How to Write a Hugely-Popular Piece for Huffington Post Religion

For theological and religious types, Huffington Post Religion (HuffPo) happens to be one of the more predominant avenues toward becoming involved in the online religious discussion. They typically feature big-name scholars and established bloggers, many of whom can be thought-provoking and helpful. But no one cares about that. The real traffic goes to another type of religion piece.

As I’ve read and followed their posts over the past few years, I’ve noticed a few tried and true themes and threads for writers interested in dominating the Christianity conversation traffic-wise. So for those seeking fortune and fame (okay, just fame), I thought I’d offer a few tips:

  1. Insist that “Evangelicalism needs to learn…” — Point out common conservative “Evangelical” mistakes. Anything from politics, theology, biblical interpretation, to proper attitudes towards the ecological crisis will do. Don’t worry too much about presenting the range of theological diversity, or nuanced conservative positions. That’s not the point. Just feed the popular narrative that anybody adopting the moniker ‘Evangelical’ is a backwoods, obtuse, un-progressive tool with enough passion, panache, and subtly restrained disdain. You’re right in the sweet spot.
  2. “I know because I used to be an Evangelical until…” — If you can do this as an ex/post-Evangelical, you get bonus points. Everybody expects a liberal mainliner to rail on Evangelicals, but as one newly converted from the fold carrying a message of sanity for your one-time peers, your story carries more authority. This is even more compelling if you can present a strong story of blindness, a crisis of conscience, or broken faith that led you to a liberating realization. Any sort of progressive coming-of-age tinge will make it that much stronger.
  3. Bravely Flirt with a Heresy — “Heresy” is a culturally sexy concept. Overturning stale, repressive orthodoxies, especially in the name of broader horizons, intellectual honesty, inclusiveness, and, of course, “compassion,” is the BEST. (That this is mostly done in the name of some new, unnamed progressive orthodoxy is neither here nor there.) There has to be the note of bravery—a willingness to risk the scorn of the conservative establishment (whose opinion you don’t really care about anyway). It’s a fine line to walk, but you can do it. I believe in you.
  4. Call Someone a Bigot — Don’t forget to forcefully assert that any religious conviction about moral or sexual issues stems from a fear of the Other, selfishness, and historical shortsightedness. Don’t bother differentiating between a principled-yet-compassionate moral stance and malicious bigotry; implying that the two are distinguishable phenomena doesn’t help the cause. Even if all it amounts to is a throwaway accusation buried in a middle paragraph that doesn’t advance the argument of your article one bit, get it in there. If, by the end of the piece, you haven’t labeled an enemy, you’ve failed.
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