My colleague at Wild Hunt is included in this new book. I thought that, as connoisseurs of religious blogs that ya’all might be interested.
The Social Science Research Council has released a study titled “The New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere.” You can read it online!
“Blogs have given occasion to a whole new set of conversations about religion in public life. They represent a tremendous opportunity for publication, discussion, cross-fertilization, and critique of a kind never seen before. In principle, at least, the Internet offers an opportunity to break down old barriers and engender new communities. While the promise is vast, the actuality is only what those taking part happen to make of it.
This report surveys nearly 100 of the most influential blogs that contribute to an online discussion about religion in the public sphere and the academy. It places this religion blogosphere in the context of the blogosphere as a whole, maps out its contours, and presents the voices of some of the bloggers themselves. For those new to the world of blogs, there is an overview of what blogging is and represents (section 1). The already-initiated can proceed directly to the in-depth analyses of academic blogging (section 2), where religion blogs stand now, and where they may go in the future (sections 3 and 4).
The purpose at hand is to foster a more self-reflective, collaborative, and mutually-aware religion blogosphere. Ideally, this report will spark discussion among religion bloggers that will take their work further, while also inviting new voices from outside existing networks to join in and take part.
I sometimes watch Wife Swap on ABC, because my Seminary teacher, Bella, was on the TV show. Lucky for you, I have it posted to YouTube . When I posted the show to YouTube for Bella to have easier access to it, I was surprised at the kind of comments I got from it. And I STILL get comments on it! When it first came out, Bella posted this explanation to the group list, and I reposted it to my personal blog. Mind you, Bella is a Wiccan High Priestess, whose home is, literally, a church. She lives her religion every day in service to others. She thought the show would be a wonderful way to let people see what Wicca was about. Unfortunately, she didn’t have much say over the final product. The producers sensationalized a lot of things, but at least in this episode no one really ended up the bad guy. But, having insider information, you WOULD NOT BELIEVE just how much was edited, twisted and just plain faked. Here’s what Bella sent out back in March of 2006:
So now that you’ve seen it, know that I watched the show with my mom, dad, kids and the coven. Kenny didn’t want to take off work to watch it.
The plate that was broken was Kenny’s personal plate, our coven plate is green with a pentagram in the middle. He was pissed off from some conversations that he had had with a couple of coven members, who weren’t respecting our space. He was also under a LOT of stress. Him and Alison
didn’t get along at all, and he actually cried the entire night after the table meeting.
Alison said something about the fairies being made up to occupy the kids because the parents are never around. Kenny does work all the time, but I am here with my kids everyday all day long.
The coven hasn’t been banned from the home, nor did they break the rules. The coven left Tuesday and never came back during the rest of the shoot. And we wouldn’t let them film the coven during the update, because we felt that they kept trying to sensationalize our religion, and make fun of it.
The footage shown of Daniel and Dusty breaking the rules was taken from Tuesday morning. The reason they were here was because the production company called them every morning demanding they show up. The conversation they were having didn’t even correspond. It sounds as though they were calling someone named Gardner a Warlock. That was taken out of context, and edited to try to explain why Kenny went crazy and broke the plate.
The flying broom that they made such a big deal of, rarely leaves the wall, where it’s hanging. And the downstairs “Bella Land” was completely contructed by the production crew. I had no intention of making such a place in the home. They surprised me with it right before rule change.
I clean my own house everyday, Kenny doesn’t ever do ‘chores’. But, he will help out on occasion. The coven ‘helps’ around the house when there is something special happening, but not as an everyday occurance. The production company asked them to cook the meal that you saw as a going away dinner for me, which they didn’t film.
Kenny is invited to eat dinner with the family every Sunday, sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. But, me and my children eat dinner together at least 4 times a week. The other times they want to eat in front of the TV, it’s a privilege and I let them because it’s fun for them.
Luaxanna’s “wiccan schooling” involves a 6 hour day of Math, Chemistry (which sometimes involves brewing potions), Mythology, English, Literature, Spelling, Home Ec, PE, and Arts & Crafts. Nowhere on the list of school work that she was assigned for the week did it have her making a wand. Luaxanna would like for me to sit there and do her work with her all day, but that is why she’s being home schooled. She has to learn to be self-directed, instead of letting everything distract her, and needing constant supervision. But, I am right there to answer any questions or
offer any help that she needs, all day long.
As for the roaches, it was one of coldest weeks we had in Georgia that week, and the house didn’t get sprayed that month, because of all the chaos with the filming.
We cleaned the house for 2 straight weeks, I personally scrubbed the floors, and it was spotless when I left here.
The truth is: I AM spending more time with my children, and all of us gained a new appreciation for what we have as a family. The show did bring us closer together. The girls are continuing cheerleading practice, and enjoying it. Kenny still works 12 hour days, 6 days a week. But, we’re trying to make it to where he spends more time with the kids. No, we aren’t back together. [edt. I believe they are divorced.]
There may be more, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.
Jamie here. So what do you guys think when you see Pagans depicted this way? Does Bella look like a Priestess of the Goddess representing Wicca? Or does she look like a self-promoting oddball?
Bella told me that every time she was crying on the show, it was in reaction to something the production crew did. She also says she still keeps in contact with the Askam family, and that she’s learned a lot from the experience. What being close to her experience has taught me is that you can’t believe everything you see on TV.
I saw a show a few months ago called The Secret Lives of Women (on WeTV) which talked about women in the occult. They talk to the requisite Satanist, Vampires and Wiccans. And Tyra Banks did an episode of her show with Fiona Horne. For a full recap of these shows and excellent commentary, click here and here. I wonder what these witches set out to do, and how did it all fall out when it was all over?
Following just about every portrayal of Pagans, Wiccans or Witches on TV come the inevitable blogs (I know, I’m now totally one of them) and with them the public bashing. It seems that people in our community who end up on TV also end up having their dirty laundry aired on the internet. I suppose that is fame. In the end, it becomes a place for discontent ex-group members, slighted acquaintances, or even perfect strangers to say whatever negative thing they believe. Folks often decry that the offending person on TV has “ruined the religion for the rest of us” and “doesn’t deserve to represent us”.
So I ask you: who should represent us? Who would you put up on TV and on what show to tell the world about our community and our ways? I bet you no two people could agree on the same person. We live in a community where we don’t recognize our elders, nor do we have a way to verify that people claiming to be Priests or Priestesses have good intentions, educational foundations, leadership skills or counseling skills. Yet when someone tries to organize something like that, such as a seminary, church body, or ordination requirements, lots of folks get their panties in a twist. What is it, exactly, that you want to see on TV? What do you want from your elders? How best to represent ourselves to the mainstream public? Maybe these reality shows help us figure out what we don’t want, but it is our responsibility to turn it around and figure out what we do want.
Personally, I really enjoy seeing people like me on TV, but I always analyze it with the eye of an outsider. I ask myself what my mom would think of my people (for I think us all as being in the same tribe) if she saw this. But my mom likes oddballs, so maybe I need a new barometer. And then I think about all the solitaries out there, who have no community beyond their online connections, and I’m grateful for these people on TV. Maybe they look like fools (or perhaps they are made to look that way), but at least witches are part of the mainstream fabric. They can serve as some kind of rolemodel…even if that model is what not to do.
I continue to enjoy seeing us on TV, but until we get our own channel and shows, I’m afraid we’ll have to do with the ways outside observers portray us. It’s easy to get frustrated and insulated and go back to the times when things were more covert. But I think coming out of the broom closet has been good for us. It’s made us more accountable, given us more clout, and helped bolster tolerance. It’s a slow process, but we’re getting there. The truth is that we are building our collective identity as we go, and creating our own reality. And you can’t fault reality TV for that.