Washington Post reports: Hey, not all parents with lots of kids are fundamentalist wackos!

Washington Post reports: Hey, not all parents with lots of kids are fundamentalist wackos!

Oh my. Folks at The Washington Post have just published an interesting story about non-religious large families that raises all kinds of questions. If you thought journalists had run out of valid new angles for coverage of the whole Pew Forum "none" phenomenon, this piece will convince you otherwise.

Nevertheless, there is a religion-angle problem -- maybe two -- in this story, which ran under the headline, "Stop assuming that families with lots of children are religious."

For starters, the Post team did a pretty good job of telling readers what parents such as Timothy and Kyla Buller do NOT believe. However, the story makes little or no attempt to describing what they DO believe. Hold that thought.

The story also managed, creating an LOL moment for this GetReligionista, to combine two of this blog's least favorite nasty and shallow labels into one all-purpose journalistic insult. Here is what that looks like:

As younger adults elect “none” as their religious preference more and more often, the number of large “none” families in the country may well rise.
But if large non-religious families are getting more common, Tracey Stoner hasn’t noticed it yet. “It’s hard to find support as a large family that’s not religious,” she said.
Raising seven children who range in age from 6 months to 16 years old, Stoner has sought advice in Facebook groups for large families. But the members seem to be “95 percent Christians,” she said, often with fundamentalist ideologies.

You got it! The Post managed to use both the journalism F-word and an ISIS-era application of the word "ideology" at the same time!

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Ideology or theology? Is it time for Western journalists to start taking ISIS at its word?

Ideology or theology? Is it time for Western journalists to start taking ISIS at its word?

So here is an important question facing journalists, diplomats and presidential candidates as they ponder the mysteries of the Middle East, at this moment in time. This is the question that "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I explored in this week's podcast. Click here to check that out.

That question: Is ISIS a political state defined by a political system, by an ideology, in the same sense as the United States, France or Germany? Or, is the Islamic State best understood as a theocracy in which its political and religious institutions are wedded together, while operating according to laws and logic based on its leaders own understanding of Islamic theology and tradition?

Yes, ISIS leaders want land, oil, money, weapons and prisoners. But they also want converts -- other Muslims, for sure -- to their cause and their version of Islam, both in the regions they conquer as well as in the lands they threaten.

So ponder the opening lines of the recent ISIS statement (as printed in The Washington Post) in which its leaders claimed responsibility for the massacres in Paris:

In a blessed battle whose causes of success were enabled by Allah, a group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate (may Allah strengthen and support it) set out targeting the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe -- Paris. This group of believers were youth who divorced the worldly life and advanced towards their enemy hoping to be killed for Allah's sake, doing so in support of His religion, His Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him), and His allies. They did so in spite of His enemies. Thus, they were truthful with Allah -- we consider them so -- and Allah granted victory upon their hands and cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland.

The bottom line: Does this sound like political language?

The question, for journalists (and I assume statesmen as well) has become rather obvious: To what degree should the words of the ISIS leadership be taken seriously? When they say they are dedicated to building a caliphate -- an Islamic state for all of the world's Muslims -- to what degree should outsiders take that apocalyptic claim seriously?

Want to ponder a possible end-game here? Do the ISIS leaders plan to take Mecca from Saudi Arabia?

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Washington Post digs into ISIS 'ideology' -- not theology -- and the lives of women

Washington Post digs into ISIS 'ideology' -- not theology  -- and the lives of women

No matter what else is going on in the world, the Islamic State is still out there attacking cities and seizing territory, constantly striving to create its new version of a heaven on earth, which in this case is called a "caliphate."

By definition, a caliphate is an Islamic state led by a "caliph." So what precisely is a "caliph"?

A typical definition offered by a Western dictionary defines this term as:

* an important Muslim political and religious leader
* a successor of Muhammad as temporal and spiritual head of Islam -- used as a title

So a caliph is both a political and religious leader, quite literally a man who is claiming to be a "successor of Muhammad."

Now, with that in mind let's look at a key passage in a new Washington Post story -- " 'Till Martyrdom Do Us Part" -- about the lives of woman inside the territory controlled by ISIS. This includes women who have volunteered to be part of the Islamic State, as well as those who have been kidnapped. This story is part of an ongoing Post series about life inside the caliphate.

Let me stress that this feature is quite well reported, which is amazing in light of the restraints under which reporters are working when attempting to cover the Islamic State. Much of the attributed information is based on ISIS social media and, I found this amazing, Skype conversations with people living inside the caliphate.

Then there is this summary material that serves as a kind of thesis statement:

In the Islamic State’s ideology, a woman’s place is in the home, tending to her husband and producing children.

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