About Mollie Ziegler

MolliePictGR.jpgGreetings, fellow religion nerds. Today marks my debut on GetReligion. Since we’ll be discussing many stories in coming months, I’d like to share a bit about myself.

I’m a reporter in beautiful Washington, D.C., where I cover the management of government programs for Gannett’s Federal Times. I got into the journalism game a bit late, beginning with a stint at Radio & Records, the trade publication for the radio and recording industries. My education and previous professional background are in the dismal science of economics.

Most of my stories are straight news, but I have done some commentary and feature writing on religion, baseball, music, film, books and monkeys. Though my professional experience with the latter does not extend much further than a very exclusive Monkey News list-serv that I run, editors should feel free to contact me on all primate issues (despite a predilection against lemurs that I’d rather not discuss here).

In 2004 I won the Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellowship. This wonderfully generous program permitted me to spend a year researching and writing Losing Our Religion, a book on the changing shape of civil religion in America. Using original reporting, analysis of Supreme Court cases, and general historical review, I argue that the country has an official syncretistic religion.

This interfaith religion preaches that the public square is a great place for religious expression, so long as multiple religions are present; sacred scriptures are excellent for inclusion in political speeches, so long as multiple texts are cited; and state funerals and remembrances of national tragedy or pride can only be marked with religious services led by clergy from multiple religions. Most people think this is fine and good, but I argue that the arrangement trivializes religious differences and disenfranchises those folks who oppose syncretism. No matter where you stand on the issue, the book should make a great Chrismahanukwanzakah gift for everyone on your list next year.

Of course, my interest in these issues is informed by my background. My father is a Lutheran pastor and my mother teaches fourth grade at a government school. Sometimes my parents like to remind me what a difficult child I was. But the bottom line is that I’m Lutheran. Our perspective is unique — focused on the Sacraments, creeds and confessions of faith, and the eternal and otherworldly aspects of the faith. It’s in strong contrast to the American idea of religion, which focuses on personal morality and politics. As a result Lutheranism is rarely noticed or understood in the press. It’s extremely frustrating but great training for this gig: I’ve spent decades contemplating what’s missing from religious stories. And my past year studying Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism confirmed that the problem extends well past Christianity.

Here at GetReligion, I hope to shed a bit of light and heat on local religion coverage. I grew up reading Old Man Mattingly in the Rocky Mountain News, where I learned that all the best religion stories are local. Snake handlers drinking strychnine don’t start out as national news after all. In research for my book, I came to rely on a number of excellent religion reporters at medium to large papers and I look forward to highlighting their work on these pages.

For what it’s worth, I attend Immanuel Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, in Alexandria, Va. I serve on the LCMS Board for Communication Services. I also serve on the board of Higher Things, which helps parents, pastors and congregations cultivate a Lutheran identity among youth. I have four awesome nieces and a nephew. I have almost 1,000 LPs, ranging from Sufjan Stevens to Roberta Flack. And my favorite color is green.

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  • meghan

    I love monkeys!

  • Micah Valine

    Looking forward to reading your posts, Mollie. I’m the old LI intern Micah that you used to take to church and a long-time GetReligion reader; I was pretty surprised when this post came up in my newsreader.

  • Mark

    Hey, great to have you on board! I like monkeys too. And I don’t like interfaith movements. Your addition to the site works many levels as far as I’m concerned. Good luck!

  • tmatt

    I need to ask: lps as in the ancient analog music form? Wanna buy some of my old ones (if they survived South Florida)?

  • tmatt

    Oh! And I forgot to note that all of us will offer commentary, from time to time, on the actions of the Anglican Primates. They are so colorful.

  • http://agrumer.livejournal.com/ Avram

    Anglican Primates? Does this tie in with the monkeys?

    Welcome, Mollie.

  • Clive

    A fellow record collector. How cool is that? I’ll avoid any discussion on the sonic merits of LPs, but finish by saying I look forward to your contributions.

  • Jonathan S

    Yeah, a fellow Lutheran, to boot! Welcome, Mollie! (from another Lutheran PK)

  • Mark D.

    No lemur lovers here – glad to have you on board!

  • Nate R.

    Mollie,

    So glad you’re here! I had told Doug a while back that they needed a solid Lutheran on board (having an Anglican, Orthodox, and Catholic [Jeremy Lott - now gone]). I am a LC-MS PK too. I love Get Religion and look forward to your commentaries.

    In Christ,
    Nathan

  • http://jeremiads.blogspot.com Jeremy Lott

    >Jeremy Lott – now gone

    But not forgotten, I see.

    Hey Mollie,

    I tried to e-mail you the other day but yahoo was wigging out and refused to send. I had meant to say, congrats.

    Jeremy

  • Barb in Colorado

    Hey, Mollie! From your dad’s sister church? COS? (You’d never recognize the kids these days! LOL!) Can’t WAIT to read all the links you’ve got on your blog…and your book. Good to “see” you again. God bless you.

  • http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/ revcwirla

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Mollie! We’ll be looking for much provocative thinking and writing, not to mention that outrageously good news of salvation in Jesus.

  • hanaka

    To Mollie: “Congratulations!”
    To the readers here: “Double Congratulations! You will love this witty gal.”

  • Discman

    Nice to have a confessional Protestant on board. When will we get a Calvinist?

    And what happened to the link your film writing? That’s my main interest, and I feel cheated.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Thanks you monkey lovers, Lutherans, vinyl afficionados, and others, for the nice warm welcome. Especially from Jeremy Lott who is far too difficult to unearth sometimes.

    Yes, Terry, I’m interested in your albums.

    As for Discman, what do you call Daniel Pulliam if not a Calvinist?

  • dpulliam

    Yeah, last time I checked, I am a member of a Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, and attend a Presbyterian Church of America congregation here in Washington, D.C. I’m guessing that all makes me pretty Calvinist.

  • http://www.katiesbeer.blogspot.com TK

    This is just wonderful news! I am so pleased and look forward to reading your posts! Lutheran commentary is important, I think, in the cultural commonplace.

    I love the red bangs! My 16 year old daughter would think it is so hip.

    Do you know if/when your book will be published? Losing Religion is a great title.

    Did I mention how happy and proud I am to see you on this site??? Yeah, I think I already did. Sorry.

    A fellow Lutheran from Minnesota…

  • http://xrysostom.blogspot.com/ Pr. Walter Snyder

    Mollie! Glad to see you’re blogging. I join Pr. Cwirla in welcoming your bold proclaiming of outrageous grace and TK in welcoming your outrageous bangs. BTW, do you have your own site, too? (You can e me privately at xrysostom AT xrysostom.com, if you’d like.) I’ll be adding Get Religion to both of my blogrolls and will link anything else you’re doing, also.

    About the category list: Since there’s now a bona fide Lutheran here, will you create a Lutheran category?

    I’ve been asked to speak at a pre-Symposia conference on Lutheran blogging at Fort Wayne and was wondering if you might be there this year. The Fair Stephanie still fondly recalls your welcome when she rode the life busses from Concordia with St. Paul HS.

    Peace,
    wps+

  • http://preachrblog.blogspot.com Rev. Tom Chryst

    Mollie,

    Welcome to the blogosphere.

    I invite you to list your blog in the Lutheran Blog Directory:

    http://lutheranblogs.blogspot.com

    Listing is free.

    Happy Blogging!

  • Concordist

    If you come to The LCMS headquarters for meeting, you must be a monkey lover, given all the monkey business there.

  • Matt

    Guess you’d have a lot of experience with monkeys having worked at Radio & Records, huh? …

  • Discman

    dpulliam: Just before hitting “submit comment” on my earlier post, I paused, realizing I hadn’t double-checked your affiliation, then sent the comment anyway, afraid that if I backtracked I’d lose the post (who wants to cut-and-paste?) and confident that your recent introduction to readers included no such Presbyterian leanings.

    I’m pleased to see I was wrong. Don’t know how that slipped past me earlier. My apologies.

    With Molly and Daniel on board, we oughta have an Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals hoedown.

  • http://clientandserver.com dw

    Yay! Not only a fellow graduate of the university “nestled between the mountains and reality,” but also a Sufjan Stevens fan. I was listening to “Illinois” on the iPod this morning. You have the Sufjan Christmas music that’s been floating around?

    What of us evangelicals in PC(USA)? When are we going to get some representation?

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/fatherdmj The Rev. David M. Juhl

    Welcome, Mollie. So good to see you here.

    Advent tidings to you and yours.

  • http://watersblogged.blogspot.com Bob Waters

    Mollie, it’s about time you got a blog! ;)

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Mollie- great that you believe in a particual faith and a particular church. My mother was a Methodist and my father a Catholic and both their families were loving families and came to respect and love each other. They were both strong and typical examples of their faiths and probably why I turned out to be a strong, traditional Catholic. Usually–according to some surveys–the child of mixed religions becomes an atheist or agnostic in America. I think this is because many people who marry across religous lines think they have to low-key their faith and their children grow up in a household virtually atheist in religous interest and expression. But if there is love and respect on both sides there is no need for one to stifle one’s own faith out of a misguided belief that an absence of religion in the home is the best policy in such cases.

  • http://www.burrintheburgh.blogspot.com Scott Stiegemeyer

    Mollie,
    I am glad that one of my favorite people now has a new venue to say good stuff. And thanks for reminding me of that delicious word: Chrismahanukwanzakah.

  • http://terribleswede.blogspot.com Ron Olson, the Terrible Swede

    Dear Mollie,

    This “Get Religion” site is OK but I’m sure it will get better a 1000 times now that you’re on board. Welcome to the blogsphere!

    I’ll be sure to share this site with Mrs. Swede.

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  • http://thirdgrace.blogspot.com Rachel Motte

    Mollie,

    Like Micah I was an LI intern (Morton’s intern, spring 2000–I went by Robinson back then) and attended a church event or two with you. Welcome!

  • WO

    I think I’m in love…are there any other Lutheran girls like you?

    I think the tagline for the LCMS should be:

    “Pure Christianity for Snobs”

    I’d wear it proudly!

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    Mollie:

    I, too, am Lutheran (Wisconsin Evangeliscal Lutheran Synod, or “The WELS”). I used to edit the Lutheranism site on Suite 101.com (http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/3307) (I’d like to continue that, but Suite is re-organizing and I don’t know if I’ll be retained).

    As for monkeys, I have a monkey joke you might enjoy. Seems a monkey was given a Bible and Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” The caretaker saw the monkey in a gloomy mood and asked what was wrong. “I have read both these books,” the monkey answered, “But now I’m not sure if I’m my keeper’s brother or if I’m my brother’s keeper.”

    I’ll have to subscribe to this blog somehow. It looks to be a fascinating read.

  • Rev. Ajw

    Greetings, Mollie — Met you after the 2004 LCMS Convention. You’re a class act. I look forward to seeing more of your stuff. God bless! -

  • http://pietist.blogspot.com/ Eric Swensson

    Looks like you are getting quite a welcome Mollie! Welcome from a “you betcha Lutheranism got a unique perspective, if we get anymore unique in the ELCA we outta here” Lutheran who goes by a (nod and a wink) Pietist.

  • Dr D

    Keep up the good work. Like President Al Barry (former pres. of the LCMS) used to say, “Get the Word out, get the Word straight!” God bless you Mollie.

  • http://hiveperfect.blogspot.com/ HiveRadical

    Mollie,

    I appreciate your recent article analyzing the LA Times article on Mormonism and DNA. I’m, as you may guess, a member of the LDS Church. You asked the very same questions of both the timing and substance of that article that I hoped would be noticed, and seriously considered, by those looking deeper into the story.

    I will likely follow your work from here on out. You seem one of the most down to earth reporters I’ve recently found.

    I find it interesting that you’re Lutheran as many many of my recent ancestors converted from that faith to the faith I was born into.

    Thanks for your work. It’s appreciated for it’s attempt at acheiving a far greater depth than most news stories, or commentaries, tend to strive for.

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  • Michael

    Hi Molly,

    Why is there no category for Hinduism on this blog site?

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  • Chaplain Ted L. Crandall

    Mollie,

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the recent efforts to legalize long-standing trends in the military chaplain corps to stifle the mention of Jesus in public prayers. Shockingly, the Navy’s Chief of Chaplains is leading the fight against Congress.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/11/AR2006051102009.html

    Your brother, saint and sinner,
    Chaps


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