But first, I realize that many GetReligion readers think we are hung up when it comes to urging journalists to follow the Associated Press Stylebook when it comes to use of the word “fundamentalist.” However, we will not be apologizing anytime soon for thinking that it would be good for journalists to use this word accurately, thus avoiding a label that has been turned into a vague slur word, in far too many cases.
So once again, what does the stylebook say?
“fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians.
“In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself.”
And now, speaking of the Associated Press, here is the horrific case study for today.
A note to Eastern Orthodox readers: You have been warned. Please put down any beverage that is in your hand.
MOSCOW – A court in central Russia has sentenced a neo-Nazi leader to life in jail and imprisoned 13 others for four hate killings and multiple assaults.
The Tver city court said in a statement … that 22-year-old Dmitry Orlov led a cell of the Russian National Unity, a once-powerful organization that since 1990 has actively advocated white supremacy and Orthodox Christian fundamentalism. … In addition to the attacks, the court says, the defendants also owned arms and extremist literature and desecrated Muslim and Jewish cemeteries.
The Kremlin has recently cracked down on ultranationalists amid a spike in ethnic violence and killings of non-Slavs: mostly labor migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Now, trust me, I realize that there are ultranationalists in Russia and elsewhere — think Serbia — who like to march behind Orthodox banners and there are some clergy who have shamefully helped their cause with silence or, rarely, with direct action. But most of these monsters are not the kinds of people who care much about the doctrines and sacraments of Orthodox Christianity. They are often former Soviet-era secular thugs who are likely to be jailing and even torturing godly bishops who are working for peace. Again, think about Kosovo and Serbia.
So what is going on here? The AP has found some violent, neo-Nazi, white supremacy folks who are also into confession, fasting, the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), alms giving and other conservative signs of Orthodox devotion, the “fundamentals” of the Orthodox faith?
If not, what in the world does the word “fundamentalist” mean in this context?
The key word is used later — “ultranationalist.” Fundamentalists are people who use the word to describe their beliefs. It’s a word defined by doctrine and practice.
I know that this is a short wire-service story. But, please, what are the Orthodox Christian beliefs and practices that define this alleged “fundamentalists”? Can we have one sentence, maybe two, that gives us some information instead of — again — a slur word?