Sex, Religion, Media

Article excerpt

Sex, Religion, Media Dane S. Claussen, ed. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002. 295 pp. $72.50 hbk.

This nation is profoundly and simultaneously influenced by three distinct but powerful sets of interacting institutions and practices: religion, media, and sex. As editor Dane Claussen points out, the United States is one of the most religious nations on earth, media (most of which is privately owned) pervade virtually every aspect on life here, and sex is an omnipresent preoccupation for most who live in this country.

Claussen, associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Point Park College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has compiled a collection of essays that set as their common locus the intersection of these three areas-- religion, media, and sex. Claussen structures the essays in four categories: engagement and avoidance of sex and religion in media production; media content, conservatives, sex, and the "liberal" establishment; media content, liberals, sex, and the "conservative" establishment; and media agenda setting and the cultivations of religion and sex. The structure proves an effective taxonomy in connecting the chapters as well as guiding the reader through a fairly broad range of topics.

Lisa Grunberger contributes to the first section with her chapter, "Bernarr Macfadden's 'Physical Culture.'" Grunberger employs a cultural studies approach to studying an early twentieth century figure as the leader of a religious-- like health movement. The author examines the apparent contradictions between the stated messages on morality and health with the emphasis on sexuality and commercialism implicit in Macfadden's publications and other enterprises. Grunberger concludes this is simply one more example of the ways in which religion and culture have always coexisted, engaged in dialectic interplay.

Part 11 includes, among others, two essays on the conservative Christian critic of popular culture, Donald Wildmon. In one, Robert Mendenhall conducts an historical analysis of Wildmon's crusade against popular television, branding it obscene. Framing the chapter with Niebuhr's theories on Christ and culture, Mendenhall demonstrates the high level of subjectivity present in the techniques used by organization members doing the coding. Natalie Jo Brackett Vinyard presents a different perspective through an interesting and well-written content analysis. Vinyard applies the theories of Anthony Weston to examine magazine articles written about Wildmon, concluding that the facts presented or the ways in which they were presented showed evidence of fallacious rhetoric the majority of the time. …