On my primary blog, I recently discussed a New York Times story about President Donald Trump's continued support among the Religious right, especially in rural heartland areas.
Here, I'm going to shift that focus more to the New York Times' coverage of religious issues and how it bigfoots other media and shows some arrogance as part of that.
There's an old joke off the Old Gray Lady's masthead of "All the news that's fit to print," that runs: "It's not news until the New York Times prints it."
And, on the Religious Right's willing, individual-believers wedding with Donald Trump, in a piece a month ago, the Old Gray Lady would have you think so on this issue as well.
"Christianity will have power"? Yes, Trump said it. But, many other sites have done reporting on various angles of individual believers, and not just nameplate pastors like Robert Jeffress, lining up for Trump. So, did the Times really roll the ball forward?
Its top editorial staff would have you think so.
First, two of their marketing Tweets and my responses:
Uhh, no. I don't "need" anyone.Understanding religion requires reading @elizabethjdias, one of the best religion reporters in the business. She spent months on this piece explaining Donald Trump's support among white evangelical Christians and it shows. https://t.co/7VJissul9R— Marc Lacey (@marclacey) August 9, 2020
There you are, Mr. NYT National Editor Marc Lacey.Actually, no, I don't need Elizabeth Dias at all for "understanding religion." I'm an atheist with a graduate divinity degree from a seminary far more rigorous than Religious Right bible colleges, the type of person the Religious Right hates.— Nagasaki 75: Remember the FULL STORY 🚩🌻 (@AFCC_Esq) August 9, 2020
Sorry, but no translator needed, Ms. Deputy National Editor Yang.If you have found yourself baffled by white evangelical support for Trump, this extraordinary piece by @elizabethjdias is for you. This is journalism as translation, requiring literacy in multiple cultures.https://t.co/vxL3VmfNoM— Jia Lynn Yang (@jialynnyang) August 9, 2020
Here you are:
Just what did Dias leave off the table?Nope, not baffled. But?! Elizabeth Dias left stuff on the table, like not delving into the "martyr" mentality held by much of the Religious Right. (It's not quite as deep as Jehovah's Witnesses martyr mentality, but it's deep enough.) https://t.co/qrQLFPYHkq— Nagasaki 75: Remember the FULL STORY 🚩🌻 (@AFCC_Esq) August 9, 2020
First, why Trump instead of Ted Cruz? That speech was in January 2016, before the Iowa caucus vote. On paper, Dominionist Ted Cruz and his Seven Mountains daddy were the ideal candidates for the Religious Right to back. So, why didn't they? Pew notes that, in polling, the most devout among the evangelicals DID tilt Cruz, even though, overall, the Religious Right tilted Trump. Obvious deduction? Lots of these people may be sincere in their belief claims but don't go to church that often!
Related? One other thing Dias left on the table (well, there's yet more, but this covers the basics):
Remember, Trump's speech was in Iowa, January 2016, before the Iowa caucuses.Cliff Notes "Christianity will have power" part 4— Nagasaki 75: Remember the FULL STORY 🚩🌻 (@AFCC_Esq) August 9, 2020
8. One other big issue Elisabeth Dias left on the table is the issue before the Religious Right backing Trump vs. Democrats; it's the 2016 primaries issue of the #ReligiousRight backing Trump vs. other Republicans. 4/x
Did she ask any of the people interviewed whether Trump was their first choice or not? Did she ask about the frequency of their attendance? Or, since this was reported over that long of a period, did she hang out a few Sundays to check for herself?
If you're going to have someone with a graduate religious degree from Princeton work on this story for, I presume, several weeks, and you can't answer that? The story comes off as election-year pandering, in my book. True, you would still want the focus on Trump, but if you can't explain why him, not Cruz, then you can't fully explain "why still him" today, can you?
Second is Dias claiming that this is all new:
The Trump era has revealed the complete fusion of evangelical Christianity and conservative politics, even as white evangelical Christianity continues to decline as a share of the national population.In reality, with data research sites like Pew having written about this for three or four years straight now, the "Rise of the Nones" (which is a broader issue than just the decline of conservative evangelical Xianity, and blogged about me three years ago, as well as last year) is yesterday's news. Indeed, the piece of mine three years ago noted that, by this year, per Pew estimates, "nones" would equal Catholics in the American population.
The problem is not just that the NYT is behind the curve on Nones. It's that a lot of people who might fall into "Nones" territory may not know this if they get much of their religious news from the Times, or from outfits following its lead. This ties to how politicians think their constituents are, overall, even more conservative than is true.
As for the "complete fusion" issue? Forty years ago, the Religious Right backed for president a man who had expanded abortion access while governor of California, who never went to church and who consulted astrologers. (Ronnie turned Nancy on to that, not the other way around.)
In other words, I don't see anything beyond the idea that the politer, mainline Protestant rural versions of the Religious Right were, in their own way, thinking they'd "own the libs" with Trump as president. Per my take on sociology of religion issues within the Religious Right, that's not new to me, either.
Indeed, I mentioned that in my first tweet in a thread after my responses to the editorial marketers.
See, that "bully" part is important. Per "The Rise of the Nones" issues, the Religious Right has been losing power for some time. Rather than sidle up to Hillary Clinton and her conservative DC prayer circle warrior background with The Fellowship, though, because she was pro-choice, and ignoring that Trump long had been so, they backed Trump.Cliff Notes "Christianity will have power"— Nagasaki 75: Remember the FULL STORY 🚩🌻 (@AFCC_Esq) August 9, 2020
1. White #ReligiousRight Xns used to be able to bully America as Trump bullied tenants
2. SCOTUS has #FirstAmendment rulings
2A. America changed
3. So, Rel Right became #snowflakes
4. Trump came as bully-saviorhttps://t.co/HG0FV7gHeL
The bullying? Bullying and shaming people into expression of religious belief in small town America, even in blue states (Galloway vs Town of Greece) was and still is a real thing. Remember, most members of the Religious Right hate atheists even more than gays, and may hate non-Christians, especially Mooslims, almost as much.
Trump has played the faux-martyr role to a T since HUD sued him and his dad 50 years ago for racism in apartment renting. He knows how to play an audience like a cheap fiddle.Cliff Notes "Christianity will have power" part 2— Nagasaki 75: Remember the FULL STORY 🚩🌻 (@AFCC_Esq) August 9, 2020
5. #ReligiousRight has long been hypocrites
5A. Being #snowflakes w/ back-of-hand-to-forehead martyrdom was used 2 justify doubling down on hypocrisy
6. Trump's sense of faux martyrdom was flame 2 moths 2/xhttps://t.co/HG0FV7gHeL
More sociology of religion that was missed.
So, for folks at places like CJR who say the New York Times has no competition? That's kind of the problem. For folks like Jay Rosen who have said in the past that papers shouldn't be competing with one another for angles on the same story? In cases like this, yeah, maybe they should.