Faith, spirituality and politics are popular food for thought and discussion on campus. But a select few have extended their contributions to these debates to a broader audience through The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog.
The blog, which is managed by Elizabeth Tenety (COL ’07), has featured the writing of a handful of Georgetown students and professors, including Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization Jacques Berlinerblau.
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs Director Thomas Banchoff announced the partnership in July 2007.
“The fit is excellent. ‘On Faith,’ the leading online conversation about religion, brings together thought leaders and the public for vibrant exchanges,” Banchoff wrote on the blog. “Georgetown, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit University in America, welcomes students of all faith traditions and is a global leader in the interdisciplinary study of religion and its role in world affairs.”
Tenety worked for the Berkley Center while majoring in theology and government at Georgetown and said she encourages faculty and students to write about their thoughts and ideas on the blog.
“Frankly, Georgetown students are often very politically, theologically and journalistically aware. They are already saturated in those questions,” Tenety said. “For me, it was a natural fit at the Post because of the environment I had at Georgetown studying religion and politics.”
Tenety considers diversity of content a main priority in her editing role.
“Not only are we diverse in terms of having all the faith traditions represented as well as talking to atheists, agnostics and humanists, we also strive for diversity within those traditions,” she said.
O’Brien first wrote for “On Faith” in May 2009 at the request of On Faith founder Sally Quinn. O’Brien has since written four articles for the blog.
“I like writing for both The Hoya and ‘On Faith’ because I like to seek a wider audience on matters of faith and spirituality, to reach a lot of people I wouldn’t reach here at Georgetown,” he said. “I want to reach people who are thirsting for very good questions about faith and who are thirsting for some thoughtful answers. I hope that I can, if not provide answers, help keep the conversation going and help the conversation become deeper.”
O’Brien has encouraged reflective Georgetown students to contribute to “On Faith,” helping them form and edit their ideas, as well as offering his expertise during the writing process. He recently assisted Jordan Denari (SFS ’13) in writing an article on finding Jesus at Georgetown, which was published in June.
“I was encouraging Jordan because she’s a great writer,” O’Brien said. “I had her in class and her perspective on interreligious dialogue is unique. She really found her voice.”
Denari said she appreciated the chance to share her ideas.
“The Post has a very wide readership, so of course it is an honor to be published there, alongside other bloggers like Desmond Tutu and other famous leaders,” she said.
Denari said writing for “On Faith” was a natural fit.
“Because of my passion for both interreligious dialogue and my desire to share my own experiences regarding Muslim-Christian relations, I wanted to look for outlets in which to publish outside of my personal blog,” she wrote in an email. “Because I write about religion and because I lived in D.C., the ‘On Faith’ blog was a natural choice.”
O’Brien appreciates the depth of “On Faith,” which he said helps reach Millennials in its online format.
“There are a lot of sites that are looking at questions of faith, but I think what The Washington Post brings is the reputation of The Washington Post as well as a commitment to writing that is provocative, deep and meaningful,” he said. “There are a wide variety of voices on the blog.”
Tenety emphasized that “On Faith” is a news organization that looks at today’s headlines through a religious lens.
“My goal is to make sure that this site is relevant to digital users,” she said. “We’re trying to not only represent the real conversations that are happening inside church buildings about religion and values but also the conversations that are happening online.”
Denari has written three articles for “On Faith,” which has recently granted her a more permanent blog presence due to the success of her stories.
“Student writers have so many venues for writing these days, thanks to the blogosphere. More and more I see friends writing for New York Times blogs, PolicyMic, Slate,” she wrote. “For those who want a voice, there are so many options. What’s important is having something unique to say and pitching it to an outlet that fits.”
Tenety works with young writers such as Denari on their proposals. She said that young writers should draw from their own experiences and insights to write in a voice that is purely their own.
“I think one of the important things for students to think about when they are pitching is what can they say that they’re an expert on,” Tenety said. “What I want people to do is to write from their own wealth of wisdom. It’s figuring out what you can offer this conversation.”
Tenety hopes that Georgetown’s relationship with “On Faith” will continue to flourish as both entities support each other.
“As someone who’s been on the Georgetown side as well as the ‘On Faith’ side of this, I know that we deeply value the expertise, the effort, the insight from a number of people at Georgetown,” she said. “There’s been a sort of symbiotic relationship going on that’s been very constructive, I hope to our readers as well.”