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Weekend Plug-in: May 15, 2020

Editor’s note: “Weekend Plug-in,” featuring analysis, insights and top headlines from the world of faith, is produced by Religion Unplugged. 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 […]

Editor’s note: “Weekend Plug-in,” featuring analysis, insights and top headlines from the world of faith, is produced by Religion Unplugged.

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.

 

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

  1. Little Richard: Six examples of how religion played a role in his life

“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.”

 

  1. New Zealand crushed COVID-19: How Māori and Pacific faith groups helped

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.”

 

  1. Two Hispanic churches and too many tears

After 10 years in Latin America, journalist Luis Andres Henao is doing excellent work as part of The Associated Press’ New York-based global religion team.

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.

In another compelling story this week, Henao and AP colleague Jessie Wardarski recount a young priest losing his mentor and his father to COVID-19.

https://twitter.com/sestapleton/status/1260175791184322561

 

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:

 

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.

https://twitter.com/ReligionMag/status/1260949745578672128

 

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.”

 

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.)