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Pastor charged with murder, L.A. Times neglects religious implications

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 4, 2008 | 6:47 pm

Howard Porter (Photo: AP)

“Trusted to build a museum to his friend’s lifework, a pastor is accused of drowning the farmer.” That was the subhead of an article in today’s Los Angeles Times. Without being too macabre or full of bloodlust, its safe to say that story sounded really intriguing. Money, ministers, murder—like “Angels and Demons” in California’s Central Valley.

It’s not. The story by Peter H. King is a sad tale of the death of an 85-year-old farmer worth about $4 million and the ensuing murder trial of his friend, Pastor Howard Porter of Hickman Community Church. But aside from an off-hand reference to Howard’s church and this line a few paragraphs from the bottom—“While Porter’s backers insist that the man portrayed by prosecutors is a fiction, attendance at Hickman Community Church has dropped off quite a bit”—there is no mention of God in this entire story.

No talk of how Joe Christian has been wrestling with his faith as his spiritual leader stands before a judge. No mention of who Porter was and whether people saw God in his life. No defense from a skeptical church-goer who couldn’t believe her pastor would ever kill a man. And, most importantly, there is no quantification of “quite a bit” or explanation of why, apparently, most members of Hickman Community Church have continued attending there.

King’s story isn’t so religiously ignorant that it gives the impression high gas prices are forcing Jews to walk on the Sabbath, as a Times report recently did, but it’s spiritually unobservant to the point of negligence.

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