Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Murder, Suicide, and the Gospel: the Chicago Tribune covers Christianity

There are certain things that make conservative evangelicals say, "See, I told you there was a liberal media ballance." As a whole, I tend to cringe when I hear this, for several reasons. But a day like, in the Chicago Tribune, makes media coverage of religion a blast to follow. Here's a summary of the front page of the website.

"Minister Dies After Alter Attack" In the category "Religious People Are Crazy," this article leads the list. "A 72-year-old minister died Tuesday, two days after being attacked and choked in front of the altar by a man who called him "the devil," police said." This is coming from Whiteland, IN, where Rev. Bill McElroy of Missionary Baptist was attacked sunday morning while people were arriving for church. How David Cooper will be tried is still being decided as Cooper swore he did not commit murder: ""I choked him until I knew he was not breathing. I couldn't kill a human being. I was killing the devil."

Immediately under this report is "Priest questioned in doublt murder hangs self in church" which fits under the "religious leaders are ultimately evil" or "strict authority masks perversity". Here we have a priest who was known for being a traditionalist (did the mass in latin and encouraged people to go to confession) who cracked down on gum chewing in his congregation. But of course lurking behind every traditional minded priest is a dark side and if it is not sex with kids it is double murder, allegedly. The priest, seemingly avoiding the investigation, hangs himself in the hallway between the church and the rectory.

If this were all there was in the Tribune today than the conservative case would be confirmed, the media is aiming to snuff religion out. But then you turn to an article by Charlie Madigan, the Rambling Gleaner, and his report, "Jesus and the Losers". Although a little heavy on identifying authentic Christianity with having no qualms about homsexual behavior, Madigan summarizes his visit to a church that he thinks gets Christianity right, Epiphany United Church of Christ. Apparently a "in practice" review of the Still Speaking campaign and the amazing new UCC commercial where bouncers are waiting outside a church to turn away anyone that is not white, male, and in a terrible suit. (one second, this commercial should be discussed here. I want all of your thoughts.) Madigan's report, though, is less about the black/latino/gay/lesbian people at Epiphany UCC but instead about the wonderful christmas pagent he saw and the nature of the gospel, asking "What kind of a savior connected to God his father is born in such a humble place and surrounds himself with such humble people (except for the wise guys, of course)? And what kind of a savior turns to fishermen and harlots and tax collectors and other despised underclass types to gather a following?"

Surely a media bias that was out to destroy Christianity would never publish an article that had a better grasp on the truth of the Gospel than Christianity Today or World magazine. But here it is, in plain black and white, at least the beginning of the amazing story of Jesus:
"These days if you need a place to connect with God, as an individual or as a couple, gay, straight, dubious, whatever, maybe that whole old Jesus thing is still going on. Maybe he's still looking for outcasts of every stripe.It's a compelling thought, a religion constructed on a savior's collection of dedicated losers. Troublemakers. Sinners of all kinds. Confused, lost people looking for a warm place in a cold world."
Kudos to the Tribune for publishing the truth of the Gospel. In light of the last article the first two are seen as the perfect confirmation that the church is being faithful, opening itself up to all sorts of losers; the mentally ill who kill their pastor who is now satan, priests who are so focused on doing things right that they botch up the whole thing, homosexuals and the heterosexuals that hate them.
"This is my body, broken for you...."


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