police shootings

Friday Five: Clergy sex abuse, spot the ghost, shuttered revival, Botham Jean, #RNA2018 and more

Friday Five: Clergy sex abuse, spot the ghost, shuttered revival, Botham Jean, #RNA2018 and more

In the world of religion news, one big story — the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal — keeps dominating.

In the world of religion reporting, a big story — the firing this past spring of Religion News Service’s editor in chief, followed by the resignations of some key staff and columnists — will take a new twist this afternoon.

Look for more details below as we dive right into the Friday Five:

(1) Religion story of the week: Here’s a big story that I don’t believe we’ve mentioned yet: Pope Francis summoning the world’s bishops to meet next February on sexual abuse.

The New York Times’ lede focuses on child abuse. The other thorns in this crisis — which are more controversial — are down lower. Among them: talk about disciplining bishops and cardinals; abuse of seminarians; and violations of celibacy vows with adults (male and female).

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Monday Mix: Botham Jean, 'nones' in politics, Catholics demand change, black women and more

Monday Mix: Botham Jean, 'nones' in politics, Catholics demand change, black women and more

After taking off last week for Labor Day, we're back with another edition of the Monday Mix.

For those needing a refresher on this new GetReligion feature, we focus in this space on headlines and insights you might have missed from the weekend and late in the week.

We'll mention this again, too: Just because we include a headline here doesn't mean we won't offer additional analysis in a different post, particularly if it's a major story. In fact, if you read a piece linked here and have questions or concerns that we might address, please don't hesitate to comment below or tweet us at @GetReligion. The goal here is to point at important news and say, "Hey, look at this."

Three weekend reads

1. "We will be a better city once we know the truth and once we come together and heal." The Dallas Morning News is providing in-depth coverage of the police-involved killing of Botham Jean, 26, a black man shot by a white officer who entered his apartment after mistaking it for her own.

That coverage includes the strong religion angle, as Jean was a beloved church song leader and Bible class teacher.

I ran into Morning News journalists both Saturday and Sunday at the Dallas West Church of Christ as I reported the story for The Christian Chronicle. In fact, the Dallas paper's photographer — in his first week on the job — confused me for his own reporter. We both enjoyed a chuckle over that while covering this terrible tragedy.

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Friday Five: Livin' On A Prayer, Emanuel AME juror, deranged parents, Arkansas shooting and more

Friday Five: Livin' On A Prayer, Emanuel AME juror, deranged parents, Arkansas shooting and more

Confession time: I chose one of this week's Friday Five because it gave me an excuse to post the video of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer."

See if you can guess which one.

Woah, we're halfway there

Woah, livin' on a prayer

Take my hand, we'll make it I swear

Woah, livin' on a prayer …

But enough of that. Let's dive right into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes profiled the jury foreman in last year's trial of Dylann Roof, the gunman sentenced to death in the Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston, S.C.

In a post this week, I described Hawes' story in The Post and Courier as "an amazing narrative piece."

"Jennifer Hawes is AMAZING. The end," the jury foreman, Gerald Truesdale, commented in response to my post. 

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Songs? Prayers? Scriptures? Moving story on funeral for 15-year-old shot by police lacks religious details

Songs? Prayers? Scriptures? Moving story on funeral for 15-year-old shot by police lacks religious details

Once again, a police shooting of a young black male is making national headlines.

If you haven't followed the story of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards' death in a Dallas suburb, the Los Angeles Times had an insightful overview Sunday. However, the Times piece isn't the one I want to critique. There's really not a strong religion angle there.

Rather, I want to analyze the Dallas Morning News' front-page story Sunday on the teen's funeral and highlight what I believe is missing from a GetReligion perspective.

But before I get to that, the Times' story provides some important context: 

Jordan Edwards’ “ginormous” smile, they said, could light up a room — even one as large as Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, where a community gathered to mourn a life just beginning to blossom.

The car drove away from the high school house party, down a street in a Dallas suburb dotted with single-level brick homes, when the police officer raised his rifle and fired.

A bullet tore through the front passenger window, killing an unarmed 15-year-old: Jordan Edwards.
As the death reignited a national conversation about race and the police, it’s also elevated what’s viewed as a well-understood fact in many African American communities: When you’re black — even if you’re a child — you can be viewed as a threat to police.
“These are trained professionals, who are supposed to make rational decisions, but they’re not,” said Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney and former president of the National Bar Assn., a network of black lawyers and judges. “And yet again our children — I repeat, children — are paying the ultimate price.”
Crump spoke Saturday, the day a funeral was held for Jordan, a freshman who played on the Mesquite High School football team. A white hearse carried his body from a Baptist church to the cemetery, and teammates attended the burial wearing their white-and-maroon jerseys.

Now, back to the Dallas newspaper's funeral coverage, which opens like this:

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'Respect the culture' of family of black man shot dead by Tulsa police — but what culture?

'Respect the culture' of family of black man shot dead by Tulsa police — but what culture?

Once again, an unarmed black man has been shot dead by a police officer — this time in Tulsa, Okla.

Once again, there's a graphic video of the shooting.

And once again, there's a flood of media attention and speculation concerning exactly what happened and who's to blame.

The local newspaper — the Tulsa World — has been all over the story of Terence Crutcher's tragic death, which dominates today's front page.

In the "Family requests peaceful protests" story, there's a quote that caught my attention — and made me wonder if there might be a religion ghost:

Tiffany Crutcher asked for any protests that result from viewing the video, which she called “quite disturbing,” to be carried out peacefully.
“Just know that our voices will be heard,” she said. “The video will speak for itself. Let’s protest. Let’s do what we have to do, but let’s just make sure that we do it peacefully, to respect the culture of (the Crutcher family).”

I wonder: What exactly is meant by the term "culture" in that quote? Might it have something to do with the family's religion?

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Black and white in Georgia: About those two First Baptists that AP discovered in Macon

Black and white in Georgia: About those two First Baptists that AP discovered in Macon

The Associated Press has a series that it has dubbed "Divided America."

The wire service describes the series as "AP's ongoing exploration of the economic, social and political divisions — and in some cases attempts at reconciliation — in American society."

Yes, religion is one of the topics that the series has covered, including veteran AP Godbeat pro Rachel Zoll's in-depth feature this week on two First Baptist Churches in Macon, Ga. — one black and one white.

More on that story in a moment.

But first, a little background: A few months ago, I praised an earlier religion installment in the "Divided America" series, also written by Zoll.

However, not all my fellow GetReligionistas (past and present) were as complimentary of Zoll's piece: 

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Shooting 'devils': What beliefs drove the Baton Rouge police killer?

Shooting 'devils': What beliefs drove the Baton Rouge police killer?

While the Trumpification of the GOP held the attention of many mainstream media, some were probing the warped mind of Gavin Long, who shot three police officers in Baton Rouge before being shot dead himself. Their chilling discoveries are reported in well-crafted articles, especially in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Here are some of the spiritual currents they found coursing through the killer's mind:

* He returned from a visit to Africa saying that fasting and abstaining from sex, activated his pineal gland and "opened a third eye of wisdom."

* He began calling himself Ausar Setepenra, a reference to two Egyptian gods.

* He claimed membership in a group of African Americans who say they're a "sovereign Native American tribe."

* The world is "run by devils," in his view.

Of the articles, the Post's -- with six reporters writing 1,400 words -- is the most ambitious. It tries to track his movements over his last few weeks:

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For slain Baton Rouge officer Montrell Jackson, 'it was God, family and police force'

For slain Baton Rouge officer Montrell Jackson, 'it was God, family and police force'

First, Dallas.

Now, Baton Rouge.

After yet another massacre of police officers, some of the most chilling words came from one of the slain Louisiana officers, Montrell Jackson — in a Facebook post he wrote earlier this month:

"I'm tired physically and emotionally. Disappointed in some family, friends, and officers for some reckless comments but hey what's in your heart is in your heart. I still love you all because hate takes too much energy but I definitely won't be looking at you the same. Thank you to everyone that has reached out to me or my wife it was needed and much appreciated. I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me at threat. I've experienced so much in my short life and these last 3 days have tested me to the core. When people you know begin to question your integrity you realize they don't really know you at all. Look at my actions they speak LOUD and CLEAR. Finally I personally want to send prayers out to everyone directly affected by this tragedy. These are trying times. Please don't let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I'm working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer. I got you."

Jackson's mention of both God and prayer immediately made me wonder if he might be a man of faith.

That certainly appears to be the case, based on this quote from an Associated Press story:

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'The end is coming': Is there a religion angle in Dallas suspect's cryptic words?

'The end is coming': Is there a religion angle in Dallas suspect's cryptic words?

"The end is coming."

Dallas Police Chief David Brown attributed those cryptic words to a slain suspect in Thursday night's killings of five police officers.

Is there any kind of religious connotation to those words? It's too early to know. But it certainly seems like a valid question.

ABC News reports:

One of the suspects in the ambush-style shootings in Dallas that left five police officers dead overnight served in the U.S. Army Reserve. The suspect told a hostage negotiator that he was upset about the recent police shootings of two black men and that he wanted to kill white people, especially police officers, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at a news conference this morning.
The suspect, who was killed by police when they detonated a bomb delivered by robot, was identified today as 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson, multiple law enforcement sources told ABC News.
Johnson served as an Army reservist until April 2015. He was trained and served in the Army Reserve as a carpentry and masonry specialist, defense officials said.
The suspect "wanted to kill officers" and "expressed anger for Black Lives Matter," Brown said.
"None of that makes sense," Brown said.

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