Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Beliefnet unbeliever

This is a bit off-topic, but as a religion blogger I felt compelled to comment.

This morning's paper brought the news that Rupert Murdoch is adding Beliefnet to his Fox Entertainment media empire. The property will become part of Fox Digital Media, with wonderful cross-promotion opportunities for Zondervan and Fox-owned religious media.

The joke opportunities are endless. As the London Guardian reported:

Lo, Murdoch did bring the good news and stored up riches on earth

Rupert Murdoch is out to prove that you can serve God and mammon after all. The media tycoon's Fox Entertainment has bought beliefnet, the largest online faith and spirituality network.

The site is a portal that includes interviews with celebrities and politicians, social networking tools, blogs, inspirational stories, sacred text searches and views from teachers and preachers. Discussion boards carry topics such as "Can inter-faith dating work?" and "Extreme abstinence". Beliefnet was founded in 1999 and the company claims to have 3 million unique visitors a month and nearly 11 million subscribers to a daily email newsletter. Beliefnet provides content across a broad range of faiths.
I've never ever been impressed with Beliefnet: as its title says, it's about "faith and beliefs," and not the R-word.

I'm not interested in "belief," I'm interested in religion, specifically Christianity and the Anglican strain therein. So (as regular readers know), I frequent GetReligion, VirtueOnline, the Issues Etc. Internet radio show, and (as time permits) Christianity Today.

Certainly more general coverage of religion can be interesting, as with the Washington Times BeliefBlog plugged by GetReligion this week. (Blogger Julia Duin is author of some of the best PECUSA schism coverage by any daily newspaper). But I've always thought that Beliefnet tried too hard to avoid any point of view, as reinforced by its founder's defense of the Fox buyout:
That’s a lot of diversity within the company. For those concerned that News Corp won't tolerate viewpoints that arent conservative Christian, consider that Harper One has published Jim Wallis, Paolo Coelho, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Jean Houston, Robert Bly, the Kama Sutra, the Pagan Book of Living and Dying, the Koran and more.

As for the idea that being part of News Corp means that we're going to have to abandon our mission of tolerance and respect for a wide variety of faiths, I’d first like to call your attention to the only quote from Fox in the press release announcing this:

“Beliefnet has garnered respect for its commitment to quality, editorial strength and unbiased approach to faith and spirituality from a broad range of consumers, religious and political leaders, journalists and advertisers,” said Dan Fawcett, President of Fox Digital Media.
There you have it. Beliefnet is worried about losing the loyalty of those who consider "Fox News" a swearword, or fear religious media being controlled by "conservative Christian" viewpoints. So it doesn't want to show any signs of adhering to a particular faith — the faith to which I adhere (along with Fred Barnes and others).

Yes, I know there's a wide range of viewpoints within the evangelical community as represented by CT, but it's among the most oft-mentioned news sources used by religion reporters. And GetReligion has a new liberal Catholic contributor from the left coast, who agrees on many but not all of the tenets of his LCMS, Orthodox, Episcopal (and ?) co-authors. Another source is the magazine World, which a friend reads in the paper form.

But all of these start from a common point:
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:12)
That should be a point on which all Anglicans can agree, since it was included in every prayer book from 1549 to 1979. (This means an emphatic "yes" to question #2 of the famous tmatt trio.) That is certainly not a "belief" shared by the whole world, particularly those afraid of "conservative Christians."

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