This blog is maintained on behalf of the Amy Foundation for the purpose of tracking the best Christian journalism we find on the Web. Our posts regularly identify those news articles or opinions in the mainstream media that represent good faith-based writing and example them for other Christian journalists.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Current Event ...
Headline Regarding Faith ...
but no scripture!

My personalized web search by Google News brought up a story by Barbara Karkabi (4/26/06), titled "Christian leaders call immigration a moral issue," in the Houston Chronicle.

She writes:
Leaders of Houston's Christian community issued a call to action on immigration reform Monday, calling it a moral as well as a political issue.

"Behind every law and every number is the face of a real person with hopes, aspirations and desires to make their life better," said the Rev. David Meeker-Williams of The Metropolitan Organization. "We are talking about people and the morals implicit in the immigration issue." Read More>>
This article sheds light on the interplay of moral and spiritual issues in the highly-charged debate over illegal immigration in the U.S.

Where should Christians stand on this issue? Karkabi clearly articulates the perspective of four pastors in the Houston area, where illegal immigration is a hot topic of conversation.

Like all good journalism, the piece is thought-provoking to the reader, leaving her/him to decide the proper role of Christianity in the debate. Unfortunately, the piece didn't include an identifiable scripture passage, so it doesn't qualify for the Amy Writing Awards.

I realize this is a news report and not opinion/commentary, but I am sure one of the pastors referenced scripture when talking with Karkabi. A smart way to qualify such a piece would have been to include such a quote from one of the story's many sources.

Good work, Barbara!

Submitted by,
Bruce Umpstead

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Good Story ...
No Scripture!

There was short, but good story in the Houston Chronicle, titled New Spiritual Outreach, Listen Ministries, Injects ''Evangelistic Prayer'' Into Churches Across California.

Writer Karen Gleason tells about how Listen Ministries is offering to pray for the needs of the "un-churched." She writes:
Today, a new non-denominational ministry announces its spiritual outreach to churches across California. Listen Ministries serves as an outlet for both the churched and the un-churched alike who are looking for someone to pray for them. Many congregations have prayer teams that are only praying for their own members, and a small number of them at that. A number of people outside the church may need prayer, but have no idea where to start. Listen Ministries exists to help connect those in need of prayer with the people who are able to intercede on their behalf. Read More >>
This a great ministry and deserves the spotlight. This story showed up in the "Top Stories" on

Unfortunately, the piece didn't include a scripture reference, so it doesn't qualify for the Amy Writing Awards. There is plenty of references to cite, such as:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 6:16)
Good job, Karen. Keep up the good work!

Submitted by,
Bruce Umpstead

Monday, April 17, 2006

Qualifying Entry ...
Again in the NY Times!

Strawberry Soroyan did a masterful job for the New York Times covering the effect of professional public relation firms on the branding of American Christianity in her Easter story titled, "Christianity, the Brand." It is a long expose about the work of "Larry Ross, arguably the top public relations man for Christian clients in America ..."

Find the full article at:

On page three, she relates how "He [Ross] advises clients to avoid ecclesiastical language when addressing the mainstream ("Somebody talks about the Holy Ghost or the Army of God — that sounds like a revolution and it's coming out of Iran," says Lawrence Swicegood, who has worked for Ross and DeMoss) and to use metaphors because they stick in people's minds."

This is sage advice for anyone sharing a Christian message in popular culture, especially in mainstream media. If a TV camera can add 10 pounds, I believe an ecclesiastical-laced opinion or article can add 100 years to the relevance of what you're trying to say.

Smartly, Soroyan works in a scripture reference by citing a plaque on Ross' wall, thus qualifying her article as an 2006 Amy Writing Award entry.

Beside the desk of the receptionist, Susan Gromatzky, there was a plaque: "'When God is your client, eternity is in each account' — Proverb 16:3."
We've already encouraged her to enter because this is the type of well-written journalism that puts personal faith in the public eye and gets people to think.

Well done, Strawberry. Keep up the good work!

Submitted by,
Bruce Umpstead

Friday, April 14, 2006

Excellent ... but no scripture

At some level, the following article truly saddens me because it is so good, such an excellent example of faith-based journalism, yet doesn't qualify for the Amy Writing Awards.

On 4/14/06, Richard Wightman Fox tells the powerful story of how Abraham Lincoln was "The President Who Died for Us," (New York Times). He starts by telling us that Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, and his popularity caused instant comparison with Jesus.

Here is an excerpt:

Jesus had saved humanity, or at least some portion of it, from eternal damnation. Lincoln had saved the nation from the civic equivalent of damnation: the dissolution that had always bedeviled republics. "Jesus Christ died for the world," said the Rev. C. B. Crane in Hartford. "Abraham Lincoln died for his country."
Most American Christians turned to the Jesus analogy because they realized how much they loved Lincoln. They took his loss as personal, often comparing it to a death in the family. Many felt attached to Lincoln almost as they felt attached to Jesus. The striving rail-splitter from Illinois and the simple carpenter from Nazareth resembled them, the people. In contrast, while still heroic, Washington seemed more distant, even aloof.
... Read more>>

Most writers of faith-based articles have the opportunity to reinforce their story with truths found in scripture, but don't take it, or worse, have editors cut such citations out. There probably was one or two opportunities in this piece too, although I feel unqualified to offer any suggestions to Mr. Fox, who wrought such a superb piece.

Most excellent, Mr. Fox. Keep up the good work! I hope to see some of your writing make it into our annual contest.

Submitted by
Bruce Umpstead

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Practicing what we Preach

By way of example, I was fortunate to have an opinon published in the Lansing State Journal today (4/13/06), titled, "West must engage with Afghanistan." It deals with the thorny issues involved in last month's trial of Afghani exile Abdul Rahman for converting from Islam to Christianity.

The premise of my opinion is this: you cannot have political freedom without religious freedom, BUT you can have spiritual freedom regardless.

Here is how I worked biblical scripture into the 500-word opinion, starting in paragraph 9:

In the first century, the Christian writer Paul addressed the importance of our religious freedom when he wrote, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

Jesus' offer of freedom attracts people like Abdul Rahman the world over. Fortunately for those living under repressive regimes, spiritual liberty can be accessed without the benefit of political reforms or leaving their homelands.

What's more, many seek this liberty expressly because their personal freedoms are repressed.

To draw the favor of the editors, I dealt with a timely issue, framed it as a issue of democratic freedom, and concluded it with a call to stay committed to democracy in Afghanistan. But I hope readers will see my fundemental throught that true freedom is found in Jesus.

Submitted by
Bruce Umpstead

Great Article in the NY Times--
A Qualifying Article

I was pleased to find a qualifying entry for the Amy Writing Awards-- in the New York Times, no less! On April 13 (today), David Brooks wrote a provocative opinion about the historical roots of the conflict in Iraq, juxtaposing past and future perspectives in an opinion titled, "The Past Meets the Future" (TimeSelect subscribers only).

Brooks uses Elie Kedourie's essay on the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920's to bolster the claims of "Mr. Future," who argues against western intervention in Iraq. "Mr. Past" cites social activism, using the Exodus story, as a catalyst for the changes needed to stabilize the Iraqi nation and bring democracy to the region.

It is a powerful dialogue that pits optimist vs. Pessimistic perspectives on a very real, very serious policy tug-of-war over the Middle East policy. Both sides are presented well.

Here is a critical excerpt:
[To Mr. Past:] The central lesson of the past three years is that societies are not that malleable. Evils do not grow out of manageable defects in the environment that can be neatly fixed. We need to change our mentality, scale back to more realistic expectations.

Mr. Future: Actually, I did read Kedourie, but last night I also reread the Exodus story. The Exodus story reminds us that human beings can transform themselves and their situations. It reminds us that people who embark on generational journeys are the realistic ones, because they are the ones who see
all the possibilities the future contains.

The finest things humans have done have been achieved in an Exodus frame of mind. This country was settled and founded by people who adopted the Exodus mentality. The civil rights movement was also led by such people.

Martin Luther King learned from Exodus that it is not enough to sit back and let history slowly evolve. It's sometimes necessary to venture into the hazardous wilderness.

Ultimately, Brooks's writing is an example of how Biblical principles and perspectives can and does inform public policy. His references to Martin Luther King, Moses, and later Tocqueville were masterful. Yet, he balances the article with Mr. Future's well-thought, well-reasoned, well-supported perspective.

He also tactfully uses scripture to reinforce his point that freedom is won through a long, difficult process, sometimes turning brother against brother.

Well done, Mr. Brooks. Keep up the good journalism. I hope to see this as a entry in this year's Amy Writing Awards.

Submitted by
Bruce Umpstead

Friday, April 07, 2006

Awesome series
(come on, include scripture!)

Starting today (4/7/06), Scott Farwell is reporting on what he experienced during a 24-hour visit to a faith-based drug rehabilitation center in a series of front-page articles in Dallas Morning News. The title of today’s article is "Addicts expected to have faith.”

Farwell tells the story of Elliott Haynes:

On this day, Elliott Haynes prayed and danced and pledged his love to a godly woman.

He studied the Bible. He clenched his fist in pride. He wept.

Mr. Haynes is a recovering crack addict. Two months ago, the 36-year-old man moved from San Antonio into the Victory Home, a Christian-based drug treatment center near the Cotton Bowl in South Dallas.

The program is supported by private donations, daily fundraisers and a pair of nonprofit groups linked to Prestonwood Baptist Church of Plano and King of Glory
Lutheran Church in North Dallas.
Read more>>
It is an excellent story of personal redemption and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t contain an identifiable passage of scripture, so this article doesn’t qualify for the Amy Writing Awards. But there is hope. It looks like there is a story running on the front page Saturday (4/8) and Sunday (4/9). There is still time …

This article was so close too. Mr. Haynes shared a favorite song:

"When hope is gone and the darkness has fallen
"I will still believe, I will still believe
"I will rise up, I will rise up
"I will rise up and call myself blessed."
I am sure Mr. Haynes receives comfort from a favorite scripture passage as well. Perhaps Farwell will include in before he concludes the series.

Congratulations to Scott for writing such a moving piece of journalism. Keep up the good work!

Submitted by,
Bruce Umpstead

A Great Topic (but no scripture!)

A recent study released by researchers at the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston made big news this week. As the New York Times reported, “Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found.”

This serve as an excellent opportunity to discuss Christianity and personal faith in mainstream media, and writer Jeffrey Weiss for the Dallas Morning News took advantage. On Thursday, April 6, 2006, he wrote the following opinion, titled “More proof that science, religion don't mix”:
Serious efforts to combine science and religion all too often produce train wrecks. I offer two recent examples.

One came across right after I finished last week's Peek: The ballyhooed study on intercessionary prayer for people who had heart bypass surgery. A generic prayer was offered for one group and not another. Some people were told they’d be prayed for, others were told they might or might not.

Not only did the prayers not seem to have any benefit. But those who were told they would be prayed for had greater medical complications than those who were not. Not only, therefore, did the study not "prove" what some folks
hoped – that prayer heals – but it indicates that something about prayer may actually hinder healing. …
Read more >>>
Jeffrey went on to explain how science and religion often end in a “null hypothesis” with science unable to prove the validity of spiritual tenets. I appreciate his insight and applaud his writing.

Unfortunately, Jeffrey’s piece would not qualify for the Amy Writing Awards, if it was published in newsprint, because it did not include identifiable scripture. There was plenty of opportunity. Jeffrey derived several of his arguments from the book of Matthew. He even sited it as a reference, but the quotes he used were not scripture.

It is not hard to find an appropriate passage. For example, I talked with a psychometrician friend who thoughtfully responded to taking a scientific approach to an expressly theological issue. Instead of dithering on the quantitative particulars, which he is qualified to do, he questioned the validity of performing such tests of God’s supernatural ability. “Can we measure God’s performance,” he wonders. “Didn’t Jesus warn us, ‘Do not put your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7).

Good job, Jeffrey. Keep up the good work! We look forward to reading one of your columns as a 2006 Amy Writing Award entry later this year.

Submitted by
Bruce Umpstead