When I went back to graduate school in my 40s, I took with me years of having produced films, network TV programs, and a mass-market book. I thought the theological faculty would be impressed. They were not, except for my advisor who saw the potential for mass-media religious education. My qualifications and publishing record was enough to get me into a Master of Arts program at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, but I quickly discovered that academia and mass-media didn’t relate very well with each other.
Also against me was that I was “a believer.” I soon learned that the worship department stood on its own; it didn’t interface much with the academic lines. I found that odd. I still don’t understand why departments of religion and divinity schools separate faith and analytics. Is faith and worship too soft? Certainly a subject for some research.
Then again, everyone I knew at the time warned me not to go to graduate school to study theology. As a matter of fact, the founder of a major mass-market spirituality magazine told me bluntly, “don’t study religion or you’ll lose your faith!” I actually had the opposite experience. Studying ancient writings in asceticism, and in doctrine, and mystical practices served to increase my faith. Now, I’m able to add what I learned in historical-critical context.
While in divinity school, I continued writing and producing, this time in both mass-media and in academic publishing, and began combining the two pursuits—adapting material I learned in classes and reading assignments and releasing it far and wide to general audiences.
So when The Immanent Frame came along, I was excited. There was academic, serious, analytic work being distributed widely on the web. I join in this mission, and am delighted to work with Columbia University’s Institute of Religion, Culture and Public Life, and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), to create intellectual and mass-audience radio/audio material on prayer, grounded in both scholarly research and in secular application.
Now, a few years out, and with the launch of Reverberations, the SSRC continues to make real innovation and progress in disseminating intellectual content on religion to anyone and everyone. I thought it would be a good idea to do an informal survey, checking in with some of the original contributors to the SSRC’s Internet publications.
Herewith, a Huffington Post Religion article I recently published.
I’ve had many people contact me saying they read it, both academics and secular readers.I would be very interested in your thoughts and experiences on publishing, traditional and electronic. And also on the subject of how journalism can intersect with academia. Head over to Huffington Post to post a comment or response.