global warming

Chris Pratt uses MTV as pulpit for his faith: Were his 'nine rules for living' news or not?

Chris Pratt uses MTV as pulpit for his faith: Were his 'nine rules for living' news or not?

There are many ways to calculate who is a "player" in Hollywood and who is not.

However, Chris Pratt has to near the top of any current list of performers whose name on a marquee will inspire millions of ordinary Americans to shell out cash for movie tickets. Where would Hollywood be, in the summer of 2018, without his clout at the box office?

Now, Pratt made some comments the other day that lit up Twitter, but not conventional news outlets -- especially print sources. For me, this raised a variation on an old, old question that I hear all the time from readers: Why are some unusual public statements or events considered news, while others are not?

So what are we talking about, in this case? Well, CNN did offer a short report on what Pratt had to say. Here is the top:

(CNN) Preach, Chris Pratt.

The actor received the Generation Award at the MTV Movie & TV Awards on Monday night and used his speech as an opportunity to share some wisdom with the event's younger viewers.

"I'm going to cut to the chase and I am going to speak to you, the next generation," Pratt said. "I accept the responsibility as your elder. So, listen up."

What followed was a list of Pratt's nine rules for living. 

The choice of the word "preach" in the lede hints at what happened here.

Basically, Pratt -- mixing toilet humor with understated theology -- served up what seemed like at rather crass sermonette by a church youth pastor. A few lines were certainly not pulpit-safe material, but Pratt also was surprising blunt when expressing some of his views as a rather outspoken evangelical Christian (at least in the context of Hollywood).

So here is my question: Were hi remarks "news"?

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Media warming: How to — and how not to — report on evangelical skepticism on climate change

Media warming: How to — and how not to — report on evangelical skepticism on climate change

Many journalists were less than thrilled with President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement. In fact, a commentary writer for the right-leaning Washington Examiner suggested that the news media "dropped all pretense of objectivity" in bemoaning the decision. 

A short USA Today story — published before Trump's announcement — illustrates the "It's settled science" approach to climate change coverage that's so common.

The report concerns a Michigan congressman who said he believes God can take care of any global warming.

The headline:

GOP congressman on climate change: God will 'take care of it' if it's real

And the lede:

WASHINGTON — Michigan GOP Rep. Tim Walberg isn’t concerned about the effects of climate change — if it exists — because God will “take care of it.”

Am I the only one who finds that headline and lede a little snarky?

Keep reading, and — to its credit — the national newspaper includes Walberg's full quote. That is helpful because it allows readers to assess for themselves what he said:

“I believe there’s climate change,” Walberg said, according to a video of the exchange obtained first published by the Huffington Post. “I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I think there are cycles. Do I think man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No.”
“Why do I believe that?” he continued. “Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”

But USA Today's short piece of clickbait offers next to no background or context on Walberg, the climate change debate or — this is a biggie — why a statement from one of 535 members of Congress is national news.

For readers interested in more serious reporting, Religion News Service had a nice roundup of various religious leaders' reactions to Trump's decision.

Moreover, The Washington Post's all-star religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey — a former GetReligionista — produced a quintessential take on "Why so many white evangelicals in Trump’s base are deeply skeptical of climate change."


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Changing climate -- of church views on the environment

Changing climate -- of church views on the environment

USA Today has been eroding its standard of short, shallow stories. And for a complex newsfeature like its recent story on religion and global warming, that is an exceedingly good thing. The article focuses on the effort to sell global warming to church people. Religion and the environment is an evergreen topic -- I wrote a long feature on it more than a decade ago -- but USA Today writer Gregg Zoroya takes the interesting tactic of leading with a rabbi in Kansas:

Rabbi Moti Rieber travels the politically red state of Kansas armed with the book of Genesis, a Psalm and even the words of Jesus to lecture church audiences, or sermonize if they'll let him, about the threat of global warming.

"My feeling is that I'm the only person these people are ever going to see who's going to look them in the eye and say, 'There's such a thing as climate change,'" Rieber says. "I'm trying to let them know it's not irreligious to believe in climate change."

He is at the vanguard of religious efforts — halting in some places, gathering speed elsewhere — to move the ecological discussion from its hot-button political and scientific moorings to one based on theological morality and the right thing to do.

An admiring nod not only to the canny rabbi, for combining verses from both testaments of the Bible, but also to Zoroya for grabbing our attention right from the lede.

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