military chaplains

Glimpse of wider Orthodox debate: Will Russian priests keep blessing weapons of mass destruction?

Glimpse of wider Orthodox debate: Will Russian priests keep blessing weapons of mass destruction?

egular GetReligion readers are probably aware that I am a convert to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Readers who have been paying close attention (including a few in Russia) know that I attend an Orthodox Church in America parish in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that — while largely made up of converts — has Russian roots and members who are from Russia and Romania. When our senior priest (from the American South) does some of the Divine Liturgy in Old Church Slavonic, you can hear people reciting the rite by memory.

When I talk to Russians about subjects linked to Russia and the church, I hear all kinds of things — ranging from realistic concerns about life in Russia to worries and frustrations about how Americans often forget that there is more to Russia and the Russian worldview than Vladimir Putin.

However, when you read U.S. news reports about Russian Orthodoxy the assumption is always that the Orthodox Church and the Putin regime are one and the same. However, many Orthodox believers reject much of what Putin does and are concerned about the church being tied too closely to the state. Russians also see tensions between church and state that are rarely mentioned in news reports, tensions linked to political and moral issues, such as abortion. In other words, they see a more complex puzzle.

Every now and then I see a U.S. media report that — for a second — seems aware of complexities inside Russia and inside the Russian Orthodox Church. The Religion News Service recently ran this kind of feature under the headline: “Russian Orthodox Church considers a ban on blessing weapons of mass destruction.” Here is the overture:

MOSCOW (RNS) — Early one evening in May 2018, days before the annual parade celebrating the Soviet victory in World War II, a convoy of military trucks carrying long-range nuclear weapons trundled to a halt on the Russian capital’s ring road.

As police officers stood guard, two Russian Orthodox priests wearing cassocks and holding Bibles climbed out of a vehicle and began sprinkling holy water on the stationary Topol and Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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This is how you do it: New York Times regional desk puts spotlight on a sacred World War II drama

This is how you do it: New York Times regional desk puts spotlight on a sacred World War II drama

Human lives are ticking clocks and, right now, it's easy to forget that the clocks are ticking louder and louder for members of America's Greatest Generation.

These clocks have made news before. If you worked in the Washington, D.C., area toward the end of the 20th Century, it was easy to follow the debates about the World War II Memorial that was finally, finally, built on the National Mall. It was, in my opinion, a stunning commentary on American priorities that it took so long to build it (and required the intervention of an actor and a movie director to make it happen). We built the Vietnam and Korea memorials first.

Meanwhile, these clocks keep ticking. People who run newsrooms should remember that fact, since older Americans are loyal news consumers. In the years ahead, we will be seeing lots of coverage of symbolic events linked to the passing of the Greatest Generation and these stories could have strong religious content.

Thus, news editors and producers should mark Feb. 3 with a permanent pin on their computer calendars -- marking the Feb. 3, 1943, sinking of the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a military transport ship carrying 902 Americans. Hit by German sub torpedoes, it sank in 18 minutes 100 miles off the coast of Greenland.

Journalists can file a copy of the New York Times feature marking the 75th anniversary of that event, which focused on the ship's four most famous casualties. The headline: "Remembering the Four Chaplains and Their Ultimate Sacrifice."

Symbolic stories, whenever possible, should be linked to appropriate symbolic events. Someone helped the Times regional desk find the perfect news hook -- the annual memorial rites held on the first Sunday of February at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Kearny, N.J. Here is the story's crisp summary of the drama on the doomed ship:

Panic ensued. The sailors who were not killed in the explosion or trapped below rushed to the decks, where some of the lifeboats had frozen to the ship, survivors recounted. But four chaplains standing on the decks remained calm, distributing life jackets. When the supply ran out, the chaplains gave the sailors their own.

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Must we keep talking about Citizen Trump and evangelicals? We must, we must ...

Must we keep talking about Citizen Trump and evangelicals? We must, we must ...

First things first: Why the nod to the classic farce "Blazing Saddles" at the end of the headline for this post?

Well, why not? Don't you sense the hand of comedy genius Mel Brooks behind the scenes in this election year? Believe me when I say, "I do, I do."

Thus, People keep asking me things like, "Why are we still talking about Donald Trump and the evangelicals?" Of course, the word "evangelicals" in this case has little or nothing to do with theology. It is a reference to one camp -- stress, one camp -- of mostly white evangelicals who at this point in time are either supporting Trump or who have not made up their minds on the issue.

We are still talking about them because no Republican has a chance to reach the White House in the era after Roe v. Wade without a massive turn out by these highly motivated voters. Republican winners also need strong support from conservative (think daily Mass) and middle-of-the-road (think Sunday Mass, most of the time) Catholics, but that's an issue very few people seem to be talking about. Has anyone heard a word from a U.S. Catholic bishop about anything for about six months?

We are also talking about Trump and this one camp of old-guard, white evangelicals (many can accurately be defined as "fundamentalists") because other evangelicals are talking about them, from the other side of a bitter and painful divide in pulpits and many pews. At this stage, even Trump's evangelical advisory team is packed with people who have not endorsed him.

So, once again, "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I, during this week's podcast, talked about the slow-motion train wreck that is Trump's campaign to get right with the God voters. Click right here to tune that in.

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Kellerism on right? Dialogue with atheist reader about coverage of military chaplains

Kellerism on right? Dialogue with atheist reader about coverage of military chaplains

Your GetReligionistas get quite a few emails from readers that you never hear about "out front" here on the blog. Many are from professionals on the Godbeat and others come from journalists on copy desks and on other beats. All are read carefully and appreciated.

We also have critics, of course, and we pay close attention to them, too, especially the constructive folks who are actually talking about journalism issues, rather than their own pet political or cultural issues. One long-time reader I have always appreciated is atheist Ray Ingles, who makes regular appearances in our comments pages.

The other day he sent me a Washington Times URL for a story on another military-chaplain dispute, with the simple question in the email subject line: "Do you think this was balanced?" The story opened like this:

Soon there may only be atheists in the foxholes.
Christians are leaving the U.S. military or are discouraged from joining in the first place because of a “hostile work environment” that doesn’t let them express their beliefs openly, religious freedom advocates say.

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Chaplains offering real prayers at fake POW/MIA rites?

Dang! Just when you thought that the news couldn’t get any weirder and darker for the U.S. military and, in particular, for military veterans. I’ll get to the chaplains in a minute.

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Concerning theological Swiss Army knives (think chaplains)

In the world of church-state studies, few puzzles are as tough to crack as those that surround the work of military chaplains.

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So, what do Southern Baptists have to do to get some ink?

A couple of years ago the Southern Baptist Convention explored the option of changing their name to better reflect the national and international nature of the denomination. I thought at the time that it might be helpful to change the name to the “The Episcopal Church” so that the national news media would finally acknowledge the massive SBC’s existence.

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Nidal Hasan’s mysteriously religious beard

A few months ago, I looked at coverage of a judge’s order that the beard of alleged Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan must be shaved. We have a bit of an update to that story from the Associated Press:

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