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.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Online Articles from Mainstream News Sources Welcome

Attention: The Amy Foundation has augmented its Amy Writing Award rules to include online publications affiliated with traditional, mainstream media

Beginning with the 2008 Amy Writing Awards, we will also accept articles that have been published on the web pages of mainstream, non-religious newspaper, news or e-magazine websites as determined by the Amy Writing Awards panel. Articles published in print, as well as those published online will be judged in one contest. There will not be a separate award for online submissions.

If your submission did not appear in print but was posted on a mainstream, non-religious newspaper, news or e-magazine website, the rules remain the same as for those articles that appeared in print with the following additional rules:

  • Only online articles that appear on mainstream, non-religious news or
    e-magazine websites as determined by the Amy Writing Awards panel will be
    accepted. Decisions of the judges are final.
  • Articles or entries from “blogs” or newsletters are not eligible.

  • Only entries sent in a printed format on paper exactly how they appeared on
    the website will be accepted. URL addresses of columns will not be
    accepted as an entry. Articles must be sent via US Mail, not via

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Almost qualifying article dealing with grief (June 1, 2008)

Here is an "almost" qualifying article related to loss of a child and the impact on personal faith. The article, titled “After devastating loss, many people find solace in religious beliefs,” appeared in The Tennessean today, June 1, and was written by staff writer Bob Smietana.

Smietana writes:

Everybody dies.

For most people, life follows an orderly pattern that ends, after a number of years, in death. But when that pattern is broken and the natural order of things collapses, people tend to search for answers.

It can be as diverse as the premature loss of a middle-age spouse or the inexplicable death of a child, as in the recent accident that claimed the life of 5-year-old Maria Chapman, daughter of Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman.

Most question the meaning of their loss in quiet privacy. But sometimes the spotlight shines on people of faith — often leaders of their religious community — who fall victim to life's tragedies and find themselves awash in public curiosity and scrutiny.
Read more>>

Smietana draws people in by citing the recent death of Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter's tragic death, a story that topped the internet search logs for several days. But instead of staying with the popular story, the author goes on to contrast several people’s reactions to faith because of the death of their children. This challenged me to think what would happen to my faith if one of my children died-- the test of a well written article.

I also appreciated the delicate way the author handled telling real life stories of families who have undergone the unthinkable tragedy. Smietana quotes one grieving father as saying:

"There's a picture that some have of God as the Almighty Ant Farmer," Mike Rayson said. "He is up there with a magnifying glass, watching what everybody does."

He said some think of God as a deity who would send a ray of burning light through the magnifying glass to see what would happen to one of the ants.

"That's not the picture of God that I have at all," he said.

Instead, the Raysons said, their faith supported them in their grief. They said it doesn't erase the pain, "but it does make it one step under intolerable," Rayson said. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust — you never expect to say those words over your child's body.''
I highlighted the small, but poignant burial rite that, for me, ties the entire piece together by relating personal experience to the promise that God cares about our grieving and loss. Unfortunately, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" is not scripture, but a loose interpretation of Genesis 18:27.

Including scripture would have qualifies Smietana’s piece for the Amy Writing Awards. Typically, including a key passage within the context of someone’s suffering makes the article more accessible as well as the universal truth of God’s comfort in this suffering which is the underlying premise of the article.

Good article that misses the point (and doesn't qualify ...)

Here is a very informative article on the next generation of Christian evangelicals that ultimately misses the point. Faith in Christ is about accepting his salvation and living out his teachings and not about crusading for political, social, or environmental causes, how ever worthy.

The New York Times article to which I refer is “Taking Their Faith, but Not Their Politics, to the People” and was written by Neela Banerjee. While the story starts in the right direction, it quickly gets distracted by presidential and environmental politics.

Banerjee writes:

ST. LOUIS — Southern Baptists, as a rule, do not drink. But once a month, young congregants of the Journey, a Baptist church here, and their friends get together in the back room of a sprawling brew pub called the Schlafly Bottleworks to talk about the big questions: President Bush, faith and war, the meaning of life, and “what’s wrong with religion.”

“We go where people are because we feel like Jesus went to the people,” said the Rev. Darrin Patrick, founder of the Journey.

“That’s where people are having their conversations about things that matter,” the Rev. Darrin Patrick, senior pastor and founder of the Journey, said about the talks in the bar. “We go where people are because we feel like Jesus went to the people.”
Read more>>

The article does a solid job of identifying the political fracturing of young evangelical’s long-held political beliefs, which I beleive is allowing God’s message to transcend ideology.

What is missing is a mention of God's message of salvation and hope. One verse that came to mind while reading the piece is: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV)

This verse helps me, as a reader, understand that God does not intend for us to get tangled in the politics of this world and forget our number one priority, which is sharing the Good News of God’s saving work.

I did find the article encouraging, informative, and well written. I would have loved to read it as an Amy Writing Award entry, but with no scripture it doesn’t qualify.