Staying in Touch with Religion on the Web

Like most people of my generation I remain loyal to print journalism. Thanks to a wonderful English teacher named John Burns, I’ve been a New York Times subscriber since my junior year in high school. The paper now arrives on the front lawn at 5:30 every morning, along with the Boston Globe. For religion news I rely on The Christian Century and Christianity Today, which cover American Protestantism pretty well, the former from a center-left and the latter from a center-right perspective. I also subscribe to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which keeps me current with parts of my former life in educational administration and to The New Yorker, still the finest weekly general interest magazine on the market today.

A dozen years ago I would have listed many more print subscriptions. Gone from my mailbox are Harpers, The New Republic, The Nation, National Review, First Things, America, Martin Marty’s Context and many others, including professional journals. Most of these resources still exist but I now access them on-line. Yes, I’m contributing to the declining fortunes of contemporary journalism!

Some people enjoy surfing or wandering freely across the net for interesting material. I do some of that but I also take advantage of free customizable web pages such as those provided by my.msn.com, igoogle.com and my.yahoo.com.

I use my.yahoo.com as my computer homepage. It automatically delivers to my screen a plethora of Internet materials across the range of my interests. It’s my source for breaking news: stories from various sources via Google news and the New York Times, sports from Yahoo, business from the Wall Street Journal and reports from sports teams I follow, including UConn men’s and women’s basketball. There’s local weather and local news and events, including movie schedules. RSS feeds bring me up to date on news of the United Church of Christ and of my state conference and tell me of updates on the PSR website. It even follows the mutual funds I hold or am watching. I choose exactly what I want to view and My Yahoo brings it to me. And assembling my personal page couldn’t be easier.

I’m a bit of a political junkie so have on my homepage the latest postings from about a dozen news sources and blogs, including www.huntingtonpost.com , www.dailykos.com , www.cbsnews.com , www.time.com , www.politico.com , and others. http://www.thedailybeast.com/ is also very good.

My homepage also gives me a window on who is saying what about religion in America today. I can view what’s new on www.Christiancentury.org/news for religion news or to contributions from its bloggers at www.christiancentury.org/blogs . www.Religiononhufingtonpost.com and www.beliefnet.com explore the many varieties of contemporary spiritual practice. Both are a bit breezy for my taste but they expose me to a wider range of voices than I find among my Facebook friends or in our little Cape Cod village. I’m especially fond of www.religiondispatches.com , which has assembled a team of bright young religion scholars with an edge. www.patheos.com is another site I follow; ts forums, including a recent one on the future of theological education, show real promise. See www.patheos.com/forums/future-of-seminary-education.html . The Immanent Frame (http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/) is a very serious scholarly discussion produced by the Social Science Research Council on “secularism, religion and the public sphere.” I’m also fond of Sightings, a daily essay from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago (http://divinity.uchicago.edu/martycenter/publications/sightings/).

These resources are not the only ones I draw upon for news and views of religion. Sometime soon I’ll write more about web-based scholarly resources for the study of congregations and religious organizations and perhaps another posting on Progressive Christianity. What I’ve tried to record here are the sites I’ve included on my homepage to track things I care about.

What is new in all of this is the ability we now have to serve as our own editors. We no longer have to rely on third parties (TV news networks, mainstream media editors and others) to tell us what we need to know.

The danger, of course, is that it can merely reinforce our own tendencies toward narrow forms of parochialism. We are free to listen only to people whose views we share about only the things we’re interested in. That’s the reason I still pay for the Times every day and connect nightly with the PBS New Hour, which help connect me to worlds that aren’t my own but that I ignore at my own peril.

My best resources are those passed along by others. Which ones are most helpful to you?

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