Faith & Family?

I was a bit turned off when I read the Herald-Sun's recent announcement that they would introduce a Faith and Family section to the paper. This smacked of the familiar right-wing conflation that would twist social relations to conform to some conservative religious viewpoint.

Based on today's debut of the section, it turns out to not be so bad. They've wrapped the religion pages around a page with a couple of secular articles on family matters (including a topic big in my household: kindergarten).

There was a bit of a tease presented in the form of a photo of two women embracing, looking as if they might be about to kiss. No it wasn't for an article on girl-on-girl faith&family fun. It was for a discussion of trends in baby showers.

Still, the section's title does not have the inclusive sensibility that I would look for in our local paper. It is offensive to those whose families follow the faith-free path.



When will a newspaper introduce a special weekly "Environment" section?

The mere title of the section "Faith and Family" is "offensive" to secularists? Mercy, they must be even more thin-skinned than the "religious right" who are constantly derided as "prudes"...Is the "Auto" section of the newspaper offensive to those who don't own cars?

I don't consider myself to be a very religious person (if at all) and yet I find myself rooting for the "Religious Right" and this article by Dan is just one more reason that I'm doing so. The self-righteous close-minded contempt displayed by the opponents of the Religious Right is very off-putting. Can't you disagree with religious conservatives like issues such as abortion, school prayer gay rights and still see that the "religious right" have a reason to feel disenfranchised? Court decisions ranging from the plausible to the ludicrous have declared the policies of the secular left the law of the land. The hysterical prattle about an impending "theocracy" is so naive that it boggles the mind. The religious right is united on articles of morality and politics but divided on matters of faith. To think that they could ever come together to impose a "theocracy" is a hoot. Also, the Religious Right is not simply composed of evangelical Christians but also of orthodox Jews, conservative Muslims, etc. The movement is the embodiment of the religious pluralism that makes this county great--that's also what gives the movement its stength.

Now, for those of you who are "offended" by the Faith and Family section, I suggest you use that section to line the bird cage or wrap the fish with.

I would have called it ‘Spirituality and Connection'.
While I'm here, let me commend NANDO for its improved daily Orange County coverage. Between the HS's apparent elimination of my driveway as a ‘random' biweekly drop-off destination and new and improved NANDO coverage of Orange County, I'm starting to feel comfortable skipping the online HS. Perhaps ‘Faith and Family' was chosen because the HS is going for a different readership.

Context is everything. 25 years ago you could have called it faith&family and most would have seen it as two distinct sections, kind of like Dear Abby appearing right under Garfield (hmmm). Today, there is a political movement to associate a certain type of faith with a certain definition of family and to mainstream that association. The Herald editors are surely aware of this and that understanding must have informed their decision which was announced with enthusiasm last Sunday.

To the best of my knowledge, this is not a Christian newspaper but one intended for a diverse audience. Therefore, it is appropriate and necessary to critique editorial decisions that, at least by implication, have political overtones.

The News and Observer has long had a weekly section on Religion mostly features by Yonat Shimron. As I look to find that section on the News and Observer site tho, I see that Shimron's good reporting and explaining of things dealing with religion have moved to general news. I'm not sure that a separate Religion section still exists in Lifestyles by looking at the website. I do know that we are getting more and more good reporting of religion in the Triangle still -- more perhaps news than features.
Back to the Features on Religion in Lifestyles, Shimron and others used that section to explain the various religions practices in the Triangle to the News and Observer readers which given the broad changes in our local populations, was a very good idea.
Many of the religions and practices explained were non-Christian and non-mainstream, but certainly not all.

When the Chapel Hill Town Council had the public meeting on their decision to support gay marriage (or prevent legislation that would ban it), some of the most moving statements I heard were those from our local faith community. Those individuals felt their belief in inclusion and support for loving families of all configurations was being negatively represented by the vocal religious right advocates. They spoke up to present the community with a different view of faith and religion. Faith doesn't have to mean religious and it definitely doesn't have to mean religious zealotry. I hope the new column addresses the concept of faith in its broadest and most inclusive sense.

Can't we find more significant things to choose to be offended by?

I, for one, refuse to allow the word "faith" to be co-opted by the religious right. Yeesh.

Melanie/choosing NOT to be offended

Meant to add--Mark makes a good point.

I'm with Melanie, and as a denizen of the MSM and a former religion writer, I'd be stunned if Dan's speculation regarding the HS editors' decision turned out to be true. That's giving them credit for doing way more thinking than usually goes into decisions of this type. I'm betting alliteration was a much bigger factor than political overtones.

That said, my view on the likelihood of a U.S. theocracy is nowhere near as sanguine as Bill Oliver's.

And is ANYONE truly "faith free?" Perhaps RELIGION free--but don't we all have faith in SOMETHING? Goodness, I hope so. What a dreary existence otherwise.


Bill--The religious right includes Jews the same way the Republicans include African Americans. There's a rabbi they pull out on stage frequently, but the actual impact within the Jewish community, including the orthodox, is virtually non-existent. As for Muslims--there's a lot of anti-Muslim bigotry in this country, including among liberals, but the conservative Christians take the cake. Fish around among church websites and you can find voluminous amounts of sermons about the 'evil' religion of Islam, and its God, who allegedly demands the faithful kill in his name. There's a fraction of the Jewish and Muslim community that can get worked up about gay marriage, and maybe wants to feed at the government trough of 'faith based initiatives'; but there is not by a long shot a multifaith religious right. The conservative Christians are much too antisemitic (see Mel Gibson, and more recently William Donoghue) and anti-Muslim for that to happen.

Mary - What is NANDO?

Melanie -- your comment is deeply offensive. Our existence is not dreary if we do not have faith. My life is full and joyous for NOT having faith in things that cannot be proven.

I am a practitioner of reason and logic. I am comfortable not having all the answers. I am not frightened by not knowing or, as the great physicist Richard Feynman put it, "being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose."

Let me also note that I find the name of this new section to be offensive as well. There should be no implication that there is a connection between faith and family. That makes it appear that the only valid family is one of faith. Not true. The N&O's religion section, which I read weekly, does not make this false and unneccesary connection.

We must be wary, constantly, of the actions of the religious majority, less we have a tyranny in this country.

Jesse, NANDO is an abbreviation for News AND Observer dating back to their early web presence,

Debra, thank you and amen. ;-)

Melanie, "faith" implies belief in something that cannot be proven. I don't at all believe that this kind of faith is a requirement in life, although it plays an important role in comforting and even supporting believers.

For example, in the religion that I follow, the Buddha always cautioned followers not to believe the words of gurus, teachers, elders, or scriptures. Only upon testing the ideas and finding them to be true yourself should you accept and follow them. "...a disciple should examine even the [Buddha] himself, so that he might be fully convinced of the true value of the teacher whom he followed."

And, one might wonder: how often are the faith-based activities of the "faithful" motivated by habit, compulsion, or fear rather than by faith itself.

I read elsewhere that Dan did not believe himself to be a sensitive soul. Being offended by a religion section in the paper qualifies as sensitive in my book. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Papers love to categorize the world they purport to cover, finding a little slot into which each story will fit. Categories and trends seems to be a major focus. It's one of the shallower aspects of journalism, in my opinion.

I suppose they could have given us a four page section on faith and a four page section on family. Very likely, they see these subjects as inter-related. Combining them makes them cheaper to publish. Debra makes a good case for their separation. All conspiracy theories remain unproven.

But is all this offense justified? Can't people have their beliefs or lack thereof without others feeling harmed? Does the expression of a differing opinion equal an attack?

Faith (from Latin fidere, to trust) in in the natural order/ in that the sun will rise implies trust of whatever an individual holds to be important in life. Certainly many people use it as a synonym for their religious beliefs, but many words have multiple meanings and the context of use SHOULD give a hint as to the speakers intent. Melanie was clearly using the word, as myself and many others do, in the broadest sense of the word.

Ed, the problem is not one of beliefs or of differing opinion. The problem is the implication that family is a matter of religious faith. It is not except for those whose religious faith insists that it is. The association would not be a problem in a religious publication.

How about if the Herald unthinkingly (as Lex would have it) conjoined "Business and Crime" into a single section title? I doubt that would last for long.

Terri, I find it interesting that embedded in your response you mention "faith that the sun will rise tomorrow". As we know, we'll have sunsight and sunclipse tomorrow.

The belief that the sun "rises" is embedded in our psyches because of a historical religious "faith" diktat that it must be so, a "faith" so strong that contrary to our modern understanding we haven't disabused our culture of the strange notion. In spite of our rational understanding of the post-Copernican celestial dynamics, many "faithfully" cling to the wrong meme. Thus the strange, awesome and dangerous (?) power of "faith".

In these days of disingenous "framing" - increased pollution is cleaner skies, etc. - I can understand Dan's concern about another media outlet lazily falling prey to a falsely "framed" equivalence - that of "faith" equals family (and not all families, as you might've noted by the slant towards "nuclear option" familes in the Herald's pages).

Faith in science? Oxymoronic. Facts, not faith.

Words are continually being hijacked by the power-mongers with the willing assistance of legions of pinheads. It is a dangerous practice and it's a shame that journalists in general don't have the gumption to defend the truth of words during these times of sloppy low-grade fascism.

The fact is that most people who would define themselves as "people of faith" don't have faith in themselves, human compassion, creativity, tolerance, nature, or the universe in general. So they wrap themselves in a dumbed-down dogma that not only allows them to function in a complicated world, but leaves them vulnerable to manipulation.

So when we play along with the contemporary pop notion of faith, we are enabling these poor unfortunate dimwits to be harnessed by amoral power-junkies as they screw up the human experiment in conscious evolution.

That's why I think we need to beware of language pollution and hold the media to some modertate standards.

So you want to take something away from those of us who have an inclusive 'frame' for faith because it's taken on a negative connotation? That's as offensive to me as the Patriot Act and all the other protective rhetoric that came out of 9/11. The way you fight terrorists is to go about your daily life and not be terrorized. The way you fight zealotry is to maintain your own values and morals rather than bending to their rhetoric. Should we quit using the word environmentalist now that the faith community has taken it on? Should we divorce ourselves from the concept of evolution since it is embedded in intelligent design? Or maybe we should stop using the word family because the religious right interprets that to mean one adult male and one adult female bound together through some type of ceremony and one or more children? By letting others change your language and your beliefs, you lose personally and society loses. You can change or bend out of response to the religious right if you want, but I refuse.

As an aside--scientific facts change all the time. We learn and facts change. I believe that scientific methods will generally add to our knowledge base; in other words, I have faith in science.


Sorry to have offended you deeply.

Yeah, I think lacking faith in people we love is a pretty bleak existence. I have FAITH that in times of trouble my friends, family, and co-workers would help me.

Richard Feynman said "I think I can safely say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics." Can you use facts to PROVE the theory of Quantum Mechanics to me? I know a number of Physics folk ( I live with two) who have FAITH that the equations work...though they are willing to look at other theories if they explain the math better.

Melanie/willing to argue semantics until the cows come home

And I may be using the wrong terminology/phrasing to describe the physics stuff. I'm an English nerd with a physics/EE husband and A son majoring in physics...and both are unavailable for fact checking.


Better they should set up a new section of the Paxton-$un than allow the right-wing to infiltrate the entire paper. Pardon my paranoia, but I'm watching closely this week. If we lose this one, the bad guys are going to put a whack-o on the Supreme Court, stripping away not only Roe v. Wade, but also going after birth control in general. Without a filibuster, there's absolutely nothing to stop them.

It just gives me chills that the H-S starts this new section right at the same time as these knucklehead protesters are showing up from Kansas with their "God Hates Fags" signs. Did they arrive in a spinning house?

Correction: Watching closely the filibuster fight this week. Please see also


First of all, you ARE going to lose the filibuster battle--1. because the Dems are losing their grip on the their 40 votes. Many of them realize that they face the same fate as Daschle--unemployment. 2. If they can keep the 40 votes, then the Republicans will change the rules.

Second of all, I don't think you have much understanding of how conservative judges judge. They look at the law--the written word--and apply it to the case they are reviewing. Unlike activist judges, they don't look at the law and divine new, hidden rights where no right was before. So now that Roe is law, as much as a conservative judge may hate it, they won't strike it down. The changes that conservative judges will bring will be applied to future cases but they will not revisit old laws and strike down all the ones they don't like.

Melanie, faith is the belief in something with no proof. Faith in people, especially those you know, is not faith because you have proof that they will help you in times of need.

As for your Feynman quote, I believe Richard was being the raconteur he was.


Feynman WAS a well known racontuer--but that quote is from his lectures to undergrad Physics majors at Cal Tech--and from my readings of his work (and I will fully admit I DO NOT get the math)I think he was sincere. Some things in QM CANNOT be proven with empirical evidence today...and are matters of FAITH in the world of physics.

I am still unwilling to cede the word "faith" to religion (of whatever flavor)alone. And I wonder if you've looked the word up in a dictionary recently?

Here is what American Heritage says the FIRST definition of faith is:

NOUN: 1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. 2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See synonyms at belief. , trust. 3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters. 4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will. 5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith. 6. A set of principles or beliefs.

Please note the FIRST definition.


I prefer a lifetime of experience and knowledge to the dictionary. But thanks anyway.

I've always preferred Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary:

Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

I actually do appreciate very much that the current court has kept its hands off of Roe for that very reason -- conservatism (stare decisis), but I also realize that the fact that a decision has stood for a long time doesn't mean it's right or irreversible. Seems to me that the court sat quietly after Dred Scott, but finally reversed itself a looooong time later.

If the court is populated with ideologues (from either extreme), activism in the name of the cause will be called justified. With absolutely no avenue for appeal, the stakes couldn't be higher.

Debra and Dan CLEARLY agree with Humpty Dumpty:
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.' -- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

Clang Clang MOOOOO!

(That was the cows coming home--for those who couldn't figure it out...)

It's interesting to compare this thread to the one on MLK Blvd name change. In one case we have a privite sector paper giving a little space to religion. Perhaps good bussiness; perhaps bad; but still thier bussiness. Many observers have some kind of problem with it. At the MLK event, three of the four music acts were christian. Some of the speakers were clergy and I could have sworn I heard prayer. Oh yeah, the government set it up. I never heard anyone complain. Perhaps the problem is the Republican God Vs. the Democratic one. Perhaps we hate the God of the white people but love the black peoples God. I can't tell just where Dan Coleman stands on the Islamic God but I'll bet he's troubled with Christians who hate Allah.

When I get to the sports section of the H-S I pass over it. I don't care for PGA, LPGA, or NBA. Just becouse I don't care doesn't mean it shouldn't be in the paper. Here in the bible belt, religion is a big deal to many people. Not to me, but to many I don't get all bent out of shape when Christians come out of the closet. As long as they don't want to push me into it.


Did you happen to read "The New Yorker" article recently on Antonin Scalia? I don't know if his detractors consider him an idealogue or not but Scalia considers himself a strict constructionist (he used a different phrase but I can't recall it at the moemnt) and frequently speaks out against "idealogue judges". As a result, he often makes rulings that are very much at odds with conservative views. One that he made reference to is anything having to do with laws making it a crime to burn the flag, etc. He always rejects those things out of hand. Worth checking out if you can find it.

Clark, a wonderful post! I applaud you!

How come there is no Faith and Finance section? Or Faith and Foreign Policy? Faith and Family is no accident due to alliteration. I'd take "Faith", or mainstream religion more seriously if it didn't seem to always co-exist in one small area of our collective lives but not in any other.

Clark - no one here has objected to the Herald printing a section on religion or to the concept of god appearing in said section., you might want to sit down for this one, but the Christian God and the Islamic Allah is one in the very exact same diety. Both religions spring from Judaism. It's the different official messages of their respective profit/messengers--and moreover, humanity's infernal desire to choose up teams--that causes all the problems. But don't hate God/Allah because we can't agree on the flavor.

But your point about the mixing of God and government at the MLK dedication is very interesting. That should have made the faith-free in attendance and reading this blog most uncomfortable, if not mortally offended. More so than some little newspaper section from a privately owned business, exercising their freedom of press.


Haha...make that prophet/messengers. Freudian slip? I hope not. I think I liked it better when we got an email. It gave me a chance to proofread.

I haven't seen the piece on Scalia ... will look for it.
The Herald-Sun, by the way, has had a section on religion for a long time, so the new section is not all that radical, right?


Was this question for me or the crowd in general?

"The Herald-Sun, by the way, has had a section on religion for a long time, so the new section is not all that radical, right?"

I don't read the HS so I can't personally speak to the radicalness of its content. However, I think every local or semi-local newspaper that i've ever read has had some sort of faith/religion section in it so the notion of a faith section doesn't strike me as odd.

Now getting upset at the *name* of the faith section, that strikes me as odd. Should everything in society be vetted so as not to offend the most easily offended?

Things don't have to be "vetted" to be trerated thoughtfully. The CH News, for example, has an "Our Town" section which includes religion, travel, arts and number of other one or two page subject areas.

Speaking of the CHN 'Our Town' section, I was totally startled by the extreme bold-print 'Faith and Family' heading in the Sports section this morning!!! Somebody having fun with us?

I loved starting the day off with such a belly laugh Mary. I didn't think there was a very strong connection between the headline and the story so I assumed it was dig. Who new the CH News had such a sense of humor?

Oh my! Won't somebody be offended becuse the headline phase was used in the context of one of the most violent sports that we let kids play?

Mary and Terri--I had exactly the same reaction!

Fred--Oh, probably. But then, it is so very EASY to be offended/offend these days.

Readers seem to have missed the fact that East Chapel Hill has an awesome lacrosse team.

And, I think it is a disservice to these lacrosse stars to characterize their sport as violent. It can be a rough game and there is a risk of injury but it is a lot like soccer in how it's played and not much more violent.

Dan, the sarcasm light was lit; I should have signaled that.

PS: I went to grad school at Syracuse; need I say more?



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