Faith Like an Evergreen Tree (1 of 4)

As the winter has turned to spring in Kansas, I have been reflecting on faith and its comparison to various things in nature. This is the first in a series of posts on this topic.

An evergreen tree is always green no matter what the season. This type of faith would be constant regardless of the circumstances in which one found oneself. There would be periods of growth and dormancy, but they would not be noticeable on the outside. Any disease or pests become evident when the leaves begin to turn brown. Questions about faith or times of spiritual discontent would be evident on the outside only after they had made an impact internally.

Would you like to have faith like an evergreen tree?

What else would you add to this simile?

Four Narratives for Online Spiritual Community

Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.

Considering spiritual dimensions within computer-mediated communication studies” is another article by Heidi Campbell that was published in 2005 in New Media & Society. Campbell presents four ways of understanding the internet:

  • Information space – highlights “internet communication and information exchange. Focus is on the ability to allow individuals to utilize a variety of technologies to interact with data” (113).
  • Common mental geography – “regards the internet as more than a tool for communication, but a mechanism that individuals can use to construct a common worldview” (114).
  • Identity workshop – “a model enabling people to use online space as a place to learn and test new ways of being” (115).
  • Social space – “the online context as a social space where making connections with people is the primary goal” (115).

In addition to these four areas, Campbell asserts that the internet can also be understood as sacramental space, which “presents the internet as a sacred space and encompasses aspects of all of these models” (118). According to Campbell, online spiritual community can be considered in several ways:

  • Religious identity – “characterizes the online community as a group committed to each other through their shared faith and chosen liturgical expression or religious tradition” (126).
  • Spiritual network – “characterizes the online community as designed and initiated by God for a specific purpose” (127).
  • Support network – “characterizes the online community as existing to provide a spiritually and emotionally supportive atmosphere, emphasizing transparency and disclosure in its membership” (127).
  • Worship space – “characterized as creating a worship space. The internet becomes a tool for transmitting spiritual activities” (128).

I found these narratives to be quite helpful when considering the direction of Resurrection Online. I particularly appreciate Campbell’s encouragement to choose a particular model, “Identifying with a particular narrative helps an online community promote internal order and maintain coherence. Each model emphasizes a particular motivation for technological use, while highlighting a shared belief that the internet can be set apart for sacred use” (129).

Which of these models do you find to be most helpful when considering the internet? Which of these models do you find to be most helpful when considering Resurrection Online?

4 Ways to Consider “Spiritualising the Internet”

Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I was fascinated. I had no idea that there was scholarly work being done on the subject. My background in biology and small experience in research combined with my current job description as Pastor of Resurrection Online lead to great interest for me. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.

Spiritualising the Internet: Uncovering Discourses and Narratives of Religious Internet Usage by Heidi Campbell was published in 2005 in the Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. You can download a PDF copy here. “Spiritualising the Internet means the Internet is seen as a technology or space that is suitable for religious engagement, whereby allowing users to include Internet-based activities into [the] rhythm of their spiritual lives” (2).¬†Campbell presents four ways in which the spiritualization of the internet could be discussed:

  • “The Internet as a spiritual medium frames the Internet as a technology possessing, within the hardware and wires, an unseen realm where humanity can encounter the transcendent and spiritual experience” (13).
    • In this discourse, the internet functions as a ‘spiritual network’ (14).
  • “The Internet as a sacramental space discourse frames the Internet as space which can be shaped to allow people to engage in new or traditional religious rituals online” (13).
    • In this discourse, the internet can serve as a ‘worship space’ (14).
  • “The Internet as tool for promoting religion frames the Internet as resource able to connect with religious people and activities that can lead them to spiritual transformation” (14).
    • In this discourse, the internet is a ‘missionary tool’ (14).
  • “Finally, the Internet as a technology affirming religious life frames the Internet as a resource for building a communal or individual connection with a particular religious tradition or form of life” (14).
    • In this discourse, the internet supports ‘religious identity’ (14).

I very much appreciate Campbell’s treatment of the subject and find these four discourses to be a good classification.

The internet as spiritual medium does not make much sense to me and I do not believe that this way of spiritualizing the internet could come out of Christian tradition. The final three ways of considering the internet are all ways that Resurrection Online is seeking to spiritualize the internet.

  1. Resurrection Online seeks to encourage people to engage in both traditional and new religious rituals through the internet. Right now, this is primarily in the weekly worship service.
  2. Resurrection Online seeks to be an evangelism tool which can be used to connect with non religious and nominally religious people. I believe that this is a tool for those that are already connected with Resurrection to use when inviting others into the community.
  3. Resurrection Online seeks to affirm a United Methodist way of being a Christian with the flavor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection with a particular purpose, vision and journey.

What do you think about the categories that Campbell presents? How might Resurrection Online live more fully into these categories? Would that even be helpful?

Will you share your thoughts, feelings or opinions in the comments?