Like so many of her devoted readers, I miss the stellar journalism of Rachel Zoll, longtime national religion writer for The Associated Press.
But I have positive news to report about Zoll, who was diagnosed with brain cancer more than two years ago.
An MRI last week “showed no evidence of new tumor growth once again,” said Cheryl Zoll, Rachel’s sister.
Rachel has glioblastoma, or GBM, the aggressive and deadly cancer that claimed the life of Sen. John McCain in 2018.
Congratulations to my friend Rachel Zoll @rzollAP who received a Special Recognition Award at the Religion News Association Awards Dinner #RNA2018 for her years of thoughtful and intelligent reporting on religion. She is one of the finest journalists (and people) I know. pic.twitter.com/SeHA6JPpxr
— James Martin, SJ (@JamesMartinSJ) September 16, 2018
The Religion News Association honored Rachel with a Special Recognition Award at its 2018 annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. That same year, AP recognized her as one of the winners of the Oliver S. Gramling Awards, the global news service’s highest internal honor.
The reporter’s doctor indicated that in 90 percent of cases, “patients would be showing progressive disease by now,” her sister said.
“While we could, of course, see new growth at any time, Rachel has officially graduated into the class of people who are outliers with respect to survival,” said Cheryl, with whom Rachel is staying in Amherst, Massachusetts. “We’ll take all the time we can get!”
Like many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachel has been confined to walking around the neighborhood the last few months. But she has enjoyed receiving calls and notes from friends such as Richard Ostling, with whom Rachel worked on AP’s national religion team for years.
Power Up: The Week’s Best Reads
“Little Richard — the musician known for singing, shouting and flamboyant showmanship — was more than a little religious at times during his life,” writes Religion News Service’s Adelle M. Banks.
In the wake of the singer’s May 9 death at age 87, Banks offers a fascinating portrait of his complicated faith.
Not religion related but still interesting: The Tennessean’s obituary of Little Richard noted that although “he rarely made public appearances, locals would spot him on occasion — frequently in the drive-thrus of Wendy’s and other fast food restaurants on West End Avenue, where he’d give a friendly wave to fans.”
“Little Richard was a pioneer of rock and roll who was steeped in gospel and unashamedly borrowed from it,” one expert wrote. My @RNS story about the man known for singing, shouting and showmanship: https://t.co/fe0GcBW8X1
— Adelle Banks (@AMBankstw) May 11, 2020
Serena Solomon reports from Auckland, New Zealand, on how that nation “has so far deflected a COVID-19 crisis.”
“A key to that result has been the diligent work of New Zealand’s Māori and the Pacific Islander population who have at times been ahead of the government’s internationally praised COVID-19 response,” Solomon writes for Religion Unplugged. “Church leaders in these communities, like (Rawiri) Waititi, have been a powerful voice in calling their people to respond seriously to COVID-19 while generously caring for their vulnerable members.”
— Michael Field (@MichaelFieldNZ) May 12, 2020
Henao collaborated with longtime AP national writer David Crary to report on two grieving Hispanic congregations — one a Catholic church in Queens and the other a Lutheran church in Manhattan. Between them, the churches have lost more than 100 members to the coronavirus.
More top reads: A biblical mystery at Oxford, Ariel Sabar, The Atlantic … Small churches are in particularly big trouble right now, Ruth Graham, Slate … Wrongfully imprisoned for decades, Jimmie Gardner is driven by faith and justice, Aysha Khan, Religion News Service … Clergy confidentiality at issue in Amish bishop’s case, Peter Smith, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette … Gearing up for big ‘culture war’ cases at U.S. Supreme Court, Richard Ostling, GetReligion … When is a Bible translation not a Bible translation?, Warren Cole Smith, MinistryWatch … Church gives away $125,000 to help cope with coronavirus, Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald … In inner-city black churches, more grief, fewer resources, stronger faith, Kate Shellnutt, Christianity Today … The pro-Trump conspiracy that’s becoming a religion, Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic … From flannelgraphs to Zoom, churches bring Sunday school home, Emily McFarlan Miller, RNS … Supreme Court returns to a complicated question: Which religious workers count as ministers?, Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News … Catholic bishop suspends priest and issues trespass order over blog about clergy sex abuse, Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post.
Inside The Godbeat: Behind The Bylines
I couldn’t help but chuckle at this tweet from Liam Stack, Metropolitan religion writer for the New York Times:
A friend to me on my job/the pandemic: “It must be so nice as a religion reporter right now to know out of all your forebears, you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to experience the end times live.”
— Liam Stack (@liamstack) May 10, 2020
Regular Weekend Plug-in readers may recall that the possibility of the apocalypse made the front page of the New York Times last month (via national religion writer Elizabeth Dias). The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey earlier reported: “This is not the end of the world, according to Christians who study the end of the world.”
Charging Station: In Case You Missed It
Here is where you can catch up on recent news and opinions from Religion Unplugged.
- Anti-Semitic incidents hit an all-time high last year, ADL report says (by Micah Danney)
- Examining the role of Catholic priests in the 2020 presidential race (by Clemente Lisi)
- British tabs use clickbait stories to intensify papal feud (by Clemente Lisi)
- How many nuns does it take to give women contraceptives? Precisely ‘none!’ (by Chelsea Langston Bombino)
- Israel launches investigation into evangelical TV channel (by Gil Zohar)
- New research says religion can prevent COVID-19 ‘deaths of despair’ (by Micah Danney)
- African churches prepare for their next plague (by Erik Tryggestad)
- Inside the $100 million Russian church meant to honor Putin, Stalin and war (by Alexei Lidov)
- Modi government accused of ‘witch hunt’ against Muslim activists (by Avinash Giri)
- Liberty University makes cuts amid falling enrollment (by Warren Cole Smith)
- 2020 election will drive even more propaganda about religion (by Richard Ostling)
- Delivering sacraments in quarantine is forbidden for some, creative for others (by Terry Mattingly)
The Final Plug
Tired of friends and relatives falling victim to conspiracy theories?
Perhaps share this link with them: ProPublica’s Marshall Allen presents a helpful checklist “to tell the difference between fair reporting and something so biased it should not be taken seriously.”
— Mindy Belz (@mcbelz) May 13, 2020
For example, Allen suggests asking if the presentation is one-sided. He refers to his faith in making his point:
There’s never just one side to a story. I mentioned this point in 2018 when I wrote about my faith and the biblical basis for investigative reporting. One of my favorite Proverbs says, “The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.” So a fair presentation should at least acknowledge opposing points of view.
Amen. Amen. Amen. By all means, click the link.
(Bobby Ross Jr. is a columnist for Religion Unplugged and editor in chief of The Christian Chronicle. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)