BBC accurately translates some Russian words, but fails to 'get' the Orthodox meanings

BBC accurately translates some Russian words, but fails to 'get' the Orthodox meanings

Every now and then, I lose a URL to a story that I really intended to address here at GetReligion.

This happens in my daily tsunami of email. I am sure this also happens to lots of journalists and news consumers. In this case, we are talking about a BBC story from earlier this summer that ran with this headline: Coronavirus: Covid-denying priest Father Sergiy Romanov seizes Russian monastery.”

Let’s face it. The degree-of-difficulty rating on covering this particular story is sky high.

For starters, controversies in Eastern Orthodoxy can be really complex and the participants often use images and terms that can be read on several layers. In this case, those terms were also spoken in Russian.

But let’s assume that the BBC correspondents in Russia all speak fluent Russian or work with skilled translators who help them navigate the verbal minefields. I’ll state right up front that I don’t speak Russian (although I go to church with several folks who do). However, GetReligion has a faithful reader who is an editor in Moscow and I will share his comments on this piece.

Let’s start with the overture:

An ultraconservative Russian priest who denies coronavirus exists has taken over a women's monastery by force.

Father Sergiy Romanov entered the Sredneuralsk convent outside the city of Yekaterinburg. … The mother superior and several nuns have left and armed guards are patrolling the site.

Fr Sergiy has stated church authorities "will have to storm the monastery" if they want him to leave.

Police visited the site on Wednesday but made no arrests.

The controversial cleric was barred from preaching in April and then stripped of the right to wear a cross in May after he encouraged the faithful to disobey public health orders. Fr Sergiy helped found the Sredneuralsk Convent in the early 2000s, and hundreds of supporters have flocked there over the years to hear his sermons.

What, pray tell, does “stripped of the right to wear a cross” mean?

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Religion is the hidden theme in this coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine controversy

Religion is the hidden theme in this coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine controversy

A group of doctors in white coats was the big news last week and for those of you living under a rock, I am referring to some press conferences in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. They featured a racially mixed group of about 10 people dressed in white lab coats.

All of them — who were doctors of one sort or another — gave their names and that of their workplaces, making it easy for anyone to check them out. Their plaint? The anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is a proven tool in treatment of COVID-19 and there’s something rotten in Denmark when you can’t even post a video on social media about it.

But did you see much reporting examining their arguments?

No, you heard about “demon sperm” and “alien DNA.”

It didn’t take long before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were treating the event as akin to anti-vaxxer screed. Censors at all three platforms were working overtime to get this presser erased. Certain media managed to get a look-see at these medics, and what did they concentrate on in their reports?

Their religious views, of course.

Especially the religion of the one black woman in the crowd. We’ll get back to that shortly. First, some background from the New York Times, which was in quite a swivet about the whole thing.

In a video posted Monday online, a group of people calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” and wearing white medical coats spoke against the backdrop of the Supreme Court in Washington, sharing misleading claims about the virus, including that hydroxychloroquine was an effective coronavirus treatment and that masks did not slow the spread of the virus.

The video did not appear to be anything special. But within six hours, President Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. had tweeted versions of it, and the right-wing news site Breitbart had shared it. It went viral, shared largely through Facebook groups dedicated to anti-vaccination movements and conspiracy theories such as QAnon, racking up tens of millions of views. Multiple versions of the video were uploaded to YouTube, and links were shared through Twitter.

Well, surely the public can’t be allowed to see that, right?

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New York Times offers update on India's gay prince: Yes, there are big religion ghosts

New York Times offers update on India's gay prince: Yes, there are big religion ghosts

Anyone who makes a list of nations in which religion plays a major role in public life would have to include India, land of a stunningly complex tapestry of faiths.

Visitors to India who seek answers to questions about the role of religion in modern India will find their heads spinning as they try to follow all the plots and subplots in the answers.

Hinduism is everywhere, of course, both in terms of religion and secular culture that remains haunted by Hindu traditions.

Right now, the “conservative” Bharatiya Janata Party offers a confusing mix of religion and politics that attempts to make Hinduism the crucial element of what it means to be a citizen in India. Then again, Islam is a powerful force that cannot be ignored and Pakistan looms in the background. In terms of history, it’s also impossible to forget the Church of England and generations of missionary work.

So, would you assume that religion would play some kind of role when the New York Times international desk covers a story with this double-decker headline?

In India, a Gay Prince’s Coming Out Earns Accolades, and Enemies

Prince Manvendra’s journey from an excruciatingly lonely child to a global L.G.B.T.Q. advocate included death threats and disinheritance

So let’s search this story for a few key words. How about “Hindu”? Nothing. Well, then Islam? No. So religion played no role in this man’s story or in the passions of those who wanted to kill him?

As it turns out, religion did play an important role at a crucial moment in his life. The Times team just isn’t interested in the details. That’s strange, when dealing with international coverage — where GetReligion often praise the Times. But, apparently, LGBTQ content trumps all other concerns.

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Plug-In: To kneel or not to kneel? That isn't a new controversy linking sports and faith

Plug-In: To kneel or not to kneel? That isn't a new controversy linking sports and faith

Tim Tebow’s outward expressions of his evangelical Christian faith made him a polarizing figure during his college and professional football career.

There’s no doubt about that. But did Tebow’s prayers on the field upset the NFL — the league itself?

Ryan Fournier, a leading supporter of President Donald Trump, made that claim this week in a tweet to nearly 1 million followers.

“I’m old enough to remember when Tim Tebow kneeled for God on the field,” said the Twitter post by Fournier, founder and co-chairman of Students for Trump. “And the NFL got upset because that wasn’t the place for ‘divisive’ displays of one’s beliefs.”

However, the accuracy of that statement is highly questionable. More on that in a moment.

First, though, some relevant background: The tweet came amid renewed attention over athletes kneeling in protest — or not — during the national anthem before games.

Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, started the practice in 2016 to call attention to social injustice. But in a reversal from then, athletes now are having “to explain why they chose to stand, not kneel, during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’” as the New York Times noted in a recent story.

That was evident last week when a San Francisco Giants relief pitcher, Sam Coonrod, declined to take a knee with his teammates. A Sports Illustrated writer subsequently accused Coonrod of “hiding” behind his religion. (Click here for tmatt post on that that controversy.)

“I meant no ill will by it,” Coonrod told reporters. “I don’t think I’m better than anybody. I’m just a Christian. I believe I can’t kneel before anything but God, Jesus Christ. I chose not to kneel. I feel if I did kneel I’d be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

Back to Tebow, whose faith is still making news — as in the recent Twitter decision to briefly spike one of his videos featuring Bible references and words of encouragement, due to “potentially sensitive content.”

The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner won two national championships with the University of Florida before stints with the Denver Broncos (2010 and 2011) and the New York Jets (2012). During his college career, he frequently inscribed Bible references, such as John 3:16, on the black patches worn under his eyes. Later, he gained attention by pledging to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.

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Cornel West and Robert George keeping fighting for tolerance in public square

Cornel West and Robert George keeping fighting for tolerance in public square

America is so divided that 50% of "strong liberals" say they would fire business executives who donate money to reelect President Donald Trump.

Then again, 36% of "strong conservatives" would fire executives who donate to Democrat Joe Biden's campaign.

This venom has side effects. Thus, 62% of Americans say they fear discussing their political beliefs with others, according to a national poll by the Cato Institute and the global research firm YouGov. A third of those polled thought their convictions could cost them jobs.

That's the context for the efforts of Cornel West of Harvard University and Princeton's Robert George to defend tolerant, constructive debates in the public square. West is a black Baptist liberal and George is a white Catholic conservative.

"We need the honesty and courage not to compromise our beliefs or go silent on them out of a desire to be accepted, or out of fear of being ostracized, excluded or canceled," they wrote, in a recent Boston Globe commentary.

"We need the honesty and courage to recognize and acknowledge that there are reasonable people of good will who do not share even some of our deepest, most cherished beliefs. … We need the honesty and courage to treat decent and honest people with whom we disagree -- even on the most consequential questions -- as partners in truth-seeking and fellow citizens, … not as enemies to be destroyed. And we must always respect and protect their human rights and civil liberties."

They closed with an appeal to Trump and Biden, reminding them that "victories can be pyrrhic, destroying the very thing for which the combatants struggle. When that thing is our precious American experiment in ordered liberty and republican democracy, its destruction would be a tragedy beyond all human powers of reckoning."

It's distressing that this essay didn't inspire debates in social-media and the embattled opinion pages of American newspapers, noted Elizabeth Scalia, editor at large of Word on Fire, a Catholic apologetics ministry. After all, West and George are influential thinkers with clout inside the D.C. Beltway and they spoke out during a hurricane of anger and violence -- literal and verbal -- in American life.

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Thinking with Ryan Burge and Damon Linker: Blessed be the ties that used to bind America?

Thinking with Ryan Burge and Damon Linker: Blessed be the ties that used to bind America?

A friend of mine who was a data journalist long before that was normal — Anthony DeBarros — used to tell my Washington Journalism Center students the following: A good reporter can look at almost any solid set of survey statistics and see potential news stories.

So here we go again. When the Pew Research Center released its epic “Nones on the Rise” study in 2012, all kinds of reporters studied the details and saw all kinds of stories. The updates on those numbers keep producing headlines, with good cause.

But if was veteran scholar John C. Green — yes, I quote him a lot — who saw, even before the public release of those numbers (click here and then here for GetReligion reminders), a very important politics-and-religion story. Here is the crucial info, as he stated it on the record in 2012:

The unaffiliated overwhelmingly reject ancient doctrines on sexuality with 73 percent backing same-sex marriage and 72 percent saying abortion should be legal in all, or most, cases. Thus, the “Nones” skew heavily Democratic as voters — with 75 percent supporting Barack Obama in 2008. The unaffiliated are now a stronger presence in the Democratic Party than African-American Protestants, white mainline Protestants or white Catholics.

“It may very well be that in the future the unaffiliated vote will be as important to the Democrats as the traditionally religious are to the Republican Party,” said Green, addressing the religion reporters. “If these trends continue, we are likely to see even sharper divisions between the political parties.”

Of course, the modern Democratic Party also includes one of America’s most fervently religious camps, as well — African-American churchgoers.

Many have predicted the obvious: At some point, there will be tensions there. Woke Democrats are, for example, on the rise and grabbing lots of headlines. But who saved Joe Biden’s political neck in the South Carolina primary? How does he please the woke choir and the black church?

With that in mind, let’s look at two must-file charts that political scientist Ryan Burge circulated the other day via his must-follow Twitter account. And keep in mind that we are building toward a new Damon Linker essay with this blunt headline: “Could America split up?”

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New podcast: What did those Big Tech hearings have to do with religious life in America?

New podcast: What did those Big Tech hearings have to do with religious life in America?

There have been some wild clashes between religious groups and the czars of the Big Tech institutions that have tremendous power in American public discourse. Certainly there have been more important skirmishes than Twitter shutting down that inspirational Tim Tebow mini-sermon the other day.

Many of my friends — as an Orthodox Christian layman — started paying close attention to this issue back in 2015 when a strategic set of cyber-lords informed these believers’ priests, all of a sudden, that they couldn’t put “Father” in front of their names on their Facebook pages.

This was part of a general policy about honorary titles of all kinds. But the title “Father” plays a different role in the lives of people in ancient Christian flocks. It’s not a professional title, it’s a sacramental title.

My own Orthodox godfather — the popular online scribe Father Stephen Freeman — responded by putting “(Father Stephen Freeman)” after his name. Other priests found clever ways to add their identity to the top of their Facebook pages. That, of course, doesn’t help people find their sites with searches for their actual names, including the word “Father.”

Like I said, there have been more consequential clashes between the Big Tech czars and religious believers, but that one was symbolic.

The key is that faith is part of daily life, for millions of folks. These days, social media software has a massive impact on how people live their lives. Thus, Big Tech is a powerful force in the lives of believers and their families. That’s why “Crossroads” host Todd Wilken and I talked about this week’s Big Tech Congressional hearings, during this week’s podcast (click here to tune that in).

So what were these hearings all about? Apparently, the answer to that question depended on one’s political ties. As I wrote the other day:

Democrats have their own reasons to be concerned about Big Tech, whose clout in the lives of modern Americans make the railroad tycoons of the Gilded Age look like minor-league players. These companies, after all, resemble digital public utilities more than mere Fortune 500 powerhouses.

Meanwhile, you know that — at some point — Republicans are going to roll out a long list of cases of viewpoint discrimination against cultural, moral, religious and — oh yeah — political conservatives.

So what happened, when the mainstream press covered the Hill showdown with the glowing digital images of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Apple’s Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos of Amazon and The Washington Post?

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Old 'liberal' views of the New York Times news bubble -- one from left, one from right

Old 'liberal' views of the New York Times news bubble -- one from left, one from right

It’s been awhile since Bari Weiss of The New York Times wrote That. Resignation. Letter. to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, but I am still thinking about what she wrote and some of the published reactions.

Yes, I wish someone would leak some Times newsroom Slack discussions about the aftermath. As always, I am more interested in what is happening in the newsroom, as opposed to the offices of the editorial-page staff (click here for the GetReligion podcast post on that subject).

Two commentary pieces jumped out of the swirling online mix, for me, in the days after that firestorm. I often read lots of material on the cultural left and then on the cultural right and look for thoughts that overlap.

With that in mind, let me recommend this piece by Jodi Rudoren, who is editor in chief of The Forward, a progressive Jewish publication. Rudoren spent more than two decades at the Times.

It’s safe to say that she worked there during — to frame this in terms of the Weiss letter — the era of the “old orthodoxy,” which was basically old liberalism, to one degree or another. The Times was a culturally liberal workplace, but it was not — at least not deliberately — trying to preach its gospel to readers. Now there is a “new orthodoxy” on the rise in America’s most influential newsroom.

Thus, the headline for Rudoren’s piece: “I don’t recognize the NYT that Bari Weiss quit.”

By all means, read all of that piece. But here is a crucial chunk of that, which starts with a discussion of the forced resignation of editorial page editor James Bennet after the publication of Sen. Tom Cotton’s essay calling for the use of U.S. military troops to quell violent protests. Rudoren writes:

I found the argument that publishing the OpEd endangered anyone’s life to be specious, though it was repeated by many of my former colleagues on Twitter; I thought that organized, open revolt violated every code of collegiality; and I worried that the paper was cowering from its historic role as the host of raucous but respectful debate.

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Is it time to discuss this? New book surveys possible candidates for Chair of St. Peter

Is it time to discuss this? New book surveys possible candidates for Chair of St. Peter

he speculation over who will be the next pope is often a preoccupation of the Italian press and the subject never really fades away.

Newspapers up and down the peninsula love to handicap the race among the cardinals who are thought to be the most likely candidates to be elected pope. Indeed, the Italian term “papabile,” coined by Vatican watchers, has become mainstream over the last few decades.

Which man is “pope-able” (that is, able to become pope) is often debated in Rome and anywhere Roman Catholics gather.

Who will follow Pope Francis? The pontiff turns 84 in December, fueling speculation over who will be his replacement once he dies and the College of Cardinals meets to elect a new leader. Of course, there is now the possibility that he could retire — like Pope Benedict XVI.

A new book out, “The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates” (Sophia Institute Press) by the National Catholic Register's longtime Rome correspondent Edward Pentin (you can read his wonderful work here), delves into the lives and beliefs of the cardinals most likely to ascend to the Chair of St. Peter. Extremely well-researched (thanks to the help of international scholars), this book is a must-read for all Catholics and anyone who wants to take a peek into what the future and what personal experiences and philosophies these various men bring to the table.

In all, Pentin helped to pinpoint 19 men who could replace Francis once his pontificate is over. Becoming the spiritual leader of more than one billion Catholics worldwide and one of the most influential moral and religious figures in the world isn’t a matter to take lightly. What this book does well is offer up an in-depth look at these cardinals (their ecclesiastical life as priests and later bishops), many of whom remain unknown to most people — journalists included.

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