I attended an engaging lecture by Jason Byassee this morning. Jason — who works for the Century — was addressing the topic, “Why is Religious Journalism So Boring?”
He advanced a variety of reasons (including Peter Steinfels’s argument that there are only 6 “Religion Section” stories that get reprinted ad infinitum with names and specifics changed: “pastor has feet of clay,” and five more). I found most intriguing, though, his suggestion that religion (at least, Christianity) should be boring — that is, it ought to operate to change our frame of attention away from the misplaced desires for flash, for novelty, for instant relevance, and so on, toward a deeper, more prayer-like attention to the world we inhabit. He invoked, among others, Simone Weil and her “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies,”wherein she argues that the topics that interest us least, at which we have no particular flair, serve the great spiritual purpose of requiring us actually to attend to them.
I’m leaving out all the best parts, and over-simplifying what I do report, but I found it a delightful, heartening presentation. I hope he’ll publish it somewhere.
Is there any chance this lecture will be online, say, via whatever institution hosted the lecture? The part you posted really hit a nerve about something I think I might be trying to say in my sermon about James & John and wanting to be first. Probably if you knew an online link, it’d already be on your blog, but I thought I’d double-check.
See you next week at alumni days!