Vancouver

Journalism question: If your child was attacked by a cougar, would you 'speak in tongues'?

Journalism question: If your child was attacked by a cougar, would you 'speak in tongues'?

Now here’s a story you don’t see every day, care of USA Today.

The headline on this one is totally faith-free, but it certainly is a grabber: “Woman fights off cougar attacking her son, prying its jaws open. 'Mom instinct,' she says.”

So what is the religion angle here? A reader spotted something really interesting in this story and raised a totally logical question.

First, let’s look at this journalism mystery in context. Here’s the whole overture:

A Canadian woman rushed to save her son after a cougar attacked him last week, prying the animal's jaws off her child, according to local news reports.

How did she do it? "Mom instinct" and prayer, she told CTV News.

Chelsea Lockhart's son was playing outside the family's Vancouver Island home Friday when she heard a fence rattle in the backyard. Then came sounds of a struggle. The mother bolted outside to see her son, Zachery, 7, on the ground with a young cougar attached to his arm, the network reported. She had no time to lose.

"I had a mom instinct, right?" Lockhart said. "I just leaped on it and tried to pry its mouth open."

With her fingers fish-hooked inside the cougar's mouth, Lockhart began "praying in tongues" and "crying out to the Lord," she told CTV News. "Three sentences into me praying, it released and it ran away," she told the network.

Sounds pretty basic, right?

Well, it does if you attend a Pentecostal Protestant congregation or a mainline church — Catholic, even — that has been touched by the charismatic renewal movement during the past three or four decades.

The reader’s question: How many readers would know the meaning of the phrase “praying in tongues” without a single word of background material?

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Demonizing Franklin Graham: There are strange holes in Vancouver Sun's crusade story

Demonizing Franklin Graham: There are strange holes in Vancouver Sun's crusade story

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, has always been known as somewhat of an iconoclast, but the introduction he got in a recent article in the Vancouver (BC) Sun may as well have put horns atop his head.

The article, which comes with an unattractive photo of a heavenward-gazing Graham with one upraised forefinger cocked like a demented schoolmaster, seems bent on portraying the evangelist as an addled nitwit.

And that’s just the photo. Get a load of the intro:

Metro Vancouver Christians are colliding over the coming crusade of televangelist Franklin Graham, who is known for criticizing homosexuals, Muslims and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Saying that Graham is often “incendiary and intolerant,” some evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics are opposing his participation in the three-day Festival of Hope event at Rogers Arena in early March, 2017, that many of the city’s mega-churches are supporting .
“Rev. Graham is a polarizing figure. … His ungracious and bigoted remarks have the potential to generate serious negative impact on the Christian witness in Vancouver,” says a statement from five prominent evangelical and Catholic leaders (see full letter at bottom).
“We … denounce the frequent incendiary and intolerant statements made by Rev. Graham, which he unapologetically reiterates,” said the letter, signed by Marjeta Bobnar of the Catholic archdiocese, City in Focus president Tom Cooper, Tenth Church pastor Ken Shigematsu, Calvary Baptist pastor Tim Dickau and First Baptist pastor Tim Kuepfer.

Yes, this includes the local Catholic archdiocese with 400,000 adherents, but the other signatories only represent four churches. With 2.1 million residents, there’s probably quite a few other churches in Vancouver.

What’s also intriguing is that the letter was dated June 16. The article ran Aug. 18. Why did it take two months for the Sun to report on this?

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Oregonian writer's quick thinking on Dutch Bros Coffee story earned her a zillion hits

Oregonian writer's quick thinking on Dutch Bros Coffee story earned her a zillion hits

Oregonian religion reporter Melissa Binder stumbled onto ratings gold last week when a short and simple story about some fast food employees praying with a distraught woman got her more than 18,000 shares and 310 comments.

People still care about people.

Sometimes it’s the simplest stories that strike the deepest cord. Note: This story takes place in Vancouver, Wash. -- just across the state line from Oregon and about 15 miles north of Portland. It reads:

When Dutch Bros employees noticed a woman in line for coffee Saturday was visibly upset, they offered to talk.
Her husband had died just the night before, she told them. He was only 37.
Pierce Dunn, 19, gave her free coffee and asked if he could pray for her. She said that would help.
Dunn and two other employees leaned out the drive-thru window to hold her hand.
"That moment was absolutely incredible," said Dunn. "It was so emotional. She was crying. I shed a few tears. We've cried since as well. When something that real happens, it hits close to home."
Dunn, who identifies as a Christian, prayed the widow would feel supported and loved, that God would provide peace and help the family mourn.

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Al-Jazeera piece on Native church in Vancouver has the right mix of information and analysis

Al-Jazeera piece on Native church in Vancouver has the right mix of information and analysis

Here’s another story that proves that Al-Jazeera gets religion.

Most stories one reads about Native Americans in either Canada or the U.S. concentrate on how they’re into peyote, dumping all traces of their colonizers’ faith or were on the short end of abuse from some religious order.

A year I spent living close to the immense Navajo reservation that straddles New Mexico and Arizona showed a more complex story. Many Natives belonged to established denominations that set up mission churches on the reservation. Every summer, revival tents would pop up everywhere. The same is true for Alaska. When I asked a professor in the Native studies department at the university in Fairbanks to get me a speaker who’s into Native religions, she said most Natives attend church.

Which is why this piece about Canadian Native converts to Christianity rings true. It only took a little bit of effort to add some complexity to the reporting.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Inside a cramped, run-down loft in one of this city's poorest neighborhoods, Cheryl Bear Barnetson sits at a communal drum, leading a group of people in song.
The sharp beating of the drum grows louder and faster. She and the other aboriginal singers surrounding it begin to chant.
“Jeeee-sus, Jeeee-sus, Jeeee-sus …”
Although it doesn’t look like a typical house of worship, this place is a church. Bare brick walls surround small coffee tables and chairs. A large wooden cross is all that distinguishes the space from a 1920s speakeasy.

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Vancouver Sun's Douglas Todd channels religion beat into nones, spirituality and migration

Vancouver Sun's Douglas Todd channels religion beat into nones, spirituality and migration

When you’re Canada’s top religion writer and you’ve been on the beat for umpteen years and you want to take religion reporting in one of the continent’s most beautiful cities in a new direction, what do you do?

You become a “spirituality and diversity columnist.”

You start a blog called “The Search” that is described thusly: “Douglas Todd delves into topics we’re taught to avoid: religion, ethnicity, politics, sex and ethics.”

The Vancouver Sun’s erstwhile religion writer has showed up at many a Religion Newswriters Association meeting to spirit off some top award for his stylish prose chronicling the spiritual side of British Columbia’s largest city. In recent years, his work has taken an unusual turn because of the multifaith direction of this metropolis sounded by water and mountains. A May 8, 2013, article on the city explains more:

Metro Vancouver and the rest of B.C. break a lot of records when it comes to religion and the lack thereof.
The West Coast is a place of extremes in regards to Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and the religiously unaffiliated, according to a major 2011 survey by Statistics Canada.
New data released Wednesday suggests pluralistic B.C. is traveling in several religious directions at once. Many residents are becoming more devout following a great variety of world faiths. But other residents are endorsing secular world views and drifting into private spirituality.

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