QUOTING GOD: How Media Shape Ideas About Religion and Culture

Claire Hoertz Badaracco, Editor . Baylor Univ. $29.95 (317p) ISBN 978-1-932792-06-5

Billed as an examination of world religions' influence on culture and the media's impact on religions, this collection also illustrates the worldview behind mainstream journalism. Eleven chapters, each by a different journalist or scholar, relate case studies, essays and personal life. Subjects range from the exotic (the Falun Gong) to the familiar (science and religion). Two treatments—one of the press's role in Arab nations, and the other of Muslim identity in American media—illuminate today's headlines. In the foreword, prominent religion reporter John Dart defines secular news organizations as "religiously neutral" and religion scholars as "nonpartisan," which some readers may dispute. The book hits occasional sour notes, such as conflating Jehovah's Witnesses with Christian fundamentalists and harshly critiquing President Bush's public expressions of faith. But there are strong contributions; Paul Boyer's essay on biblical prophecy and foreign policy points out the potential complications of having a premillennial dispensationalist in the White House, and Richard Gardner builds a case for "complicated and ambiguous narratives" in the reportage of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in Japan while linking coverage of the story with Japan's history and mores. This anthology will find its biggest audience in journalism classes, but it also can help the average reader understand the pitfalls and possibilities of religion reporting. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/29/2004
Release date: 05/01/2005
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!