“Cultures of Communication” (Puff et al, eds)

In May, the University of Toronto Press will release Cultures of Communication: Theologies of Media in Early Modern Europe and Beyond edited by Helmut Puff (University of Michigan), Ulrike Strasser (University of California, San Diego),  and Christopher Wild (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:

Culture of CommunicationContrary to the historiographical commonplace “no Reformation without print” Cultures of Communication examines media in the early modern world through the lens of the period’s religious history. Looking beyond the emergence of print, this collection of ground-breaking essays highlights the pivotal role of theology in the formation of the early modern cultures of communication. The authors assembled here urge us to understand the Reformation as a response to the perceived crisis of religious communication in late medieval Europe. In addition, they explore the novel demands placed on European media ecology by the acceleration and intensification of global interconnectedness in the early modern period. As the Christian evangelizing impulse began to propel growing numbers of Europeans outward to the Americas and Asia, theories and practices of religious communication had to be reformed to accommodate an array of new communicative constellations – across distances, languages, cultures.


“Religion and Media in China” (Travagnin, ed.)

Next month, Routledge will release Religion and Media in China: Insights and Case Studies from the Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong edited by Stefania Travagnin (University of Groningen, Netherlands). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Media in China.jpgThis volume focuses on the intersection of religion and media in China, bringing interdisciplinary approaches to bear on the role of religion in the lives of individuals and greater shifts within Chinese society in an increasingly media-saturated environment. With case studies focusing on Mainland China (including Tibet), Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as diasporic Chinese communities outside Asia, contributors consider topics including the historical and ideological roots of media representations of religion, expressions of religious faith online and in social media, state intervention (through both censorship and propaganda), religious institutions’ and communities’ use of various forms of media, and the role of the media in relations between online/offline and local/diaspora communities. Chapters engage with the major religious traditions practiced in contemporary China, namely Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, and new religious movements.

Religion and the Media in China serves as a critical survey of case studies and suggests theoretical and methodological tools for a thorough and systematic study of religion in modern China. Contributors to the volume include historians of religion, sinologists, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, and media and communication scholars. The critical theories that contributors develop around key concepts in religion—such as authority, community, church, ethics, pilgrimage, ritual, text, and practice—contribute to advancing the emerging field of religion and media studies.

The New York Times Gets Christianity Wrong–Again

People who follow such things know how often the mainstream media misstates basic facts about Christianity and Christian history. At the First Things site today, I recount a recent example from the New York Times, a review of a museum exhibition on Jerusalem by Pulitzer Prize winning art critic Holland Cotter.

Not only does Cotter appear ignorant of the fact that Christians revere Jerusalem because they believe the Resurrection occurred there, he also distorts Christians’ history in the city, including the Crusades. This ignorance of Christianity should alarm not only Christians, but anyone who relies on the Times, and the media more broadly, to help understand our world:

As I say, poking fun at the Times’s lack of knowledge is amusing. But there’s a serious point as well. Notwithstanding the fragmentation of the media, the Times is still the most important newspaper in America, perhaps the world. More than any other journal, it has the power to set our country’s political agenda. That’s why omissions like Cotter’s are worth noting. They reflect a basic ignorance of Christianity—of its teachings and its history—that one has to assume affects other sections of the paper as well. That the Times presents a distorted picture of Christianity shouldn’t bother only Christians. It should unsettle anyone who looks to the paper for an informed and objective account of the role of religion in the world today.

You can read the whole thing here.



REMINDER: Register for the 2014 Lumen Christi Conference!

Just a gentle reminder that the 2014 Conference on Christian Legal Thought is only a few weeks away! The conference is sponsored by the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago and the Law Professors Christian Fellowship and occurs in conjunction with the annual AALS meeting, which is being held in Manhattan this year. This year’s conference celebrates the life and thought of Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain and explores the theme of public engagement with law and religion. It’s a topic that should be of broad interest in this period of great ferment in the field.

The schedule is below. Please register here!

Friday, January 3, 2014, 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm

The University Club

One West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019

Conference Topic: Public Engagement With Law and Religion: A Conference in Honor of Jean Bethke Elshtain

Noon: Registration, Luncheon, and Opening Remarks

1:15 pm – 2:45 pm: Session One. Public Engagement With Law and Religion: The Thought of Jean Bethke Elshtain

Chair: Zachary R. Calo (Valparaiso University School of Law)

* Thomas C. Berg (University of St. Thomas School of Law)

* Eric Gregory (Princeton University, Department of Religion)

* Charles Mathewes (University of Virginia, Department of Religious Studies)

2:45 pm – 3:00 pm: Coffee Break

3:00 pm – 4:30 pm. Session Two. Public Engagement With Law and Religion: Journalistic Perspectives

Chair: Marc O. DeGirolami (St. John’s University School of Law)

* Matthew Boudway (Associate Editor, Commonweal)

* Susannah Meadows (Contributor, New York Times)

* Rusty R. Reno (Editor, First Things)

4:45 PM – 5:15 pm: Vespers

5:15 pm: Reception

The Economist Launches a Religion Blog

The Economist magazine has launched a new blog on religion and public policy, “Erasmus,” named for the Renaissance Dutch humanist who tried to chart a middle course between scholastic Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation. “Hard clogs to fill,” as the first post admits, but Erasmus looks like a very welcome contribution to the blogosphere. We look forward to reading it. 

“Religious Broadcasting in the Middle East” (Hroub, ed.)

If you are promoting a political and legal blueprint for society, it helps to have a media outlet. Islamists in the Middle East have become very adept at using media networks to advance their aims. In Egypt, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood operates its own TV station, Misr25. A new collection  of essays from Columbia University Press, Religious Broadcasting in the Middle East (2012), investigates Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious programming in the Middle East. The collection is edited by Khaled Hroub (Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows:

Religious broadcasting in the Middle East has benefited tremendously from new transnational media networks and the widespread availability of satellite broadcasting technology. Dozens of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious channels are now on air, advocating different forms of religiosity and shaping public perceptions through dialogue and debate. Mainstream news channels, such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, broadcast popular religious programming, in some cases filled with highly politicized content. Others feature more apolitical commentary and are concerned only with preaching God’s word.

The Middle East’s highly-charged religious and political ferment has certainly been propitious for such broadcasters as they seek to convey their message. This has, in turn, reinforced the link between the dominant “religious atmosphere” and religious broadcasting. Monitoring the content-analysis of some of the region’s most influential religious channels and programs, the contributors to this volume provide pioneering insights into the Middle East’s burgeoning religious media market. They explore the themes, discourses, appearances, and “celebrities” of this rapidly expanding phenomenon and how its complex dynamics have transformed the region and the world.

Update: Pussy Riot Gets Two Years

An update on a story we’ve been following. A Russian court today convicted  three members of Pussy Riot, a punk band that stormed the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral last winter to perform a “punk prayer” to protest Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, of criminal hooliganism and sentenced them to two years in prison. By Western standards, it’s a harsh and disproportionate sentence. By way of comparison, when members of a group called ACT-UP disrupted a Mass at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1989, they received only misdemeanor convictions and no jail time. Similarly, in June, a New York court convicted Occupy Wall Street protesters of trespassing on property owned by Trinity Church; again, only misdemeanor convictions and no jail time.

But Russia is different. Before we get all sanctimonious about how much better we are in the West, though, it’s worth reflecting on a couple of things. First, as I’ve written before, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour has a sad history. The Communists dynamited the first version of the cathedral as part of an anti-Christian campaign in the 1930s, and Christians remain very sensitive about it. Notwithstanding the politicization and corruption in the Russian Orthodox Read more

Winston (ed.), “The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media”

News stories involving religion in one way or another — whether in legal, cultural, or political affairs — seem to be increasing.  Each day, one notices more and more news items that deal with religion.  That is one reason why The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media (OUP 2012), edited by Diane Winston (USC) is a welcome and very useful contribution to the sociology of religion literature.  The publisher’s description of this massive work follows.

Once relegated to the private sphere, or confined to its own section of the newspaper, religion is now a major part of daily news coverage. Every journalist needs a basic knowledge of religion to cover everything from presidential elections to the war in Iraq to the ethical issues raised by latest developments in medical research. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the American News Media will be the go-to volume for both secular and religious journalists and journalism educators, scholars in media studies, journalism studies, religious studies, and American studies. Comprised of six sections, the first examines the history of the mass media and the role religion played in its growth. The second looks at how the major media formats–print, broadcast, and online–deal with religion. The next two examines how journalists cover major religious traditions and particular issues that have religion angles. The fifth examines the religious press, from the Christian Broadcasting Network to The Forward. The final section looks at how the American press covers the rest of the world.

Walter Russell Mead on Religious Ignorance in the Media

In a democratic society, law and public policy follow, however imperfectly, public opinion. That’s why it’s important that journalists, who do so much to shape public opinion, cover stories thoroughly and correctly. When it comes to covering religion, however, Walter Russell Mead writes this weekend, the mainstream media’s ignorance dramatically skews things:

False panics over alleged theocracies lurking under every bush (haha), inability to analyze or cover major news stories involving Islam, and a persistent overestimation of global support for the secular rights-driven agenda that serves much of the MSM as a guiding ideology in lieu of religion can all be traced back to the religious illiteracy of so many journalists today. The MSM covers US politics less effectively than it could and missed the boat on the Arab Spring primarily because it has so little grasp of what religion is and how it works.

There’s lots of evidence for what Mead alleges. A couple of years ago, I heard a BBC announcer refer to Easter as the day on which Christians commemorate the death of Jesus. I’m not sure what can be done, except to encourage journalists to learn more about religion and cover it carefully. Sites like Mead’s, FaithWorld, and GetReligion are helpful correctives.