Focus Praises NAE's 'Broader Social Agenda'
1. Focus on the Family veep: "We applaud the NAE's decision"
Time magazine is overloaded with good religion stories this week, from its cover story on the Bible in public schools, to Joe Klein's item on "Second Commandment Republicans," to ministry in New Orleans, to the marketing of monk-made liqueur, to the drop in religion web traffic. Hooray for Time.
Newsweek counters with America's top 50 rabbis. But its real scoop might be in its letters pages. Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family's senior vice president for government and public policy, responds to Lisa Miller's recent piece, "Tree Hugger," on the Focus-circulated letter against Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals.
"[A]lthough most in the media failed to note it, the board reiterated its support for a broader social agenda than just the single issue of global warming Cizik has been emphasizing," Minnery wrote. "We applaud that decision. In fact, we assisted the NAE in writing its well-rounded 'Call to Civic Responsibility' two years ago."
Minnery's statement is worth noting precisely because the letter criticizes a broad social agenda. "Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children," the letter states.
Minnery is not the only one saying that it's Cizik, not James Dobson and the other signatories, who are pushing for a narrow or even single-issue agenda. His statement echoes the assertion of The Institute on Religion and Democracy that "the issue that gets more attention than any other is the environmentespecially global warming." It offers a chart of media mentions of the NAE unrelated to the Ted Haggard scandal. "By far the leading issue linked to the NAE was the environment and global warming, with 37 percent of the non-Haggard-scandal mentions," says the IRD's Alan Wisdom. "If this Nexis search is any indication, the NAE certainly has not been caught up in the 'hot button' culture wars issues. Only three percent of the NAE media mentions related to its opposition to same-sex marriage, and less than one percent involved opposition to abortion. Is it possible that the association has come to resemble its old nemesis, the National Council of Churches?"
Uh, or is it possible that there's a phenomenon known as pack journalism, wherein reporters tend to quote each others' sources, follow up on each others' stories, and feed the same narrative? And it's also possible, as George Gerbner postulated, that mass media coverage cultivates attitudes about people that do not correspond to reality. That media outlets keep covering Cizik's environmental views means that reporters find those views interesting. It doesn't mean that Cizik talks about the environment 37 percent of the time. And that reporters seldom quote Cizik on same-sex marriage and abortion may simply mean that they have others in their Rolodexes that they prefer to call on those subjects.
Focus on the Family executives often complain that reporters distort how much effort they devote to politics and give short shrift to all of the organization's efforts in parental advice, counseling, and other areas where it "focuses on the family." It's a bit ironic, then, that Minnery thinks Cizik is Johnny One-Note.
2. Speaking of Dobson
The Focus on the Family founder placed an unsolicited phone call to U.S. News senior editor Dan Gilgoff Tuesday. Gilgoff writes, "It marked Gilgoff's first discussion with Dobson in over two years, since the magazine's political writer began work on The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War, published this month by St. Martin's Press. Dobson had agreed to answer only written questions for the book." Weblog finds it odd that Gilgoff would write about himself in the third person like that, but let's move on.
Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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