crucifixion

Time for a Christian Smith flashback: Writing about that whole nailed-to-a-cross thing

Time for a Christian Smith flashback: Writing about that whole nailed-to-a-cross thing

If you were going to select a short list of the most infamous articles ever written about the mainstream press and the religion-beat, surely Christian Smith's "Religiously Ignorant Journalists," which ran in Books & Culture (RIP) back in 2004, would be near the top of the list.

As you would expect, it drew the attention of the newly formed GetReligion.org weblog, with an early post under this headline: "Are journalists too ignorant to cover religion news?"

Smith made several interesting points about language on the religion beat, not the least of which was a riff on the many ways that journalists tend to abuse the term "evangelical." His key point: Why don't editors hire more professionals trained to work on the religion beat, the way they do on other highly complicated -- yet respected -- beats?

Yes, the reason I am bringing this up again is that a faithful reader sent us yet another case of a mainstream, national publication offering a unique or shall we say innovative approach to ordinary religious language.

Hold that thought. Here's the famous overture of Smith's piece:

Today I received a phone message from a journalist from a major Dallas newspaper who wanted to talk to me about a story he was writing about "Episcopals," about how the controversy over the 2003 General Convention's approval of the homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, would affect "Episcopals." What an embarrassment. How do I break the news to him that there are no "Episcopals"? Actually, they are called Episcopalians. Of greater concern, I wonder how this journalist is going to write an informed and informing story in a few days about such an important and complex matter when he doesn't even know enough in starting to call his subjects by their right name.

What I have learned, however, over the years, is that this journalist is not alone in his ignorance.

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Crucifixion, beheading, stoning and now burning alive? What does this mean?

Crucifixion, beheading, stoning and now burning alive? What does this mean?

Despite the ancient examples of capital punishment in the Bible, in modern times there’s been broad moral concern in Christianity and Judaism on whether it should ever occur.  

If legal, then what methods are proper?  Under secular law in the United States, hanging, firing squads and electrocution have given way to lethal injection, supposedly more humane though recent foul-ups raise questions about that.

Islam is unambiguous in endorsing executions for “just cause” (Quran surah 17:33). But what about the methods?

The Islamic State claimed religious sanction when it burned alive, proudly and on camera for all to see, Jordanian prisoner of war Muath al-Kasaesbeh, supposedly because this fellow Muslim was  an “infidel.”

In a good Reuters follow-up, doubly datelined from Dubai and Amman, Muslim religious figures denounced this form of execution. Sheik Hussein bin Shu’ayb, head of religious affairs in southern Yemen, declared that the Prophet Muhammad “advised against burning people with fire.” And Saudi Arabian cleric Salman al-Odah said “burning is an abominable crime rejected by Islamic law, regardless of its causes.” He added, “Only God tortures by fire.”

The most striking quote came from the grand sheik of Cairo’s venerable Al-Azhar University, Ahmed al-Tayeb, who said the pilot’s executioners deserve to be “killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated.”

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