Religious Faith Communities: Subject to Review on Amazon.

Web 2.0 Is Dialogue

There is an incredible shift going on in culture. Perhaps this is a tired statement, perhaps it rings true. To add some external statistical, err, rational thought to this statement, here are some numbers to elucidate this: As far back as eleven years ago the internet had reached 50 million domestic viewers, outpacing radio (40 years) and television (14 years) in only four years. (Leonard Sweet, Soul Tsunami 1999: 32)

Web 2.0 has empowered people to talk across to each other. Where we individuals used to depend on corporations and organizations for granting authority for influence in decision making, we now have the capacity to engage each other for advice, opinions, direction. How many of us read the user reviews on, say Amazon, for the “real story” on the product?

Spirituality: Reviewed

What is also emerging in this -at least in regards to organized religions’ awareness- is that cultural individuals have thoughts, opinions, beliefs, etc., that are not necessarily connected to organized religions. Where in some faiths’, like in Christianity, there is already some pushback about how an experience within the institutional faith system is received. Check out this YouTube post.

What’s more significant than the post is the comments found below. The video has some affective and moving bits to it, and espouses some of the Christian tenets of faith, including a “Christian” welcome, hospitable atmosphere. However, the day that I posted this were these statements, amidst commenter’s who found positive meaning in the message:

What does religion have to do with it? They use that to control theirs and other people’s lives while at the same time, we turn to them to help leads us to Jesus Christ. It’s how they were raised as children and how they’ve been brainwashed as adults. I tend to avoid people and churches like that.

Reasons (why people don’t come to church)—for the same reasons they don’t go to mosques, temples and synagog services—because they don’t believe bronze age mythology.

Or this comment, found at this video satire of Starbucks marketed like a mega church:

You don’t have to beleive in an invisible man in the sky to live a good life, or to feel motivated or happy. If you would have been born in India, or Iran, or Africa, etc. you would probably have different relgious beliefs. Why anyone would want to go to church and listen to someone else tell them what ‘god’ thinks or wants, or what jesus wants? Think for yourself….read books…make your own thoughts and beleifs, and sleep in on Sunday. [spelling sic]

The Culture, or the Troll Under the Bridge?

Perhaps at this point two arguments come to mind: the first is that people have been saying these sorts of things for a long time. And secondly, how do we know that the comments are accurately reflective of the cultural milieu and not the just the 7 angry folks that troll these vids?

To the first question, I’d say that the difference is that whereas, before Web 2.0 these folk were individuals whom we may have known personally, but who were isolated from others with similar thoughts and opinions. However, the conversation that is digital space allows not only people to dialogue, but to gather, commune, and actually perform tasks around similar beliefs. What once was an opinion can now become a movement, or religion.

Secondly, without offering here the statistical decline of Gen-X through the Millennials in Christian church attendance, any comment made does in fact represent the cultural milieu by its mere presence. In other words, I’m not sure that giving weight to the number of folks it represents is the point. To come back to the first question, people talk, interact, and have beliefs that are not represented by a religious institution. Even if they represent a small faction of culture, they may make up a large population of folks who don’t participate in institutional religion. Said institutions are named as a source of power. This raises the question of why have religious institutions brandished their beliefs with such power – often in self-named cultural authority? And whats next for their cultural status and role?

Does Religion = Power?

This may be troubling for some religions, and beyond their cultural agency. They are founded on peace, justice, or love. How do institutions, or even more broadly, religious communities respond to this? As communities who strive towards values and tenets of caring, if they do, what does the current orientation of faith communities look like in an Amazon Review? How would you comment on the YouTube video?

~ by Brian Shope on June 20, 2011.

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