Fifteen Years of Religion Reporting and Why Minority Faiths Need TV

Kevin Eckstrom and The Religious News Service

If you’ve listened to our show at all in the past 10 years, you know that Kevin Eckstrom is a favorite guest of ours. So when we discovered he was stepping down from his post as editor-in-chief of Religion News Service, we knew we had to talk. This week, for the first time, he opens up about his struggle to shield his own same-sex marriage from the rest of the religion news world.  Kevin Eckstrom is the soon to be head of communications for the Washington National Cathedral.

My Glorious “Nonehood”

Our own Mallory Daily is a proud young “none”–part of a huge and growing demographic in America. Today, more than one third of young people under 34 check the box for “none of the above” when it comes to religion, and no one seems quite sure what to make of it. “How fitting,” she says, “to give us a label that’s phonetically identical to a word that signifies a life devoted to God–a nun.”

Halal in The Family: Testing Stereotypes through the TV Sitcom

They even got the ugly sweaters right. Taking a cue from The Cosby Show, a new web series uses all the tricks of family sitcoms–pleasantly bland theme music, heavy-handed laugh track, ridiculous plot lines–to break down mental barriers many Americans have about Muslims. It’s called Halal in the Family, and it began as an experiment by The Daily Show‘s “resident Muslim,” Aasif Mandvi.  Featuring Lillian LaSalle, producer of Halal in the Family and Linda Sarsour, member of the show’s Muslim Advisory Council.

TV: The Last Step to Assimilation

Halal in the Family is just the latest in a long line of attempts to portray minority religions on television—some more successfully than others. From The Goldbergs, a 1940s sitcom starring a loveable Jewish mother who had “a place in every heart and a finger in every pie,” to the Henricksons, the polygamist Mormon family on Big Love in the early 2000s, a presence on TV has been the gateway to the mainstream for America’s tiniest faiths.  Mark Pinsky is a writer on religion and pop culture.

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