Friday, August 22, 2008

Religion and News Media

By Rebecka Donnelly

Religion is quite often seen as a point of controversy within the realm of mass media, specifically news and journalism. However religion and spirituality manifest in various ways within news and journalism and as a result can lead to various outcomes within this field. This paper will discuss articles from, Stewart Hoover, John Schmalzbauer and Jay Rosen to display the ways in which religion is present within the news media and journalism and how said media is affected as a result.

Stewart Hoover’s article “Media and Religion in Transition” demonstrates the relationship between religion and the media and how the changing perception of religion as well as the evolution of the mass media influence and interact with each other. The article argues that although media isn’t as homogenised as it once was, it’s ‘public-ness’ continues to make it a prominent and relevant cornerstone of society. The separation of the media has enabled faith based programming to be aired and to reach certain “niche” audiences. Although the reach of such programs/ channels is not as vast in comparison to previous trends in the mass media, they are still able to operate successfully within the current mass media model. This is also shaped by the changes in faith throughout greater society. The article states that an increasing number of people don’t identify themselves with a traditional religion but rather see themselves as ‘spiritual’ or believing in god and/or perhaps a significant life force.

It continues on to describe the four main avenues religion and spirituality are covered in within the mass media (news, religious broadcasting, religious publishing and entertainment) and the ways in which they are covered. In regards to how religion is portrayed within the news, the article states that classically religion based stories are quite often avoided. Hoover offers four reasons why this is the case. Because of its strong experiential aspect, religion is hard to “source”. Religion based stories also go “under reported” as they can’t necessarily be based on fact and can quite often be too complex and intricate to sufficiently cover. Finally such stories are avoided because they are often considered too controversial.

“Journalism and the Religious Imagination” by John Schmalzbauer focuses more on how one’s religious orientation influences one’s perspective of the news. Schmalzbauer covered the work of ten Catholic and ten Protestant journalists to determine major recurring themes within the stories of each group. In his study he found the religious perspective of the journalists he studied influenced the nature of what stories they covered as well as how they covered them. He notes that the relationship with God differs between the two religions and this difference in relationship determines the angle from which stories were covered. He states Protestants preferred to cover stories from a “culture wars” angle, almost an ‘us versus them’ between the” religious conservatives and the secular liberals”. Catholics preferred to cover stories from more of an analogical angle, focusing on “points of agreement” between the opposing parties.

Quite different to the concepts of Hoover and Schmalzbauer is that of Jay Rosen who theorises that journalism itself can be and is regarded as a religion. In his article “Journalism Is Itself a Religion”, he outlines eight different points of argument that support this notion. He confirms the similarities between religion and journalism by drawing attention to the practices and theories within the school of journalism. Rosen compares the hierarchy of the newsroom, journalism’s code of conduct (the Journalist’s Creed) as well as the various practices and behaviours that are characteristic of the profession with those aspects of similarity within the church. He argues that the profession of journalism is held in such high regard by those in the field of journalism that it’s practices and values are deemed sacred.

The works of Rosen and Schmalzbauer have almost directly contrasting concepts. Where one sees religion as a cause for certain journalistic practices, the other perceives journalism as a religious practice. Hoover also makes a pointed argument in reference to the relationship between religion and media that is relevant to the discussion. Rosen’s journo-religio theory supports Hoover’s observation of the news media’s general avoidance of faith based stories. Given that journalists are trained and encouraged to maintain integrity by factually and accurately covering stories as per their ‘religion’, they will, as a result, neglect to cover religion based stories that are heavily reliant on the experience of believers rather than by substantial evidence.

Media and religion are fundamental cornerstones of society. Both function in ways that influence and perhaps at times determine the beliefs, values and behaviour of the greater community. This review has examined three very significant and very different ways in which religion and news media interact and intertwine with one another. It can be seen that the relationship between these two entities can be both beneficial but also, at times, detrimental.

List of Works Consulted

Badaracco, Claire Hoertz (Ed.), Quoting God: How media shapes ideas about religion and culture, Waco, TX, Baylor University Press, : 2005 / ch.1, pp.21-36

Hoover, Stewart M., Religion in the media age, London, Routledge : 2006 / ch.3, pp.45-83.

Rosen, Jay. "Journalism Is Itself a Religion: Special Essay on Launch of the Revealer". 2004. .

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dogma and Stigmata - Time for change

Tallulah Grey 

Popular films such as Dogma and Stigmata, while made to entertain more than educate, send a very important message to their viewers: and that is that the current ‘message’ is wrong. Both films deal with hypocrisy in the Catholic Church, and the need for religious groups to evolve along with society.


Kevin Smith’s Dogma deals with a confused modern faith where the old rules of religion contradict with the new rules of society. Cardinal Glick, played by the late George Carlin, attempts to update the church by modernising it through ‘Catholicism Wow!’ and the ‘Buddy Christ’: an image of Jesus winking and giving the thumbs up. Glick is not doing this so that modern Christians can understand their religion better; he is doing it for publicity. His techniques are similar to those of large franchises, with the Buddy Christ slightly reminiscent of Ronald McDonald. His “hook ‘em while they’re young” mentality sounds more like an advertiser than a man trying to bring the Word of God to the masses.

Dogma features a host of heavenly and demonic characters, including God as played by musician Alanis Morrisette. When asked why we are here, God pokes Bethany in the nose and makes a silly sound. There is no plan; we are here only because God loves us and possibly finds us amusing enough to keep around. There is no need to follow a strict set of rules other than to be a good sort of person. We should, in the words of Abraham Lincoln in 1990 film Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: “be excellent to each other and party on, dudes.” (3)

The thirteenth disciple Rufus, a black man written out of the Gospels because of his colour, speaks of how the message got confused. Christianity was never meant to be a religion, but just “a good idea” of how people should live their lives. “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should be malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth: new ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.” (1)

The ex-muse Serendipity, played by Salma Hayek, has some of the most insightful things to say about organised religion. “When are you people going to learn? It’s not about who’s right or wrong. No denomination’s nailed it yet, and they never will because they’re all too self-righteous to realise that it doesn’t matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith. Your hearts are in the right place, but your brains need to wake up.” (1) Serendipity speaks of faith rather than religion, an idea being more and more accepted particularly by younger believers. She also says: “I have issues with anyone who treats faith as a burden instead of a blessing. You people don’t celebrate your faith: you mourn it.” (1)


Stigmata handles the concept of a church refusing to believe its most beloved of messengers, Jesus Christ. The spirit of an excommunicated stigmatic monk who had been translating a Gospel before he died possesses a young woman, Frankie. The Gospel contains Jesus’ direct instructions on how to run the Christian Church after his death. It opens with the lines: “The Kingdom of God lies inside you and all around you, not in mansions of wood and stone. Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift a stone and you will find me.” (2) The message in the Gospel contradicts so many of the guidelines set out by the Church that a cover-up is attempted so that the Church will not lose its power. Cardinal Houseman, played by Jonathon Pryce, goes so far as to try and kill Frankie to keep the Gospel’s message secret.

Frankie, played by Medium’s Patricia Arquette, is an atheist who has no respect for the Catholic Church. She attempts to seduce Father Kiernan, who is played by Gabriel Byrne. Kiernan is sent to discover the reasons for the Stigmata appearing on her body, but he suffers from a crippling crisis of faith. The possession and Stigmata almost kill Frankie, and by the end of the film she has formed a special sort of belief due to what happens to her. “You know what’s scarier than not believing in God? Believing in him. I mean, really believing in him. It’s a f***ing terrifying thought.”(2) It is unclear where Frankie’s life is headed after Father Alameida’s spirit leaves her, but it seems likely that she would go on to live a highly spiritual life along with Father Kiernan, who is unlikely to stay with the priesthood after what he has witnessed. Together they may travel and spread the true word of Jesus Christ, but it seems more likely that Frankie would prefer to return to a relatively normal life: she is not the preaching type.

Stigmata is much like Dogma in the way that they both attempt to turn people away from strict rules and overbearing Church doctrine, and focus more on individual faith. While neither film is completely anti-Catholic, they both portray Catholicism and other major religions as flawed. The films suggest it is time to update humanity’s concept of religion. Atrocities are being committed in the name of God every day. It is time to step back and discover what we truly believe.

(1) Smith, K. (1999) Dogma, Dir. Smith, K.

(2) Lorenzo, T. (1999) Stigmata, Dir. Wainwright, R.

(3) Matheson, C & Solomon, E (1990) Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Dir. Herek, S.

What Would Jesus Sell?

What Would Jesus Sell?
Sarah McAlpine

In the 21st century, nothing is revolutionary in the world of dating. Social networking sites are ever evolving, as is the modernisation of religion. But can Christian dating sites justify charging for their services? Are Christians really using God as an endorser to a product or service?

Leading US Christian Dating service, Mingle goes to the extremes of offering a cash reward scheme for referrals which lead to membership. The site offers an initial free membership, and does not mention cost of full membership until well after joining. A sub section on the site ‘Gift Subscriptions’ does not mention prices either; one has to enter their login details before such information is disclosed. Basically, fees are never alluded to in the joining process.

After setting up a test account, digging around the site for close to an hour and reading the phrase “Join For Free” over and over, the Subscription page finally allowed me access. The price for a gift subscription for was set at $29.99/month but deals were offered for extended membership. A 12 Month subscription was offered at $119.88. Is this a small price to pay for eternal happiness?

The homepage of the site dedicates about half of the space to a search bar and “Join For Free” advertisement with a section to enter personal details. The other half includes four sample headshots of other members, testimonials, a success story (see right) and religious daily updates, such as the Daily Verse and Ministry Highlights.

A 2006 article of the Los Angeles Times entitled What Would Jesus Sell by Stephanie Simon touched base on the marketing behind Christian products and services. She claims that in 2004 the retail Christian industry reached heights of $4.3 billion. Items being sold included religious golf balls which featured a printed Bible verse and thongs with a pattern on the bottom which left the message ‘Follow Jesus’ in the sand. Simon states that Christian marketers are putting “a religious twist on unexpected products – marketed as a means to reach the unsuspecting and unsaved.”

The ChristianMingle site is owned by The Sparks Network, a production company who dabble in many forms of income. While they describe themselves as one of the leading independent television production companies in the world, The Sparks also have a line of network services, including mobiles. The most appropriate for this discussion, however, is the range of tailor-made dating services it offers. These include dating for the Greeks; the Deaf; Black singles; Military singles; Single Parents and more. In fact the site currently lists 31 dating sites for target markets. With statistics like these, it is obvious that is a business and not set up in good faith. The exploitation of Christians and other groups in general for money is an enormous issue among society today. The hardest part, it would seem, is drawing the line between products created for good faith and products created for marketability.

Bob Siemon Designs is a company famous for making the WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? line of jewellery. The Bob Siemon Design website sells everything from cross pendants to dove earrings, even leopard-skin Bible covers. The company also teamed up with Mel Gibson to create Share the Passion of the Christ, a line of jewellery including the ‘Passion’ tagline. Accessories include a nail pendant with Isaiah 53:3 (“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”) Graduation gifts include the inscription from Jeremiah 29:11 which reads, “"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."” It is debatable whether the verses are serving their exact purpose by providing inspiration in current day terms, or whether they have just been manipulated. Bob Siemon’s website, however, does include profitability in his core values. A statement on the page reads, “Sales growth combined with fair profits are essential in creating a healthy business, enabling our employees to accomplish their financial and career objectives.”

These days, it seems like every entrepreneur is seeking out ways to make a quick buck. When religion becomes involved, a whole range of moral questions enter into the scenario. My belief personally is that a Christian person will definitely feel more devoted to their faith by wearing it on their body, and wearing a cross is a commonly accepted sign of commitment to faith. When someone is purchasing a religious jewellery piece from a jeweller, there is no doubt in the consumer’s mind where their money is going. It only becomes a moral dilemma when companies state their affiliation with the church and God as a sales tactic, as sites such as ChristianMingle are doing. I believe it should be compulsory for these companies to state costs of services and where the money is going upfront as to maintain tact and marketability.

"Online Christian Dating For Christian Singles." 16 Aug. 2008 .

Simon, Stephanie. "What Would Jesus Sell." Los Angeles Times. 21 June 2006.16 Aug. 2008 .

"Welcome to Bob Siemon Designs - Christian Jewelry, Bibile Covers and Gifts." Bob Siemon Designs. 2007. 16 Aug. 2008 .

Siemon, Bob, ed. "Passion Jewelry." Share the Passion of the Christ. 16 Aug. 2008 .

Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: Biblical accuracy

Some raved that it was the most controversial movie of it’s time, while others sang praises of it’s beautifully accurate depiction of a terrible event. Robert Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, in contrast to Christopher Hitchen’s horrendous review, calling it “an exercise in sadomasochistic homoeroticism” (Hitchens 2007). Regardless of the criticism, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ beautifully depicts the last 48 hours of Jesus Christ’s life. The Passion follows Jesus from his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane and Judas’ betrayal: to his trial with Pilate and the denial of Peter: to his brutal flogging and his last breath upon the cross at Golgotha. Gibson’s portrayal of the crucifixion has been crucified itself for being far too gruesome and inaccurate. However, The Passion of the Christ is the most historically accurate contemporary picture society has seen. By comparing the scourging and crucifixion scenes in the movie, the biblical accuracy of The Passion is evident.


“He ordered Jesus flogged with a led-tippped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to crucify him.” Mark 15:15 NLT

The scourging of a criminal was the prelude to the crucifixion. The criminal was stripped of their clothing, their hands tied together and affixed around a post above their head. Once secured, the Roman legionnaire, with flagellum in hand, would begin the brutal whipping. The flagellum was a whip comprised of leather thongs with two small lead balls attached near it’s ends. As the whip is brought down upon the body “at first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only,” but with each blow, the flagellum “cut[s] deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first and oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding form vessels in the underlying muscles” (Davis 1965) When the centurion in charge determines the criminal was near death, the scourging would cease (Davis 1965). Jesus was ordered to be “flogged with a lead-tipped whip” in the gospel of Mark (Mk 15:15 NLT). In The Passion of the Christ, the scourging of Jesus scene portrays his beating in accordance to the manner stated above: His clothes are torn off; hands are tied together and wrapped around a post positioned above his head. With flagellum in hand, the Roman guards begin brutally whipping Jesus, laughing at his agony as the crowd looks on, some weeping, others cheering. Blood sails through the air, soaking the ground beneath Jesus, splattering the Roman guard’s faces, and even sails as far as the camera lens. The facial expressions with every whip tell of the sheer pain and once they are finished, Jesus is left in a pool of his own blood. As the film continues, the Roman soldiers dress Jesus “in a purple robe and made a crown of long sharp thorns and put it on his head,” (Mk 15:17 NLT) just as it says in the gospels. The scourging scenes have a biblical base behind their action, apparent by their relationship to the text.


“Carrying his cross by himself, Jesus went to the place called Skull Hill (in Hebrew, Golgotha). There they crucified him. “ John 19:17-19 NLT

After the scourging has ceased, the Romans required that the criminal carry a large wooden cross to the place of their own execution. It was at the place of execution that the criminal would be attached to the cross. In the gospel of John, Jesus was ordered to carry “his cross by himself” (Jn 19:17 NLT) Known as the act of “torture and execution of a person by fixation on a cross,” this horrendous practice was first introduced into Egypt and Carthage by the Persians (Davis 1965). The Romans later mastered the tortuous act and increased the efficiency of each whip. Accounts from Roman history “have shown that the nails were driven between the small bones of the wrists” (Davis 1965). Historically Christians have believed that the large nails were pierced through Jesus’ palm; however, “nails driven through the palms would strip out between the fingers when they support the weight of a human body” (Davis 1965). In The Passion of the Christ, after being brutally beaten, Jesus carries his cross through the city, stumbling with every step he takes and falling helplessly to the ground. After help from a man named Simon, a battered Jesus reaches the top of Golgotha. In this scene, Jesus is nailed to the cross; two nails accurately driven through his wrist bones and another through his feet. Both feet are extended, left foot pressed against the right, toes down and the nail pierces the arches. Once the cross is raised, the remaining events in the movie follow the order as written in the gospels: beginning with Jesus being taunted by the guards, and finishing with Jesus’ last anguished shout of “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?) (Mk 15:34 NLT) Once again, the crucifixion scene is concurrent with the manner in which the event happened within biblical text.

The Passion of the Christ caused a stir when released in 2004. Many viewers were upset by the highly violent actions of the movie. Others critiqued Gibson’s “obvious” anti-Semitic viewpoints. However, it is hard to believe that the controversial issue around The Passion of the Christ was strictly the highly violent scenes or the possible anti-Semitic undertones. It was society’s unpreparedness for what Gibson was ready to portray. The crucifixion is and should be upsetting; a man, whipped until near death and then forced to carry a 110 pound cross, which he is nailed to by his own limbs -- does not exactly sound like the next Disney hit. Gibson took the chance to give the world a glimpse of what the crucifixion might have been like. Was his depiction 100% correct? No one knows nor ever will. But Bible scholar and President of Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson believes that not only was the movie “faithful to the essentials of the biblical account, it is easily the most heart-wrenching, powerful portrayal of Christ's suffering that I have ever seen” (Dobson 2004). With scenes rooted in biblical evidence, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ beautifully portrays the most horrific event in history: the death of Jesus Christ.

Carole Baumgartner
Word Count: 1054

Works Cited
Davis, C. Truman. "The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of view." Arizona Medicine (Arizona Medical Association), March 1965.
Dobson, Dr. James. "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Focus on the Family. Feb 2004. (accessed Jul 15, 2008).
The Passion of the Christ. Directed by Mel Gibson. Produced by Newmarket Films. 2004.
Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Allen & Unwin, 2007.

Religion Online - Godtube and Beliefnet - by Sarah Turnbull

In order to keep up with the rapidly changing world religion has also had to make some changes and adapt to the world around it. In today’s world when someone wants information relating to any topic, not just religion, very few people want to go to the local library and spend hours looking through books. With the convenience of the Internet people can search for information on any topic the human mind can think of and google will most likely point you in the right direction. People are less likely to go to the local church, mosque or temple to seek out someone who can take the time to answer questions and explain the details of that particular belief. Especially not when with a keyword and a search engine you can find it for yourself in a matter of seconds. Convenience is important in the world today and the religious community has realised this establishing a strong presence on the Internet and the World Wide Web (Helland 2004). Once a person has chosen a religion, or if they already ascribe to one (or multiple), there are well-developed online sites and communities that allow people to attend services, request and give prayer, or network with others that embrace the same belief system. To examine the world of online religion further I will be reviewing and

Our mission is to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness. Whether you're exploring your own faith or other spiritual traditions, we provide you inspiring devotional tools, access to the best spiritual teachers and clergy in the world, thought-provoking commentary, and a supportive community. Beliefnet is the largest spiritual web site. We are not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement. Our only agenda is to help you meet your spiritual needs. Beliefnet is part of the Fox Entertainment Group, which is a division of News Corporation.

This is the mission statement from claiming that the site is unbiased in regards to the religions and spiritual traditions that feature on this website. However, when it comes to the features on relationships, family, comfort and support and entertainment there are Christian undertones with dominant features on prayer, Bible versus and Christian music and film ( The site is one example of religions and belief systems adapting to the development of new technologies in a changing world at the risk of being left behind and losing contact with religious communities at large (Helland 2004). Information is available within seconds on almost any mainstream - and not so mainstream - religion, belief system or spiritual tradition you can think of. If a person is unsure as to what belief would suit their lifestyle there are quizzes available to find out which faith suits your belief system best. There are features on current events and politics from a spiritual perspective and even tips on how to lose weight or how to harmonize your home and the spiritual aspects of gardening. Overall is a good place to find information on a wide range of religions and spiritual beliefs. However, the site does have American cultural undertones and in my opinion is geared more toward the Christian faith.

Godtube on the other hand is a distinctively Christian-based site (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal, etc). The videos range from music videos to inspirational stories, to Canada’s own “Preacher Idol” and skits from Christian comedians ( This is the Christian answer to Youtube of course, only this version does not allow for “non-Christian” content. Display of anything not overtly Christian-based can expect harsh criticism. One member had a music video from Disney’s High School Musical and received comments such as:

We all need to break free of the devil! - Why is this on Godtube it's NOT Christian!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - Yeah. what does this have to do with God this shouldnt be on here! It shud all be christian vids and music not secular vids and music. - Why is this even on here man, talk about backsliding. - THIS IS GODTUBE!!!!!!!!!!!! IF YOU WANT TO UPLOAD HSM THEN GO TO YOUTUBE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When trying to sign up for a membership to Godtube in order to gain more access to the features offered by the site I experienced trouble because my email contains the word “sassy”. Everything is carefully screened to fit the mould of what are deemed to be Christian ideals. Although some of the content is overtly fanatical and very right-wing Christian, there are some beautiful encouraging videos such as “My Redeemer Lives - Team Hoyt” ( allows for people ascribing to the Christian belief system, a place to share their thoughts and beliefs in an environment that encourages Christian spiritual growth. This site is an example of how religions have taken the steps necessary so they will not be left behind in the era of the Internet.

Casey (2001) poses the question “[i]s cyberspace becoming a new – or the new – sacred space?”. Although the world’s religions have embraced the new online community that has rapidly developed throughout the 1980s and 1990s the physical connection with other worshipers, followers and leaders remains an important factor of spiritual life for many people. What the Internet does allow for is more interpretation and freedom to practice religion and spirituality outside the traditional confines of organised religion.


Beliefnet –

Casey, C.A. 2001. ‘Online Religion and Finding Faith on the Web: An Examination of’. Proceedings of the Media Ecology Association v. 2 pp. 32-40

Godtube –

Helland, C. 2004. ‘Popular Religion and the World Wide Web: A Match Made in (Cyber) Heaven’. In Religion Online, eds. Dawson & Cowan. New York: Routledge

Sarah Turnbull - 41383706

Sam Slater Assignment-Article Review

Samantha Slater
RELN 2011-Shaw
Article Reviews
This article review will summarize then analyze three articles. I will begin with a summary. Then the evaluation will be opinion based.
The article “Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media,” was the product of a study conducted by Media Matters for America. The method used was a comparison of how many times ten progressive and ten conservative religious figures were quoted, interviewed, and mentioned. Major religious leaders that have political influence such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were not included in the study because it would have skewed the findings.The overall result was conservative religious leaders were quoted, interviewed, and mentioned 2.8 times more than progressive religious leaders. The rest of the results were of similar outcome.
The methodology used in this assessment was solid. The exclusion of well-know figures allowed the data to show a more accurate conclusion . If the figure heads had been included in the study there would have been an over representation of progressive religious leaders. These people are more than a religious leader they are outspoken extremes which are over broadcasted in the media.
The findings are what experience has shown. Religion and especially conservative religion has founds its way into media. It is a misrepresentation of America. The article said that almost 90 percent of Americans are religious but only 22 percent of that is traditional religion. This just says that not only conservative more represented but that progressives are over represented as well if the American public was accurately portrayed.
This article is most likely correct in its findings; in America conservative religion is overrepresented in media. Unfortunately, these conclusions are coming from such a bias and untrustworthy source any conclusion drawn from them is null and void. Media Matters for America is a left or progressive non-profit organization . If the result had determined that progressives were more often quoted, interviewed, and mentioned the study would most likely never seen the light of day. Also Media Matters for America is a non-profit. Non-profits are not reliable sources of any study because of how they are funded.
The article “Terrorists We Do Like and Terrorists We Don’t Like,” explains American media bias against Muslims and other-than-Anglo people. It argues that even prior to 9/11 the foundation of discrimination against these groups was already in place. This stereotype was prompted by a prejudice media and how popular culture now makes the association without even thinking about it. It is stated that the media, especially in the States will overlook or underreport incidents involving terrorist groups of Anglos.
This article is coming from a very true place. After the September 11th attacks in the States there was a definite anti- Muslim sentiment. This article is true, but it was repetitive. It has already been said. The anti- Muslim media coverage was most predominating right after 9/11. This was seven years ago. The media has called itself out on the coverage. This is not to say that the media coverage is fair to non-Anglos .
However, this article is a great representation of the Culture Industry idea of Adrono and Horkehiemer. The media is giving a repetitive message to create a desired response from the viewer. This is the sort of thing that Ardono and Horkehimer were worried about; that people could be programmed to hate via the media. But the backlash from the reporting somewhat disproves the culture theory .
“The Culture of Real Virtuality: the Integration of Electronic Communication, the End of the Mass Audience, and the Rise of Interactive Networks,” is an article about the culture surrounding media. It discusses the frequency of media consumption, who is consuming and the culture significance in this. It primarily focuses on the consequences or the culture price of the emerging media condition. It can be summed up by the social and cultural differentiation, increased social stratification, and movement towards all media having a common cognitive pattern, and creating a culturally relative product for the consumer.
This article, though dated, was relevant. It agreed with statistic from other independent studies . It refrained from making extreme predictions about what media. It used past reactions to media to draw analogies for the future. Realizing that social networking through media will/is resulting in weaker social ties. This is while the number of social ties is on the increase. The article stated that as many as 950+ weak social ties on average for a North American. This sort of data is very telling of the impact of media on cultural. For as the number of weak social connections grows the number of strong ties will decrease. Media is traditionally a one way flow of information but it is being morphed into a two way, which of course will have cultural impact, just as one way did .
As technology improved diversification of the product (media) did leading to changed patterns of consumption. The cultural significant of this is who is using the products; on average it is youth who are well to do and educated. The proliferation of the internet was defined by entering the collegiate world then following the gradates into the working world. This made the internet, the new frontier for media, for the rich and the educated. This will lead to media being divided, as the article stated, into the interacting (the rich) and the interacted (those only responding) .
Reference: (See Footnotes)

R Walters - Journal of Black Studies, 2007 -
2008 Media Matters for America.
Media Matters for America, 2007, Left Behind, The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media, May,
Elliot D, 2003, ‘Terrorists we do like and Terrorists we don't like’, In PM Lester & EE Dennis, Eds., Images that Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media, 2nd Edn, London, Praeger, ch7, 51-55. RL
Adorno T, 1991, ‘The Culture Industry’; ‘The Culture Industry Reconsidered’, The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, Routledge, London.
G Comstock - Thinking and literacy: The mind at work, 1995 -
Personal interview. Shaw, Sylvie. July 2008.
Castells M, 2000, The Rise of the Network Society, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford & Malden MA. Ch. 5: ‘Culture of Real Virtuality: The Integration of Electronic Communication, the End of the Mass Audience, and the Rise of Interactive Networks.’ ,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Albany Creek Uniting Church Website Review

Albany Creek Uniting Church Website Review
By Michael Curd

Since moving into the digital age, many corporations use new media such as blogs, websites and podcasts as a powerful means of communication to sell their product or convey a message to a wider audience. It’s no surprise that religious organisations and communities have become one of the primary users of the new mediums. My church, Albany Creek Uniting Church, saw a need to construct a website in mid 2004, aiming to spread the message of our church’s beliefs and values to a wider community, and to be present amongst other churches as people search for a spiritual community in which to share their faith. I was appointed to run the website, and since then, have worked with the church’s minister, Reverend Yvonne Sutherland to maintain the website. In this essay, I will critically assess the website; reviewing the process and analysing its effectiveness in the following areas; usability, accessibility, as well as its contents.

The decision to move onto the internet was made by the church’s then-youth worker, Brian Kickbusch. By this time, many churches around the local area had constructed a website, and had received positive feedback. With a special website server being provided by the Uniting Church of Australia, both Brian and I attended a one day workshop courtesy of the Uniting Church in order to become acquainted with the website server software. In the following weeks, Brian and I met to discuss what content was to go up, and then began to assemble the website. We saw the many advantages of having an information outlet for our church community on the internet, realising that the “reality is that website technology is not a phase and is an essential part of…life.” (Kyllo, J. et al. (2003) (online)). In fact, according to Pew Internet and American Life Project, “The act of searching for spiritual material on-line has also been done by more Americans than have traded stocks or bonds or mutual funds on-line or done on-line banking, or participated in on-line auctions, or used Internet-based dating services, or placed phone calls on-line.” (Pew Internet and American Life Project, (2001) (online)). With this in mind, we set out to make a website that was easily accessible, simple and direct.

As mentioned before, one of the primary goals for the website was for straightforward web-browsing. Directions to each of the links within the website; More Info, News, Calendar, Map & Photo Gallery are all displayed just beneath the name of the church at the top of the screen. External links to supported organisations, such as World Vision, Easterfest and the local chaplain are all displayed clearly on the right hand side of the page in a toolbar-like format. The interlinking of these selected external organisations represents causes which our church believes in supporting. Albany Creek has had for many years a strong focus on youth ministry, and through the association of the local High School chaplain, and Easterfest (a Christian music festival aimed at families), viewers will hopefully recognise the church as youth-accommodating and family oriented.

An important reason Albany Creek Uniting Church moved to the World Wide Web was to make potential members aware of the existence of the church. As stated in The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, “web pages can be the first and only contact between the movement and public or prospective converts.” (Pace, S. (2004) (online)). Thus, it is imperative that seekers will be able to easily locate the website. After using online search engine Google, typing in ‘Albany Creek Uniting Church’, no immediate link to the church’s website was present within the first five pages of the Google search. However, many of the sites listed (the majority Uniting Church of Australia directory websites) had a link to the church’s website. While this is not ideal in regards to search engine positioning, the Albany Creek Uniting Church website, as of 15th August 2008, has had 8691 page views, possibly as a result from the mention of the website on the weekly newsletter given out ever Sunday at church. However, it is important to gain a healthy positioning on major search engines for people who are not yet members of the church.

The most significant aspect of any website is its content; informative, but not overbearing; direct, but effective. However, there is a need to establish a warm, welcoming environment on the website as a reflection of the actual church community, as people seek out emotional comfort. As stated by Stefano Pace in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, “once a cold medium, the internet has become a hot medium, in the sense that emotions and feelings can be experienced and communicated online.” (Pace, S. (2004) (online)). This sense of ‘warmness’ is present on the Home Page, with a photo of four friendly young adults from a Church Beach Camp trip in 2006. This welcoming atmosphere follows on when looking through the photo gallery, with many excitable, fun photographs. The website viewer should feel an emotional comfort through these images. Moreover, photos of the ministry team are displayed on the site. The Home Page contains simple direct information, including worship times, and church’s mission statement (consciously different to the one printed on the weekly newsletter), using empowering words such as “celebrate”, “worship”, “honour”, and “serve”. The news and events content is quite bare, giving the impression of inactivity in the church community. However, extensive information is given about various groups within the church, such as bible studies and youth groups, as well as contact information, successfully establishing a welcoming environment. What this section does lack is ‘warm’ stimuli such as photos of the groups to ignite a genial atmosphere. While some sections of the website, such as the photo gallery and home page, effectively develop an emotional experience for the viewer, other parts of the site feel bland and sterile.

After several meetings with Reverend Yvonne Sutherland, in order to utilize the website more effectively, an external blog site will be linked from the church website, containing the text from Yvonne’s weekly sermons, and possibly in the future, accompanying audio. At this stage, many people are still not aware of the church website, and as a result of lack of updating, many who do visit it don’t return. In order to resolve this and use our website as an effective tool in spreading the message of the church’s beliefs and drawing in potential church-goers, consistent updating of events happening within the church is required, and more visual stimuli to attract people to the church. Once this has been improved, the website will reflect the nature of the church, and ultimately the nature of the God in which we choose to follow.


- Kyllo, J. et al. 2003, Minnesota State University Moorhead Case Study Presentation [online]. Available: [16.08.08]
- Pace, S. 2004, The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture [online]. Available: [16.08.08]
- Pew Internet and American Life Project, Cyberfaith: How Americans Pursue Religion Online [online]. Available:
Site Review Criteria based from:
- Clarity Media, Website Review Process [online]. Available:

Review of The Religion Report and Sunday Night Safran by Jenny Douglas

Both Sunday Night Safran and The Religion Report are weekly radio programs broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Both programs cover similar content, but due to their different target demographics, they are somewhat different in tone and style of presentation.

The Religion Report is hosted by Stephen Crittenden, formerly of ABC television’s current affairs program, The 7.30 Report. The aim of the program is to give listeners an overview of current events in the world of religion. It is broadcast on Radio National every Wednesday at eight-thirty am and repeated at eight pm. The availability of the program via free podcast from the Radio National website makes it possible to reach a wider audience. It also allows listeners to leave messages on the program’s guestbook.

The program contains interviews with religious leaders, journalists and the authors of books about religion, as well as occasional excerpts from religious sermons. In his interviews, Stephen Crittenden seems to strive to achieve a balanced viewpoint, never favouring one side of a debate over the other. For example, in the broadcast of July 30th, 2008, one of the topics of discussion was the Lambeth Conference, which is an assembly of Anglican bishops from around the world, convened every ten years by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This year’s Lambeth Conference has been boycotted by approximately two hundred bishops due to the controversy surrounding the appointment of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson. Rather than simply present the issue as black and white, Crittenden explains reasoning behind some of the bishops who decided not to attend the conference. This decision was not necessarily based on a desire to exclude homosexual priests from the church, but may also have to do with the different issues surrounding the Church in different countries. One Sudanese bishop said that the recognition of same-sex relationships within the church in the West was putting members of his congregation at risk of violent persecution in Africa.

The Religion Report is only a half hour program each week, which means that issues cannot be explored in great depth. However, an issue raised one week is often followed up in subsequent weeks. The brevity of the program also means that fewer issues can be discussed each week. In the broadcast of July 30th, there were only two interviews: the Lambeth Conference and also an interview with Reverend Jim Wallis about his predictions regarding the role of religion in American politics. Reverend Wallis seemed to agree with the authors of Left Behind: The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media (Media Matters in America 2007, p.3) , that the American people are interested in a much broader range of religious and ethical topics than abortion and gay marriage.

Sunday Night Safran is broadcast every Sunday night at nine pm on Triple J. Like The Religion Report, it is also available via free podcast. It is hosted by John Safran, of John Safran Vs. God (SBS Television 2004) fame, and Catholic Priest Father Bob Maguire. The program is comprised mainly of discussions between the two hosts and interviews with religious leaders, journalists and other newsworthy people. The program also contains music, some of which is relevant to the discussion (ie. the segment called Religious Song of the Week), but most of which is from the usual Triple J play list.

Triple J is primarily a music radio station which is specifically aimed at young Australians (, 2008). Consequently, Sunday Night Safran targets a younger demographic than The Religion Report. Because of this, the program is less formal in its approach. The aim of Sunday Night Safran is primarily to entertain, rather than inform listeners. The discussion of religion and politics is interspersed with banter between the two hosts and rambling conversations about music, celebrity gossip and current events. However, this light-hearted approach serves to get and keep listeners’ attention. Studies have suggested that the television viewing habits of today’s youth have led to reduced attention spans (Elias, 2008). If that is true, the younger demographic at which the program is aimed may be more likely to learn about religion and politics from a program which mixes in some humour and other topics with the serious discussions the way John and Father Bob do than from listening to a lengthy, formal news broadcast.

In the broadcast of July 27th, Sunday Night Safran covered several topics in some depth. It included an interview with Dr. Benjamin Penny from the Australian National University about Falun Gong, a discussion about recent events in Nepal, and an interview with John Follain, author of The Last Godfathers, a book about how Catholicism is important to the Sicilian Mafia. The subject of the current controversy in the Anglican Church was touched on only briefly, with John saying that “nobody cares” about it because the Anglicans are “boring” (Sunday Night Safran July 27 2008). However, this is apparently meant in jest, and Father Bob goes on to talk about the respect he has for the progressive elements in the Anglican Church, which he compares favourably with his own Roman Catholic Church.

Unlike Stephen Crittenden, Father Bob, and especially John Safran, are unabashedly partisan about particular issues, with John often arguing that Judaism is “better” than other religions, and Father Bob calling a guest a fascist on air after the guest had left the studio. However, they do try to interview people on both sides of a debate, and offer a right of reply to anyone criticised on the program.

In conclusion, both Sunday Night Safran and The Religion Report cover similar content, and only really differ in the way that content is presented. As a Radio National Program, the Religion Report is focused mainly on informing listeners, and offers a fairly condensed, unbiased overview of current events in the world of religion. Sunday Night Safran focuses more on entertainment, and having a longer timeslot it can cover a broader range of topics, which do not necessarily relate to religion. The hosts do not to attempt to hide their own biases or opinions, but they do allow people on both sides of debate to voice their views.


Media Matters for America, 2007, Left Behind, The Skewed Representation of Religion in Major News Media, May,

Sunday Night Safran. 2008. Triple J. Streaming sound recording: MP3. (Accessed August 1, 2008).

The Religion Report. 30 July 2008. Radio National. Streaming sound recording: MP3. (Accessed August 1, 2008).

About Triple J. 2008. (Accessed August 1, 2008).

Elias, M. 2004 Short Attention Span Linked to TV. (Accessed August 1, 2008).

Daniel Garrihy 3 Articles Reviewed

“U2 is their religion, Bono their God”: Religious Dimensions of Rock and Pop Music as Illustrated by U2 in the light of Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory

Postmodern schools of thought have removed the onus of governing people’s lives and ideologies from organized religions and placed an increasing amount of control in the hands of popular culture. This article examines the worldwide phenomenon of the rock band U2 using the lens of Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory. This Mimetic Theory is based largely on the concept of mankind’s mimetic desire, or the desire to imitate.
The bulk of this article is dedicated to extrapolating on Girard’s mimetic theory and while it provides a more than satisfactory overview, this attention to Girard over U2 ultimately weakens the article and takes away some of the intensity of the weighty quote used in the article’s title. The author does well to establish U2 as a subject worthy of study in the mimetic theory, but ultimately falls a bit short for lack of evidence. Bono is established as a deified character and some of the implications of this phenomenon are discussed, but the exposition felt far more important than the topic that seemed to be the meat of the article.
In short, this article discusses mimetic desire among equals (where there is little mediation) and between mediated subjects (i.e. fans and Bono). Often the tensions that arise because of mimetic rivalries require a scapegoat who is simultaneously ostracised as the source of a problem and deified as a saviour when eliminated. This scapegoat mechanism, a central theory of mimesis can be seen in many archaic religions- the Oedipus myth and ritual sacrifice are used as examples. Christianity, however marks a shift in the scapegoat mechanism wherein the Deity became the scapegoat willingly and forgave His persecutors. In Christianity, Jesus’ divinity does not come from man’s deification of Him, but rather from his nature as the son of God.
Rock and roll and pop culture in general cannot boast this sort of deity, but seem to have reverted to a more archaic system of worship. The fans idolize and deify their stars, but can’t reach the strata that they so badly wish to in order to join their deity. As a result of this disparity, the fans can develop a love-hate relationship with the star creating a joint deity-scapegoat. Under Girard’s theory, there is a definite distinction between myth and religion and popular culture falls in the realm of myth.
The second major topic of discussion in this article is a treatment on song lyrics. The author examines the idea of “theopoetry”- poetry that has its roots in theological and existential concerns. The author compares Bono’s lyrics to metaphysical poetry which was notable for marrying sacred concepts with details of human life and effectively establishes not only Bono’s lyrics, but many popular lyrics as a sort of metaphysical text.
In the final section of the article, the author examines U2 in the light of the theory that was established over the course of the article. U2’s incredible fame and popularity easily fit the mimetic mould and U2 does share certain commonalities with religious institutions. The author finds U2 noteworthy for their positive example of social justice which draws from their Christian roots and shows a compelling case for mimesis as a potential force for good noting that many fans of U2 joined social justice organizations or took interest in causes because of the band’s influence.
Overall, this article makes the mimetic theory understandable and accessible and demonstrates the power of mimesis, particularly in postmodern society, but seems to lose his or her way a bit as far as the focus on U2.

Review of “Wars that Never Take Place: Non-events, 9/11 and Wars on Terrorism”

In this article, Binoy Kampmark uses theories developed by Jean Baudrillard to examine the infamous terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing Wars on Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. Baudrillard’s controversial works are noteworthy for their explanation of “simulacra” and non-events and this article begins with a discussion of the Baudrillardian non-event that was the Gulf War.
Baudrillard gained a good deal of notoriety when he asserted that the Gulf War had not happened. Kampmark suggest that a Baudrillardian analysis is an important tool when attempting “to account for the peculiarities of postmodern war”. In short, after the sheer violence of World War II followed by the “balance of terror’ in the Cold war, any “event” arising from postmodern war is impossible due to the idea of restraint. Kampmark explains that under this Baudrillardian system, restraint is a key feature of the “non-event”- as such, since a lack of restraint in warfare would lead to mutually assured destruction, a “Hot War” was impossible.
In the mediated, postmodern, global society, real events seemed to be impossibility. Baudrillard had ruled out the idea of a “prodigious” event: “The prodigious event, the event which was measured neither by its causes nor consequences, but creates its own image and its own dramatic effect no longer exists”. 9/11 called for Baudrillard to re-examine his previous statements.
A real issue that this article encountered was unravelling the constant contradictions that arise from the complexity of Baudrillard’s theories, many of which he admitted were more or less self-contradictory. While it was not at all difficult for Kampmark to establish the Wars on Terror as Baudrillardian “non-events” citing the mediated hunt for Osama Bin Laden and Weapons of Mass Destruction as prominent simulacra, Kampmark acknowledged that not even Baudrillard could satisfactorily encompass 9/11 within his theories. 9/11 stands firmly as what Baudrillard called a “prodigious event”, but he also notes that 9/11 became a model of extreme violence for the simulacra that followed in the wars on terror. Further, 9/11 stands as an event so far outside the system of media and power that it cannot even exist in that system.
Kampmarks’ analysis of current events using Baudrillardian theory was well written and compellingly argued. The article’s shortcomings, however can be found in an overreliance on technical jargon that make it somewhat inaccessible and the author’s readiness to forgive and even embrace some obvious and troubling self-contradictions in Baudrillard’s work as necessary or even helpful to understanding the events.

Review: “Terrorists We Like and Terrorists We Don’t Like”

Deni Elliott’s article “Terrorists We Like and Terrorists We Don’t Like” is, at its core, an appeal for fair-mindedness and intelligence when Americans consider terrorism. September 11th, 2001 was a polarizing event that threw terrorism to the forefront of the American mind. Elliot examines, however how, for decades before 9/11, Arabs were depicted as fanatic terrorists.
Aspects of Elliott’s succinct and compelling article were quite thought provoking. One instance of poor-policy regarding terrorism is the fact that the United States government has a very vague definition of terrorism and that so called “collateral damages” ultimately differ only from terrorism in terms of the target. The phrase “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is certainly at play in this article. At one point, Elliott notes, the United States recruited Osama Bin Laden as a leader of a jihad against the Soviets in the cold War. At the time, Bin Laden’s terrorist tactics were the actions of a patriotic freedom fighter while the orchestration of 9/11 was a flagrant act of terrorism.
This article does not condone terrorism, but rather encourages the government, the media, and perhaps most importantly, the public to understand what terrorism actually is and not to blindly persecute an entire people for crimes that they did not commit.

By selling religion... does the media become our religion?

Timothy MacDonald
Two Films Reviewed.

Religion in the media is a complicated discussion, since it involves so many variable factors. What is religion? What is God? What role do we play? Most importantly, however, when the media itself portrays religion are we submitting to the idea of religion presented or are we submitting to the media itself? These questions cannot be fully addressed without understanding people’s perspective and thinking on God and their relationship with him. The two films chosen, offer an interesting explanation as they explore the depths of what makes people, especially in the 21st century, commit to a certain belief, and who really is God?

What the Bleep do we know?

Many worship and believe the almighty is a separate being than ourselves and is beyond almost all understanding thus requiring immense faith and devotion. This kind of thinking has been accepted by people all around the world for thousands of years, even the religious scientific community. A modern film however released in the last several years provides a different interpretation of the idea of “God.” It informs us of a way of interpreting ourselves and God; that is not only innovative but completely different from all that we have really considered. The film proposes God is not separate than us. He is not a distinct being beyond our own consciousness. The movie What the bleep do we know? While it is heavily criticized by some, it remains to stun and inspire audiences all over the world. It tells us that we ourselves are the co-creators of our own universe. The film bases its premise on quantum physics and quantum mysticism. It speaks of the power of thought individually and collectively and how it can and does affect the material and physical world around us. The Movie’s theme proposes: we are our own gods, creating our own reality. What the bleep do we know? divides our minds and bodies down to the flowing of atomic nucleus’s and how our minds perceive what reality we create for them ourselves. The mind cannot tell the difference between a thought and what we actually see. So what we see is a reflection of what we allow our mind to accept. So when we are raised in a society and a culture a certain way that is what we accept as reality and that is what we see and experience. What the bleep do we know? offers this new idea of God for us to follow or believe in. It offers a new way for people to devote themselves to a belief system. Just like many messengers or prophets before it, the movie provides a mean for those with an open mind to become engrossed by the propositions set forth and become involved in practicing and believing in this new “religion”. The idea of quantum mysticism becomes the religion, the movie becomes the prophet or a messenger of some sort, organizing and informing the masses. So not only does the film itself suggest a new form of belief, it itself becomes part of the religion of media.
Here is a small clip from the film, where one of the scientists discusses the old way of seeing god, and why it is blasphemous

Going back to the original question, when people are watching this film and become believers, are they submitting to the films actual proposal, or just the media itself for entertaining and providing all the desired feelings to the individual? The movie does an excellent job of commanding attention and having people believe what it teaches. People are gaining from the lessons provided by the movie, but also they have yet again let themselves become completely directed by a piece of media. So ultimately one must ask is it the film that is God, regardless of what it speaks of, or can we engage and learn from a movie, without submitting to the religion of media? After watching all kinds of individuals become infused by this film, some applying what the film teaches in their lives, others not, I am inclined to say that the film provides both. It does indeed provide a theory on God and ourselves that can be followed religiously. However for those of us who enjoyed the work, it makes us movie-watchers even more committed to the media and the wonderful entertainment it provides.

The Matrix

Other movies that provide an idea of Religion are the widely enjoyed Matrix movies. While some argue that it is more philosophy than religion, there is certainly a religious element. The movie provides us with many beliefs about the truth behind our world. The movie provides an individual who can be comparable to Christ, being made into a savior during the picture. It involves the typical good vs. evil marketing that appeals to religious masses. As far as the media infiltrating our beliefs or becoming our source of understanding and worship, one excellent strategy that The Matrix employed, purposely or not was age demographics. In this time and year, there is much less religious devotion and affiliation among teenagers than ever before. The Matrix, therefore, provided an outlet of belief for an entire generation to hook onto. While the movie entertained and was absorbed by all kinds of audiences, many young men between the age of 12 and 30 watched and loved this film. It became such an enticing story, holding a philosophy or religious belief that whether consciously or subconsciously a lot of young people were inclined to find fascinating and very enjoyable. This in and of itself supports the film, and thus the media. So the movie itself, while providing an interesting look at religion, actually just broadens the mass that follows and worships the media.

On the Movie and what they sell.

What the bleep do we know?



The media influences the way we think about the world and the way we perceive certain issues in society. These ways may vary from how we view our body shapes to how we interpret international political events and form our own religious views. For example, Christ’s death has been depicted in paintings, films, pictures and articles from various viewpoints. The film “The Passion of the Christ” produced by Mel Gibson has been ambushed by some film critics claiming that it is far too graphic and violent and that it is a biased interpretation of the scripture as are many paintings and pictures that vary from the biblical representation of Christ.

Paintings in galleries portray Jesus Christs death as something glorifying the hope that his death brings to mankind and is full of decorative beauty shown by the lighting around Christ and his mother Mary as seen in the painting below. These paintings don’t do justice to the passion, pain and trial that Jesus, who is the Son of God, experiences as depicted in the Christian Bible. The pictures and past movies tend to be passive in that they show no emotion or sign of pain, no anguish from the crown of thorns digging into His flesh and no signs of the brutal beatings he went through. An example of these pictures can be seen below:

The picture does not reflect the horror of the crucifixion story in the Christian Bible. For example, in John’s gospel chapter 19 verses one to three says

1Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck him in the face. (New International version, John: 19 1-3)

In the picture above the crowd around the cross is looking at him with devotion and without the look of grief. The Jesus figure is a European depiction and the artist’s interpretation shows a dead Jesus without the look of suffering.

The painting does not portray the beatings that Pontius Pilate, the Roman leader, had ordered earlier in the day. Jesus was to be flogged with a lead-tipped whip and sent away to be crucified. The scriptures mention Jesus’ disfigurement

“14 just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness “(Isa. 52:14).

Gibson’s version of Christ’s death titled ‘The Passion of the Christ’ has been mocked for its violence and for creating a gruesome biblical spectacle. Critics claim that the script does not follow closely with scripture and promotes a ‘Hollywood Jesus’.

‘The Passion of the Christ’ is a motion picture that depicts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It shows the suffering and pain of Christ in his final hours and attempts to recount the four gospels’ portrayal of the crucifixion. Gibson utilises the use of blood and brutal beatings to create a more realistic depiction of what happened. Mel Gibson stated:

“I want to show the humanity of Christ as well as the divine aspect. It's a rendering that for me is very realistic and as close as possible to what I perceive the truth to be."

Members of some audiences may find the violence unpalatable but Mel Gibson is determined to show the suffering that Jesus went through so the mankind can be saved from consequences of sin. This contrasts with the calm Jesus that some people would prefer that is depicted in the painting at right above.

Although the paintings of Jesus are mainly symbolic, it portrays a different view of the Jesus that is shown in a screen shot from ‘The Passion of the Christ’. The screen shot shows Christ carrying a cross, beaten with a crown of thorns pressed into his head. Some viewers deny how terrible torture was or may not want to see Christ depicted in this way, as violence and his death is gruesome and shocking. Other critics such as Penner view Gibson of an ideological portrayal in that….

“Gibson needs and uses inhuman, unreal fountains of blood—flowing deep and wide—to write intelligibly over reality and bodies. What this produces is not reality or realism but the unmistakable signs of an intelligible that is, ideologically coated, spectacle.”(Sitchel, Penner, p19)

Possibly Mel Gibson wants to shock us, to show the suffering and pain so that the passion is much greater than we have previously imagined.

What must be realised, if you see this film, is that does portray a closer version to the scriptures that depicts a suffering Christ who has to have someone help him carry the cross up the hill and is nailed to the cross as a criminal to pay for the sins of the world.

How can ‘The Passion of the Christ’ be too violent when the European paintings of the crucifixion do not display any pain and suffering that the Gospels talk about? In ‘The Passion of The Christ’, Mel Gibson’s classic restores the lost dimension of pain and suffering and most of all passion (Bruce)

Works Cited

Bruce, David. "The Passion of The Christ (2003) - A Hollywood Jesus Movie Review." HollywoodJesus: Pop Culture from a Spiritual Point of View รข€“ Reviews - Movies, DVD, TV, Comics, Books, and Music. 17 Aug. 2008 .

"Company Home Page." Company Home Page. 17 Aug. 2008 .

"DIN: Cultural Events." DIN: Welcome to The Disability Information Network! Homepage. 17 Aug. 2008 .

Penner, Todd, and Caroline Stichele. "Passion for (the) Real? The Passion of the Christ and Its Critics." Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches 14.1-2 (2006): 18-36.

Pizzato, Mark. "A Post-9/11 Passion: Review of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ." Pastoral Psychology 53.4 (2005): 371-376.

Society, International Bible. Holy Bible NIV, New International Version. Colorado Springs: International Bible Society, 1990.

The Passion of the Christ (Widescreen Edition). Dir. Mel Gibson. Perf. Jesus Christ. DVD. 20th Century Fox, 2003.

*Paintings were untitled with no date or Author (but can be located at the following sites)

Where are the answers?

What people learn best is not what their teachers think they teach, or what their preachers think they preach, but what their cultures in fact cultivate.
George Gerbner, 1972

With the eyes of the world spending more and more time on TV and computer screens what hope has religion got of keeping up its ‘ratings’. Integrating seems to be the most popular choice and Christians have proven that they are very good at. An entire movement has been spawned from this new age of “McDonaldization”. The evangelical Christian movement controls a significant portion of religious media.

This type of religion has been accused of providing no more answers than atheism, of being fundamentalist and close-minded and even of controlling the media. Tanya Levlin, former member of the Hillsong Church, set out to answer her questions about her religion in the book ‘Those in Glass Houses’. David Marr writes of her..

She set herself the task of explaining the inner workings of the most successful religious operation in Australia: the joy and despair of faith; the mass hypnosis of worship; the Jesus-centric remedies offered in Hillsong's outreach programs for drug addiction, domestic violence, unemployment and homosexuality; the ideological submission of women; and the bleeding of money from the faithful (2)

These workings that Levlin sets out to ‘expose’ all occur in the media also. Shows like Dr. Phil, Oprah and even reality TV like Big Brother or Wife Swap all have many of these same schemes. Another commonality with reality TV is that religious programs tend to be cheap to make. These shows often have their own channels so they are also not subjected to the same ratings expectations as standard TV. Therefore they not only save money in advertising but have a greater chance at longevity.

To further investigate the growing phenomenon I will review two current Christian television programs.

Give Me An Answer!

Shown on the Australian Christian Network (Cable) Viewed online at or

In an age where people are continually asking more and more difficult questions about the world around them does religion remain immune to this inquisition? Clearly someone doesn’t think so because ‘Give Me an Answer sets out to answer every question anyone had ever thought to ask about Christianity. It aims to answer the queries that Christians and non-Christians alike have about religion, God and the world. Although its primary target is Christian youth (people aged 15-25) by not shying away for the difficult questions ‘Give Me an Answer’ provides an element designed to attract people of all ages and belief systems.

Each show has a theme around which the questions are based and has two sections. First there is an open-air discussion in which the host, Cliffe Knechtle, invites questions from spectators and encourages discussion. This is usually conducted on a college campus somewhere in the USA. The second half of the show is a sermon but it is carefully portrayed to not give an overt feeling of lecturing. To add to the feeling of viewer participation the website allows anyone to submit a question they’d like ‘Cliffe’ to answer. You can also request that the show comes to your university to film. This format allows Knechtle to create chemistry between himself and the audience in two ways. Firstly during the open air discussion where he can connect directly with the target audience; secondly in the sermon his body and verbal language create a one-on-one feeling.

The ‘shock’ factor of the show, its format and host all secure it a place in the heart of questioning Christian youth. Despite this, or perhaps because if this, Give Me an Answer would have difficulty capturing anything outside of its very targeted audience.

Songs of Praise

Shown on the ABC (Free-to-Air) or

As one of the longest running shows on the BBC ‘Songs of Praise’ is “a national institution” in Britain drawing a weekly audience of around 5 million viewers. The show has clearly found a niche market and a successful format and is sticking to its guns. Part of this format is timing, which the ABC has very placed at 11:30am on Sunday morning. Given that most of the audience are arriving home from church at this time it is a wise move.

Each week the show shoots in a different historically or spiritually significant location in the United Kingdom. The host will also attend a church service in the local area and the hymns sung in this service are the ‘songs of praise’ the title refers to. This tends to be a more traditional program than what is currently found on most Christian television. Although there are several different presenters on the show all of them tend to have several things in common. Many are famous in their own right, they are all Christians, educated and involve themselves with charities.

The show works for many reasons. Partly because it appeals to an audience for whom there are not many other shows out there. Songs of Praise also takes elements of other mediums and shows, combining them to create this wonderfully engaging and charming essence. It is part travel show, part reality show, part family show, part history channel and part old school British beauty and ingenuity. The ability to carry across international audiences is another contributing factor to its success.

Reference List

Fore, William. Television and Religion: The Shaping of Faith, Values and Culture. SBS Press, New Haven. 1987. Viewed at

Marr, David. “Hillsong - The Church with No Answers.” The Sydney Morning Herald. August 4, 2007. Viewed at

William Fore, Television and Religion: The Shaping of Faith, Values and Culture (SBS Press: New Haven, 1987) Chp. 4

David Marr, “Hillsong - The Church with No Answers”, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 4: 2007.

Friday, August 15, 2008

religion rvw assignment Hannah Hafso

Religion and Media Review Assignment RELN20 HANNAH HAFSO Student #: 41840704

The Media’s Ability to Market Religion as a Product

The transition from analog to digital communication changed the way individuals corresponded and marked the beginning of a new era. With digital information we are able to send and receive large amounts of high quality data immediately. This opened the doors for globalization of the media, and resulted in the emergence of a new culture. The introduction of immediate data at ones disposal, has caused society to expect the same instant results and from other aspects of life .We live in a world where we expect our needs and desires to be met instantaneously, and have lost all concept of patience and delayed gratification. The general population is consumed with miracle pills, fast food, and text messaging, is it a wonder that many have demanded the same immediate results in their spiritual life? M.R. Saeidabadi’s article on the Globalization of the Media and the Universality of Religion: Convergence or Divergence outlines the complicated relationship between religion and the media, analyzing how religion utilizes the media as technology to market their beliefs. A specific case of the media being utilized for promotional purposes is The Secret has successfully satisfied the spiritual needs of secularists, enabling them to find the meaning of life within themselves, while allowing the creator to capitalize on the “anti-religion’s” market potential.

Examining the relationship and interdependency of the media and religion is a complex task. When digitalization of communication was introduced, nations were thrilled to experience first-hand its ability to reduce production cost and increase time efficiency. Despite the benefits of digitalized communication it also meant that the media became easily accessible, due to the convergence of hardware and software opportunities for deregulated digital communication spread across the globe. (Saeidabadi, 88) Although, as the article points out, the introduction of digitalization marked the emergence of a culture focused on self-sufficiency and instant gratification. In the 21st century the transition from a patient global perspective has been replaced with the desire to reach perfection. Saeidabadi, M. R. describes the media as the technology used by religion which is the structure that seeks to market and promote the “truth” or ideologies that the religion represents. In regards to a minimalist, their search for purpose and enlightenment is found within themselves. This individualistic belief has allowed Rhonda Byrne, creator of The Secret, to profit and become a God to many individuals.

In the post-modern era waves of new age spiritualities have surfaced and are embraced by many. A particular example is the extremely popular The Secret, created by Rhonda Byrne in an attempt to “offer the knowledge of how to - create intentionally and effortlessly- a joyful life” ( The Secret explains how individuals can control our lives to ensure happiness, health, and prosperity, by simply adjusting ones thoughts and energy. This concept is appealing because it allows individuals to rule over their lives, unlike the uncertainty that many traditional religions revolve around. Instead of surrendering your life to a higher power, thus living by faith, secularists need only to surrender to their personal desires and look no further then the mirror for guidance. Digitization of the media has allowed individuals expressing secularist views to find out how to achieve a perfect life by the simple click of a mouse. The Secret website is masterfully crafted with enticing images and persuasive words that captive that viewer.

All humans want to belong, many fulfill this longing through their religious community, and now followers of The Secret can do the same. By visiting http:// it is apparent that Rhonda Byrne’s has identified this human desire and is capitalizing on it. Believers are able to connect and share their testimonies of the transformative power of The Secret with others online, and for a small monthly fee receive emails and inspirational messages from none other than the creator Rhonda Byrnes herself! The website is essentially promotional material and propaganda for the book, movie and additional services available for followers. This is an example of how the media is used to promote religion as a good to the consumer market, outlined in M. R Saeidabadi’s article. Rhonda began with an idea and has quickly exploited a vast array of media outlets in order to gain financially. In addition to her bestselling book, she has gained from the movies box office sales, sales from books on tape, and inspirational tours.

The Secret’s website is a prime example of how the media and religion have converged to such a degree that it is difficult to determine where one ends and one begins. It is evident that the two entities have become interdependent through promotion and utilization of each other’s resources. Traditionally, individuals have looked heavenward to find a purpose for life and seek guidance, but in the post-modern world, many are choosing to simply find answers within themselves. This transition has been caused by the values that globalization of communication has encouraged, such as: control, impatience, materialism, and increase in knowledge. It appears that with a wealth of knowledge at one’s fingertips, humans believe that they have no use for God for they themselves know everything. The media is a tool used to increase global awareness of a product and in this case a religion. For Rhonda Byrne and other religious leaders, they have been able to capitalize off of consumer desires to increase their spiritual knowledge, no matter the price.


Saeidabadi, M. R.(2008)'Globalization of the Electronic Media and Universality of Religion: Convergence or Divergence', Journal of Media and Religion,7:1,84 — 91

check out the trailer for The Secret movie at

Religion Review Blog- Tess Baxter

"The press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral and social being."- Thomas Jefferson

The media dominates public life and shapes the perceptions and beliefs of individuals and communities. The media filters though many outlets such as television, print, radio, online and mobile services and has always had an intrinsic relationship with religion and spirituality. According to Stewart Hoover, most of what we know in regards to religion, morality, spirituality and values come from the media. (Hoover, 2006)The media is not merely an instrument for information or communication but influences individual attitudes and behaviours.

The media is reaching spectacular and exponential growth especially with the prevalence of electronic mediums, such as online resources and radio which allows media to access all areas including remote and secluded parts of the country.( Horsfield, Hess, Medrano, 2004) This ultimately increases societal control.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC) has been sharing and discussing religious, spiritual, moral and ethical issues within Australia for the past seventy-five years and is a reliable and highly reputable source of information and entertainment. The ABC contributes to the multicultural and dimensional identity of Australia.

The topic of religion is easily avoided by some organizations and individuals alike as it is often fuelled with debate and controversy both within the private and public spheres. However, such media programs such as The Religion Report on Radio National and Compass on the ABC television network address such issues without discrimination or bias.

Compass and The Religion Report aim to ask questions which challenge and critically examine the world of religion. These programs delve into both contemporary and past issues in order to reach a better understanding of religion and the role it plays in the media today. They create an environment which is accepting of all races, religions and backgrounds and celebrates the fact Australia is a melting pot of cultures. These programs provide a healthy environment for debate and encourages people to freely discuss issues they feel strongly and passionately about.

The Religion Report

The Religion Report
is broadcast on Wednesdays at 8.30 am and is presented by Stephen Crittenden. This program solely dedicates their program to promoting and illustrating the vast beliefs of Australians. Religious broadcasting is becoming more popular and is “immediate, intimate, portable and inexpensive… and radio is the most pervasive medium in Australia.” (Cunningham & Turner, p133, 2006)

It is sometimes difficult to report and discuss religious issues because of the complexities of different faiths and beliefs systems. However, the Religion Report discusses and understands different religions with a broad amount of knowledge and information.

The Religion Report caters to a wide range of audiences, age groups and uses comprehendible language for both literates the non literates (the advantages of radio). Radio is easily updated and therefore recent; so issues discussed on this program are always topical and prevalent in the media at the present time. Statistics show that ninety-nine percent of Australian households have a television and all households have a least one radio. (Cunningham and Turner, p76, 2006) This reveals that we are all constantly surrounded and engulfed with different forms of media.

The Religion Report is also successful because of its use of ‘Talk Back.’ This enables listeners to call in and give their opinions and ask questions about certain issues which is discussed during the program. This interaction creates a connection between the listener and also assists in informing and educating which is ultimately a process and tool for development.


Another program by the ABC Network is Compass which is televised every Sunday night at 10.00 pm and hosted by Geraldine Doogue. Unlike radio, television has a visual medium which can sometimes be more powerful and influential because an individual can identify with what is being displayed. According to Cunningham and Turner (p84, 2006) television is the most widely used mass media in the world. The aim of Compass is to explore the faith and stories of religious and non religious communities and individuals.

The word ‘compass’ has a strong significance and means a navigational instrument for finding directions or a way of life…

"A compass neither shows the way nor makes judgement on the chosen path, instead it provides orientation, a point of reference. It seeks truth ("true north"), and it assists in journeying, even survival. It is of value, as a tool, a guide, an aid in navigation."-Compass 2008

Compass discusses topics which interests a wide range of people. This program interviews not only academics, experts and leaders but everyday Australians who are living out their faith day to day or people who want to share their lives and have a story to tell. This program is not limiting or restrictive and is constantly open to debate and feedback from their viewers.

Each individual or group has something to share and programs like The Religion Report and Compass delve into issues which is not usually covered by other media outlets. These programs aim to bring about a religious or spiritual experience and are a tool for development.

Reference List

Compass- ABC1 Network, [accessed online]

Cunningham, S., Turner, G., (2006) The Media & Communications in Australia- 2nd Edition, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, Australia.

Horsfield, P., Hess, M., Medrano, A., (2004) Belief in media,M1 [accessed online]

Hoover, S., (2006) Religion in the Media Age,,[accessed online]
The Religion Report- Radio National, [accessed online]