Aleteia

Trump and Kim discussed religious persecution? Scant media accounts leave us guessing

Trump and Kim discussed religious persecution? Scant media accounts leave us guessing

It sure has been interesting seeing President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un operating within a few feet of each other this week.

It was tough for media to glean much from the meeting of the two men, although the prevalent press opinion seems to be that Trump got the lesser part of the deal. In describing the North Korean leader, most reporters linked this phrase -- “systematic murder (including infanticide), torture, persecution of Christians, rape, forced abortions, starvation and overwork leading to countless deaths” -- to him, quoting the International Bar Association.

"Persecution" of Christians and other religious minorities?

Did any news reports go any further than that with the religion angle? The New York Times’ headline says: Atrocities Under Kim Jong-un: Indoctrination, Prison Gulags, Executions. Which meant, specifically:

North Korea considers the spread of most religions dangerous, but Christianity is considered a “particularly serious threat” because it “provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the realm of the State,” according to the United Nations report.

Christians are barred from practicing their religion, and those caught doing so are “subject to severe punishments,” the report found. North Korean leaders also conflate Christians with those detained in prison camps, those who try to flee and “others considered to introduce subversive influences,” the report stated.

In interviews with The New York Times in 2012, four North Koreans said that they had been warned that the gulag awaited those who spoke to journalists or Christian missionaries. “If the government finds out I am reading the Bible, I’m dead,” one woman said.

In its 2018 World Watch List, the Christian group Open Doors ranked North Korea the worst nation in the world for Christians, and in a statement last week, the group called on Christians to take part in 24 hours of prayer and fasting on Monday ahead of the meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.

That was the most description I could find about an estimated 50,000 Christians imprisoned in North Korea’s gulags.

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What language did Jesus speak? Was he illiterate?

What language did Jesus speak? Was he illiterate?

THE TWO QUESTIONS above have been raised online in (1) a 2018 article for a Catholic website and (2) several Web posts in the past year or so.

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

That first one is easy: Aramaic.

As writer Philip Koslowski stated January 21 on the international Catholic aleteia.org, it was the common language spoken by Jews in the 1st Century Holy Land. There’s virtually no doubt Jesus would have taught in that tongue.

For one thing, the original Greek New Testament carried over numerous Aramaic words, especially in Mark and Matthew. Our Gospels in English are translations from Greek that report sayings Jesus would have uttered in Aramaic -- something the experts continually ponder.

Question #2 is more complex. On literacy, there’s no way to know for sure whether Jesus could read or write Aramaic.

Scholars like England’s Chris Keith and America’s Bart Ehrman think it’s most probable he could not read and write. On the popular level, Reza Aslan asserted this in his heterodox Jesus biography “Zealot,” which was so lauded by the “mainstream” media. (Yes, he’s the Muslim-turned-Christian-turned-Muslim-again that CNN then hired to host a religion series but sacked over his profane tweet assailing President Donald Trump.)

As an aside, note that Random House promoted Aslan’s book as “balancing the Jesus of the Gospels against the historical sources” instead of “other historical sources.” Such sleight of hand excludes the Gospels -- our earliest and most extensive material -- from the historical materials regarding Jesus.

Whatever Jesus’ skill with written Aramaic, one Bible passage indicates he had some working knowledge of Hebrew, the language of the Jewish Scriptures and used by the religious elite.

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John Mahoney was 'moral core' on 'Frasier;' maybe his Catholic faith was relevant in obits?

John Mahoney was 'moral core' on 'Frasier;' maybe his Catholic faith was relevant in obits?

If you ever watched the classic comedy series "Frasier," it was clear that actor John Mahoney and his Martin Crane character played a crucial role in its broad appeal.

Basically, he was a battered recliner in a world of pretentious fashion, a can of beer at a wine-and-cheese party, a lifer cop surrounded by chatty urban psychiatrists. In other words, he was the down-home voice of ordinary America. He was an every-Dad.

A tribute to Mahoney at The New York Times -- not the newspaper of record's actual obituary, following his death on Sunday -- put it this way:

As Martin Crane, the lovably grumpy, blue-collar father to the snobby Frasier and Niles, he hit many notes during the series’ run from 1993 to 2004 -- sometimes all in the same episode. He played sarcastic, cutting his sons’ pretensions down to size. He did reserved, as a counterpoint to their voluble self-analysis. He even delivered warmth, when reminding Frasier and Niles of the importance of unfussy stuff like family and beer.
As Joe Keenan, a “Frasier” executive producer and writer, put it, Mr. Mahoney’s character was the “moral center” of the show.

This moral-core theme continued in the Times obit.

While Frasier and Niles Crane, both psychiatrists, worried about wine vintages, cappuccino bars and opening nights, Marty, a retired police officer, cherished his dog, his duct-tape-accented recliner chair and the solid values of his generation. Once, when his younger son declared a certain restaurant’s cuisine “to die for,” Marty corrected him. “Niles, your country and your family are to die for,” he said. “Food is to eat.”

Now, in light of all that, does it matter that Mahoney was on the record -- in an interview with a prominent journalist, no less -- saying that his Catholic faith was at the center of his life and work?

Apparently not, at least not in The New York Times and at The Los Angeles Times.

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So the New York Times executive editor said, 'We don't get religion" ... So what? Now what?

So the New York Times executive editor said, 'We don't get religion" ... So what? Now what?

People keep asking me a predictable question: "Did you and the whole GetReligion team feel vindicated (or words to that effect) when New York Times editor Dean Baquet admitted (or "confessed," or words to that effect) that elite newsrooms, including his own, just "don't get religion"?

What do you think, Einstein?

Sure enough, this was the first question that Crossroads host Todd Wilken asked this week when we were on the air, recording the basics for the podcast. Click right here to tune that in.

For those of you who have been on another cyber-planet, or missed my earlier post on this topic ("New York Times editor: We just don't get (a) religion, (b) the alt-right or (c) whatever"), here is the most quoted piece of Baquet's interview with Terry Gross on National Public Radio's Fresh Air program, during a discussion of the alt-right and Donald Trump:

I think that the New York-based and Washington-based too probably, media powerhouses don't quite get religion. We have a fabulous religion writer, but she's all alone. We don't get religion. We don't get the role of religion in people's lives.

My reaction? Of course I thought this was nice, in a laugh to keep from crying kind of way. I mean, your GetReligionistas have published about 10 million words over the past 12-plus years making that argument. Sure, it's nice to hear the Times editor say those words.

But what about it? That was Wilken's next question: If I could say three things to Baquet about the implications of that statement, what would they be?

You'll have to listen to the podcast to hear the answer. So there.

But as a hint, check out this short Aleteia.org commentary about the Baquet statement -- "Dog bites man: New York Times editor admits ‘We don’t get religion’ " -- written by Deacon Greg "Headlines and Homilies" Kandra.

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Frank Pavone: Do media really get this radical Catholic priest?

Frank Pavone: Do media really get this radical Catholic priest?

For Father Frank Pavone: If you can’t stop ‘em, shock them.

It’s a few days before the election and you want to grab the nation’s attention about the importance of abortion in its presidential candidate choices. How do you rivet the attention of a people dulled by the craziest election in U.S. history?

Put a dead male fetus on a church altar, then post it on your Facebook page, for starters. When the Rev. Frank Pavone did so on Sunday, it didn’t take long for the protests to pour in. The Washington Post, in a story by former getreligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey, had the earliest and lengthiest story on Pavone’s ploy, so I’ll start there: 

Ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election, the Rev. Frank Pavone took an aborted fetus, laid it upon an altar Sunday and posted a live video on Facebook. Pavone, a Catholic priest who heads New York-based Priests for Life, said the fetus was entrusted to him by a pathologist for burial.
During an already heated and divisive campaign season, Pavone’s video has raised questions for some about what is appropriate antiabortion and political activism in the church. As of Monday afternoon, the video, which is 44 minutes long, had 236,000 views. In it, he holds up a poster of graphics of abortion procedures.
In Pavone’s Facebook appeal, he wrote, “we have to decide if we will allow this child killing to continue in America or not. Hillary Clinton and the Democratic platform says yes, let the child-killing continue (and you pay for it); Donald Trump and the Republican platform says no, the child should be protected.”

So I glanced over at Pavone’s Facebook page and read some of the 6,400 (as of Tuesday night) comments along with 407,000 views. I was amazed to see it was still on Facebook, which is usually quick to cut off any content that some reader thinks is offensive. Pavone was working full-time, it seemed, answering all the (mostly negative) comments. He asks why people are so angry about his displaying the dead fetus and not angry at the woman who aborted it.

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Would Americans be interested? Eyewitnesses describe the murder of Father Jacques Hamel

Would Americans be interested? Eyewitnesses describe the murder of Father Jacques Hamel

Here is my question for the day: Would news consumers here in America be interested in the ongoing story of Father Jacques Hamel if offered a chance to follow it?

There has been quite a bit of recent news about Hamel, the French priest murdered in July while celebrating Mass at the parish of St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray -- a Catholic church named in honor of the first New Testament martyr St. Stephen. You can follow these developments by reading news reports produced on the other side of the Atlantic or in Catholic publications. Click here for previous GetReligion posts on earlier coverage.

I realize that this drama is unfolding in Europe. Thus, American editors and producers may assume that it is not a story that would interest readers here. Frankly, I think the details are so gripping that this has become a story that, at the very least, all Catholics would want to follow -- along with other readers who are concerned about acts of terrorism by jihadists.

So what are the new developments? The first is rather obvious, as reported by The Guardian:

Pope Francis has authorised the French church to start the preliminary sainthood investigation for the Reverend Jean Hamel, whose throat was slit by Islamist militants as he celebrated Mass in July.
Francis told reporters ... he had authorized the gathering of witness testimony to determine if a beatification cause is warranted. Usually the Vatican requires a five-year waiting period before such investigations can begin, but Francis said he authorised the start of the investigation now since witnesses might die or forget over time.
Hamel was killed on 26 July in his parish church in Normandy. Police killed the assailants, and the Isis group claimed responsibility. In honoring Hamel as a martyr last month, Francis urged all to display the same courage Hamel had and denounced such slayings in the name of God as “satanic”.

This announcement came on the same day that the sanctuary in which Hamel was killed was open for the first time, following purification rites because of the bloodshed at the altar.

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Haunted house Olympics: How many of the faith-driven stories did you see in Rio coverage?

Haunted house Olympics: How many of the faith-driven stories did you see in Rio coverage?

For many Rio 2016 viewers, it was the emotional peak of the entire Olympics.

I am referring to what happened -- far from the finish line -- during a preliminary heat for the women’s 5,000-meter run. That was when Abbey D’Agostino of team USA collided with Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand.

Both went down. D’Agostino didn't know it, but she had a torn ACL. Nevertheless, she stopped and helped Hamblin. Together -- with the American runner clearly injured -- they finished the race. D’Agostino left the track in a wheelchair and, later, was not able to accept an offer by Olympic judges allowing both runners to run in the final because of their fine sportsmanship.

That's the story that everyone knows about, the drama that left viewers coping with tears. But why did D’Agostino stay behind to help, as the pack ran off into the distance? Catholic News Service looked for that angle, which was not hard to find:

“Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way. This whole time here he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance – and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.”
She had previously recounted how her reliance on God helped calm her anxiety before a big race. “Whatever the outcome of the race is, I’m going to accept it. ... I was so thankful and just drawn to what I felt like was a real manifestation of God’s work in my life.” She told Hanlon that previous injuries forced her “to depend on God in a way that I’ve never been open to before.”

Did anyone see that angle in mainstream coverage? Actually, one or two major newsrooms saw that religion ghost and ran with it, including Sports Illustrated online. But not many.

I was exchanging emails with a media professional the other day and mentioned that there was no way GetReligion could have done posts on all of the valid, and often crucial, religion-angle stories that received little, if any, news coverage during Rio 2016. I have never received so many contacts from readers about a subject, pointing me toward more and more URLs with other Olympics religion angles worthy of note. It was like one giant haunted house of religion-ghost stories.

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