The mass media and religious groups in America regularly argue about news bias, sex and violence on television, movie censorship, advertiser boycotts, broadcast and film content rating systems, government regulation of the media, the role of mass evangelism in a democracy, and many other issues. In the United States the major disputes between religion and the media usually have involved Christian churches or parachurch ministries, on the one hand, and the so-called secular media, on the other. Often the Christian Right locks horns with supposedly liberal Eastern media elite and Hollywood entertainment companies. When a major Protestant denomination calls for an economic boycott of Disney, the resulting news reports suggest business as usual in the tensions between faith groups and media empires.
Schultze demonstrates how religion and the media in America have borrowed each other’s rhetoric. In the process, they have also helped to keep each other honest, pointing out respective foibles and pretensions. Christian media have offered the public as well as religious tribes some of the best media criticism— better than most of the media criticism produced by mainstream media themselves. Meanwhile, mainstream media have rightly taken particular churches to task for misdeeds as well as offered some surprisingly good depictions of religious life.
The tension between Christian groups and the media in America ultimately is a good thing that can serve the interest of democratic life. As Alexis de Tocqueville discovered in the 1830s, American Christianity can foster the “habits of the heart” that ward off the antisocial acids of radical individualism. And, as John Dewey argued a century later, the media offer some of our best hopes for maintaining a public life in the face of the religious tribalism that can erode democracy from within. Mainstream media and Christianity will always be at odds in a democracy. That is exactly the way it should be for the good of each one.
In Passionate and Pious Monique Moultrie explores the impact of faith-based sexual ministries on black women's sexual agency to trace how these women navigate sexuality, religious authority, and their spiritual walk with God. Providing churchwomen a space to candidly discuss these issues, these popular ministries exist largely beyond the traditional church, with dialogues about sex taking place in chat rooms and through text messages, social media, email, and other media. Moultrie foregrounds televangelist Juanita Bynum's construction of the black Christian sexual identity these ministries promote while emphasizing how churchwomen reconcile these prescriptive identities with their individual experiences. What does it mean for senior women to exercise sexual agency when their church standing could be questioned? What does celibacy mean for women who experience same-sex desire while believing that such desire goes against God's will? Advancing a womanist sexual ethics, Moultrie reframes biblical interpretations and conceptions of what constitutes a healthy relationship to provide a basis for sexual decision making that does not privilege monogamy or deny female pleasure, thereby calling on black churchwomen to experience responsible and life-enhancing sex.
In recent years, anthropologists, historians, and others have been drawn to study the profuse and creative usages of digital media by religious movements. At the same time, scholars of Christian Africa have long been concerned with the history of textual culture, the politics of Bible translation, and the status of the vernacular in Christianity. Students of Islam in Africa have similarly examined politics of knowledge, the transmission of learning in written form, and the influence of new media. Until now, however, these arenas—Christianity and Islam, digital media and “old” media—have been studied separately.
Religion, Media, and Marginality in Modern Africa is one of the first volumes to put new media and old media into significant conversation with one another, and also offers a rare comparison between Christianity and Islam in Africa. The contributors find many previously unacknowledged correspondences among different media and between the two faiths. In the process they challenge the technological determinism—the notion that certain types of media generate particular forms of religious expression—that haunts many studies. In evaluating how media usage and religious commitment intersect in the social, cultural, and political landscapes of modern Africa, this collection will contribute to the development of new paradigms for media and religious studies.
Contributors: Heike Behrend, Andre Chappatte, Maria Frahm-Arp, David Gordon, Liz Gunner, Bruce S. Hall, Sean Hanretta, Jorg Haustein, Katrien Pype, and Asonzeh Ukah.
In 1999, the Reverend Jerry Falwell outed Tinky-Winky, the purple character from TV's Teletubbies. Events such as this reinforced in many quarters the common idea that evangelicals are reactionary, out of touch, and just plain paranoid. But reducing evangelicals to such caricatures does not help us understand their true spiritual and political agendas and the means they use to advance them. Shaking the World for Jesus moves beyond sensationalism to consider how the evangelical movement has effectively targeted Americans—as both converts and consumers—since the 1970s.
Thousands of products promoting the Christian faith are sold to millions of consumers each year through the Web, mail order catalogs, and even national chains such as Kmart and Wal-Mart. Heather Hendershot explores in this book the vast industry of film, video, magazines, and kitsch that evangelicals use to spread their message. Focusing on the center of conservative evangelical culture—the white, middle-class Americans who can afford to buy "Christian lifestyle" products—she examines the industrial history of evangelist media, the curious subtleties of the products themselves, and their success in the religious and secular marketplace.
To garner a wider audience, Hendershot argues, evangelicals have had to carefully temper their message. But in so doing, they have painted themselves into a corner. In the postwar years, evangelical media wore the message of salvation on its sleeve, but as the evangelical media industry has grown, many of its most popular products have been those with heavily diluted Christian messages. In the eyes of many followers, the evangelicals who purvey such products are sellouts—hucksters more interested in making money than spreading the word of God.
Working to understand evangelicalism rather than pass judgment on it, Shaking the World for Jesus offers a penetrating glimpse into a thriving religious phenomenon.
Writing in the New York Times Magazine, Max Frankel characterized Unsecular Media as a book that "leaves you thinking about the saintly role that religion has acquired in our allegedly irreligious media."
Mark Silk's book is the first to offer a comprehensive description and analysis of how American news media cover religion.