11:18 pm: Since Revealer editor Jeff Sharlet blurbed What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide – “At last, a Buffy book as smart as Buffy, the show. Riess has given us the key to understanding the subtle theology of slayage, but her book is meaningful beyond the Buffyverse, too — What Would Buffy Do? is an erudite and extremely entertaining meditation on ethics, morality, and how to save the world. A lot.” – The Revealer has an interest in seeing that the book does well. Fortunately, just a few weeks after publication, it already has, reports William Lobdell in The LA Times, writing on the book and a recent academic conference dedicated to the how. The book also gets a buzz from Books & Culture, an intellectual evangelical review. Tell that to Brent Bozell and the Parents Television Council, a Christian group that several years in a row ranked Buffy one of the ten worst shows for its “underlying occultist element.” WWBD author Reiss, who took a doctorate in religious studes from Columbia before becoming religion editor at Publishers Weekly, is perhaps in a better position to judge. Not just because she’s an academic expert and a journalist long on the beat, but because she’s also a Mormon — one of the few, she notes in conversation with The Revealer, in big media. As such, she knows anti-religious sentiment when she sees it. Mormons, she points out, remain an acceptable subject of derision and denouncement, as evidenced by a thousand sitcom cracks and the respect with which Jon Krakauer’s anti-Mormon screed, Under the Banner of Heaven, was greeted. Reiss isn’t another anti-religion crusader, and she’s certainly not an occultist. As Christy Risser-Milne puts it, Reiss “honestly and eloquently names, through the lens of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the reason so many churches are empty today. Why the buffet that religion has become is so attractive. Why the absolutes proffered by fundamentalists in any faith are so often rejected by the young.” Both Buffy and Reiss, she adds, are theologians; more accurately, though, and in language Brent Bozell might appreciate, they’re “spiritual warriors.”
5:20 pm: Fifteen years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the BBC’s Louisa Lim reports on its legacy–part of which is the growth of Christianity in an officially atheist state. One former demonstrator, Zhu Hong, credits China’s repressive government for his conversion, telling Lim: “Everything you do is under surveillance…and it’s basically impossible to build intimate relationships. Under these very lonely circum-stances, people need a spiritual or emotional sense of belonging.” For others, Lim writes, belief–and its practice in illegal house churches–is itself “an act of defiance of state control.”
11:34 am: If you crossed Jorge Luis Borges and Isaac Babel, and forced the monstrosity that resulted to write on deadline, you might wind up with something like the journalism ofSteven I. Weiss – erudite and two-fisted, obsessive-compulsive brilliance expressed in broad strokes. Weiss is a case study in how the internet can foster nonfiction writing that’s deeper, smarter, and more entertaining than that manufactured through the chain of command at the dailies. If only Weiss knew it! On a panel about Jewish blogging a few weeks ago, Weiss lamented his expulsion from Yeshiva University (for sins he wouldn’t explain). Had he remained, he speculated, he might have followed the well-worn path of internships and suburban stringing to finally land at a desk in a major daily newsroom. Instead, he charged off into the blogosphere. Now, he’s jumped into print, a staffer at the one weekly in America that truly deserves the terms “unique” and “necessary” — the Jewish Forward. There you’ll find Weiss’s latest, a true tale of brawling Brooklyn rabbis in Lithuania, an expose of the Jewish conspiracy for worldwide control — you know, the one where Chabad tries to take turf from the“Joint,” aka the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. What? This is news to you? Then read on for a dispatch from the frontier of the journalism of the obscure.