and moral conservatives).

Surely this obituary was a one-of-a-kind heart cry, right? As it turns out, it was not. That leads us to a quite amazing feature in The Washington Post that ran under the headline, "Disdain for Trump and Clinton is so strong, even the dead are campaigning."

Did this feature deal with the moral and religious elements of this phenomenon? Sort of.

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When real life imitates The Onion: Welcome to the Stoner Jesus Bible Study in Colorado

When real life imitates The Onion: Welcome to the Stoner Jesus Bible Study in Colorado

It's "Punk'd" day at GetReligion.

Either that or the farcical newspaper The Onion has taken over real-life headlines.

My day started with this 100 percent serious tweet from Sarah Pulliam Bailey, the former GetReligionista who now covers religion for the Washington Post:

Donna Trump accidentally put money in the Communion plate at a church in Iowa wapo.st/1QSRuhX 

Later, I came across this weekend story from the Los Angeles Times:

The creed includes weed for these Colorado Christians

I don't guess we have to ask anymore what the Los Angeles Times is smoking. (I kid. I kid.)

Now, at this point I should stop the sarcasm (if only momentarily) and remind all of us (mainly myself) of the role of a journalist — specifically one writing about religion:

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Popemania, the sequel: Have we reached overload on coverage of Francis' visit to U.S.?

Popemania, the sequel: Have we reached overload on coverage of Francis' visit to U.S.?

Yesterday, we contemplated how much coverage of Pope Francis' first-ever visit to the U.S. is too much.

Paul Glader is a veteran journalist who spent 10 years with The Wall Street Journal and now teaches writing, journalism and business-related courses at The King's College (not to mention serving as director of the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute at The King's College in New York City, which now includes GetReligion).

Count Glader among those who believe the coverage has reached the breaking point.

Others, including longtime Oklahoman business reporter (and my good friend) Steve Lackmeyer, say they'd much rather hear about the Pope than the Donald.

But former GetReligionista and current superstar Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey worries that other breaking news could steal Francis' spotlight.

My friend Sarah now lives inside the Beltway, by the way. Here in the real world of Oklahoma, we had never heard of Boehner. I kid. I kid ...

Meanwhile, Jim Warren, chief media writer for the Poynter Institute, the respected journalism think tank, remains concerned over what he dubs "Fawning Over Francis":

 

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Yes, this is The Onion: Why do newspapers publish PR pieces for some churches?

Yes, this is The Onion: Why do newspapers publish PR pieces for some churches?

OK, so the graphic over there is wrong. This is a GetReligion post about an alleged religion "news" item from The Onion.

On one level, that makes no sense. We try to critique the mainstream press, so why bother our readers with an item from a satirical, pretend newspaper?

Well, your GetReligionistas also, from time to time, like to write about op-ed page pieces and commentary essays that are clearly linked to life on the religion-news beat. Most of those are pretty serious.

Obviously, that is not the case this time around.

In fact, I am not sure WHAT is going on in this piece of pseudo-news. But I do have some theories and I'd like to know what GetReligion readers think.

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