Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reflecting on tension between Religion & Media

In this course we will be looking critically at the relationship between religious communities and the media. This includes identifying the assumptions different parties carry and promote both about the role media plays in society,  and how religion is conceived and understood. It is important that we when studying the relationship between media, religion and culture we carefully reflect on how media outlets promotes certain view about religion, as well as how religious groups may frame media with certain assumptions.

Potential conflicts between religion and media were exemplified in early August when Fox news aired an interview with Religious Studies Scholar Reza Aslan. While the interview was slated to be a review of his controversial new book "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" the encounter between Aslan and the Fox Anchor highlighted a number of tension and stereotypes about how religion is understood and should be communicated about in media culture.  Please review the article "Video: U.S. scholar Reza Aslan’s book no.1 after botched Fox interview" and its featured interview. 

Please watch the Fox interview and reflect on the following questions:

What assumptions does the Fox reporter have about religion and the field of religious studies?
What assumptions does Aslan stress about the role of religious scholarship in society?
What does this clip illustrated about the relationship and possible tensions between religion and media in popular culture?

Come prepared to discuss your observations in class on Wednesday.


16 comments:

Luke Strain said...

Despite the reporter's assumption that Dr. Aslan could not research Jesus without a natural disposition against him due to his Muslim beliefs, Dr. Aslan insisted that as a religious scholar his job is to record and comment on historical figures without letting his faith dictate what he believes about them.

The reporter's biases show that the media in popular culture generally portrays religion and those who are religious as close-minded, and unable to see facts or historical truth.

Sarah Masters said...

When watching the video it seemed apparent that the news anchor came in with a set opinion and had no intention of listening to what Mr. Aslan had to say. She did not understand the difference between being religious and studying religion and how people could do both separately. She automatically assumed that because he is Muslim he was out to bash Christianity in his book, which he stressed was not the case. I would guess that she is a Christian and felt personally attacked by him and his book and therefore came in defensive and with prejudice.
I do think that in Reza Aslan's book he is probably less objective than he thinks he is, but I do think his intention was not the criticize Christianity. He stresses that his role as a religious scholar was to put out new perspectives and new studies to society so that they may think of all perspectives when thinking of Jesus or religion. Aslan's book was coming from a historical, not religious, perspective and was trying to see how the story of Jesus that we have in our minds fits (or doesn't fit) to the times he lived in.
This clip illustrates that many times in the media there is a specific agenda or message they want to get across and they will frame the information to fit that message, even if it is clearly false. I feel like the popular culture has a negative view of Muslims and that clashes when a Muslim tries to come on and positively promote his work. I think this interview had great potential to be very informative and interesting, but instead we were forced to watch two people argue (though I believe Aslan did a good job in remaining polite) and talk over each other rather than watch intelligent discussion.

Molly said...

It is very obvious the Fox News anchor came into the interview with a Christian bias. As a journalist she should have been able to strip herself of her own beliefs for the sake of the interview. She seems to think just because one holds a certain belief they are in no way able to form opinions or study any other. She also seems to be confused between the theological and historical study of religion. Aslan tries to make the distinction between the two after the Fox reporter questions his authority to write a book discussing a different religion other than his own. Aslan conveys the importance of removing his own beliefs from his craft for the greater good of historical study. The clip highlights the media's lack of being objective in reporting. News media seems to always be pushing an agenda rather that reporting the facts. The Fox News reporter seems to be catering to Fox's typical conservative (and likely Christian) audience rather than giving fair and equal air time to Aslan.

Meredith Whitefield said...

Right off the back Aslan stated that he wrote his book from a non-religious standpoint; he wrote it because it was his job as a religious scholar. The Fox reporter seemed to attack his writings on a religious basis rather than a historical one. She automatically assumed that because Aslan is a Muslim he was criticizing Christianity. Media has led people to believe, as well as judge, others based on religious views. Just from watching the video I would think that the reporter is a Christian, with strong opinions against Muslisms. With a narrow-minded opinion she undoubtedly believes that Aslan was out to criticize Christianity.
I found it interesting when Aslan stated that the reporter hadn't even read his book. He continued to explain himself as well as his writings even though the reporter repeatedly lashed out against his ability to write on Christianity. Aslan was into the interview to discuss the book (as well as it's facts) not to discuss his religious views.

avefs123 said...

While watching this interview I noticed that the Fox reporter had preconceived notions about Aslan's credibility on writing a book on the topic of Christianity and clearly felt that religious belief mattered more than knowledge. She couldn't seem to comprehend that his faith could be separated from his degree. He stresses that religious scholarship in society is about the study and not the belief, and has to say it over and over again. He mentioned the importance of understanding what society was like when religious events were occurring to help understand why certain things happened the way that they did. He seems more interested in the facts than religious implications.. Through this interview I saw that there can be a lot of tension in the media when dealing with religion. One reason being that people can have a hard time keeping an open mind, especially about a topic that they feel they already know something about. Aslan was unable to be seen as simply a writer but instead also had to be questioned on his religious affiliation due to the close mindedness of the reporter. Religion is a topic that is loaded with meaning beyond facts, and there lies potential for emotions to become jumbled in with any debate, literature, or conversation.

Emma W said...

The Fox reporter seems to have a narrow mind, in how that someone who believes or has faith in one religion cant enjoy or study another religion. I know many people who are Caucasian, who love studying African American history and their culture.

Aslan is trying to show and display that his religion is not a cult and can explore and enjoy other religions. In the long run they all kinda flow in the same direction. If he has been studying for 20 years over the New Testament, then he has the right to be a scholarly author, no matter what his religion is. If he can write about Jesus better than Christian can then the Christian should rethink about how they are studying the Word of God. Now I am saying this without reading the book, so maybe if I read it I may have a different opinion but from the "interview" he has all the rights to write about Jesus.

There is much tension between religion and popular culture. There is no doubt that people judge you when you say you have some kind of belief or religion. Just because he is a Muslim, they wont take any of his work for credit. It is a very sad tension and that people are so closed minded that they will never be able to accept the facts from people who may have a different religion than their own.

Brooke Ellsworth said...

The reporter immediately questions Dr. Aslan's credibility on writing a book about a Jesus because he is a Muslim. It seems like she assumes that he is not qualified to write about a religion that is not his own, despite his vast research done on the topic of his book. Dr. Aslan makes it very clear that he is not just some Muslim writing a book about Jesus, but he is a scholar with a PhD who has been studying the life of Jesus for two decades. He is a scholar in the history of religions and doesn't understand why it is so important to the reporter that he is a Muslim. He emphasizes that there are many scholars that disagree with him but there are also many scholars that agree with him, and that is how it is going to be among scholars who are researching on historical figures.

This clip showed that the media wants to portray what it wants to portray and they will twist things and lead conversations in the direction that they want them to go. They immediately wanted to put Dr. Aslan on the defensive and weren't even really interested in what the book actually had to say. This particular clip tried to portray Dr. Aslan, a Muslim, as not credible or qualified, which not-so-subtley wants the audience to make a generalization of all Muslims.

Chelsea Recine said...

The Fox reporter assumed that one should only write about their own religion. It seems like the reporter does not know much about religion and how you can have knowledge about many religions and not just one.


Aslan has many degrees in religion. He stresses that this is an academic book based on his expertise and not on his opinion. Many times in the interview Aslan says that he is writing on expertise and his degrees and not his opinion. He is trying to express that his Muslim faith did not influence the book on Christianity. Aslan thinks it is strange he and the reporter are not debating the book but his reason for writing it.

Media and religion do not coincide. Media wants to make their point in religion without really listening to arguments. The reporter did not seem to be able to get off of her notes and to address properly what Aslan was saying. The Fox reporter kept bringing up how Aslan was a Muslim and wrote a book about Christianity. She used quotes from people that disagreed with Aslan. Aslan tried to get the reporter off the quotes and to talk about the book and issues in the book and rather her issues with his writing it.

Chelsea Recine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jacob N. said...

The Fox reporter assumes Dr. Aslan's work isn't a creditable source on the the life of Jesus because of his Muslim faith. The reporter seems narrow minded because she doesn't see his book from a religious historical stand point like Dr. Aslan. The reporter is looking at this from a religious belief stand point which is why she can't understand why a Muslim would write on such a figure like Jesus. Where on the other hand Dr. Aslan assumes that his work is very creditable because he is arguing he is more than qualified to write a historical book on a historical figure. The problem is they are arguing about two different stand points.

This is why media and religion don't go together in todays culture. Medias only goal is to get others to see things from their stand point and only theirs. Where as religion is a personal belief that someone gets to choose.

Kelsey Ricketson said...

The reporter assumes that a religious person who studies religion brings a bias to their work according to their religion. She implies that only a Christian should study or want to study Christianity. She sees religion not as a historical entity but as a personal preference.
Dr. Aslan stresses that scholars do not automatically carry biases into their work. He states that scholarship is a debate over ancient history. The study of religion is strictly historical and factual, not laden with personal agendas. Saying that Dr. Aslan is biased in his work because of his religion would be similar to saying that certain historians of the American Revolution are biased because they are European.
A definite chasm of miscommunication exists between the media and religious studies. On this topic in particular, the media has a false assumption about religious scholarship. Instead of simply recognizing the mistake and fixing it, the reporter continues to force her opinion and does not recognize her fault. Media sees religious study as more of a personal opinion and belief and not as factual and historical.

Shenell Encalarde said...

It was obvious from the interview clip that the reporter began her questionnaire with the preconceived notion that Aslan can not have an interest in or a scholarly say about the historic life of Jesus because of his chosen religion. I feel that many individuals in society share this mindset, as showed in the comments of others, that academic scholars such as Aslan have a faith based bias.

Hannah Barham said...

The Fox News reporter obviously entered into this interview with an opinion or bias of her own which turned the interview into a debate about his religion and right to write about Jesus. I did find it interesting that he kept stressing that he was writing about the historicity of Jesus and about his life on earth rather than about Christianity as a religion. (I'm not sure how well he did at separating Christ from Christianity, but I have not read the book so I wouldn't know whether that was successful or not.)

The reporter certainly did not want to relinquish her hold on the point she was trying to make, regardless of the fact that Aslan addressed her presupposition and was attempting to move on. Unfortunately this does contribute to the stereotype the media places on religious people which portrays people of religion as close-minded, stereotypical, and unyielding in a negative sense.

All in all, a very interesting interview.

Michael Smalls said...

The reporter assumed that because Dr. Aslan was a practicing Muslim, his book about Christianity was inherently biased. Separation of church and work seemed to be a foreign concept to her and this showed through her inability to grasp that Aslam wrote the book from a purely academic point of view.
Aslan in his attempt to defend the credibility of his book made it clear that as a religious scholar it is imperative that you take a step back when studying religion. This allows you to research it from an unbiased viewpoint.
This clip illustrated that there can be a divide between media and religion because many times they get misconstrued. The media can spin religion in either a negative or positive light in order to push its own agenda, hence the tension from the interview.

Elizabeth said...

I am not convinced that the reporter held any assumptions about religion and religious studies. First of all we have to remember that Fox news is Fox news and it always has been, it isn’t scholarly and it isn’t unbiased; that’s just not the product they sell. Roger Ailes makes television, one of his major accomplishments before being appointed president of Fox News is that a talk show he produced was nominated for a daytime emmy. (all the bickering makes sense now, éh?)

The reporter is not at fault here, it’s unfair to yell at the waitress because the kitchen messed up your order. She was only trying to deliver what the people wanted: a fight. That’s what they ordered when the tuned into Fox’s “Spiritual Debate” Her questions were not formulated to illicit information but to incite anger. That was the product she was suppose to deliver and it would have been delicious!

Had he gotten even the slightest bit angry, if Fox had gotten a Muslim male to show even the slightest bit of aggression towards their Christian female reporter they would have eaten it up for days.

I disagree with Aslan when he claims that his education makes him able to write about Jesus Christ without bias. I don't think anyone can write, especially about Jesus Christ without bias. I am a Mormon and I know that the church is true. This does influence what I see, read and learn and how I interpret those things. I’m not sure its possible or necessary to be unbiased.

The media always tries to mock the religious, make them seem closed-minded, and appear as if they have a sort of hidden agenda. In this case we actually see two examples of this: The first being “Sprited Debates” questioning of Aslan’s intentions, the second being the backlash against this video and the reporter who is depicted as a closed-minded mainliner by other media outlets.

I think the main thing to take away from this video is that the relationship between religion and media is extremely complicated and when in doubt your best bet is to stay calm and look for the blessings that come through adversity. If your being attacked on Fox news: keep calm and smile when your book skyrockets to the #1 bestseller on Amazon. If someone makes a musical mocking your religion and it wins a Tony: keep calm and take out a 3 page advertisement in the playbill.

Mackenzy Liljedahl said...

This video was very frustrating and annoying to watch from a professional standpoint. It seemed like FOX had an agenda to rile up press and conflicting views on religion and what better way to accomplish that than have a Muslim author interviewed about a Christian book he wrote.
While Aslan made it clear from the very beginning of the interview that his book contained no biases and was factual driven, the reporter was very stubborn in her opinions that he had no right to write a book about something he doesn't and can't understand.
He repeatedly said that he was an expert in his field of study and that even though he isn't a Christian, it doesn't matter because the book isn't a biased book as a good scholar would know not to write. However the reporter was persistent as well in her defense against his knowledge. She didn't seem to understanding the point of religious studies and that you can study different religions a part from your own and come up with factual based evidence and who knows, maybe write a book about it.