Top 12 Award-Winning Articles from This Month's Associated Church Press Awards

Image via Tashatuvango/

Image via Tashatuvango/

Earlier in May, Sojourners attended the Associated Church Press awards ceremony in Toronto and took home 20 awards, including first place prizes for Best National and International Magazine, Best Department (Culture Watch), and Best Column (Hearts & Minds).

Read (or reread) some of the award winning articles below. 

How to Respond to Online Religious Wars

soliman design/

We can respond to online discussions with love or hate. soliman design/

The history of religious wars in human civilization is a tragic commentary on those who adhere to religious traditions. From the French Wars to the Crusades, much blood has been shed in the name of the Holy. The dissonance between movements to perpetuate Goodness and the actions which deliver Evil is proof of how much the religious communities often miss the mark. Where violence reigns, religious people are acting out of ideology, rather than following a God of benevolence. 

There is a variant form of religion war taking place online. Seth Godin, a popular blogger, remarks on today’s marketing in the digital age as hailing back to the ancient ways humans organized themselves: tribes. He rightly notes the easy accessibility these days for ordinary citizens to congregate around shared values. His book, Tribes, inspires leaders to harness the power of tribes to affect great change. Yet it is precisely because we tie our identities so closely to our online tribes that when tribal conflicts break out on the internet, we are armed and ready to fight. 

Report: Internet Hate Speech Can Lead to Acts of Violence

The word “hate” formed with computer keyboard keys. Photo courtesy Jaromir Urbanek via Shutterstock

Anti-Muslim hate speech on the Internet is commonplace and can motivate some people to commit acts of violence against Muslims, according to a report released Tuesday by Muslim Advocates, a legal and advocacy group in San Francisco.

“When you have threatening comments online and they go unchecked, people start thinking it’s acceptable,” said Madihha Ahussain, an attorney and the report’s lead author. “And it doesn’t take long to figure out that what becomes acceptable online becomes acceptable in the real world.”

The report contains examples of hate speech and how it can lead to violence, as well as how victims of online hate speech can report it and counter it. The report aims to help educate parents, students, youth, community leaders, Internet companies, and policymakers on how to counter online hate speech.

Listen to the Silence: Thoughts on World Vision and the Pitfalls of Modern Communcation

A-R-T & LuckyDesigner/Shutterstock

A-R-T & LuckyDesigner/Shutterstock

These are important conversations we are having. Where do we invest our money responsibly in organizations who do the work of justice? How do we interpret Scripture regarding sexuality and marriage, and how does that intersect with church and parachurch employment practices? In what ways can we truly love our neighbors — gay, straight, rich, poor, Christian, Atheist? These are questions that matter to real life people in our world, and we must talk about it.

But we are talking too fast.

What is troubling about the events of the World Vision Reversal last week is not just the divisive and contentious nature of the voices coming from different sides of deeply entrenched ideological lines, but the speed with which it happened. So much of the hurt came not from the impact of actual punches, but from the whiplash of sudden, rapid reactions.

The Dead Don’t Die; They Just Reboot

Virtual life concept, agsandrew /

Virtual life concept, agsandrew /

Religion has, for centuries, been fairly obsessed with the afterlife. For some, what awaits us after our physical death is fairly central to their faith. But thanks to the Internet, many of us end up having a sort of life after death, whether we intended to or not.

In a recent article published in the New Yorker magazine, Pia Farrenkopf experienced the sort of digital life after death that some might find appealing, while others would consider it rather horrifying. Pia traveled frequently for work, so it was not unusual for her neighbors not to see her for long stretches at a time. They would mow her lawn when the grass got long and kept an eye on the place during her long stints out of town.

As such, she lacked many close ties near home, and like many of us, all of her monthly finances were automated and tied directly to her bank account. So although she died in early 2009 while sitting in her car in the garage, it was not until very recently that anyone actually discovered she was dead.

It took that long for her checking account reserves to run out, which led to utility shut offs and a visit from the bank to issue an eviction notice due to missed payments. So although her body had set partially mummified in the garage for nearly five years, as far as the outside world was concerned, she was still alive.

In his book, The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil speaks of a not-so-far-off point in our future when the ability of computers to process information and replicate human thought and behavior will get to the point that we will question what it means to be conscious, and to be a person.

It seems like the stuff of science fiction, to consider the possibility of people uploading the entirety of their life experience, or even some iteration of what we understand to be their consciousness, to a network of computers. But the fact is that we already are wrestling with these sorts of ethical implications, even today.

Two World-Class Libraries Launch Online Archive of Ancient Scriptures

Pictured here, “De claris mulieribus." Photo via RNS, courtesy Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Two of the world’s great libraries — the Vatican Library in Rome and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University — have scanned and loaded the first of 1.5 million pages of ancient Hebrew, Greek, and early Christian manuscripts online Tuesday.

The project brings rare and priceless religious and cultural collections to a global audience for the first time in history.

The website is the first step in a four-year project and it includes the Bodleian’s 1455 Gutenberg Bible — one of only 50 surviving copies.

The $3.3 million project is funded by the Polonsky Foundation, which aims to democratize access to information. Leonard S. Polonsky is chairman of Hansard Global PLC, an international financial services company.

Virtual Vices Show Shift in American Morality

Seven deadly sins, © RTimages /

Seven deadly sins, © RTimages /

The seven deadly sins have new partners in crime.

Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride still attract a lot of attention. But as the Internet and other media invade American life, our vices have also gone virtual, according to a new study.

Nearly half of Americans say they are tempted to idle the hours away on the Internet, video games and television, according to Barna Group, a California-based Christian research organization.

Religious Groups Vie for Internet Space in Domain Name Grab

Address bar photo, Diego Cervo /

Address bar photo, Diego Cervo /

Religious groups have long vied for prime parcels of land, planting churches on town squares and monasteries amid isolated mountains. But now they’re targeting real estate in a less tangible sphere: cyberspace.

For the first time in its history, the international nonprofit that doles out generic Internet domain names such as “.com” and “.edu” will allow more specific web address extensions like “.church.”

Hundreds of companies, Internet entrepreneurs and cities submitted nearly 2,000 applications, seeking the right to own everything from .app to .zulu, the Britain-based International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced last on June 14.

Mourning 2.0

Photo by Annette Shaff/Shutterstock.

The website pays tribute to founder Steve Jobs upon his death in 2011. Photo by Annette Shaff/Shutterstock.

When her 91-year-old aunt passed away in 2010, Diane DiResta videotaped the eulogies to create a record of the moving words spoken. She wasn't ready to talk about her aunt at the service, so she used an online tool for publishing audio to record her thoughts, then e-mailed the audio file to close family.

And when a cherished 89-year-old uncle died in Las Vegas in February — and there was no funeral service to follow — the New York City resident again turned to technology.

"Since there was no way for the family to share his life and express their grief together, I created a blog," she said. "I added pictures, and family members were able to post their memories of him."

This is Mourning 2.0. Technological advances have dramatically altered how we grieve for and memorialize the dead.

In this new era, the bereaved readily share their sorrow via Facebook comments. They light virtual candles on memorial websites, upload video tributes to YouTube and express sadness through online funeral home guest books. Mourners affix adhesive-backed barcodes or "QR code" chips to tombstones so visitors can pull up photos and videos with a scan of a smartphone.