Media experts urge vigilance over religious fundamentalism
When is fundamentalism about religion and when is it not? What is being said in the name of fundamentalism and what impact does that have on social justice? Are fundamentalist religious strategies a response to failures of the nation-state?
These questions were at the heart of the debate among 75 expert communicators and academics attending the International Conference on Fundamentalism and the Media earlier last month (October 2006) in Boulder, Colorado, USA.
Organized by the University of Boulder at Colorado, the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and its North American regional association, the conference explored global trends and local incidents which are the subject of now-daily news headlines.
Steve Rabey, former Religion Editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, offered a journalist's perspective, recalling an interview he had done with a Christian fundamentalist whose philosophy was, ìI don't know any more about theology than a jack-rabbit knows about ping-pong. But I'm on my way to glory!î
ëWaging Peace through the Media: What can we learn from fundamentalistsí was the title of a standing-room-only public lecture by R. Scott Appleby, director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA.
Appleby - who with prominent American theologian, Martin E. Marty, co-directed the Fundamentalism Project sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences - identified complexities and nuances that face contemporary societies, urging people to reflect on those complexities and keep open minds.
Participants attended the preview screening of a forthcoming PBS [Public Service Broadcasting] documentary, ëKnocking - The Untold Story of Jehovah's Witnessesí, examining how the pursuit of religious faith and personal freedom meet on the doorstep.
Two separate stories question preconceptions and assumptions about deeply-held faiths. ëFundamentalism revisitedí is the theme of the first issue in 2007 of WACC's international journal Media Development.
Articles will offer snapshots of the impact of fundamentalism on the local situation in India, Iraq, and parts of South America.
The World Association for Christian Communicationís website is at: http://www.wacc.org.uk/