011: Volume 4, Issue 1, pp. 21-41

Understanding Relationality: 
A Challenge for Religion Communicators

Douglas F. Cannon



Religion communicators in the United States face a conceptual challenge. Is their mission to sell a product, shape public opinion, package and distribute information, or manage interactions with social groups? These missions assume fundamentally different understandings of relationality. How do faith groups understand relationships? Are they based on community or some other set of attributes? If relationships relate to community, is that community based on shared belief or creation? Which view of community best fosters relationships that encourage cooperation and discourage polarization? The answers guide how faith groups value dialogue, respond to disagreements and understand public relations. This paper uses a hermeneutical approach and results from surveys of U.S. religion communicators and faith group leaders to suggest answers to those questions. The goal is to consider how religion communicators and faith group leaders understand public relations, how communicators approach their work and how they rate their skills for dealing with conflicts.



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