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The D-G gets religion 

click to enlarge LOCKWOOD: To the D-G.
  • LOCKWOOD: To the D-G.

While the Saturday-only Religion section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has never really floated my boat — too drenched in holier-than-thou for my shriveled little soul — there may be some hope for a better tomorrow.

The D-G has hired a new religion editor for the paper: Frank Lockwood. Currently the faith and values reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky and a 2004 recipient of the prestigious Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan, Lockwood’s past work and the entries on his thoroughly entertaining blog (http://spirituality.typepad.com/biblebelt/) seem to prove that Lockwood sees religion as something deeper than church potlucks, pro-life rallies and drowsy Sunday mornings.

Recent posts on his blog include stories on young Christian couples who see nothing wrong with shacking up, an interview with the creators of the controversial documentary “Jesus Camp,” and an interesting exploration of whether the New York Times should go back to capitalizing the word “Lord” when it refers to Jesus — all that, and some really interesting faith-centered photo essays of Texas, Salt Lake City and post-Katrina New Orleans. The best part of all might be how Lockwood allows the items to speak for themselves in most cases, and refuses to pass judgment even in the cases where he does make comment.

A peek at Lockwood’s printed work finds it no less controversial or entertaining. A standout, for instance, was his Nov. 11 interview with Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, with Lockwood chatting up the world’s most lovable pornographer about his days as a born-again Christian, his dalliances with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and his eventual shift to atheism. Most churchy types we know wouldn’t be seen in public with Flynt without a trench coat, sunglasses and a fake mustache, much less ask him about his views on morality and religion. Still, Lockwood manages to both humanize the man and give a perspective on where Flynt is coming from spiritually in the space of a short Q and A.

In short, Lockwood’s journalistic detachment and his ability to keep his personal views and his work separate is refreshing, especially given that he’s writing about a subject many people bind hand and foot to their emotions. Let’s hope he can hang on to that during his time at the D-G. If so, we should have something interesting to read.

Alyson Hoge, D-G city desk editor and immediate supervisor of the religion desk, said that Lockwood is finishing up his last two weeks in Kentucky and should start at the D-G around Christmas. Attempts to reach him by phone went unreturned at press time.

Bible belt me:
david@arktimes.com

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