The Wichita Eagle

After Kennedy retirement, you'll find thousands of the nation's happiest people in ... Wichita, Kan.

After Kennedy retirement, you'll find thousands of the nation's happiest people in ... Wichita, Kan.

After Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement announcement Thursday, CNN political analyst Jeffrey Toobin tweeted that abortion will be illegal in 20 states in 18 months.

The Twitter post, expressing the worst fears of abortion-rights supporters, quickly went viral.

But if there is weeping and gnashing of teeth — on the pro-choice side — over the future of Roe v. Wade, the mood is something entirely different among thousands of pro-life advocates gathering in Wichita, Kan., this weekend.

Coincidentally, the National Right to Life committee's three-day national convention started this morning — the day after the Kennedy news shook the nation's political and legal landscape.

This post mainly serves as a public service announcement that regional newspapers — including the Kansas City Star and the Wichita Eagle — are following the convention and have produced some excellent coverage already. 

Today's in-depth preview of the convention by the Star mixes crucial details and relevant context both on the National Right to Life Committee and red-state Kansas itself:

For the first time in its 50-year history, the nation’s largest anti-abortion organization is holding its annual convention in Kansas, a state seen by many in the movement as a model for passing tough abortion restrictions.

The National Right to Life Committee, which has affiliates in every state and more than 3,000 chapters across the country, will open its convention Thursday morning at the Sheraton Overland Park with 90 minutes of speeches by Gov. Jeff Colyer and others.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and optimism in the pro-life base right now,” said National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. “We are seeing a lot of young people getting involved. We have a president who is issuing great pro-life orders and actions. And he’s appointing judges to the courts that we believe will strictly interpret the Constitution and not make it up as they go along.”

And yes, the Star notes the significance of Kennedy's retirement:

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Friday Five: End Times for GetReligion, WSJ tackles God on front pages, 'modesty ponchos' and more

Friday Five: End Times for GetReligion, WSJ tackles God on front pages, 'modesty ponchos' and more

We've reached the End Times.

OK, let me rephrase that: What I mean is that GetReligion has a cool new Twitter feature called the End Times.

What is the End Times? It's a daily thread put together by social media guru Peter Freeby that highlights both GetReligion posts and top religion stories from Twitter curated by Nuzzel.

Why is it called the End Times? Because it's "The end of the day's religion news." If you follow us on Twitter, be sure to check it out. If you don't follow us on Twitter, by all means, correct that now.

Now, let's dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: The San Antonio Express-News dispatched reporter Silvia Foster-Frau to Washington, D.C. to cover Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting survivors at the National Day of Prayer.

Once again, the front-page coverage Foster-Frau produced is a must-read winner — mixing relevant facts and context with authentic emotion.

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Sacred rite takes secular turn: This is why church weddings aren't as popular as they used to be

Sacred rite takes secular turn: This is why church weddings aren't as popular as they used to be

When my son and daughter-in-law exchanged wedding vows two years ago, they did so in a church — but not their church.

They had a couple of reasons for this: For one, Brady and Mary grew up in different churches. They wanted to avoid choosing between either of them.

The second, more important consideration: They liked the distinctive look of the sanctuary they chose and the amenities, such as a large bridal room.

I was reminded of their experience as I read a fascinating trend piece in the Wichita Eagle this week on more couples foregoing church weddings altogether:

When Monique Pope was engaged, she had no doubt that the wedding ceremony would be in her Catholic parish.
“It was a beautiful ceremony,” said Pope, who married her husband Mike in October 2012. “When you walk into St. Anthony you’re just overcome by the beauty and the splendor of the church.”
Marrying in St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church in Wichita meant marrying in a church and a faith she had a close connection to, Pope said.
Yet Pope and her husband are among a decreasing number of American couples who have their wedding ceremony in a church.
Only 26 percent of couples had their wedding ceremony in a religious institution in 2016, according to data from The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. That’s down from 41 percent in 2009.
he Knot surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms, finding that weddings in farms, barns and ranches had gone up, along with weddings in historic buildings and homes. Other popular venues are beach houses, public gardens, wineries and museums.

The byline on the piece belongs to Katherine Burgess, the Eagle's relatively new faith reporter. I don't know that we've mentioned her at GetReligion. If not, welcome to the Godbeat, Katherine!

It's an interesting piece that hits at major reasons behind the trend:

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God ignored? What a newspaper story on a baseball player with a new heart didn't say

God ignored? What a newspaper story on a baseball player with a new heart didn't say

Here at GetReligion, we talk a lot about holy ghosts.

On Day 1 of this journalism-focused website, Terry Mattingly explained the meaning of that term:

Day after day, millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.
They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there.
One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.
A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Most of the time, we witness holy ghosts from afar. We don't know what happened behind the scenes. We can't say for certain whether a reporter missed an obvious religion angle or chose to ignore it.

But recently, my full-time role as chief correspondent for The Christian Chronicle overlapped with my part-time GetReligion gig and gave me an up-close view of holy ghosts. 

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