As one of the few people in the world who has seriously studied televangelism and other media religion, I regularly get queries from journalists who are working on stories about this or that media ministry or religion website.

One came recently, and is typical:

“…I’m interested in how effective the network (now including radio and Internet) has been at sending its message, and your perspective on the nature of the network’s message…”

I usually try to answer as best I can, noting that there is almost no evidence possible or available on this kind of effectiveness, that what success would really amount to, etc.

What I’d want to say is that this is the wrong question. The question is how does a given media ministry or activity or technology relate to religious meaning, materiality, and practice?

It may have nothing to do with “effectiveness” at all. For many ministries, the role is mostly symbolic. And that role is a very important role, but it is less measurable, of course, and more subtle.

But that’s not the way that we (including journalists) think about media!

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