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Sharlet to Speak April 11
March 15, 2007

A longtime journalist who pays close attention to religion, and religion reporting, will speak at Calvin College on Wednesday, April 11.

Jeff Sharlet will address the topic: "Fundamentalist History, Secular Myth, and the Media’s God Problem" in a 3:30 pm address that day in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall.

His talk is sponsored by the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics and the Gainey Institute for Faith and Communication.

"Religion, in the true broad sense, underlies, controls, permeates at least half the stories in the news," he says, "probably a lot more. Iraq, Iran, Israel -- those are easy, we know those are religion stories. George W. Bush is a religion story. Stemcell research and gay marriage and school vouchers are religion stories, although not at all limited to the narrow pro and con set of beliefs with which they are typically framed.

"The question of race in America is infused with God, top to bottom, and anyone who covers immigration without thinking about conversion and apostasy and literalism might as well not be writing about it at all."

Sharlet is a contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone and an associate research scholar at New York University's Center for Religion and Media, where he teaches journalism and edits, a review of religion and the press.

His latest work is Jesus Plus Nothing: How American Fundamentalism's Power Elite Shaped the Faith of a Nation. He is also the co-author with Peter Manseau of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible, published in 2004 and named by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 10 religion titles of that year.

Sharlet’s talk at Calvin will make the case for "American fundamentalism" as a term that encompasses the political and cultural work of a broad evangelical movement that's both conservative and utopian, gentle in spirit and angry in expression, rooted as much in its reading of American history as in scripture.

However, Sharlet is also critical of the secular left whose blinders prevent them from appreciating the complexity of religion in America. He describes this as the media's "God problem."

Sharlet says that rather than giving an "academic” lecture, he will offer the reflections of a journalist who's been exploring the spiritual geography of the nation in the post 9/11 era.

His book Killing the Buddha came about because Sharlet and Manseau had "lost faith in the way faith gets talked about in America, the way it’s seen as either innocuous spirituality or dangerous fanaticism, perfume or mustard gas."

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