Religion and Media Interest Group 2010 Abstracts

An Inquiry into the Alleged Plagiarism of a Former NBA All-Star • William Alnor, California State University, East Bay • Did evangelical radio talk show host Hendrick Hank Hanegraaff plagiarized text and images from former National Basketball Hall of Fame player Jerry Lucas’s work in the late 1980s? The works in question are Lucas’ book Ready, Set, Remember (White’s Creek, TN: Memory Press, 1978) and Hanegraaff’s later book States and Capitals (Atlanta: Memory Dynamics, 1987). This paper put the question of plagiarism to a panel of plagiarism experts who were shown eleven examples of text and images from the books. The results were inconclusive as four respondents said no, three said yes, and three were not sure. This case shows the difficulties with detecting plagiarism using limited text and images.

Contemporary Christian Radio Web Sites: A Uses and Gratifications Study • Joshua Bentley, Oklahoma State University • This study explored the uses and gratifications of Contemporary Christian radio station Web sites using an online survey of 351 people. The most frequently used Web site features related to seeking information, or listening online. Factor analysis revealed three underlying gratification factors: Christian Entertainment, Lifestyle Management, and Information Seeking. The Information Seeking factor had the highest level of agreement from respondents.

The Role of the Church in the Political Process: The Saddleback Civil Forum of 2008 • Andrew Carlson, Ohio University • Religion and the church have a new role in the American political process, illustrated by the influence of the evangelical mega church in the 2008 presidential elections. In August 2008, Rick Warren interviewed the presumptive presidential nominees from the Democratic and Republican parties in the Saddleback Civil Forum. Connecting to issues of liberal pragmatic discourse suggested by DePalma, Ringer, and Webber (2008) this paper analyzes questions posed by Warren and answers of the candidates, suggesting that while the stated purpose of the event was to change the tone of dialogue in American political discourse, Warren’s focus on religious and moral issues at the expense of issues of broader social topics suggests that the event served to elevate the position of the church in political discourse. The corresponding marginalization of other (non)faiths ultimately constricts dialogue and weakens the democratic process.

Searching for Connectedness, Belonging, and Economic Security: New Media and Islamic Identity in the Lives of Central Asian Youth • Hans Ibold, Indiana University • This paper explores the role of the Internet in the development of Islamic beliefs and practices in the everyday lives of a group of Muslim youth in Central Asia. The discussion is based on findings from a five-week rapid ethnography conducted in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in spring 2008. The study was designed to explore connections between identity, media use, and citizenship in the lives of Kyrgyz youth. Findings show how new cultural identities are being structured with, in, and around these networked media, indicating that Islam in Kyrgyzstan is dynamic and not closed off to cross cultural flows of information and ideas. Tapping online resources, Kyrgyz youth seem to be seeking some of the same things that they and their families have sought from Islam over time—community, connectedness, belonging, and economic security.

An Interactive and Hermeneutic Exploration of American Public Media’s Speaking of Faith Program • Dennis Jeffers, Central Michigan University • American Public Media’s weekly radio program Speaking of Faith provides audiences with conversations about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas. This paper reports on a study using NVivo qualitative content analytic software to examine the program’s content, context and outcomes. In addition to drawing descriptive conclusions about these variables, this paper concludes that it is reasonable to assume that Speaking of Faith contributes to an authentic discussion of religion in the 21st century.

Progressive Culture?: The Portrayal of Women in Contemporary Christian Magazines • Davis Kimberly, University of Maryland • This study examined the portrayal of women in a modern, faith-based publication, Relevant magazine. Through a comparison of recent issues of Relevant to issues of Christianity Today from roughly 20 years ago using a feminist and culturalist theoretical lens, the study found that women appeared in both magazines in terms of their sexuality, promiscuity, relationships with men and children, and rarely as spiritual leaders.

Media Representation of Shiite Muslim Mourning Rituals • Aisha Mohammed, Ohio University; Yusuf Kalyango, Ohio University • This study compares how two international news agencies, the Associated Press and Reuters, visually portray Shii Muslim mourning rituals in five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan. The portrayal of unfamiliar cultures and religions to global audiences by those two major news sources remains an understudied area, especially as audiences increasingly turn to online news websites for news and other international events. Using critical discourse analysis, the study is based on 204 photographs taken between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2009. The study found that coverage by the two news agencies overlooked nuanced readings of the rituals, and contributed to the misconception of Ashura as male-only rituals centered on penitence. The AP and Reuters also ignored how Ashura has evolved in response to specific sociopolitical and economic conditions in various countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and India. The significance and implications of this analysis are discussed in detail.

One of the Most Crying Needs of the Present Time: The Call for a Christian Daily Newspaper • Ronald Rodgers, University of Florida • The study is a historical examination of the decades-long call for a Christian daily newspaper. In explicating this broadly felt desire, this study unpacks the tension between the sacred and the secular, revealing the efforts of religion – as it recognized the growing power of the press – to confirm journalists as moral agents who would reconnect facts with values and to hinge the notion of social responsibility to the news ethic of daily journalism.

Virtual Angels, Temples, and Religious Worship: A Journey with the Mormons in Second Life • David Scott, Utah Valley University • In this paper, I examine the role of religious iconography and images in a Mormon neighborhood in Second Life—a user-created virtual world. I find that this location encourages an authentic Mormon experience by recreating a sense of locale through the use of iconic LDS buildings and art. Furthermore, the persuasiveness of religious images is enhanced by their association with particular Mormon doctrines. Howeversometimes these virtual images appear merely as window dressing accompanying a particular doctrinal statement. When this happens, they detract, rather than enhance, the religious message.

Popular Music Genre and Accessibility of Listeners’ Self-Concept of Religiosity • Mark Shevy, Northern Michigan University • This study investigates the effect of popular music genre, an element in many religious and non-religious messages, on the activation of religion-based selective perception. An online experiment showed that exposure to country music (no lyrics) causes evaluations to become correlated with listeners’ level of religiosity, whereas exposure to hip-hop does not. Religious self-construct priming and concept relevance are discussed.

The Effects of Media Use on Religious People’s Perceptions of Politics and Science • Billy Collins, Baylor University; Zhenge Zhang, Baylor University; Amanda Sturgill, Baylor University • Although the relationship between religion and politics is an oft-researched phenomenon by communication and political scientists alike, the relationship between religion and the scientific community has drawn less interest from scholars. While these relationships appear to be the questions of separate studies, the mass media have been shown to play a mediating role between religion and the other two enterprises. Using data gained from the 2006 wave of the NORC General Social Survey (GSS), this study discusses the relationships between religion and science when media are introduced as a mediating factor. Analysis suggests that in some cases, the media does moderate the view of science for audience members with strong religious beliefs.

Watching Movies in the Name of the Lord: Thoughts on Analyzing Christian Film Criticism • Jim Trammell, High Point University • Religious faith plays a key role in how we use and interpret media. For instance, some Christians believe that their faith compels them to avoid mainstream media, while others eagerly embrace mainstream media in their worship. Such examples of how persons of different Christian beliefs use and interpret media differently are legion, but exploring the common dominant themes among them can reveal much about how religion influences how we use and interpret media. Christian film criticism is uniquely suited to address these similarities among these otherwise diverse, ideologically competing viewers. Relying on a textual analysis of the film reviews of two ideologically opposing Christian movie critics–Movieguide and Jeffrey Overstreet–this manuscript analyzes the similarities in their approaches to Christian film criticism in order to better understand how religious faith in general, and Christian faiths in particular, influence the use and interpretation of media. It identifies three main themes of Christian criticism—that is, affirming the affective power of movies, exploring movie going as an exercise in understanding worldviews, and addressing the standards of production excellence—and posits that Christian media criticism in general acknowledges movie-going as a transformative experience.

Do denominations talk with us or at us?: A content analysis of U.S. denominational websites • John Wirtz, Texas Tech University; Philip Poe, Texas Tech University; Prisca Ngondo, Texas Tech University • This study analyzes religious denominations’ Web sites using two-way symmetrical communication and dialogic theory. A census of 83 denominations, all of which are affiliated with the National Council of Churches or the National Association of Evangelicals, were included in the study. The main Web site for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was also included. Results indicated considerable evidence of dialogue, usefulness, attempts to drive return traffic, and examples of relationship building. However, many denominations’ Web sites lacked truly interactive feedback mechanisms, such as allowing visitors to comment directly on blogs or discussion forums, and therefore failed to complete the dialogic loop.

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