Spring 2016

"Getting” Religion: Religion, Media and American Culture and Politics

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-224

Moodle site: Course (Guest Accessible)


Max P. Mueller (Section 01)


Despite predictions to the contrary, the influence of religion on American public life has not waned; 90% of Americans recently reported having some belief in God. In fact, since 9/11—from Islamic terrorism (followed by anti-Islamic hate crimes) and America’s wars in the Middle East to Mitt Romney’s Mormonism and the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate—religion has played a role in almost every major debate in American politics and domestic and foreign policy, and often in American popular culture, too. To understand these debates, Americans open their newspapers (or smartphones), and turn on their radios and televisions. And yet, many journalists and commentators know very little about religion. In this course, we examine why and how the media fails to “get religion,” and how members of the media can get religion better: to write and comment on news events and popular culture with religious components with greater insight and accuracy. In part I, “the Report,” we examine the best and worst practices of religion reporting. In part II, “the Op-ed,” using a series of case studies, we examine how “experts” and “activists” comment on and criticize religious news (or whole religions), and how these debates inform or distort public opinion about the faiths of American citizens. In part III, “the Review,” also using case studies, we study how media critics review art forms from museum exhibits to movies and Broadway musicals. In each part of the course, students put their knowledge to use, producing their own reports, Op-eds, and reviews on contemporary events and culture. For a final group project, students work in teams to create a web-based portfolio of their work.  

Spring semester.  Visiting Lecturer Mueller.


2019-20: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016