Monday, September 22, 2008

Amish and the Cell Phone

This week's case study will focus on Amish response to the cell phone. The core reading is Howard Rheingold article on what learned about the Amish & their interaction with the cell phone in "Look Who's Talking" published in Wired. Also take a look at Time magazine's article and on the same topic. For more background on the Amish response to technology see The Amish: Technology Practice and Technological Change. Based on these articles and the class discussion on Wednesday reflect on the following questions?

Case Study Reflection Questions:

-How does this history, tradition and core values of the Amish set the stage for their response towards new forms of media?

-How does the Amish response to the cell phone differ or resonate from Zimmerman's assessment of the Amish response and the Telephone?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Exploring Religious Community Online

For this week's case study we will be discussing some of on my own work on religion and the internet. The reading " Approaches to Religious Research in CMC" from Mediating Religion offers a preliminary report of my PhD research which culminated in a book called "Exploring Religious Community Online: We are one in the network". This provides insight into a 4 years study on how people use the internet to build Christian community online and the effect this participation has in the offline church involvement. For more info on the book check out this review.

Case Study Reflection Questions:

- Compare and contrast online and offline religious community. Can online religious community relations be authentic?
- Do you think the internet and religion online are transforming traditional ideas of religion? Do you think they are influencing traditional religious structures?
- Of the typologies discussed in “spiritualizing the Internet” which forms of religious use of the internet seem most potentially problematic?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Theology Over Popcorn & Images of God in FIlm

This week's case study looks at how popular films present images of God and the stories they tell about religion. We will be looking at two very different films presentations of faith and the divine coming from the Comedy Genre: Dogma and Bruce Almighty. Dogma (1999) tells the story of abortion clinic worker who is called upon by God to help save the existence of humanity after two renegade angels threaten it by trying to exploit a loophole and re-enter Heaven. Listen here to what producer/writer/director Kevin Smith has to say about religion and the film and religion in general. Bruce Almighty (2003) tells the story of a man who complains about God too often, so the almighty decides to give him his powers and responsibility to teach him how difficult it is to run the world. Here's what Tom Shadyac, director of Bruce Almighty, has to say about God and Religion in the film. While Dogma focuses its satire on organized religion and Church mythology Bruce Almighty deals with popular, playful interpretations and ideas about the character of God.

We will consider several issues including how religion and God are framed in these films and and the cultural factors or beliefs that seem to shape these presentations. To do this we will be looking at several film clips from Dogma (such as the introduction of Buddy Christ and how God is portrayed in the film) and Bruce Almighty (such as Bruce's first meeting with God, God's explanation of Free Will and the narrative set forth in the trailer). Use these clips to respond to the following questions.

Case Study Reflection Questions:

-How are the characterizations of God similar and/or different in these two films? What factors seem to influence how God is presented?
-Select two of the six religious film scholars we discussed on Wednesday and consider how their approaches would influence how you would interpret these films and the presentation of "God"?

Southern Baptist Convention and the Media

This week in our case study we will be looking at press coverage of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in the 1980s and discussions about how the secular press deals with religious controversy. Specifically we will look at press coverage around the 1979 Southern Baptist Convention held in Houston.

In order to fully contextualize these events it is important to see how the SBC's relationship to the mass media. The SBC has long been active in issuing a number of resolutions "defined as an expression of opinion or concern, as compared to a motion, which calls for action" related to the mass media. These include resolutions related to Television Programming (1982), TV Morality (1992) and Youth and Violence in the Media (1999). They have also been active in trying to create their own sources of news and information such as the Baptist Press, an Online news service from the SBC offering "news with a Christian perspective".

Interesting insights can also be gained about how the SBC view its relationship to the secular press by reading ABP editor admits spinning news during SBC (2001). This article provides some interesting insights into SBC policy & justification for their views about the media.

Case Study Reflection Questions:

- Why was the press drawn to the fundamentalist’s story? Why did the moderates story not receive as much attention?

- What does this teach us about how the press may frame stories about religion?

- What can religious organizations learn from the this incident about interacting with the press?