Please enjoy our recording of this global dialogue among religion journalists about the impact of religion in our world, particularly from a North American perspective. (If you care to learn more about our videos, please visit the IARJ YouTube channel and subscribe.)
This dialogue was streamed live online in early April 2022, moderated by David Briggs, co-founder of the International Association of Religion Journalists and a continuing Senior Advisor. Now, the recorded video can be streamed (below), or by visiting our IARJ YouTube channel.
In this 52-minute conversation, journalists and scholars discuss challenges religious groups face—and common misconceptions about religion’s role in shaping national life in Canada and the U.S.
After the introductions by David Briggs—one of those misconceptions is highlighted right away in this video by John Longhurst, faith reporter and columnist from the Winnipeg Free Press.
John illustrates common misconceptions by describing a 2018 Civil Society Summit, which drew G7 leaders from around the world. Held in Ottawa, Canada, in May 2018, the summit’s organizers failed to invite any faith leaders as speakers or panelists—and none of the summit speakers addressed the role of religion in civil society.
Now we normally don’t think of religion as a civil society group, but it is, John says in the video.
Religion brings people together for a common purpose beyond worship services. They meet to volunteer, to raise money for community needs or to campaign for causes they believe in. Not only that, on any given weekend as many as 4 million Canadians from different faith groups participate in worship services, which is more than any other activity that brings Canadians together.
As the discussion unfolds, John’s point about religious groups’ impact in shaping Canadian life, far beyond their houses of worship, is echoed in the U.S.
Alejandra Molina, a National Reporter covering Latinos and religion in the western U.S. for Religion News Service, and Richard Ostling, a veteran religion correspondent and author, emphasize the complex interrelationship between American faith groups and political movements. In their opening remarks in the video, both journalists zero in on the unfolding news story about rapidly evolving laws governing abortion in many states across the U.S.
Then, Corwin Smidt, professor emeritus of political science at Calvin College, adds to his colleagues’ analysis.
When we think about party politics in the United States, one of the things that has been happening in the academic world is a growing discussion of the extent to which rather than religion shaping politics—the extent to which politics may now shape religion. This raises the question, as Corwin puts it:
Has political identity really sort of become nothing more than an alternative religion in itself.
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Here is a recording of the most recent dialogue: (After live streaming on our IARJ Facebook page, these dialogues are permanently archived in YouTube. If you prefer, you also can watch this dialogue directly from our YouTube channel.)