- Reader's Opinion -

April 11, 2011

To Know and be Known..

Connection. We would all agree that we live in a connected world. In fact, we are living in the most technologically connected world of any time period. But why? Why have humans created so much technology? Has it all just been a long, drawn out experiment for the fun of it? Is it all in pursuit of knowledge? Is it just to increase commerce and economic gain? Some could argue a case for all of those. But think about some of the original purposes of progressive forms of technology. The printing press revolutionized the way many humans communicate by allowing ideas to take place on paper. Verbal arguments could no longer take place, but only passive internal reflection by the reader. Also, think about the telegraph, telephone, radio, and television. They all have the underlying purpose and motive of allowing connection to take place between peoples, whether passive or engaged. With the explosion of the internet, people can be connected 24/7 across time and space. Something raw and essentially human has been driving all of these technological inventions. Enhanced communication has been a reason for sure, but I would dare to dive into the depths of human essence. At the core of every human, is the innate desire to know and be known.

In turn, we must take a look at present day mediums our culture is using to fill the void of a desired sense of connection. First, let's define what mediation is. Thomas de Zengotita conceptualizes mediation this way, "...mediation means dealing with reality through something else." The reality that I am proposing, is that humanity wants to feel deeply connected. The main medium through which people are exploring this longing in our post-modern world is the internet. Social networking sites have rampantly taken off in the past several years. Sites like Myspace, Twitter, and especially Facebook are re-defining the way we humans interact and do relationships. Consider this, as of now there are more than 500 million active users on Facebook.

More specifically, it is interesting to observe how our digital world is colliding with Christianity and the Church. Is the Church lagging behind? Is there a direct correlation between seemingly 'dying' churches all across America and the lack of technological integration within those churches? Statistically, 40% of churches aren't using any sort of social networking at all, not even Facebook. Conversely, what about the churches who are using a social networking site like Facebook, or blogs/vlogs, or even a church-specific website such as The City? The Church was long ago once a place where people gathered for everything in life such as relationships, news, politics, and spiritual matters. Now, there is a multitude of avenues outside the Christian Church people can venture to seek out these issues in life, spurred by the birth of the internet. Zengotita also states in his book Mediated, that '...in a mediated world, the opposite of real isn't phony or illusional or fictional - it's optional.' The Christian Church is now among one choice in a sea of options.

Jesse Rice provides some insight into the human condition. In his book The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community, he proposes the idea that the human condition is one of a state of 'homelessness.' That people are consistently seeking for a sense of belonging and acceptance. Humans have a need for 'home.' Is it possible that people are searching for this sense of home via a social networking platform like Facebook? Rice believes so, and inferences can be derived from experiences and statistics that this is the case. People have a desire to know and be known and they will search to fill this empty space through the most 'cutting-edge' medium.

The Church faces complications of it's own. How do people perceive what the Christian Gospel is through the new mediums it is being presented? As Marshall McLuhan says, 'The medium is the message.' Christians believe that the God of the Bible is relational, even within the concept of the Trinity. There is one God existing relationally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible also states in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that 'God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.' With that, a Christian would come to the conclusion that this longing for a 'home' in humans is deeply rooted in the notion that God created us to be in relationship with Him. Jesse Rice comes to this same conclusion in his book, that God is beckoning us 'home' to Himself.

In closing, I believe that most people would agree that everyone is on some sort of spiritual journey. We must ask ourselves essential questions on our road trip to find meaning in life. Does Christianity connect all the dots and get it right? Can our human need for a 'home' truly be filled by this God of the Bible? Who really was Jesus anyway? Christianity seems to stick out when compared side by side with other religions... but is it the Truth?

April 4, 2011

Project Progress

Hello everyone! I just wanted to jot down an update with how my research on social networking in the Christian Church has been going. I have added another main source to my studies. The book is called 'The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community,' by Jesse Rice. I am hoping that this will help give further insight specifically into Facebook, and how Christian churches are using it. I am wanting to delve deeper into how social networking affects, enhances, and/or diminishes my thesis that humans have the inherent desire to know and be known.

Please comment if you have any relevant thoughts of articles or writings on this particular topic. I would like to look at both sides of the spectrum within Christianity of the affects of Facebook and social networking within Christian churches. Also, check out this blog post by Richard Beck, with his idea of how he believes Facebook is killing the Church. It is quite an interesting viewpoint.

Furthermore, I have added some new links and revamped the site a little bit. Feel free to explore some of the other blogs, websites, statistics, and authors I'm looking at to compile information on the subject of social networking in the Church.

March 17, 2011

Socially Networked: The Church

This is the trailer I made for a project I am currently working on. I am eager to see how the project evolves and transforms as I continue to research how social networking is affecting the current Christian Church. I will be looking into how relationships are changing through new forms of social media on the internet. How are blogs, podcasts, websites and cyberchurches altering human interactions? I hope to wet your appetite with this video! Say tuned to see what research and observations come about!

March 7, 2011

Social Networking in the Church

Since the beginning of time, humans have explored the idea of a supernatural, eternal being. Orality gave way to discussion of thoughts, hence thoughts on a creator God were presented. Subsequently, the arise of literacy brought about religious manuscripts derived from oral tradition. Scribes took on the role of copying religious texts, which were mainly held by members of the clergy. The invention of the printing press revolutionized literacy by Johannes Gutenberg with the first print of the Bible completed in 1456. The Christian Bible contains 66 books, written by about 40 different authors over a period of some 1600 years. It is also arguably the most printed book throughout history. Undoubtedly, the Bible has had a massive impact on many societies and people over the years. Currently, roughly 1/3 of the world's population claims belief in Christianity.

Now with the widespread availability of the internet, literacy and communication has taken a immense turn. The Bible is now fully published online in multiple versions such as the King James Version, New King James Version, New International Version, English Standard Version, New American Standard Version, and many more including differing languages. Accessibility to a religious text such as the Bible is at an all time high. There is no doubt that the world wide web is transforming the mediation of the Bible and the Christian Church. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Myspace are starting to play a significant role in current churches. In a recent study, it is reported that about half (47%) of Protestant churches use Facebook in their ministry. 40% of churches do not use any sort of social networking aids. The use of social networking tools online is showing an increased progression. Churches are attempting to use social networking to enhance communication, connection and relationships.

The Roman Catholic Church is attempting to enhance connections with people and bring members back to the Church. As of February 2011 in the 45th World Communications Day, Pope Benedict XVI supports the use of social networking saying,"I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world." Shorty after, an iPhone Confession app went on sale on iTunes. The Catholic Church is encouraging the use of this app to enhance and prepare members of the church for live confession at their local churches. It gives users a way to keep track of their sins, with the intent that they will be better prepared when they go in for actual confession with their priest. The Pope also warns of the perceived down-side to social networking saying "It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives." The Roman Catholic Church's embrace of digital media has significant social, cultural, structural, and religious implications.

On the Protestant side of things, churches such as LifeChurch.tv (Oklahoma) and Mars Hill Church (Washington) are promoting church online. They post weekly video and audio podcasts of sermon messages, accompanied by blogs used for discussion between church attendees. These churches are another example of the pursuit to use social networking and media as a means to enhance human relationships. The churches urge attenders to join real life community groups and events. Mars Hill Church in Seattle also makes use of an online Christian networking system called The City. Members can update personal information, engage in discussion, schedule events, and even check in their kids for Sunday day care! Mars Hill continues to expand into new campus locations and increase in members every year. There must be a certain extent of relation between the use of social networking in this particular church and the receptivity of users.

Over the next month or so, I will be conducting a project to explore the implications of social networking within the modern Christian Church. How does this digital age affect social and cultural structures within the Christian Church? Why are Christians starting to use social networking? I'm sure some interesting results will ensue!