Is Religion Camera Shy?

I’m trying to put together a one-on-one interview series with people of all different faiths and so far I’ve contacted two Christian pastors, a Mormon, a Buddhist, and the administrator at the Jewish temple in Springfield. I let them know that I’m not interested in debate but want the opportunity to ask some probing questions about their religion(s) and give them the chance to give as detailed answers as they want. In every case, I was told that they’d be happy to talk to me but would not be willing to be recorded either on video or audio. What gives?

I’m wanting to discuss their religion in a candid, open format with no argument or ridicule and none of them are willing to go on record? What good is a religion if you’re secretive about it? How do you expect other people to understand you and your beliefs if you’re not willing to open up to an audience? This would be a great opportunity to dispel some misinformation, explain some myths, and relate to people why you believe your religion is based on truth. I just don’t get it.

I’m wondering how I can get believers to open up and help me with my educational project. I’m really hoping to someday be able to gather a representative sample of the world’s religions and put together a nice series of videos that can bridge some gaps. I just don’t understand why there’s so much resistance.

Where should I be looking?



  1. I think, on some level, those kind of people are somewhat insecure about responding to objections. Religious beliefs are extremely important to many, so when their beliefs are challenged, they balk at the opportunity to defend them, as it might show weakness. Defense mechanism.

  2. Is it possible that they fear their answers may be edited? That’s what I’m guessing. Most Christian churches that I know of wouldn’t have a problem with being recorded for an interview.

  3. @jmallory – I may just need to keep looking. And perhaps giving them final approval power would help? I’m completely willing to give them veto power, if for no other reason than to make them comfortable that I’m not editing them to make them look bad.

  4. I think jmallory hit it.  Words can always be taken out of context.  Most pastors are held accountable by a board at their church and/or at a higher level.  They have a responsibility to represent various beliefs well.  But an answer which they think might be helpful to you, might be considered divisive if shared with another pastor who they have ecumenical relations with or might be considered careless by some fuddy dud.  In other words, if they’re vague and/or scripted enough to satisfy all their peers they probably won’t satisfy you at all.  If they get on your level or your intended audience’s level, they’ll likely offend someone else.  Honestly, the cost-benefit-risk ratio is very poor.  They have more to lose than to gain.  The idea of letting them approve it sounds reasonable, but that means they have to take time to listen to it later on.  In order to not offend you or anyone else, they’d have to be very careful about how they approach things.  They might fear that you’d be upset if they’d critique and fuss over seemingly minor or trivial things.  One other thing: most people in the ministry are not terribly tech oriented.  They favour a more personal approach.  They probably haven’t put much of a video on their church’s website yet.  If they have it probably just invites people to come worship with them.  Again, it likely consists of vague generalities avoiding controversies.  Your project is likely something that they wouldn’t be familiar with or comfortable consenting to.
    I dunno if you’ve ever seen the video put out by  (see the trailer) — it represents a very conservative Christian view of many issues on culture, philosophy, politics, and what not.  If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend checking it out – you might be able to borrow a copy from a church library.  I’m sure you’ll find many points that you strongly disagree with.  However, I think you’d find it interesting.  It intersperses a series of lectures with discussions with various experts, whack jobs posing as experts, and man-on-the-street comments.  You might want to aim for a similar type project.  To do that you might be able to piece together many different people, not necessarily officials acting in an official capacity.  After you’ve put together a sample it might give you the credibility to get a so-called expert interested in talking with you.  Sorry if I rambled on, but I have a good friend/associate who works full-time in the video business and he does a lot of work with non-profits so I actually do understand a lot of the issues, either directly or through discussions with him.

  5. I got this on a rec the other day and meant to comment then.  Shouldn’t most religious organizations have official websites or literature that would disclose their beliefs?  I would think so.  

    Some questions you may have for them may not have simple concise answers and they may not want to waste time with an interviewer who isn’t going to be patient enough to make time to hear or read a lengthy answer.  Yet I’m assuming you plan on being patient.  

    Perhaps they want well prepared.  The questions you plan on asking them, do you plan on giving them some time prior to the interview to prepare their response/answer?  They may not remember all the vital details and facts of their answers right off hand if someone were to ask them randomly, thus they’d like to be well prepared and have notes with them.

    Or maybe they’re just camera shy.  =P

  6. @bluepillorredpill – I had intended to give them the full list of question prior to the interview and stated that in my e-mail to them. I’m serious about being very honest, open, and patient with this project because I’m much more interested in education than controversy. I hope that eventually I can get it off the ground.

  7. @CoderHead – Hmm…when you do submit these questions to them and have successful interviews, do post them for us to see.  It should be very interesting.  I’m curious to know, what type of questions would you be asking them?

  8. @bluepillorredpill – They’ll definitely be posted, if I can ever get someone to go on camera (or at least audio). The questions I’ll be asking are general questions about their faith and their background and then questions specific to the doctrine of the denomination they chose. I may actually post the questions here for review by the Xangaverse prior to doing my first interview. I kind of like that idea.