I am finishing up a book on how Franciscans in the U.S. communicated with Americans through various media. In a chapter on radio and television programs, I write quite a bit about one particular effort called The Hour of St. Francis. Based in Los Angeles with financial support from Third Order Franciscans (or secular Catholics who pledged to live by values inspired St. Francis of Assisi), The Hour used Hollywood talent on a popular radio show and later to make a series of half-hour television episodes. You can listen to some of the radio shows here: The Hour. The programs were heard on hundreds of radio stations across the U.S. and so we can assume they were heard by hundreds of thousands of people. Scripts for the episodes were sent out to hundreds of listeners who requested them. Thus these episodes present an interesting question: do they constitute a body of thought that sits somewhere in between theology and lived religion?
The recent exchange at the blog regarding Kathryn Lofton’s statements about intellectual history made me wonder what kind of intellectual history evangelism might be. I thought about this question in light of a short book (or long essay) I am writing on American Franciscan media which has helped me think through how theology, church dogma, and lived religion intersect in media (print and radio to television and the web). One of the lines of debate over Lofton’s interview with Cara Burnidge focused on the problem of democratization–a term that at once seems to evoke derision and heroism among intellectual historians. Dan Wickberg suggests that intellectual historians work on both sides of this term simultaneously and, in a way need to, in order to be honest to both the people we write about and the “thought worlds” in which they exist. Continue reading