October 2015: GetReligion


Same-sex wedding cake wars draw more headlines — and more RNS snark. Published Oct. 1.

‘Are you a Christian?’: Grading media coverage of faithful after Oregon mass shooting. Published Oct. 5.

Say what!? Associated Press quotes a gay-rights activist, calls him a Baptist minister. Published Oct. 6.

From faith and forgiveness to a furor over finances at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Published Oct. 7.

In coverage of evangelical conference on homosexuality, why’s it all about the protesters? Published Oct. 8.

The long road from Baghdad


The long road from Baghdad (reporting from Dearborn, Mich.): Wissam Al-Aethawi endeavors to take the Gospel to the epicenter of Arab life in America. 

DEARBORN, Mich. — In the heart of this Detroit suburb, Muslim women who wear hijabs to cover their heads abound.

Signs for Middle Eastern restaurants, halal meat markets and even national chain stores such as Walgreens appear in Arabic and English.

Cedar trees — the national symbol of Lebanon — line the streets.

A century after Henry Ford recruited thousands of Lebanese, Yemeni and other immigrants to work in the auto industry, this Michigan community boasts the largest concentration of people of Arab origin outside the Middle East. They comprise roughly 40,000 of Dearborn’s total population of 100,000.

“I call it the Arab Chinatown,” Christian missionary Wissam Al-Aethawi, 36, says as he drives along Warren Avenue, the city’s business and cultural hub.

Al-Aethawi, a one-time Iraqi soldier and engineer, believes God led him here — to the epicenter of Arab life in America and the home of the largest mosque in North America — to share the hope he found in Jesus.

This former Muslim’s dream: to establish an Arabic-speaking Church of Christ in Dearborn.

This story appears in the October 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Why Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris was baptized in his baseball uniform

Why Detroit Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris was baptized in his baseball uniform (reporting from Detroit): One of the major leagues’ top young prospects, Norris seeks to give all the glory to God.

DETROIT — The 16-year-old pitching phenom stepped into the baptistery wearing his high school baseball uniform.

Fresh dirt stains splotched his white uniform pants as Daniel Norris crept barefoot into the water to confess his faith in Jesus Christ and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins.

The hard-throwing lefty’s brother-in-law put his hand on Norris’ shoulder — just above the bright red No. 18 on his dark jersey top — and reflected on the significance of the choice.

“This is something that Daniel has been thinking about, and a lot of people have been praying about, for a long time,” Tim Haywood told a small group of family and friends at the Central Church of Christ, Norris’ home congregation in the East Tennessee mountain community of Johnson City. “In just a few moments, he’s not just going to be my brother-in-law anymore, but he’s going to be my brother.”

Norris, now 22 and a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, made the decision to be baptized after a regional tournament win for his hometown Science Hill High School, where he also starred in football and basketball.

Related column: Take me out to the ballgame

These stories appear in the October 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

September 2015: GetReligion


Wait, did Pope Francis just change Catholic doctrine on abortion? Or did he simply tell people to go to confession? Published Sept. 1.

God vs. god: In reporting on religion, sometimes a typo really is just a typo. Published Sept. 2.

For Boston Globe, a crazy question concerning New Hampshire and John Kasich’s faith. Published Sept. 3.

Veteran New York Times religion writer declares: ‘This work is getting harder.’ Published Sept. 8.

From Jennifer Berry Hawes, another powerful story with strong religion content on Emanuel AME. Published Sept. 9.

Ben Carson takes on Donald Trump’s faith, and CNN commits three sins against journalist’s bible. Published Sept. 10.

A newsman’s faith: David Gregory opens up about his spiritual journey. Published Sept. 11.

Religious liberty advocates split on Kentucky clerk’s stance? Yes, Associated Press reports. Published Sept. 14.

Las Vegas churches love coffee, except for maybe – hmmmm – can you think of anybody? Published Sept. 15.

About UFOs, Trump and that poll showing lots of Americans still believe Obama is a Muslim. Published Sept. 16.

From Washington Post story on #IStandWithAhmed, three words that don’t belong in a news story. Published Sept. 17.

Listen! Eric Metaxas gives GetReligion a shoutout in interview of David Gregory. Published Sept. 21.

Revisiting ESPN’s Man in the Van: Why was this pitcher baptized in his baseball uniform? Published Sept. 22.

Reporter does it all: gushes over Francis, receives blessing, covers papal trip for CNN. Published Sept. 23.

Popemania: How much coverage of Francis’ visit to U.S. is too much? Published Sept. 24.

Popemania, the Sequel: Have we reached overload on coverage of Francis’ visit to U.S.? Published Sept. 25.

Huh!? Aboard papal plane, Francis backs Kim Davis, disputes notion of Catholic divorce? Published Sept. 28.

Bible-thumping playboy: Associated Press explores faith, contradictions of Donald Trump. Published Sept. 29.

‘Whoa, that’s a scoop’: About that surprising news that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis. Published Sept. 30.

We’re famous! My son and I end up on TV as Rangers sweep Astros

Keaton and I are famous! (Thanks for the pic, Doug Peters!) #Rangers #NeverEverQuit

A photo posted by Bobby Ross Jr. (@bobbyrossjr) on

• • •

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

• • •

By Bobby Ross Jr.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Hey, that’s me!

And my son Keaton!

We ended up on Fox Sports Southwest on Wednesday night, cheering wildly as the Rangers walloped the Astros, 14-3 — part of a four-game sweep that propelled Texas to a 2.5-game lead in the American League West.

A few more pictures from a fun night of September baseball:

Continue reading “We’re famous! My son and I end up on TV as Rangers sweep Astros”

Boy Scouts’ gay-friendly policies draw mixed responses


Boy Scouts’ gay-friendly policies draw mixed responses (reporting from Piedmont, Okla.): Some Churches of Christ maintain ties with BSA, while others align with a new national scouting organization. 

PIEDMONT, Okla. — Ken Richter loved the Boy Scout life.

Starting as a 7-year-old Cub Scout, Richter embraced the outdoor adventure, the leadership training and the character development.

“I loved to go camping and canoeing, and I made a lot of friends,” said Richter, now 46 and minister for the Soldier Creek Church of Christ in this suburb of 6,500, about 25 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

Later, his son, Caleb Richter, now a student at Oklahoma Christian University, advanced through Boy Scouts and earned an Eagle Scout award. Throughout his son’s time in Scouting, Ken Richter served in adult leadership roles.

But now, the preacher oversees Troop 24:7 of Trail Life USA.

That alternative national organization formed in 2013 after the Boy Scouts of America changed its youth membership policy to state that no youth may be denied membership based on sexual orientation.

This story appears in the October 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, survivors keep counting blessings


‘God allowed us to make it through’ (reporting from New Orleans): At the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Christians who survived keep counting their blessings.

NEW ORLEANS — Ten years after Hurricane Katrina waged war on the Gulf Coast, Christians in hard-hit New Orleans are looking back — and ahead.

Frank J. Harden, an elder of the Louisa Street Church of Christ, recalls fleeing 260 miles west to Beaumont, Texas, as the “storm of the century” raged toward the Crescent City.

“The Lord was with us, trust me,” Harden said. “I mean, every move we made was the right move.”

In the Lone Star State, the Harden family — Frank, wife Annastasia and daughters Jennifer and Frankie, then 13 and 11 — found fellow Christians willing and eager to help them and other Louisa Street members.

“All of the Churches of Christ got together to help us,” Harden said, specifically mentioning Beaumont’s Ridgewood, South Park and Westgate congregations. “Oh, man, they really, really, really took care of us. I mean, we didn’t want for anything.”

Flooding during Katrina claimed the home of Yolanda White, then a member of the Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ.

White and her family escaped to Grand Prairie, Texas, where they showed up the Sunday after the storm at the Freetown Road Church of Christ.

Related column: The vivid faces of Hurricane Katrina.

These stories appear in the September 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In the heat of the pennant race, it’s nice to be back ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’

• • •

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

• • •

By Bobby Ross Jr.

ARLINGTON, Texas — If you’re a regular reader of my MLB ballparks blog (I love you, Mom!), you know how much I enjoyed my first-ever visit to Detroit’s Comerica Park last weekend.

But Friday night, my Rangers were back home at Globe Life Park in Arlington — and my sons Brady and Keaton and I made a quick trip down from Oklahoma City to see the game.

We had great seats along the first-base line and got to see a masterful pitching performance —  just one run and two hits allowed over eight innings by new Texas ace Cole Hamels — as the Rangers defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1.

The Rangers maintained a half-game lead over the Minnesota Twins for the AL’s second wild card and moved within four games of the Houston Astros in the AL West.

A few pictures from the game:

Continue reading “In the heat of the pennant race, it’s nice to be back ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’”

Online wars over doctrine spark concern


Online wars over doctrine spark concern (reporting from New Orleans): Amid heated talk on social media, two-day symposium brings together leaders for face-to-face dialogue. 

NEW ORLEANS — And they’ll know we are Christians by our … vitriol on Facebook?

Scriptural and responsible use of the Internet was a key point of discussion as more than 100 ministers and church leaders gathered for the recent “We Be Brethren Symposium.”

Organizers described the two-day event — hosted by the Elysian Fields Church of Christ in the heart of the Big Easy — as an effort to foster unity and face-to-face dialogue on doctrinal issues sparking heated debate online.

“All of us can become victims of Facebook bullying,” said Herman Wesley III, minister for the NorthPointe Church of Christ in Montgomery, Ala. “Facebook is not the proper forum to expose people’s sins, and Facebook is not the proper forum to correct people’s sins.”

Tim Anderson, minister for the Southside Church of Christ in Montgomery, said younger Christians wonder, “How is this the church that Jesus died for when we kill each other on social media?”

This story appears in the September 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Rangers and Tigers and baseball, oh my! Joyfully checking Comerica Park off my bucket list

Not a bad view of today's #Rangers-#Tigers game.

A photo posted by Bobby Ross Jr. (@bobbyrossjr) on

• • •

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

• • •

By Bobby Ross Jr.

DETROIT — Comerica Park did not disappoint.

On a reporting trip to the Motor City — timed to coincide with my beloved Texas Rangers playing the Detroit Tigers in a four-game series — I was able to see three games.

Comerica — No. 3 on my bucket list of ballparks I had yet to experience — definitely lived up to the rave reviews of diehard Tigers fans such as my friend Ron Hadfield.

The tiger statues out front, the postcard-perfect downtown skyline beyond the outfield walls, the raucous fans totally committed to (and occasionally, totally frustrated with) the hometown heroes with the Old English “D” on their caps — all of these things add to the ambience of this 15-year-old baseball shrine.

Continue reading “Rangers and Tigers and baseball, oh my! Joyfully checking Comerica Park off my bucket list”