Religion and Media Program

The United States remains very “religious” yet surprisingly ignorant of religions (including, as a recent Pew Research Center poll found, those claimed by adherents). The programs and curricula at the Divinity School work to remedy this. Unfortunately, a bottleneck exists between what scholars know and the public learns, as is apparent in the West’s entanglements in the Middle East and arguments about public school textbooks at home.

The Martin Marty Center’s initiative on religion, media, and public life aims to provide the critical and nonsectarian analysis of religion so often missing from media coverage. Through publications such as Sightings, workshops, online “Ask Me Anything” sessions with Divinity School faculty, and podcast lectures, the Marty Center aspires to change the tone of public conversations about religion. This is not an academic program of research into media but an effort to communicate the knowledge generated in the Divinity School to broader publics via media.

This set of initiatives rests appropriately in the Marty Center, whose name honors one of the best known public commentators on religion, Martin E. Marty, PhD’56, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, author of more than 80 books, and a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines across the country. His voice in the New York Times or Huffington Post provides nuanced and reliable insight.

The Marty Center already promotes scholarship and facilitates connections with people outside the academy. The ambitiously expanded program in media will extend this work, building on Professor Marty’s legacy and demonstrating the school’s ability to bring reasoned insight to religious events and figures. To do so, the school seeks support for the infrastructure necessary to make the Marty Center the go-to place for reliable information and thoughtful commentary on religion, past and present—drawing the broadest possible array of conversation partners eager to see more than unmoored opinion about religion in the public sphere.