Friday, November 11, 2011

Threat of online communities on religious authority

There are numerous examples of online religious communities these days. In her article, Cheong argues that the development of new forms of online religion and religious discussion have challenged the authority in the church from the days of old. The new flow of information, and the ability of virtually anyone to be a "Theoblogian" has caused some tension between the people who subscribe to the online religion and the authorities within the traditionally structured hierarchy of said religion.
In the early days of the internet, the Vatican spoke out against its use and how it can be the portal of so many evils that the church wanted to protect its people from. The Pope and the Vatican were afriad that this new form of information technology would squelch their authority over religious law in the Catholic church.
It has been awile since the internet first came to be, and it seems now that the Vatican has taken a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" stance when it comes to the internet. The Vatican now has its own Facebook page, Twitter, and You Tube Channel. they still try to maintain a strict since of authority in that they do not allow comments to be posted, nor do they follow anyone else on Twitter. They maintain a certain level of authority while still reaching the masses via the internet. This will not stop the "Theoblogians" from sharing their doctrine, but at least both sides of the story can be found somewhere online.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Religious Identity of the Gamer

After finishing the Sisler reading for this week, I was astonished to learn so much about this niche of video game that I had never heard anything about before. Sisler spotlights how video games developed my Muslims for Muslims can shape the way that the religion is practiced.
One specific example are the games coming out of Afkar Media located in Damascus' newly opened free-zone. One game that they have released that we talked about in class was Under Siege.

Afkar Media has already produced two games, both dealing with the plight of the Palestinian people. One game released last year, "Under Siege," was born out of frustration with the prevalance of Arabs and Muslims portrayed as terrorists in Western video games. The creators of the game say the story line counteracts the biases in some Western games by showing the Palestinian struggle from an Arab vantage point and creating Arab and Muslim characters who are fighting in self-defense.

Critics say the game merely inverts stereotypes - replacing extremist caricatures of Muslims with extremist caricatures of Jews, like that of Baruch Goldstein, and using the violent "shooter" format common to many video games.

It is still unclear to me if these games have any affect on the way Muslim identity is defined, but it is a great question to look into further.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Online-only Religion

One example that I was able to find was NewSpring Church. This is a type of Church that we talked about in class where there is one main campus and many Satellite churches where the sermon is broadcasted. This church also offers its sermons, lesson plans, and music online.

Here is the info paragraph from the website-

"We are NewSpring Church and we exist to make the name of Jesus Christ famous, one life at a time. You can join us on Sundays in Anderson, Charleston, Columbia, Florence, Greenville, SC, and live online as God moves us forward to spread His Kingdom."

In this sense, I believe it is possible to attend an online only religious service and for it to be completely and totally authentic. The online viewers are seeing the exact same thing that the physical members are seeing. If they are watching it live, they are even seeing it at the same time! This is just one example of how an online community can substitute for a physical church community.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cornerstone Church-Online Community

For this post I chose to explore the online community of my own hometown church. Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, TX can be considered a mega-church. With more than 19,000 active members and thousands more viewing sermons via Television broadcast, this is a church that is comparable to the LifeChurch discussed in Tim Hutchings article.

If you go to you will find many of the same aspects we saw on Online Church. There is a media center where you can view past sermons, download podcasts, download music, and view video blogs. There is a tab dedicated to all the ministries that the church offers from young adults, to young marrieds, to widows; each group is represented with information on the website. There is also a donation page where you can give money considered tithes or extra donations on top of weekly tithes.

This online community is comparable to LifeChurch because it utilizes its website as a platform for futhering the reach of the physical church. It is not meant to replace the physical community, but to suppliment it.

One difference is that Cornerstone Church does not offer an online chat tool, they only have email correspondence. This also encourages physical committment because in order to have that discussion-type relationship with other members, one must go to the church. You are able to recieve responses from church officials via email, but no member-to-member communication is encouraged through the website.

Links to the churches Facebook and Twitter are also present on the webpage, these tools could facilitate communication between members if one desired to do so.

Online communities are, as of now, meant to be seen as compliments of church bodies, not substitues. But who knows how far these online communities could progress in the future?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Digital Religion Symposium

Thursday Morning I had the pleasure of going to the Texas A&M Symposium on Digital Media and Religion. Three guest speakers were brought in to share there research with other scholars and students at the school and it was a very interesting and enjoyable experience. I got to listen to a talk presented by Christopher Helland, his research on ritual practice conducted in online worlds was very interesting and I learned many things that I did not know before. First he was kind enough to define what he considered a ritual to be. He talked about how various religions and groups will break off from conventional churches and hold ceremonies online, from the earliest web-based chartrooms to the highly advanced worlds of second-life. The most interesting part of the talk was when he discussed how sacredness of these sites must be negotiated on an individual by individual basis. People who do view these meetings as sacred take them seriously and use this online time as a time for spiritual growth, while people who do not consider these rituals to be sacred will treat them as a big joke and purposefully defile the proceedings by using coarse language and vulgar gestures. This was interesting to me because I did not think that some people would actually want to disrupt. It is an interesting factor to consider when thinking about if these rituals should be considered sacred or not.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


This blog will be dedicated to looking at how digital media acts within religious communities. This might mean looking at how religious communities use digital media to convey messages about their beliefs, it could also mean exploring how these same communities reject certain forms of digital media. Any religious community is up for discussion, this will keep it interesting because the way digital media reacts within religious groups is so different from religion to religion. I will use articles and current events to spark my discussions and determine wheat the subject of my blog posts will be. From Christianity to Buddhism, every religion reacts to new media and digital culture in different ways and there are countless examples of this in everyday culture. I hope this blog proves to be interesting and that you all enjoy reading my posts!