About the discipline
Those who study communication are interested in creating and critically evaluating messages. These messages persuade, inform and entertain in one-to-one interactions, organizational communication and the mass media.
Understanding the message: Modern communicative media shape, and are shaped by, moral visions and narratives that come from religious traditions. Religious perspectives have an impact on modern discourse and religious organizations operate their own media. In personal and intercultural communication, understanding religious beliefs and cues is an important part of successful personal, business and intercultural communication.
Mass communications: Critically listening, reading, thinking and writing about mass media is enhanced by knowledge of religious symbolism and themes. For example, recent films such as “Constantine,” “The Passion of the Christ,” the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “Chronicles of Narnia” present overtly religious symbols. More subtle religious messages are found in movies such as “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Sea Inside” because they grapple with the moral dilemma of assisted suicide. (The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ film office gave both movies an “O” rating – for morally offensive – because they offer sympathetic views of euthanasia). Recent films with implicit religious themes include: “Their Eyes Were Watching God” (spiritual awakening), “The Motorcycle Diaries” (spiritual journey), “Sideways” (search for identity), “Shrek 2″ (hero myth), “Lost in Translation” (rite of passage) and “I Heart Huckabees” (existential angst).
Such films may indicate a focus on new religious “enemies,” greater interest in the spirit world and more willingness to accept ambiguity. One could study how films express religious experience and how religious narratives affect the symbolism and arc of modern entertainment. Other issues in mass communication include broadcast regulation, which is influenced by lobbying groups that represent a conservative religious influence. Mass media also pose ethical issues, such as whether to censor nudity or broadcast killing, which may be impacted by religious beliefs about morality and respect for human life. Mass communication is absorbed by a diverse group of people. Understanding the beliefs and needs of people is the key to communicating the message you want to send.
Interpersonal and intercultural: Communication in work and social contexts, family, and conflict management is more effective with understanding of others’ religious traditions and beliefs. Understanding religious and cultural norms – language, social expectations, nonverbal communication, dress and appearance, dining customs, and oral and written communication – can mean the difference between unsuccessful and successful communication. Examples may include knowing that it is proper to eat only with the right hand in the Middle East; or that an Orthodox Jewish man will not shake hands with a woman. This is particularly important as American society grows more diverse and the economy globalized. We have much more contact in all settings with people who come from different cultures and backgrounds. Those who study intercultural communications can also examine the values, beliefs, customs and attitudes that affect intercultural communication.
How we communicate: One way to understand human experience is to look at the communication that accompanies or embodies religious experience. The importance of symbolism to religion is evoked in the practices often associated with religion, such as parables, rituals, prayer, sermons, scriptures, stories, books and religious tracts. Christians were among the first to utilize radio in the 1920s, sending sermons and hymns to the masses. They later followed with television programs and stations and use of the Internet. All of these can be studied as communication artifacts.
Another example is the impact on the modern English language of the King James translation of the Bible, first printed in 1611. The translation – characterized by poetic style and colorful language – is the source for English-language expressions such as “can the leopard change his spots?”, “eye to eye,” “gird one’s loins,” “in the twinkling of an eye,” “fell flat on his face,” “a fly in the ointment,” “labor of love,” “put words in his mouth,” “land of the living,” and “the root of the matter,” among others. Its style is reflected in Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Issues today: There are opportunities to work in mass media writing and reporting about religion in secular and religious contexts. Religions are now recognizing the importance of having a brand and a message in capturing the interest of potential members. They are putting together campaigns, from Web sites and billboards to TV commercials and outreach to secular media for publicity. We live in a time where audience members are increasingly diverse and diffuse. The Internet and satellite TV means we can see the mediated messages of cultures from around the world – and they can see ours. These messages impact perceptions and actions. It is up to those who focus on communication to moderate that exchange, personally and on a mass scale, to critically assess and work toward the most effective communication.
- “New Media and Religion: Observations on Research,” by Kyong Cho.Communication Research Trends. 30, no. 1 (2011): 4-22.
- “Religion, Communication, and Social Capital,” by Matthew Nisbet, Patricia Moy and Dietram Scheufele. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003
- “Religious Revelation, Secrecy and the Limits of Visual Representation.”Anthropological Theory. 6, no. 4 (2006): 431-53.
- “Fatwa on the Bunny” by Fred. Vultee. Journal of Communication Inquiry. 30, no. 4 (2006): 319-36.
- “The Narrative Quality of Experience” by Steven Crites. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, September 1971.
- “Nine students exploring possible careers in religion communication this year, thanks to the Religion Communicators Council” by Douglas F. Cannon, RCC President
- “Religion and communication: can ads help the image of Islam? Interview with Michael Hastings Black” by Patrick Haenni. Religioscope, Nov. 21, 2008
- “Pathways to Political Participation? Religion, Communication Contexts, and Mass Media.” International Journal of Public Opinion Research 15:300-324 (2003).
- “Frameworks for studying media and religion” by Paul A. Soukup. Communication Research Trends, June 22, 2002.
- “Cross-cultural perspectives on religion and computer-mediated communication” by C. Ess. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(3)(2007)
- “Online for the faithful” by Darren Osborne. The Courier Mail (Australia), April 2, 2008.
- “Communicating the Hamas Message: Strategy, Tactics, Channels and Effectiveness” by< Al-Bawaba Reporters. Comtex News Network, Inc., Aug. 14, 2007.
- Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication, and Media. Daniel Stout (ed.). Routledge, 2006.
- Religion and Communication: A Selected, Annotated Basic Bibliography. Eugene D. Tate and Kathleen McConnell. Speech Communication Association, 1988
- Symbols for communication: an introduction to the anthropological study of religion. J van Baal. Van Gorcum, 1971.
- Rethinking media, religion, and culture. Stewart M. Hoover and Knut Lundby. Sage, 1997.
- The International Encyclopedia of Communication. Wolfgang Donsbach (ed.). Chapter on “Religion and Popular Communication” by Jon Radwan. Columbia University Press, 2000.
- Religion and media. Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber. Stanford University Press, 2001.
- Religion, morality and communication between peoples. George F. McLean, Heinz Holley, John A. Kromkowski and Robert R. Magliola. CRVP, 2004.
- Foundations of Religious Tolerance. Jay Newman. University of Toronto Press, 1982.
- Media, religion and democratic participation: community communication in Zimbabwe and Norway. Knut Lundby. Sage Publications, Inc. 1997.
- Believers and Beliefs: A Practical Guide to Religious Etiquette for Business and Social Occasions by Gayle Colquitt White (Berkeley Trade, 1997).
- How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook by Stuart M. Matlins and Arthur J. Magida (editors) (Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2003).
- Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Roberta Green-Ahmanson (United States: Oxford University Press, 2008).
- Religion in the News: Faith and Journalism in American Public Discourse by Steward M Hoover (Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, 1998).
- Marketing in a Multicultural World: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cultural Identity. Janeen Arnold Costa. Sage Publications, Inc., 1995.
- Bridging the Gap: Religion and the News Media by John Dart and Jimmy Allen (Nashville, Tennessee, First Amendment Center, 2000).
- A Guide to Religion Reporting in the Secular Media: Frequently Asked Questionsby Debra L Mason and Cecile S. Holmes (editors) (Westerville, Ohio: Religion Newswriters Foundation, 2002).
- Dieties and Deadlines: A Primer on News Coverage by John Dart (Nashville, Tennessee: First Amendment Center, 1998).
- Islam: Reporting in Context and With Complexity. The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Vol. 61 No. 2. Summer 2007.
- Islam: Reporting in Context and With Complexity – The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Vol. 61 No. 2. Summer 2007
- “A Historical Analysis of Adventist World Radio’s Impact in the East Central Africa Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: A Case Study of Tanzania” by Desrene L. Vernon. Dissertation. Howard University, 2011. 197 pages.
Codes of ethics
- Public Relations Society of America – Member Code of Ethics
- American Marketing Association – Code of Ethics
- American Advertising Federation – Advertising Ethics and Principles
- Society of Professional Journalists – Code of Ethics
- Committee of Concerned Journalists – Online Journalism Ethics
- American Society of News Editors – Mission Statement
- Project for Excellence in Journalism – Ethics Codes
- Associated Press Managing Editors’ Ethics
- International Communication Association – Ethics Statement
- National Communication Association – Code of Professional Ethics
- Kwintessential, a London company that offers training to overcome cross-cultural communication problems, verbal and non-verbal.
- Religion Communication Congress
- Intercultural Business Communication
- Religion Etiquette (Beliefnet)
- International Business Customs, International Business Protocol, and Business Practices, information on international business practices, business protocol, etiquette, cross-cultural communication, negotiating tactics, and country-specific data
- “Religion as a language of communication and conflict resolution” by Rabbi David Rosen
- “How Comfortable Are You Talking About Religion? – Religion and Spiritual Communication” by Gregory Vanden Berge
- Impact of Religion on Cross Cultural Communication
- The Diversity Toolkit
- ReligionLink, contacts, ideas and source guides for covering religion
- Religion Newswriters Association, resources and training to help journalists cover religion with balance, accuracy and insight
- Visiting Places of Worship (Reporting on Religion: A Primer on Journalism’s Best Beat)
- Reporting on Religion 2: A Stylebook on Journalism’s Best Beat
- The Pluralism Project at Harvard University
Professional associations and faith groups
- Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America
- Catholic Writers Online
- Christian Writers’ Group
- Islamic Media Foundation
- Media Fellowship International
- Odyssey Networks
- National Communication Association’s Spiritual Communication Division and its blog Spirited Discussions
- Professional Association for Christian Writers
- Religious Communication Association
- Religion Communicators Council
- Women in Christian Media
- World Association for Christian Communication
- Meyer, Birgit. “Religious Revelation, Secrecy and the Limits of Visual Representation.” Anthropological Theory. 6, no. 4 (2006): 431-53.
- Dumanig, Francisco Perlas, Maya Khemlani David and Ceasar Dewalis. “Conversion narratives and construction of identity among Christians in Malaysia.” Multilingua. 30, no. 3/4 (2011): 319-31.
- Eisenlohr, Patrick. “Media authenticity and authority in Mauritius: On the mediality of language in religion.” Language & Communication. Vol. 31, No. 3 (July 2011): 266-73.
- Religion, Media and Hollywood. University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication. Diane Winston.