Belief in the Media: Cultural Perspectives on Media and Christianity.

Position:Book review
 
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Horsfield, Peter, Mary E. Hess, and Adan M. Medrano, eds. London: Ashgate, 2004. xxiv + 243 pp., $ 84.95 (USD). ISBN: 0 7546 3830 8 (cloth).

[1] Belief in the Media is an intriguing journey into the realm of religion and the media (both broadly construed). The edited volume developed from the International Study Commission on Media, Religion, and Culture, and all but one contributor, Jin Kyu Park, were core members of this seven-year commission. The contributors hoped that this volume would provide a new perspective on the study of religion and the media, which would challenge the existing paradigm that focuses on how institutional religion deploys media technology. Rather, the contributors seek to move from an institutional frame to a frame that embraces cultural studies, the importance of lived praxis, and an emphasis on individuals. The work, however, primarily focuses on Christian traditions and their relationships with media. Moreover, the contributors represent a wide array of experience with media and religion from theologians to producers to art historians to former journalists. Thus, the essays sometimes feel a bit uneven in their coverage of the subject matter. The volume is broken down into four parts: the cultural perspective, mediated Christianity, media culture and Christian institutions, and an overview of the field of religion and media.

[2] In his introduction to the volume, editor Peter Horsfield explores the importance of media in religious and social changes beginning with the importance of printing for the Reformation. More importantly, Horsfield examines the desire for the re-enchantment of the world in the twentieth (and now twenty-first) centuries. Media have been essential to the desire for re-enchantment. Horsfield writes, "Media have become the practical marketplace where individuals gather, converse, gain information, communalize their concerns, and build identity and worldviews" (xix). Additionally, Horsfield lays out the issues that concerned the commission: how have media replaced religion? What is the relationship between religious authority and symbolic practice? What constitutes the relationship between religion and media? Do new understandings of this relationship require new epistemology? What is abundantly clear from Horsfield's introduction and the following essays is the need to move away from institutional understandings of the media as a tool. Media should be understood more culturally than...

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