Bonus podcast: tmatt and Eric Metaxas sift through 30 years of 'On Religion' work

Every Friday, our own Bobby Ross Jr., adds a dose of what he calls "shameless promotion" to his Friday Five wrap up of GetReligion stuff.

Let me add a bit of that of my own, a bit early. My apologies in advance.

Readers may have noticed that the "On Religion" column I filed on April 11 marked the 30th anniversary for my weekly analysis piece, which began with Scripps Howard News Service then moved to the Universal syndicate. Our friends at Lutheran Public Radio also did an extra-long "Crossroads" podcast that week, focusing on what I saw as the five "Big Ideas" in that period.

I finished that anniversary column soon after I arrived in New York City for two weeks of teaching and, literally while doing the edits, I took an hour-plus off to head up Broadway a couple of blocks to appear on The Eric Metaxas Show.

Now, Eric and I have been friends for two decades and I have been on the show several times, either by telephone from here in Oak Ridge or live in the New York studio when I'm in town. There are now video cameras in there, which I find disturbing since I have a face for radio (see proof in this video from a lecture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford).

Metaxas and I agree on a lot of things (love of C.S. Lewis, for example) and disagree on others (artistic quality of bubblegum pop in '70s-'80s). He was raised Greek Orthodox and is now an Evangelical. I was raised as a Southern Baptist "moderate" and am now Orthodox. And then there is the Donald Trump thing. I was #NeverTrump #NeverHillary and Eric's views are best expressed as #NeverHillary, period.

Anyway, during this hour of his program, we went all over the place -- but the heart of the discussion focused -- as you would expect -- on events and trends in religion news.

Consider this a bonus podcast, with an occasionally sarcastic (in a nice kind of way) host.

Click here to tune that in.

Now, as a quick bit of background, here is the heart of that 30th anniversary column, including a key observation by -- in my opinion -- America's top scholar, when it comes to studying religion in the American press.

Once again the key theme: For many, if not most, journalists POLITICS is really real. Religion? Not so much.

This week marks my 30th anniversary writing this national "On Religion" column. The first piece ran on April 11, 1988 and focused -- wait for it -- on arguments about evangelicals and White House politics. Turn, turn, turn.
Three decades is a long time, so allow me to pause and make something clear. I still believe that if journalists want to cover real news in the real lives of real people in the real world then they need to get real serious about religion.
Yes, there are problems. When I wrote my 1982 graduate project at the University of Illinois, I asked lots of editors why their newsrooms didn't do more to cover religion news. The most common responses were, "Religion is too boring and picky" and "Religion is too controversial."
Alas, the world is full of boring, controversial religion stories.
"Lots of journalists think that when religion is doing what it's supposed to be doing -- helping the poor, things like that -– it's just ordinary, everyday stuff. That isn't very exciting," said Stewart Hoover of the University of Colorado, author of "Religion in the News: Faith and Journalism in American Public Discourse."
Journalists get interested when religion crashes into business, sex, entertainment and, of course, politics. The question is whether editors will devote time, resources and personnel to quality coverage of the religion elements in those stories, said Hoover.
"They know millions of people really care about religion," he added. "That worries many journalists. … I think that they think that it isn't worth the effort to put up with all of that controversy. … It would be easier if religious faith stayed private and out of sight."

Does that sound right to you?

Enjoy this bonus podcast.

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