Monday, August 24, 2009

Three Article Reviews

Sarah Levinn

Religion and Globalization - Peter Beyer

The role of growing globalization is integral with the expansion of various religions. As the community of the world becomes further interconnected, there are countless examples of religious institutions utilizing new tactics to spread ideologies throughout society, with the media being one of the premier avenues to transmit information. Peter Beyer examines the effects of globalization upon religion, both through traditional methods, such as migration, and more modern methods. In his article, Beyer emphasizes the relative youth of the concept of globalization as opposed to the omnipresence throughout history of religion. This dichotomy, however, mends itself with new technologies and in turn creates a variety of institutions from which religion spreads globally.

The increased mobility of people throughout the world is the most blatant example of how religion spreads through globalization. While it is true that migrants face troubles of adapting to a new society, the host society also must adapt to the ideas and presence of a new culture (Beyer 447). The new migrants then contribute to the current state of cultural activity and therefore create a connection between their origins and new location.

Specific religious organizations and also socio-political movements further advance the spreading of ideas to unexpected ends of the earth. Despite its secluded regional origins, Buddhism, for example, has made its way into Western culture due to a few Eastern monks who have transitioned their knowledge to what is now hundreds of Western-born teachers. With religions like Buddhism and Islam entering Western culture, it is no wonder why Beyer claims the boundaries among religious regions are not clear (453).

The context of what religion means to a society has changed with the onset of globalization. Beyer recognizes the importance of individual religions to appear distinctive in order to become prevalent, and in order to do that, each religion must commit to globalization. And, due to the continually changing presence of globalization over time, religion has already committed to it subconsciously.

Funky Side - Lynn S. Clark

Adolescent years are vital for the development of personal beliefs and ideas about society. Within the last century alone, several influential forms of media have emerged to create an unstoppable flow of information into society in the United States. Lynn Clark recognized this high-speed feed of ideas as a potential cause for decreased spirituality and religious dedication amongst teens and sought evidence. She conducted a study including teens of all sorts of backgrounds, ranging from socioeconomic to something as basic as location. The participants also varied in viewpoints: traditionalists, intrigued, mystical, experimenters, and resisters. It is through these categories that Clark’s study proves the varying influence of the media upon American youth.

The vulnerable state of teens within society as a whole allows the media to potentially affect the way they view the supernatural and religion. As Clark recognizes, “this study relates teens’ interests in the supernatural realm to their perceived position of powerlessness relative to the larger society” and thus creates a mixture of responses to depictions in the media. While the resistor group were easy to accept supernatural themes portrayed in shows like X-Files, the opposition (i.e. traditionalists) saw these images as virtually irrelevant to their firm religious beliefs, labeling them as a distraction to their practices. The in-between groups provided the blurred lines that emphasize the difficulty of determining exactly what sparks particular interest or disinterest in the super natural.

Because of the wide ranges of responses, Clark was able to draw very few solid conclusions. While her study has made it clear that every factor of a teen’s life is important to consider, it is inconclusive which factors are most important in determining the impact of media upon change of religious beliefs. For this study to be effective, more subjects must be added as well as continued follow-ups on her subjects. But for now, it is clear that the influence of the media upon this age bracket is indisputable and virtually unavoidable in today’s society.

Mediatization of Religion - Stig Hjarvard

It is debatable whether religion is able to stand firmly as a singular institution in today’s society. With the looming presence of the media, religion is wrapped into the media for its communicative power and more. This phenomenon is fully analyzed by Stig Hjarvard, as he labels this process as “mediatization.” The concept behind this term is touting the power of the media as an independent institution within society, forcing other institutions, such as religion, to become dependent on it (Hjarvard 11). Hjarvard also notes that this media intervention can be seen as both secularizing society while also re-enchanting it. Despite this conflict, he attempts to develop a framework for understanding how media works for religious change throughout the piece.

Three metaphors describing the media emerge: Media as conduits, languages, and environments. All of these comparisons that Hjarvard makes proves just how pervasive the influence of the media is upon society. Media can transport symbols, pick the format in which to do so, and facilitate the human interaction that communicates the ideas they purport (12-13). These basic building blocks of society are so easily infiltrated by the media that it is no wonder why religion is becoming encompassed by the media.

Hjarvard continually emphasizes his term “mediatization.” Under his definition, it “is about the long-term process of changing social institutions and modes of interactions in culture and society due to the growing importance of media in all strands of society” (14). There is certainly no denying the ebb and flow of religion into media, and vice versa. In today’s world, the two coexist, though it is unclear whether that marriage is positive, negative, or neutral. Regardless, Hjarvard’s piece proves that some skepticism when viewing religious media is recommended.


Beyer Peter, 2006, Religion and Globalization, in George Ritzer, Ed, THe Blackwell Companion to Globalization. Malden. MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Clark L.S. 2004. U.S. Adolescent Religious Identity, the Media, and the "Funky" side of Religion, Journal of Communication, 52, 794-811.

Hjarvard, S, 2008, The Mediatization of Religion: A Theory of the Media as Agents of Religious Change, Northern Lights, 6, 1, 9-26.

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