Religion in The Shallows

Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows has been a recurring topic here the last few weeks.  Jonathan Walton takes an important angle on Carr’s thesis in his post, “This is Your Brain (and God) Online,” at Religion Dispatches:

Carr did not broach the topic of religion (well, maybe his chapter on the “Church of Google”), but I couldn’t help but think of the growing number of congregations that have embraced texting and twittering during worship. What does this mean for deep theological reflection and nuanced notions of the sacred?

If we can barely breathe without compulsively checking email and status updates 24/7, shouldn’t there be a time and space where we disengage and disconnect from our “networks”? It seems to me that when discussing matters of ultimate value and concern, this is the one area we can ill afford shallow, superficial engagement and hurried and distracted thoughts!

Here are some related links:

“Twittering in Church, with the Pastor’s O.K.” from Time

“US Churches use Twitter to reach a wider audience” from the UK’s Telegraph

“The State of Social Media, Part 1 and Part 2” from Christianity Today

“Are People More Likely to Interact with Religious Leaders on Facebook?” from Science and Religion Today

Briefly, two things come to mind.  First, Marshall McLuhan famously observed, “The medium is the message.”  Churches have traditionally believed themselves to be, among other things, the bearers of a message.  It may be worth their time to consider what new media will do to that message.  Secondly, churches are also, among other things, communities of moral formation or discipleship.  Social media, like all tools, are not merely used; they also shape the users.  Churches should also consider what sorts of communities are formed by social media, what habits (virtues/vices even) they inculcate in participants, and how these relate to their vision of a faithful and well-formed life.

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