Better Know a Religion Blog: Religion & Politics

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In this series with the Bulletin–whose title is a play on Stephen Colbert’s “Better Know a District” segment, and whose alternate title is “Religious Studies Blogs: What do they talk about? Do they talk about things? Let’s find out!” (from BoJack Horseman)–we ask blog authors/curators to tell us a bit about their blogs’ history, relationship to other blogs in the blogosphere, and typical focus. Other posts in this series can be found here. 

Can you tell us a little something about the history of this blog?

Religion & Politics launched in May of 2012. The online journal is a project of the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, which opened in 2010 at Washington University in St. Louis. One of the center’s early goals was to launch an online publication that would offer a public space for conversation on these two contentious topics. We feature articles from scholars and journalists who proceed from a single premise: that for better and for worse, religion and politics converge, clash, and shape public life. But as Religion & Politics’ tagline says, we are still “fit for polite company.”

What are some of the more common themes this blog takes up?

We cover anything at the intersection of religion and politics, and we think of these two themes broadly. We have eleven topic categories that encompass most of our articles: bioethics, civil liberties, culture, education, elections, foreign policy, law & order, media, money, science, sexuality & gender, and elections.

What do you think are some of the advantages of scholars blogging about religion?

We actually do not think of what we do as blogging, which tends to be more informal and conversational. Each of our articles is deeply edited, and I work as a traditional magazine editor, helping writers polish their finished pieces. That said, we are asking scholars to write for a general audience and to translate their research in an accessible way. I think it can be a great way for scholars to try out a different genre of writing, to explore a topic, or to navigate conveying ideas in a journalistic format.

How do you see Religion & Politics in relation to other academic-oriented blogs that deal with questions relating to religion?

We are lucky to have a lot of great company in this space, and we were welcomed by the sites that preceded us. Like a lot of them, we are focused on how academic expertise, research, and reporting can be brought to bear on pressing questions in public life. We are a news journal, though, so we prioritize what is happening in the news more so than in the academy.

What kinds of methods and theories do you focus on? Do you have any preferences, requirements, or exceptions to how “religion” can or should be approached?

We are open to numerous approaches to religion. We believe the intersections of religion and politics happen in so many places. We strive to publish a range of views, rather than promoting a specific political perspective. We honor frank and respectful debate. We inform these discussions by taking the long view, providing historical context, critical analysis, and thorough research with compelling writing.

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