Channel Editors' Roundtable: Managing the Conversation on Faith

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Moving Past Hatred. Read other perspectives here.

Patheos has become the world's largest religion and spirituality site on the web, and its unique combination of faith traditions and worldviews kindles powerful conversations about nearly everything under the sun—from personal reflections on the meaning of life to public commentary on current events.

In light of this month's Public Square topic around hate speech, some of the Channel managers at Patheos felt their experiences in guiding the dialogue, encouraging their writers, monitoring the tone of comments, and generally navigating the web of multifaith dialogue might be of interest to our readers. Listen in on the conversation of these Channel managers!

Dilshad Ali, Muslim
Deborah Arca, Progressive Christian
Nancy French, SixSeeds Faith and Family
Bart Gingerich, Evangelical
Jason Mankey, Pagan
Dale McGowan, Atheist
Kate Sheehan Roach, Spirituality
Jennifer Woodruff Tait, Faith and Work

What do you find most interesting or exciting about this work?

Nancy: I love seeing how far we can spread our work through the culture.

Kate: Every day is an adventure!

Deborah: I've always found my job of bringing intelligent, credible, inspiring, and perhaps relatively unknown, voices to the mainstream public to be the most exciting and rewarding part of this work.

Jason: I often feel as if Paganism exists in a bubble. No one on the news is ever asking for the "Pagan perspective" and even liberal news sources rarely talk about Paganism. (And when they do many of them actively mock our beliefs.) So being at Patheos is a completely new experience, I actually feel valued and being a part of something bigger than Paganism is a thing worth getting excited about. I don't know if we will ever be mainstream, but I think it's important to be a part of the greater dialogue.

Dilshad: I agree with Jason. As challenging as it's been to host Muslim writers on a site with so many bloggers of other faiths, it forces others to confront their own misconceptions about us. It forces Muslim bloggers to do that as well.

To me, one of the most exciting things is when I find readers commenting that they've learned something new, or that a stereotype they held was shattered. Also exciting is when I see Patheos bloggers who have animosity toward other religions and their bloggers actually learn and grow from each other. When we start talking to each other instead of at each other, that's when I feel this work is most satisfying.

Jennifer: I always like helping different sides of a conversation get closer together. My channel is largely Evangelical with a couple of Catholic and mainline bloggers, so I enjoy facilitating that conversation within the channel, and also connecting it to the larger Patheos world. I also just like reading great content, and I am continually surprised by what my writers come up with.

What challenges emerge from within your religion or worldview in hosting a productive, respectful conversation on faith? How do you meet those challenges and help your writers to do the same?

Deborah: We've broken the Christian tradition into four separate channels at Patheos—Catholic, Evangelical, Progressive Christian, and Mormon—so right there, that shows the challenges that emerge in presenting one "brand" of Christianity! And my channel, the Progressive Christian Channel, is probably the biggest "tent" of all. We have extremely liberal Protestant Christians sitting next to very faithful Evangelical Christians for whom the "Evangelical" label doesn't quite fit anymore. So sometimes our theological perspectives really bump up against each other, and one or the other feels that they are the odd one out in the channel.

Dilshad: Because the Muslim channel is smaller, we cannot be broken up into more channels. And because I seek diverse viewpoints and faith interpretations, we have, for the want of better terms, Sunni, Shia, progressives, conservatives, moderates, Ahmadiyyas, and so on all in the same space. I work hard to find good, respectful, strong writers. But it can be a real challenge to juggle so many different beliefs under the umbrella of Islam.

For my writers, one of the biggest challenges of the media culture is the need for the rapid response. My writers are not immediate responders. This can be hard for other faith bloggers who see things happen and then say, where are the Muslims on this? My writers get emotionally exhausted by that. I encourage them to be patient and write in a way that is not just rapid response, but thoughtful, even if it means taking time.