FaithWorld

from Tales from the Trail:

Palin’s choice of words raises new questions

RTR2DVXI_Comp-150x150It didn't take long for Sarah Palin to go from an uncompromising response to critics of her campaign rhetoric to new questions about her choice of words.

Not the gun-toting choice of words that had already landed the former Alaska governor in hot water with political opponents who tried to blame her rhetoric for last weekend's melee in Tucson, where a gunman tried to assassinate congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while killing six and wounding 13 others.

This time the questions surround two words that are charged with meaning:  blood libel.

"...especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible," she says of her critics in a message posted on her Facebook page.

USA-SHOOTING/CONGRESSWOMANThe term "blood libel" has an ugly origin. It dates back to the Middle Ages and refers to the false accusation that Jews kidnapped Christian children, killed them and used their blood in religious rituals. Through the centuries, the accusations have been used as an excuse for the persecution and murder of Jews.

from Tales from the Trail:

Sarah Palin, the Bard of Wasilla

USA/PALINWashington's Emma Ashburn had some thoughts today on Sarah Palin's latest literary stylings:

Sarah Palin: former Alaska governor, ex-vice presidential candidate, bard.

The media-savvy Republican introduced a new term over the weekend, using the word "refudiate" on her Twitter feed at SarahPalinUSA when she opined on plans to build a mosque at the site of the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan. Later, she suggested she wasn't doing anything William Shakespeare hadn't done.

Her first tweet on Sunday read:

* Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate

Huckabee wins round one in 2012 Republican race

Former Arkanas Governor and Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee has won the first informal round in what will no doubt be a long race to head the party’s White House ticket in 2012.

The affable Baptist preacher, who won the hearts and minds of conservative evangelicals during his failed 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, topped other possible Republican presidential contenders in a straw poll at a summit of Christian conservative voters in Washington.

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Out of a field of nine, Huckabee garnered the most votes or 28.5 percent. Delegates to the convention were asked: “Thinking ahead to the 2012 presidential election and assuming the nomination of Barack Obama as Democtats’ choice for president, who would you vote for as the Republicans nominee for president?”

from Tales from the Trail:

What does Palin no show at “Values Voter” summit say about her 2012 intentions?

Why is former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin passing on the summit of self-styled conservative Christian "Values Voters" this weekend?

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It's a question worth asking because the annual meeting of "Religious Right" activists has become a "must attend" on the political calendar of any Republican who is serious about running for the party's presidential nomination in the next election cycle.

Former governors Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney  -- frequently mentioned as 2012 heavyweight Republican contenders -- will be there.  So will Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who many pundits see as another possible candidate for a White House run in 2012.

A list of Top 10 lists – “it was the election, stupid”

“Top 10 Stories” lists are a perennial feature,  especially in the United States (which explains a lot of the picks below). Now that they’re all out there, I took a quick look at the “Top 10 Religion Stories 2008″ lists to see if any pattern emerged. Of course one did: “It was the election, stupid.” Even a website dedicated to pagan news found a “pagans and politics” angle to top its list.

The Religion Newswriters Association, which polls member religion reporters, has been drawing up such lists for about 30 years. Election-related stories swept the top three slots last year. They did the same in 2004 as well, but the election shared the top spot back then with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ movie. The election-dominated lists show some divergences, but the most interesting compilations were the more specialised ones down in the second list below.

Here’s a quick list of the Top 10 lists, first those dominated by the U.S. election and then others I actually found more interesting:

Pew report looks at media coverage of faith in U.S. election

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and its sister organization The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have just released a study on the media coverage of religion in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. A summary of the findings with links to the whole report can be found here.

“Religion played a much more significant role in the media coverage of President-elect Barack Obama than it did in the press treatment of Republican nominee John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign, but much of the coverage related to false yet persistent rumors that Obama is a Muslim,” Pew said.

It added that there was scant scrutiny of the role of personal faith in the shaping of the candidates’ political values with the exception of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

WashPost column: “Armband religion killing Republican Party”

Has religion turned into a vote loser in U.S. elections? In covering the U.S. presidential campaign, most analysts took religion as an important vote-getting factor and asked which candidate was appealing most to which religious group. Much was made about how the Democrats were more comfortable with “Godtalk” on the trail.

Now Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker has asked whether religion has turned into a serious vote loser for the more faith-friendly party, the Republicans:

“The evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh. Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party … the GOP has surrendered its high ground to its lowest brows. In the process, the party has alienated its non-base constituents, including other people of faith (those who prefer a more private approach to worship), as well as secularists and conservative-leaning Democrats who otherwise might be tempted to cross the aisle.”

“Religulous” — a film call to atheist arms

Maher and director Larry Charles pose during Toronto International Film Festival, 7 Sept 2008/Mark BlinchComedian and talk-show host Bill Maher has issued the latest “call to atheist arms” in his recently released documentary “Religulous.”

He wants his fellow non-believers and doubters to “come out of the closet” to counter what he views as religion’s dangerous influence on the world. To do so, he preaches to the converted in “Religulous”, a scathing documentary that skewers Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The film is part of the “neo-atheist” backlash to the rising influence of religion in public life, following a path recently blazed by a trio of best-selling books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Dawkins, a renowned Oxford biologist, has also presented a documentary critical of religion called “Root of all Evil?” on British television.

Has the faith factor fizzled in the U.S. campaign?

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin after vice presidential debate, 3 Oct 2008/Carlos BarriaAfter the 2004 election, the buzz was that religion was a key factor in U.S. election campaigns. It’s come up this year with Barack Obama’s “pastor problem,” speculation about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal church and several other points. So I thought it was worth getting up in the middle of the night (cable TV had it from 3 a.m. here in Paris) to see what if any role religion played in her debate with Joe Biden.

From that narrow point of view, I could have stayed in bed.

The only interesting point on any of the usually divisive “culture war” issues was the way Palin agreed with Biden that gay and lesbian couples should not be denied legal benefits granted to married heterosexual couples. “No one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties,” she said. Neither supported gay marriage, but that was their stated position already.

With the financial crisis dominating the news these days, there was little chance that these issues would take up much time in the debate. But the fact that Palin didn’t use the wedge issue when it arose was interesting. According to a new study by Beliefnet “moral issues are dramatically less important this year than in previous years – even among the most religiously observant voters.”