Arun Venugopal is a reporter and the creator of Micropolis, WNYC’s multi-platform series examining race, sexuality, religion, street life and other issues that define New York City. He has been with the station since 2005, and has covered a wide range of stories, including the death of Sean Bell, the controversy over the Park 51 mosque and community center and Occupy Wall Street .
Urbanists: Time to Get Religion
Monday, November 08, 2010 - 03:38 PM
Years ago, when I was trying to break into journalism, I pitched a couple of stories to an editor who worked for some big magazines. She seemed to like me, but wasn't too kicked by my ideas.
"I'm sorry," she said. "But religion just isn't... sexy."
It was, of course, a profoundly silly thing to say, and representative of a problem within certain segments of the media: religion, as some see it, is a mawkish, suburban affair, one hardly worth devoting much ink to. Or, as this article at "The Urbanophile" (via Daily Dish) put it, "there's a lot more to religion in the city than abortion protests." The author argues that urbanists need to pay more attention to religious groups "because many urban congregations have mastered the art of outreach and conversion in a way that transit and density advocates can only dream of."
If you really are trying to save souls, then it isn’t enough just to be right, you have to also be effective. That’s the part of the message that’s too often lost on urbanists of various stripes. They are pushing transit, density, sustainability, etc. largely based on a belief that these are self-evidently correct policies. I find that often their ability to sell them to people who are skeptical or come from a different worldview is poor. When people don’t sign on to the latest carbon reduction scheme, rather than blaming a bad sales job, the blame is almost always put on the people rejecting it, such as by calling them idiots, intellectually dishonest, shills for corporations, or “deniers.” I’m sure there are some of these types out there, but I believe the vast bulk of people don’t fall into these categories.
Not all, but a good chunk of religious evangelists actually care about what works. Their mandate doesn’t allow them to simply write off unbelievers as a hopeless sinners. As a result, you often see a lot more analysis of what they think they need to do to be successful in their mission.