online social networks

Digital Prayers of the People

"Tree of Prayer" image via Wylio
"Tree of Prayer" image via Wylio

I know that for people of all faiths prayer is an incredibly important part of life, not only for one’s own sense of connecting to God, but also in order to stay connected to the people around them. As social media gets further embedded in our everyday lives, this sense of who is “around” us is changing, offering an opportunity to expand our understanding and experience of community. Prayer has always been a means to cross-over bounds of geography, personal experience and other divisions in order to lift up a common hope that God’s love, hope, peace and joy will be made known and Social Media, when used well, can be a powerful means of further crossing those bounds.

A Believers' Web

Writing a succinct but comprehensive ethnographic account of early online Christian communities is a daunting task, but Robert Glenn Howard manages to pull it off with his hefty overview. He focuses on Internet evangelism and how some traditionalists have found it an unsatisfying substitute for brick-and-mortar churches, even as it has inspired multitudes of other individual believers and sparked communities that are like-minded but geographically disconnected.

In Digital Jesus, Howard introduces readers to a lively cast of characters, including retired physicist Lambert Dolphin and online evangelist and writer Marilyn Agee. Though both lived in California and built two of the first Christian web communities, they were unaffiliated, yet connected as early as 1999 by thousands of believers who treated them as part of the same spiritual web. To explain their notability, Howard compares these virtual crusaders to early Christian evangelists such as D.L. Moody, nonordained leaders who feel called to minister. He explores how Agee, who believed God had given her access to divine knowledge, interpreted the events of Sept. 11, 2001, for her community, which at that time numbered in the thousands.

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July 2011 Sojourners
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