This week Religion Dispatches, where I write reasonably regularly as a senior correspondent, shared news about a reality of digitally-integrated, late modern life with which most of us are familiar: everything changes. A nonprofit publication that occupies a unique place on the religion journalism landscape at the intersection of academic discourse and thoughtful reflection that appeals to an educated general readership, RD has found its institutional and administrative home in educational settings, first with Emory University and more recently with Auburn Theological Seminary. This has allowed funders to have a perhaps more settled confidence that things financial would be overseen by folks accustomed to that while also, at least in theory, allowing RD the kind of editorial latitude that has enabled it to take on topics from which other publications might shy away or at least be slow to consider.
Focusing only on my own contributions, for instance, RD was the first national magazine to take up the religious dimensions of the Occupy Wall Street movement, to explore the relationship between new media and religion from beyond a “gee wiz, isn’t that app cool!” perspective, and to invite reflection on the wider cultural implications of the growing number of people who identify as religiously unaffiliated. Among my RD colleagues, contributions from Joanna Brooks opened up Mormonism as a more complex and ideologically diverse tradition than had previously been explored in popular or many academic publications. Haroon Moghul‘s contributions on Muslims in America have enriched and significantly shifted perceptions well beyond the academy. If time permitted, I could go on about the work of RD regulars like Peter Laarman, Candace Chellew-Hodge, Kathryn Joyce, and others. For now, however, I merely note that the real and perceived editorial integrity, creativity, and courage displayed by RD since it first blinked onto screens in 2007 has been no small part of the unique and valuable contribution it has allowed contributors to offer to a world in which, however much pollsters may report declines in religious participation and influence, the complexities of religious practice and belief remain meaningful in politics, education, culture, and everyday life in general. Finding an institutional partner with the culture and character to encourage and support that work is a huge deal, and I’m glad that RD is transitioning to just such a space over the next few weeks.
I’ll certainly continue to publish with RD during the transition, and I’ll celebrate RD’s move to a new institutional home come midsummer. I encourage you to visit often and to share your own stories on how RD has been meaningful to you and what you’d like to hear more about in the future.